Monday, January 31, 2011

Wild Flowers Buried In Snow

Forecasters are promising a Snowmaggedon event here, starting just about when my play reading was supposed to start.

The theater people were all resolute and hardy folk, willing to brave the blizzard for the sake of their art.

But the audience envisioned being stuck in the snow in the dark, and felt fear in their hearts.

So we'll reschedule.

Instead of the show
I'll be at my hovel
cleaning up snow
with shoulders and shovel.


A federal judge today ruled that the Health Care bill is void, on constitutional grounds. Of course, others have ruled it A-ok, so this is headed higher on the judicial food chain.

But speaking of food chains, the judge touched on food in oral argument:
"If (the federal government) decided everybody needs to eat broccoli because broccoli makes us healthy," Vinson asked, "they could mandate that everybody has to eat broccoli each week?"
A mandate in favor of broccoli?
It wouldn't really shock me.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

200 Dead Cows

It had somehow escaped my notice, but 200 dead cows showed up in a Wisconsin pasture 2 weeks ago. I believe it was aliens. But scientists have their own opinions:
Investigators from the University of Wisconsin have determined that the animals were killed by a poison found in spoiled sweet potatoes that were part of the cattle's feed.
The researcher mentioned a "mycotoxin" from the moldy vegetables.

Do not feed your oxen
deadly mycotoxin!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Funding the Stage

The chairman of the National Endowment of the Arts said something controversial about "struggling theaters":
“You can either increase demand or decrease supply,” he said. “Demand is not going to increase, so it is time to think about decreasing supply.”
Theaters which are recipients of NEA grants were not so happy to hear this.
“What does he mean there’s too much supply?!?” wrote Trisha Mead, the public relations and publications manager at Portland Center Stage in Oregon. “What does he mean we can’t increase demand?!?
I suppose he means that *so far - for decades* the efforts to increase demand have been a net failure, despite all the attempts to "outreach to neglected communities" that grant committees love.

Personally, I'm inclined to think that the strings attached to a lot of grant money are strings that tend to trip up theater companies. They get diverted from their primary missions of making art or entertainment, and veer off into "outreach" efforts and policy statements and grant application writing.

Live theater has to compete with TV and movies. That's tough competition. But some people still like to go to plays. There's something about seeing a real live person in front of you, acting, that carries a charm of its own. Plays also run more talky and idea-oriented than movies and TV, so the intellectually-minded and the artsy are often drawn to them.

I think theater
might be sweeter
if the Feds didn't play this part
of "supporting" the art.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Shaky Foundations

My friend asked me this morning what was going on in Egypt and I said "Revolution." Of course, it may fail. And if it succeeds in overthrowing Mubarak, the Egyptians may jump out of the frying pan and into the fire of strict sharia law. It happened like that with the Iranian revolution.

The army and police are of limited usefulness at holding a country down. At some point the uniformed forces may decide to side with the rebels, especially if the rebels appear to have a good chance of winning. There are reports of that sort of incident:
A number of police members removed their suits and joined protests against the regime, according to Al Arabiya.
If your army treats you like royalty,
salute their contribution.

But don't rely on their loyalty,
come the revolution.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Downward Facing

I saw a very charming play tonight - Downward Facing, by Mishelle Apalategui. The title refers on the surface to "downward facing dog," the very popular yoga pose, and perhaps also alludes to the difficulty that people can have in accepting love and warmth into their lives.

The play follows 2 parallel stories, which seem at first to be connected only by theme. Courtney Blomquist is captivating as a young woman who is trying to make of go of opening a yoga studio in a "gentrifying" but still run-down neighborhood. Katharine Swan slowly grows on you as the homeless woman who seems to be permanently camped out on the steps of the yoga studio. Nick Bonges is rather dashing, indeed, as the homeless woman's hobo love interest.

Meanwhile, in another part of town, a pair of young women are meeting at a bus stop, and a rapid attraction develops between them...

Natalie Breitmeyer brings great energy and artful awkwardness to her role as the somewhat butchy Janna. Emily Tate brings a steady aura of groundedness to her role as the more femme Jenna.

And, eventually, the plots come together.

I saw this play in its earlier, 10-minute version, when it appeared at the Theatre of Women festival. I felt that version was loaded with a lot of material, so that it strained your brain a bit to follow the relationships. Now it has been given an hour or so to unfold itself, and it has taken flight like a butterfly.

I suppose Giau Truong, who directed, deserves some of the credit for that too!

Accepting love is not always easy.
When you're a cynic, you get kind of queasy
at even the thought of falling prey
to feeling in such a predictable way.

Emanuel In Again

The ruling is in, and it's unanimous, 7-0. The Illinois supreme court says Rahm Emanuel is eligible to be mayor of Chicago.

They cite an 1869 Illinois supreme court ruling that says:
"residence is lost by a union of intention and acts" and that "intention in may cases will be inferred from the surrounding circumstances"
Not a bright line definition, I suppose, but it's true that Emanuel gave no clear sign of abandoning his affiliation with Illinois.

He's at 52 percent in someone's poll.
He cleared a speed bump, and now he's on a roll.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Orange You Glad?

Homeland Security is finally getting rid of the color codes!
“The old color coded system taught Americans to be scared, not prepared,” said Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) in a statement.
Wait. "Scared not prepared"?

Is Thompson running his own rhyme-of-the-day routine?
...the system, which has largely remained at yellow for domestic travel and orange for national security, has been widely criticized as ineffective.
I have to admit, this decision will make no difference to me at all, because I was already ignoring the color levels.

The meanings were never sufficiently clear
to fill me with reassurance or fear.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Mayoral Race Upheaval - For Now

An appeals court has dealt Rahm Emanuel's candidacy for mayor of Chicago a setback:
“We ... order that the candidate’s name be excluded (or if, necessary, be removed) from the ballot,” Judge Thomas Hoffman wrote in the opinion upholding the requirement under the state’s municipal code that candidates for mayor in Illinois must have “resided in” the town where they are running for a year before Election Day -- in this case Feb. 22. Hoffman was joined by Justice Shelvin Marie Louise Hall.
The appeals court vote was 2 out of 3. Emanuel will now ask the Illinois supreme court to hear his case. The situation is complicated by the fact that time is running out for printing the ballots.

I read through the decision (pdf) , which I found interesting. The court ruled that Emanuel was qualified to vote for mayor, but not to run for mayor. There's no exact precedent apparently, so the ruling makes much of principles of judicial interpretation. It's pretty darn technical.

The judge who wrote the decision is apparently a widely respected judge. Well, now we'll see if the Illinois supreme court will take the case - and maybe issue a stay in the meantime so the ballots include his name.

Ahead in the polls, and in dollars collected,
in this municipality -
but as of today, he's been ejected
on a technicality.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Friday, January 21, 2011

Italy and the American Death Penalty

Italian regulators have managed to interfere in American executions - by getting a company to stop making a drug that a lot of states use in their executions by injection.
Hospira, which never condoned the use of its Pentothal for executions, said it was unwilling to take on the liability risk after officials in Italy demanded the company “control the product all the way to the ultimate end user to prevent use in capital punishment.”
You might think states could just switch to whatever it is that vets use to put down animals. But, no... there will be court cases, and appeals, and those appeals will go to the highest court in the land.

The Supreme Court must certify
as perfectly painless
and legally stainless
the poisons they use to make people die.

Wildflower and Thunderbolt

I drew this while thinking of a certain play that has a reading coming up.

My central two
characters use
made-up names
in online games
that correspond
to what is drawn.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Peace, They Say

Funny line from Rush Limbaugh's site:
2009 Nobel Peace Prize Winner Hosts the Man Who Has Imprisoned the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize Winner.
That's a funny way of putting it, even though I'm no longer impressed by the Peace Prize.
'Peace, peace,' they say, when there is no peace.
It's here and it's there
but please tell me where
the current resident
of the office of president
has caused a massive increase
in peace.

Chambers and Nostalgia

For book club we read Whittaker Chambers: A Biography, by Sam Tanenhaus. It's well-written, well-researched, and adopts an objective tone toward Chambers himself. Obviously the author likes Chambers, but he portrays him flaws and all. The book gives a lively inside look at Communism in America among the intellectual elite.

The book's strongest emotional component, for me, had to do with Chambers' time at Columbia College in New York. It brought back memories of my own time there, some five decades later. Chambers departed involuntarily, as did I, and his dissatisfaction with the place to a certain extent mirrored my own:
...he was searching for something his professors could not or would not give him. Columbia's expansive curriculum - the panoramic survey courses, the piles of great books - seemed feckless to him. He detected a vacuum in the catholicity of texts and in his instructors' dexterous glide from one system of ideas to the next. They offered a "higher hodgepodge" of worldviews. He crave the one right answer to which he could dedicate himself. (page 29)
My personal inclination is to look at a question from every angle. I like to explore a variety of views. But I do believe, now as then, that the whole point is to find the actual truth.

Not every view is valid.
Quite a few are pallid
vampiric things
with bat-like wings.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Soylent White

Some young burglars thought they had discovered containers of cocaine. But really they had discovered the urns of ashes.
Investigators learned what happened to the ashes after they arrested five teens in connection with another burglary attempt at a nearby home last week.
Instead of cocaine,
the remains
of Great Danes
and a human, to boot,
went up their snoots.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Don't Know Much About Critical Thinking

Someone did a big study of college students and what they learned:
The research of more than 2,300 undergraduates found 45 percent of students show no significant improvement in the key measures of critical thinking, complex reasoning and writing by the end of their sophomore years.
It didn't get much better by their senior years, either. Of course, that's just the lower 45 percent.

Would they have been better off just skipping the whole thing?

On the one hand, they wouldn't have a college degree. On the other hand, they wouldn't have a giant back-pack of tuition debt to carry with them as they venture out into the real world.

The costs have been skyrocketing. The benefits have not.

It think it's a bubble
headed for trouble.

Chamber of Errors

I just finished reading a very interesting biography of Whittaker Chambers, about which I shall probably post later, but it made me dredge up his "review" of Atlas Shrugged which appeared in William F. Buckley's National Review.

Mistakes in the review actually make you wonder if he read the book through. He clearly hated the book, so I can see where he wouldn't want to read it through, especially considering how long it is.

Consider this:
One of them is named (the only smile you see will be your own): Francisco Domingo Carlos Andres Sebastian dAntonio. This electrifying youth is the world's biggest copper tycoon. Another, no less electrifying, is named: Ragnar Danesjold. He becomes a twentieth-century pirate. All Miss Rand's chief heroes are also breathtakingly beautiful. So is her heroine (she is rather fetchingly vice president in charge of management of a transcontinental railroad).
So, he misspells d'Anconia, he mispells Danneskjöld, and falsely claims that Dagny is breathtakingly beautiful. All in one paragraph.

He found little to like,
and his fact checkers were on strike.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Man With No Middle Name

It's MLK's birthday, and it's BF's birthday, by which I mean Benjamin Franklin. Did you ever notice that a lot of the Founding Fathers lacked middle names?

Wikipedia says:
Despite their relatively long existence in North America, the phrase "middle name" was not recorded until 1835 in Harvardiana, a periodical of the time.
But did they really have a "long existence" in North America"? You wouldn't know it from looking at the people involved in the American revolution.

Franklin's accomplishments were staggering. Not only was he smart, he had taken it upon himself to be energetic:
He said that, as a child, a proverb from King Solomon profoundly influenced his life: Seest thou a man diligent in his calling, he shall stand before kings. “I from thence considered industry as a means of obtaining wealth and distinction.”
Despite the lack of a middle name,
Benjamin won lasting fame.

The biggest bill that the Feds now print
has his face in a greenish tint.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Tug of War

Mr. Croc, do you know what you've chomped?
If you don't let go you may get stomped!

UPDATE: It's a baby elephant, and it got away.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Shades of Gray

Hey, it's his business if he wants to color his hair. I'm just going to use this opportunity to parody Dylan Thomas:

Do not go gentle into that grim gray,
Wage open war, by dyeing it away!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Price-Fixer in Private Education?

The Wall St. Journal recently ran a defense of for-profit colleges in its opinion section. The article, by Donald E. Graham, included this claim:
There is a price-fixer in private education—it's called the U.S. government. Long-existing regulations all but eliminate price competition. We are willing to cut prices on some programs and keep them low for years in return for relief from regulations that mandate our tuitions.
What regulations is he referring to? He doesn't say!

I wonder if it has to do with strings attached to the federal student loan program. Most of the students at these schools take federal loans to pay a big chunk of their tuitions.

Hillsdale College famously does not accept federal aid for its students, in order to avoid the attendant federal regulatory intrusion.

Who pays the piper
call the tune,
as colleges learned
all too soon.

Gadsden Reimagined

It's time to erase
that serpent's head
and place instead
a smiley face!

(From Chip Ahoy at Althouse's request)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Matrimonium Economicus

In today's Wall St. Journal there was an interesting review of The Price of Everything. The author of this book has an economic theory to explain the increased prevalence of monogamy over the past 2000 years. But the reviewer demurs:
There was, however, an important noneconomic event 2,000 years ago that spread the Jewish view—unusual at the time—of marriage as a monogamous institution: the birth of Christianity.
This gave me pause, for 2 reasons.

1) Ancient Greek and Roman civilizations viewed marriage as a monogamous institution.

2) Biblical Jewish civilization allowed for multiple wives.

It is even reported that:
Jewish polygamy clashed with Roman monogamy at the time of the early church
Thus, the idea that monogamy came into Western culture from Jewish civilization seems just wrong.

So is marriage a matter of body or spirit or economics? Yes!

Two shall become one flesh,
and their pocketbooks shall mesh.

Wild Flowers Reading

We're having a free reading of my new full-length play on February 1, at 7:30 pm, at Dream Theatre. It's called Wild Flowers, and it's about a young woman who finds out that she may not be an American citizen - that she may be deported shortly to Russia. As the play opens, she's doing yoga on her patio, trying to clear her mind, and a young man walks up, offering to help.

We're planning on a July 2011 production. Last time around, with Ready Or Not, I made some changes to the script, based on a reading or two. So I want to hear how it sounds. There will be some audience discussion afterwards.

This cartoon (which you can get on a shirt) isn't based on the play, but somehow it goes well with the play.

Wild flowers
have the power
to succeed
as weeds.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Pay Up Or Put Down

The town clerk of Reconvilier, Switzerland is threatening to kill dogs whose owners don't cough up the 50 buck annual dog tax.
Town clerk Pierre-Alain Nemitz has received death threats over the new approach to tax collection.
I think the clerk
sounds like a jerk.

He shouldn't make threats
against people's pets.

Monday, January 10, 2011

On Their Hands

I'm really not a Palin fan, but after this current attack on her I'm almost ready to give her a sympathy vote.

The claim that she has "blood on her hands" over the Arizona shooting is deeply disconnected from reality.

The people who spread it, for sure,
have stuff on their hands - manure.

There's a famous philosophy article by Harry Frankfurt, provocatively titled: "On Bullshit".
While liars need to know the truth to better conceal it, bullshitters, interested solely in advancing their own agendas, have no use for the truth. Thus, Frankfurt claims, "...bullshit is a greater enemy of the truth than lies are"
They claim to have the scoop
but all they give you is poop.

Glass on a Hot Tin Roof

In our production of Cat, we use a fair amount of real glassware on stage. The script calls for the male lead - who always has a drink in his hand - to fall to the floor a couple of times. Tonight he broke a glass on the floor, for real.

He walks about on stage with one foot bare. So he cut his foot. Enough to make him limp.

And "Big Daddy" cut his hand, slightly.

And "Maggie" cut her leg when she knelt to the floor to admire Big Daddy's slippers.

Bloody hell!
Otherwise the show went well.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Scooby Did

A 14 year old Chicago girl was attacked by a man twice her age, in her own front yard:
He threw her down and tried pulling off her clothing. She struggled and screamed.
That's when a Great Dane named Scooby showed up. With owner in tow. No word on whether he declared "Ruh roh!"

Scooby and his owner chased the attacker into an alley - and cornered him until the cops showed up.
No word on whether Scooby was rewarded for this good deed with special snacks.
A dog who foils this sort of attack
always deserves a special snack.

Facial Expression Question

What is this facial expression? It strikes me as emotionally charged, oddly haunting. The lips are turning down a little. The eyes are wide. Is it controlled fear? That would make sense, given why her picture was taken. Is there something defiant about her expression?

Is her mug
somehow smug?

Arizona Monster

I see the murderous Arizona rampager was rambling on about "conscience dreaming". What? Did he dream that he had a conscience? Because he doesn't seem to have much of one. Or did he mean "conscious dreaming"? That would be kind of funny since he also was rambling on about people not being good at English grammar, and here he is getting his spelling wrong.

Meanwhile, there has been an eruption of ridiculous political blame-gaming. Have you ever noticed how crazed assassins usually fall outside the normal political party lines? There's a reason for that. It's because they're crazed.

I do have a question. This was in Arizona. Which, according to some, is full of gun-toters. Where were they? Why didn't anyone shoot this guy? Is the prevalence of gun-toters in AZ exaggerated? Was the Congresswoman's meeting a gun-free zone for some reason? Someone finally tackled the guy, but I'm guessing that was after he ran out of bullets in his 9mm pistol.

I suppose this case will be forgotten in a few years, except among the people who knew the victims, including the family of the 9 year old girl that this monster shot.

For them the pain will persist
as long as they exist.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Limerick for the Birds

There was a girl parrot so glamorous,
all the boy parrots grew clamorous.
She gave each a turn.
None did she spurn.
Her name was, of course, Polly Amorous.

Constitutional "Fetish"

I've been grimly amused by all the complaining about the reading of the Constitution in the House of Representatives.

As Paul at PowerLine wrote:
...instead of good naturedly going along with the exercise, or suffering in silence, a number of leftists publicly displayed their lack of comfort with, if not contempt for, the Constitution. Thus, the public received its clearest indication to date that the left regards the words of the Constitution as an impediment to its agenda.
The left, under the Bush administration, actually took the opposite tack. They were always complaining that the Republican administration was violating the Constitution.

Of course, hypocrisy is nothing new in politics. But the philosophies of pragmatism and post-modernism both provide increased support to "saying what works" and not worrying about consistency or truth.

Under the system proposed in Plato's Republic, at least the rulers knew they were lying. They had to justify it as noble lying. But under some modern philosophies, there's no such thing as lying, because there's no such thing as unyielding truth.

American popular culture has long held a special place in its heart for our Constitution. It's not viewed simply as a legal document. It is revered as a sacred gift from inspired (though fallible) founders. This is a peculiarly American attitude. In terms of the postmodern left, we "fetishize" the document.

This special reverence for the Constitution was a major feature of the Tea Party phenomenon, and now it has leaked into the Republican Party.

Time magazine chirps in with an article on "the Cult of the Constitution" by Alex Altman, which includes this complaint:
But the notion that our governing document should never evolve has always struck me as mildly insane.
I suppose "evolve" is the key word. The document itself includes a process for amending the document. This process has been used. We're up to 27 amendments. We even have one amendment that specifically cancels out a previous amendment. But this isn't the kind of evolving he has in mind. He has in mind evolving understanding of what was already written. He has in mind reinterpretation.

Reinterpretation is the "fetish" of the post-modernists.

Every text
is seen as vexed -
in need of being re-read
until the meaning is dead.

It's their core trick,
and it makes me sick.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Cat Opens

We did Cat on a Hot Tin Roof to an audience tonight. The show seemed to go well, with a few kinks which the audience probably did not detect. Here's a picture... I think from one of the dress rehearsals:

This is the beginning of the big moment for my part, where I deliver the really bad news.

One thing that's very clever about the play is that Brick has broken his leg the night before - which justifies all the play's action taking place in Brick and Maggie's bedroom, because Brick is confined to his room so Big Daddy's whole birthday party comes upstairs to the bedroom.

Brick being temporarily crippled - and dependent upon a crutch - is probably also a visual metaphor for his wretched alcohol dependence.

So his broken leg doubles as a symbol and a "keep it all in one room" staging gimmick.

Williams gives you a well-written earful
of frustrated souls who aren't very cheerful.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Pointing a Finger at Feline Malingerers

It's an old argument. Which are smarter - dogs or cats? Lately, I had seen some articles trumpeting dogs' understanding of humans. But along comes a cat article that makes those mischievous kitties look pretty devious:
They don't talk, but when cats are upset about a change in their environment they let you know by acting sick – refusing to eat and vomiting excessively, even if they're healthy, a new study finds.
In other words, these kitties call in sick, and vomit like they've got it, even though they're fine.

That's not just smart,
that's almost art.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Nativity Scene, Bagged

In the building where I work, which is owned and partly occupied by a Catholic University, they have a nativity scene every Christmas in the ground floor hallway.

For the past week or so, the nativity scene figures - which are good-sized - have been wrapped up in dark plastic bags. Just sitting there. Awaiting pick-up for storage, I assume.

But it's a bit macabre, because it looks sort of like the wise men and the shepherds and the holy family are all in body bags.

It's gone from cheer
to drear.

If you must bag them all,
please take them out of the hall!

Crossed Lines

Many actors have a facility for making up lines that sound a lot like the playwright's lines - but aren't. It's a valuable skill.

When you're rehearsing
and someone forgets a line
you can't just start cursing.
You have to go on like it's fine.

Sometimes you even have to make something up. Suppose the dialog is like this:

A: Did you shoot him?
B: No.

Suppose A forgets his line. What is B to do? Probably something like this:

A: (uncomfortable pause)
B: I suppose you're wondering if I shot him. No!

It pays to be glib
when you need to ad lib.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

The King's Speech

We went to see The King's Speech. I had no idea what the film was about, going in, except that it had something to do with British royalty in the 20th century, a subject that doesn't usually fascinate me.

But the film was fascinating after all, because it was about a man's struggle with a speech impediment.

He is helped - almost against his will - by a self-taught Australian speech therapist - played by Geoffrey Rush.

Colin Firth transformed himself for the role of George VI. I believed he had a speech impediment. It was painful to watch him in the early parts of the film.

It's a hard thing
to try to be king
when normal speech
is out of reach.