Thursday, May 31, 2012

Dust to Dust

Death at the sort of church service
that makes most people nervous:
A "serpent-handling" West Virginia pastor died after his rattlesnake bit him during a church ritual, just as the man had apparently watched a snake kill his father years before.
You've handled them before
and you plan to handle more,
it's like standing in front of God's door,
but don't let it go to your head.

One day the rattles shake
and your colorful slithering snake
decides to make
you dead.

Fracking Beans

Small farmers in India are ramping up their production of guar beans.
Guar gum, which is also used to make sauces and ice cream, is a main ingredient of the hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, process used to extract oil and gas from oil shale.
It may seem bizarre,
but to frack you need guar
as a filler.

Now the farmer must race
to keep pace
with the shale oil driller.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Tough Run

The temperature yesterday set a record high for a Chicago Memorial Day, and my 10k was a hot one.

Fortunately, it's a neighborhood run, and the neighbors had extra water on the course - water in cups - and water in sprinklers arranged along the course so that you could run through sprinklers on a pretty regular basis.

The 10k took me an hour and four seconds! Three weeks ago I ran a 10k - went off course and ran a bit farther - and still finished  3 and a half minutes sooner than I did yesterday.

I didn't fall or stumble,
but heat has the power to humble.

Monday, May 28, 2012


One salient downside of central air: When it fails it's hot in the house everywhere.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Timon of Athens

We saw Ian McDiarmid last night on stage, playing the title character in Shakespeare's Timon of Athens.

McDiarmid is most famous as the guy who plays the Emperor in Star Wars.

I can't say I cared much for the play, but McDiarmid's performance was very impressive. He was quite spry for a man of 67, and his vocal technique as an actor seemed to outmatch everyone else on stage. He seemed to move through a couple of octaves when speaking, without drawing attention to the changes in pitch. He projected his voice even when apparently speaking quietly and reflectively. And his pronunciation was crisp and distinct, articulating his consonants and vowels, again while seeming natural about it. Mind you, he was on stage with a lot of very experienced Chicago Shakespeareans, who have spent a lot of time on that same stage, so his superiority was actually a bit puzzling to me.

The play is unlike other Shakespeare plays, in various ways, including having an extremely simple story line. Shakespeare's plots are usually complicated. Current scholarly thinking has Shakespeare writing two thirds of the play, with Thomas Middleton writing the rest.

For some reason, this production recast two female prostitutes into one lascivious male soldier/prostitute. I didn't know this going in, but I suspected genders had been altered while watching the play. The dialog and relationships weren't making sense to me. So I researched it today.

Despite the players' acting chops,
gender switching often flops.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Packet Pickup

I just picked up my shirt and race bib for the Ridge Run, a local 10k. I believe this will be my 29th running of this race, the first 10k I ever ran.

Maybe once I hit 30 I can stop. A lot of my contemporaries, who used to be Ridge Run regulars, have stopped. Mostly it's their knees that stopped them. I've been lucky with my knees, so far. Knock on cartilage.

They're a kind of pivotal hinge
with a nasty potential for twinge.

Bain and GM

I'm not sure how long the Obama campaign
can keep harping on Bain.
“Let’s compare apples to apples,” the other CNN host said to the DNC chair. “It seems to me the criticism you’re offering is that Mitt Romney went into businesses and laid people off. But wouldn’t the apples to apples comparison be that’s exactly what Barack Obama did when he touts the auto industry as a feather in his cap, didn’t the federal government and Barack Obama go in and layoff thousands of autoworkers to save that industry?”
Let the topic subtly alter
whenever your logic starts to falter.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Rules for Thee but Not for Me

Classic Bloomberg:
An amateur video, filmed by an annoyed Manhattanite and broadcast Tuesday on WABC-TV, showed the mayor landing and taking off several times over the weekend from the East 34th Street helipad, where trips on Saturday and Sunday have been expressly banned for more than a decade.
Now that he has been publicly shamed, he has agreed to stop.

I always liked that helipad. When I lived on 38th Street I liked to walk over and watch the whirlybirds. Chicago doesn't seem to have a similar helipad. We did have a whole mini-airport on the waterfront near downtown, but our previous mayor bulldozed it in the dead of night. To solve the noise problem. Or the risk of crashes. Or something.

And so I'm jealous
of NYC where truly zealous
copter pilots can land all week
in a whirling roaring streak.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Bicycle Cops

The Chicago police used bicycles a lot during the NATO protests. They would line them up in impromptu barrier walls and stand behind them, which struck me as a novel tactic.

Much less scary than a row of tanks,
but, still, a way to hold ranks.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


By some strange coincidence, the most recent plays I've been moved by lately have been "fairy tale" sorts of stories:

1) my friends at Dream are doing part 2 of their Peter Pan trilogy, by Jeremy Menekseoglu.

2) I was into Into The Woods, by Sondheim and Lapine. I was playing Cinderella's father.

3) My friend, Jordan Leigh Wakefield, played the prince in The Fantasists, by Randy Wyatt, a clever children's story featuring a quest to save a kingdom from an ill-intentioned ice witch.

I have seen nary a fairy,
but their tales rarely fail.

Monday, May 21, 2012


After all these years, I now have experience putting on eyeliner. My tendency to flinch, when anything gets near my eye, was not helpful.

Sometimes it seems a bit daft,
the things we do in the acting craft.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Molotov Cocktails, Undeployed

Police here have arrested a few people and accused them of making, or planning to make, Molotov cocktails. Alleged targets include Obama campaign HQ, Rahm Emanuel's home, and police stations.

The defense lawyer called it a set-up:
At least two informants "ingratiated themselves" with the three men, brought the materials and made the alleged plans, he insisted, calling it "an entrapment to the highest degree."
You have to be careful with the entrapment defense, since, like the insanity defense, it starts an admission that you did it.

Yes, your honor, I did it, but I've got a good excuse,
so I hope you'll let me loose.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Not Much To Report

This would have been a regular workday in downtown Chicago. But due to all the scare stories about the NATO confab and the protesters...

was mostly shut down.

I went to work. But a lot of people didn't. I think my morning train was one quarter full at best.

I saw the protesters go by my building 3 times. I had a good view. There weren't a lot of them. My favorite sign:

Give Class War A Chance!

Well, they've got 3 more days to protest before the NATO Show blows town.

Maybe this was just a warm up.
Maybe tomorrow they'll swarm up
in much bigger groups
of class warfare dupes.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Energetic Opening

Our production of Into The Woods opened tonight, with a big burst of energy. I think Act One was 15 minutes shorter than it was the night before in dress rehearsal. And I didn't hear of any mistakes that the audience was likely to detect as such.

The audience gobbled it up like the wolf gobbled up granny, laughing, clapping, cheering.

It's great fun to have a crowd
that's happy and loud.

(photo by one of the Murphy boys)

Old Dog, New Tricks

The young woman in charge of costumes, for the play I'm in, thought it would suit my character to be wearing a red bow tie. So I bought one. And then I had to learn to tie it!

I've worn bowties a few times in my life. I think I had a clip-on bowtie in elementary school. And the couple of times I've rented a tux... but they came with pre-tied bowties that you just fastened somehow.

Anyway, I found a video on the web, and worked at it. Well, I'm getting better. The good thing is that my character, Cinderella's father, is a bit of a wino, so you wouldn't expect his tie to be too perfect.

Now I sort of know
how to tie one in a bow
I should maybe buy some mo.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Monday, May 14, 2012

First Gay Prez

Newsweek, which gave us the "We're All Socialists Now" cover a couple of years ago, now gives us this:

I've seen that rainbow halo referred to as a gaylo, which was funny. It sure is eye-catching. I imagine they'll sell more issues than usual, which shouldn't be hard.

Boil that pot, if you know what I mean,
and hope someone buys your magazine.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Events Piled Up

The weekend was wildly busy and stressful.
I'm tired and dizzy, but it was successful.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Long Lost and Found

I've posted a couple of times about the mystery of my maternal grandfather. Well, it's all nailed down now, and we've made contact with his other descendants. One of my brothers spoke today to my late mother's half-sister, whom my mom never met. There's a living half-brother, as well, and he has a child and grandchildren of his own.

There's one funny coincidence that leaps out. My grandfather was an engineer, and at the time of his early death he was working at a Westinghouse plant where they made engines for WWII planes.

One of my brothers, and my son, both have doctorates in aerospace engineering.

Is it a random pattern in the noise,
or is there a gene that showed up in those boys?


Went to see the opening of Peter Pan's Shadow, Part Two: Everland. It's a wild, funny, touching adventure that's set after the events of the regular Peter Pan story.

It is set, much of it, in the belly of the beast - a crocodile. Or, not its belly always, but other inside parts as well, for this a cavernous croc. It's a journey undertaken by Peter Pan's sister and Captain Hook, played by Anna and Jeremy Menekseoglu. They have been swallowed up, and are endeavoring to escape with their lives. Beginning as something like enemies, they end as something like friends, and the sense of relationship between the two is palpable throughout, like a beating heart, like drums in the background.

As usual with Dream Theatre shows, all of the acting was riveting. Chad Sheveland plays Mr. Skylights, another pirate, with crisp comic flair. Annelise Lawson, as the heartwrenching, magical Tink, explains at last why she is such a powerful fairy. Rachel Martindale is adorable as Wendy and quite frightening as the Mad Mother Doll. Avery Ferguson was bursting with energy as the Mock Shadow. And Annie Hoeg was sprightly and cocky as Mock Peter Pan.

Samantha Schmidt is utterly charming as Jane. By a funny coincidence, the only other role I've seen Sam play is Jane from Pride and Prejudice. Has she been name-cast?

Visually, the show was spectacular, and the wooden sword fight looked scary from where I was sitting.

The unbalanced mind of Captain Hook,
could fill an abnormal psychology book,
but still, in his way, he is wondrous wise
at seeing through the world's lies.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Dress for Duress

There are news reports that downtown Chicago office workers are being encouraged to treat "NATO Monday" as Logo-Free Casual Day:
Some workers have been asked to dress down so protesters won't target them, according to Crain's Chicago Business. Security staffs reportedly even told employees to avoid wearing anything with corporate logos.
Actually, I've seen reports that a lot of today's fashionable anarchists come to protest in dark-hued duds with designer labels. They're anti-corporate, but they wear the right brands. It's almost as if a lot of them are bored rich kids, afflicted with guilt over inheriting trust funds.

I'm predicting that the protests here are being vastly over-hyped.

Perhaps that day, just for yucks,
I could go to work in a tux.

Monday, May 07, 2012


The longer "I'm evolving" is your position,
the more it looks like purposeful indecision.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

80 Million Down The Hole

Not encouraging:
After signing a 10-year lease and spending more than $80 million on a site envisioned as the United States’ diplomatic hub in northern Afghanistan, American officials say they have abandoned their plans, deeming the location for the proposed compound too dangerous.
Apparently a bunch of normal State Department security rules were waived in order to build this now-to-be abandoned consulate, which is all-too-vulnerable to car bombs. The article lays the blame on the late Richard Holbrooke, who was appointed by our current president to head up diplomatic efforts in Afghanistan, and who seemed to be in a rush to make a good impression on the locals.

It isn't smart diplomacy to build
where you can easily be killed.


A "foreword" comes at the start of a book, 
but "forward" is the direction 
you go as you turn the pages to look 
whether it's worth your selection.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Be Careful Who You Follow

Today I ran a 10k,
but sad to say
I ran the wrong way.

I was following some other people on trails in the woods. They went the wrong way at a fork. I, not realizing, kept following them. And it was no shortcut. More of a longcut.

And thus,
for this mistaken group of us,
it was more of a 10k plus!

Friday, May 04, 2012

Old Friends, Young Enthusiasm

An old friend of mine, Evan Picoult, invited us to a very enjoyable Ayn Rand Institute fund-raising dinner last night in Chicago.

Evan, who lives in New York, ended up not being able to make it himself, which was a big disappointment. I knew him when we were both students at Columbia in New York. I was an undergrad, he was a grad student in physics.

Even without Evan, we did have a very good time. The food was delicious, the speakers entertaining and knowledgeable.

I was also glad to see Lin Zinser again. I hadn't seen her in quite a while. She's currently director of Public Outreach at the institute.

Terry Savage, a syndicated financial columnist, was there, as was Jonathan Hoenig, who frequently appears on the Fox News channel.

One of the highlights, for me, was the short speech given by a young man of about 13, a student in the Chicago public school system, who was a happy beneficiary of the institute's free-books-for-schools program. His enthusiasm was contagious.

The world is forever sprung
anew in the minds of the young.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Canada Is Getting Rid Of Them

A penny, composed of copper and zinc,
costs more than a penny to make.
Which leads me to think:
there's been a mistake.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012


Lately, when watching House MD, I wait for the moment when blood comes pouring out of the patient's eyes or mouth. It's as if no episode is complete without a splattering of red.

The writers must believe there's ratings glory
in scenes that run to the gory.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Skip This Story If You're Scared Of Dentists

Malpractice or domestic violence?
A Polish woman is facing three years in prison after she removed all of her ex-boyfriend's teeth during dental surgery just days after their breakup.
He made the mistake of thinking he could still trust in her professionalism, but she had gone from dental to mental.

She was ruthless,
now he's toothless.