29 May 2005

I got a present!

Yesterday, David gave me a copy - in hardback! - of Sarah Vowell's Assassination Vacation, which I am reading and greatly enjoying. Even the dedication made me giggle:

In memory of Carlile Vowell (1904-1995)

Grandfather, principal, history teacher, Muskogee County commissioner, wiseacre, and Democrat. What I wouldn't give to hear him cuss that a book about three Republicans has been dedicated in his memory.
As always, Ms. Vowell writes thoughtfully and amusingly about the sorts of topics that geeky people like me find interesting. Assassination Vacation is an examination of the deaths of Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley, and how American has managed to theme park those events. "Going to Ford's Theatre to watch the play is like going to Hooters for the food."

When asked in a public radio interview why she didn't also include Kennedy's assassination, she said that as many members of his family are still alive, it seemed inconsiderate. That at this remove, no one is going to be deeply personally offended if she says something snarky about Leon Czolgosz (shol-gosh - or for a more pedanticly nuanced pronounciation, contact David) or refers to Robert Todd Lincoln, who was present for the deaths of his father, Garfield, and McKinley as "Jinxy McDeath."

You may be wondering why David bought me a present. Apparently, just because he likes me! And you're wondering if I gave him a present in return. Well, yes, more or less, in that I didn't insist on reading to him everything that made me giggle or seemed insightful as he was trying to read some big, heavy book about Beckett. (Samuel, the playwright, not Thomas a, victim of careless musings by Henry II.) Considering how much stuff I find hilarious and David finds, shall we say, underwheming that he has had read to him by me, my restraint is no small gift and not to be overlooked. Epic poetry has been written about gifts of less import than that.

My book! This is my book!

Thanks, Sweetie.

19 May 2005

In a world where you wish to leave a message

Don LaFontaine has a wonderful, deep bass baritone voice and does most of the movie trailers we'll ever see. His nickname is the Voice of God.

Well, the Voice of God made an appearance on public radio over the weekend. While I was sitting in that icky, horrible traffic on my way down to Woodbridge, I got to hear Don LaFontaine make light chit chat with Peter Sagal and whomever else was on the show that day.

Don was playing in the "Not My Job" segment where they ask famous (or at least semi-famous) people questions about things they don't normally need to know anything about. (Don's topic was Steve Wynn's new Las Vegas casino resort.) Normally, the celebrity plays on behalf of a listener and if the celeb gets two right questions out of three, the listener gets Carl Kasell's voice doing the message on their home answering machine. I actually know someone who won this prize and I've been bitter with jealousy ever since.

Don wasn't doing too well - let's remember, folks, this man records probably 50,000 movie trailers an hour, so he doesn't have a lot of free time - so he offered to the do the outgoing message if he tanked. He tanked and Peter Sagal put him on the spot. Is he gonna do the message? He sure is.

How cool is that?!?!

So if anyone out there wishes to get me the coolest present ever - and happens to know Don LaFontaine - or knows someone who knows him - and Don owes them a favor or something .... well, my birthday is December 31st. And I would speak of you glowingly for years to come.

17 May 2005

No wonder I'm so pale

This past weekend I saw a fair bit of theater.

* Thursday - Humble Boy at the Washington Stage Guild
* Friday - Ragtime at The Arlington Players
* Saturday mat - Steel Magnolias at Castaways Rep Theater
* Saturday evening - Pippin at Vienna Theater Company
* Sunday mat - Witness for the Prosecution at Providence Players of Fairfax

Like David, I don't write reviews of shows of shows my friends are in (well, unless those friends are in 8th grade), but it's enough to say that I had a good weekend. I enjoyed every show I saw, ran into a lot of friends, saw some friends do some very good work, flirted with some of the flirtable (why, yes, that would be Nano.....), met a couple of very nice people, and drove to hell and gone to do it. I even got to spend a few minutes with David here and there.

Most of my theater friends know that I'm a WATCH adjudicator, so the usual question when I'm found loitering in a lobby is "Are you WATCH-ing this one?" Nope, just here to collect a few friend points. Among the people I know, the phrase "I'll come see your show" usually means "Good luck and have a nice run." It doesn't actually mean "I'll come see your show." So I've had a few folks over the years be surprised to see me standing in their lobbies. (Cue the Machinal story.....).

I see a lot of theater (see the list for this weekend, supra) and I still miss a lot that I'd like to see. We do what we can. Don, another theater person sees more than I do, which is really saying something, so I decided long ago that it's not officially community theater until Don sees it.

Some highlights:

I ushered for Ragtime, which a. made me feel very "I'm with the band" and b. got me in for free. Normally, I'd be "off-duty" a couple of minutes after curtain, but they were short-handed, so Arthur grabbed me at the intermission, saying "Help me with concessions." "Sure. What are we conceeding?" (Aye, I have a pretty wit.)

I ran into a bunch of folks there, including a director whom I know only slightly. She directed something recently for one of the SPT (small professional theaters) that got completely hosed by the critics. I mean, these were the kind of reviews one would expect from bitter and vengeful exes. So, without reference to the reviews, I told her that I'd seen the show and thought that it was lovely. (Which I did and I did.) This definitely seemed to improve her day.

Ragtime is a good show, but, jeepers, it's long. The first act is an hour and 35 minutes. So the first act of Ragtime is nearly as long as a lot of other shows. It was a good production, but it still meant that the audience could bond over how numb our butts were.

Of course, Ragtime wasn't as long as my trip to see Steel Magnolias. There was some kind of race in Richmond on Saturday, so I-95 was at more or less a crawl the whole way. It's about 50 miles from my place to the theater Castaways uses and should have taken me a little over an hour. Nope. An hour and 50 minutes. So that audience got to bond over the ugliness of the traffic. Next time I go down there, I'm renting a helicopter. Curtain was held for 20 minutes and people were still late. Thank goodness I like to get there early and left lots of time because I arrived only 10 minutes before the scheduled curtain time.

I like to sit up front (I'm near-sighted) so I sat in the front row for the first act. I moved to sit next to Kat for the second act. I had fun sitting with Kat, but it gave the cast pause when they came out for Act II and thought that I'd left.

At one point one of the cast had walked out of the light and anyone looking over at Kat and me would have seen us trying to nudge her back. Go, little actor! Go to the light!

They had an evening performance, so they went out after the show to grab a bite. I got to go along and had a lovely time. It's a pity that Castaways is so far away because they really are a nice bunch of folks.

Saturday evening was Pippin. I was in a previous production of Pippin that Lorraine directed and she told me that I'd recognize a few things, which I did. Seeing some steps that I knew gave me a nice, warm glow, even though - as I remember it - dance rehearsals for Pippin made me cry back in the day. I ended up chatting with the nice man sitting next to me (Hi, Paul!) and during the bridge for the first number I leaned over and asked him to please not allow me to sing along. We were given one "everybody sing!" opportunity, but other than that, I behaved myself.

The rest of our row was filled with young ladies who where enjoying the show. A lot. They screamed after every number and sometimes during the number. A hip wiggle from any cast member under the age of 50 merited shrieking. They whistled. They stomped. Paul whispered that we seemed to be seated in the exuberant section. I agreed and nearly quoted one of my favorite lines of the Baroness's in The Sound of Music "Darling, you should have told me. I would have brought my kazoo" but on such a short acquaintance, discretion prevailed.

I first found out about the Providence Players of Fairfax when they joined WATCH and I try to see all their shows. They do some very, very good work. (And I've been there often enough that I know a bunch of the folks and they know me, which is fun.) I haven't been disappointed yet. I got to chat with folks afterwards, including the very nice man who always remembers that he knows me about halfway through any conversation.

The weekend started early when Seth cancelled rehearsal and I was able to see Humble Boy. I found the Stage Guild by serendipity and haven't missed one of theirs since. And Humble Boy featured Bruce, an actor that I've seen in a couple of shows so far whose work I really like. So I was extra glad to be able to make that show. His next one is up in Baltimore and I'm hoping to get there for it.

So it was a nice, sunny weekend and all sane people were outside frolicking in the beautiful weather. Not me. I sat in large dark rooms and enjoyed some lovely performances. It was a great weekend!

13 May 2005

I remain extremely put-upon

Brett notes a significant birthday, but slips in some obvious Anti-Savoyard misinformation. But (ha!) I will be revenged upon him for this perfidy! For I am posting a link to his post and the many Savoyards who live in England and read my posts will drive past his home in Nottingham (Nottingham!) and sing loudly the undying works of our heroes outside his door at the small hours of the morning.

Ah, yes, my revenge will swift and terrible.

12 May 2005

Ain't nothin' like a good meeting

NVTA is a local organization of community theaters and among the things that NVTA does is their annual one-act festival. I personally love one-act festivals because of the whole "could be fabulous, could suck" potential for each show. Some scripts are original and some are published.

Published - in this case - means that the rights to the script are held by a publishing house - Samuel French or Dramatists, to name two. Original means that the playwright still holds the rights. It's not actually that simple but 'twill serve for the purposes of this discussion. Some original scripts are very, very good. Some published ones are pretty bad. And vice-versa.

Anyway, I am representing Silver Spring Stage by directing Perfectly Good Airplanes, an original script by the same author (Steve) who wrote the one-act that I directed at Silver Spring last year, 21 Pairs of Sneakers. I've got two lovely actors (Ted and Ali) playing a father and his estranged daughter, Ira is my AD, and David is my stage manager.

I never envy producers and I certainly never envy the producers of a one-act festival, who are basically juggling 15 shows over two or three weekends. So to keep everyone at least roughly on the same page, the festival chair and the technical folks from the Reston Community Center (or, more formally, the CenterStage theatre at the Reston Community Center) held a meeting so that we could all know what to expect and what to do.

As with any meeting of this sort ("How many of you are first timers?"), there was a mix of information - new, old, boring, interesting, helpful, lame. Every participating company is strongly encouraged to send at least one person to the meeting because procedures can change from year to year, so there was a pretty decent turnout. As an added incentive, the list of time slots for each show is announced at the meeting, so if you want to know when your play will be performed and when your tech is, come to the meeting.

All of which means that some people are desperately scribbing stuff down and some people are putting in their time until they find out the two pieces of information they want and can head home.

David has stage managed shows for NVTA before, so I was taking a few notes, listening to the useful stuff, trying to decrypt David's notes (funny, I used to be able to read his handwriting), and discreetly waving to folks I knew. All-in-all pretty low key.

The meeting was saved from being too boring by Mary-Anne and Scott. As always happens at these things, someone will bring up a hypothetical and answering it will involve further hypotheticals. Eventually the discussion will completely leave the realm of the concrete and exist solely in the realm of conjecture. And there is always at least one person in attendance who finds these little flights of fantasy to be unproductive at best.

So Mary-Anne was talking about time management strategies if it looks as though a show will run over its 60 allotted minutes. And Scott - who is not the most laid back individual in the entire universe - finally lost patience with hearing about something that might or might not happen several weeks from now. Like a Mamet play, Scott's remarks are often short and to the fu--- (um), to the point. (Thank you, David Ives.) So he leans in and politely barks "How long is your show?" (And Scott actually can bark politely. It's an amazing skill and I envy him it.) "What?" "How - long - is - your - show?!" "Oh. About 35 minutes." "Then why are we having this discussion?!"

Not a laugh riot or anything, but it amused me because it was really only a matter of time. It was gonna happen. And it had the collateral benefit of startling anyone in any danger of drifting off.

By the way, if you've read this far, Perfectly Good Airplanes will be in the second slot of the matinee on Saturday, June 18th. Y'all come.


So once upon a time some friends and I were at the Zoo. I don't remember absolutely who was there, but it was the Zoo, so I'm guessing Brett, Cate, Charles, Stacey, John, and Samantha. Steve? Anyway, we were wandering through some kind of reptile house and admiring all God's wriggly creatures.

Like most reptile houses, this one is kinda dark and kinda echo-y, sort of like a large public restroom with mood lighting. And among the background noises one could pick out - if one chose - the occasional muffled shriek. But, then again, zoos are usually full of children and children come equiped with shrieking. Had I paid a little more attention to the shrieking I might have been better prepared for what happened a few minutes later.

Someone in the group (Who? Who?? Geez, I'm getting old. ) said very casually - which should have been another warning - "Hey, Leta, check this out." I sat on the low stone wall, as instructed, leaned back slightly, as instructed, and looked up, as instructed. And shrieked.

Directly above me, about 10 feet above my head and looking me right in the eye, was a spider the size of a dessert plate. No kidding. She was huge. (All spiders - except Frankie the Brazilian Wandering Spider - are female and are named Charlotte. If I have to explain why, you should consider your entire childhood null and void.) I'm not afraid of spiders, but she was so ... unexpected. And really big. Did I mention big?
I have no idea if Charlotte worked for the Zoo or if they simply hadn't gotten around to evicting her or what, but she looked to be pretty thoroughly ensconced. Her web had a mother-in-law suite, updated appliances, and a Jacuzzi whirlpool tub.

I realized what had been going on. Guys all over the reptile house would notice Charlotte and then extremely casually arrange for their girlfriends to sit directly beneath Charlotte and look up.

So for the rest of the time we there, I listened to the background noise. And sure enough, at about 3-minute intervals, I heard a pause and a shriek. I bet a bunch of guys got smacked that day real hard.

11 May 2005

Type casting?

In The Man Who Came to Dinner, Lorraine calls Maggie "Little Miss Vitriol"

In Independence, Sherry calls Kess "a screwed-up overachieving dike"

In Round and Round the Garden, Norman calls Sarah a "damned -- stupid -- interfering -- rotten -- bitch"

I've been asked to read for Amanda in The Glass Menagerie.


10 May 2005

Coincidence? I think not

I had lunch today with my beyond nifty pal Dave and his sister Emily. Now, I know what you're thinking: "Is this Dave from work? Director Dave? One of the other 5 dozen Daves Leta knows? A new Dave? What? Does Leta think that 'Dave' is a foreign word that means 'man'? Does Leta know any men not named 'Dave'?"

Well, in answer to that, no, it was none of those guys. I had lunch with Air Force Dave (which sounds sort of like Malibu Ken or GI Joe, only Dave doens't have the Village People club wear that Malibu Ken has or GI Joe's astroturf hair), who is back in town from Okinawa for a few days before he heads out to Afghanistan. I've known Dave since before the no-styling-products-required haircut. I've actually known Dave since he was a long-haired kid who was very, very good at paintball. (I am adequate at paintball, but far better at paintball than I am at Laser Tag or dancing.)

Anyway, he mentioned that he'd read my post about the Hopkins-Loyola lacrosse game and his other sister was there as well. So we talked about the post a bit and it turns out that Emily went to high school with Benson! And Kyle!

So it's possible if that if you mention someone and that person didn't go to high school to me, they went to high school with Emily. Thanks for the assist, Em!!

08 May 2005

A new word

Klebenleiben - A pathological reluctance to stop talking about a given subject.

Public radio is so educational. And so many of the words I learn there apply to me.

07 May 2005


David and I went up to Johns Hopkins today to watch the Blue Jay annihilate Loyola. It was a good day for Lacrosse - not too hot so the team could run around, not too cold, and we sat with our backs to the sun, so we didn't even have to squint. I armed myself with a cherry snowball and got David a lemonade and we sat back to enjoy the game.

Now Hopkins' Homecoming is in the spring rather than the fall because it's built around Lacrosse, so there was a good turnout for the game (7000 plus attendees).

Things started with the presentation of flowers to the mothers of the graduating seniors and it turned out that several of these parents were sitting behind us, which made the game even better. One Lacrosse Dad seemed to know the game pretty well and he had a nice carrying voice, so by keeping my mouth shut and listening (which, on rare occasion, I am capable of doing), I got a pretty decent play-by-play. He noted, f'rinstance, that the Blue Jays were having real trouble getting possession after the face-offs. Sure enough, they did.

And the Lacrosse Moms would chat back and forth in nice, loud, carrying voices. After absorbing this for a while I leaned over and whispered to David that if one were at a loss for a response and wanted to fit in in this crowd, one could just yell at Benson. He agreed.

At one point, Benson went down and from behind me one of the Lacrosse Moms yelled - really loud - "Get up, Benson!!!" Our whole section burst out laughing and she said "What? You'd do the same, right?" and another Lacrosse Mom totally agreed with her. And we all believe that Benson heard his Mom because he was on his feet within a couple of seconds of her yell.

I also like the Lacrosse Mom who told her friends, "I told Christopher 'It's not the job of the defense to make the game exciting. Offense can handle that.' " She, in fact, spent most of the yelling "Defense!!" but her voice doesn't carry as well as Benson's Mom's voice, so they may not have heard her.

Hopkins took an early lead and maintained it. Even though they did have trouble getting possession after the face-off, they knew what to do with the ball when they got it. In my opinion, it took the Blue Jays a while to get their feet under them and Loyola started out a lot tighter and more focused (the shots on goal would back that up), but as the game went on, Loyola crumbled. At one point the score was 12-3, Hopkins. Loyola rallied in the last period, but Hopkins kept their heads and the final score was 12-6, Blue Jays.

And every time Hopkins scored, we yell the count and demand "We want more!" So after the second goal, 1! 2! We want more! At about 5 goals, I joined in the counting but never the demand for more goals. It just seemed to greedy, you know?

All in all, a good day for a game.

06 May 2005

And it wasn't even my birthday or anything

Maybe it was a belated gift for Administrative Professionals Day.

I was having lunch with some of my Friday Lunch Bunch (Ginni, Trevor, Carroll, Bronson, and Dave today. We are also joined by others on different days. Anyone is welcome, you just have to be able to tolerate our idea of scintillating lunchtime conversation.) Anyway, Dave mentioned to Trevor that he had starting watching Henry V and was that stuff with the Chorus at the beginning from the play?

We all agreed that the Kenneth Branagh is an extremely fine movie and I explained that, yes, Chorus is a character and says those things. That even the lines that sound like Branagh put them in to make sure we were still awake are from the play (F'rinstance: King Henry V: Canst thou love me? Princess Katherine: I cannot tell. King Henry V: Can any of your neighbors tell, Kate? I'll ask them. ).

Well, to make a long story short, Dave started asking me questions and then allowed me to give a long lecture on the themes, ideas, and history of Henry V. And most everyone else listened and asked good follow-up questions. So I got to talk about HV being a handbook on how to be a king, about the different aspects of kingship shown in the play, about Henry as a reformed low-life playboy who makes good, about the where the play is accurate and where it glosses, about the imported scene from Henry IV Part I, all kinds of stuff.

And no one said "That's nice, Leta. Very, uh, interesting. So, how 'bout them Mets?"

Best lunch I've had in a long time. And I didn't even eat anything.

Performing in the Big House, Part II

I owe Diana a drink if we're ever in the same country at the same time, because Clive asked a follow up question about her prison story and she gave us another great post. Thanks, Diana!

The group was in the long-term section of the prison and many of the inmates seriously naughty boys. Large, imposing and very well muscled men with lots of tattoos.

Any of them betraying a love of G&S? ;-)>

Since you ask, yes. This was one of the more bizarre experiences. I was chatting with a group of prisoners one day and a chap known as H (a double axe murderer but also one of the sweetest men I have met if you can believe this) suddenly said "I'd love to see some Gilbert and Sullivan".

I wasn't involved with the G&S Society at the time but still had a number of friends who were on the committee and in the shows. So I knew that there was a double bill in rehearsal and rang the president and asked if he would consider taking Trial by Jury into the prison. He roared with laughter and said he would get back to me. The committee approved the idea and got 2 people who were my good friends to work with me on organising it.

By pure co-incidence one of the Governors is the father of one of the 2 who were working with me and the daughter was singing the Plaintiff - this helped get us the necessary permission. The 3 of us went in to talk to the drama group's representatives (they were known as the Mess Hall Players as they had been allowed to convert their dining room into a permanant theatre). We took some photos of the show in with us and they discussed how we should proceed.

The day came and we turned up to discover that they had built a court room set for us and talked about the lighting etc. The Mess Hall Players were around all morning as we set up and got ready and provided coffee on tap and some sandwiches and generally mingled, much to the surprise of some of our members - one young girl said to me that she likes a particular bloke and I was able to reply "that's Peter X who was the one who..." - a very high profile crime.

Anyway all the men in A and B divisions were allowed to attend and it was interesting to see them role up. Some obviously hadn't any idea of what they were in for and hated it but the majority seemed to enjoy the performance and were most appreciative afterwards.

Occasionally we list our places of performance and Trial in Pentridge gets a mention.

Performing in the Big House, Part I

Another Savoynetter, Diana, posted this story. Although born in England, Diana has lived - and directed Gilbert & Sullivan - in Australia for the past (ummmm) (uhhhhhh) bunch of years. Diana's post came in response to one by Julie, who will be performing the role of the Fairy Queen in Buxton at the G&S festival this year. Julie's story told of children doing everything but sitting quietly in their seats....

After Her Majesty the Fairy Queen (aka Julie) has detailed the annoying behavior of children, I can give you a solution - but it might be a tad difficult to copy.

There used to be a drama group in Melbourne's Pentridge Prison (both the prison and the drama group have been closed down). Somehow I became involved with the productions (when they gave me a life membership I asked "for the term of my natural life?!"). The group was in the long-term section of the prison and many of the inmates seriously naughty boys. Large, imposing and very well muscled men with lots of tattoos.

One of these told me a story about a performance they gave (if you knew how to get tickets, anyone could go) with a couple of young boys sitting in the front row of their makeshift theatre, just a knee shake away from the stage. The boys were not only making a noise but were making small pellets of paper and flicking them at the actors.

As the curtain fell at the end of Act 1, two of the prisoners made sure they were stationed behind it just where the boys were sitting. One said "hey you, in the green jumper. Can you hear me?"


Small voice, "Yes".

If you as much as blink in act 2, I am going to jump off the stage and ram your guts down your throat so far you'll never find them again. Understood?"

Small voice "yes"

Second prisoner. "And you sitting next to him. Did you hear that?"

Even smaller voice: "yes"

"Well what we said to him goes for you - only double!'

I am told the boys remained frozen for the rest of the play and scuttled out like startled jackrabbits the moment it finished!

Anyone know where to hire a couple of crims?

05 May 2005

Going once, going twice!

Savoynet has been humming lately with stories about distractions from the audience (mobile phones, loud candies, chatty audience members), but this story from Stuart really caught my eye:

Last year I directed Oklahoma! The auction scene is tricky and we rehearsed and rehearsed it to get the bids and responses exactly right - "Two bits, four bits... Come on, isn't anyone gonna give me five bits....." etc. On the second night someone in the audience joined in and began bidding and outbidding the actors! How the cast kept going, I don't know, but it caused a bit of a flap!

Whether the audience member had just got completely involved and lost himself, was suffering from confusion and thought he was at a real auction, or was just plain malvolent and hoping to cause chaos, I never did find out!


04 May 2005

Little Miss Leta sat on a tuffet

One night David made me a cup of tea (he's a wonderful guy and will make me tea) using some loose tea leaves which swirl about in the bottom of the cup and look all pretty. Well, as I was finishing this particular cup I glanced into it and noticed that there among the dark brown leaves was a small grey object. So I handed the cup to David, thanked him for making it for me and said "....and, uhm, next time, no spider, okay?" He was actually more horrified than I was and neither of us had any clue when it got into the cup. I still hope that she got into the Ziploc-ed container in which the tea was stored and was already dead before she was boiled. (Not that it makes much difference to her, but it does to me.)

More exciting stories featuring arachnids coming soon!

No more calls, we have a winner

"Spiegel im Spiegel" by Arvo Pärt is the most desolate, haunting, tragic, sad music in the multiverse. Ever.

I first heard it last year at the Washington Ballet's sort of annual 7X7, which is seven pieces each by a different choreographer built around a theme. Last year's theme was "Love" and "Spiegel im Spiegel" was used for a piece about the end of a relationship. I don't quite know what this year's theme was, but the piece - Fractures - using "And now I will read some Sylvia Plath and then I will stick my head in the oven. A drink? Oh, dear lord, yes." (which is the translation for "Spiegel im Spiegel" in my world) again had notes of betrayal and loss and abandonment and despair. It was beautiful and tragic and afterward I didn't want to applaud, I just wanted to sit there filled with melancholy, but the dancers could see me, so I applauded. Which is for the best, because they were very, very good.

Of course, the most depressing music with lyrics remains "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald," just as Richard Jeni postulated. No one is questioning that.

All our banana are belong to them

Brett, Bill, and I have been following the breaking news on the whole "Chef takes picture of big, ugly spider what bit him" story. As astute followers of world news will remember, Matthew Stevens was tidying up his pub and grabbed a washcloth which turned out to be pre-loaded with a Brazilian Wandering Spider that bit him. Twice.

I'm not afraid of spiders, but the Brazilian Wandering Psycho Spider would give anyone pause. It's very large, very aggressive, and very poisonous. This particular spider is thought to be a banana box stowaway. I've decided to call him Frankie.

Anyway, thinking that Frankie was dead and that his friends would never believe how huge it had been, Chef Stevens took a picture of it with his camera phone. (Because enourmous biting spiders are apparently just like the fish that got away in England, I guess. Guys sit around in pubs and swap lies about the size of the arachnid and how it ate a dog and was coming for the guy, but he grabbed a stick and .....whatever....). I can just picture the caption: The spider that bit me. See edges of the Aga cooker, behind spider, for scale.

As it turns out having friends who think you make stuff like that up can actually save your life because the folks at the hospital were cavalierly dismissing his dizziness and shaking until he showed them the picture and they checked with spider experts.

The spider was collected and brought to the hospital when he went back for Visit Number 2 wherein our hero returns to the hospital just to prove that yuh-huh, this is too a problem because by then his hand had swollen to the size of a balloon....

Well. In today’s update, some kind-hearted soul at the hospital released the little thug into the garden. I recommend reading the whole story. And evacuating England (and Scotland) immediately.

My favorite part is that said spider is alive and well after being frozen, boiled, and then microwaved. The hospital is claiming that the nasty little thing will die due to the balmy British spring climate. Yeah, right. If it didn't kill the Norsemen, Frankie should be just fine for months to come. (Brett - save Cate and Charles. Bring them home now.)

A Google search will provide all the details, plus lots of pictures of Frankie, and a push-pin map of England showing Frankie's trail of victims.

03 May 2005

If you can read this

Today is National Teacher Day and I'm lucky enough to know quite a few teachers (past, present, and future), so here's to them. A quick shout out to my brother Bill, Cate, Dave (and Happy Birthday, as well!), David, Deb, Emily, Hilary, Ira, Kiersten, Mary Ann, Melusine, Mom, Pamela, Paul, Stacey, Sue and the rest of my friends who have spent time constructing lesson plans, grading papers, buying school supplies out of their own money, coming in early, leaving late, cleaning classrooms, caring for "class" pets, attending parent-teacher meetings, and ..... teaching.

We all know that children are basically just fun, cute germ vectors and Mom said that the year she spent teaching was the sickest year of her life. Fearing (I suppose) that teaching would be too remunerative, Mom eventually got her MA in Counseling and spent 20+ years counseling the opiate addicted, but she continued to teach as a Sunday School teacher for 12 years. She was my 6th grade Sunday School teacher and Sara's after me.

Sownynge in moral vertu was his speche,
And gladly wolde he lerne, and gladly teche.
Geoffrey Chaucer, General Prologue to The Canterbury Tales (duh)

Randy had spent almost no time around military people, but he is finding that he gets along with them surprisingly well. His favorite thing about them is their compulsive need to educate everyone around them, all the time. Randy does not need to know anything about the ROV, but Doug Shaftoe is going to give him a short course anyway. Randy supposes that when you are in a war, practical knowledge is a good thing to spread around.
Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson

Carelessness, stupidity, haste, and ignorance are quite as powerfully destructive forces as homicidal intent.
Professor Vorthys, Komarr by Lois McMaster Bujold

"This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased. Deny it." cried the Spirit, stretching out its hand towards the city. "Slander those who tell it ye. Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse. And abide the end."

"Have they no refuge or resource." cried Scrooge.

"Are there no prisons." said the Spirit, turning on him for the last time with his own words. "Are there no workhouses." The bell struck twelve.
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

02 May 2005

How utterly Pavlovian

Over the past couple of weeks I have heard several news stories on NPR that were datelined "Istanbul." And I simply do not believe that it's my fault that my brain automatically fills in "(not Constantinople)." No, in this instance, the fault, dear Brutus, lies in the stars, not in ourselves. Or, at least in a couple of guys named John.