29 October 2008


After Serge, in an act of pure madness, had demonstrated to Marc that he cared more about him than he did about this painting, we went and had dinner, chez Emile. Over dinner, Serge and Marc made the decision to try to reconstruct a relationship destroyed by word and deed.

At one point, one of them used the expression "trial period" and I burst into tears.

This expression, "trial period" applied to our friendship, set off in me an uncontrollable and ridiculous convulsion.

In fact, I can no longer stand any kid of rational argument, nothing formative in this world, nothing great or beautiful in this world has ever been born of rational argument.

from "Art" by Yasmina Reza

Operetta Geeks for Obama!

So there I am reading my (as usual) somewhat outdated copy of Time magazine and what should I find in the October 6, 2008 issue? Why, this picture taken in Nobleville, Indiana.

Now, if we ignore the subject of the photo and concentrate on the young lady smiling at her, the alert reader will notice that the young lady's t-shirt has a picture of a (wait for it...) pirate on it and that the particularly alert reader can make out the last syllable of the name of a certain Cornish port made famous in a certain piece of 19th century musical theater.

Frankly, I am a little surprised that Obama's crack campaign staff didn't notice this as well and make a more serious effort to lock in the operetta vote. Sprinking G&S quotes into his speeches, for instance, would have gone a long way in that direction.

This, for instance, springs to mind:

When all night long a chap remains
On sentry-go, to chase monotony
He exercises of his brains,
That is, assuming that he's got any.
Though never nurtured in the lap
Of luxury, yet I admonish you,
I am an intellectual chap,
And think of things that would astonish you.
I often think it's comical--Fal, lal, la!
How Nature always does contrive--Fal, lal, la!
That every boy and every gal
That's born into the world alive
Is either a little Liberal
Or else a little Conservative!
Fal, lal, la!

When in that House M.P.'s divide,
If they've a brain and cerebellum, too,
They've got to leave that brain outside,
And vote just as their leaders tell 'em to.
But then the prospect of a lot
Of dull M. P.'s in close proximity,
All thinking for themselves, is what
No man can face with equanimity.
Then let's rejoice with loud Fal la--Fal la la!
That Nature always does contrive--Fal lal la!
That every boy and every gal
That's born into the world alive
Is either a little Liberal
Or else a little Conservative!
Fal lal la!

On accuracy

Among the FSS (Frequently Said Stuff) at rehearsals is the reminder that the author chose those words for a reason and that we're not working from the first draft.*

We all try for accuracy, some more successfully than others. When I was Production Minion for the Stage's production of "Art," I rode book for the guys at rehearsals, took line notes, and would e-mail them the corrections. One e-mail, entitled "Towards Zero," contained exactly six corrections, and all of them were happy/glad-level** paraphrases.

Not every show is that close. Not by a long shot. And I know some actors who are so famous for their paraphrasing that I joke that the program should credit them as co-authors. And that they have masters degrees in MSU (Making Stuff Up).***

So I was interested to run across this interview with Ayre Gross as part of a critique of Donald Margulies' Brooklyn Boy. After all, the most recent show in which I tried to deliver the dialogue with any kind of accuracy was Margulies' Dinner with Friends. Nice to know that he would have appreciated our (not always 100% effective, but sincere) efforts to present the script as written.

“How interested was he in the actors being faithful to his dialogue?”

“Oh, it's not even a question. I think everyone in the room understands that the language the playwright uses is not just the broad ideas. That there can be as much meaning in the syntax, or in the rhythms the playwright has written, as in the broader meanings of the theme. There was never any kind of 'we’ll improvise something here.'”

On rare occasions Margulies would solicit advice from the actors.

“Did he accept your suggestions?”

“He definitely responded to, but it was not like anyone ever went in and said, 'Listen, Donald, this is what I want to say here.'”

*I'm pretty sure that the latter truism is mine. Just one of my many contributions to the American theater.

**When happy is substituted for glad, a word with roughly the same meaning. A very small change, in other words.

***I have a pretty wit. A pretty, pretty wit.

28 October 2008

This seems familiar. Too familiar.

Christopher Stasheff wrote a series of SF/fantasy books back in the 80s about a interstellar agent who fetches up on a planet called Graymarye which is a semi, kinda, sorta medieval society.* Pretty much, as I like to say, what would happen if Markland and the SCA had their own world. Or if Renn Faire was alway and everywhere.

The one that I am reading now is the second in the series, King Kobold Revived. Most of the characters speak rather "yeomanly" but Rod Gallowglass, our hero, speaks in very idiomatic late 20th Century English, as does Yorick, a time traveling Neanderthal**, in case the following excerpt sounds a bit peculiar.

...."There's that little matter of the rumor he's supposed to circulate," [Rod] reminded Tuan.
Yorick shrugged. "That you and your army have really come just to oust Mughorck, isn't it? Not to wipe out the local citizenry?"
"Thou hast it aright."
"But you do understand," Yorick pointed out, "that they'll have to fight until they kow Mughorck's been taken, don't you? I mean, if they switched to your side and he won, it could be very embarrassing for them -- not to mention their wives and children."
"Assuredly," Tuan agreed. "Nay, I hope only that, when they know Mughorck is ta'en, they'll not hesitate to lay down their arms."
"I have a notion that most of them will be too busy cheering to think about objecting."
" 'Tis well. Now..." Tuan leaned forward, eyes glittering. "How can we be sure of taking Mughorck?"
"An we wish a quick ending to this battle," Brom explained, "we cannot fight through the whole mass of beastmen to reach him.

" 'The High Cave'?" Tuan frowned. "What is that?"
"Just the highest cave in the cliff-wall. When we first arrived we all camped out in caves, and Eagle took the highest one so he could see the whole picture of what was going on. When the rank and file moved out into huts, he stayed there -- so Mughorck will have to have moved in there, to use the symbol of possession to reinforce his power."
"Well reasoned," Brom rumbled, "but how if thou'rt mistaken?"
Yorick shrugged. "Then we keep looking till we find him. We shouldn't have too much trouble; I very much doubt that he'd be at the front line."

*Amazon's description: Gramarye is a forgotten colony of Earth, an abandoned planet of telepathic outlaws, where elves and witches are real, and the fantasies of the Middle Ages endure.

**Yeah. Don't ask.

For my friends who are parents

And there are many of them and they are very good parents. Bless their hearts.

I’m nearly a decade into parenting, if you factor in pregnancy (and I choose to, because I view pre-natal vitamins as the preparation for a lifetime of sacrifice). So it’s embarassing to admit what just occurred to me as I doled out food that morning to various mammals: parenting is the only job besides combat soldier where you wake up on the job. Sure, some lawyers work punishing hours and have been known to sleep at the office on occasion, but no one has ever walked into their bedroom in the dark of night and demanded a re-analysis of tort reform.

Not only do you wake up on the job, you frequently wake up to information which would make a lesser person try to hide in the box with the ski-clothes. Which parent among us hasn’t awakened to the fact that a) There’s a lot of vomit in their house, b) It’s someone else's vomit, and c) It’s their job to take care of both the vomit and the person who is currently generating more vomit. And need it be said that a sleepless night or two with children hosting an especially energetic stomach virus – one that causes the washing-machine to actually die from overuse – should result in a little extra bonus in ones parenting paycheck? Of course, in the real world, the extra bonus is the parent getting the stomach flu, which arrives the morning the parent has signed on to monitor a field-trip to a pig farm.

"For What It's Worth" from The QC Report blogged by Quinn Cummings.

Posted while listening, no kidding, to "Sweet Child of Mine" on the radio...

27 October 2008

For Lori

A friend passed away on Saturday, much too young.

Borrowed Time by David Moreau

I will not die tonight
I will lie in bed with
my wife beside me,
curled on the right
like an animal burrowing.
I will fit myself against her
and we will keep each other warm.

I will not die tonight.
My son who is seven
will not slide beneath the ice
like the boy on the news.
The divers will not have to look
for him in cold water.
He will call, "Daddy, can I get up now?"
in the morning.

I will not die tonight.
I will balance the checkbook,
wash up the dishes
and sit in front of the TV
drinking one beer.

For the moment I hold a winning ticket.
It's my turn to buy cold cuts
at the grocery store.
I fill my basket carefully.

For like the rain that comes now
to the roof and slides down the gutter
I am headed to the earth.
And like the others, all the lost
and all the lovers, I will follow
an old path not marked on any map.

24 October 2008


"On a break" is community theater for "spend more time with my family" which is politics for "unemployed."

Feel free to suggest dinner dates and movie nights...

Walking to work

My apartment is a mile from my office. There are lots of things that are good about this - I like living close in - but the best is that when the weather is nice and I don't have time pressures afterwards, I can walk to work. This is good for my pocketbook (the price of gas); the environment (the use of gas); and my figure (burning calories instead of gas).

Until recently I walked to work accompanied only by whatever reading material I had on me. This is a mixed blessing as one of the bigger stressors on my mother during my formative years was her belief that she had witnessed me crossing Colesvillle Road with, as she put it, my nose stuck in a book. More than once.

Oh, as if. That would have been dangerous.

Besides, I was crossing this*:

not this:

The fact that my co-workers have claimed to see me do the same thing here:

lends no credibility whatsoever to Mom's case.

Anyway, David recently upgraded to a newer, fancier, yadda, yadda iPod and, being the nice sort that he is, gave me his old one rather than tossing into a drawer or something. I call it myPod.

So now my walks to work have a soundtrack. I listed to podcasts of This American Life and Selected Shorts and am enjoying them so much that I sent a little money to WBEZ to help pay for them. (You're welcome.)** And a walk that takes about 25-ish minutes while reading takes about 20 minutes while listening, which is also good for my figure.

I suspect that the number of days that I walk will drop with the temperature, but for now walking around in the lovely autumn weather is a definite good. ++good, in fact.

*And pretty nearly exactly there, as a matter of fact. Just a little bit beyond the white car on the left.

**Yes, I realize that the WBEZ contribution is only for TAL. When I can, I'll pony up for SelSho.

15 October 2008


Along with "Where is your coat?"* and "So what show are you working on now?"

Where Are Your Shoes by Charlotte Erickson

There's a rusty water pump
And a bright black snake
Along this dusty road
Child, where are your shoes?

There are fallen coconuts
And huge heaps of garbage
Under this blazing sun
Child, where are your shoes?

There are elephants strolling
And baby goats roaming
Through this tiny village
Child, where are your shoes?

There's a dirty face
And one small, outstretched hand
On a beautiful girl
But child, where are your shoes?

*From November-ish to April-ish, in the back of the car.

14 October 2008

Just in time for NaNoWriMo

From "The Writer's Almanac":

Lester Dent wrote more than a thousand pulp fiction stories, all with the same formula, which he detailed in an article that explained an exact formula for writing a 6,000-word pulp story.

Here is the formula for the first 1,500 words:

1. First line, or as near thereto as possible, introduce the hero and swat him with a fistful of trouble. Hint at a mystery, a menace or a problem to be solved — something the hero has to cope with.
2. The hero pitches in to cope with his fistful of trouble. (He tries to fathom the mystery, defeat the menace, or solve the problem.)
3. Introduce ALL the other characters as soon as possible. Bring them on in action.
4. Hero's endeavors land him in an actual physical conflict near the end of the first 1,500 words.
5. Near the end of first 1,500 words, there is a complete surprise twist in the plot development.

08 October 2008


My 401(K) - or as a friend in an e-mail yesterday called it, his 201(K) and soon to be 01(K) - balance has been dropping in a sickening kind of way. For instance, I've lost $8,644.21 since Monday. This past Monday. Two days ago.

I'm down $34K and change since June. My little pile of "if cat food, at least name brand rather than store brand cat food" retirement savings is back to where it was in January of 2006. I've lost 33 months and yet don't feel any younger.

My Boss says $2 Trillion dollars has evaporated from domestic retirement accounts. Two Trillion.

One of our staffers is closing and emptying her 401(K) because she says she'd rather pay it in penalties and taxes than have it simply disappear on its own. And because, I suppose, she intends to put the sad remains under her mattress. (My investment club calls that Locking In the Loss.) No, I do not recommend this course of action.

So it's not too surprising that this clause from a kinda recent (September 29th) Time magazine article by Andy Serwer and Allan Sloan about Current Unpleasantness caught my eye:

While we're trying to get our heads around what amounts to the biggest debt transfer since money was created,...

06 October 2008

Collateral benefits

For me: After making so many Lemon Almond Polenta cakes - at three eggs each - I've actually mastered the ability to crack an egg into a bowl one handed.

For the audience: I have to bring a complete cake for each performance, of which only slightly more than 1/4 is plated. So our lovely stage manager, Jason, slices and puts out the remainder in the refreshment area during intermission. Come to see the show and you might get to try the cake if you're quick enough.

03 October 2008

Annual Performance Review

My Boss won't let use the following answers in my self-evaluation. Such as a pity, as it would be the most concise and honest one I'd ever written.

Accomplishments during last review period: Didn't piss anyone off so much that they felt that had to fire me.

Goals/objectives for coming review period: See above.

Shakespeare put it best

"See what a grace was seated on this brow...."

"Like a mildew'd ear"*

Even if Richard had not been piteously slain and murdered, he'd still be long dead, I agree. Either way, yesterday was his 556th birthday.

(Hamlet, of course, not Richard III. Act III, scene iv)

*By far, my favorite comparison in all of His Bardness's work. Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? Nope, much better to compare a king to a mildew'd ear. Good one, Will!