Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Thumbs Up

My wife, close kin to 2 surgeons, says she has heard of this procedure. Great photos at the link, if you don't mind looking at slightly freaky rearranged anatomy.

It all started with a do-it-yourself woodworking project that went wrong.

But surgeons had an ingenious solution, amputating one body part from its original spot, and grafting it onto an analogous location.

He sawed off his thumb,
and was feeling real glum.

So they sewed on a toe,
and he's all good to go.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Art as Bifrost

In Norse Mythology, there's a rainbow bridge between the land of the gods and the land of men. It's called Bifrost, and a few other names as well.

In Schiller and Rand, art is seen as such a bridge, between the the human power of abstraction and the human power of perception, between the human sense of the moral ideal and the human recognition of the difficulties of living morally.

Schiller describes the problem to be bridged as a gulf or opposition. Rand sees it as ultimately a computational challenge, which art is capable of solving, by means of subconscious integration.

I'm sure that somehow this issue can be chased back to Plato.

The rainbow bridge takes you up into the blue.
Forgetting your fear of heights,
charge forward and push till the journey is through,
absorbing the pulsating lights.

Schiller and Rand

Ayn Rand's Romantic Manifesto proposes a very broad outline of the Romantic movement in Western literary aesthetics, but she never names anyone as the chief progenitor of the trend. If you just took her list of notable Romantic authors from her book, it might jump out at you that the earliest figure is Friedrich Schiller, poet, dramatist, aesthetician. He's so early, in fact, that he is frequently not even counted as a Romantic, although his influence on the Romantic drama and fiction is easy to document. I am thinking in particular of his influence on Walter Scott, Victor Hugo, and Fyodor Dostoyevsky.

I've long been struck by parallels between Schiller's aesthetic theory and Rand's. They are not easy parallels to draw. Their philosophical vocabulary is so alien. And I have not done anything like a thorough study of Schiller's thought, although I have given rather careful study to his plays.

Today, I was looking at The Theatre of Goethe and Schiller, by John Prudhoe, and he writes of Schiller:
He is ultimately responsible for the stress on choice - Free Will - in so many subsequent plays. We detect the inheritance of Schiller's thought in the decision which has to be made by the heroine in The Lady from the Sea; in John Proctor's refusal to put his name to the confession of witchcraft in The Crucible; and in the inability of Williams's heroines to find harmony in themselves.
That is a very sweeping statement, to say the least. It also connects to Rand's attempt to boil the Romantic movement down to one literary premise: an embrace of human volition, i.e., the human power of choice, also known as free will.

Schiller had a complicated, Kantian-influenced, theory of art and free will, which had to do with the power of reason to rise above the sensory world.

For Schiller, the world is lovely, and fills our hearts with awe,
but somewhere high above it, he glimpses Eternal Law.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Tenured, Of Course

At Cal State, they have a professor who walks out of class for a week if students haven't brought him snacks.

Better bring him a muffin,
or else he'll teach you nuffin'.

But he wants it understood:
it's for the students' own good!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

J. Edgar

Saw the movie about J. Edgar Hoover, directed by Clint Eastwood. I thought it was slow. The narrative takes place in 3 distinct periods of his life, and switches among them. I could follow along, but I didn't feel the out-of-sequence stuff helped much. The narrative also uses the "unreliable narrator" technique in places, as Hoover dictates his memoirs, which I found annoying. I knew an awful lot of the history, but was unsure where the screenwriters were just making stuff up.

Hoover himself is portrayed as a well-intentioned but flawed man.

A lot of the movie is focused on his gay, but Platonic, relationship with his second-in-command. I don't know how much of this stuff could possibly be verifiable, and although the movie is very well acted as a rule, I never felt there was much romantic chemistry between actors Leonardo DiCaprio and Armie Hammer.

By the way, nobody in the 1930's, gay or not, would have used "fashion forward" as an adjectival phrase to describe a necktie!

I say 2 stars out of 4,
no more.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

A Little

Chris Matthews of MSNBC Cable said he could argue that the U.S. national media "leans a little to the left".

They lean a little to the left
and do it with substantial heft.

Friday, November 25, 2011

November's Embers

Snow will come soon enough.
For now, enjoy the warm stuff.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Pilgrim Lessons

Alex Tabarrok posted today about the lessons of the first Pilgrim thanksgiving. The Pilgrims had tried a system of collectivist farming - with bad results. They then tried a more private-property based approach, with good results. At the time, Governor William Bradford reflected upon the experience. I'm not usually one for long quotations, but the learning of this one impressed me:
[Ending corn collectivism] had very good success, for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been by any means the Governor or any other could use, and saved him a great deal of trouble, and gave far better content. The women now went willingly into the field, and took their little ones with them to set corn; which before would allege weakness and inability; whom to have compelled would have been thought great tyranny and oppression.

The experience that was had in this common course and condition, tried sundry years and that amongst godly and sober men, may well evince the vanity of that conceit of Plato’s and other ancients applauded by some of later times; that the taking away of property and bringing in community into a commonwealth would make them happy and flourishing; as if they were wiser than God. For this community (so far as it was) was found to breed much confusion and discontent and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort. For the young men, that were most able and fit for labour and service, did repine that they should spend their time and strength to work for other men’s wives and children without any recompense. The strong, or man of parts, had no more in division of victuals and clothes than he that was weak and not able to do a quarter the other could; this was thought injustice. The aged and graver men to be ranked and equalized in labours and victuals, clothes, etc., with the meaner and younger sort, thought it some indignity and disrespect unto them. And for men’s wives to be commanded to do service for other men, as dressing their meat, washing their clothes, etc., they deemed it a kind of slavery, neither could many husbands well brook it. Upon the point all being to have alike, and all to do alike, they thought themselves in the like condition, and one as good as another; and so, if it did not cut off those relations that God hath set amongst men, yet it did at least much diminish and take off the mutual respects that should be preserved amongst them. And would have been worse if they had been men of another condition. Let none object this is men’s corruption, and nothing to the course itself. I answer, seeing all men have this corruption in them, God in His wisdom saw another course fitter for them.
Sharing work and product whole
across a big community
is bad for the body, bad for the soul,
and fosters envy, not unity.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

You'll Put Somebody's Eye Out!

In Washington State:
Bellingham police say a 10-year-old boy defended his mother from an attacker by shooting him in the face with a BB rifle as many as four times.
Said attacker is described as a drunk angry roomer in their house, who kicked in the woman's bedroom door and started choking her. He has been arrested, and treated at a hospital for his injuries.

Well, if you don't have a real gun handy, I guess a BB rifle will do.

I hope that the thought of being shot in the face with BBs
gives this guy some ongoing heebie-jeebies.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

15 Minute Video of a 10 Minute "Post Mortem"

If you'd like to see my "ten minute play", it's here on Youtube. Somehow it runs almost 15 minutes!

I'm guessing it was shot with a Flip video camera from someone sitting in the front row.

I was extremely happy with the way this play was performed. I wasn't part of the rehearsal process, so I don't know who came up with what, but the director and actors added a lot that I thought worked very well. And they hit an emotional tone that I really liked.

The video is accidentally missing the last line of the play. I'll put the missing line in a comment in case anyone watches the video and just has to know.

Only 3 people are in the play,
but there were 4 characters, in a way.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Just My Vote

I'm in favor of ugly art
being wheeled away in a cart,
preferably in the dead of night
so none of it bumps against my sight.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

White Picket Fence

The "we" in this sentence that made me wonder about the writer's social circle:
The open relationship is the white picket fence of the 21st century, something we aspire to because we think it makes us look good.
If you work your way through the piece, which is a meditation on the Demi Moore / Ashton Kutcher break-up, she actually gets around to the idea that humans are natural "mate guarders" who are not comfortable with total "sharing".

What's funny is that most people think this is obvious.

It's regular marriages they see
as bounded by white pickets.

Open marriages look more
like dense and painful thickets.

Post Mortem, Part Two

I was happy with our 2 performances last night. It came out crisp, chilling, funny, and suspenseful.

It was directed by Alexis Randolph, whose philosophy of theater makes sense to me:
I have lost count how many times mentors and fellow artists have reminded me to "Keep it simple, stupid". And they are right, because what it all really boils down to are those three simple words: tell a story.
I wrote for 3 actresses: Rhiannon Ross, Steph Garrett, and Avery Ferguson. Each was compelling, and they projected a wonderful sense of relationship - which was good, because they were playing 2 daughters and a mother.

I had seen on Garret's resume that she had a background in puppetry, which led me to write lines for one more character - a dog puppet carried around by her character:

I saw she had a background in show tunes, too. So I gave the dog a little poem to sing. Somehow she came up with a melody and let that little dog really belt those verses out. That's the kind of thing where you write something into a script that you know is an opportunity for a person with the right talents. And it paid off.

Thank you, director and cast,
watching your work was a blast.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Post Mortem, Part One

From 9 to 1, I wrote my 9-page play.

I felt like I was moving really fast
then was surprised so many hours had past.

My working title was Reunion, but when I was done with my first draft, I changed it to: Post Mortem.

From 1 to 2, I edited a 2nd draft, and turned it in. Tomorrow it will be on stage.

It's a piece for 3 actresses, finished in the a.m.,
and may involve some mayhem.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Steel Magnolias

I saw the MPTG production of Steel Magnolias tonight. I somehow had missed seeing the movie, and it's not my usual favorite sort of play, but it was a very good production with excellent performances.

For me, it was low on plot,
but I still enjoyed it a lot.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


The summer's flapping flags conceal
the structure and its mystery.

Blown free of leaves, the trees reveal
their frozen fractal history.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Talking 'Bout My Generation

I'm taking an interest in these anti-boomer rants that keep popping up. I kind of like them, in a masochistic way. Walter Mead starts out like this:
“Talkin’ about my generation”: the Who song once expressed the hope and self confidence of the Baby Boomers as they reached biological if not emotional maturity. It was an attack on the older generation, a defense of the young, but it includes an ominous refrain: “Hope I die before I get old.” Already, perhaps, the shadow of generational failure hung over the twenty something Boomers.
First off, Pete Townsend, who wrote the song, was born in 1945. Not a boomer. Close, but not quite.

Next up, the song was released in 1965. The first boomers were born in 1946. No boomers were "twenty something" in 1965.

Mead is a boomer himself. Born in 1952. He grew up without calculators... so why can't he do the math?

I think it's a case of boomer self-hate.
Love yourself, Mead, it's not too late!
Instead of being masochistic,
wouldn't you like to be narcissistic?

Monday, November 14, 2011

A Little Bit Lazy

The president thinks Americans haven't done enough to attract foreign investment:
But we've been a little bit lazy, I think, over the last couple of decades.
I admit I have been lazy,
and my business plan is hazy.

But if foreigners want to lend,
I stand ready to spend.

Perhaps I'll make solar panels,
and sell them on cable channels.

I'll take a loss on every piece,
but watch my market share increase!

Shakespeare the Thug

Mike Dash, writing in the Smithsonian Magazine, dredges up an old criminal complaint against William Shakespeare, alleged issuer of death threats. Could thuggery have been his main source of income?
That Will Shakespeare was somehow involved in the low-life rackets of Southwark seems, from Hotson’s evidence, reasonably certain.... It is tempting to speculate, however, whether the profits that paid for such an opulent residence came from Will’s writing–or from a sideline as strong-arm man to an extortionist.
Can we say that Mr. Dash
makes accusations rash?

Or was this mild poetic chap
truly a master of gangsta rap?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Underwear Model Diet

Have you ever seen the "angels" that model Victoria's Secret undies? Did you think their bodily looks were just a genetic gift?

Well, I'm sure genetic gifts are involved, but consider this:
She sees a nutritionist, who has measured her body’s muscle mass, fat ratio and levels of water retention. He prescribes protein shakes, vitamins and supplements to keep Lima’s energy levels up during this training period. Lima drinks a gallon of water a day. For nine days before the show, she will drink only protein shakes – “no solids”. The concoctions include powdered egg. Two days before the show, she will abstain from the daily gallon of water, and “just drink normally”. Then, 12 hours before the show, she will stop drinking entirely.

“No liquids at all so you dry out, sometimes you can lose up to eight pounds just from that,” she says.
The above link is safe for work. You can click through to the underlying Telegraph pictorial if you want something more risque. She has a killer workout schedule too, as you might expect.

It reminds me of what body builders do going into a competition. The goal is not simply to look good in general. The goal is to look good on a specific day.

You see her at the peak
of dehydration chic.


We saw Anonymous, that movie where Shakespeare didn't write the works of Shakespeare. I don't buy the premise as history, but as a sort of alternate-history story I enjoyed it a lot. Well acted by a bunch of Brits, nice recreation of Elizabethan London, etc. I admit my eyes rolled more than a few times at distortions of literary history, including some of the discussion of iambic pentameter. But I suspect most people won't be bothered by what bothered me!

Anyway, whoever he really was...

He had a gift
for words that lift
hearts like kites
to airy heights.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Subway Station Knockout Video

Here's a cellphone video of a young man knocking out an older man on a subway platform, here in Chicago. Police are searching for the young man.

I cannot tell why the young man hit him. I cannot understand most of the recorded speech, even though the sound quality is pretty good. Partly this is because someone has bleeped out the obscenities. I believe the old man is panhandling, asking for change.

I *think* at the end I can hear this exchange:

Woman: "Who was he?"
Puncher: "He homeless, man!"
Admirer: "Laid his ass out."

My ears are not good enough
to decipher all this stuff.

UPDATE: Apparently the video was uploaded to a site called, a site I am not recommending on its merits, but sound quality is better there. Also, the comments there are interesting, in a very raw, frequently racist and often obscene way. Some people believe they know who the perpetrator is, but police are having trouble finding the victim. It's a lot easier to press charges if you have a victim who will testify.

Getting Up Late

My body decided to take advantage of Veteran's day, which is a holiday where I work.

I slept and slept, I don't know why.
I did get up to feed the dogs,
but after that I shut my eyes
and slept some more just like a log.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Not So Alert After All

Since I was at the office, where we have no TV, I got through my day without being bothered by the National Emergency Alert test.

But in a lot of places it didn't go too well. A FEMA admin gave a classic engineer-style reply:
“I am concerned that we are probably seeing more failures than what we thought. But we didn’t know what we didn’t know. If you don’t test you can’t fix,” said Fugate.
"We didn't know what we didn't know." He's wandering near to Donald Rumsfeld's much mocked quotation:
But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don't know we don't know.
I think it was mocked mostly by people who had trouble following it - perhaps because it was a bit too meta for them.

There are things you think you "know"
that turn out not to be so.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011


The Trib follows up on my mystery:
Allred described her client as a "registered Republican," though Bialek does not have an active voter card in Illinois, election officials said. The state does not allow voters to register by party, but records show she pulled a GOP ballot in the 2008 primary.
So she's not registered to vote at all right now, but she has voted in a Republican primary at least once. That doesn't have quite the same ring as "registered Republican".

I like the way the Trib doesn't actually come out and say that Allred was befuddled.
But at least ONE part of the story is no longer muddled.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Launch Pad Casting Workshop

My friend, Lance Brett Hall, has an enterprise he calls the Launch Pad Casting Workshop. It's aimed at helping actors with the audition process, which, from what I hear, has a tendency to drive actors crazy.
The anxiety going into an audition is matched only by the uncertainty afterward. Did I get the point across? What did they see?

Imagine if you could just ask, and know you were getting an honest, straightforward opinion.

Here's your chance.

Every actor at a Launch Pad Casting Workshop has the chance to receive feedback about their performance.

Feedback is focused on the casting professionals' actual criteria they use in auditions.
An actress friend of mine, who took the class, raved about it.

As for me, I'm kind of limited in the audition department. I've done it, but rarely, and I'm not all that experienced an actor. I don't even have a current headshot. I don't even have a monologue memorized right now. That's how unprepared an actor I am.

But if you're the kind of actor who wants to master the audition process, this workshop may be for you. And they have one scheduled for Monday, December 5th.

I guess I could make up a monologue,
just ramble on freestyle and claim it was written by "J. Henry Bogg"!

Registered Republican

A specific accuser for Herman Cain has finally stepped forward. I'm not clear on whether a crime is alleged, but the suggestion is that he offered to help someone get a job in return for sexual favors.

Put all that aside for now, because what interests me is something her lawyer said - namely that the woman is a "registered Republican." What puzzles me about this is that she's from Chicago and we don't really "register" here for political parties.

In many states, you do something like this:
Look for the party identification box on the form. A list of political parties recognized by your state are displayed. Check "Republican Party" to register to vote as a Republican.
But not here:
In Illinois, you do not declare affiliation with a political party when you register to vote. You may choose to vote a specific political party on Primary Election Day.
So why is the lawyer using that phrase? I note that Chicago Tribune story put the phrase in quotes, which it sometimes seems to do to highlight oddities of language.

Is careful speech
out of her reach?

UPDATE: Is this new? The early reports described her as a Chicagoan. Now:
Attorney Gloria Allred, who is representing Bialek, said the woman was born and raised in Chicago and "has spent the majority of her life there."
Well, if she lives in another state, that would render my question moot.

But the Trib, in a separate story, says she lives with her fiance in Mundelein - an Illinois town:
Bialek and Harwood, who is from London, have lived together for four years and have shared an upscale home in Mundelein for the past two, he said. She is a stay-at-home mother to a 13-year-old son and he works in the medical equipment industry.
So I'm still left with this minor mystery
about her party registration history.

Saturday, November 05, 2011


Saw "Or," at Caffeine Theatre, which features Aphra Behn as its heroine. She was one of the first women to make her living by her pen. When I was in college, in the dawn of time, she was a footnote in English Restoration literature, but now she is a big deal in the academic world. I admit I haven't gotten around to reading her.

The play got rave reviews here, and is well acted and cleverly produced, and even includes stretches of rhyme and iambic pentameter. But I wasn't quite crazy about it. I guess the plot resolution didn't do it for me, above all.

And somehow the celebration of sexuality felt... too unmotivated, which is a strange thing to say about a primal drive, I suppose. But it felt programmatic to me.

Here's a negative review, by John Simon, of the 2009 New York production.

I suppose now I will break down and try to read something the lady wrote. I can sometimes become quite enthusiastic about writers who are usually regarded as footnotes.

Will I like her, or,
will I find her a bore?

Devil's In The Details

I haven't followed Herman Cain's candidacy too closely, but I've been paying some attention to this vaporous harassment story. The trouble is there's not much to pay attention to!

Ann Althouse quotes the secretive accuser's lawyer:
“Mr. Cain knows the specific incidents that were alleged,” Mr. Bennett said during a brief news conference outside his Georgetown office. “My client filed a written complaint in 1999 against him specifically and it had very specific instances in it, and if he chooses not to remember or to acknowledge those, that’s his issue.”
Althouse then comments:
This is maddening. Very specific instances. Okay. That's what we need to hear about. What are they?! They don't become very specific instances because you say "very specific instances"! That's still completely abstract. Get specific. Get specific to the point where we can judge for ourselves whether the details amount to something that counts against Cain and that exposes you to a defamation lawsuit if the details are false.
Shouting "specific" without detail
seems like a case of terrific fail.