Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Fingers Crossed

My 82-year-old father had coronary artery bypass graft surgery on Monday morning. I left him at the hospital about an hour ago. He seems to be doing very well, all things considered.

I guess it's good for you when it's all done,
but I wouldn't recommend it as fun.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Not Sure How To Be Confident?

Deb at Mariposario has an interesting post on confidence, which opens:
A friend who lacks confidence told me that she wished I could give seminars on how to do it. Barring that, though, she asked for advice. Now, I'm no psychologist; I don't know how to go about advising grown adults about how to acquire confidence when they don't have much. But I could outline my principles for her. Here is what I told her; please feel free to chime in, folks, because you nice people have great ideas.
I think Deb's idea are excellent, but you might have your own suggestions to offer. I fear it's a huge topic.

One more thing I'll say about Deb:
her energy never seems to ebb.

Play Update / Playing Norma

We have now completed week two of our three week run.

The audience tonight - despite being a Sunday - was our biggest audience yet. And the actors were rocking. The overall performance just keeps getting better. Which, really, is the way it's supposed to be.

And now, a word about Tamika Morales - the actress playing Norma Vasquez.

I am so glad to have her. She lights up the stage with charisma in her role. The trap of the character, I suppose, is that she can seem kind of sketchy or shady. But Tamika imbues the role with a strong sense of honor, creating a sense of a woman who follows her own ethical code, which leans more toward loyalty than to following the official rule book. The character is more than a bit of a detective, with great people sense and excellent interrogation skills. Tamika has made Norma perfectly believable in her ruthless pursuit of truth. Also, and perhaps most important, she has made Norma's loving and caring side perfectly believable.

She likes to stretch the truth,
but excels at playing sleuth.

Upheaval in Honduras

There has been a coup in Honduras. Army members have arrested and exiled their prez.
President Barack Obama said he was "deeply concerned" by Zelaya's expulsion and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the arrest should be condemned.
The MSNBC story describes Zelaya as a leftist ally of Hugo Chavez. Apparently he had taken a page out of Chavez's book, and was holding a referendum on whether to eliminate term limits on his own office. The Honduran Supreme Court had ruled the referendum unconstitutional, but Zelaya was going ahead with it anyway.
The Supreme Court said it was supporting the military in what it called a defense of democracy, and the Honduran ambassador to the Organization of American States said the military was planning to swear in Congressional President Roberto Micheletti -- who is next in line to the presidency -- to replace Zelaya.
I'm not sure they've earned
claims that we're "deeply concerned."

Running the Numbers

Latest research on playwrights, slide 16:
Women are more likely than men to write about women.

Female written scripts: Majority female parts 33%.. Majority male parts 67%

Male written scripts: Majority female parts 19%.. Majority male parts 81%
First, I wanted to boast that I was somehow a male with a "majority female parts" script.

Second, "male parts" sounds too much like, you know.

Third... just wait... aren't there any plays with an even number of male and female parts? You know, like "Same Time Next Year"?

Theatrical charts
about male and female parts
should include a batch
of the evenly matched.

Saturday, June 27, 2009


About a month ago we had a security system installed at the house.

The other morning, it backfired a bit. In my sleepy state, I opened the basement door to let the dogs out - without disabling the alarm first.

The system no doubt started to do a warning beep - but in the basement I couldn't hear it - particularly because one of the dogs was noisily lapping water.

As I headed upstairs, the system started to blare an actual alarm. I deactivated it and it stopped blaring.

Then came the phone call, from the monitoring service, asking if we were okay. Sure, I said, all good. "Did you receive a password," the lady asked.

Well, she had me there.

So, following protocol, she sent the cops. Who were perfectly nice. But the city charges 100 dollars for false burglar alarm calls!

They were nice,
but what a price!

But it's not all bad that this occurred:
Now I've memorized the secret word.

Friday, June 26, 2009


I haven't said much about it for days. I guess because I've thought it was obvious. But I feel like saying something.

I don't want to engage in nation-building or foreign-government-fixing. But if we could arrange to fly in, eliminate the country's "leaders", and fly out, all in a couple of days, it would be okay with me.

I'm tired of their haranguing.
I'd like to see them hanging.

Tom McGrath

This is part 2 in my little series where I say something I really like about one of the actors in my play.

Tom, who plays the male lead, has just amazed me with his development of the role. I first heard him do it in a reading, and he did the part with great earnestness, which I thought was good. But he has added so much, and has always made it look effortless. He takes direction very well - one instruction and his performance changes. But, what is more, he is inventive on his own as well - there's a great bit in the show involving a banana, and that is all his. The trap, for actors, in his role, I think, is that the role can appear at first to be sort of a "victim" role. But that turns out to be a misleading assessment, so the actor has to find his way to make the character more of a fighter, even if he's not much of a boxer. Perhaps most important, Tom has invested the character of Ed with personal charm, which is critical to the success of the emotional portion of the plot of the play.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Chicago, WI

I hadn't realized that Wisconsin had once laid claim to Chicago.

You can see the 2 different Illinois-Wisconsin boundary lines here. Under the Ordinance of 1787 Chicago would have been included in Wisconsin.

The city was reportedly founded in 1779 by Jean Baptiste Pointe du Sable. At that point, it was nominally owned by the British, as far as I can make out.

And up until 1786, Connecticut seems to have maintained a claim on Chicago. Think of it - Chicago, CT!

But Congress changed its mind.
And so, today, we find,
Chicago is deployed
firmly in Illinois.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Bad Bug?

There are stories that the fatal train crash in DC involved... computer-driven trains.

Sometimes I'm glad I don't work on system where a bug could kill people.

It helps me to sleep better,
knowing that if I mess up, no one dies on a train -
rather, someone gets an erroneous letter,
and lives to complain.


My first-ever theater review arrived today in The Beverly Review, a neighborhood paper that started up in 1905.

By comparison, I started up in 1952.

The reviewer, after seeing the play, interviewed me for about 30 minutes.

The review, by Kathleen Tobin, is quite glowing.
So, here it is, “Ready or Not,” coming after five years of gestation, three years of writing, playwriting workshops, rewriting, public readings and finding the right place and people to put it on the stage! And it is worth the wait!
Well, I'll just say that those words were worth the wait, too. She also praises the super-talented and hard-working cast:
Menekseoglu has put together a dream cast for this production. Eddie Brennan (Tom McGrath) is an executive with an international construction firm. On a job in Mexico and needing an important permit to finish the job, he is caught trying to bribe a Mexican official and is thrown into jail for a year.

The play opens as Eddie returns home to Susan (Danielle Gennaoui), the wife he loves and truly missed, only to find that she and his friend and office mate Kyle (Menekseoglu) have become a twosome and his boss Diane (Rachel Martindale) has terminated his position.

The plot thickens as Norma (Tamika Morales), the niece of the Mexican official who befriended Eddie during his prison term, shows up at Eddie's home, and it becomes apparent that there is much more to the story than meets the eye. And you're hooked right through to the final heartwarming ending.
I know, I can't let this go to my head,
but must remain self-critical, instead.

All the same,
it's going in a frame.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Certifiably Insane

Sounds like a great gig:
Hundreds of New York City public school teachers accused of offenses ranging from insubordination to sexual misconduct are being paid their full salaries to sit around all day playing Scrabble, surfing the Internet or just staring at the wall, if that's what they want to do.
The article blames union rules that make it very hard to terminate anyone ever.


Resolving Spelling By Checking Google Hits

Norma Vasquez has a question for Edward Brennan.

Tonight we had a young lady from Mexico in the audience. She told me that "Vasquez" is more commonly spelled as "Vazquez". Sure enough, her spelling has twice the Google hits. But I worked with a man named "Vasquez", and I stole it straight from him!

Week one -
what fun -
is done.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Unnecessary and Confusing "After"

Man killed after being struck by Metra train

That's a Chicago Tribune headline, as it currently shows here.

It's just so wrong. He wasn't "killed after being struck by" the train. He was "killed by" the train. Which the story itself makes clear. It sounds rather like a suicide.

But "killed after" suggests that the man was wandering around dazed after the accident - when someone came up and shot him!

It might be true to say that he "died after" being struck. His heart may have been beating for a while.

It's not really hard to explain:
he was killed by a train.

Rand on Romantic Comedy

One of my father's day gifts is Objectively Speaking: Ayn Rand Interviewed, which includes this question:
Within the field of literature, where would you place humorous writing, compared with, say, Romantic literature?
In the first paragraph of her reply, she informs the interviewer that he has drawn a false distinction:
To begin with, there are Romantic types of humor. Romantic comedy is a very broad category, in which some very good works have been written. Take Oscar Wilde and my favorite, Noel Coward, as examples. They write Romantic humor. It is benevolent humor. It laughs at problems that in fact are not serious, and it shows the triumph of the good characters and their values. But it laughs at the unpleasantness of life. It laughs at negatives. Therefore, Romantic humor is a perfectly appropriate part of literature. (p 134-135)
But she's not in love with it. On page 126, in another interview, she declares that she likes romantic comedy very much, but that it's not "of personal importance to me," a fact she attributes to her own earnestness and seriousness.

She liked it alot, but her feelings were merely... warm.

Which explains
why she refrained
from writing in the form.

Playing Susan

I'm thinking I should say something about each of the people acting in my play. I mean to say at least one big thing I like about each one's portrayal of their role.

All these people have studied acting far more than I have, so please take my meditations with a grain of salt.

Today I'm going to start with Danielle Gennaoui, who plays Susan Brennan, the female romantic lead. I'm inclined to think this is the hardest role in the play. I think this is partly because she is the character who takes the longest to find her true voice. For much of the play the actress is playing a bit of an enigma, but her acting must *suggest* what's really going on with her character, without quite giving it away. And it's not that the character is sneaky - far from it - she's actually described as "an open book" by her husband at one point. That description may not be 100% correct for Susan, but it captures the character's deep commitment to walking the way of responsibility, despite being sorely tested.

This is all
a rather tall order,
but Danielle
does it so well.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Shot My Son Snapped

Me and the cast
having a blast.

From left, Jeremy Menekseoglu, Tamika Morales, Tom McGrath, Me, Rachel Martindale, Danielle Gennaoui.

Not On Purpose

My son and daughter are both in town to see the play.
Lucky for me that coincides with Father's Day.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Belated Update

Funniest comment of the night, from a science professor: "I usually get bored at these things, but this one held my interest."

Ready Or Not opened well.
The audience thought it was swell.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Latest Buzz

This is just to announce that I
support the President killing the fly.

It's great to find some common ground -
namely we don't like flies around.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Twitter vs. Theocracy

I came across this interesting story about the hacker / counter-hacker battle going on in Iran, much of it over Twitter messages, for information is power:
But I think it's also too easy to underestimate the real power of the Internet to provide more than information. On the Internet, content is not king—it never was. The value of Tweets right now is less the information they contain than the solidarity they promote. Like civil-rights protesters who sang rousing hymns as they were carried off to jail, Twitterers are bearing witness to what's happening around them, and calling out into the darkness of cyberspace for confirmation. I'm here. You're here, too. We are present.
It's too early to know how this unrest in Iran will end. I'm hoping that it ends with a theocracy toppled. Of course, theocracy is always a misnomer, since God never really tells the rulers what to do.

The rulers decide what to do,
then they claim it's orders from you know Who.

Ready Or Not - Progress Report

I think people will like it, on account of I'm loving it.

The director said something tonight to the actors, about how I was going to remember them forever, on account of this was my first full-length play. The director was right, of course.

One rehearsal to go.
Then on with the show

Monday, June 15, 2009

Yip Yip Glub

A 4 year old decided to wash a puppy - by plopping it in the toilet and flushing.

An expert plumber managed to retrieve the pup from the sewers:
Cheering broke out as the pet was plucked out of the manhole to complete the rescue.
Down the drain went the puppy,
like a gone guppy.

He smelled kind of ripe
when retrieved from the pipe.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Testing Gone Wrong

Suppose your state license plate is: 0

Just zero.

And suppose some city parking-enforcement workers test their handheld ticketing-computers by typing in a license plate of zero.

Guess what happens.
The situation got to the point where Feddor was "afraid of getting the boot," he said, referring to the city's new policy of locking Denver boots on vehicles that have two or more outstanding tickets.
It's hip
to have zip
for a plate.

But having the boot is not so great.


Charles Lane asks whether "nationalizing GM" was constitutional, and sums up his own answer this way:
In other words, sometimes the president can get away with stretching his authority because Congress would rather not be held accountable for formally defining it.
The whole "checks and balances" thing only limits the presidency when the other branches wake up and say "What the...?"

They all swear to uphold it
but many of them fold it
and stick it in a drawer
and read it nevermore.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

A Missing Part Of Speech?

I am amazed. I just found out, from melvin_udall here, that Sonia Sotomayor, in a 1996 commencement speech at Princeton, said of her high school years:
When my first mid-term paper came back to me my first semester, I found out that my Latina background had created difficulties in my writing that I needed to overcome. For example, in Spanish, we do not have adjectives. A noun is described with a preposition, a cotton shirt in Spanish is a shirt of cotton, una camisa de agodon, no agondon camisa.
How did los adjetivos in Spanish
suddenly vanish?

I believe she's right that you can't say "cotton shirt" in two words in Spanish. You have to say "shirt of cotton," in effect. Which is also acceptable in English, but a bit old-fashioned sounding.

She may be expert in law,
but her knowledge of language does not leave me in awe.

Iranian Election Outcome

The "official loser" of the election in Iran has reportedly been arrested.

Probably because he actually won, if they bothered to count the votes.

There is trouble in the street,
and I'd like the current regime to meet
the fate of Marie Antoinette.

But it hasn't happened yet.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Insensate on State Street that Great Street

I was walking down State Street at lunch when I saw a man fall down on the asphalt and crawl to the curb. Where he passed out.

I fished my cell out of my pocket. A woman asked me if I was calling 911. I said yes, and I called.

Then she and I went over to look at the guy. He didn't seem like a homeless person. He seemed like a working man. A profoundly drunk working man.

He was on the sidewalk, technically, a two-foot wide sliver of sidewalk between the street and a concrete planter. Unfortunately, his fetal position on this narrow strip left his butt hanging out over the street. And his butt was bare, because his trousers and boxers had slipped down.

We tried waking him up. He would "come to" for about 5 seconds and go back to sleep.

We were worried a bus would clip his butt, or that he might even wake up enough to roll into the street - into the path of the onrushing traffic. So we stood there waiting for the cops, shooing the traffic around his exposed self.

I got tired of looking at his butt, and I pulled up his boxers.

Finally, the cops showed up, and after that, the paramedics.

And I washed my hands. More than once.

With soap and hot water
I washed them well.

Then a whole lot of squirts
of alcohol gel.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Uighurs in Bermuda

Good news. We released some Gitmo guys - some Chinese Uighurs - to Bermuda.

And we told them not to come back to the US!

But Bermuda is a "dependency" of the UK, and the UK government is apparently upset about the new guests.

Most caring nations agree
that Gitmo guys must go free,
but still they seem to show fear
if they get too near.

Musical Spirits

I was looking at a recent biography of Rachmaninoff, and came across a statement of his that was published days after he died, in 1943:
I feel like a ghost wandering in a world grown alien.

I cannot cast out the old way of writing, and I cannot acquire the new. I have made intense efforts to feel the musical manner of today, but it will not come to me. I cannot cast out my musical gods in a moment and bend the knee to the new ones.

The new kind of music seems to me to come, not from the heart, but from the head. Its composers think rather than feel. They have not the capacity to make their music 'exult' as Hans von Bulow called it. They meditate, protest, analyze, reason, calculate, and brood - but they do not exult.

It may be that they compose in the manner of the times, but it may be, too, that the spirit of the times does not call for expression in music.
He tried to feel the new,
but it left him feeling cold.

What then, could he do
but play for the gods of old?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Captive Mind

Camille Paglia writes:
...Sotomayor's vainglorious lecture bromide about herself as "a wise Latina" trumping white men is a vulgar embarrassment -- a vestige of the bad old days of male-bashing feminism when even the doughty Ann Richards was saying to the 1988 Democratic National Convention: "After all, Ginger Rogers did everything that Fred Astaire did. She just did it backwards and in high heels." What flatulent canards mainstream feminism used to traffic in! Astaire, idolized even by Mikhail Baryshnikov, was one of the most brilliant and peerless dancers and choreographers of the 20th century. The agile but limited Ginger Rogers, a spunky, smart-mouthed comedian, is only a footnote. Get real, girls! This is the kind of mushy balderdash I doggedly had to plow through for five years in trying to find a good feminist poem for my collection, "Break, Blow, Burn." I never found one. Rule of art: Cant kills creativity!
It's that last sentence that jumped out at me.

Because in book club tonight we discussed The Captive Mind. Its author defected from red Poland because communist cant - the rules of socialist realism - threatened to suck the life out of his poetry. He found that threat abhorrent. But he felt irresponsible about abandoning his native land. So at the end of his book he imagines that someday, when he dies, he will need to justify his defection to Zeus:
I shall say to him: "It is not my fault that you made me a poet, and that you gave me the gift of seeing simultaneously what was happening in Omaha and Prague, in the Baltic states and on the shores of the Arctic Ocean. I felt that if I did not use that gift my poetry would be tasteless to me and fame detestable. Forgive me."
Poems designed
to toe a party line,
fall apart when closely read.

They dance about, but the soul is dead.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

I Wonder How Much A Monthly Ticket Will Cost

I take a train to and from work.

The good news - I can sleep while traveling.

The bad news - unlike my car, my train will leave without me.

But today I read this:
True or false: taking the commuter train across Boston results in lower greenhouse gas emissions than travelling the same distance in a jumbo jet.

Perhaps surprisingly, the answer is false.
Is that true for Chicago, too? Maybe I should take a jumbo jet to work!

What a cool way to commute.
But I'll have to arrive parachute -
since there's no place for a plane to touch down

Monday, June 08, 2009

Sneaking Past The Editor

Yesterday the Chicago Tribune had a charming story about a tombstone unearthed in Joliet, IL, a tombstone of a 2 year old girl who died in 1852. Gina Wysocki, an expert on 19th Century burials, took an interest:
Wysocki made another extraordinary find: Living descendants of Baby "Jenete" in Iowa not only knew of her brief life, but had been searching for her burial site for decades.
Now that is truly extraordinary - descendants of a girl who died at 2!

In the print edition, the paper had 2 photos of living relatives, both labeled as descendants.

She may be their great great aunt.
But can they be descendants? No, they can't.

Orwell On Doublethink

Michelle Malkin, who I agree with once in a while, had a great quote today from Orwell's 1984. Today is the 60th anniversary of the publication of the book.
To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them, to use logic against logic, to repudiate morality while laying claim to it, to believe that democracy was impossible and that the Party was the guardian of democracy, to forget whatever it was necessary to forget, then to draw it back into memory again at the moment when it was needed, and then promptly to forget it again: and above all, to apply the same process to the process itself.

That was the ultimate subtlety: consciously to induce unconsciousness, and then, once again, to become unconscious of the act of hypnosis you had just performed.
Italics added by me.

is a secret sink
where the brain
goes to drain
its ability
in the name of utility.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Time for Plan B

This just in from the AP:
The Federal Reserve announced a $1.2 trillion plan three months ago designed to push down mortgage rates and breathe life into the housing market.

But this and other big government spending programs are turning out to have the opposite effect. Rates for mortgages and U.S. Treasury debt are now marching higher as nervous bond investors fret about a resurgence of inflation.
Increase the money supply,
and interest rates go up. I wonder why.

Let's blame the Chinese, who grew more cautious in lending
once they saw our plan for big-time spending.

The Politics of Poppies

Simon at Power and Control has a disheartening post about our attempts to fight the Taliban by trying to stop the flourishing opium trade in Afghanistan.
All that has been tried in the USA for over 90 years. None of it has worked. Why? There are estimates out there that for every 1% increase in the interdiction budget drug profits rise 3%. So how much would we have to spend to drive the criminals and terrorists out of the narcotics business?
As Simon suggests, we would do more economic damage to the Taliban by doing "nothing", that is, by decriminalizing the trade. And the Boston Globe agrees, at least as far as Afghanistan goes.

There is no hope
of actually stopping
the trade in dope.

When a trade is banned,
you always find bad people
taking it in hand.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Synopsis Sans Substantial Spoilage

For me it's always hard to summarize something that I thought needed pages to present properly:
Ready Or Not” is a romantic comedy about the challenge of staying true to yourself when your world goes into a spin.

Ed, a young construction executive, returns home after spending a year in prison in Mexico. He looks forward to a warm welcome from his wife and his company. He is shocked to find that neither his wife, nor his boss, are eager to have him back. But Ed is not ready to surrender, and he decides to spill the secret he has been keeping for a year.

Revelation follows revelation, in scenes both humorous and heartfelt, careening toward a final confrontation.
What do you think? Is that a good sounding summary?

It's a lot more detailed than:
After a year in a Mexican jail, he was hoping for a warm welcome, but he's in for a wild ride.
So is the new one too detailed, or maybe not enough? Does it sound too much like the way they write movie summaries - too much of a marketing sound, as opposed to a literary sound?

Trying to express
this with less
causes stress.

Agent 202 - Entrapped

It's perilous being a secret spy.

All of a sudden, some strange guy
shows up with a free cigar
and says he knows who you really are...
An undercover agent approached Kendall Myers, claiming to be an associate of his Cuban handler, according to a law enforcement official speaking on a condition of anonymity about the ongoing investigation. The agent offered Kendall Myers a cigar and birthday wishes since he turned 72 that day and proposed they meet at a Washington hotel later that night.
Aren't spies supposed to have secret recognition phrases?

You know, one person says: "The moon looks almost green tonight."

The other person responds: "Limberger has always been my favorite cheese."

But... this guy reportedly falls for a free cigar and happy birthday wishes!

It sounds like this guy, and his wife, had retired... and were no longer active in espionage. Maybe they sort of missed it - missed the drama, the sense of righteous action, etc. Maybe the Cuba government had neglected to keep them in the loop - neglected to make them feel special now that they were no longer active.

If their recent Cuban contacts had been meager,
maybe that left them feeling over-eager.

Odd Couple

I saw a fun production of Neil Simon's The Odd Couple.

It was odder yet, because it was the "female version" of the play. With Florence instead of Felix and Olive instead of Oscar.

I was struck by how much dialog Simon had obviously rewritten to make this version work.

It must have been hard to recast the tale
so each male was female and each female male.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Rehearsals Continue To Impress

Actors learn things about characters
that the playwright did not know.

They dive even deeper inside - 
places the writer did not go.

Not The Filling Of A Bucket

My wife just posted this lovely quote attributed to William Butler Yeats: "Education is not the filling of a bucket, but the lighting of a fire."

That Yeats. Good with metaphors. Good with words.
His song was sweeter than the song of birds.

"Write Your Own Obama Speech"

Handy guidelines are here if you want to write a speech for Obama.

It's a nice outline. You can see why people would like it.

More than mere words, it sketches an arc
that simulates lifting you out of the dark.

Typing While The Light Is Solid

I had connectivity problems tonight - for hours. I wrote the following after calling my provider:

There's a green flashing light on my modem
where a solid green light should be.
So I called them up and I told them -
get the line fixed - one two three!

Tuesday, June 02, 2009


Am I really part owner?
Or just a cash donor?

115 Years Of Dirt

115 Years Of Dirt
Here's an old picture of the Old Colony Building, which was built in 1894.

Recently, someone decided to give its bricks a good scrubbing. It's partly cleaned. It turns out that it's not supposed to be a dark building after all. Here's a pic I took the other day:


When dirty brick at last comes clean,
new but old color is seen.