Thursday, December 31, 2015

HNY

At work we were talking, in the morning, about 2016, and I mentioned that in New Zealand it was already 4 a.m. tomorrow.

I said
that they had already celebrated and gone to bed,
and soon would wake up with a pounding head.

Don't let some other nation
being done with its celebration
cause New Year's Eve deflation!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Not a Zephyr

The shock of winter wind,
At first feels invigorating, 
But when it refuses to end,
It shifts into aggravating. 

The Shoveler's Song

Goodbye snow!
Off the sidewalk you must go!

Monday, December 28, 2015

If Ravens Could Speak

As I love to mention, apropos of Poe's poem "The Raven", ravens can be trained to talk, the way a parrot can.

So the actual events of The Raven are plausible - namely, a raven shows up, flits about a guy's library, answers every single question with "Nevermore", and fills the guy's heart with despair.

They are plausible if - someone trained a raven to say "Nevermore".

My friend, William Dale, asked me who would have done such a thing, and a backstory came to me.

The bird trainer was a young woman named Ava, who was sweet on the poem's narrator, but who was frustrated by his obsession with once again seeing the lost Lenore. She was just trying to move him to acceptance of the fact that Lenore wasn't coming back.

Ava actually wrote a short poem explaining her efforts:

Since that guy was so obsessive, and found omens so impressive,
I resolved to train a bird to speak and flit but not to soar,
Patiently I kept repeating, like a drum that's always beating,
Like a sheep that keeps on bleating, just one phrase forevermore -
And my tongue grew tired, I tell you, but I kept on, and I swore
That bird would say "Nevermore".

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Boxing Day, Elsewhere In The English-Speaking World

Boxing day is almost gone. Well, we don't call it Boxing day around here. I was very disappointed to learn it didn't involve fistfights. It involved gifts for the servants.

Why did the servants get presents one day late?
Did the masters re-gift presents that weren't so great?

Friday, December 25, 2015

Dogmas



No Christmas meal is complete
Till the dogs have leftovers to eat.

And now, if they could talk,
They'd say, "We need a walk!"

Xmas

The X is not the X of algebra. The X is the Greek letter Chi, which is the first letter of the Greek word for Christ. I had a theology teacher who was forever abbreviating Christ as Xt, and that's what was going on with the Xmas abbreviation. But then the intent was mistaken to be "taking Christ out of Christmas".

The funny thing, as so often in English, is that even when we spell the word out, we don't say Christ Mass. What we say sounds more like Kris Miss. 

Whether or not you are religious in any way,
I pray you: have a lovely Christmas Day. 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Christmas Man 2015



Santa shows a brave face,
planning to violate lots of air space,
with a stealth unregistered sleigh,
ho-ho-hoing all the way.


That was me today, playing Santa at a party for kids.

That's me earlier this year, in a different costume, playing the German version of Santa in The Devilish Children at Dream Theatre. If you look close, you may detect the fact that I put white makeup on my dark eyebrows in this version. Contrary to rumor, this was not an evil Santa. The kids were kind of devilish, but Santa was his usual benevolent self.



As I put on my costume today, I asked aloud: what's my motivation? The answer, of course, is spreading good cheer.

Playing Santa is a blast!
But am I being type cast?

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The War on Hello Kittymas


In Maine, a high school told a math teacher that she couldn't have a Hello Kitty Christmas Tree in her classroom. Because nothing says the establishment of a religion like a Hello Kitty Christmas tree. A minor national uproar ensued, and the school reinstated the tree. But what I really liked was this:

'Gordon [the math teacher] wrote on her Facebook page earlier that "everything offends everyone all the time" and that it "just sucks the joy out of everything."'

Some people think it's splendid
to be permanently offended.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Fey the Mean Girl

Time magazine reports on Tina Fey, who comes clean about being mean:

'Fey, 45, reflects on what drove her to bully. “That was a disease that had to be conquered,” she says adding, “It’s another coping mechanism – it’s a bad coping mechanism – but when you feel less than (in high school, everyone feels less than everyone else for different reasons), in your mind it’s a way of leveling the playing field. Though of course it’s not.”'

It was a disease! That could be conquered!

It was a coping mechanism! But a bad one!

I don't quite hear regret
as of yet.

I don't quite hear "I misbehaved
but now am saved."

I do hear time in therapy,
accepting prior history.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

At the Field

When I was a kid, I thought our city's natural history museum, the Field Museum, was named after that fact that there were fields out in nature, where natural history was naturally occurring.

Wrong. It's named after someone named Stanley. Stanley Field, that is.

I hadn't been there in decades, but I went today, to see their exhibit on ancient Greece, from pre-history to Alexander approximately. Which is quite a show. And they have a spectacular Mammoths and Mastodons exhibit right now too. And I also got to see Sue, the big T-Rex fossil, for the first time.

But for some reason, the thing that most impressed me, which I imagine I have seen before, was a big old pterodactyl, which they had hanging up near the ceiling.


Source of photo is here.

What really struck me was how big this beast's head was in proportion to its body.

Silly flying creature,
Your noggin looks enlarged,
And yet despite this feature,
Across the sky you charged,
Swooping down to slay
Your unsuspecting prey.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Early Giftmas

Our kids and their spouses are in town this weekend, but not next weekend, when they will be visiting their respective in-laws.

So we did our gift exchange this morning. It felt strangely like Christmas, even though there are a bunch more shopping days remaining for most of you!

I got a funny/serious pair of socks:



You can see the two socks look a little difference, and the difference is that on one the titles of books are listed, and on the other they are listed, but redacted, as if magic marker had been drawn over the title. All the book titles are of books that have been "banned" somewhere or other. (Bigger pic here.)

Wearing mismatched socks is actually a fashion trend. I have seen it among hip 20-somethings here in Chicago.

As with any trend, there are rules.

"Among the most important: The socks must always be more or less the same length—no mixing a knee high with a short one. And while patterns can be combined, clashing seasons—as with snowflakes and flowers—are frowned upon."

Actually, I gave my wife some mismatched socks this morning, as Christmas socks. I actually bought a pair of pink socks and a pair of green socks. But then I mismatched them and gave them as a green-pink pair and a pink-green pair.

I told her she could join the hipster elite
just by mismatching the socks on her feet.

Midway

Behold the jolly old Christmas sport 
Of waiting for luggage at the air port. 

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Charged

Not a surprise:

"Enrique Marquez, a friend of San Bernardino attacker Syed Farook, has been charged with multiple terrorism-related charges for his alleged role in supporting the mass shooting. According to officials, Marquez admitted to purchasing the assault rifles that Farook and his wife Tashfeen Malik used in the attack that killed 14 people this month."

It was already widely reported that he'd purchased the rifles so that Farook didn't have to worry about background checks. That's a crime right there, as it happens. Once you admit to that, in a case like this, you have to expect some heavy charges.

It sounds like he's singing like a bird, maybe in the hope of leniency. Or maybe he just likes to talk. A good interrogator builds rapport. But I assume this guy has a lawyer by now. And I assume the lawyer thinks the smart thing at this point is to cooperate, so his client doesn't end up with the federal terrorism death penalty that the Boston bomber was hit with.

It can be quite the life-changing error,
to help your best friend commit terror.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Outside the MCC

Watched woman hauling baby into jail - presumably to visit Dad.
I'm filing that under "experiences I'm glad I haven't had".

That was this evening. Most workdays I walk by a federal facility, the Metropolitan Correction Center. And in the evenings I often see women waiting to visit.

I periodically get a view of the prisoners themselves - when they are on the top of the building, getting exercise, mid-day, in their orange outfits. But it's a tall building, so they're always farther away. The women waiting in line always seem more poignant.

Standing in their shoes,
feeling those visitor blues.

Seasonal Schmeasonal

If you're in a holiday stew,
I hope it gets better for you. 
It can be a rough time to feel blue. 

Sunday, December 13, 2015

In which I curse AT&T U-verse

We went from AT&T old fashioned DSL to AT&T U-verse, which I think is still some flavor of DSL as regards internet, but I believe our phone is now Voice Over Internet Protocol. Whoopee. I think there was a price break for making this upgrade.

Anyway, as soon as it was installed my wife started complaining about the performance. And I noticed a problem of my own, on my own pc, where when first waking up my pc was slow to fully connect wirelessly.

I did some googling and found that a lot of people blame the wireless part of the U-verse "gateway" device, so today I bought a new wireless router, disabled the U-verse native wireless, hooked up the new router as an "access point"... blah blah blah.

Basically, I'm using the wireless features of the new Netgear router, which is wired to the U-verse device.

I think it's working better. We'll see. Otherwise we will probably switch to one of the local cable providers for out broadband. There's one called WOW that people around here like.

Why, oh why, would AT&T use a so-so wireless technology, and force me to go out and buy a new router?

Before, I thought it was working pretty well.
"Upgrades" are often a golden road to hell.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

I Don't Favor Another Invasion, But...

Is it true that ISIS
is just fomenting crisis
in order to entice us
to go another round
of boots upon the ground?

If so, it shows their thinking is unsound.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Breezy

If a man in a turban
buys a wind turbine
because he misspoke...
is that a Sikh joke?

Lights



Nearby neighbors have not been listless.
The block is starting to look like Christmas.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

By The Way

"Self radicalized" is a strange term that makes my brain squirm. 

Monday, December 07, 2015

Sunday, December 06, 2015

Gray Matter Fluctuation

Because ultrarunning is on my mind, I read an article today about a fascinating experiment done in Europe, tracking participants in the Trans Europe Footrace, and scanning them every few days with a portable MRI machine. It's a race that takes place over a span of 2 months, where people run from Italy to Norway, with no days off.

The wildest result to me, pertained to the brain:

"At the end of the race, MRI of the brain revealed about a 6.1 percent loss of gray matter volume in the runners. After eight months, gray matter volume had returned to normal levels."

I found this statistic stunning.
After 2 months of running,
It takes 8 months to regain
Your normal volume of brain?!

Saturday, December 05, 2015

Another 50k

I read an article in the Wall St. Journal a couple of months ago about the latest thinking about marathons - which is that there's no real harm in doing them pretty frequently.

So, I've been trying it, sort of. I ran a marathon in October, and a ran a 50k (31 miles) in November and another today.

I got passed by a nice 74 year old woman who was considerably faster than me. I had a nice conversation with her before telling her to take off without me.

We've had warm weather here. A lot. It got up to the mid-40s today, for example. I'm not sure I want to be doing these long runs outside in actual freezing weather.

When it freezes and there's ice
the footing's not too nice.

Thoughts and Prayers

I know there was a round of shaming, from the secular left, during the California slaughter, for those who sent out "thoughts and prayers". Peggy Noonan today has a column in which she makes the point that actually praying is an efffortful, at least as she does it. And it occurred to me that a lot of traditional Christian prayer used to also go by the name "meditation". I bet the secular left would not engage in meditation shaming, just because contemporary American "meditators" are clustered in the left.

In the face of disaster, people hope
To find the power to cope. 

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Hybrid Attack

Someone called it Hybrid Jihadi Workplace Violence, which I guess is fair enough. It's like the Fort Hood case, from all appearances. It was ridiculous when some people said the Fort Hood case was Workplace Violence and not Terrorism. It obviously had to do with terrorizing people for the sake of some starkly clear religious/political reasons.

Of course, this sort of hybridization apparently doesn't make sense in a big-picture way. I mean, if you're looking to create terror in America, why hit a county holiday party?

But in a small-picture way, in the mind of the deranged persons, it probably makes perfect sense, or what passes for sense.

1) They're already familiar with the ins and outs of the location. No need to case the joint clandestinely.

2) They get to kill people they know and secretly hate, just like other employees who "go postal".

I remember when I heard about the Boston Marathon bombing, I thought to myself, "Oh, it's local Boston people, whoever they are." In Boston, the Marathon's a huge familiar deal. But to everybody else, it's a weird target.

To me, this is evidence of semi-spontaneous terror - radicalized people in random locations, picking out their own targets, with minimal central control, but plenty of ideological inspiration.

Like rabid dogs, deranged and morose,
they start by biting whatever is close.

Computer Printer First Aid

I went to WalMart and bought a cheap Kodak multi-function printer for my dad. And I had some trouble putting the ink-cartridges in... and broke a piece of blue plastic, pushing where it actually had a label that said "push hard".

I guess the label should have said "push hard but not THAT hard!"

I'm not the first person this has happened to. I found others on the web, after I went looking:

"Not sure if it worked, took it back. The ink cartridges latch broke and I couldn't use it."

"When attempting to snap the ink cartridge holder down into a cheap plastic locking piece, it snapped off. I cried and stared in disbelief, cause I followed the instructions (IN BOLD TYPE, also) to PUSH HARD!"

But I did analyze the failure, and decided that a piece of sticky tape could solve the problem. In place of the now-broken latch, I used the tape to close the holder tight. Nothing much to it, once you grasp the problem. I actually used a piece of surgical tape, because it was the first kind I found. Since it was "first aid" for the printer, surgical tape seemed appropriate. And it worked.

After crying in disbelief,
I sighed in relief.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Anti Libertarian

I read an interesting article which pointed out that Trump is the least libertarian sounding Republican candidate.  Although Huckabee in his own way is also very anti-libertarian. 

Of course the G.O.P. 
Taken as a whole
Is so-so on being free. 
It also loves control. 

Monday, November 30, 2015

No Rioting So Far

Some people think my native city deserves some punishment:

"Chicago Deserves Riots Over The Laquan McDonald Shooting And Coverup"

So far, we haven't had riots. Why not? We've occasionally had riots here in the past. Well, there must be reasons. Here are some that occur to me:

1) Authorities charged the police officer with first degree murder.
2) The city gave the teenager's family 5 million dollars.
3) The teenager wasn't just minding his own business, he was apparently walking around with a knife, refusing orders to drop it.
4) It's cold here.
5) The police are letting the protesters "blow off steam" without too much hindrance.

Serious urban riots are big, complex, emotional events, which involve a lot of factors, including an explosion of frustration on the part of young men.

Serious urban riots tend to be disastrous for the neighborhoods in which they occur. They don't actually help anybody much.

People I talk to, black and white, are generally perplexed by the video of this cop shooting this kid. We just don't understand why he did it. The video raises so many questions that the mind boggles.

The cop has a lawyer, of course.

But I fear his defense
will not make much sense.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Thanksgiving Saturday

Is that a real term - Thanksgiving Saturday?

Anyway, I ran a "turkey trot" 5k in the neighborhood, and then I did something unusual - I went to a football game in Soldier Field. It wasn't a Chicago Bears' game, it was a college game - University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign vs. Northwestern University, both "Big Ten" teams.

It was a chilly day. Above freezing. But a chilly day. And the team we were rooting for, Illinois, was not looking spectacularly good.

When the wind comes off the lake
and your knees begin to shake,
and it isn't looking good for your own team,
you should jump and give a cheer,
or perhaps a scornful jeer,
just to percolate some warmth in your bloodstream.

Friday, November 27, 2015

The Blare of the Trumpet

I'm not a fan of Trump's, I haven't seen him in the debates, and I haven't even watched him much at all on video, since I prefer reading my news. But I am amused by the way he is giving everybody the fits by just saying stuff. He gets "everyone" "outraged" at him, and yet keeps doing fine in the polls for the Republican primary. Somehow the "everyone" is a different set of people than his fan base. The media seems to want to take him down, jumps at each chance, and flubs its apparent chances.

And he gets free publicity every time. From the press.

I'm trying to figure out how he does this.

What is his secret technique?
You open your mouth and speak
And say whatever you feel,
And when challenged declare "I'm real!"

Thursday, November 26, 2015

You Can't Be Syria

From America's Finest (and totally satirical) News Source:

"Poll: Majority Of Americans Approve Of Sending Congress To Syria"

You know they need
the Rule of Law.
Send Congress now
to shock and awe!

Orders of Magnitude

I've decided that when someone tells me of an alleged micro-aggression, I'm going to reply that it's merely a nano-aggression.

There's no point being whiny
when your problems are so tiny.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Non-Self Killing

Buddhism has a rep in this country as being the REAL religion of peace. But a bit of historical study can disabuse you of the notion that devout Buddhists are always peaceful. Even today there are militant Buddhist monks who are given to attacking Hindus and Muslims. But the really big example is the role Zen Buddhism played in Japan, quite notably the role played during WWII, where all the leading Zen religious figures lined up to support Japan's imperial ambitions.

“During the Asia-Pacific War (1937-1945) all Japanese soldiers were indoctrinated with a program of Bushido-promoting “spiritual education” (seishin kyoiku) based on the metaphysical foundation of the unities of Zen and the sword, life and death. Once trained, they were dispatched to the battlefield where nearly three million of them died ‘selflessly’ even as they killed more than twenty million Chinese and other ‘selfless’ enemies in the process. The fact that even today, both in Japan and the West, this corrupted Zen understanding of ‘selflessness’ has, but with few exceptions, remained unchallenged cannot but be regarded as one of the world’s most successful religious deceptions.”

And that's a Zen monk talking, albeit an American one.

You see, if my non-self kills your non-self, and death and life are really one, then my killing you is not so morally significant!

The basic attitude is actually dramatized quite well in James Clavell's novel, Shogun.

Call me unenlightened,
Call me foolishly frightened,
But my non-self would rather not be gored
By anyone's samurai sword.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Unfulfilled

I saw a new play, Fulfillment, last night. It's doing an unusual thing where it's premiering in 2 cities in quick succession, New York and Chicago. Apparently with the same director - but different actors - for both shows.

I was just looking at the audition notice for the show. It contains this heads up:

"A Note on Nudity: FULFILLMENT is a play about power in contemporary America. The roles of MICHAEL, SARAH and SIMON require actors to participate in staged sexual encounters which will require them to perform select scenes nude. The production will have a professional choreographer who specializes in staging intimacy to create a safe and comfortable environment for these scenes, which are essential to the narrative and themes of the play."

I thought the actual effect, in person, was sort of anti-erotic. Maybe that's just my defensive detachment kicking in! Or maybe it was purposely staged to suggest that the characters' sexual relationships were tawdry - showy but emotionally flat. The Trib reviewer says the play's sex scenes are "laudably unerotic", so I guess we're on the same wavelength here.

Eros without feeling,
can end up unappealing.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Christmas Carol at Dream, 2015

Last night I went to see Dream Theatre Company's seasonal favorite, A Christmas Carol: An Evening of Dickensian Delights.

It's written and directed by my friend, Rachel Martindale, and I thought this was the best incarnation ever. It's the same 3 performers from last year, but with newly constructed accoutrements for the ghosts. You can see a ghostly skeletal hand below:



This is a very literary adaptation, using only Dickens's own words. Each time I attend I hear something new. He had the gift of the gab, that Dickens did. The acting is excellent, which is what you always expect at Dream. It's a tale of supernatural intervention, of course, but this is not a production loaded up with special effects. It's a production that expects you to listen to the words and imagine a lot of things yourself.

Scrooge is an interesting character, the fabulous miser, a type who has fascinated storytellers at least since Plautus wrote The Pot Of Gold. Scrooge mouths some slogans from the "dismal science" school of political economy, but he's not really an ideologue in his motivation.

When we visit Christmas Past, he and his (soon to be ex-) fiancee give the best indication of what has driven him.

He begins by making an accurate observation about the hypocrisy of social opinion:

Scrooge: “There is nothing on which it is so hard as poverty; and there is nothing it professes to condemn with such severity as the pursuit of wealth!”

But she replies with psychological insight:

Belle: “You fear the world too much,” she answered, gently. “All your other hopes have merged into the hope of being beyond the chance of its sordid reproach.”

He fears the reproach of the world. He dreads being scorned for poverty. And so he lives practically as a pauper, sitting on a pile of money, spending almost nothing on himself, or friends, or family.

That's what makes misers funny.
They sit on a pot of money,
And moan that life is not sunny.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Head Stuck In A Can

In Maryland:

'In an episode reminiscent of "Winnie the Pooh," Maryland state wildlife workers used an electric hand saw to remove a milk can that was stuck on the head of a bear.'

Great photo if you click on the link.

Reportedly the bear was calm. But they did tranquilize it, just to be sure. Which seems like a good idea.

Endowed with awesome paws and claws and jaws,
Bears nonetheless exhibit certain flaws,
Including unconcern with human laws.

Oops

"Student Found Bound And Gagged At Law School Faked Her Own Kidnapping"

I hope your day is not as bad
as the one she evidently had.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Memories

She is gone
but the hole
in my soul
lingers on.

"Squares or triangles?" I would ask,
when serving her grilled cheese.
This was guaranteed to please,
and she gladly tackled the task
of deciding the shape of her food
according to her current mood.

So often silly things, like these
become the fondest memories.

Monday, November 16, 2015

The Miserabilists

They won't be happy,
till you're sad.
Your day is crappy?
Then they're glad.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Trail Run


Great, tough, hilly course. 
Made me wish I had a horse!

Friday, November 13, 2015

Purity in Kant

This is going around, in response to something Marco Rubio said suggesting that maybe more people should go into welding and fewer into philosophy:



Kant, who was hugely influential, is the very model of an armchair philosopher. I've never been a fan exactly, but he tackled big questions, with his "critical method."

As with so many things Kantian, it's hard to say exactly what the "critical method" was, but it recently occurred to me that there was a strong similarity of program in his ethics and his aesthetics, a similarity I hadn't thought about before.

In ethics he pushes hard on the idea that you can only be sure that you're really being moral when you do the right thing when it's against your own interest and desire. So if you hand money to a beggar, and you feel good about it, and it doesn't really inconvenience you, then you haven't done a verifiably good deed!

In aesthetics he pushes hard on the idea that you're only having a true aesthetic appreciation when you admire an artwork for its form alone, absent any natural admiration of the content. So if you like a nude statue partly because it arouses a hint of eros in your mind, you're on the wrong track, buddy!

You can see the push toward purity, of a kind. Purity from earthly considerations or motives.

Then today I was thinking there was something similar going on in his Critique of Pure Reason. There's that word "pure" right in the title. But I puzzled a bit because it's not desire that plays the role of a corrupting influence in his epistemology. Certainly it turns out that it's actually impossible to really know anything about reality - the underlying reality that's out there somewhere beyond the sensory manifold, unfiltered by our mental categories.

But it strikes me that the underlying push is still the same - it is to remove the holy grail of knowledge from our earthly grasp - away from the flesh - away from our puny mortal minds - and into rarefied imaginary territory.

I write all this without quotes.
No doubt I have simplified.
His castle is circled with moats,
And many have vanished inside.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Yoga Smoke

As I arrived at yoga tonight there was a young woman puffing on a cigarette just outside the door in the chilly air. You see this all the time at office buildings, but I'd never seen it at yoga before.

Now that I reflect on it, some sizable percentage of yoga-attenders must be at least occasional smokers, but they must not do it right around class.

This young woman, it turned out, was doing 3 yoga classes back to back, meaning she'd been doing maybe 3 hours already when I saw her.

For some reason I never liked the smell, but I do feel kind of bad for smokers nowadays. They have so few spots where their habit is acceptable.

When you need nicotine on a regular basis,
you end up puffing in inconvenient places.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Melissa Click Apologizes

I see where the U. of Missouri protesters weren't very nice to journalists yesterday:

'Video shot by student Mark Schierbecker shows Janna Basler, the university's assistant director of Greek life and leadership, telling photographer Tim Tai, a student working freelance for ESPN, to "leave these students alone" in their "personal space." Moments later, Melissa Click, an assistant professor in Missouri's communications department, is seen confronting Schierbecker and calling for "muscle" to help remove him from the protest area.'

Although students - most importantly the football team - were deeply involved, it almost sounds as if the overall effort was organized by members of the school's staff!

Anyway, after having won 2 high-level adminstration scalps, and having faced a media firestorm for trying to lock out the media, they're ready to make nice to the media again. Here's Melissa Click, the prof who was calling for 'muscle':

'"I regret the language and strategies I used, and sincerely apologize to the MU campus community, and journalists at large, for my behavior, and also for the way my actions have shifted attention away from the students' campaign for justice," she said in the statement.'

She wanted to muscle out the working press.
Did she overreach? The answer's yes.

Monday, November 09, 2015

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Hershey Felder as Irving Berlin

Not ready for Christmas yet?
Relax, this is only a set.


The name of the show is Hershey Felder as Irving Berlin, and it's playing at the Royal George Theatre here in Chicago. It's one of these one-actor biography shows. Felder's good, the biography was interesting, and the songs were standards. I would say that nowadays the songs are much better known than the author of the songs, and so a lot of the show consists in explaining what was going on in Berlin's life and mind when he was writing these songs, such as White Christmas, God Bless America, Putting On The Ritz, and on and on.

I saw Felder before, some years ago, playing George Gershwin in a similar one-man show. That one was just called Gershwin Alone. It didn't have Felder's name the title.

But he's done lots more. The Wikipedia article, which kind of sounds like it was written by a publicist, has this:

"Combining the craft of acting and concert-level piano performance, George Gershwin Alone was followed by the creation of the role of Fryderyk Chopin, the Polish composer/pianist, the roles of Ludwig van Beethoven and Gerhard von Breuning in Beethoven, As I Knew Him, Leonard Bernstein in Maestro Bernstein, Franz Liszt in Musik, and Irving Berlin in Hershey Felder as Irving Berlin."

I guess he's doing all right,
playing every composer in sight!



Anatomy is Destiny

Wherever she goes
She follows her nose. 

Friday, November 06, 2015

50k Coming Up

I signed up for a 50k race, 8 days from now. That's 31 miles. I've done the distance 3 times before.

Basically, if you've done a marathon, it's just 4.8 more miles. Piece of cake.

I did have a physician, who never seemed to think there was anything odd about marathon running, react negatively to the notion of running a 50k. His opinion was that humans weren't meant to run farther than a marathon. I assured him that I would walk part of the way.

I had been thinking about doing a different 50k a week ago. But the forecast, which proved quite accurate, was for a day full of rain.

I woke up last week in time to make the race. I looked out the window and thought about running for hours and hours in the rain.

And then, instead,
I went back to bed.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Pyramid Hypotheses

Not that it seems particularly relevant to the job of being American Prez, but what is up with Ben Carson's opinion that the Egyptian pyramids were giant wheat silos?

'In the video, Carson says: "My own personal theory is that Joseph built the pyramids in order to store grain." He was referring to the Old Testament story of Joseph predicting famine and advising the pharaoh to store surplus food.'

I have a far more scientific theory:

The pyramids were erected
by visitors from space,
to hide out undetected
in a subterranean place.

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Staged

We're all familiar, from mystery stories, with murders staged to look like suicides. But it happens the other way, too, and it happened in a spectacular way here in Illinois:

'Two months after Fox Lake Police Lt. Joe Gliniewicz was found dead, investigators call his death a "carefully staged suicide" to cover-up years of embezzlement.'

He fooled a lot of people. For a while. An expensive manhunt was conducted for his killers.

Had a big funeral where people praised him as a hero.
Now his reputation's dropped to zero.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

ACA vs. Costs

The Affordable Care Act seems to be bending the "cost curve" in the wrong direction. The cost of coverage seems to be going up, at the same time as the plans are covering less and less.

It's a mess.

The law always seemed to be an overly complicated machine, a wild combination of bureaucracy and market mechanisms, something that defied human understanding. Was this because it was constructed by an uber-genius? Or was this because it was constructed by committees of sub-geniuses.

Perhaps it doesn't matter
but I fear it was the latter.

Monday, November 02, 2015

Depressing News On The Day Of The Dead

The NY Times reports:

"Something startling is happening to middle-aged white Americans. Unlike every other age group, unlike every other racial and ethnic group, unlike their counterparts in other rich countries, death rates in this group have been rising, not falling."

Well, that's not good. In the details, the people afflicted are those with a high school education or less, and the means by which death comes are three:

Opioids
Alcohol
Suicide

When I see that list, I think depression and despair. It probably isn't simply economics, because black people have reportedly suffered more economically in the aftermath of the financial crisis. I'm thinking spiritual issues, not material issues. I don't necessarily mean religious, although that could be part of it. I mean that sense of having something to believe in - the opposite of nihilism.

The data is a surprise.
My opinion's just a surmise.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

November One Run

I went for a run and saw some stuff.

First up, a dandelion seemed to think it was still Summer:



Next up, a maple tree that realized Autumn is here:



Departing from botany, and turning to zoology, here's a garter snake on the asphalt of a Chicago street. I assume they're around here on a regular basis, but they're so sneaky that I can go years without spotting one:



Finally, I want to mention that I found 4 pennies and a dime on my 12-mile run.

Never say running is not worthwhile.
I made somewhat more than a penny a mile!

Saturday, October 31, 2015

All Clear

Trick-or-treaters have retreated to home bases
With bags of sweets and plans to stuff their faces.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Spooky Resemblance

"Strangers sit next to each other on flight, meet their doppelganger"

On the face of it (groan), this is uncanny:



But they are different ages, and different heights, and don't look nearly so identical in this other photo:



Okay. Not twins. So has anyone asked, instead,
if maybe they'e both descended from Erik the Red?

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Gourd Go Boom

Unexpected hazard in Chicago schools:

"A student at a Near West Side charter school is suing for injuries she says she suffered when a pumpkin exploded in a class science experiment."

The chemistry class mishap occurred a year ago, on last Halloween. But the suit was filed 2 days ago. Maybe there's a one-year deadline to sue.

As we enter full Halloween mode,
Don't let your pumpkins explode!

Revolution Not

I came across this old video of the Beatles performing Revolution in 1968 on TV. It's a bit different from either of the 2 standard versions, but much closer to the single than the White Album version.

It's hard to remember, but in the upheaval of the late sixties, some people looked to the Beatles and the Stones to take the lead in calling for a true political youth revolution. There was even a cult-classic B-movie premised on the idea that a violent youth revolution would be led by a charismatic rock singer.

Charlie Manson, a charismatic lunatic who fancied himself a singer, tried to start a revolution and race war by... killing Sharon Tate and company.

Both the Beatles and the Stones backed away from the idea of endorsing violent revolution.

As Lennon wrote in this song:

"But if you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao,
You ain't gonna make it with anyone anyhow."

The same year as the above Beatles appearance, the Rolling Stones released Street Fighting Man, with these lines:

"Well now what can a poor boy do, Except to sing for a rock & roll band?
Cause in sleepy London Town there's just no place for a street fighting man."

Violent revolution did not in fact occur.
And the tumult of those years is now a blur.


Tuesday, October 27, 2015

UN Warning

Some say that red meat
Is a bad thing to eat
But I'm in denial. 
Its taste makes me smile. 

Monday, October 26, 2015

Marketing Synopses

Years ago I took a class on the business side of playwriting, from the late Russ Tutterow. I think it was called Marketing Your Play, and one really key tool, that we spent a lot of time on, was the marketing synopsis. It's supposed to be fairly short, it's supposed to include indications of dramatic structure without giving away every plot twist. And it's supposed to give some indication of characters and themes. 

Yes, I was writing one yesterday, because I was submitting a new play to a group that performs readings. I have a tendency to resist, to want to say, the play takes 87 pages, with no wasted words, to state itself, I can't boil it down to a paragraph or two! But of course I can. 

I suppose if I worked according to a formal outline more, I might have a pre digested summary ready at this point. But I work from a vague sketchy outline, and then when I'm done I step back and ask: how would I summarize this?

I'd feel belatedly dumb
If I couldn't find a sum. 

Friday, October 23, 2015

Fisher Looking Good



That's a still from the new Star Wars trailer. It's Carrie Fisher and (I think) Harrison Ford. I was struck by how beautiful she looks, and thankful that she hadn't wrecked her face with plastic surgery the way some actresses do.

I hear there's a ginned-up controversy over the fact that she had to lose weight to win the role, as if appearance was not integral to being a movie star. Most of these people wouldn't have these jobs if they didn't look really good on camera.

I haven't seen her in that many films. Perhaps I liked her best in The Blues Brothers, where she played a psycho ex-girlfriend:


I thought the new trailer looked promising. Of course, I've been fooled before by Star Wars trailers. Three times in fact.

Call me a dope,
but I have new hope.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Crafty Art

I came across this quotation:

"A playwright is a poet disguised as an architect."

I think that's a clever
way to describe the endeavor
of crafting a structure to hold
the vision you want told.

Stepfordtopia

"Imagine a future where masses of men divorce themselves from the world and have sex with robots instead of people."

Such a future isn't here,
and I trust it isn't near.

Self Harm

Is something wrong, ethically, with self harm? You hear people say things like "do whatever you want, as long as you don't hurt anybody else." But, what if the person you are hurting is yourself? Is that ethically neutral? If you think so, your moral focus is on your relations to others.

In real life, self harm typically does harm others, too, at least indirectly.

But is that the reason self harm is wrong, or is it just one reason self harm is wrong?

Or you can stand this on its head, and argue that the reason harming others is wrong, is that it harms you. You should be forming your self into a person who deals with others on a win/win basis. That is the kind of person who thrives and is happy.

Out in the real world ethical map
there's lots of value overlap.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Approximately

Nothing perfectly rhymes with fifth,
But you can come close, if you catch my drift. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Migration

I'm generally sympathetic to the idea of open immigration. At least in the context of a free economy. And I believe in the right to keep and bear arms.

But then there's this thought-experiment where uniformed Russians show up at your border with weapons in hand. Do you wave them in?

Of course it's absurd. It's a thought-experiment! They run to the ridiculous. But, no, you don't let the Russian Army in.

The question is: when does immigration morph into invasion?

Curiously, the ecologists are always talking about "invasive species"... wouldn't it be more circumspect to refer to them as "thriving immigrant species"?

Of course, in the thought-experiment, we're all the same species, and what put me in mind of it is the mess in Europe.

Is Europe ready to be a melting pot?
I fear that really it's not.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Feeling Good

I believe some running injuries, particularly marathon injuries, are really post-race injuries, that occur when you're walking around sort of stiffly with sore muscles. 

That's what I'm trying to avoid. 
If I fail I'll be really annoyed. 

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Marathon

I ran a marathon yesterday. I had prepared oddly, perhaps even lackadaisically, due to my summer being occupied with my FringeNYC adventure.

2 weeks ago I actually ran 24 miles, but very slowly. So yesterday I tried to crank up the speed, and was rewarded with the threat of cramps in my thigh (quad) muscles - on both legs. They never fully seized up, charlie-horse style, but they were threatening. So I had to slow down a lot.

It was a lovely race on a forested trail along the Des Plaines River.

It started here:



I'm not sure why it's called that. I mean, it's near a road called Half Day Road, which is near another road called Old Half Day Road, but I don't know what it is with all these Halves.

Perhaps it's a conflict between the Halves and Have-Nots?

I believe the people deserve
a Full Day forest preserve.

UPDATE: Curiosity got the better of me and I researched this odd "half day" thing. Wikipedia has an article! Here's the wacky part:

'In reality, a horse and carriage could make it to Chicago in a half day but some believe the area was actually named after Potawatomi Chief Aptakisic, the chief at the time the area was settled. The name was anglicized as "Half Day" or "Hefda" and a cartographer spelled it "Half Day", and the misnomer stuck, giving rise to the reputed, but erroneous, derivation of the name.'

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Bold Action

We were driving in the South Loop tonight, going through an intersection, and I see a young man diving to the ground and grabbing the leash attached to a little fluffy white dog... who was running into the busy intersection.

Then the young man gave the leash back to a lady, from whom the dog had apparently escaped.

Little dog, you were lucky.
That could have ended yucky.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Illinois Impasse

Illinois is issuing IOUs to lottery winners.

And the state comptroller says she won't be able to fund the state pensions next quarter. On the bright side, retirees will still get their checks somehow.

It's because the state lacks a budget. Our Democratic legislature and our Republican governor can't come to terms.

Here's a headline:

Illinois budget impasse seen lasting for weeks

That headline is from July, which is the start of the state's fiscal year.

Of course, the name of the game is blame. Each side hopes the other will be blamed for whatever inconveniences arise.

So far, I don't seem to have been inconvenienced.

But if your need for instant lottery winnings is great,
I recommend playing in some other state.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Cubs Win

I went to a Cubs game once. Well, part of one. I left early. Had somewhere to be.

Being on the south side of town means that there is no excitement here about the Cubs. No honking horns. No firecrackers. Crickets.

But it's nice to see the Cubs winning in the post-season, mostly because I know so many people who love them, this team that hasn't won a World Series in more than a century.

All they need is 8 more wins,
and the Series is theirs!

Maybe if they could just sneak up,
and take the other teams unawares.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Murder Your Starlings

This weekend I was doing "carpentry" on my next play... a process which I find requires a certain tough-minded resolve to make changes to scenes that seemed settled.

And it got me thinking about a saying I hear writers say: you must kill your darlings.

I've never felt any affection for that saying, but I started wondering who had said it, because I couldn't quite remember. I vaguely thought it might have been Dorothy Parker, that acerbic poet of Manhattan.

But actually it seems to have originated with a person not much remembered, Arthur Quiller-Couch, a Cambridge lecturer:

"If you here require a practical rule of me, I will present you with this: 'Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it — whole-heartedly — and delete it before sending your manuscript to press. Murder your darlings.'"

It's reminiscent of another piece of advice, this one from Mark Twain:

“Substitute 'damn' every time you're inclined to write 'very;' your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.”

I'm inclined to think Quiller-Couch, the Killer-Coach, is offering a hazardous paradox. It cannot be the case that you should simply delete any piece of writing that you really love.

You can possibly live without "very"
but only keeping the writing
that you find unexciting
would be depressing and scary.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Dreaming of National Debt

I had a dream that my wife was handing me some spending cash, and that one of the bills was a 200 dollar bill, with the words "Debt Bomb" prominently featured on the back.

In the dream I kind of stared at it, thinking something was wrong.

The United States has no two-hundred dollar bill,
but as for the "debt bomb", I fear we will
face a detonation
in the form of big inflation.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Free Beer

A bar in my neighborhood, a bar that appeals to White Sox fans, and has taken to taunting the Cubs.

"The pub... used one side of its marquee to announce that customers will get free beer every time the St. Louis Cardinals hit a home run against the Cubs in the National League Division Series."

Paradoxically, I suppose that the bar will be showing the Cubs vs. Cards game. How else will you know when you're due a free beer - except by watching the game?

Instead of just ignoring,
they're actively deploring.

Friday, October 09, 2015

True Story

It's good that we have firewood, since one of my dogs likes to chew on logs. 

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Somebody vs. the Pirates

Apparently there's a north side team. I can't quite remember their name.

But after one inning,
they were winning,
and when all was done
they had won.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Prepare

Some beleaguered believers are predicting that the world will end Wednesday, 10/7/2015 - tomorrow!

"The eBible Fellowship, an online affiliation headquartered in Pennsylvania, based its prediction on a previous claim that the world would end on May 21, 2011. Obviously that prediction was wrong, but the organization is confident that this time they are spot on."

On Thursday when they're proven wrong,
I bet they sing a different song,
probably like "please give us a break,
we made another math mistake".

Monday, October 05, 2015

Preparing for a Marathon

It was a dark, cloudy day for training. 
At least it wasn't raining!

Saturday, October 03, 2015

Mad Dog

So the Oregon shooter seems to have been a profoundly troubled young man of mixed race who had a thing for the Nazis.

Perhaps it takes an extra dose of "confused" to be a mixed race Nazi fan.

Which group can we claim
is to blame?

I would just say that he was disturbed
and should have been curbed.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Not So Super

In Pennsylvania, where I don't think they have a city named Metropolis:

"Man of Steal? Cops say Superman shirt was suspect's undoing"

He stole a laptop while wearing the shirt - and had to bolt away from the owner, who got a look at him.

He was then found by the police, still wearing the same shirt, trying to sell the laptop to someone else.

Being easy to sight
is crook Kryptonite.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Back When I Toured Ireland

I rented an Audi diesel; they told me it was clean; but it was just a weasel, a sneaky smog machine. 

Monday, September 28, 2015

Odd Doings In Dusseldorf

From the annals of false convictions:

"A German woman who vanished 31 years ago and had been registered as dead after a man confessed to her murder, has been found alive and well and living in Düsseldorf."

I wonder how this "confession" occurred.
In retrospect it's clearly absurd.

The person who confessed, who is "known only as Gunther K," also confessed to another murder.

What? Known only as Gunther K? What kind of country convicts people of murder but doesn't release their names? Germany, I take it.

I'm hoping this other murder, of a 14 year old girl, actually involved finding a body.

Did this guy just like to confess?
You charge him, and he says "Yes!"?

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Dialogue Lost

Actors usually don't like it when audience members ask them how they memorized all those lines. But many do find it a difficult task, and they do sometimes lose their place on stage. The playwright can help by not giving one actor the same line twice, because that can miscue the other actor.

So, say there's a scene like this:

She: Come to the store with me.
He: I hate shopping.
She: But I want your advice about something. Something really important.
He: My advice is that you not take me.
She: Why won't you come?
He: I hate shopping.
She: I hate you.

The danger here is for She, who may reply "I hate you" after his first "I hate shopping".

In which case, the foreshadowing about "something really important" will be lost.

And the strength of her final line makes less sense if we don't know that he has refused to help her with something she feels is really important.

When actors get lost,
lines can get tossed,
unless the "oops"
creates a loop,
so instead of being deleted,
the lines end up repeated,
possibly ad infinitum,
be careful how you write 'em!

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Expecting More Soon

Found a red leaf on the ground. I think October's sneaking around. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Catching the 6:45

Training to run, by running for the train, supplies great motivation, that's otherwise hard to maintain.

Brit Slang

Oddly enough, a "git"
Is person who's not "legit".

Monday, September 21, 2015

Exit Walker

Goodbye, Scott.
You were running, but now you're not.
Now you're just walking away,
Will you run another day?

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Details to Come

It looks like my ten minute play, Kitties In Space, will be part of an upcoming festival. 

It's a comic tale of intelligent felines
Who fall afoul of enemy designs.

The Rainmaker

I've been looking online for a photo of the spectacular set of The Rainmaker, as put on currently at JPAC theatre in Cicero, IL. It's credited to Rick Arnold. Oddly enough, there don't seem to be any publicity photos online.

I particularly enjoyed Ann Marie White as Lizzie, the farm girl who has trouble attracting suitors because she speaks her mind too plainly.

You might have seen the old movie version, with Katherine Hepburn in the role of Lizzie, and Burt Lancaster in the role of Starbuck, the confidence-hustler.



He exudes confidence. She is languishing for the lack of it.

From a writer's perspective, the line I most admired in the play belonged to neither of the two lead characters

It belonged to her other beau,
who simply said "don't go."

Friday, September 18, 2015

Putting the Feet in Fetish

He sought a fragrant scent
but failed to obtain consent:

"Police say they've arrested a man days after a complaint that someone was spotted crawling under library tables and smelling a woman's feet at Florida International University."

He thought her toes were sweet,
but ended by tasting defeat.

Architects of I.T. Failure

An inspector general has compiled a report on what went wrong with the launch of HealthCare.Gov, the famous website that didn't work when it was supposed to. Megan McArdle reports:

"You can take this report as a searing indictment of the agency and its contracting personnel. I took something rather different away from reading it:

The architects of the law were incredibly naïve.
Federal contracting rules are crazy."


Her points about the contracting rules are well-taken, but they just point back to the "naive" issue. Everyone knows what federal contracting is like. You'd have to be "naive" to think that these rules wouldn't place your giant I.T. project at risk.

I keep putting "naive" in scare quotes, because I keep thinking it's not quite the right word. I don't think the people who designed this law were recent college grads. They weren't naive in that sense. They were learned men with advanced degrees, with more interest in social engineering than in software engineering.

Finally, I'd say they were the type
inclined to believe their own hype.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Iran-Contra Counterfactual

On Wednesday, the Wall St. Journal ran a review of a novel about Ronald Reagan, a work of historical fiction. The reviewer is at pains to say that the author may have fudged history a little, but that the fudging was done subtly. Then I came across this sentence:

"With the hope of freeing hostages, the administration was secretly selling arms to the Iranians while illegally diverting the proceeds to the Contras in Nicaragua."

What? The hostages were released on the day that Reagan was sworn into office. The Reagan administration's Iran-Contra scheme had nothing to do with trying to get hostages freed. They were free already!

I don't know whether this was the reviewer's fault, or the novelist's, but aren't there any editors at the Wall St. Journal anymore?

I know, I know,
it happened long ago,
shortly after my birth,
when dinosaurs roamed the earth.

Tick Tock

If you build a clock, 
and take it to school, 
to show off your best... 
prepare for a shock -
If your teacher's a fool, 
you'll be under arrest.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Backward Facing Yoga

At lunch, in the library, I was looking at a very interesting book, Selling Yoga: From Counterculture to Pop Culture, by Andrea Jain. Well, I thought it was very interesting, anyway, as a baby-boomer consumer of yoga.

The subtitle somewhat undersells the book's scope, since the book dives far deeper into yoga's history. I've looked a bit into the subject matter of this book, and I have to say that it strikes me that the author's account lines up very neatly with what I've found - and what I've found does not line up well with the popular understanding of contemporary yoga as something Indian monks have been doing for millennia, minus the rubberized mats.

The book itself is academic, in a sociology-of-religion sort of way. So you have to wade through the verbal padding and the show of value-neutrality which that entails. I mean, consider this sentence from the book's synopsis:

"Yoga brands destabilize the basic utility of yoga commodities and assign to them new meanings that represent the fulfillment of self-developmental needs often deemed sacred in contemporary consumer culture."

But underneath all that, I thought it was quite lively. I didn't read it all the way through, but the book does touch on some of the juicy recent yoga scandals, where old gurus had "transgressive" sex with young devotees.

The big takeaway, I would say, which I have seen elsewhere, but which is much neglected, is that 20th/21st century yoga, as a system of physical exercise, is not some old set of Indian customs. Rather, it developed at the turn of the prior century as an Indian response to the European "physical culture" movement (meaning: the beginning of today's continuing exercise craze). There are things called "yoga" that are old, but they were not this modern system of stretchy poses.

If a guru felt at home
in the halls of Ancient Rome,
would he practice Hatha Yoga
while attired in a toga?

Studying to be Sturdy

'Obama on liberal college students who want to be "coddled": "That’s not the way we learn"'

Prez says: no need to swaddle or coddle at college,
where you're supposed to be exposed to knowledge.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Varieties of Assistance

Sarah Hoyt writes:

"There is no way for assisted suicide laws NOT to be abused, particularly when they intersect with a state health system."

I suppose everything gets "abused" after a while.

And people have been making murders look like suicides since forever.

One feared abuse here, I take it, is that the state will begin to encourage suicide in an inappropriate way, something like that young woman who just got charged with involuntary manslaughter for giving her boyfriend this sort of counsel:

'"You can't think about it. You just have to do it. You said you were gonna do it. Like I don't get why you aren't," Michelle Carter allegedly wrote to Conrad Roy III the day he parked his truck outside a Fairhaven Kmart and killed himself through carbon monoxide poisoning.'

He is described in the article as having a history of depression, and of having made a prior suicide attempt.

He doesn't seem to have had any terminal condition
diagnosed by a physician.

It sounds like she charged down the slippery slope
of crushing a person's last hope.

ADDED:

By the way, to be fair, the girl was not some consistent ghoul who constantly worked on him to just do it. She had advised him to seek help previously. The boy seems to have been playing pity party a lot. You can see where she would get sick of it. Maybe she thought she was using reverse psychology on him!

Maybe her lawyer could give the "reverse psychology" thing a try,
and say she never wanted him to die,
but thought he had whined enough,
and was just trying to call his bluff.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Resistance

There's nothing worse than people telling me to have a nice day.
I'll have the kind I want to have, in shades of dreary gray!

Friday, September 11, 2015

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Guest Limerick

My father's friend, long years ago, sent him this:

A crazy Greek monk from Corfu
Writes limericks that end in line two. 

My father replied:

With lines three,  four, and five
Sung in Eskimo jive
By an addled Aleut from Attu. 

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Tiger

I misinterpreted this headline:

"Survivor rips Huckabee, clerk for using 'Eye of the Tiger'"

I wondered, survivor of what? A tiger attack?

But of course Survivor is the name of the band that had a huge hit with the song!

There are few survivors of tiger attacks.  
To tigers we look a lot like snacks!

Monday, September 07, 2015

Poetry and Pen Names

Ann Althouse blogs about a case where a white male poet adopted a Chinese-sounding name in order to get published. And it worked, even though he got caught. He made it into a book called Best American Poetry 2015!

The editor wrote:

"If I'd pulled the poem then I would have been denying that I was consciously and deliberately seeking to address past racial, cultural, social, and aesthetic injustices in the poetry world...."

I think the anthology may need a longer title.

Instead of just calling it "Best"
let's try "Injustice Redressed".

Friday, September 04, 2015

Heaping Scorn on the Heretic

Is it really important to drag this Kentucky clerk through the mud? Apparently it is. She must be shamed.

It's one thing to toss her in the clink for contempt of court. But shaming her for being married 4 times is something else.

Some deep insecurity is at work.

Much ugliness springs
from fear that has wings.


Thursday, September 03, 2015

Property Tax Speed Bump

Not good news, but I've been expecting it - Chicago property taxes are probably going to shoot up.

'While opinions vary on the precise impact the proposed $450 million to $550 million tax hike will have on housing markets in the city and suburbs, most experts expect homeowners to grumble, then stomach the increase.'

Well, of course not everyone's going to move out. The problem, as usual, is what happens on the margin. You get less development here, and so on. A point which the story finally gets around to in the last paragraph:

'It might make a difference on the margins, to people already considering moving out of Chicago, or on the fence about moving in, Hewings said. "But for the vast majority of people, it's going to be an irritation," he said. "I really don't think it's going to have a dramatic impact."'

I'd like the city to thrive and endure.
I hope he's right, but I'm far from sure.

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Europe Awash

They wanted us out of the Middle East
But no one thought it through.
Now they're flooded with refugees.
Whatever will they do?

I'm not saying it's an insoluble problem. But with the state of the European economies, it's going to be chaotic, for a while, trying to absorb all these poor people.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

FringeNYC 2015 Collection - Early Bird Discount

The collection isn't even published yet, and already they're discounting it.

A collection of excellent new scripts from the 19th annual New York International Fringe Festival. BUY ALL 23 PLAYS (REG. PRICE: $28.38) FOR $12.50 »

It's not exactly a book, because it's not on paper. It's a form of digital publishing, sort of iTunes for plays, is the concept. Anyway, my play is among the 23 selected, out of 184 or so plays in the festival, so I'm honored and happy.

The real target of the operation is people who might want to put on plays. People around the country are putting on plays all the time. With luck I'll get some of them putting on O'Brien & O'Brian. It's easy enough to put on. Just one set. No complicated lighting or sound effects. Contemporary clothes and furniture.

I think most people, even people who like to read novels and short stories, don't really like to read plays. But theater people do. The trick to it is imagining the thing being acted.

But perhaps that's an acquired ability,
involving some odd imaginative agility.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Bali Low

There was a murder case a year ago in Bali, involving 3 vacationers from Chicago: a mom, a daughter, and the daughter's boyfriend. The two younger people have been convicted of killing the older person.

Their defense was that the homicide just happened, an argument gone wrong, a body stuffed in a trunk, and so on. But the prosecutors seemed to think the killing had been planned.

And now American authorities have released a Facebook message, from the daughter to her boyfriend, from month's before the actual killing:

“Can you not tell people i asked you to kill my mom.”

Beware of the naughty daughter
who don't do what she oughter
and rather than keeping calm
moves to murder her mom.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Small Pet Advisory

We've had some coyote sightings in the hood.

Authorities seem to be planning on letting them be.

The advisory letter from neighborhood association was probably intended to be reassuring, but included this tidbit:

"Coyotes may mistake small, unattended pets as prey..."

Mistake? Really? Is there an approved list of prey somewhere?

I'd have to say
that its proper prey
is whatever a coyote can defeat
and eat.

Repent!

Doomsayers have their appeal,
but mostly their threats are not real.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Once More

We've got one more performance of our show in New York, tomorrow night. I'm flying out Friday morning, and returning Saturday morning. Then that's it for this run. I'm already feeling the sorrow.

Flying back and forth to New York has been strangely familiar for me. I lived there decades ago, and I fell into the sense of being a native readily enough, even though, really, I'm not.

Being a New Yorker is like
riding a bike.

It comes back to you
as deja vu.

More Reviews Are In

We had a nice long "Happy Face" review from Kristin Hardwick at Hi! Drama, which went into the actors' performances in some detail.

'Ms. Vitale's [Darlene] is ambitious in a charming way and Mr. Corbett's Alan perfectly complements [Darlene] with his warm smile and sincere attitude. The chemistry of Ms. Nehme and Mr. Mervin portraying the divorced couple works! Ms. Nehme's portrayal of the Irish "divorcee" is a nice balance of whimsy and sincerity and her constant "calling people out on the truth" adds to the depth of their stories in both a comical and genuine way.'

I also found a very negative review, which I will quote in its entirety:

"Almost as soon as the lights went up, I knew I wanted to walk out. About ten minutes later, I did. Dreams do come true."

I'm actually a bit puzzled by the snarky last line, because it sounds like a Disney reference, but my play doesn't have any Disney angle. I almost wonder if he was actually at a different play which runs in the same theater, which does have a Disney angle. Anyway, regardless of which show he glimpsed, I'm glad he got out after just ten minutes.

Life is short.
If you don't like a play,
escape and enjoy
the rest of your day!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Sweet Tweet from the Irish Consulate

Someone from the Irish Consulate of New York came to see our play the other night, and tweeted:

"Great production @FringeNYC 'O'Brien and O'Brian'! Loved the accents guys! "It's because we don't have beavers in Ireland?!" Gold! Go see it"

I'm inordinately pleased. I've got 2 characters from Ireland in the play. They may verge on the comically outlandish at times, but they were drawn with great affection. I have a sentimental attachment to the people of that land, mostly because my great grandfather, for whom I am named, and who I remember fondly, was an emigrant from that Emerald Isle.

Our director, Robert Belchere, going into this production, was particularly focused on making the accents authentic. Well, Rob, I guess that was a good call if we were able to get some appreciation from the Irish Consulate! And nice going, MacKenzie Nehme and Juliana Forsberg-Lary, with your lovely brogues!

They're actually doing 2 different Irish accents, because there are many, and because the 2 characters, although old friends, actually are from different backgrounds - they met in boarding school.

No accents can beguile
like those from the Emerald Isle.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Hard Day's Night by Vickie Vodrie

Despite my busyness here in the City of Busy, I managed to see another of the FringeNYC shows, namely Hard Day's Night, by Vickie Vodrie of Kansas City.

Her show is playing in the same venue as my show, but never on the same day.

Beatles fans among you will recognize the title of her play as the title of a Beatles song, album, and movie. But this isn't a play about the Beatles, except incidentally. It's a coming-of-age story, about a girl in a truly kooky family, a girl who takes some big steps into womanhood.

How kooky is the family? Well, the set is their living room, and their living room is overflowing with Disney figurines and memorabilia. Kookier yet, the living room is also overflowing with loving labeled shoeboxes containing the cremated remains of their former cats and dogs, a.k.a., their "fur babies".

Our heroine, Kelly, seems to be plunging deeper into social isolation, as she decides to communicate with her family only by singing snippets of Beatles songs. I was beginning to worry that she would be forever lost from the world of the sane, moving herself into permanent Misfitville.

But a sensitive (albeit flawed) man reaches out to her. The experience gives her a real glimpse of what life can hold, and the play ends on a hopeful note.

The writing just zips along,
making humorous use of song.
See it! You can't go wrong.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

The City Never Sleeps

The cars outside are honking like a flock of Canada geese, apparently with no fear of being fined by the police. 

Pic Marsha Took

Excuse me while I trouble you,
with a pic of the big G.W.:

NY Theater Now Review

We got a great review of our FringeNYC production of O'Brien & O'Brian from Nita Congress at NYTheater Now:

'Enright’s dialogue is breezy and crisp, filled with non sequitors and snappy comebacks (example: “You remember what Martha Stewart went to jail for? Lying to the government.” “And I felt so much safer when she was locked up.” And “Maybe you should specialize in divorce. I hear it’s steady business.” And “Don’t thrown your life away on a gender that won’t make you happy.”) The play and its characters are friendly and good-natured.'

The reviewer does suggest that our intermission is too long, or perhaps unnecessary - that it breaks up the fun. It's an interesting question. Without intermission, the play runs about 80 minutes. Most people can comfortably sit that long without needing to stretch their legs. So that argues against having an intermission. On the other hand, the play's 2 acts take place on 2 different days, and on the 2nd day the characters are returning from a court hearing, so one is naturally tempted to do a costume change to outfits that are dressier.

But I'm grateful for the great review,
so right now what I'm going to do
is offer my contrition
for that lengthy intermission!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Full Stop

In local news, in federal court:

"The former chief executive of a red-light camera company changed her plea to guilty on Thursday in a scheme that funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to secure $124 million in city of Chicago contracts."

She gave the green light
to behavior that wasn't right.

Wipe Out

If you have an email server,
and you need to wipe it clean,
don't take a dampened dishcloth
to the case of the machine.

I think a random splatter,
made up of zero and one,
written over and over,
is what will get the job done.

And then, just to be careful,
douse it in gasoline
and drop a match upon it
so your data's never seen.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

2 of 5

Here are people in line for our performance today at 4:30 in the afternoon. We had a nice crowd, which pleased me greatly, since I'd had nightmares that we'd have 3 people or something!

Show 2 of 5
Did not take a dive. 

A Plea To Air Traffic Control

Air traffic control,
tomorrow I roll,
to New York and then,
Chicago again.

Please, please, let's
manage the jets
so that when I roam,
I do end up home.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Chicago Gangs on Facebook

Felonious bands
enhancing their brands:

"They aren't using the Internet as much to recruit members or to organize illegal activities as to mostly post or watch often violent videos intended to tout their gang or an individual member, the study found."

Facebook is the most popular site according to this Chicago Tribune article.

Now, on the face of it (ahem), it's not a good idea to post videos of your own felonious activities online, where they can be scooped up by the police and used to convict you. But, then again, these are not people given to caution.

In the future, all life will take place on the net.
For police, that may be the best news yet!

Friday, August 14, 2015

We Opened

We opened in NYC. I sat in the back, the better to gauge the audience's attention. They were quiet when they weren't laughing. Quiet is good! It means they want to know what happens next. 

So much for our opening show. 
Only four to go. 

Thursday, August 13, 2015

High Comedy

When a giraffe
Begins to laugh
Does it start in his head
Or his belly instead?

After 2 Nights in New York

Glad to be in my own bed,
My pillow under my head. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

At Midday

Tech rehearsal at Fringe NYC,
Which looked good to me:

Monday, August 10, 2015

Change of Plan

I've decided to change my flight. 
Due to a flash flood warning,
I'm flying into New York tonight
instead of tomorrow morning. 

Sunday, August 09, 2015

AKA Bishop's Lace


Queen Anne's Lace, also known as Wild Carrot.
Took a pic and thought I'd share it.

Theater side note: when my play, Wild Flowers, started, we used some fake yellow flowers as the wildflowers that make an appearance in the show. But by the end of the run, the actors had switched to picking some of these fresh for each performance.