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.