Sunday, May 31, 2009

Step by Step, Ready or Not

Tickets for Ready or Not are now for sale online:

The ever-efficient Anna Weiler set that up. She's one of the play's directors. She's interesting to watch - she has an amazing eye for little details that leave a big impression.

Watching rehearsals hasn't been boring at all.

I'm paying very close attention. Once in a while I have something worthwhile to interject. Once in a while someone checks in with me to confirm I think things are going okay. But... they are.

Sometimes one of the directors suggests something that I think is odd at first. But directing is a step-by-step process. Eventually the purpose emerges.

At first you wonder:
where is that step going?

But when it's done, 
the scene is smoothly flowing.

Saturday, May 30, 2009


After guns are banned,
other weapons will still be at hand,
and so to save more lives
we'll only allow plastic knives.

Here's a poor shot of a robin's nest in our backyard basketball poll.

You can see the robin's head and beak, and over to the right you can kind of make out one of the babies sticking its head out.

I guess the robin would have to say "Oops"
if someone decided to start shooting hoops.

"Only America Is Real"

jordan179 has a fascinating post about a delusory premise he identifies as "Only America Is Real".

The specific springboard is someone's claim that Bush wanted North Korea to acquire nukes.

Jordan comments:
This is a hilariously classic example of the "only America is real" idea in intellectual action. Note that the assumption is that even North Korea's actions are somehow being dictated by the United States of America. Obviously, Bush could have stopped North Korea from building nuclear missiles with a mere wave of his hand -- it's not as if North Korea is secretive, heavily-armed, well-fortified and violent, or as if American forces were involved winning the Iraq War at the same time. Clearly, Kim Jong Il couldn't have been acting on his own agenda, because Third World countries have no agenda, they aren't real participants in the Great Game the way that are countries in the First World. This despite the fact that, by attaining nuclear weapons capabilities, North Korea has become a Regional Power.
I bet it's sort of comforting to feel
that only America is real.

Threats from outside our borders,
appear like mere puppets, taking our orders.

To make those foreign hot heads all turn cooler,
we simply need to elect a peaceful ruler!

Weighing Words With Wisdom

May 27:
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs issued a pointed warning to opponents of Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s Supreme Court nomination Wednesday, urging critics to measure their words carefully during a politically charged confirmation debate.
May 29:
Just now at the press briefing, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said that Judge Sonia Sotomayor used a "poor" choice of words in 2001, when she suggested a Latina would reach a better conclusion than a white male.

It's hard to pick words that are wise
in everyone's eyes.

I Dye Mine Gray, Of Course

Here's a photo essay 
on the gray 
in Obama's hair.

Apparently it arrived one day, 
but is no longer there.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

In The Red Zone

One of Chicago's aldermen was indicted today.
Carothers is the second alderman in two years to be charged criminally for taking payoffs from developers.
The deal is that each alderman, by tradition, gets to decide which zoning changes are allowed in his ward. Zoning changes are worth lots of money to developers. This creates an occasion of temptation.

If you want developers to leave aldermen alone,
remove the aldermen's power to zone.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Wisdom Born Of Trials And Hardship

Pursuing her dream
to be a Supreme,
a self-proclaimed "wise Latina"
now enters the arena
in hopes of balancing Justice's scales
better, on average, than done by white males.

This might sound sort of racist to you at first.
But remember - it's not racist when it's reversed.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Hard Lesson

A friend told me tonight of her brief career as a substitute teacher in the Chicago Public School system.

She finally gave up after a student pulled a knife on her. She reported him. Nothing happened.

Many who go there to teach
find all pits and no peach.

Two Strategies

With her fierce display of thorns,
rose bush helps you out - she warns.

With a flash of soft green leaf,
poison ivy lures to grief.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Going Norkular

Don't the North Koreans understand
that all atomic weapons must be banned?

Accepting Change

I attended a neighborhood Memorial Day parade today. 

One group was made up of peace protesters. "Support The Troops - Bring Them Home" was their big banner.

One of them was holding up a George Bush doll with a Pinocchio nose.

No doll for the current president was in evidence. Even though it's he who is currently keeping troops deployed overseas.

Maybe they haven't noticed that yet.

Who, next year, will have a nose
that grows?

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Genographic Project Results

DNA analysis of my Y chromosone indicates I am descended, at least down the male line, from the people who wintered the last great Ice Age on the Iberian Peninsula.

You know who I mean - the Cro-Magnon people, recently suspected of devouring young Neanderthals.
"For years, people have tried to hide away from the evidence of cannibalism, but I think we have to accept it took place," Rozzi said.
But Neanderthals were a different species, so it wouldn't be cannibalism anyway.

Does this tale make you sicken?
Don't be hasty!

Their flavor was like chicken.
Rather tasty!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

In Memory

Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start of summer, here in the States.

Level Head has a poem up on the traditional meaning of the day, and he inspired me to follow his lead, on a smaller scale.

They fought and fell
in their country's cause.

And we are left to dwell
in this fair land, this dazzling gem.

So I quietly pause
and remember them.

Only Liars Shall Be Heard

A British woman, a victim of a robbery, seemed to be a very believable eyewitness. 

So the judge decided that she should NOT be allowed to testify. 

He put it like this:
Denise Dawson was a particularly impressive witness because she showed courage, clarity of thought and was undoubtedly honest. The jury may lend more weight to her evidence than her facts allow.
Was this woman 
just too good of a witness?

Or was the judge 
lacking in mental fitness?

Gold-Dispensing ATM

Color me surprised:
A German firm has responded to growing demand for gold by creating an automatic teller machine (ATM) that dispenses the precious metal.

Unveiling its new product at the main railway station in Frankfurt, the asset management company recommended that people hold up to 15 per cent of their wealth in physical gold, Reuters reports.
When nations over-inflate,
and their paper's turning tiny,
some folks put their estate
in heavy stuff that's shiny.

Charmed Life

Saw MacBeth tonight, done by Babes With Blades, an all female troupe.

So all the male parts were played by females, which is the reverse of the custom of the Elizabethan stage, where female parts were played by males (boys, it is said.)

Great fun!

Marsha and I were talking about the way Shakespeare's verbiage is so cliche-ridden. You could almost call him cliche-kespeare. Except, you know, he had never heard them before - he was making them up. Like "vaulting ambition" and "charmed life".

His catchy phrases, today's cliches,
are scattered like gems through his plays.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Versifying In The Moment

Yesterday I wrote a couple of quatrains on "living in the now." Maybe that was a complete poem. It felt complete - in the moment. So maybe what follows is another complete poem. Or, maybe it's a sonnet - spread across 2 days of elastic "now".

It isn't human nature to restrain
our outlook to the moment as it flows.
We need to grasp the complex causal chain,
where it comes from - and then - where it goes.

But all our grasp of when and where and how
begins with observation of the now.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Now

Whenever someone says to live in the now, I have a first reaction which is... there's literally no alternative. But that's not fair. It's a metaphor they're embracing.

Live in the now, they say, but what they mean,
is pay attention to the things around you.
The past provides a wealth of lovely scenes.
The future waits with marvels to astound you.

The present sits there, patient, like a dog,
watching your face for any telltale sign,
waiting to join you for a sudden jog,
to smell the wind, to feel the sunlight shine.

Not The Best Pets

When I visited the museum last year, to see the komodo dragons, the exhibit placards claimed that these beasties didn't have true venom.

Now - it's back to the venom theory!
It had been widely believed that deadly bacteria in the carnivorous lizard's mouth helped kill its prey. 

But magnetic resonance imagery has for the first time uncovered venom glands containing a shock-inducing poison which increases blood flow and decreases blood pressure, scientists say.
Thanks to the MRI,
we know how they make things die.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


Here's a pic of my lead actors, Danielle Gennaoui and Tom McGrath, from my play, Ready or Not.

Now firmly scheduled to open Thursday, June 18th, at 8:00 pm. We'll run 3 weeks, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday. You can't order tickets quite yet.

Progress is steady.
The play will be ready.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Unattributed Sources

Maureen Dowd, the NY Times columnist and best-selling author, has been detected recycling someone else's blog prose - without attribution.

Technically, it was only one sentence. And she did change it a little. But it was a long sentence.
[T]he whole thing is an interesting window into how her column is created. I knew someone once who was on her call rotation. Every week, she’d call and collect amusing lines from him, which she’d invariably use without attribution. Every writer does this to some extent — I’ve made a lot of money over the years stealing from my conversations with Matt Labash — but she seems to do it more than most.
Producing scheduled columns is tough.
When you're out of ideas, you can go for fluff.

Or borrow something and change it enough
so no one knows it's not your stuff.

Sunday, May 17, 2009


I have a friend who takes every facebook quiz
and the weird thing is
she always tests out as Lady MacBeth,
Darth Vader, The Angel of Death,
or the Queen of Ice.

Even though, to me, she seems perfectly nice.

FBI On The Case

I got an email from the "FBI" today. They informed me that: are having an illegal transaction with Impostors claiming to be Prof. Charles C. Soludo of the Central Bank Of Nigeria...
That's the bad news. The good news is that I can pay a fee of 20 dollars, and get 800,000 dollars in return. All they need is a lot of my personal information - including my ATM card info.

You might think it was some sort of scam. But not to worry:
Since the Federal Bureau of Investigation has been involved in this transaction, you are now to be rest assured that this transaction is legitimate and completely risk-free as it is our duty to Protect and Serve citizens of the United States Of America.
Somehow I don't recall
this business transaction at all.

And I think it would be unfair
to take what's not really my share.

Mexican Prison Break

My play involves an American who has been released from a Mexican prison. So at rehearsal we've talked about what such places might be like, and what level of corruption might be found in them.

My story suggests a high degree of corruption sometimes exists in these institutions. I've never been imprisoned in Mexico, so my knowledge is not first hand.

But my friend, Deb Ross, alerted me to this wonderful story today:
An armed gang freed more than 50 inmates from a prison in central Mexico on Saturday — including two dozen with ties to a powerful drug cartel — in a daring raid that took just five minutes, a state governor said....

"It's clear to us that it was a perfectly planned operation with inside help because it lasted just five minutes and not one shot was fired," Garcia said at a news conference....
The governor also said there was videotape
showing guards helping with the big escape.

UPDATE: couplet modified to remove ambiguous "she".

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Didn't Hedge His Bets

A California hedge fund manager has been arrested - partly for gambling away 5 millions dollars of the fund playing poker.

When I invest in poker,
my returns are mediocre.

Disclosed Location

Blabbing from Biden -
where Cheney was hidin'.


Some friends just had their first baby, and it set my mind reflecting on the fact that most new parents feel less than truly ready for the responsibility. It can be a rather sobering experience.

It seems a little strange at first
that nature places so much trust
upon the less than perfectly mature.

But somehow that's the way our kind endures.

So there it is, the baby's yours.
You made it by yourselves, for sure,
and now you're charged with keeping it alive.

And though you're new to it, you strive
to raise it up, to help it thrive,
to let this boy or girl
learn to make its way into the world.

On The Bright Side, Her Appetite Remains Excellent

Just took my wavy-haired 10 year old dog to the vet. Last year she weighted 74. This year 86!

She's climbed over eighty,
which is too weighty
for her.

I'm shocked. But no wonder -
it's hard to see under
her fur.

Boot vs. Reboot

Instead of booting terror tribunals, Obama has decided to re-boot them.

I'm sure that once rebooted,
they will be ideally suited
to prosecute agents of terror
in a way that's much, much fairer.

Friday, May 15, 2009


I was reading a couple of books on Ibsen today at lunch.

Henryk Ibsen
crafted his rage
into works for the stage
and kicked the establishment's ribs in.

Yellowstone Continued

Prompted by Jim H., who expressed concern about the punishments meted out ot the workers:

Empty your bladder
on a geyser.

And you end up sadder 
but wiser.

Yellowstone Blues

Two seasonal Yellowstone National Park concession workers have been fired after a live webcam caught them urinating into the Old Faithful geyser.
There was no need to fire them. That does not serve the cause of poetic justice!

Instead of giving them the sack,
let Old Faithful spray them back!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Trek into Subtext

My play has this long last scene, 2 people, husband and wife, talking for 20 pages. 

The first 10 of these pages are practically "all subtext" - there's a plain surface meaning, and a charged subterranean exchange.

Plays aren't like novels. The audience can't be given a 3 sentence description of the character's facial expressions and tone of voice and secret motives. The actors have to supply all that stuff.

Anyway, tonight we did these 10 pages of "all subtext", and the director knew where to dig. He awes me. And the actors followed him into the dark underground. And their performances turned moving and raw. Which is what the scene needs to be.

Characters who speak indirectly
are harder play correctly.


To open one's mouth,
to need to be heard,
but all that comes out
are gibberish words.

UPDATE: I wrote this after explaining to someone that one of my personal hobgoblins is being misunderstood.  I hypothesize this has something to do with the fact that, as a child, I was rather slow to achieve clear speech.

More Twisted Swisters

Courtesy of David Ross, here's an NPR report on another pair of switched-at-birth girls who found out too-many decades later. The reporter does extensive interviews, trying to understand how it happened, and what the effects were. (Not so good, but perhaps not totally tragic, just insanely agonizing.)

The weird thing is, one of the mothers pretty much knew from the beginning. But kept it quiet. Because her husband didn't want to embarass the doctor.

What they did -
keeping the wrong kid
to spare somebody's feelings -
leaves me reeling.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Quietly Rusting

Moe Lane thinks the Democratic party's advantages are "quietly rusting":
As you can see, back in October it was fairly clear that Democrats were enjoying consistent leads over Republicans when it came to how much the public trusted them on various issues. It’s also fairly clear that in most cases, those leads have been savaged.
I don't know about polling numbers, but I'm not feeling very trusting toward either party. 

(I would say "a pox on both their houses," but nowadays that might be sound like a bioterrorist threat.)

And... it's still National Limerick Day in Central Daylight Time!

When you win Americans' trust,
keep it polished - don't let it rust!
In just a short time,
they'll turn on a dime
and all your grand plans will go bust.

Swisters For Life

Two girls, switched at birth while being bathed by nurses, meet 56 years later:
Pioneer Memorial Hospital offered to pay for counseling, but both women declined.

The two have become friends and celebrated their May 3 birthday together. Recently, Qualls introduced Shafer to her work colleagues, calling her "my swister."

"I'm trying to move forward at look at the positive," Shafer said. "You can't look back. It just drives you crazy."
By the way, Deb Ross informs me that today is National Limerick Day. Well, who am I to argue with that?

If you're in the delivery room
with a child freshly sprung from your womb,
just ask for a pen
and sign it right then
so you don't have to "simply assume."

Monday, May 11, 2009

Call Me Naive, But

I continue to be shocked
that people keep comparing Obama to Spock.

Overly Simplified Plot Summary

Goethe's Faust
often groused -
until he died.

Sunday, May 10, 2009


I see that Ann Althouse is questioning the "classified photo-op" theory of the 747 Manhattan fly-by.

And Obama himself joked:
Sasha and Malia aren't here tonight because they're grounded. You can't just take Air Force One on a joyride to Manhattan.
Well, if it wasn't a photo-op, and it wasn't his daughters, who was in the plane?

Could it be true
that someone borrowed the bird for a view?

Mother's Day Wishes

All you moms out there, I hope you're having a fine day.

The bond
with mothers
goes beyond
most others.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Let's Interrogate Everybody

I'm a little worried about Nancy Pelosi. She's two heartbeats away from the Presidency. But she seems to have memory problems - she couldn't recall those CIA briefings on waterboarding - until the CIA started releasing info on the briefings.

Is she forgetful
or merely regretful?

Or are the spies
spreading lies?


First there was a twosome.
Then one of them grew some.
Till someone new come.

Where The Worms Are

I was reading a scary story about parasitic worms, when I came across this sentence:
After worming their way into people’s lives, particularly in developing countries, these suckers can lie undetected for months or even years.
What caught my eye was "developing countries." Euphemism alert!

Are they developing much at all?

They're mired in the ancient thrall
of  living with the things that crawl.

Eyes Forward

When taking a trolley out for a whirl,
be careful of texting your favorite girl.

An Actress Prepares

I started working on this when I was hanging around the facilities during Dream Theatre's 24-hour "Theatre of Women" festival. I always like watching actors, or in this case actresses, work on getting their parts right. It's an odd sort of process, which varies from person to person.

She steps into the script as if she tried
a skirt on in the mirror, questioning
how well it fits her. Will it let her stride
across the stage? Will it let her fling
her lines with force enough to ring
the rafters? Will it let her breathe inside,
a second skin, with soft and pliant cling?

Gently she lets her personality glide
into the vessel of the written role,
her self an instrument to serve the play,
unsure, but pushing boldly, feeling her way,
toward the dim and blurry final goal:

Pulling it all together to portray
the separate facets of a sparkling soul.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Plane Flies, Head Rolls

The White House official - the one who took the fall for the Manhattan buzz-by - resigned today.
The Air Force estimates the photo shoot cost taxpayers $328,835.
In current budgetary math
that's merely minor bread.

What generated wrath
was the rebirth of dread.

O'Connor Round-Up

Just to round out the display of Frank O'Connor paintings, here's everything else I've seen of his.

Note that he uses "The Mandarin" as a painting within a painting. The black and white array is from an old NBI flyer, uploaded at

You can enlarge them by clicking.

I've always wanted to get a color view of the painting in the lower left, which shows a frog diving away as a bird swoops down.

Scene: log.
Enter: bird, which is seen or heard.
Exit: frog.

This is another Frank O'Connor painting, a restrained study. One friend of mine thinks it's his best piece.

What is the expression on that woman's face?
It's not completely lacking in grace,
but what I mostly see
is dignity.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Digital Subscriber Line

It's amazing how much better AT&T's DSL tech-support has gotten. Of course, I was an "early adopter," and you know what that means.

There are no ifs, ands, or maybes -
early adopters get the crankiest babies.

Calling support was a plunge into "DSL Hell"
but now - years later - the process works pretty well.

Especially considering that DSL is a huge

Wednesday, May 06, 2009


In you have 2 grand 
on hand
and want to own a painting that was owned by Rand...

One of her husband's painting's is up for auction on eBay. No one seems to have bid yet.

He took up painting late in life, and never achieved mastery.

I hadn't previously seen a color photo of this one.

I like the effect, 
but the hands seem incorrect.

Goethe vs. Kaufmann

Finished Goethe's Faust, Part One, on the jet home. And I left it in the plane seat pocket! So you will get no exact quotes from me tonight.

Anyway, the translator is Walter Kaufmann, and I think he was a good translator, so far as I can tell.

But I really think his introduction is misleading. He wanted to make Goethe into too much of a forerunner of Nietzsche. Specifically, Kaufmann declares that there is no message to Faust, and that Goethe, while having no philosophy, nonetheless had a "beyond good and evil" point of view toward morality.

No big sprawling work of art stays on message consistently, but surely Goethe is dwelling upon the dire consequences of falsely manipulating someone into loving you.

I was very struck, this time, how Gretchen's dungeon scene reminded me of Ophelia's mad scene in Hamlet.

Love - lie to get it -
and live to regret it.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Hedge Fund Managers On Edge

Sacrifice is demanded:
The President has just harshly castigated hedge fund managers for being unwilling to take his administration’s bid for their Chrysler bonds. He called them “speculators” who were “refusing to sacrifice like everyone else”...
Usually when a company goes bankrupt, and it owes too many people too much money, the courts decide who gets how much. This time, the president wants to decide, in a way that favors a certain big union, and he's not happy that some are resisting his will.

Glenn Reynolds has advice for these harshly castigated fund managers:
You can tie this bailout up in legal knots if you’re willing to go to court. Obama needs it to succeed more than you do.
Sounds like good advice
for minimizing sacrifice.

Or would they rather follow the President's dictum
and offer themselves as sacrificial victims?

The Great Chicago Squirrel Census

Scientists need to know!
Scientists attempting to count the number of squirrels per zip code in the Chicago area are asking people to record sightings of the rodents on a Web site
Urban ecologist Steve Sullivan leads the effort and says the Midwest is a "squirrel hot spot."
If I log in every sighting,
I'll spend my whole day writing:

"in a tree" or "on the grass".

We have so many, that, alas,
I think I'll have to take a pass.


Carrie Prejean, 
the anti-gay-marriage beauty queen, 
so some of her breast is exposed. 

(For what it's worth, I'm not linking the photo, just the story.)

The pose does look as if it's designed to appeal to heterosexual males. No hypocrisy there, of course!

Her alleged hypocrisy has to do with her Christianity. I'm open minded on this topic. It strikes me that there are many forms of Christianity that are accepting of displays of bare skin. You can find pro-modesty anti-lust passages in the Christian scriptures, quite easily. But, manifestly, many American Christians don't embrace these passages at face value. Which is fine with me.

The human form,
glowing and warm,
is often good for a media storm.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Who Was That Masked Man?

Yesterday I saw a guy sitting at Dunkin Donuts with a "flu mask" on.

I wondered if he was particularly vulnerable to infection.

I wondered how he would drink his coffee through the mask.

I guess it's a good time
to commit a crime.

Right now if you walk into a bank wearing a mask
no one would even ask
whether you were scared of feeling awful,
or planning something unlawful.

Friday, May 01, 2009

No Imelda Jokes, Please

Some people are criticising Michelle Obama for wearing 500 dollar sneakers - while visiting a "food bank."

I say, leave her alone. She's rolling in bucks. Let her blow it on shoes.

And the people at the food bank probably think she looks sharp in her designer footwear.

Perhaps when she's done with those shoes,
she can put them in a shoe bank - for someone else to use.


For those who have been asking, my play, Ready or Not, will run 3 weeks, startingeither 6/11 or 6/18, at Dream Theatre, at 556 W. 18th St. in Chicago.

The "either" is due to some uncertainties of construction at the theater. They have to put in a first floor bathroom for people who can't handle stairs. Regulations!

The play will run Thurs-Fri-Sat- Sunday evenings. In effect the safe dates are 6/18-6/21 and 6/25-6/28.

So save the date.
I can't wait.