Friday, July 31, 2009


People are sticky. They adhere
to one another. That is clear.

How it works is hard to say.
But the glue sets, and they choose to stay.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Begging With An Edge

Driving this evening - still daylight - I stopped at a light and found there were 2 beggars arguing - over turf rights to the intersection I suspect.

One was a hunched over woman - with a knife in her hand - an unfolded pocket knife with maybe a 5 inch steel blade. She was holding the knife down, not displaying it to drivers.

I think she was newbie at the intersection. I think the other beggar wanted her gone. But I guess he had to share the territory.

Let the new lady beg
or you may get a blade in your leg.

Texas Again

Saw Somewhere In Texas for the 4th time tonight.

The author has such a way with his characters. The interactions ring true, so that even when a story veers off into surreal behavior, the behavior still feels perfectly motivated.

Every one of these 10-minute plays encapsulates a life-changing event.

The stories glide,
the characters collide,
on a roller-coaster ride.


This might explain a few things:
President Obama’s top science adviser, John P. Holdren, advocated the "de-development" of the United States in books he published in the 1970s.
Some of these knaves
would have us back in caves.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Photographic Evidence from Metropolis, IL

I believe Obama was born in Hawaii. Because that's where the evidence leads me.

And if anyone wants to sponsor me for a fact-finding mission to Hawaii, I will gladly take them up on it.

But here is a photo which suggests a different origin for him:

What if his birth
was not of this earth?

UPDATE - video admission

Journals as Kernels

Oxford University Press has a book on Ayn Rand coming out, by Jennifer Burns, a historian at the University of Virginia, who has been allowed access to the estate's collection of Ayn Rand's original journals.

For people, like me, who own a copy of the published Journals Of Ayn Rand, the early news is not heartening.
Burns writes, “On nearly every page of the published journals an unacknowledged change has been made from Rand’s original writing. In the book’s foreword the editor, David Harriman, defends his practice of eliminating Rand’s words and inserting his own as necessary for greater clarity. In many case, however, his editing serves to significantly alter Rand’s meaning.” She says that sentences are “rewritten to sound stronger and more definite” and that the editing “obscures important shifts and changes in Rand’s thought.” She finds “more alarming” the case that “sentences and proper names present in Rand’s original …have vanished entirely, without any ellipses or brackets to indicate a change.”
This is related to an interesting complaint that you hear about Rand's characters - that you are given little idea of how they developed into what they are. There's a reference to Galt seeming as if he had appeared in the world fully formed - a bit like Athena in Greek legend. And Rand sometimes presented herself in a similar way.

But I think we all can agree
that a seed is not yet a tree.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Famous For Making A Phone Call

Lucia Whalen, who called the cops on Professor Gates, is going to break her silence:
A lawyer for Lucia Whalen says Whalen plans a news conference Wednesday in Cambridge because she wants to get on with her life. The attorney says Whalen has been hounded "relentlessly" by the news media.
If I were her, I would demand an invitation to the White House - to join the prez, the professor, and the cop in that symbolic beer.

It was her call
that started it all.

I think it's clear -
she deserves White House beer!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Of Color

Lucia Whalen, who called the cops on Professor Gates, says she is NOT WHITE, and she told her lawyer to make that clear:
"Contrary to published reports that a 'white woman' called 911 and reported seeing 'two black men' trying to gain entry into Mr. Gates home, the woman, who has olive colored skin and is of Portuguese descent, told the 911 operator that she observed 'two men' at the home," Murphy's statement read.
Portuguese... so she's a European-American. But she's not white.

I'm wondering about my wife. She's part Italian. Her skin has been described as olive toned, at least compared to mine...

Are we an interracial couple?

The definition of white
is increasingly hard to get right.

To be technical, I think,
I'm really closer to pink.

Suds of Peace

It's interesting that "a beer" is now the official drink of reconciliation.

The prez and his bud and the cop are all going to sit down in the White House and chug down a cold one.

Water will not do.
It has to be a brew.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Grubby Hands

Pro-nationalization-of-health advocates keep saying that opponents need to put forth a viable plan of their own.

Glenn Reynolds suggests: "Keep your grubby hands off my body. Just a thought."

I like that.

So here is my viable plan.

Let go of my doctor.
Let go of me.
We'll do fine without you.
Try it - and see!

Great Connections

My wife's week-long "Great Connections" seminar for high-school and college students seems to be going great, from the reports I'm getting so far.

Larry Gould, a physics professor, spoke to the group yesterday about the history of our understanding of gravity. He said the students' enthusiasm and interest were outstanding.

My wife said the students were having a great time talking with each other, too.

The seminar is designed along the lines of the learning techniques my wife has been advocating for young adults, which involves a mix of information acquisition, followed by structured seminar discussion.

Young minds, bold searchers,
deserve careful nurture.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Stop Plate Tectonics

Plate tectonics must be stopped
no matter what it takes.
Our legislators must adopt
measures banning quakes.

Quakes mess with the environment
by heaving it around.
Shouldn't a decent government
guarantee solid ground?


We went to a performance of Cyrano de Bergerac tonight. We were enjoying it.

But it was an outdoor performance.

First, came isolated drops of water. Then, rain. Then, signs of an electrical storm. So the performance was cancelled.

Well, we have rainchecks.

Cyrano dared to battle one hundred.
But the show had to close once it thundered.


We went to a performance of Cyrano de Bergerac tonight. We were enjoying it.

But it was an outdoor performance.

First, came isolated drops of water. Then, rain. Then, signs of an electrical storm. So the performance was cancelled.

Well, we have rainchecks.

Cyrano dared to battle one hundred.
But the show had to close once it thundered.

Thursday, July 23, 2009


I'm not a huge baseball fan, but I loved the team as a boy:
Perfect! White Sox's Buehrle tosses historic gem

Amazing 9th-inning catch helps preserve MLB's first perfect game since ’04
When people tell me "nothing's perfect," I often reply "in baseball you can have a perfect game."

Perfection, to be fair,
is not impossible, merely rare.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Moving Day

New Zealand just moved a foot closer to Australia.
A massive 7.8 magnitude earthquake last week has moved the south of New Zealand closer to Australia, scientists said Wednesday.
Australia must prepare.
Soon the Tasman Sea... won't be there.
Those sneaky little Kiwis... will take Oz unaware!

Go Long

The president reportedly took only 10 questions in his one-hour press conference tonight.

Peter Suderman complains:
Obama seems to have decided ahead of time that when faced with an uncomfortable question, the best idea is to grind away at tangentially related statistics, anecdotes, and talking points until everyone's forgotten what the actual question was anyway.
Our prez used to be a professor,
and he showed it tonight at his presser,
lecturing all at great length.

Does he think droning on is a strength?

Chihuahua, Ta Ta

The Taco Bell Chihuahua is dead. At age 15.

You may remember a male voice declaring "Yo quiero Taco Bell," but the dog was actually a female, known as Gidget.

For the sake of her acting career,
and all those giant checks
she was willing to appear
as a dog of the opposite sex.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Pacemakers vs. Painkillers

A woman asks about pacemakers for centenarians, and Obama gives a vague reply about "end-of-life care" which ends up with:
Maybe you're better off not having the surgery, but taking the pain killer.
Yeah, that'll help your heart problem - a big dose of "the pain killer"!

Pacemakers cost a lot of dough.

Painkillers not so much. And so -
we'll give you something for the pain
and let your life slip down the drain.

Your loss, but the government's gain.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Landing on Luna

I guess I should break down and say something about the moon landing anniversary.

I was a fan of the Apollo project. I even drove with friends to Cape Canaveral to see one of the Apollo missions lift off.

I grew up thinking this would be an ongoing project of lunar exploration. Oops. Nope. The economics wasn't there. The military benefits weren't there. And a lot of intellectuals just didn't like the program.

Here's a passage from a 1972 article, in the NY Times, quoted in an article by Ayn Rand:
The critics of Apollo, and there have been many, believe it was an evasion of earthly responsibility. They usually share the sentiments of the late Max Born, the Nobel laureate who said, 'Space travel is a triumph of intellect, but a tragic failure of reason.' They view Apollo as America's pyramids, a folly of national vanity, or as technology's Chartres, a symbol of the machine's new dominion over man and reason.
Fie upon such critics.

The good news is that the march of machine power has continued in unimagined ways. And the machine has proven not to dominate us, but to empower us. And our actual use of space for satellites of various kinds has expanded amazingly.

But those lonely footprints on the moon
won't have company anytime soon.

Be Afraid!

Anna Weiler is interviewed, and asked for advice to young women who want to go into the performing arts.

Her first 3 points apply more broadly, across genders, across fields of endeavor:
1. Ask yourself, “What do I really, really want?” Then whatever your answer is, commit to it 100%!

2. Protect your individuality. Do not let anyone change who you are.

3. Keep trying even when you are afraid. Be afraid! Then you can enjoy conquering it.

Courage does not consist
in never feeling fear.

Be afraid, but then resist,
and learn to persevere.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Don't Judge Them

Administration officials... urged a skeptical public not to judge the Democrats' overhaul until Congress writes a final version.
Right now it may look like a bureaucratic mess.
But in a week or two or three we'll have it at its best,

We're adding extra rules and stuff - so don't expect less!

The problem with the market is it's under-regulated.
Choice in medicine is really highly over-rated.

You'll die for joy when we reveal the system we've created!


Dirty Business

Where humans dig, the robin hangs around,
seeing turned soil, hoping for a meal.

He tug-of-wars a worm from out the ground
and flies away with feed-the-babies zeal.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

In the Greenhouse

The illustrious Shikha Dalmia explains why countries like India won't agree to "cut greenhouse gases":
In short, the choice for developing countries is between mass death due to the consequences of an overheated planet sometime in the distant future, and mass suicide due to imposed instant starvation right now. Is it any surprise that they are reluctant to jump on the global-warming bandwagon?
I figure that the U.S. has cleaned up its environment by exporting many of its dirty industries to less developed countries.

We no longer feel
a need to make steel.

We buy it from overseas,
where poorer people pollute as they please.

Friday, July 17, 2009


You have to be careful about promising too much upfront, because your opposition starts making ads like this:

Promise right now.
Later, disavow.

From / To

From each according to their ability! To each according to their need!

Be careful what you legislate.

Ability grows rarer -
it must be some sort of error.

But need will soon expand
to meet the demand.

Feeling Sick

Medicine must be rationed.
It's for the good of the nation!

We'll need a really big bureacracy
to ration little pills to you and me.

Somewhere In Texas

Tonight I saw the opening night of Somewhere In Texas at The Dream Theatre Company.

If was funny, disturbing, and never for a second was I bored.

It's a collection of six short plays from the mind of Jeremy Menekseoglu, and he always pulls you into these characters of his, these living, breathing, striving people who are trying to make their way through their confusing lives.

Several of the plays focused on the power of raw desire and the odd ways it comes out in behavior.

Jeremy himself was awesome in "Archives" as a young man exaggerating his standing as an adult film maker. You know what he's doing is wrong, but you also know that his ultimate punishment is horribly unfair.

Anna Weiler was sizzling hot in "A Boy And His Elephant".

Kathleen Cawthon was heartbreakingly sweet as a very naive young woman who has decided to have sex for the first time, but is excruciatingly unsure how to go about it.

I could go on and on about the great performances, particularly because there were so many actors and actresses.

The staging was hopelessly clever, including an actual swimming pool full of water. And wait till you see what the marshmallows are for.

One special pleasure was watching Danielle Gennaoui and Tom McGrath, who were the romantic leads in my play, appear with each other again but with quite different selves. Here they are in character for "Mandy":

The battle of the sexes
continues somewhere in Texas.

UPDATE: The production makes the prestigious Chicago Reader's Critic's Choice List!

Here is Tony Adler's insightful review.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Probing Color-Coding

Silly headline of the day, courtesy of Yahoo News:
Officials to probe color-coded terror alert system
Probe? Really? Are there colorful secrets to be found?

As usual, we're in between
red and green.

Anyway, I say that we should now switch to a flavor-coded terror alert system.

In our scariest hour
the code will be horribly sour.

Rattner Hits the Eject Button

Car czar resigns.
I'm feeling sorrow.

Now who will design
the car of tomorrow?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Enemies of Bliss

The enemies of bliss
love to boo and hiss
at love itself - annoyed
by living forms of joy.

Bear Missing Again

A Chicago police dog, named Bear, has escaped from the backyard of a Canine Unit Officer. For the second time in 2 months.

Perhaps he's pursuing a secret case of his own,
which somehow involves chewing a juicy bone.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Human Powered High Speed Vehicle

Got my road bike out for a ride - for the first time this year. 30 miles on asphalt trails in great weather.

Sheesh it's late in the summer to be starting! I have my sights set on a very short tri on August 1.

Will I complete
or give up in defeat?

We'll know rather soon.
Stay tuned.

Grave Crime

Four workers at a local cemetery - a big historic African-American cemetery - are charged with digging up bodies and reselling the space.

Basically, they were cheating the cemetery owners, and tossing about the remains of the dead. The accused workers are also African Americans, so there's no suggestion this is a racist thing. It's just an uncaring crooked thing. And it's a horrible mess.
Dart said he wished he could tell families that the confusion at the cemetery would be sorted out, but the sprawling site and its records are in such disarray that he is not confident that will happen.
I sometimes visit relatives' graves. They're within jogging distance. I don't really think about their buried bodies. I think about about how I miss them.

Graves are designed to give
a place to grieve - to those who live.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Touchy Feely

David Brooks, a columnist for the NY Times, complains about politicians who love to press the flesh:
I sat next to a Republican senator once at dinner and he had his hand on my inner thigh the whole time. I was like, ehh, get me out of here.
That can't be an actual quote of something Brooks said.
It must be a quote of what went on in his head.

And I'm left wondering why
he didn't loudly declare, "Get your hand off my thigh."

Friday, July 10, 2009

Vickie Oddino Asked

Vickie Oddino, who teaches at Mission College, gave an interesting lecture entitled "Can We Be Objective about Literature?"

One question she asked was: what should you tell the earnest young person who has been deeply and favorably touched by some literary work that... you otherwise judge to be worthless.

I would say that the experience of being touched by a book is a precious one - and too rare nowadays! So the proper response is never "oh, that piece of trash?" The proper response is more like "it's great that a book spoke to you - tell me more about it."

Though you think a certain book is dreadful,
if it's given someone else a headful
of dreams,
to that extent, it's better than it seems.

Never scorn the tiny spark
that blossoms slightly in the dark.
Fan it, rather, into fire -
make the flames grow higher.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

One Week to Somewhere in Texas

Here are some shots from the opens-in-a-week Somewhere in Texas by Jeremy Menekseoglu.

I'm going next Thursday, opening night, ready to laugh. It's a set of 6 very short comedies.

I've seen just one of them - Infans Satani - about a hyper-annoying woman who believes that having a baby makes her the boss of everyone. ("Babies are the future.") I laughed hard.

I also know a bunch of he actors - including Danielle Gennaoui and Tom McGrath. They were the romantic leads in my play, and I'm told they are cast together again.

Somewhere in Texas
do people of opposite sexes
find that love perplexes?

The Rhymed Version

A good friend wants to see the early rhymed version of my play... Well, here's a sample.

As performed:

You look so happy.

Why shouldn't I be? I'm free. I'm home. I'll sleep in my own bed tonight. What could be better than that?

You didn't get my letter, did you?

Which one? You sent so many.

The last one. I don't think you got it. You wouldn't look so happy.

In early version:

My mood? Well what would you expect? I’m free.
I’m out. I’m home again. You’re here with me.
To sleep in my own bed… what could be better?

I’m thinking that you didn’t get my letter.

You sent so many letters, each a treasure.

This last one would have brought more pain than pleasure.


In the lobby, for all to enjoy
was a pool with swans and koi.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Skousen Addresses Randians

Mark Skousen, the Mormon financial advisor, spoke today. He attacked Objectivism for being too selfish. He said Objectivists were not inclined to charitable activities.

Which was odd because *before* he spoke my wife announced she was organizing a scholarship fund for students to attend the Free Minds conference next year.


Skousen called for finding a middle way between egoism and altruism.

But Alexander Cohen pointed out that this might be problematic, since these are two answers to the question: what is the proper end of ethics?

Is there a golden mean
somewhere between?

Or does egoist living
in fact include forms of giving?

Long Laws

Major U.S. congressional bills are now so long that very few elected representatives have read them in their entirety.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Tuesday that the health-care reform bill now pending in Congress would garner very few votes if lawmakers actually had to read the entire bill before voting on it.
To be an effective leader
you must be a speedy reader.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

One Long "Middle"

Historian Emily Merrill gave a very interesting talk, here at the Free Minds Conference, about the way in which the Middle Ages helped to prepare the way for the Renaissance. The Middle Ages is a thousand-year stretch of European history, starting from the fall of the Western Roman empire, finishing with the dawn of the Renaissance.

Across the long grind
of the Middle Ages,
progressed by stages.

Monday, July 06, 2009

The Run Is Done

In many ways I barely know the people who performed my play - the cast and crew. I don't know them the way that their personal friends know them, or the way that their family members know them.

But I know them through their work - a key part of any human being - an essential part of every artist. And I love them through their work.

Thank you all.
I had a ball.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Playing Kyle

I have been writing about Jeremy Menekseoglu for 6 years. Before I had a blog I used to post about him to the NIF mailing list. But always before I have seen him acting in his own plays - and usually my reflections have focused on his playwriting and his directing, with lighter commentary on his many strengths as an actor. But I've set out to write a little something about each of the actors in my play, so here goes, with the customary warning that all these people know more about acting than I do!

Jeremy plays villains in a lot of his own productions, and in my play too he had the role of a person whose behavior is less than stellar. He's always very good at playing bad. I've heard him say, which I already knew from watching him, that he tries to find the lovable side of the bad guy. He doesn't try to eliminate the bad, but he tries to present the person's good side too. That's certainly how I was taught to play unlikable characters - you have to find something likable about them. This isn't really an issue of moral equivalence, which it might sound like. It's not about excusing - it's about portraying, and drawing the audience into the character, and making the character complex and believable. After all, people who do bad things are just as complex as people who do good things. In a way, people who do bad things are often extra complicated, because they twist themselves up into knots with their attempts at self-justification. The net-effect of the performance is not necessarily that you think "what a lovable villain." Sometimes you are drawn in merely to be repelled.

While he's doing all this, if you watch him night after night, you see him working very hard on stage to give the other actors their moments - when they have something important to say or do. What do I mean by this? Well, for one example, actors often position themselves out of the spotlights. Many of them find it hard, while on stage, to maintain the ongoing awareness of when they are in the light. I have repeatedly seen Jeremy subtly lead other actors into the light, sometimes by stepping out of it himself. For another example, when one of the other actors has a big moment, Jeremy typically gives his onstage attention to that person, which helps direct the audience's attention to the right person. It's a very caring choice on Jeremy's part, since he would certainly have the ability to draw attention to himself, instead, if he wanted to.

The spark
the lights
that show
the dark


What is up with Sarah Palin resigning?

Will she move to Texas to get more sun?

Or is this all strategic - is she aligning
her forces for a presidential run?

Could she be sick? Or is there a scandal brewing?
Would someone tell me what the heck she's doing!

Saturday, July 04, 2009

I Saw No Actual Tea

I dropped in for a while on the Chicago Tea Party at Navy Pier, which included people from Nader's political organization, strangely enough. There were hundreds of people standing in a light rain, clapping and cheering.

They were standing in a drizzle,
but the party did not fizzle.

I noticed one of the organizations involved is called "Free and Equal". In a contemporary context, the second word sometimes worries me, since it often means removing people's ability to work harder and grow richer.

I like what the founders meant by "equal,"
but I'm less than charmed with the modern sequel.

Human Events

As empires went at the time, it wasn't an especially bad one. It had fostered freedom for many of its subjects, across far-flung domains.

But the colonists saw a change in the intentions of the central government. They organized protests. There were grumblings of revolt.

Then the colonies put together something they called a continental congress. And the more fiery members called openly for a declaration of independence.

On a hot day in July
seeing no other solution
they signed their names

knowing they all might die
for boldly fanning the flames
of revolution.


Thursday we had a visit from another critic. It was too late for her to put a review in her paper, but she greatly enjoyed the show, and told me I should get working on my next play.

Performances left: only two.
And I'm already feeling blue.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Krugman Weighs In

Paul Krugman has it figured out:
O.K., Thursday’s jobs report settles it. We’re going to need a bigger stimulus.
Well, thank goodness he spoke up. I just knew the federal government wasn't spending enough money yet!

It seems the existing stimulus package didn't perform as advertised. It was supposed to keep unemployment down to the 8% level. But it's now approaching 10%.

Plan A shoved money out the door.
Still, we saw unemployment soar.

Let's try plan B - and spend some more!

Playing Diane

This is the second to last of my little reflections on the actors in my play.

Sometimes people say the role of Diane in my play is like a deus ex machina - a deity who descends to resolve the play's key issues - like Athena in the Oresteian Trilogy. But Diane's not really that. She's not really a judge. She's more of a catalyst. Her presence, as an authoritative figure, and as a witness, makes a lot of things happen. And then she leaves - she has business to attend to - and the play goes on. Rachel Martindale, who plays Diane, simply exudes authority in the role, and never seems to slip out of character when on stage. In person she is the picture of theater professionalism - ready to perform - and ready to pitch in with non-performance tasks too. She's often the very picture of purposefulness, and that certainly blended perfectly into the role of Diane, a character who strives to stick to business. But she also added the personal warmth to create the impression that Diane, underneath the hustle and bustle, really does care about the people who work for her. There's a legend about Athena - that she sprang forth fully grown from the head of Zeus - and Rachel gives off that air at times - she had her part memorized almost immediately, and she had a detailed portrayal ready almost immediately. It's practically spooky how little preparation she seemed to require for anything!

Fully adept
she lightly leapt
into the role
perfect and whole.

Betty Mohr's Profile of Yours Truly

Betty Mohr, of the Southtown Star, wrote a lovely profile about me and my playwriting.
Enright said he has been interested in writing since he was 8 years old in grade school.

"When I was in my teens I read Ayn Rand's novel 'Atlas Shrugged,' and it made me want to be a writer even more," he said.

"Her ideas had a lot of influence on me, as did her story. I've always been taken by an interesting and logical story that had a coherent form and comes to a climax."
Atlas has one hell of a climax.
But will we ever see it on I-Max?

You may think it's over-loaded with strife.
But some of us worry it's happening in real life.