Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Disturbance in the Force

Disney buys the Star Wars franchise and plans to do more sequels or prequels?

Well, good luck to them.

Lucas, despite being the genius behind the first 3 films, was also the sub-genius behind the second 3 films. I hope Disney feels free to override his ideas for whatever comes next.

Help us, Walt Disney Company, you're our only hope!
Do I think they will equal the first three? Nope.

What Deserves To Be Preserved?

Here in Chicago, Northwestern University has been fighting with architectural preservationists. Northwestern wants to tear down an old Ob/Gyn building. But the preservationists say no!

For some reason, the mayor and city council get to decide who wins. And now the mayor has decided to support the tear-down.
In a statement, Emanuel declared that 2,500 construction jobs, 2,000 full-time jobs and an estimated economic impact of $400 million was simply too much to pass up.
Here's a pic:

The architect liked to do buildings with round shapes, cylinders of various sorts.

You can't save every old building here. This isn't Rome.
It's Chicago, where we like to tear down and rebuild our home.

Monday, October 29, 2012

New York Underwater

I've lived and worked there, decades ago. That city is loaded with resourceful people. They will, mostly, recover. But this is one unholy mess.

 When a skyscraper's basement floods... well, it's hard to get everything in there working right again. I remember when here in Chicago we merely had an underground tunnel flood. A lot of big buildings were knocked out for months.

I hope my New York friends are all right
on this wet, wet night.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Two Girls, One heart

We started rehearsals yesterday for Theatre of Women 7. It turns out I am directing a play written by my friend Anna Weiler Menekseoglu, "Two Girls, One Heart." I'm happy. I have talented actresses who share my enthusiasm for the play.

But the play disrupted my life last night!

I couldn't sleep, I stayed awake late,
tossing and turning over ways to make this production great.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Ayn Rand Explained on Amazon

A week or two ago I mentioned that my wife had edited / revised / added new material to Ayn Rand Explained: From Tyranny To Tea Party. It's being put out by Open Court.

I'm assured it's now available  at Amazon. There doesn't seem to be a Kindle version at this point, but you can get an actual paper copy if you'd like.

And if you happened to see this story, you may be thinking paper has its advantages.
This week, science fiction became science fact as a Boeing CHAMP missile knocked out a building full of electronics in the Utah desert at Hill Air Force Base. There was no explosion and no flying shrapnel. There was only the sound of the missile’s engine as it flew overhead and the sputtering of sophisticated computers crashing as they were hit by a beam of high-energy microwaves.
Paper seems like a quaint
and ancient artifact
but at least it ain't
susceptible to CHAMP attack.

A Smile That Lights Up The Night


I see Jack O'Lantern's leer.
Halloween is growing near.
Time to knock my knees in fear!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Joy of Dentistry

Even when you're numb, it really isn't fun, to sit still for drilling to get a new filling.

Worse yet, sitting through "breaking down"
the tooth for a crown.

McArdle's Complaint

Megan McArdle:
It seems to be some sort of universal that women who make forceful political arguments garner a particular sort of vitriolic reaction.
She thinks it's worse than the vitriolic reaction which men receive.

I don't know. We could run a controlled experiment, I suppose, with undergraduates. You know, take two random sets of people, show them the same forceful political argument, but tell one set of people it's by Megan McArdle and tell the other set it's by Michael McArdle. Have them write critiques addressed to either Meg or Mike. Work out a scoring system to scientifically scale their respective vitriol volumes!

She says it's not just men.
I'm (painfully) reminded of the progressive woman who wrote a long and spiteful note, the upshot of which was that since my husband is younger than me, he'd probably eventually leave me for a younger woman.
She says it's not just conservatives:
...self described progressive men go out of their way to write me notes in which they sound like sexist jerks. They deploy words that I won't repeat, because this is a family blog, but which center around my reproductive parts, and what I might or might not be doing with them.
From all this, should I conclude...
that I need to get rude, crude, and lewd
so my meaning is not misconstrued?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Mamet on Theatre Again

I've been re-reading David Mamet's book, Theatre. He is so contrarian. I know, what a shock, who would have thought that Mamet was the type to raise eyebrows?
If theatre were a religion, explains David Mamet in his opening chapter, “many of the observations and suggestions in this book might be heretical.”
He blithely trashes accepted contemporary theories of how plays should be written, of how they should be directed, of how they should be rehearsed.

I am deeply sympathetic to his view that the key task of the playwright is to make people wonder "what happens next" until the play is over.

I don't actually always agree with him, by any stretch of the imagination. But he makes me laugh. Well, not out loud. But inside.

I'm reading his book at the Chicago Public Library, and I just came across this, from a speech he gave there:
The media exists to enflame us, and I hold no brief—at least in the liberal arts—for that which calls itself Higher Education. The library is, and has always been, our national schoolhouse.

Contrarian to the core,
he makes me want to read more.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Decisions Decisions

Monday Night Football... or a presidential debate. Which should I watch live?

Well, my father's coming over, so I think it will be the Bears.
He's already got his mind made up on who will be better at foreign affairs.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Faithful Guardian of the Hose Reel


Just TRY to reel in that hose -
soon you will feel his cold nose!


I'm waiting for "binders full of big birds". Maybe some cartoonist has already done it. It could be a fanciful tale about Romney firing Big Bird because Big Bird is overpaid, but there are binders full of resumes of big bird wannabes.

"Democratic operatives with bylines" continue to pump these binder and big bird memes, but they seem like very weak tea to me.

If Obama had said "binders full of women" it would be okay. A turn of phrase in that case would not have been "wince-inducing" to the left. It would not have been "emblematic of a larger issue". It would have been "nothing to see here, move along".

Obama frequently turns phrases that are "not optimal". The right notices them. The left ignores them.

Turns of phrase, gaffes, may be good for a few raised eyebrows and laughs, but who chooses among candidates that way? Well, I guess the meme-pumpers are hoping to influence the "undecideds," whoever they may be, whatever they may be undecided about.

Maybe a vague sense that somebody said something bad will be enough to sway
the button they hit on election day.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Overnight Play

I showed up at Dream Theatre after 10 pm. I was the last of the writers to show up. I was given photos of 3 actresses, for whom I was to write a short play. I was asked to choose from among a set of 4 Mab Graves paintings of what seemed to be young superheroines. I chose this one, entitled "Jane".


The idea was to write a play somehow inspired or launched by this painting. By noon the next day. I liked the suggestion of a "firestarter" because it gave me the vaguest idea of an action to start the drama.

But, really, at first glance, I was drawing a blank. The painting, by itself, didn't seem to be yielding a strong sense of dramatic action or conflict.

And then, I think, something about the painting reminded me of the classic dominatrix persona. The shiny blackness of the outfit, perhaps. And suddenly I had an idea for how to open the play - just a visual image - an eye catching situation: a woman alone on stage, tied to a chair.

I had no story arc - no idea of where this was going to go.

But it was all I had. So, in desperation, I sat down on a chair in the theater lobby, opened my laptop, and started writing, letting one line suggest the next line, following my sense of: what would be interesting to see next?

After about 4 pages, very worried, I stopped, and asked myself if I could figure out a direction, a path to completing this story - a path in which something interesting was resolved - by page 10. I wrote some notes to myself, came up with what seemed to me an acceptable arc that would actually be able to use the core of what I'd already written.

I didn't finish till 4 in the morning, sustained by Fritos and Mountain Dew.

It pleased me, but I felt too close to it to be objective. My wife read it today. She thought it was cute and liked it, and she has good taste, so it can't be all bad.

In 2 weeks, it will be on stage for 2 nights, Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 3 & 4. I'll post some info about that as the time draws closer.

I call it Playing With Matches.

When you play with a match,
no matter what you desire,
what you catch
is fire.

Friday, October 19, 2012

In A Tight Space

Later tonight, I'm going to Dream Theatre. I have to write a 10-minute play for the upcoming Theatre of Women 7. I'm not allowed to start till 9:30 pm, and I have to be done by noon tomorrow. No pressure.

Hopefully my play won't make anyone think of this story:
A pregnant Seattle woman says she was kicked off a bus because of her baby’s diaper odor—an ordeal that made her “feel like crap.”
She felt like crap,
her kid smelt like crap,
but doesn't the driver deserve a slap?

I mean couldn't he have just opened a window? Or maybe it was one of those modern buses where it's impossible to open a window.

She believes it wasn't fair,
but her son was polluting the air.

Deeper in the Darkness

Dream Theatre is running their annual Halloween show, Anna in the Darkness, with a fabulous new set, and with Megan Merrill playing the title character.

Merrill was on fire, tonight, opening night.

It's a scary play, it's a tragedy, it's a tale of heroism. It's about a teacher for the emotionally handicapped who runs afoul of community sensibilities in a small Southern town - by introducing her students to books they actually enjoy reading - thrilling tales that the community does not approve of.

None of the books are actually named in the play. But among the prop books, in the candlelight, I spotted one by H.P. Lovecraft, and one by Ayn Rand.

Once books open the door to a mind,
you don't know what a person will find.

Thursday, October 18, 2012


The wind, that blustery vandal, stripped the oak's clothes and left it exposed. What a scandal!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Roughly 9:30 CST

Obama says something about "community colleges," and the moderator is heard saying "yeah, right" as she is seen nodding her head.

I don't think she meant to be heard. I have no idea what it meant.

The debate is tense and furious,
but her comment left me curious.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Hot Off The Presses

My wife got a heavy box in the mail. Wasn't sure what it was. Oh, it was from the publisher:
Ayn Rand Explained is a completely revised and updated edition of The Ideas of Ayn Rand, by the late Ronald E. Merrill, first published by Open Court in 1991.
Yes, revised and updated by Marsha Familaro Enright. She wrote 3 new opening chapters on the woman and the movement, which include her own thoughts, for instance, on what can be inferred about Rand's relationship with her husband.

The book's new subtitle is "From Tyranny to Tea Party".

I seem to recall Rand being asked once whether it was time for a new tea party, and her replying: "It was time long ago."

She had a reputation
as an intellectual hellion
causing a sensation
and encouraging rebellion.

I Can Hardly Wait

Christmas season keeps creeping earlier in the calendar - at least at the mall - and something calling itself is embracing the trend wholeheartedly.
The group has even gone so far as to trademark a term for the phenomenon, “OctoNovemCember,” and it plans to center a new marketing campaign — complete with a mascot, the Pumpkin-Headed Turkey Claus — around the idea.

Rather than making jokes,
I just want to know - is this a hoax?

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Stone Bridge Marathon


Ran this very well-run small-town marathon, which started in Belvidere IL and ended in Roscoe IL.

As you can see, I came in second in my age group. I suspect there were only the 2 of us in my age group.

The forecast was warning of rain and even thunderstorms, and I considered canceling, but, hey, I'd paid my entry fee, so why not go for it?

I awoke at 4, left the house by 4:20, and got to the starting spot by 6:20 or so, after only one wrong turn in the dark!

I heard there were 100 starters. I fell in toward the back, and as we started up the street a pleasantly talkative woman remarked on the sofa someone had left at the curb. "Must be for us!" she said. Anyway, I fell to talking with her, and her goal for the race was to come in under 5 hours. Her best marathon time ever was something like 5:20. So I said my goal was also to come in under 5, and we started running together.

It wasn't raining when we started. The rain held off until mile 17 or so. It wasn't a downpour, but it was enough to get you wet. It never did turn to thunderstorms, which was a good thing, because the organizers planned to shut down the race for safety reasons if lightning appeared.

At mile 24, my quads began cramping. They had been warning me that they might cramp, and they finally made good on the threat. So I told the woman I was running with to go ahead, that I had to walk for a while to work at getting rid of the cramp.

She made her goal, coming it at 4:55, 25 minutes faster than her previous marathon best. I like to think I helped by running with her until my quads misbehaved.

I made my goal too, coming in at 4:58.

As for my quads - they are the body part that has been threatening, all year, to make trouble. Each year there seems to be one body part that stands out as the weak link in the chain.

The struggle to strengthen every link in the chain
seems to be a pursuit that's vain.

Atlas Part 2

We saw the new Atlas Shrugged movie tonight. I liked it. Unlike part 1, it didn't feel like a made-for-TV movie. It did still feel low-budget. And there's a reason for that - they had twice the budget, but it was still low.

This is an indie film of an epic.

In many ways, it was better than part 1. There were a lot of great moments. The money speech, which was cut profoundly short, still packed a punch.

My chief lament is that this Dagny didn't seem to have much sexual chemistry with either Rearden or Francisco. Dagny One sizzled. Dagny Two seems too preoccupied to sizzle, and that was too bad.

Or... maybe they were damping down her ardor in order to make the romantic developments in part 3 more acceptable?

Well, assuming it will be,
we'll see
how they handle part 3.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Small Potatoes

Justice weighs in:
A City of Chicago zoning inspector found guilty of taking bribes has had his conviction overturned — in part, because the bribes weren’t big enough.
Apparently they had him for taking 2 bribes of 600 dollars each. In return, he issued certifications of occupancy for homes he hadn't actually inspected.

But the law they convicted him under required the prosecutors to prove that the inspector had corruptly provided more than 5000 dollars worth of services or goods.

But, how to value the certifications of occupancy? There's no legal market.

Prosecutors constructed some kind of argument that the monetary value to the homeowners was more than 5000. But the black market clearly had set the price of the certificates at 600. And, in the end, the federal judges accepted the illegal market price as carrying legal weight.

Keep your bribes fairly small
so they barely count at all.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Dr. Barbara Bellar

Barbara Bellar, a physician and former nun, is running for the Illinois State Senate in my district. I don't think she's going to win, but she's pretty funny. Here she is with one humorous long sentence summing up Obamacare.

It really doesn't take long
to suggest what might go wrong.

Walking Home


I was walking home from work today, and found these 3 things on the ground, separately.

In mild weather,
at evening hour,
some leaves and a flower,
piled together.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

DIM - Mini Review

I enjoyed reading Leonard Peikoff's new book, The DIM Hypothesis. I think I liked it more than his summa on Rand's philosophy, but less than his first book, The Ominous Parallels. To be fair, it's quite different than both of his previous books in tone and subject matter.

(Most fans of Peikoff's works like his summa better than his Parallels. I'm in a distinct minority with my preferences.)

The book pretty much assumes knowledge of, and agreement with, Rand's philosophy. He takes a lot of controversial things for granted, without arguing for them. This is not designed as an outreach effort. Not at all.

Instead, it's a somewhat meditative review of the course of Western culture and philosophy. He brings a lot of broad historical knowledge to the task of arguing for what he calls the DIM hypothesis.

DIM is an acronym for Disintegration, Integration, Misintegration. His hypothesis is that the broad sweep of Western culture, from the Ancient Greeks to now, is best understood in terms of a kind of intellectual competition among 3 basic philosophies which take different stands, as he sees it, on conceptual integration.

Plato he sees as the great advocate of Misintegration, by which he means something like rationalist supernatural idealism. The Plato he sees is, one might say, the Plato of the neoPlatonists - of Plotinus and Augustine.

Aristotle he sees as the great advocate of Integration, by which he means something like logical scientific secularism. It's worth noting that he thinks Greek culture was already Integrationist before Aristotle, since he speaks of the 3 great Greek tragedians as being Integrationist, and they all predated Aristotle by a generation or two.

Kant he sees as the great advocate of Disintegration, by which he means something more than simple skepticism. He sees Kant as achieving a system of philosophy with nihilism as its end, a sort of system designed to keep its adherent from thinking in principles.

A lot of the book is spent reviewing "cultural products" from different periods - literary productions, systems of education, political systems, etc. The periods get classified by the acronym letters in a process the author calls "mode hunting". Very curiously, he has trouble classifying the Renaissance.

As his thesis develops, there's more than just D, I, and M. Instead there's: D2, D1, I, M1, M2.

D2 and M2 are the original D and M, I gather, the essential Kant and Plato as he sums them up. D1 and M1 are hypothesized as blends of Kant or Plato with Aristotle, mixed cases, not so bad as the full "2" strength versions.

You might ask about a combination of Kant and Plato - D and M - how would that be categorized? He doesn't think that has ever been a widespread cultural phenomenon, although he recognizes it can exist as a tension in one person's mind, to be sure.

In the end, I was not convinced. I think it's probably true that Plato, Aristotle, and Kant are the most influential philosophers in the history of Western Philosophy. I think there's a lot of truth in the ancient saying, with which he closes his book: “History is philosophy, teaching by examples.” But I thought these things going in.

One thing that's curious to me, actually, is that I agree with so many of his premises, but can't get to his conclusions.

I was definitely not convinced by his conclusion that the U.S. is teetering on the edge of Christian fundamentalist totalitarianism or his parallel conclusion that Europe is teetering on the edge of Muslim fundamentalist totalitarianism. I can imagine such outcomes - but bear in mind that I have a fairly active imagination. Neither outcome actually seems likely to me.

I suppose I will continue to mull over his hypothesis and its elements. It gave me something to think about. He made me look at a broad sweep of history in a somewhat different way than usual, which I found stimulating. My personal reaction to it is a bit like my personal reactions to Samuel Huntington's Clash of Civilizations or Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, And Steel. My sense in all three cases is that they went too far with their overarching theories, but that I gained something from their efforts anyway.

I think the case for full-fledged DIM
is still too slim.

Monday, October 08, 2012


Even if something is already known, you can discover a fact on your own. Columbus thus must be reckoned, even if he sort of came in second.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

If It Looks Like A...

On a walk, by a pond, met some white crested ducks. They greeted us with quacks, not clucks. They waddled along with webbed feet in the muck. I concluded at last that they really were ducks. Not to sound logically aloof, but I obtained certainty through inducktive proof.

Saturday, October 06, 2012


When lost in Boston follow the signs.
You'll get lost more, but that's mostly fine.
It's part of the tour, so don't dare whine.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Federal Misdemeanor

It's illegal to disturb a manatee. They have a tenuous grip on sanity. Anyhow, Don't call one a sea cow, They don't like that name now.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Debate Viewership

For some reason, the debating
had a very high TV rating.

I don't recall anyone predicting that. It's almost as if people are worried about where the nation is heading. Well, I don't blame them!

Indefinite borrowing is no way to live.
Tomorrow arrives, and something must give.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Surfing the Web after Yoga

Watching debates
is something I hate,
but reportedly Romney won.

I don't suppose Obama is done.
Next time he'll try
to bounce back high.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

What Is Wrong With This Picture?

From the motherland:
A cardboard policeman used as a crime prevention aid in a Yorkshire supermarket has been stolen.
A cardboard cop
of minimal heft
failed to stop
its very own theft.

A picture is not
the thing itself,
and won't do a lot
to keep goods on the shelf.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Religious Totalitarianism

I've gotten to the point in the DIM Hypothesis where Leonard Peikoff predicts that America's future is likely to be: Religious Totalitarianism. And that's because we're fundamentally like the Weimar Republic, but are more likely to go Fundamentalist than NAZI.

I thought this was coming, but it still took me aback.

I will grant that what you might call the totalitarian tendency - the urge to control the devotee's every waking moment - has a way of popping up in a lot of religious traditions. A lot of times, when it's on a small scale, we call that religion, or religious faction, a "cult".

I understand the dangers of such groups. I even wrote a novel that was set in a renegade Mormon cult. Yes, the cultists were the bad guys. And in my book the cultists have ambitions to conquer the nation and the world. If you research the topic, you will find that cultists often have a tendency to think big - they think in terms of converting the world and ushering in a new golden age of truth and light as they see it.

But at the moment I just don't see the U.S. collapsing into any form of religious dictatorship. Even if the national government were to collapse due to economic catastrophe - which I also think is highly unlikely - what reason is there to think that most religious people - i.e., MOST AMERICANS - would support a dictatorship?

He has some reasons - some theoretical, some journalistic - but I am deeply unconvinced.

Embracing Christianity
is not the same as endorsing insanity.