Friday, December 31, 2010

I'll Be Awake

Some choose to sleep through the arrival of the new year.

And why not slumber?
It's only a number.

"Weird Perversion"

Matthew Yglesias, prominent liberal blogger, tweets:
I know they see it the other way, but I see myself as a liberal and "libertarianism" is a weird perversion of the idea.
You don't hear liberals speak publicly about "perversion" much anymore. We are now officially accepting of most statistical variation in sexual preferences.

Thank goodness there is still one area of life where "perversion" can be applied!

Much that was perverse,
seen as weird or worse,
in matters that were sexual,
now is strictly contextual.

But when it comes to politics,
and what is normal in the mix,
"freedom-fetishists" seem so weird,
wild, wacky, much to be feared.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Costume for Doc

I found a thrift-store summer-weight beige suit, that seems perfect - to me at least - for my role as Doc Baugh.

I found it today through dumb luck.
and it only cost me ten bucks.

We're supposed to bring costumes tonight
to see how they look in the light.

I had a suit of my own that might have been okay, light-weight grey plaid, but when I'm in character I like wearing something that's not really mine.

It may seem a bit of a quirk
but it helps me with this sort of work.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


For better or worse, 2010
Won't be coming back again.

My mind understands that, but I expect
My fingers will slip when I first sign a check.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Snow Daze in NYC

I was living in Queens when New York City got heavy snows in the late 70s... and it wasn't pretty. Well, like all snow, it was pretty at first. Then it got pretty ugly.

Anyway, I found this video pretty amusing. The commentary involves cursing - from the guy filming it out his window - so be forewarned. The commentary itself asks a classic New York question. "Are you out of your mind?!"

The Explorer may not be totally destroyed,
but if I were the owner, I'd be pretty annoyed.

Monday, December 27, 2010


Snow socked the Eastern U.S. yesterday, but my 2 children waited until today to fly out of the frigid sunny skies of Chicago.

The East was submersed
by a wintry burst.

I hope, at least, they missed the worst

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Voluntary Advance Care Planning

When a proposal to encourage end-of-life planning touched off a political storm over “death panels,” Democrats dropped it from legislation to overhaul the health care system. But the Obama administration will achieve the same goal by regulation, starting Jan. 1.
Who needs legislation
when you've got regulation?

Anyway, there won't be death panels. There may be some end-of-life panels, I suppose.

Ann Althouse has a lawyerly analysis here.

Sign the piece of paper,
so when life begins to taper
and you are not thinking straight...
well, you won't have long to wait.

Procrastinator's Perspective

The Trib ran a story about last minute shoppers.

I love this quote:
“I tried to avoid last-minute shopping, but it just crept upon me,” said Homrich, a mother of two who still had another stop to make, at Williams-Sonoma.
Christmas is like that.

It creeps
and it leaps
and it's suddenly HERE!

Then it's gone
until Next Year.

Friday, December 24, 2010

White Christmas, Colorized

but glowy.

When the Yuletide rolls around
and even somewhat after,
I hope that you will hear the sound
of warm and loving laughter.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Don We Now Our Darth Apparel

Apparently this item is for sale.

Santa Vader plays in the snow,
taking a break from his work of woe.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Sad Event

Two Chicago firefighters died today when a roof collapsed at a fire. I know a few firefighters but I didn't know these guys.

Generally, it's a safer job than it used to be. But, as today's disaster proves, it's still hazardous duty. It's not for the faint of heart.

Walking into a fire, when all are running out,
that's the kind of job we're talking about.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Day of Living Dangerously

Janet Napolitano, head of Homeland Security, tries to reassure us:
What I say to the American people is that… thousands of people are working 24/7, 364 days a year to keep the American people safe.
Don't scoff.
Everyone deserves a day off.

Which day did they decide?
Hopefully that's classified.

Christmas Platypus

The Christmas Platypus
says be of good cheer,
but something funny
is going on here.

His fur and his bill
made me a believer,
but he's really a duck
combined with a beaver.

(Sewing and design, courtesy of Anna Weiler Menekseoglu.)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Icicle Salutation

I went to my yoga class this morning. It was a beautiful sunny day, but with a temperature well under freezing.

Alas, the yoga center's heat was out, so I had to turn around and head home.

It's hard to get in the pose
when your body is froze.

Friday, December 17, 2010

L.A. Tan Hero

The excitement starts at 3:40, when an actual customer walks in the door. Within a minute he has taken the robber's gun, and soon after that he shoots and kills the robber. The shooting takes place off camera.

You have to watch closely, but the robber puts his gun down on the counter, gets a piece of rope to tie up the customer, drops something on the floor, goes to pick it up... and the customer makes his move.

The robber turns out to be a very bad dude known as the honeybee killer.

The civilian who killed the killer was a 29 year old man named Jason McDaniel, who says he doesn't want to be thought of as a hero:
"A hero is a police officer, a fireman, the troops that do this every day. Me, I'm just a father. A new father, wanting to come home to his child," McDaniel said.
You hear stuff like that from heroes. A lot.

You and I may think he was brave
to grab away the robber's gun
but he just sees it as
doing what had to be done.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Chicago Crawlspace

The strange case of Rahm Emanuel's Residency drags on, with today's hearing focused on... crawlspace.

He's running for mayor of Chicago. Illinois law requires that he be a Chicago resident during the year before the election.

His position is that he was a Chicago resident all along, even when he was living in Washington.

He filed Illinois tax returns, even if he mistakenly described himself on one as part-time resident. He voted here, even if he used an absentee ballot. He had a house here, even if it was rented out.

And... he left boxes of valuable stuff in his Chicago basement.

But... one of the current tenants testified that she had never seen these boxes.

So lawyers with cameras were sent to the house, and photos were introduced into evidence. The boxes were in a locked basement crawlspace... that the tenant didn't know about.

So the crawlspace mystery, at least, was cracked.

But was he, legally, a local resident
while in DC, working for the president?

Soon the hearing officer's decision will be revealed,
and then, by the loser, appealed.


How did this happen?
For the second consecutive year "whatever' topped a Marist poll as the most annoying word or phrase in the English language.
Actually, it was a perfectly useful and innocuous adjective. And then it morphed into an interjection... and swept the nation as a short form of "I couldn't care less about what you are saying".

So never
say "Whatever!"
unless you enjoy
your power to annoy.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


Caught in a maze
of his own design
he wandered its ways
awaiting a sign.

Update: I was thinking about Borges, and the way his tendency to Berkeleyan subjectivism cuts him off from feeling in touch with reality. At least, that's how I read the collection called Labyrinths.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Tannenbaum in Progress

I put the lights up, so my work here is almost done. Marsha usually does the ornaments - except for one.

The ornament on top of the tree
gets placed by me.

Chips Ahoy

A crime both spectacular and poorly thought out:
An armed bandit escaped Tuesday on a motorcycle after stealing at least $1.5 million in casino chips from the posh Bellagio resort...
Some of the chips are worth 25 thousand each.

The number one problem is that those chips are only good at the Bellagio.

He stole a stash
and gave them the slip
but can he safely cash
a 25k chip?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Non Equivalence

The First Lady:
Childhood obesity isn’t just a public health issue, it’s not just an economic threat, it’s a national security threat as well.
A national security threat! Really?

Let's not involve the NSA
in what American children weigh.

Waxing Poetic

A haiku, not a rhyme, about something I saw / imagined in the sky recently:

Lowering its horns,
charging the dark horizon,
untamed crescent moon.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Dome Deflation

A lot of snow came down in Minnesota, and something else came down with it:
In Minneapolis, the roof of the city's 64,000-seat football stadium caved in, its iconic dome no longer visible after more than 17 inches of snow blanketed the Twin Cities since Friday.
Of course the people who designed and built this stadium must have know that it snows a lot in Minneapolis. But something went wrong. Maybe it will turn out to be a maintenance problem. The roof is covered with Teflon. Was that to make the snow slide off? Maybe it needed a new coat of Teflon!

It's a sorry tale.
The snow exceeded its quota,
leading to Metrodome Fail
in Minnesota.

Update: The roof, which is inflated to stay up, has collapsed before. Kevin Seifert of ESPN writes:
For those who are interested, the roof is kept inflated by fans at the top of the structure. When it snows, Metrodome operators heat the building to more than 80 degrees to melt away any accumulation. In extreme situations, workers are stationed on the roof to remove snow with fire hoses and hot water. (I’m not making this up.)
Maybe they simply blundered
by not cranking the heat to one hundred.

Update: Video of collapse from inside here.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

In The Headlines

William Zinsser has an amusing but depressing piece on the tendency of the New York Times to feature headlines of the "Yes, But" format.

The pattern is:

Positive Trend
Faces Unhappy End

You see it all over the press, but I suspect the Times does it the most. He has lots of real examples.

But then he imagines how the Times would have spun the events of 1776:
Are their headline writers simply hedging their bets?
Must every announcement come with regrets?

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Extreme Language Games

Roll Call describes a raucous Democratic Caucus:
One unidentified lawmaker went so far as to mutter “f--- the president” while Rep. Shelley Berkley was defending the package the president negotiated with Republicans.
Since it was a Democrat,
perhaps there's nothing wrong with that.

If a Republican had said it,
I think the press would make him regret it.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Re-Enter the Dragon

Human space travel news:
For the first time, a commercial spacecraft gently returned to Earth from orbit on Wednesday.
There wasn't anyone inside. It was a test. NASA wants someone to build a way for their astronauts to visit the Space Station, and this is one of the entries. The cabin was pressurized, and everything went well.
“If there were people sitting in the Dragon capsule today, they would have had a very nice ride,” Mr. Musk said.
Very sweet.
Save me a seat.

How Convenient

Ted Turner is calling for the entire world to implement China's one-child policy.

Even though he has 5 kids.

But he's got a way to justify that:
Turner went on to suggest that fertility rights could be sold so that poor people could profit from their decision not to reproduce.
Ted's loaded. He can purchase from the poor
the rights to have another four.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Altruism as Appeasement, Revisited

Social scientists keep trying to devise experiments to prove things many of us already thought we knew.
In situations where people were given awards they did nothing to earn the sense of getting an unjustified advantage caused people to act more altruistic. They probably wanted to dampen down the feeling of malicious envy in others.
The article distinguishes 2 types of envy. Malicious envy motivates you to attack the recipient of an unearned award. Benign envy motivates you to emulate someone who has earned their award.

Those who feel their prizes were unearned
fear being envy-burned
and try more to please
as a way to appease.

Those who feel their victory was fair,
don't so much care.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Doc on a Hot Tin Roof

I've been studying my part - the doctor in Cat.

Based on the play alone, you would guess that Tennessee Williams did not exude trust toward doctors. And his biography suggests reasons why:
Tennessee was close to his sister Rose, a slim beauty who was diagnosed with schizophrenia at a young age... Williams' parents authorized a prefrontal lobotomy. ...the operation incapacitated Rose for the rest of her life.

Her surgery may have contributed to his alcoholism and his dependence on various combinations of amphetamines and barbiturates often prescribed by Dr. Max (Feelgood) Jacobson.
The real life Dr. Feelgood was quite the character:
...Jacobson was known for his "miracle tissue regenerator" shots which consisted of amphetamines, vitamins, painkillers, and human placenta.
One doctor wrecked his sister's brain.
One shot him up with dubious stuff.

If it's distrust that you want to explain,
that's explanation enough.

Mean Misdemeanor

Is this the face of a serial baby scratcher?
She did it in front of the parents, which made it easy to catch her.

Her name is Lisa Hench. She's a prominent real-estate agent in La Jolla, CA. But I don't think we can blame this on the housing market.
The parents say Hench would make friends with the mother's of the children at a La Jolla school. They say she then would ask to hold them or play with them. When she got them in her arms, the parents say, she would shake them and scratch them, in front of the parents.
She has plead guilty to 8 misdemeanor counts.

She has 3 children of her own.

is no guarantee of goodness.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Unofficial Arrival of Winter

We have fluffy, crystalline H2O,
otherwise known as snow.

(I added a photo of the first snow-person I've seen this season.)

Tom Swift Jr.

A couple of friends tagged me with a Facebook meme where you're supposed to list 15 fictional characters who will always be with you.

Well, as one friend wrote, "15 is a lot". But one character who affected me deeply, perhaps the first chronologically, was Tom Swift Jr., boy genius-inventor. 

This was when I was in elementary school, when I wanted to be an inventor, before I became deeply intrigued by creative writing.

Sometimes people ask me how I can enjoy computer programming. Wouldn't I rather be writing poems full time, they wonder. But, to me, writing programs feels like inventing things. So, in its way, it feels like the fulfillment of a childhood dream.

I suppose writing poems also feels like inventing things.

There's more than one dimension
to the world of invention.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Interpretation or Bust

In Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, by Tennessee Williams, there's a line about a medicine for heavy drinkers, said to be called "Annie Bust" tablets.

The actual pill is called Antabuse, which was relatively new at the time the play was written.

Why did he include this pun?
Did he do it just for fun?
And was that his whole intent?
Just what was it that he meant?

Kill or Capture

Some CIA guy asks:
"Have we made detention and interrogation so legally difficult and politically risky that our default option is to kill our adversaries rather than capture and interrogate them?"
He neglects to mention that to capture people, you have to get close to them. Which is a physical risk.

I also think that for most Americans it feels cleaner to kill an enemy combatant on the field than to torture him in a room.

We have various rules
against being cruel,
but when you get blown
apart by a drone,
it's common belief
that the pain will be brief.

Berserker Heritage

We watched The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.

We watched with subtitles, but it was fun listening to the Swedish. Every sentence or two you heard cognates - words that you recognized as sounding like an English equivalent.

Like when they say God Jul, which sounds like Good Yule, but which was subtitled as Merry Christmas.

The story is gruesome,
portraying Sweden
as very unlike
the Garden of Eden.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Up A Tree

You might think it would be hard to get your pickup truck 30 feet up a tree. But one woman did it without even trying.

It happened in Pennsylvania:
Police said Bowser hit a car, a guardrail and a pole before bouncing over the rail and becoming stuck in a tree over Connoquenessing Creek.
Apparently it was icy. She survived. Just fine. Rescue workers lowered her with ropes.

The cops gave her a ticket for driving too fast for road conditions. That's one of those 20/20 hindsight citations, if you ask me.

If you put your car in a tree, way up high,
and somehow manage not to die
in the process of getting it there...

An exemption from tickets is only fair!


I googled "Wikileaks anticlimactic", to see if anyone agreed with me. Sure enough. Funniest line from the article:
The best thing about the UN is that it gathers so many international criminals together in one place should we ever want to take them out as a group.
If you've read a few books about World War I - the war where so many of the diplomatic cables have been declassified - you'll get a deep sense of deja vu when you browse through what has been revealed so far.

Of course, letting all this stuff fall into the hands of Leaky Wicks was stone stupid.

Diplomats spy
and write rude posts
about their hosts?
I'm shocked. Oh my.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Dr. Baugh

We ran through my big scene in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof a few times tonight..

I jokingly compare the function of Dr. Baugh to a bad-news messenger in a Greek tragedy. But he's obviously something more than that, too.

How much mendacity
is laced in his veracity?

he's fun to play.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Anti-Production Reform

The L.A. Times had a story about the failure of "land reform" in South Africa.

They profiled a black man who used to drive a tractor on a farm owned by a white man. Under apartheid, there were special barriers to blacks owning farm land, a clear injustice.

Under land reform, he got a piece of farm land. But it hasn't worked out so well. His farm has no electricity, no clean water supply, and the phone wire and fences have been stolen from the farm. His farm's chief product is cow manure. He remembers how it used to be:
"I thought I'd be much better off. But I think it was better with Mr. Engelbrecht. We lived high with Mr. Engelbrecht. We got money from him and we could look after our children."
It's a sad story, but an old one. It turns out the people in charge under the old regime, who didn't seem to be contributing labor to the farm enterprise, actually were contributing something. Namely, decisions. Management, whether on a farm or in a factory, is vital. The laborers may not see it, but it remains the case.

In the case of land reform, you typically also lose economies of scale that were in place. Compounding it all in South Africa is the breakdown in law and order. This man's fences have been stolen. So much for "Good fences make good neighbors."

Land redistribution:
a recurrent failed solution.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Running in the Cold

This morning I ran one of those ubiquitous "Turkey Trot" 5k races. This one started 3 blocks from my house, so it was almost obligatory.

A number of people wore humorous turkey hats. Like this one:

It was clear and bright as we trotted,
but no actual turkeys were spotted.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Icelandic Mystery

There's a variety of evidence that Vikings came to America before Columbus did. Now this:
Analyzing a type of DNA passed only from mother to child, scientists found more than 80 living Icelanders with a genetic variation similar to one found mostly in Native Americans.
When they say "a type of DNA" they mean mitochondrial DNA.

Researchers are a bit puzzled, because Viking sagas make no mention of ferrying a Pocahontas type back to Iceland.

On the other hand, are we sure they included everything in their sagas?

I guess that if a Viking
found a woman to his liking,
he might ask her on his ship
for a back-to-Iceland trip.

Bored with blondes, I bet,
so he fell for a brunette!

Thursday, November 25, 2010


I'm stuffed
just enough.

Fission As Ammunition

It has been 65 years since the only war-time use of the atomic bomb - when the U.S. hit 2 Japanese cities.

Really, that's a remarkable run of not actually using a new weapons technology. A study of history shows humans using whatever weapons they can get their hands on. So this is a case of unusual restraint.

A friend of mine argued that some time in the 21st century, terrorists will set off an a-bomb in an American city.

He was arguing this in the late 20th century. Well... so far, so good.

We've gotten through one tenth of the 21st
without enduring the radioactive worst.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Airport Nonadventure

Here in the States it's the Busiest Travel Day of the Year as people crisscross the country to make Extended Family Turkey Dinners.

I picked up my daughter at Midway Airport here in Chicago. There was a big flow of people, but it seemed more efficient than usual. I suspect they had extra staff on the job. Certainly the place was just crawling with security of various types, including a generous supply of Chicago's finest.

Despite cold rain
my daughter's plane
arrived on land
on time, as planned.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Costume design credit goes to Rachel Martindale, who personally sewed the furry red robe and hat.

If you haven'st started shopping,
it's almost time to get hopping!

But Santa doesn't do that himself.
He's assigned it to an elf.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Negotiating Nothing

Apparently the U.S. has been engaged in high-level peace talks with a Taliban leader. And we gave him lots of money.

But he was an impostor.
American officials confirmed Monday that they had given up hope that the Afghan was Mr. Mansour, or even a member of the Taliban leadership.
We got punked.

My Big Drama Day

In the afternoon I attended this event, where 2 of my own plays were included, and performed wonderfully by the students, namely the super-imaginative Hanna Maloney, the lively-but-ghostly Julia Marmo, and the very presidential Greg Doherty. Special thanks to director Heather Kurut, for inviting me to submit the plays.

And in the evening I performed in the final performance of The Devilish Children. Here is the painted Christmas tree at the center of set.

It was the oddest of days.
I got applause for 3 plays,
for acting and for writing.
Exquisitely exciting!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

I Bet All Those EU Regulations Don't Help

Newsweek mentions that Europeans have lots more vacation time than Americans do. So they work less per year to start with.

But Newsweek says the real problem is worse:
Even when Europeans do work, they work less productively.
Despite being so well-rested
on average they get bested.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Friday, November 19, 2010


A god like this, with many arms
is capable of many harms.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Bean Beat, Walsh Wins, Barely but Fairly

Another congressional seat changes hands.

All the votes have been counted, and Tea-party / Republican Joe Walsh has unseated Democrat Melissa Bean in the 8th congressional district which includes most of the northwestern suburbs of Chicago.

He won by 290 votes in the end.

That doesn't sound like much of a margin. But I guess it was 289 more than he needed.

In the end, having just one more vote
is all it takes to sink your opponent's boat.

Picture Getting Clearer

This strikes me as the quote of the day:
The good news is that the TSA seems to be doing its best to bring the Left and the Right together.
Just so you know, even if you agree to walk through the naked x-ray, you may still get groped if the picture comes out blurry. As my friend Deb alerted me, that's what happened to Dave Barry:
"Your groin was blurred," he explained.

We went into a little room, where he put on blue gloves and explained that he was going to touch me in various private places.

Not eager for a grope?
In a great big hurry?

Then you'd better hope
your groin's not looking blurry.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Trial and Error

The left made a big deal about rejecting those military-commission-trials for terrorists. Those were "kangaroo courts" designed for "show trials"!  

The prez said the organizer of 9/11 would get a regular trial, with regular rules of evidence, in New York City.

But that hasn't worked out:
Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, will probably remain in military detention without trial for the foreseeable future, according to Obama administration officials.
Trying to avoid anything that could be called a show trial,
they've decided instead to just give him no trial.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

How Did Someone So Smart Go So Wrong?

Noonan ponders presidential implosion:
From the day he was sworn in he seemed to have had no practical or intuitive sense of what was on the American mind.
There's a puzzle here, starting with that first phrase, "from the day he was sworn in".

Up until that day, he was able to sell himself. After that day, the slide began. I don't think it was just that the media turned on him. I would say that the media only began to turn on him very recently.

So here's the puzzle - how was it that he seemed to lose his sense of what Americans wanted?

I think part of the problem was that once he was in office, he had to start making concrete decisions. Up until then he had gotten by with much glorious vagueness which let people project their hopes onto him.

I think he does understand what sorts of glorious vagueness Americans like. But he's weak on what Americans like in the way of actual details. So he fell back on his underlying political philosophy - including the idea that a smart elite should control the great unwashed - to make them better!

But here's a truth that never gets old:
Americans don't like to be controlled.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Our Man In Japan

Reuters asks - in a hopeful voice? - whether Japan will provide Obama with "an upbeat finish to what has been a decidedly choppy tour of Asia."

His tour was unpleasantly choppy.
Perhaps the planning was sloppy.
The South Korean deal fell through.
G20 asked, "Hey, who are you?"

On Stage Next Sunday

The talented drama students at Morgan Park Academy are putting on their "Upper School Fall Play" next weekend, Nov. 19-21, Fri-Sat-Sun.

It's actually a collection of 10-minute plays... of which I wrote two. Of course I wanted to see them in production - especially because one of my plays is brand new - custom written for this event.

I was feeling down because I seemed to have a schedule conflict. I'm performing on stage each of those nights.

Then I realized... their Sunday performance is at 2pm. My acting gig isn't till 7pm. 

I can go
to see their show.

for the matinee -
its timing saved the day.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Surveying Philosophers

Here's an interesting survey of philosophers.

I have to admit, I don't even understand what some of the questions are asking.

I mean, what is Newcomb's Problem? Why is the answer one box or two boxes? Oh, here it is.

It's a paradox
about money in a box
or two
and whether you think a prediction
about what you will do
is fiction
or true

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

The Twinkie Diet

A nutrition professor set out to prove that what mattered for weight loss was not what kind of food you ate - rather it was how many calories you consumed. So he went on a "convenience store" diet for 10 weeks, eating Twinkies and Doritos and all those other "junk foods".

He supplemented the "junk" on a daily basis with a protein shake, a multivitamin and some veggies - such as celery stalks or a can of green beans.

He lost 27 pounds.

I can practically smell a book deal coming his way.

In a crazy Twinkie groove,
he mostly ate junk.

His cholesterol improved
and his waistline shrunk.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Faulty Version Incursion

So far, at least, it hasn't started a war:
A Nicaraguan troop commander blamed bad border denotations on Google Maps for an incursion into Costa Rica last week.
Onward march the troops
carefully following orders,
but due to a Google oops
they cross their neighbor's borders.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

In The Wings

I find it very interesting to watch a play's actors when they are not on the stage - when they are in the dim wings, out of the audience's view, waiting for their next cue.

They wait in silence behind the stage,
recalling all they have rehearsed
preparing themselves to suddenly burst
back on the set in joy or rage.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Inviddying Terminology

I've been re-reading Quee Nelson's The Slightest Philosophy.

One of the classic issues that comes up in her book is the case of the circular coin viewed at an angle. If you take a photo from that angle, and trace your finger around the coin's image, your finger will trace an ellipse, not a circle.

So the question arises: What did you really see in the first place?

A) A a circular coin?

B) An elliptical image?

Nelson says we see the circular coin. It's a minority position in post-medieval philosophy. But she has some intelligent company, such as David Kelley, a contemporary philosopher, and Thomas Reid, an 18th Century philosopher.

All 3 deny that we usually see an elliptical image.

But since we are are in fact capable of noticing the ellipse, they need some technical term for that noticing, something other than simple "seeing". But their terminologies diverge:

Reid calls it "attending to the visible figure of bodies".

Kelley calls it "reductive focus".

Nelson, in a humorous coinage, calls it "inviddying".

Divergent technical terms
can be a bucket of worms
that make it hard to see
where thinkers really agree.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Hot Bunny

In Richland, WA, they recently tore down an atomic bomb factory. And, somehow, some cesium-leftovers got consumed by a floppy-eared denizen of the field.

A radioactive rabbit
was hopping about with unseemly haste.

Authorities manage to nab it
and disposed of it as dangerous waste.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

One Acts

In about 3 weeks a local private school, Morgan Park Academy, is putting on a couple of my one-act plays. High-schoolers are putting on an evening of of one-act plays. One of my plays, Second Sunday, was written specifically for this show. The other, Believe In Me, was originally written for Theatre of Women IV. Heather Freer Kurut, the school's drama teacher, is directing. I've seen a show she directed before, and I was impressed.

My son and daughter went to high school there, so I have emotional ties to the place.

I haven't seen the schedule yet, but it sounded like it would overlap completely with my own performance schedule in Devilish Children. Still, I should be able to see some key rehearsals, probably including dress rehearsal, my wife should be able to go to the show to give me a full report, and maybe someone will video it.

I still find it magical to watch someone take my lines and make them come alive in unpredictable ways. The first time I experienced it, I thought of it as a strangely narcissistic pleasure. I mentioned it to the director of the piece, and he laughed and joked that it meant I was born to write plays.

I find it exciting
and so I keep writing.


Well, it was an electoral bloodbath, more or less according to expectations.

At least it wasn't a *real* bloodbath. Just people losing jobs - people who will be forced to come back as lobbyists or something.

There are those of us who are thankful for the return of gridlock. Well, I don't think of it as gridlock. I think of it as checks and balances.

Neither party has my utter trust.
Either, given free rein, can turn unjust.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Devilish Recommendation

The play I'm in got a favorable "recommended" review from Tony Adler at the Chicago Reader. He kind of wishes that the author had written a different play, but he still enjoyed it, and has kind words for the "sharp cast".

Since he didn't single me out as a dull exception to the sharpness, I'm going to go ahead...

and bask in the rays
of his critical praise.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

2 Days Away

A friend of mine sent me P.J. O'Rourke's piece on Tuesday's election. He's a humorist, so he gets to exaggerate and generalize for effect.

His funniest comment is:
This is not an election on November 2. This is a restraining order.
I do think the Democrats badly mangled their mandate from the last election. Obama ran as a reasonable moderate who wanted to end partisan bickering. I would say this was their actual mandate. But, intoxicated with their majority status, they pivoted left.

If the polls are correct,
they're about to be checked.


Throughout the city one constantly meets
costumed monsters roaming the streets
threatening tricks and demanding treats.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

From Struwwelpeter to Devilish Children

We've now done 2 performances of Devilish Children. (That's me behind the scary duck mask.)

I'm in the cast, which is great fun.

The show is an adaptation of rhymed fables (Der Struwwelpeter) by 19th century German psychiatrist, Heinrich Hoffman. These fables take the form of cautionary tales intended for children, in which dire consequences were visited upon misbehaving kids. The tone was humorous, and the whole thing was probably intended partly as a satire of this genre of literature.

There's a nice English version online here, with pictures.

Jeremy Menekseoglu, in adapting the work, made some major architectural changes. He remodeled some of the separate stories and made it one continuous emotional journey. A naughty 3-year old, Karl, is dropped off at an old theater, which is now being run as a sort of boarding school of good manners. But the school is run by devilish children who instruct Karl by graphically staging the scary fables. We also learn that there is more to the school, and the children, than at first meets the eye.

It's not always easy being a kid.
Everyone's always correcting you.
You have to learn to keep a lid
on so many things you'd like to do.

Friday, October 29, 2010


We opened Devilish Children And The Civilizilng Process last night.

Things seemed to go well
On our fearful and funny trip through child rearing hell.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Mimic Octopus

Tyler Cowen calls this video "1:49 of wow". Presenting the mimic octopus:

Not content to be one shape,
this octopus twists its features
to ape
various creatures.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Unwashed Middle

Katie Couric likes to stay in touch:
That’s why Couric has spent recent weeks in Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston and New Brunswick, New Jersey. She is touring what she calls “this great unwashed middle of the country” in an effort to divine the mood of the midterms.
Unwashed in Chicago? The funny thing is that she works in New York, which has dirtier streets than Chicago does.

But she's not talking about the streets. She's talking about me, isn't she?

Katie, honest, I took a shower.
And now I smell a fresh as a flower.

Love at First Sight

An Elizabethan poet asked:
Who ever loved that loved not at first sight?
But now we can improve upon that estimate:
Researchers also found falling in love only takes about a fifth of a second.
Exactly how they reckoned
it down to a fifth of a second
I'm really not sure.

Also, no word on a cure.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Distinguishing Forms of Faith

Newsweek has a story warning Left and Right not to confuse Islamism with the Muslim faith:
The left is wrongly defending Islamism—an extremist and at times violent ideology—which it confuses with the common person’s Islam, while the right is often wrongly attacking the Muslim faith, which it confuses with Islamism.
The authors write as if this is merely a failure of "The West" to understand. But the marketing strategy of the Islamists is precisely to brand themselves as the truest Muslims. If it's a failure of understanding, it's a failure that the Islamists are actively provoking.

What's more, the "common person's Islam" has not mounted a consistent counter-branding strategy.

So my request
is don't just criticize the West
for failing to understand
this confusion over the brand.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Perverse Incentives

The Chicago Tribune has a sad story about a family caught up in the housing collapse. They thought they could qualify for a re-setting of their monthly mortgage payment under the terms of the president's Home Affordable Modification Program.

But they made the mistake of being thrifty while they were waiting for approval:
The family's $7,160 in savings, including a $5,218 income tax refund, accumulated during the year it took the bank to review the application, meant they were too well off to qualify.
Too well off to qualify. But not well off enough to keep their house.

In retrospect, they should have blown their money
on... whatever. And no, it's not really funny.


We had a great rehearsal tonight for Devilish Children And The Civilizing Process at Dream Theatre, which opens Thursday... like 5 days away.

Also, I've been cast for the part of Dr. Baugh in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof for a January production by the Munroe Park Theatre Guild.

Have you ever heard of Impostor Syndrome?
Regardless of what level of success they may have achieved in their chosen field of work or study or what external proof they may have of their competence, those with the syndrome remain convinced internally they do not deserve the success they have achieved and are actually frauds. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they were more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be.
I'm sure actors feel it too, sometimes. Which is ironic. Because the job of an actor is precisely to be an impostor.

Could there be, in fact,
people who only pretend to act?

Congo Catastrophe

Another type of airplane passenger to worry about:
A stowaway crocodile on a flight escaped from its carrier bag and sparked an onboard stampede that caused the flight to crash, killing 19 passengers and crew.
Note that these deaths were caused by human over-reaction to a fellow-creature who probably would have been satisfied with just one victim. I mean, how hungry could that croc be?

In the unlikely event of a crocodile
crawling along the airplane aisle,
there's no need
to stampede.

Just sit in your seat
and lift up your feet.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

"I'm Not Dead Yet" - French Edition

During the last great healthcare debate, I was always hearing how great the socialized healthcare was in France.

Then there's this:
A woman pronounced "very certainly clinically dead" at a French hospital woke up hours later after her sons refused to turn off her life-support system, medics and the woman said.
"Very certainly clinically dead."
That is what her doctor said.

But she awoke and began to speak.
His diagnostic skills proved weak.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Pointed Warning

One more thing to worry about - death by acupuncture:
A review of patients who died soon after acupuncture found a history of punctured hearts and lungs, damaged arteries and livers, nerve problems, shock, infection and haemorrhage, largely caused by practitioners placing their needles incorrectly or failing to sterilise their equipment.
Make them sterilize the needles for a start,
and ask them to avoid your lungs and heart.

Regulating Roadkill Consumption

Illinois Department of Natural Resources has a new requirement.

If you kill a deer with you car,
no matter how hungry you are,
you must notify the state
before you carve it on your plate.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Acrobatic Rodent

The squirrel runs from tree to tree
high on a wire, where all can see
but none can reach - safe from the dog
who licks his chops and stares agog.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Beware of Goat

You know to watch out for cougars and bears, but have you considered this deadly threat?

Rangers in Washington state suspect an encounter with a mountain goat killed a 63-year-old hiker in Olympic National Park.
By the way, Wikipedia says:
Despite its vernacular name, it is not a member of Capra, the genus of true goats.
Beware of this untrue goat
with his oh-so-innocent coat.

See how he is horned?
Consider yourself forewarned.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Education Has Consequences

Peter Berkowitz has an op-ed in the Wall St. Journal this morning. It ends like this:
Those who doubt that the failings of higher education in America have political consequences need only reflect on the quality of progressive commentary on the tea party movement. Our universities have produced two generations of highly educated people who seem unable to recognize the spirited defense of fundamental American principles, even when it takes place for more than a year and a half right in front of their noses.
So his thesis is that they literally don't get it.

But, it's clearly true that many progressives like to "jump to conclusions" that favor their cause. They ran incorrect meme after incorrect meme about the simplest aspects of the tea party people. It was obvious, to anyone who observed objectively, that racism was not a major motivating factor.

The Washington Post finally conceded that 2 days ago:
A new analysis of political signs displayed at a tea party rally in Washington last month reveals that the vast majority of activists expressed narrow concerns about the government's economic and spending policies and steered clear of the racially charged anti-Obama messages that have helped define some media coverage of such events.
Post-modern theories are involved in both - the failure to understand what the founders were about - and the willingness to misrepresent.

In post-modernism, politics is about the struggle among warring classes and interest groups. Quite alien to this is Madison's idea of getting above the fray and designing a system to contain the conflicting factions in a system of ordered liberty that allows individuals to get along in a productive fashion.

In post-modernism, truth is what your own group finds it useful to assert - in its verbal struggle with competing groups. Quite alien to this is Newton's idea of carefully observing facts and inferring necessary conclusions.

The war of the groups
involves willing dupes.

Friday, October 15, 2010

And No Helmets

German young women bicycle ballet gymnastics.

It's sort of fantastic.

Their Honeymoon Is Over Soon

It's been an odd rehearsal pattern for Devilish Children, because the director got married to one of the actresses last week - and they went to Disney World.

To make up for this scheduled hiatus, everything else has been on a tighter schedule than normal.

Monday, it begins again. At that point we'll be 10 days from opening night, which will bring critics... and voters from the Jeff Committee. No pressure.

At last, you must thrust
yourself onto the stage.

In a spirit of trust,
face the crowd and engage.

And live, as you must,
the tale from the page.

Other Culture

A female Lebanese pop-star is murdered by an rich Egyptian politician.

(They were an item, but his mom wouldn't let them marry, so the pop-star was dumping him.)

So what do Egyptian women think? Outraged, right? Yes, in a way:
She made him kill her, and she deserves it,” said Sherine Moustafa, a 39-year-old Egyptian corporate lawyer, an opinion that was echoed by every woman of dozens interviewed.
Blaming a woman
for her own killing -
could moral opinion
get more chilling?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Oops It's Morning!

I dozed off
And failed to write
An entry on
This blog last night.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Disputing Taste

The other day I finished rereading The Master Builder by Ibsen.

And then I started thinking about an off-off-Broadway production of The Master Builder, back in the 1970s. I went to see it at least 3 times. I thought that the actress playing Hilde was particularly powerful in what I saw as a difficult part. Naturally enough, I shared my enthusiasm with some friends.

Well. One of my friends passed my glowing review to Kay Nolte Smith, who had been writing drama reviews for The Objectivist. It turned out that Kay Nolte Smith wasn't too impressed with the actress playing Hilde Wangel. I was told she said that the actress was quite attractive, but wasn't actually playing the part correctly. I wasn't told what was wrong with her performance. Just... something. This was less than persuasive to me.

It's true that Jill O'Hara was quite attractive:

But the character requires more than attractiveness. She has to have something feral about her. From the play:
SOLNESS. There is rather something of the bird of prey in you.

HILDE. ...And why not a bird of prey? Why shouldn't I go a-hunting - I, as well as the rest? Carry off the prey I want - if only I can get my claws into it, and do with it as I will.
I'd say the role requires
the roar of inner fire
spiraling into the air
with hero-worshiping flair.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Good With A Crossbow

I just finished re-reading William Tell, the play by Schiller. I really love this play. It was wildly popular throughout the 19th century. It's Schiller's only play with a true happy ending. I would say it is the least introspective of his plays. Tell is the strong-but-silent type, who wishes to keep to himself, but is drawn into battle against his will.

The tyrant said:
"Shoot an apple off the head
of your kid."

Tell did.

But soon the tyrant was dead.

How did he depart?
With an arrow through his heart.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Jeremy and Anna

My friends - Jeremy Menekseoglu and Anna Weiler - were married today, in their theater, in front of a packed house, in a beautiful and emotional ceremony.

I was surprised to learn, upon arrival, that Dream Theatre company members - such as me - were being asked to stand on stage during the ceremony. I've never "stood up" for someone's wedding before, but I was honored to do so.

Anna had written her vows in truly charming rhyme. Jeremy's vows were a short story about how he fell in love with her.

After the ceremony, came the toasts, and the toasts just kept coming, most of them stunningly heartfelt.

Their hands were united,
the crowd was delighted.

Saturday, October 09, 2010


Today I tried running the brand-new Prairie State marathon in Libertyville, IL. It takes place along the Desplaines River trail - which is mostly crushed limestone. It started at 8am and the temperature was soon in the 80s. Between the heat, the sparse Gatorade stops, and the somewhat rolling hills, it was kicking my butt after a while, so I dropped out at about mile 18, when the marathon course conveniently went by the finish line. I could have finished with a bunch of walking, but the temptation to stop was too great!

I'm chalking it up as a fully supported training run. And I may try another marathon in a few months.

They say to keep your eyes on the prize
but sometimes it's wise to revise.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Don't Judge A Man By One Friend

Reason magazine has an interesting article on certain libertarians who gave support to Obama during the 2010 election. A lot of the support was due to the fact that Austan Goolsby was Obama's chief economic advisor.

It seems Goolsby was seen as an advocate of free markets.

The free market stuff mostly got dumped.
And these libertarians mostly got chumped.

Bike Path Blockade

The prez came to town today. And he inconvenienced me. Because I was riding home from work on the lakefront bike path, and the cops shut it down for the sake of presidential security. So my friend and I had to go considerably out of our way to get home.

I'm sure they have their reasons,
like preventing terror and treason,
but sometimes I wish the secret service
wasn't so gosh-darned nervous.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

As An Angel Looks Down

This photo is from tonight's rehearsal. Those are 2 of the Devilish Children, in urgent discussion.

I've had great fun working with this crew of people, all of them gifted and utterly serious about their craft. It opens Thursday, October 28, and if you happen to reside in the Chicago area, I'd love to have you come see me perform.

I am far
from being the star.

But during my part of the session
I hope to make an impression.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Sham Wow

What a great first sentence for a news story:
A top aide to Cook County President Todd Stroger has been charged with stealing more than $300,000 from taxpayers in a scheme to award sham contracts, including some to firms she owned but for which she did no work.
Makes sense to me.

Rigging a contract is something we all can enjoy.
But having to work - that often begins to annoy.


Field of sparkling lights,
alive with power tonight,
defying darkness.

Monday, October 04, 2010


Walter Mondale, Democratic Presidential nominee in 1984, thinks Obama's teleprompters get in the way:
He uses these idiot boards to read speeches in television, and I think he loses the connection that he needs emotionally with American voters.
It's an interesting question. The prez obviously loves the gizmos. He is reported to bring them with him to fairly small meetings, where I think it might come across as just plain bizarre.

The Onion made a funny video in which Obama's teleprompters failed at a family meeting.

But I find it hard to blame the teleprompters for his sinking poll numbers. He was already using them a lot when most people loved him. Did people really get sick of the teleprompters? Or did people just get sick of his performance so far?

When I try to explain a thing,
sometimes it comes out wrong.

From now on I'm planning to bring
an idiot board along.

Not Progress, I Guess, But Success Nonetheless

If you happen to have any old DOS programs you'd like to run, but they won't run under Windows 7, you might look at DOSBox. It's free, and was designed for gamers to run their old games.

And if you happen to be running DataEase for DOS, with a final release date of 1993 or so, be sure to set core=normal. For some reason it makes a big difference.

This is news
you're unlikely use.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

A Difference of One Iota

If you happen to be a student of internecine dust-ups among Objectivists... I know, unless you're involved it's an arcane topic, with too many banishments to keep track of...

Anyway, there's a new one, described in excruciating detail by Robert Tracinski:
But the most recent Objectivist controversy is too big to ignore, paper over, or address only indirectly. Its implications go too wide and too deep, striking at the very core of the movement's soul.
Q: So, what brought this on?

A: Disagreements about the history of science and the problem of induction

It's stunning how a topic
that seems so microscopic
becomes the breeding ground
for another angry round.

Deficient Definition

John J. Miller wrote today of an NY Times story about the "long ago texts" tea partiers are digging up.

What "long ago texts"? The Constitution? No, Friedrich Hayek.

Miller mentioned parenthetically:
Check out Zernike’s jaw-dropping attempt to define “the rule of law,” which is apparently a term she hadn’t heard until recently.
Of course I had to check it out:
...“the rule of law,” Hayek’s term for the unwritten code that prohibits the government from interfering with the pursuit of “personal ends and desires.”
This description of "rule of law"
did indeed drop my jaw.

The author could have saved herself some embarrassment by doing an online search for this mysterious phrase.

Don't the legacy media
have access to Wikipedia?

Billy Elliot

We saw the musical "Billy Elliot" tonight, here in Chicago.

As it appeared to end, some people rushed from their seats - to beat the crowd out the door, perhaps to avoid the rush at the parking garage.

Little did they know. It wasn't the real ending. Well, it was the ending of the story, but there was a big song and dance number to come.

So consider this a public service announcement.

Don't fall for an ending
that's only pretending
to be the real deal.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Playing in the Dark

We started tonight with the dialog fragments exercise - which I'm bad at. Actors just start speaking lines from the play to each other - not necessarily their own lines - not necessarily addressed to the usual recipient. I heard all the basic relationships played out, and all the key moments in the play visited at least once. But not in sequence.

I think I'd like to sit in on a fragments exercise for a play I don't know. Then I would amuse myself trying to reconstruct the plot. It would be like taking a shredded letter and piecing it together.

From the fragments the cast spontaneously morphed into a full rehearsal of the play - in the dark. Well, not completely. We all had little flashlights. And there was a candle. So there was light a-plenty, in fact. It was the fastest, most fluid version of the play I've seen so far.

You sometimes hear, from theater people, that the real fun is in rehearsal. Perhaps it's because so much of the original creativity takes place there. Yes, there's often moment-to-moment creativity during a play's performance.

But during rehearsal you see the big leaps take place before your eyes
which is always a pleasing surprise.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Heselden's Death

This story has gone from odd to just plain sad.

The owner of the Segway company, Jimi Heselden, died the other day when he and his machine plunged over a cliff in England.

I, and others, idly wondered how that had happened.

Now, it turns out he died because he was backing up on a bridle trail - to get out of somebody else's way.

If I ever ride a Segway up to the edge of a butte,
I'm bringing a parachute.

Sounds on the Stage

Our director has been rehearsing his own role onstage with a music remote in his hand. So even though Devilish Children is still 4 weeks from opening, most of the scenes are already being played with musical accompaniment, which is quite a charming effect. I have the impression most of the actors find it helpful. I certainly do, for my little turn on the stage.

I almost wrote "Herr Director" for "our director," so accustomed am I becoming to the German accents and words which the cast is working with. In the first weeks of rehearsal, the cast sometimes reverted to some sort of Cockney accent, or French, or Swedish. But no more. They've locked the right country into place in their brains.

An accent
may start off unsteady and queasy
but let it ferment
and it ends up bright and breezy.

Cross posted, but without the rhyme, at the Dream Theatre Company Blog.

License to Kill

Apparently Obama has given the go-ahead to kill al-Awlaki, a guy living in Yemen who was born in the U.S.

Some people argue that he's entitled to due process before he's killed, particularly because he's a citizen.

In the Civil War, the Union side killed a lot of American citizens. Without much due process. Mostly it was called battle. I suppose the government could make a case that al-Awlaki is in a state of war with the U.S. It sounds like that's the situation to me.

But I'd like to hear someone in the government make the case for what it's worth
before they erase him off the face of the earth.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Another Acorn Scandal

A judge from Pennsylvania is in trouble for handing out acorns to women.

The problem was that the acorns that were stuffed with condoms.

The judge is from the Pennsylvania town of Intercourse. Ahem.
When confronted by officers last Tuesday, Isaac Stoltzfus, a District Court judge, claimed the bizarre incident was a joke.
The humorous comments just write themselves. You've already thought of a couple.

An acorn can grow up
to a mighty oak.

And a joke can blow up
and blast a bloke.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Terrible Secret, Revisited

Tyler Cowen today, reviewing a book:
I also learned that many Berliners starting suspecting the Holocaust because of the rather efficient German postal system. When letters would be sent to "ghetto inhabitants" on the Eastern front, often they would be returned with notice that the intended recipient had passed away.
This made me remember a book I read years ago, The Terrible Secret, by Walter Lacquer, which documented a lot of the "leakage" of the secret to the West.

Stories came out and made the newspapers, but more as rumors than as solidly verified reportage. The Germans were actually effective in keeping the Allies from fully grasping what was taking place. Not that the Allies were paying much attention to these stories, anyway.

A flimsy screen
hid the murder machine.

Thoughts at Moonrise

Great red moon, old friend,
face who follows me always,
be there at my end.

Monday, September 27, 2010

What It Means In The Philippines

A simple mistake
that anyone could make:
The flag in times of peace is displayed with its blue field on top and its red field at the bottom.
Yes, we hung the Philippines flag wrong. They're not at war right now. That's it behind the head of the guy with glasses:

I firmly believe that all foreign flags
should have "this side up" tags.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Depardieu Rhapsodizes

Last night we saw some Italian guy named Riccardo Muti direct 2 works by Berlioz at the CSO: Symphonie Fantastique and its sequel: Lélio.

Lélio actually has a narrator, in this case Gérard Depardieu, a French guy.

He spoke in French, and a translation appeared over head in super-titles. But here's the funny thing. He would be talking and talking, and just one short English sentence would be on the screen.

Clearly, the translation was shortened.
I hope the rest wasn't too important.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Orthography Oopsie

How embarrassing.

What the L?
Can't anybody spell?

Justice Questioned

Stephen Colbert won headlines yesterday playing Caligula's horse's ass.

But someone else gave more serious testimony yesterday, to the Civil Rights Commission.
A veteran Justice Department lawyer accused his agency Friday of being unwilling to pursue racial discrimination cases on behalf of white voters, turning what had been a lower-level controversy into an escalating political headache for the Obama administration.
The Department Of Justice denies all this, but this is the second DOJ lawyer to testify that this has been going on.

There are 2 theories about applying anti-discrimination laws.

One theory is that racial discrimination, in general, is wrong.

The other theory, ascribed to the D.O.J., 
is that racial discrimination is okay,
if back in the day
bias cut the other way.

Each one claims to be fairer
but one must be in error.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Clown Show

Stephen Colbert testified before a congressional committee... in character some of the time.
On the bill dealing with immigrant workers, Colbert quipped, "Like most members of Congress, I haven't read it."
It's funny and sad because it's true.
Congress is badly lacking in clue.

Professor Demeritus

Bill Ayers, radical Weatherman turned radical Education Professor, recently retired. But he has been denied "emeritus" status by the University of Illinois.

In 1974 Ayers dedicated a book to a long list of people, including Sirhan Sirhan, the man who assassinated Robert Kennedy. But the chairman of the board of the University of Illinois is a man named Christopher Kennedy, who happens to be a son of Robert Kennedy.
He said he could not confer the title "to a man whose body of work includes a book dedicated in part to the man who murdered my father."
From way back,
comes payback.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Possum Population Boom

Brooklyn had a rat problem. So what did the city government decide to do? Introduce possums to eat the rats! Unfortunately...
Not only do wily rats continue to thrive, but the opossums have become their own epidemic, with bands of the conniving creatures sauntering through yards, plundering garbage cans and noshing on fruit trees.
As for the human population, "some Brooklynites have become terrified to go into their yards at night."

Thus did municipal error
lead to marsupial terror.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Rogue RINOs

It's the vogue -
go rogue:
“The tea party activists get involved in Republican primaries, play by the rules, and then the Republican establishment candidate proves that he was never a loyal Republican in the first place and goes rogue,” said Matt Kibbe, president of the tea party-aligned group FreedomWorks.
Conservatives have a word for Republican liberals and moderates: RINO, pronounced like rhino. It stands for Republican In Name Only.

The appellation sometimes proves all too true, as those defeated in primaries suddenly become independents.

Party loyalty? They had lots -
till voters booted them from their slots.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Tableau of Strife

Some rehearsals are quiet.
Others are more of a riot.


That shot is from a rehearsal for the upcoming Devilish Children.

Bubble Bubble

A certain Republican Senate candidate once stated that she had "dabbled into witchcraft".

Much is being made of this, partly to scare Christians away, and partly to slam her grammar:
Can we just point out for the record that you don't dabble "into" witchcraft, you dabble in it?
I'm kinda sicka Wicca,
but could it be the reason why
she raising money quicka
than the Democratic guy?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

So That's It

Time is Irish. Is that a shock?
It explains the name: O'Clock.

Unlicensed Tour Guides - Threat or Menace?

Segway tour guides show no contrition
for pointing out buildings without permission.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Change of Grade

Here's the new design for the Democratic Party brand.

Their slogan is "change that matters",  so I'm proposing a change:


They said,
"We'll use a big blue D to define us!"
I said,
"You've even earned an extra minus."

UPDATE: Please feel free to re-use this parodied image as you see fit.

Friday, September 17, 2010


Not Mr. Popular:
The 23-year-old man was shot twice this morning in different neighborhoods and survived.

“Someone is trying real hard to kill this guy,” one police source said.
I grew up in one of these neighborhoods. I don't go back much.

He's not cooperating with the police,
but someone wants him to rest in peace.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Pools - Poof!

I did less swimming this summer than usual. I only did one triathlon.

First our outdoor swimming pool park went out of business:
Summer may never be the same for families in the south suburbs and the Southwest Side of Chicago with the closure of Evergreen Aqua Park, a watery paradise for five decades.
Then my indoor pool, at the health club, got flooded - with overflow from the Chicago River:
Even though the water only flooded the first level (pool, weight room, sauna, jacuzzi) the lack of ventilation, moisture seems to have trashed the cardio equipment, the fitness studio's floor "bubbled" up, and the tiles started popping out of the walls in the locker rooms.
There are other places to swim, but I can be a creature of habit,
and I was too lazy to seek out opportunity and grab it!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Out From Under

Nigerians hacked into his mail
and put his house up for sale.

That's the story from down under:
An international cybercrime investigation is underway into a sophisticated scam network that left a Western Australian man half a million dollars out of pocket when criminals sold his Perth investment property using stolen credentials.
I have a big question - can't this man recover his stolen property? Who is really taking a loss under Aussie law? The article doesn't address this issue.

By the way, how did Nigerians become the world's most outrageous internet scam artists?

Even now, are they trying to sell
the place where I dwell?

Monday, September 13, 2010


I was irrationally relieved to see that this was DeKalb county Georgia, rather than DeKalb county Illinois:
DeKalb County is suing a local farmer for growing too many vegetables, but he said he will fight the charges in the ongoing battle neighbors call “Cabbagegate.”
What Zombie of Zoning banned diversity of vegetables in the first place?

And what Javert of the vegetable patch chose to continue this chase?

Grow "too many" crops -
and face the vegetable cops!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Cleaning House - Written

My little 10-page festival play got written at the theater tonight. I called it "Cleaning House". It opens as 2 cleaning ladies arrive at a young woman's house. Sounds slow, but the changes come fast.

I tried to give each of the actresses a little bit of what each said her "dream role" was.

I'm elated for the moment.

I'll see, tomorrow, what the director and actresses can do with it. And how the audience likes it. I will report. Unless it flops so bad that I'm stunned into silence.

Will it fly
or will it die?

Friday, September 10, 2010

Adventure of the Day

Most of my days go by without good deeds of the Boy Scout variety. But I did one today.

It was at the central public library in Chicago. A family was heading down an escalator. First came a little boy, with a backpack-leash-stuffed-animal attached to him. Something like this:

Next came the mom, holding the leash. Next came a bored preteen boy. Finally there was a little girl, able to talk and walk, but not too proficient at either.

She gets to the escalator last and looks worried.

(escalator at Harold Washington Library)

An older man and I look at each other and make faces of concern.

Gamely, she tries stepping onto the escalator, but somehow she does it incorrectly, and ends up riding down backwards, her hands on one step and her feet on another.

"Mommy!" she cries, but in a little voice, and no one in her family hears her.

Well, I hear her, and the other guy hears her, so I bolt down the escalator, get below her, inform her that I'm going to pick her up, pick her up safely, and hand her to her mother.

"Thank you" says the mother. "Thank you" says the little girl. "Good catch" says the other guy.

When using a moving stairs,
with a kid who can barely stand,
first of all - be aware,
secondly - hold her hand!

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Controversy Du Jour

The press must love this book-burning pastor. They have handed him their megaphone. They don't do that for just anyone.

So, remember, when they talk about "people dying" because of Koran-burning... remember that it's the press who focused everyone's attention on this particular act.

Make a note of their names.
They are fanning the flames.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Monolog Mania

Had great fun tonight listening to actresses audition for Theatre of Women 5.

The artistic director asked most of them an interesting question: what sort of role would you love to do, that you never get cast for?

So, when I write, I will try to give them what they wanted, perhaps going outside their comfort zones a bit, since these are the roles they do not get to play at all.

But I don't get to write
till Friday night.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Get Used To It

The president complained today that powerful interests were talking about him like a dog.

Welcome to the presidency.

Very soon
after the honeymoon
is over
they call you Rover.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Vile Avians

My wife puts food out for birds, and she delights in their visits to our yard.

She chases away the squirrels who try to cadge some of the tasty seeds.

But is this wise? Look at what happened in New Zealand.

When humans first arrived there, the only mammals on the island were bats and sea mammals. The ecology was mostly ruled by a diverse variety of birds.

You might guess this occurred because land mammals never got a foothold on New Zealand. But, no:
Until 2006 it was thought that no mammals, other than bats and marine mammals, had reached New Zealand before humans did. The discovery of a femur and mandibles of an extinct non-volant (non-flying) mammal in Otago, dated at 16-19 million years old, has changed the view of New Zealand's evolutionary history, as it strongly suggests that mammals had been part of New Zealand's fauna since the break-up of Gondwana. The fossil has been called SB mammal. It is not known when, or why, land mammals went extinct in New Zealand but there were none present on New Zealand for several million years before the arrival of man.
"It is not known why..." Yeah, right. I know why. It was the birds. Did you ever see the Hitchcock movie, The Birds? That should have been a warning to us all.

They watch us with beady eyes,
and flex their feathery pinions,
waiting to launch a surprise
assault upon our dominions.

(Thanks to Miss Breeziness for indirectly raising this topic in her comments here.)

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Wrinkle in the Rug

The Oval Office was recently remodeled - with a new custom carpet that features quotations, including a quotation said to be from Martin Luther King.
Except it's not a King quote.
Somebody else said it, and King used to quote him.

Well, King said it too.
That should do.

Geography Flip Flop

For those of you from distant shores, the funny thing about this sign is that the silhouette of Illinois is upside down.

I think it's an installation failure, rather than a printing failure. The state silhouette seems to be a stick-on thingy.

"Illinois Link" is a debit card by which the state distributes cash assistance and "food stamps" to the poor.

Of course, viewing north as "up" and south as "down" is a convention. Maybe we should change things up!

When north and south
are rearranged
east and west 
get interchanged.

Music & Location

I'm doing a cameo part in Devilish Children, an upcoming theatrical production. Last night we did an interesting meditation exercise, where we listened to the play's musical score, while trying to imagine entering the German city in which the play is set.

Then we discussed what we had imagined. I think it will be helpful for "entering the world" of the play.

It yielded a heightened sense of place
to fill imaginary space.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Odd Turn of Events

1) Our police commissioner met secretly with some gang leaders, warning them that they would personally be held accountable if their members continue to act violently.

2) Some aldermen denounced the meeting as bargaining with "terrorists".

3) Some self-proclaimed gang members complained to the press about what they saw as the commissioner's intimidating tactics.

4) Parents of murdered Chicago children expressed outrage at the gang members' complaints.

Most of our murders here occur in dangerous neighborhoods, and are gang-related. Often innocent bystanders are hit. I suppose it's mostly turf wars, vendettas, the usual gang stuff.

As usual, a code of silence
protects the gang violence.