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.

No Helmet Off Field

Josh Koeppel is an offensive lineman for the U. of Iowa. Anyway, if you click here you can watch him flying in the air - after his motorbike got hit head-on by a pickup truck.

It looks like the truck's driver was taking a left turn and just didn't see him.

The video is a police dashboard video. A cop just happened to be pulling up to the intersection when this happened.

The amazing thing is that Koeppel seems to be okay. He gets up after somersaulting, and talks with the guy who hit him.

Apparently he still has soreness.

He has won internet fame,
but must miss at least one game.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Poetic Justice

The hostage-taker, the one in favor of saving the planet by means of human extinction, has met his end - in the form of a police bullet.

The hostage-taker has been removed.
The planet has been improved.


This is a poem I'm working on, about a lot of marathons I've run.

The miles unroll beneath your feet at first.
Your thoughts are on the beauty of the course.
You're running faster than you had rehearsed,
and yet your legs feel supercharged with force.

The middle, somehow, gets to be a chore.
You're vaguely achy - slowing down the pace.
Beautiful scenery now becomes a bore.
You wonder why you signed up for this race.

The last few miles are such a dreadful drag.
You need to force each foot to take each step.
Your spirit spirals southward in a sag.
You sigh when other runners pass with pep.

But there's the finish right before your eyes.
Your spirits lift. You sprint toward the prize.