30 March 2007

My new news source

I hit on MSN "Skin & Beauty" news while on my way to something else, but with headlines like these, I don't think I'll be able to stay away. Most of the headlines are of the "yeah, and?" variety, like Ewww! Human skin a 'zoo' of bacteria, but some (Pedicure blamed for woman's death) are classics of the Scare You News genre. Naturally, I had to read People, your teeth are white enough! because mine aren't. And while I don't need MSN to tell me that I chose unwisely in the gene area, I still read Why you don't look like Brad or Angelina, which, as it turns out was about genetic diversity in areas of the genome relating to disease defense and pretty interesting. Brangelina, as is so often the case, were merely a flashy headline unrelated to everyday life. And I don't want to look like them. Definitely, I don't want to look like him. I want to look like a young Katharine Hepburn.

Why you don't look like Brad or Angelina
• Wrinkle-filler regenerates collagen
• Does your skin need a shrink?
• Foot massage with Novocain shot?
• Slathering on skin-numbing creams can kill
• Ewww! Human skin a 'zoo' of bacteria
• What is beauty? Others help define it
• Get a shot of Botox at the mall
• Spas soothe pain in the ‘tech neck’
• How far would you go for the perfect lash?
• Hemorrhoid cream not for the face
• Sexy people play the symmetry card
• People, your teeth are white enough!
• Duct tape no magical cure for warts
• 3 indicted in basement liposuction death
• Pedicure blamed for woman's death
• Guys have body issues, too
• FDA wants skin-lightening restrictions
• Looking good never hurt so bad
• More nips and tucks for men on the job

Lift Every Voice and Sing

Today on Morning Edition, Juan Williams interviewed Rep. John Lewis about his endorsement plans for the '08 presidential election. Lewis declined to commit this early on, but he mentioned that Bill Clinton was the first American president who knew all three verses to Lift Every Voice and Sing, which happens to be one of my favorite hymns. So here are all three verses which we sing in church every January near Martin Luther King's birthday.

Lift Every Voice and Sing

Lyrics by James Weldon Johnson, Music by John Rosamond Johnson

Lift every voice and sing, till earth and Heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise, high as the listening skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on till victory is won.

Stony the road we trod, bitter the chastening rod,
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;
Yet with a steady beat, have not our weary feet,
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?
We have come over a way that with tears has been watered,
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered;
Out from the gloomy past, till now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.

God of our weary years, God of our silent tears,
Thou Who hast brought us thus far on the way;
Thou Who hast by Thy might, led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee.
Lest our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee.
Shadowed beneath Thy hand, may we forever stand,
True to our God, true to our native land.

28 March 2007

If you have to ask, you can afford it

One of those things that separates me from the top of the food chain here at work:

My boss* came out of his office earlier today and asked me if this is a pay week or not, a question I never have to ask another employee.

*2005, 2006, and 2007 co-nominee for Best Boss Ever, Who I'd Follow to a Foreign Country Where I Hate the Food Because He's Just That Good.

18 March 2007

Mrs. Surratt?

As noted in the sidebar, I'll be playing Mary Surratt in Rich's play The Judicial Murder of Mrs. Surratt, which we'll be performing near the actual Surratt House for the Surratt House Museum Conference. As a bit of a history buff myself my biggest concern isn't overacting or messing up the lines (as he is also our director, we'll let those be Rich's concerns about me), it's playing someone that everyone in the room knows better than I do. Shakespeare and G&S audiences are often off-book, but the actor still has a few advantages. That may not be so here.

I remember when I was young and the "Little House" books were turned into a tv movie and then a series. Literalist that I am, I was dismayed at all the things that they got "wrong." The absence of Pa's beard was just one of those things and probably the most minor. Like almost every historical tv series, Little House was a modern family dressed in old clothes, so these erstaz Ingallses had all the beliefs and opinions of 1970s California rather than 1870s Kansas. The only characters that seemed true to the books were the awful Olson family. The show lost my interest pretty quickly. And don't even get me started on Doctor Quinn, Medicine Chick.

My job with this play is to tell the story of a woman who may or may not have been complicit in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, but whose only bargaining chip with the prosecutors is the whereabouts (if she knows them) of her son. And, like every Tennessee Williams heroine, she doesn't help herself much with her stubborn belief that she can control events by clinging to how a well-bred lady expects to be treated. (Clearly, she hasn't seen as much Law and Order as I have.) She's trying to win a chess game in which the opposition has a full board and she has two pawns.

But if what I do while I'm moving and talking violates what the audience knows about 19th century women in general and Mary Surratt in specific, it won't necesssarily matter how well I translate the story. And while mine is the title story, it's not the only one we're playing. If Johnny's whereabouts are Mary's only chip, they are also the chip that the prosecution most wants to win. Mary was less a chess player and more a pawn in her own story.


"Oy," of course, is a word that 19th century, country-girl, Catholic Mary would not grok at all. And she actually says things like "I declare," which is just as foreign to me.

Not sure how I'm going to accomplish this yet. Wish me luck.

17 March 2007

Sweet 16 Irish Citizenship Quiz

I took this on-line quiz and scored 16 for 16. That's sixteen right, by the way, just so we're clear here. (Mind, had I missed number 6, both David and POEM* would have turned their backs to me. I might even have been escorted to a room with a pistol and one bullet and left to do the honorable thing.)

I credit my amazing knowledge of Ireland to the fact that I'm Irish on Dad's side (and English and Scots, which explains a lot about the deeply conflicted, self-contradicting personalities in my family), except that the only things I know about our connection to the auld sod are names of some people and places. Mayo, for instance. And Lowell.

Dad's not much on family history (having relatives in the DAR can do that to you), so discussions about family history usually went something like this:

Me: Why did our family leave Massachusetts and go to Alabama?
Dad or Audrey: Driven out for horse stealing, most likely.

Sigh. But then the family hasn't lived on the Emerald Isle for over two centuries, and Dad's from, let us repeat, Alabama, not Boston, so it's not like he's suppressing a brogue and Anglecizing his name or anything. But I still like to credit several aspects of my personality to being of Irish descent, even while remembering that there are more Americans of Irish descent than there are people in Ireland.

Oddly enough, Mom's family is more recently emigrated from Germany and both of my grandparents grew up in the German enclave of South St. Louis and I don't think I would do as well on a "How German are You!" quiz. In fact, I'm positive that I wouldn't, even though there is quite a bit of "Achtung!" in my personality, too. I credit this to the brilliance of the Irish Tourism Board - way to go, guys! And, of course, with the Celiac Disease, I'm pretty much barred from eatting or drinking anything of German origin, except certain sausages. Good thing I love sausage.

Okay, time to study up for my St. Willigis's Day internet quiz.

"You can always tell the Irish - but you can't tell 'em much!" John's faded-from-love-and-many-wearings t-shirt.

*the Professional Organization of English Majors

16 March 2007

Yes, I'm free*

What could be a better combination for me than Gilbert & Sullivan performed at my high school? Especially when I found out that it's happening on a night when I can go. It's like one of those planetary alignments that only happen every thousand years.

Montgomery Blair High School, my alma mater of blessed memory, is performing Gilbert & Sullivan's The Pirates of Penzance this weekend and next. I don't know how it is that I am not otherwise committed, but I can go tonight. I've seen shows at Blair before because as an alum, it's my responsibility to go cheer on the next generation, just as it's my responsibility as a former girl scout to buy all those cookies. They make it easy on me by doing very watchable shows, even if I feel old and creaky while I do it. Why do I feel old and creaky? Because those kids all look about 12 years old, that's why. Some of them look 11.

And, yeah, it's high school theater, so there's a varying level of ability, but the costumes and sets are colorful and appropriate (see what I mean here) and the performers are energetic and charming. And for $8 I can guarantee you that I've paid more to see shows that aren't as good.

Some of these young actors are very good and I look forward to seeing more of them in the future - like when their Broadway shows tour through this area. Hmm... Maybe I should make sure to get some autographs tonight.

*To quote the (alas) late John Inman

14 March 2007

MMMmmm --- Pi

One of the many reasons that I like working with smart people:

We have a long-term temp at the office, Katherine, who brought in a baked food having a filling of fruit prepared in a pastry-lined pan or dish and topped with a pastry crust.* Actually, she brought two: apple and pumpkin. And the pumpkin was going commando, top crust-wise. And you know why she brought these yummy treats in? Because today is March 14th, so the yummy treats were placed on the front desk surround with a sign:

Happy Pi Day

Now is that not nifty?

And she also recommends the "pi-em" that Mike Keith wrote.

*description according to Dictionary.com

13 March 2007

Our new microwave

Well, folks, the old microwave was a goner, so we got a nice shiny new one that I think came to us via the Jupiter II or the Enterprise (NCC-1701-D, of course). There's no key pad, just a large dial and several task-specific little buttons. And frankly, I'm not sure that I'm sophisticated enough to use it, but I did figure out how to get my lunch hot. Oddly enough, by using the same method that I use on David's "it came with the house" one -- turn the dial until the number is high enough. But it takes a little bit to figure that out because at first blush the dial seems to balance several variables rather than being a short-cut to setting the length of time.

But it worked, so later this afternoon, in an act of total bravery, I made some popcorn. One of my co-workers has taped a large, sans serifed, some-words-in-red sign in front of The New Microwave that says:

Do NOT leave the kitchen when you microwave popcorn.

And, of course, I did not. I was even willing to undercook my kernels a bit and have a few "old maids" (as Orville called 'em) than risk explaining why we needed two new microwaves in a 24-hour period.

But this new one? It toasts! And top browns! If I can figure out which buttons to push...

11 March 2007

Richard Jeni (1957 - 2007)

Long years ago, when Mollie, Katy, and I were housemates, Katy found a Showtime special that she taped and said that we had to see. This guy, Richard Jeni, was so funny, she said, that we just had to see him. That is usually the preview to seeing something that leaves you totally cold, but Katy was right. We laughed until our stomachs hurt and we near memorized Boy from New York City. We can still crack each other up with a well-timed Richard Jeni quote.

I got to see him in person doing one of his appearances in DC and he was every bit as funny in person as on tv, if not more so. (I have also been able to see Jake Johannsen and Paula Poundstone live, which gives you a nice cross section of the sort of humor that I like.)

One of my favorites of his bits was his description of "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" as the most depressing song ever written: "Want to end a party really fast? Own this record." And he would sing his own lyics to it, like And they lay on the deck/ and they all drowned like rats/ as their lungs filled with water. Which is still making me laugh, even as I read it now.

So it was with sadness that I got home this evening and learned that he died yesterday. The news reports say self-inflicted gun shot, which is even sadder, although I don't know why I think that. Being dead at 49 is sad no matter how one got there.

So here - because he still makes me laugh - are some of Richard's quotes, thanks to Wikipedia.

"My mother never saw the irony of calling me a son of a bitch."

"The way I see life, it's like we're all flying on the Hindenburg, why fight over the window seats?"

“I think that's how Chicago got started. A bunch of people in New York said, 'Gee, I'm enjoying the crime and the poverty, but it just isn't cold enough, let's go west.'”

"It is a sad fact that 50 percent of marriages in this country end in divorce. But hey, the other half end in death. You could be one of the lucky ones!"

"Honesty is the key to a relationship. If you can fake that, you're in."

(On going to war over religion:) "You're basically killing each other to see who's got the better imaginary friend."

"The Web brings people together because no matter what kind of a twisted sexual mutant you happen to be, you've got millions of pals out there. Type in 'Find people that have sex with goats that are on fire'and the computer will say, 'Specify type of goat.'"

"There are only two reasons to sit in the back row of an airplane: Either you have diarrhea, or you're anxious to meet people who do."

"The difference between Charles Manson and every woman I've dated is that Manson has the decency to look like a nut the first time you meet him."

"Imagine my surprise when it turned out the main thing that I was qualified for was to get another degree and teach Political Science to other people, who would, in turn, teach it to other people! This wasn't higher education, this was Amway with a football team!"

09 March 2007

Way less than 3 minutes

There are a few smells that one is likely to encounter in an office that are completely unmistakable: Fresh coffee. Sharpie ink. Fear.

And, of course, burned popcorn. We had a heapin' helpin' of that last one today.

One of our staffers put in one of those individual-serving bags today, pushed a few buttons, and then made her tragic error. She walked away. I don't know why, maybe she was getting her water glass or something. But like a two-year ago with a permanent marker, one can never leave microwave popcorn unattended. Not for a second.

From my end of the hall, the attack was subtle. First I smelled popcorn. Then I smelled that sharp, piercing smell of burned popcorn. At the other end of the hall, where the accountants and countracts folk are, it was a more frontal assault. Office doors got closed, fans were rounded up, the front door propped open, and the usual "who did that?" mini-meetings were held at the front desk.

The microwave was coated with, well, with burned grease and a black, smoking bag was in the trash. My usual lunch is a frozen entree, so I sprayed the interior of the microwave with 409 and cleaned it out as much as I could. Then I ran a cup of water for a minute a couple of times, which helped absorb a lot of the smoke. And means that on Monday when I heat my lunch it won't have a top note of arson.

The other mistake my co-worker made was reading the bigger words on the popcorn bag, which says "Most bags will be done in LESS THAN 3 minutes" and missing the smaller words "(some bags will be done in as little as 1 minute)." I'm guessing she pushed the "popcorn" button on the front panel, which equals about 2:45. These bags are done by 1:15.

I'm little concerned that all that smoke set off neither the fire alarm nor the sprinklers, but I guess we'll just consider that a heads-up. Don't count on the smoke alarm to do anything except annoy you when you are busy and it is cold or raining out. And we're grateful that the entire floor wasn't sprinkled because I can't imagine that would be good for the computers.

Naturally, my boss, who was in the conference room and got a good lungful of "office campfire" was muttering about a popcorn ban, which I voted against. Especially as I bought a box of 10 of those single serving bags earlier this week, which I never leave unattended as they pop. Forgive and forget. No draconian responses to unfortunate lapses. Everyone is allowed a mistake now and again. That's what I said.

And besides, this only happens here maybe once a quarter. I know I remember the last one really well. Why? Because I was the arsonist that time.

05 March 2007

03 March 2007

How to market to Leta

About a year ago the good folks Cadbury Schweppes released an ad for 7-Up that I have only just seen because of my low exposure to television. In this ad, stuff happens that promotes 7-Up, I guess, and shows the product as light and refreshing, etc, etc. None of which I care about because I largely only consume sodas as either the non-booze component of a mixed drink or at intermission because I am desperately hoping to stay awake during the second act. What caught my attention about this ad was the music. I was, in fact, paying no attention to the ad whatsoever until my brain started nudging me that I was hearing the Partridge Family. And I was. I listened to the rest of the ad and, sure enough, the song was definitely "Sunshine" recorded by the heros of my youth.

For all I know it made the rest of America writhe as though tortured, except that according to this article in USA Today, sales are up, which I think should tell Young and Rubicam that the Partridge Family (and, maybe, oh, just maybe, the Cowsills, the de Francos, and any other family singing bubblegum pop) can really move the product.

I've got the sunshine in my hands
You've got the sunshine in your hands
We've got the sunshine in our hands
Now let it shine all over this land

* If you see me in a theater lobby somewhere knocking back a Coke or something, it's probably because I'm tired, not because the show is dull. One down side - among many - to intermittent insomnia is the random tendency to nod off when I sit quietly in the dark.


Amazingly, I did't find this on The Onion: Swiss accidentally invade Liechteinstein. And, you know, if you're going to accientally invade a neighbor, the more easy going Liechtensteiners are definitely the folks to march over rather than the more testy Germans, Italians, French, or Austrians. Of course, if your country is roughly the size of Washington, DC, and all your neighbors have standing armies, it's probably very good national policy to be easy going.

(At this moment, a Tom Lehrer lyric about the Germans is running through my head.)

But in this era of international irritability, it's certainly refreshing - and rather reassuring - to see this accidental invasion treated with less to-do than if the Swiss had cut the Liechteinsteiners off in traffic. It's more like the Swiss accidentally veered into the Liechtensteiners lane. Then the Swiss made that "oops - I'm so sorry!" gesture and the Liechtensteiners cheerfully waved that it was okay, no harm done, and everyone drove on.

And, of course, contemplating a nation the size of DC reminds me of that really cool Nick Hornby short story, Small Fish, Smaller Pond that I heard a couple of times on This American Life about a boy whose country is only a few houses, a field, and a cafe.

01 March 2007

Happy Birthday, Cat in the Hat!

NPR did a nice piece this morning on The Cat in the Hat's 50th birthday and, of course, the musical button at the end was a bit of the Seussical overture, which amused me as David is currently working on a production of that show and in a bit of serendipity, they open tomorrow night.

David will be dividing his time between Sally*, who is playing the Mayor's wife, and Joan, who is the Stage Manager. Certainly if one is to divide one's time between two women, one could not do better than Sally and Joan, but this division is occurring because David is the Assistant Stage Manager and both Yertle the Turtle and the Grinch.

Don't worry - I've already commented on the typecasting, even though David is neither a power-hungry egomaniac nor a scheming misanthrope (or mis-Who-thrope). He is actually rather kindly, unless one persists on repeating errors of fact as actual fact.

Traditionally, actors complain about tech folks and tech folks complain about actors - in a good natured way, of course - but as a dual-nationalist, I guess David will be left complaining about the audience.

*And, unless they've modified the script and messed with some subtext, this will be the first show that I see both Sally and David in where she isn't after my man.

Still going to a place I don't believe in

In church on Sunday we learned some of the symbolism of the liturgical color violet. I already knew that it represented royalty, but we were told that it also represented pain. Stacey and I looked at each other as though this was news to us (which it was), but I made the connection to the purple of bruises, so sure, why not. (Besides, there's always the thought that had I been paying enough attention over the years I would have learned this long ago.) So we'd learned our new thing for the day and before lunch even.

But the part that's going to send me to hell - where it'll be warm all the time and I'll know everybody - is when I leaned over to Stace and whispered that any time one connects Jesus to a phrase that begins with "royal pain" .... well, that's just not going to end well.