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.