Thursday, March 31, 2011

On Strike!

Not me. The SITA bus line along the Amalfi coast. They were on strike for a few hours today. But tomorrow they're running all day. So we postponed our trip to Maiori.

I don't much like
Being delayed by a strike.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Amalfi By Any Other Name

We've arrived at the Amalfi coast, at a place we stayed at in January, 2007. In March it's still off-season here, so the price of accommodations is reduced.

I just realized that The Duchess Of Malfi, an important, gruesome English play, was set in this area. I hadn't figured out that Malfi was Jacobean English for Amalfi. Duh. Silly me.

Technically it's Modern English, but...
Jacobean can leave you asking "What?!"

Monday, March 28, 2011

Naples Continued

The location, on the gulf of Naples, is naturally lovely, but the town has a bit of a run down look compared to Rome. Partly this is caused by some kind of crazy political failure to get the garbage picked up. They need a new dump, but nobody wants it near them, the old dump is overflowing, and organized crime (ahem) has its tentacles in the waste disposal biz, which somehow factors into the unsolved equation of getting the garbage off the street.

The food is exquisite
But if you want tourists to visit
So you can get their cash
Then pick up your trash!

Sunday, March 27, 2011


We have arrived in Naples. One of my wife's grandfathers emigrated from this city.

But that was over one hundred years ago.
Who would be left who remembered Angelo?

Saturday, March 26, 2011

DST Europe

Daylight savings time arrives in Italy tonight. So I am having to "spring forward" twice in one year, since the States and the Euros are now out of sync.

Once is bad enough.
Twice is excessively tough.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Galleria Borghese

The Galleria Borghese is a small museum, an old mansion, with the world's best collection of Bernini statuary, and a very impressive collection of ancient Hellenistic and Imperial statuary as well.

If you love figures fluidly rendered in stone,
This place will prove a pleasure zone.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Weren't They Also Ninja Turtles?

Saw Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel. A 9 year old girl was in our party and asked what "Sistine" might mean. I told her the chapel was built for the pope's little sis who was a teen. But the 9 year old didn't believe me. The correct answer is that a pope named Sextus had it built, and somehow Sistine is the adjectival form of Sextus. Who knew?

I also got a good look at Raphael's School at Athens mural, another favorite of mine. I had never seen these works in person before, so it was nice to get a better idea of the architectural context.

Why are people such snobs
About ceiling and wall paint jobs?

Somehow the figures seem to shine
As if they really were divine.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Outside the Wall

We're staying a block from the door to the Vatican museums.
Tomorrow we'll go see 'em.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Vivacious Vivaldi

Heard nice version of Vivaldi's 4 seasons in San Vidal, an old church that hasn't been a church for years. Vivaldi was born in Venice, and local musicians have figured out he's a good draw for tourists.

Church attendance in Italy is down,
But not Vivaldi's renown.

Cash or Credit Card

In Italy, small shop owners strongly prefer cash,
I suspect to add to their tax free stash.

Monday, March 21, 2011


Venice may be sinking slowly into the sea,
But its art still projects undefeated ESPRIT.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Even If You Don't Mind The Dirtiness

When swimming in the canals of Venice,
Gondolas are an ungodly menace.


I'm doing light posting
Due to traveling with uneven hosting.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Grisly/Glorious Adventure

I went to see: The Grisly/Glorious Adventure of Christopher Robin, Winnie-the-Pooh and Billy Moon.

It's the new show at Dream Theatre. It's wonderful and magical.

It's not quite as grisly as the title might suggest, but as the story opens, something deadly is stalking the denizens of the 100 Acre Woods.

The show takes those denizens very seriously, and I think that many grown-ups who loved the Christopher Robin stories will also love this play, which looks at the relationship between the "actual Christopher Robin" and the one in the stories.

As usual at Dream, the acting was superb and the staging was stunningly clever.

I would like to write more, but I have too much to do.

I recommend that you
spend an evening with Pooh.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Wrap Up

In case you're wondering, the jury found Marni Yang guilty of shooting the pregnant other-girlfriend of the former Bears player.

The jury took an hour to decide.

In closing arguments, the defense maintained:

a) There was only circumstantial evidence against Yang.

b) The recorded admissions of guilt were just an exercise in story-telling on the part of Yang.
“I took one last shot in the head, finished her off,” Yang said on a snippet of tape played for jurors before they began deliberating.
I just wonder why the jury took a whole hour.

Stuff like that on tape
leaves no room to escape

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Evergreen Park Fatality

After ranting yesterday about Evergreen Park's heavy-duty issuance of traffic tickets, I started wondering again about an incident from October, when an Evergreen Park squad car broadsided the car a teenager was driving, killing him. At the time, facts in the news seemed... thin.

Now the teen's parents are suing the village and the officer. Oddly enough, they've got a lawyer named Karen Enright - no relation!
"It's our opinion that the officer was speeding, in pursuit of a speeder, but he was going too fast for the conditions," said Enright, whose team conducted their own investigation of the accident. "Our witnesses say he was speeding without lights or siren and he pulled out in front of Brian DeWitt and caused the accident."
That may just be bluster, of course.

The police car reportedly had a camera mounted on its dash. To record things.
However, authorities said the video was unable to be retrieved from the camera.
Maybe the video got wrecked in the crash.
But I predict the village will pay out cash.

Pratt Fall

Steve DeQuattro, "Sustainable Liberalism In a Box" (2011)

This work is by a student at New York's prestigious Pratt Institute.
Last week, the chair of the fine arts department stepped in to prevent Mr. DeQuattro’s participation alongside the other students in the group show--an unprecedented move in the history of the department, says Mr. DeQuattro, despite the fact that none of his work is pornographic, libelous, or in violation of the laws of free speech.
Apparently some of his peers complained that his work was... wait for it... offensive.

With intellect gone broke,
and arteries turned to lard,
the established avant-garde
cannot take a joke.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Everticket Park

I live in Chicago, but I'm just half a mile away from Evergreen Park, IL, known as "Village of Churches" and also as "Former Home of the Unabomber".

The town was recently featured in a Chicago Tribune story on top-ticketing area suburbs. And you better hope that all they get you for is speeding or rolling through a stop sign. Because for a lot of offenses they will impound your car. In 2009 they impounded 1 in 12 cars stopped, on average, and there's a $600 fee to get your car back. Evergreen made half a millions bucks from the tow fees in 2009.

I saw a family get pulled over tonight. Their car was traveling with the traffic. They were maybe a couple of miles per hour over the limit.

What does the police chief have to say?
Saunders said the department isn't looking to cash in on traffic stops. Its officers give warnings to a third of stopped motorists.
I'd like to know how often they give warnings to Evergreen residents, as compared to outsiders. Evergreen has been a speed trap for at least 5 decades, but it has gotten a lot worse lately. I suspect the village needs the dough - bad.

Declining tax base?
I try to drive around the place.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Flame Grilled

Our local disgusting murder trial continues.

A key witness is Christi Paschen, a psychic, who was friends with the accused. Ms. Paschen wore a wire and recorded some very damaging conversations with the accused.

The defense attorneys are going after her credibility, which is easy enough, but I'm not sure how that is going to help with the damaging recordings.

Anyway, the psychic testified that she had been part of a military intelligence program named "Gondala Wish" that was later called "Grill Flame." She said she went on a mission to the Mideast, and that all of the men in her unit were killed.

This sounded loopy, but I googled those 2 program names and got a lot of links to what the Wikipedia people would call unreliable sources. Wikipedia itself has an article on "the Stargate Project" which is a "disputed" article about the same basic idea that the U.S. government ran big psychic programs for military and intelligence purposes. The government doesn't seem to have admitted to all this, so I guess the psychic can just say "it's still secret".

Given our continued intelligence failures, I think it's clear that any government psychic research was unsuccessful.

If we had good surmises
of what would happen next
we wouldn't be so vexed
with terrible surprises.

The 4th Wall

Last night, at The Moonstone, the actors, in character, turned and addressed the audience directly, as narrators. It got me thinking about the various ways the imaginary 4th wall can be broken.

If you look at Shakespeare's practice, you don't find much direct narration of the Our Town sort. But you do have the prologue to Romeo and Juliet, spoken directly to the audience:
Two households, both alike in dignity,
In fair Verona, where we lay our scene...
In prologues, the actor recognizes that he is speaking in a theater, to an audience. The same is true of epilogues.

involves the character talking "to himself", but the actor is likely to "speak to" the audience.

Asides are brief comments directly to the audience.

Contemporary playwright Jeremy Menekseoglu often speaks of breaking the 4th wall, and I've noted these other techniques from his work:

1) The characters are aware of the fact they have an audience, but don't seem to be aware that they are actors in a theater. They may ask the audience why it has come to visit their lives.

2) The characters are addressing an unseen character, a waitress for instance, but they address the audience, or some person in the audience, as if they were that character.

3) Actors begin the play in the lobby, in character, greeting the audience as it comes into the theater.

In what I've seen, however, Jeremy keeps the actors in character until the show ends. His practice doesn't seem designed to break the illusion of the drama, but rather to extend it, or to further draw the audience into the imaginary world of the drama.

As for me, I have not assaulted the wall. Except that in a short verse drama one of the characters turned to the audience at the end and gave a very brief epilogue - or perhaps it was a closing aside.

I think when I watch live theater I often get in kind of a trance, where I sort of forget there's an imaginary wall.

If a play is absorbing, that is all
I need to float through the wall.

The Moonstone

We saw a well-done dramatization of The Moonstone at Lifeline Theatre.

The Moonstone, by Wilkie Collins, was a pioneering 19th century novel, considered to be the first detective novel in English.

I just realized tonight that Chicago has both a Lifeline Theatre and a TimeLine Theatre.

I somehow had them jumbled together in my mind.

I think we need a Lifetime Theatre
to make the confusion even sweeter.

Saturday, March 12, 2011


We live on a sleeping beast.
which sometimes gives a shake
and the energy that is released
leaves terror and death in its wake.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Walker Winning

That wasn't easy:
The Wisconsin Assembly on Thursday gave final approval to a GOP measure that sharply limits collective-bargaining rights for most public employees.
The media double-standard on the excitement in Wisconsin has been spectacular. Especially on the "uncivil tone" issue.

Here's a rare anti-Walker sign
that made me laugh, photo courtesy of Ann Althouse:


But if you put on the "civil tone" lenses, it's clear that this poster is recommending that the governor's face be shredded!

Now settle down, kitty.
Democracy isn't always pretty.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Capital Crimes

In today's Illinois news, we got rid of our death penalty.

I have very mixed feelings about this. The way I see it, there are people who deserve to be killed by the state. Unfortunately, the state has a history of convicting the wrong people. Partly this happens because murders are most likely to occur in communities where the people don't like to talk to the police.

Personally, I'd be in favor of keeping the death penalty, if we could raise the level of evidence needed to justify it. Something beyond what now passes for "beyond reasonable doubt". What would that extra-sure standard be? Good question. But there are some high-profile murder cases where there is no doubt who did it - such as the case of Jared Loughner who shot all those people in Arizona.

In cases where such certainty is found
I don't mind consigning him underground.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Motive for Murder?

We have a strange and tawdry murder trial going in Chicago. The crime dates back to 2007, and concerns the murder of a pregnant young woman who had been having sex with Shaun Gayle, a former player for the Chicago Bears.

Accused of the crime is another woman that Shaun Gayle had been having sex with - once in a while. The prosecutors' theory is that Woman B was upset that Woman A was pregnant with Gayle's child, so upset she staged an elaborate murder.

I have read that some women see getting pregnant by a sports star as a major form of victory. I guess because he will continue to see the woman, at least somewhat, in order to see the kid. She will be "in his life". And also because there will be good money coming in, to pay for the kid's expenses, money which will also make the mom's life easier in various ways, especially if she funnels some of it into her own expenses, which she may find easy to rationalize.

A child can be a tie
that keeps a guy
from just saying bye.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Unfair Advantage

I finished reading a couple of plays from Shakespeare's time, by competing playwrights:

A Woman Killed With Kindness, by Thomas Heywood, a domestic tragedy about adultery.

The Alchemist, by Ben Jonson, a caustic comedy about con-men.

They are both written in iambic pentameter, occasionally rhymed, similar to Shakespeare that way. But somehow the poetry seemed to lack his punch. Which is interesting, because Jonson was certainly capable of writing powerful poetry.

There's a joke that Shakespeare had an advantage over other writers, in that he coined lots of great quotations early, before other writers had a chance to think of them. But these people had the same chance he did.

It wasn't that he was first,
but rather that he burst
onto the play-writing scene
like a phrase-coining machine.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Killed on Camera

This is a video, with commentary, of a police shooting which ocurred in 2003, several miles from where I live. A man dies on the video, so be warned that you may not want to watch it.

The family of the slain man sued, and the city may pay them soon:
The City of Chicago is poised to pay out $3 million to the family of a man fatally shot by a Chicago police officer, bringing an end to an eight-year dispute over why the unarmed man was gunned down on a South Side CTA platform.
As with all these incidents, you wish you had a few more camera angles on the actual shooting, and you wish you had audio. When the officer shoots, the other 2 men each have an arm raised - but not toward the officer.

The officer at first claimed the shooting occurred because he feared he was in immediate danger. But after the video became public, that story changed:
Then, in a December 2006 deposition, Weems admitted he did not fear for his life when he shot Pleasance and did not believe the shooting was justified. But Weems also "contended the shooting was unintentional," according to a city Law Department news release about the proposed settlement.
Well, accidents do happen. And when your friend is resisting arrest, you should think twice about waving your arms around a nervous officer with a gun in his hand.

Meanwhile, an old question is being raised again:
A South Side alderman on Friday demanded to know why a Chicago Police officer who shot and killed an unarmed man at a CTA station in 2003 — and later admitted he misled investigators about it — was not only allowed to keep his job, but promoted to detective.
Maybe he has been a good detective,
even if his story that day was defective.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Moral Seriousness

I was looking at a website called Bleeding Heart Libertarians, and found this:
Our friend David Sobel, over at PEA Soup, has a very nice post discussing what he takes to be a serious problem with the Nozickian approach to property rights (one that probably applies to the Randian or Rothbardian approach as well). The problem is that "such libertarian views cannot adequately distinguish the moral seriousness of the wide variety of kinds of actions that violate our property-rights."
I was very surprised to see Rand mentioned as possibly open to the same charge.

I went to Sobel's post and found this opening:
I want to try to develop an argument against deontological libertarian moral principles that treat a wide range of our basic rights as flowing from morally powerful rights of self-ownership.
Well, that pretty much lets Rand off the hook.

A) She is explicitly opposed to the deontological approach in ethics.

B) She doesn't take the self-ownership tack in justifying fundamental rights. Rothbard does.

Somehow Sobel puzzles over pollution and arrives at the conclusion that libertarians may not have a consistent argument against "redistributive taxation".
And if the social good that accompanies such pollution is sufficient to justify a fair amount of pollution (even if not as nearly as much as we currently put out) despite it violating the rights of just about all humans, then surely the social good involved in progressive taxation may well be permissible as well so long as it produces great social good (and violates the property rights of far fewer people than pollution).
That's a lot of convolution,
and maybe a bit of stealth,
moving from air pollution
to justify redistribution
of other people's wealth.

One Door Closes...

I saw No Sex Please, We're British, a funny show in which I especially appreciated Stephanie Rohr as the young wife and Denise Smolarek as her troublesome but well-meaning mother in law.

It's set in the 70's, and concerns a British couple who receive a big stash of porn in the mail - back when porn was somewhat more shocking than it is today. Complications arise as they try to figure out how to get rid of it anonymously.

It's an all-out door-slamming farce, which is hard to perform, partly because the timing should be done just right.

The final exam
is to make door one slam
just as door two
opens up to view.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Fat Pig

I read a play by Neal LaBute today: Fat Pig.

I've been avoiding LaBute, because even the positive reviews put me off.

Spoiler Alert.

It's about a young man who falls in love with a distinctly overweight young woman. His co-workers are very disapproving. So he breaks up with her, telling her that he is too weak to withstand the social pressure.

What a downer. It seemed like kind of an afternoon-special in reverse, designed to provoke.

Easy to follow,
and nicely paced,
but  leaves a hollow

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Chilling Effect

I came home and it was 60F (15C) degrees in the house... and it's not supposed to be quite that chilly!

So, I checked, and the natural gas pilot lights are out under the boiler. I try to light what seems to be the primary pilot light. By following the steps I can get it lit, but it won't stay lit when I ease my finger off the pilot-lighting button.

I've seen this before and recalled the diagnosis - the thermocouple has gone bad. Basically, it's a safety feature. You need safety features with natural gas, because without them you can literally blow your house to smithereens.

My wife called up the guy who put the boiler in, and he was busy on another job, but he offered me some advice on what kind of replacement thermocouple to buy. So we bought one, and I put it in, and we have central heat again. So I don't have to worry about the water pipes freezing tonight.

I got it working fine and dandy
even though I'm not that handy.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Feydeau and Absurdity

I was looking at a book on Feydeau, a master of French farces, who created very complicated but logically cohesive plots.

There was an attempt, on the part of the Theater of the Absurd theorists, to look to Feydeau as a forerunner. But I have trouble seeing it.

Mostly he begins with the principle enunciated by Walter Scott:
What a tangled web we weave
When first we practice to deceive.
He then throws in the principle that simple failures lead to complex messes:
Your striving can be your own undoing,
when you start by misconstruing.
I suppose the similarity is that Feydeau's characters often feel like they're in a world gone mad, even though the audience knows exactly why and wherefore.

In his defense
his crazy fun
somehow makes sense
when it's all done.