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Go out with you? Why not... Do I like to dance? Of course! Take a walk along the beach tonight? I'd love to. But don't try to touch me. Don't try to touch me. Because that will never happen again. "Past, Present and Future"-The Shangri-Las

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Le Morte D'Arthur

I've started reading this big thing, and so far (nearly done with Book One of about a zillion) it's way more fun than I expected! Two things jump out at me:

1. Arthur is presented as a hothead, with Merlin showing up and finger-wagging him into behaving more wisely than Arthur is inclined to do. Merlin plays a role not unlike that of many biblical prophets. Also, much of Merlin's wisdom seems like the kind of thing a hotheaded young man needs to hear: don't seek revenge against a potential valuable ally, etc.

2. Like all fantasy nerds, I've always though that one essential characteristic of archaic language is a certain stylized flowerness. E. R. Eddison's The Worm Ouroborus, the King James Bible and Shakespeare have a lot to answer for in this regard, although they do it well to wonderfully. Malory puts paid to this notion, with a prose style that is archaic but as simple and direct as Hemingway. The clarity and terseness of his prose stays out of the story's way.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Old Tyme Religion

Sorry, D&T, the last post was less gracious than it should have been; ya'll are dear friends indeed; I sympathize with your intentions and thank you for the gift. But I'm no more likely to return to the flock than ya'll are to add The End of Evangelion to your shortlist of favorite films.

Today I regard myself as a Unitarian pantheist; I believe that God, the idea of God, is a focus for our reverence, awe, hopes, fears and faith in the face of life and the universe. It's a bit like Yeats' thing about fairies that I commented on a few posts back; he was right to believe in fairies, but incorrect to believe that fairies were factual. They weren't factual; they were true. I believe much the same about God. So the literal-mindedness of the intelligent design crowd leaves me cold, while the vibrant, engaged faith of any number of people excites and inspires me.

It's the thought that counts.

My first Christmas present has arrived, and it is a book titled The Case For A Creator, sent by some dear friends from my old stomping grounds in Chattanooga TN. I'll certainly give it a day in court, although at a glance it looks like more of the Intelligent Design stuff that I find utterly uncompelling.

Lately I'm engaging two Christian writers whom I find more persuasive, or at least more relevant... one is Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who tried to help assassinate Hitler, and paid with his life for his efforts. That's a pretty compelling faith-into-action story, but even putting such autobiographical elements aside, his writings are richly resonant, so far. I need to stop looking for online snippets and actually get a book of his; he wrote a few, and they're highly regarded on their own merits.

The other is Charles Williams, the forgotten Inkling. I finally got my hands on a copy of his book Descent Into Hell, and while I haven't started it yet it promises to be a haunting look at Williams' powerfully intense Christ-centered mystical worldview. I can't wait.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Just to be fair...

A "Cut him some slack" post from liberal cartoonist and columnist Ted Rall. Of course Rall needs to cut Danny Hellman some slack, Hellman being a talented illustrator and prankster who pulled a mean prank on Rall and has been in court for years as a result. So here's the deal: Ted, drop the lawsuit and I'll, uh, stop dissing Mallard Fillmore. Deal? Probably not.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Reindeer Monologues

Birmingham Festival Theatre is doing Reindeer Monologues again this year, and I'm trying to relearn my monologue. I'm finding that it's familiar enough to take for granted, but not familiar enough that I actually know the thing. It's going to be fun to do it again, but relearning it may be a bit of a chore. Some of my fellow returning reindeer are reconcieving their roles, and while I'm not planning any sweeping changes I am trying to fine tune a few things. On the other hand I somewhat agree with David Mamet that actor-y acting, lots of technique, is mostly wasted effort. I worry that honing the perfect line readings will only distract me from maintaining clear energy and focus. a sequence of polished line readings could, perhaps, result in a credible performance, but mightn't it end up pasteurized and homogenized? That's no good.

In this show Comet is a spin doctor, and I based a lot of my rhetorical choices on preachers. Only after the show closed did I realize that Chuck Swindoll had been my main model, since he's the only fiery preacher I ever heard growing up. I suspect he must be less sociopolitically conservative than many preachers with that fiery Billy Sunday style, since my Mom listened to him regularly. One interesting detail: whenever I delivered Comet's spin-filled defense of the play's wayward Santa it was impossible (for me, anyway) to not think of Karl Rove et al. Will the monologue play a bit differently now that Rove and company have had to eat an all too thin sliver of humble pie?

Speaking of oversized political figures, I have a notion of what my next performance after Reindeer Monologues may be, but it's only a tenuous offer so I shouldn't say much more. But it would involve playing a satirical version of a real-life politico.

Is anything else going on? I got a car, but it's bad luck to even acknowledge the existence of these terrible things; any little jinx will cause them to break down. Oh, but speaking of car trouble, did you hear that Bruce Tinsley, the guy who does the abysmal comic strip Mallard Fillmore, got busted for drunk-ass driving? Second offense on four months? And he accused the cops of hassling him out of some kind of grudge? Source... Way to duck (No pun intended) that personal responsibility to which you guys give so much lip service, Little Tinsley Jesus!

Truth be told, I'm not getting my schadenfreude on because of his position on the sociopolitical spectrum, but because, as comics critic R. Fiore put it in
The Comics Journal, Tinsley should be arrested for impersonating a cartoonist. You can be as far right as you want if you're funny or insightful. You'll never hear me dis P. J. O'Rourke, who's a rock-ribbed conservative, but is also brilliantly funny. And if O'Rourke were busted for drunk driving, he'd own up to it. Heck, it would fit his Republican Party Reptile persona. Considering how many conservative figures have fallen to the hypocrisy problem in recent months, I'd suggest more of them drop the spray-on "Values" and become RPRs like O'Rourke. Hey, if the values are really your values, great, but if not, find some other way to pander to the base.

Edit: Obviously Tinsley needs to do the decent thing and say "I've got a problem. I'm seeking help." I hope he gets it. I suspect there's a connection between the quivering nastiness of his comics and his alcohol problem. By "nastiness" I emphatically do not mean "conservatism."

Hidden Histories

I'm often curious about how much of the real story slips past. I was recently thinking about the Ecoscape at my alma mater, Birmingham-Southern College. It's a lovely and intriguing botanical garden, with hiking trails, trash art (huge shiny insects and such made of refuse) and a high treehouse of which I'm fond. I haven't visited the Ecoscape in years, but it's a happy place in my memories. Anyway, my friend Matthew, who was my college roommate, helped build it. I was oddly oblivious to it at the time; he talked about it (he called it the Ecoplex) but I wasn't good at engaging what people said back then. But he was putting his heart and soul into it; as president of the campus enviromental organization he was pivotal in the preperation and the persperation involved in turning an undeveloped field into an artful garden peppered with sculpture.

Here's the part that makes this cool to me: he was doing all this partly for a grade, but mostly to take his mind off an ex-girlfriend. Years later the woman in question visited the Ecoscape as a returning alum, and took some lovely digital snapshots of the gardens. When Matthew and I perused these photos he commented that she didn't know the Ecoscape was in no small measure a monument to her, or at least to his feelings about her.

Matthew and the ex-girlfriend are now happily married, although not to each other.

Anyway, I think it's too bad most people who visit or even work at the Ecoscape will never know about these sentimental layers undergirding the gardens. But that's true of most places, isn't it? There are so many stories we'll never know about the places where we live.

Matthew, please don't cave my skull in and bury me in the Ecoscape for telling this story.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Endings and bears.

My Uncle Carlton died recently. Lung cancer. He was a professional fireman. Doctors think breathing in all the toxic fumes of burning stuff caused it. How about that? You dedicate your life to valiant, even heroic efforts to save lives, and you lose your life for it, even though you don't get killed in a blaze or collapse.

In jollier news, Christmas Carol has ended, and it was a positive event. It was a joy getting to know lots of folks, reconnecting with folks I knew from beforehand, getting an actual audience for our efforts, and getting a polar bear.

The actress who played my wife and I had one sequence in the show where we simply hung out on set and looked like we'd been shopping. So while onstage we'd quietly improvise discussions about the contents of our prop gifts, and one thing we often mentioned was an inflatable polar bear, in homage to my friend Dr. Brain's huge inflatable polar bear that his kids venerate every Christmas. So on the last night of the show she gave me a plush polar bear. Since another gift we often cited was figgy pudding, I've named the bear Figgy. Yay Figgy! And yay Becca for giving him to me! And for being a good sport about playing my wife.

Thursday, December 07, 2006


There's still time to see the Playhouse production of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, but not much. It's well worth seeing. Director Billy Ray has put together a production of this demanding warhorse that does it justice. I could rave about the cast on a person by person basis, but I'm posting on the go so I'll make it short. I recently reread this script, and it's a bear. There are so many transitions that left me wondering how one gets from here, to there, to there. The actors have found ways to make these tricky emotional transitions. Also, they've found different levels in the script; in a bad production it would all be a long hard slog through monocrome nastiness, but they've found the light touch that so much of it needs; when it does become full-throttle nasty it packs that much more punch. And there's real love and tenderness in it, especially at the end.

Monday, December 04, 2006


Backstage, during a show, in costume, with my glasses off, everything is dark and blurry. My fellow cast and crew members mill around, sometimes whispering, mostly silent. I can't always tell who's who due to my poor vision; sometimes someone nearby whispers a wisecrack or gives me an unexpected hug. Everything visual pushes towards abstraction. It's a pleasant sensation. The dark backstage area is large enough to be expansive, small enough to be close and cozy with others. Every now and then I go onstage, into the light, and try to do something wonderful; then it's back into the warm darkness with my colleagues.

Friday, December 01, 2006

You are The Wheel of Fortune

Good fortune and happiness but sometimes a species of
intoxication with success

The Wheel of Fortune is all about big things, luck, change, fortune. Almost always good fortune. You are lucky in all things that you do and happy with the things that come to you. Be careful that success does not go to your head however. Sometimes luck can change.

What Tarot Card are You?
Take the Test to Find Out.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Christmas Carol

Christmas Carol opens Friday. Yesterday we finally tried running the show in Virginia Samford Theatre, and it went much more smoothly than I ever would have expected. On the other hand, I'm dropping so many balls; I know all the things I have to do, but knowing things in theory and doing them in practice are two different things. It's a presence of mind issue. I usually have this problem because all the tasks I have to perform are very simple, and as William H. Macy said, acting is so simple that it's difficult.
I don't have time to delve deep, but over Thanksgiving I read the Polaris rulebook. The scenario is so comically reactionary that you'd have to crossbreed Justice Robert Bork with a cave cricket to find anyone to take it seriously, but the formal aspects of the game design are intriguing and clever. I was hoping for something like Peter Greenaway, but it's more like Jean Rollin. I like Rollin too. I'll be buying more indy RPGs, including ones by Ben Lehman. I've been harsh on his work, but Gygax and Arneson, the creators of Dungeons and Dragons, commited a truckload of embarrasing mistakes too. Pioneers aren't expected to dot every I; they're expected to blaze new trails. Indy RPGs are doing that, and I'll take them with all their flaws.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Speaking of Fantasy

It seems to me that there are two kinds of genre fantasy writers. The first kind creates an idiosyncratic reworking of mythic and legendary stories. The second kind reworks Tolkien. It's noteworthy that Tolkien's work falls squarely into the former category.

Happy Thanksgiving!

I am sick so I'll be staying home this Thanksgiving, but I still plan to eat well. But instead of spending time with beloved family members, I'll be staying in bed. At least I'll have time to catch up on my reading. I'm sniffing at Polaris, another one of those indy RPGS. This one is apparently at the vanguard of the indy games thing. Before you get to the game part you've got to get through the extensive backstory, though. It's slow going. Imagine Dan Clowes mocking an E. R. Eddison wannabe and you'll have the right idea. A sample from memory: "These few examples will have to suffice you." If that "you," which is representative of the grammatical carelessness plaguing game designer Ben Lehman's attempted elevated prose, didn't make you wince or cackle then you may enjoy his turgid high fantasy prose more than I do, but it's more inflated than elevated. I suspect that Lehman's real artistry as a game designer will do much to compensate; I certainly hope so! There's a creative artist in there somewhere, although centering a high fantasy adventure around the notion that the Sun is BAD is pretty counterintuitive to me. It's like saying apples or hugs are bad.

(and yes, my own prose is riddled with faults, but I'm not attempting anything more complex than a blog. Pulling off what John Gardner called "The High Style" takes a degree of linguistic virtuosity that neither Lehman nor I possess. But hey, God bless him for trying, and I really do want to be able to report back with a positive take on his game as a game.)

Christmas Carol is taking shape, but it's slow going; wrassling such a huge production into a stageworthy show is no mean feat, and we are all having trouble remembering how all our bits and pieces fit together. Offstage, I know all my lines, lyrics, notes and choreography. Onstage everything falls apart. The gap between knowing stuff in one's head and actually being able to do the stuff is something I rediscover with every show.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


On both of the musicals I've done, I teared up on the final show. It didn't mess up my performances, but I sobbed myself sick backstage. Christmas Carol has a Road-To-Damascus style redemption story, and those always make me tear up too. So for this show I fully expect to transform from a human being into a big tear duct, like a mopey Emerson. I don't cry often, but durned if a musical closing doesn't discombobulate me. I'm already thinking about strategies to make sure I don't wreck the performance with onstage bawling.

Just found out my car has a coolant leak. Oh good. The repairs would cost more than the trade value of the car, so it's time to get some fresh wheels. My preferred solution to this problem is to live in a world where cars are unneeded. Some communities have substantial public transportation, but Birmingham will never be one of those; tightwad crybaby taxpayers + a local government that will spend any and all revenues on cocaine and hookers= I need a car.

Birmingham radio personality Dollar Bill is our Scrooge, and it's a delight to watch him work. It's an even bigger delight to hang out with him; he's one of the most effortlessly funny people I've ever met. He's a natural storyteller, and even though a disproportionate number of the anecdotes I've heard from him involved throwing things out of helicopters, I'm always willing to hear more. I wish he'd cut an album.

In this show I have a cute, smart, funny teenage wife. She's a joy to work with, but this is as close as I'll ever come to having a cute, smart, funny (nevermind teenage) wife. Which fact just makes me want to sob all the more.

I've been rereading Naked Lunch, and the group known as Liquifactionists, the people who want to blend all of humanity into one big amoebic mass, reminded me of the ending of The End of Evangelion, in which humanity does indeed meld together (in an apocalyptic semi-religious event) but the hero's rejection of this nirvanic loss of identity causes the whole thing to fall apart. Speaking for myself, I'd love to be able to merge with my fellow creatures into one divinely interconnected assortment of enlightened beings, but I'd want to be selective. I'd want to pick and choose the folks I merged with. A Liquifactionist snob, I guess. Although it's not as if I'd be checking anyone's teeth or pedigree; it would be purely on an I-like-you basis.

Do I sound okay? I feel okay.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Primetime Adventures

There are plenty of topics I could address in this, my first post in a while, but I'd rather talk about a game I've bought, Primetime Adventures. It's one of these here indy role-playing games, with a TV show premise. It's an awful lot like an improv format, so its appeal to an occasional improvist is obvious, but it turns out there's no one I can actually play this game with. Most role-playing games are about pretending to be, say, Agents Mulder and Scully. This game is more about playing Chris Carter. You don't play the game by using your character as an alter ego, but as a storytelling subject, the same way a TV show writer/producer would. Well, most of my friends can be roughly divided into 2 groups: the ones who'd rather play Mulder and Scully, or the one's who'd rather actually BE Chris Carter (or at least actually produce a play or film that others can watch).

Monday, October 16, 2006

God Bless Us Every One (And There's A Lot)

Here's an interesting old Tom Spurgeon article about "A Christmas Carol," in honor of my next musical. (Also my last musical for a while, I dare say, since I feel like I've really hit the limit of my ability to contribute to that exciting form-I need to do a few small-scale plays again.)

Anyway, this production has the biggest cast I've ever seen. I think there are more people in this show than Bush has looking for Osama bin Laden. There's a slew of people I've done shows with, which is one of the best parts of doing community theatre.

Friday, October 06, 2006

War on Hornets

I know I'm not the first person to think of this, but suppose the government had declared "war on terrorism" after the Oklahoma City Bombing? Imagine if they'd had soldiers occupying rural towns, firing cruise missles into Baptist churches, bars and pool halls, abducting folks with anti-federal government leanings and torturing them in secret locations? I know a few Clinton-haters with guns who only needed a flashpoint to join an insurgency. I suspect the USA would look a lot more like Iraq currently does.

So I'm glad the government didn't do that. Instead they treated it like a law enforcement situation, so the only anti-government types they threw in prison were the ones who'd actually pulled the bombing. So the others had no real excuse to insurge, if "insurge" is a word. If only the Bush Administration had shown such restraint.

If you don't kick a hornet's nest, you're less likely to get stung. If hornets build a nest on your porch, smoke 'em out, but don't declare war on hornets and go looking for nests to kick.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006


Sunday I turned 33 and my electricity went out. Coincidence or omen? A friend of mine sez this is my Jesus year. Great. The pressure's on.

Anyway, there's so much theatre in town this month! There's about a half-dozen shows I wanna see over the next few weeks.

I also gotta scrounge up a halloween costume for a party. Perhaps someday I will have a girlfriend with whom to do one of the two two-person costume concepts I yearn to do: Connie and Raymond Marble from Pink Flamingos, and Cora and Clarice Groan from Gormenghast.

Monday, September 25, 2006

A Month Later

The following post leaps from thought to thought with no attempt at structure whatsoever. Sorry.

H2$ was a success in my book! The final matinee was one of the most satisfying performances I've ever worked on. One dramatic moment: the power went out for just a minute, and all the equipment in this tech-heavy show went down. The stars were onstage singing "Rosemary," a tender love duet, and they just kept going, a cappella and in the dark, until everything came back up. After the final dramatic note they embraced in genuine relief and affection as the crowd went bananas. I spent the rest of the day barely holding back tears of delight.

Now I'm exausted, due in large part to the wear and tear of this show. Staying up partying on friday and saturday nights didn't help. Well, they helped with some things, but not my energy level. My parents are on a trip, and they insist on calling me with their cell phone instead of a real honest-to-goodness phone (cell phones are the mark of the beast). They called me at work today and after their phone stopped wonking out I couldn't find the energy to speak at all. I usually want to talk to my folks whenever they call, since I'm increasingly mindful that one day we'll all, in the words of Firesign Theatre, fall apart like rotten fruit (thanks for the shoddy workmanship, God!) but I'm so enervated that it's all I can do to type this.

Anyway, I'm delighted that I got to work with the phenomenal Carl Dean, and terribly excited about doing Christmas Carol with my friend and neighbour Frank next, but I'm about ready to do some meat-and-potatoes straight theatre again. There's only so much singing and dancing I can do, much as I love it.

Backstage was the usual blend of friendships, slights and simmering loathings all round, but I feel like it was a net gain. I learned a lot about professionalism from the lead performers; Wes, the guy who played Bud, was a particular inspiration to me. Even though we changed costumes next to each other I became utterly starstruck by him, and turned into a gushing lobotomized praise machine whenever we spoke. He showed me how to be continually inventive yet flawlessly consistent. He also showed my how to be gracious when some twit is constantly boring you with praise. I should know by now that no one really wants to be praised for more than a minute; at least no one whom I'd actually want to praise.

I couldn't attend the Sidewalk Film Festival this year, but durn tootin' I weaseled my way into the after party at Sloss Furnace. I bumped into a talented filmmaker I know and she lied me in; the next day she won an award for her film, so bravo Jennifer!

I feel a bit like the guy in Fight Club who attends support groups for diseases he doesn't have; I attended the prayer circles a few cast members had before each production of H2$. I agree with David Mamet that (paraphrasing his book Three Uses of the Knife from memory) prayer is when we let down our defenses and acknowledge our fragility, our needs, our reliance on one another and the kindness of strangers, including a very strange God.

A few things I learned this weekend:

If you're at a party and you're gonna say something mean about somebody else at the party, do it in a whisper, not a holler.

Dancing to loud techno still feels really good, many years and pounds later.

Red Bull is magic.

All cute married people should be required by law to bling their wedding rings at single strangers before making friendly, flirty conversation.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

The Succeeding Begins...

On our first night of rehearsal a cast member's car got stolen. We walked out into the nighttime rain and she gazed around, no doubt trying to remember some detail that would explain why her car wasn't where she expected it to be. It was a frightening reminder to the rest of us of just how vulnerable and dependent we are on material junk. She seems okay now, got a rental car and all, but still, you rely on your car. Anytime you can't rely on it, life becomes harder.

But the show's gonna be a blast! It's got a comic book concept, with CGI projections used to provide scene transitions with a comic panel motif. I have no idea how it'll work yet, but the broad outline sounds like my kinda stylization. I'm disappointed that I won't get to sing all my favorite songs from the show, though. Part of the reason is that a lot of the scenes require substantial dancing, so if you can't dance, you can't sing. I've always wished I could dance, but my system doesn't seemed to be wired that way. You need a baseline grace and physical control to do that stuff, and my body seems to have a second brain, kind of like the dinosaurs allegedly did. It's a really stupid brain, but it manages to keep me guessing about how the meat part of me is going to function.

We've worked on the group singing, but I haven't heard much of the lead vocals yet. I'm looking forward to seeing how that works out. Generally I prefer the singing on the original cast recording of this show to that of the revival; those gutsy, brassy Broadway belting of the Sixties just satisfy my soul in a way that the body-miked contemporary style can't match. A few years ago I was listening to a recording of traditional Japanese music that included some operatic vocals. the singer was a woman with a husky, raw alto voice, dripping with experience, and it resonated deeply with me. It dawned on me that while I once liked girlish vocals I now preferred this more womanly sound; I still get a big kick out of girl group music, but it doesn't sound sexy to me any more. I like big, womanly voices that sound like they've taken the wear and tear of life and held up fine. What I like about girl-group is something other than the basic vocal qualities of the individual singers. I think it has something to do with vocal harmonies, and perhaps it's telling that teenage voices have to merge and meld to be interesting to me, while one Billie Holliday or Sarah Vaughn can win me over with nothing but a piano behind her. It probably has something to do with growing up, or at least growing old. Nah, it's gotta be growing up; being interested in young women seems to be exacerbated by mere age in plenty of guys!

Monday, August 14, 2006

Hi, Remember Me?

Sorry it's been so long since my last post, but I'm so much happier in general without a computer to call my own than with that I can't bring myself to get my Ibook fixed. As David Mamet said of Cable TV, 500 hundred channels isn't choice; it's coercion. And the internet's even worse.

Hey Jonathan G! I did indeed get cast in How To Succeed, as Gatch, a lecherous executive. I don't think my role will keep me onstage very long, but the rumors about getting paid turn out to be true! I couldn't live on it, but it will be, in Mr. Goldstein's phrase, a nice little payday. It's nice to dip a toe into semi-pro acting.

Anything else going on? I've antagonized a perfectly nice woman via the act of dating her. Maybe someday someone will tell me what I'm doing wrong. But at least I did learn that dating a woman who doesn't want to talk about, well, any of the things I routinely blog about, is probably not someone I should date, for her sake and mine. Also I'm getting more reading done than I ever would if I, y'know, had internet access at home.

I'm really getting into what they call Body Horror; movies (and novels, I guess) about awful things happening to the body. I watched Texas Chainsaw 2 last night and found it oddly comforting. I know this may sound morbid, but it's really not. I used to be repelled by this kind of stuff, but now that I'm aging I respond differently... Tom Savini, the special effects guru behind the gore in Chainsaw 2, really beautifies the meat of the human body. That's what I need; thinking about the inevitable rot of the body gets me down. Savini makes the meat lovely and in doing so justifies it to me.

I swear I'm in a good mood!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

And Another Thing

There have been many deaths and births in my social circle lately. About a year ago I realized that whenever I heard about a birth I neurotically resented it because, since death exists to clear the way for new life, every birth is a divine assertion that I must die. Or so it seemed to me. It felt like every baby was killing me a little. That's pretty stupid, and I knew it, but it still felt true to me. Perhaps my recent fascination with vampires and the mythic warning they provide against clinging to life at the expense of others has helped heal me of that sad anti-birth viewpoint, or maybe it's just the timing of the death and birth announcements. It does seem as if every death announcement has been quickly followed by a birth announcement, establishing that birth doesn't necessitate death as I so cheerlessly believed; birth compensates for death.

Improved improv.

The Feminist Debutante Guild, an improv troupe of which I am the Zeppo, had its first show in about two years last saturday, and it may have been our best show ever! It was a variety format with several musical acts, all of which were terrif, and us doing improv and monologues. I'm usually the weakest link, and I think I was not particularly weak; meanwhile the others were in splendid form! So hurray for us. I dunno if I'll be able to do any future shows with them since I'm trying to dive back into theatre after my post-Kate break, but I'd like to see the troupe return to founder J'mel's original vision; actual long-form improv with no preordained structure. That's a gold standard for improvists, and the sooner we're willing and able to abandon preordained narrative structures the better.

Also I met a very nice lady after the show.

During the course of the show I was assigned the role of a "hard-core Republican," so of course I was rather mean to the Neo-Con artists, although if I'd been cast as a hard-core Democrat I would have been just as mean to the worst-case examples who seem to be setting the nonagenda for that party. I don't know if I was funny, but I do know I was mean. Anyway, I adlibbed a line that I've been thinking about ever since: "We're fighting them over there so they can kill us over there." I dunno how many audience members got the reference to the sound bite "We're fighting them over there so we don't have to fight them over here," but since then I've been pondering this cynical shadow side of that invasion justification. For the tiny minority of Middle Easterners who want to kill Americans, it's obviously easier to stay in the Middle East than to travel to America, so if America sends them a big batch of American youngsters it makes sense that there'll be few or no attacks on our turf. Is it really that different from sending a boatload of sacrificial Virgins to the Cretan Minotaur in order to avoid a war with Crete? Do some of the neo-cons think that it's better to let a bunch of low-income soldiers die at the hands of bloodthirsty terrorists if it distracts those terrorists from coming here and maybe taking out a plutocrat or two?

Not to turn this into a political blog, so let's shift to a subject on which I have greater expertise; my weight. Let's just say that I've got 205 flava. Oh help.

This weekend I'm doing the BATA (Birmingham Area Theatrical Alliance or something) auditions. I've got a funny monologue and a powerhouse song picked out; now let's see if I can sell them. There's a ton of local directors attending; most of them have seen me and know my parameters, but there are a few folks with whom I want to work but who don't really know me. Whether I'm doing cool theatre or doing nothing between now and the holidays will probably hinge on how I do Saturday.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Truths within Falsehoods.

I recently read an article about the poet Yeats, who, as a young man, apparently wanted to find proof that fairies were real. I can dig it; when I was a kid I was spellbound by The Neverending Story, movie and book, and I tried to find a book that could transport me to a fantasy land. In a sense I was successful; The Worm Ouroboros, A Voyage to Arcturus, and all those Oz books did the trick. But Yeates was frustrated by the fact that, while he knew logically that fairies were make-believe, he found the fairy tales of old country folk to have a realistic, authentic texture.

Alan Moore once said that "All stories are true," meaning not that they're all literally true, but that they all tell truths about the people who tell or listen to the stories. I think fairy tales, or rather stories about fairies, have the ring of truth because they are based on the aforementioned Irish country folks' observations about life. Folks had noticed that the natural world shared many characteristics with humans: kindness, cruelty, wisdom, caprice, beauty, ugliness. Fairies are the places where human characteristics and the natural world's characteristics flow together, overlap.

New subject: I got the soundtrack to the recent Broadway revival of How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, and it's quite good, but it cuts one of my favorite songs: Cinderella Darling. They probably thought it was too sexist, but there's a sexist streak running through the whole show. Start cutting the sexism, and where do you stop? I thought about this some during our production of Kiss Me Kate; it's full of dated gender politics that don't quite match the values of anyone in the cast or crew. How, then, do we justify doing the show when it seems to present values that we can't endorse? "It's just a musical" is an obvious answer, and while glib, I think it's basically on the money. Reviving old musicals is a kind of antiques restoration project; we're not presenting them as representative of our views, but as the views of our ancestors. The best way to treat sexism and such in these shows is probably to present them as relics, and perhaps to cheerfully upend them from beneath. A wink to the audience should be enough. After all, the dopey General I played had little to do with my actual estimation of real-world generals, and I don't think anyone was really confused about that-the joke was too broad to take straight.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Another Closing, Another Show...

Kiss Me Kate has ended, and I'm in the usual post-show glum phase. I feel like I've finally entered a world of signs, symbols and portants made manifest... as if the blend of elements that is the stock in trade of musicals is precisely the kind of creative expression I've wanted to participate in all this time. Much love to Andy for encouraging me to audition and for casting me, and to the cast and crew!

Michelle, our leading lady, was very encouraging, supportive and patient with this stumbling novice. We did a duet in which I mostly let her do the heavy lifting. Every night I took so much pleasure from hearing the singing... Frank, I hope you won't think I'm just trying to butter you up when I say that not only is your voice a treasure, but your deft comic acting set the tone for all that was funny in this production. Too Darn Hot lived up to its title, thanks to Michael's swinging singing and some all too exciting ensemble dancing.

I'm still exausted (more from the strike and the cast party than the production) but I aim to do more musicals.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Another Opening, Another Show...

Kiss Me Kate has opened! The first week (of two) is over, and although I don't have the benefit of knowing how it looks and sounds from the audience, I think we have a really strong show. I'm really proud to be associated with it.

My General's uniform includes authentic WWII officer's clothing, which I found intimidating. I felt like I didn't have the right to wear the uniform, but no ghosts have materialized thus far. I've also decided to get some contact lenses. I've never wanted the things; I like glasses, and I can usually fumble around the stage pretty effectively without them. But over the last few years it's dawned on me that my poor vision has a subtle but significant negative effect on my onstage interations with fellow performers. It's hard for me to make eye contact and communicate through the eyes if I can't see the other person's facial expressions except through a glass darkly.

If my lack of posts doesn't make it obvious, I've decided to live without a computer to call my own, and I've been very, very busy. I'd rather have too little time for blogging than too much, but I do want to make this a weekly thing at the least.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

My Ducky, My Wucky

Kiss Me Kate is proving to be one of the most satisfying theatrical productions I've ever worked on; maybe it's because I'm stretching so far. Singing, dancing, good times. In working on my vocals I have discovered some odd things about how my voice works; it seems that I close up my nasal resonators when I speak or sing. I'm trying to figure out when or if I should open those resonators up; FLT, our esteemed male lead, has an astonishingly full voice, and it sounds like all his resonators are operating at peak effeciency.

I really enjoy watching the dancing at rehearsal, and not just because the dancers are cute. I have great admiration for people who know how to use their bodies; I often feel like a spastic robot. Precise, controlled movement is like a superpower in my eyes.

A friend emailed me at work to inform me that today has been declared a National Day of Sass, and that I should sass off to someone. Soon thereafter I got in trouble for NOT using wild-ass guesswork. Usually I get in trouble for using wild-ass guesswork. Who knew that the first time I took a strict construction approach to the rules that I would get in trouble for it? I firmly believe that this will be resolved in my favor; these situations usually play out in favor of strict construction. But I wrote a sassy email. And then I unsent it. What a coward.

That's one of the nice things about the company email system... you can "unsend" stuff if you have second thoughts. I learned this as a trainee; I sent a spicy email to a lady friend and accidentally sent it to a dozen other folks. One of them kindly taught me how to unsend. Another gave me funny looks for a while.

Was that enough wooly posting for now? I swear I'll get my computer fixed soon.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

What Hath Babbage Wrot?

It appears that having a working computer is not part of God's plan for my life, so I won't be updating this too often for the near future. Things always seem to be better in general when I don't have net access though. The next few weeks are pretty much about Kiss Me Kate.

Strong suggestions: go snag a copy of the soundtrack (there's a couple versions) of Out Of This World, a forgotten Cole Porter show with some splendid songs. Check your email to make sure you didn't just get three different party evites. And don't drop an Ibook unless you want it to turn into a big paperweight.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Hanging Over Everything

Tonight we rehearsed the opening of Kiss Me Kate, and it just gets better and better! It's a complex scene, blending acting, singing and dancing; all the stuff you expect from a musical. It's fun to do, and I'm hugely fond of this cast, even though I barely know most of the folks.

Anyway, I watched from the sidelines as a few folks ran through a dance number, and the thought crossed my mind: "Someday every one of the delightful people in this cast wil be dead."

Mono no aware, the Japanese call it... Life gains a certain sweetness from the knowledge that it's only a temporary condition.

P. S. Why isn't my blog allowing UBB code all the sudden? I tried to post a link to an article about Mono no aware, but if I can't do it with a pretty UBB link then fergit it. I am about to pitch a big tantrum; the perfect antidote to wistful melancholy.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

This post was written in haste and shall be repented at leisure.

I heard an excerpt from United 93, the new flick about the 9/11 hijackings, on NPR the other day. It really rattled me; hearing these breathless voices trying to figure out what was going on brought back all the terror of the time. I don't think I can bear to watch this movie, and that's peculiar to me; I can usually take any amount of cinematicly induced stress (enjoy it is another matter) because after all, it's a movie. But sometimes the movie is a shadow-puppet play that refers to real events. Still I've watched movies about the Holocaust and other such evil, hateful events, and been emotionally affected, but it wasn't the same. Those movies didn't trigger a memory the way this one did; they only upset me at a pretty abstract moral level. And ultimately, how useful are abstract morals?

On a seperate topic, now that I have a sense that life is finally a banquet for me to enjoy, I've become a big old hypochondriac. I live in terror of breaking, ripping, rending, poisoning, infecting or otherwise ruining my body. This is why I've decided to become a vampire. All they have to do is drink some blood. I've never been one for the mystique, exoticism or eroticism of vampires, but I am into the not-dying of vampires. Well, I suppose I could use a dash of mystique, exoticism and eroticism too.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Sing! Sing! Sing!

For a while now I'm been puzzling over the phenomenon of Guys-who-aren't-conventionally-good-singers-but-who-get-to-sing-anyway-because-they're-good-songwriters-or-guitarists. You know the ones... Dylan, Hendrix, Leonard Cohen, Mark Knopfler... The thing that puzzles me is that they're all... guys. Can you think of any women who are successful singers who aren't conventionally "good" singers? Other than so-bad-they're-good novelty acts like The Shaggs and Mrs. Miller. Or like the Raincoats, a female punk band... in punk bad singing is expected; anything resembling good singing (The Clash, of course) is unusual. So where in rock, jazz or pop can you find popular female singers with limited or off-kilter styles? Well, I finally got a lead.

Since I'm in a production of Kiss Me Kate I've been on a Cole Porter kick, and so I picked up a Cole Porter tribute Revue CD recently... it's got a bunch of (mostly older) singers doing really terrific versions of Porter tunes... and some of those old gals don't quite have the pipes they must have had back in the day, but they more than make up for it. You can hear all their years' experience coming out of those cracked, straining, imperfect but wise and expressive voices.

And if you really delve into show tunes you'll hear more singers who can't hit the notes but who sell the songs wonderfully. Listen to the original recording of Send In The Clowns. And the original version of Sue Me from Guys and Dolls... the guy in that was actually tone deaf, and it shows! But the performers are selling the songs and the parts. I'm listening to these partly for the pure pleasure, but partly to solve the challenges of singing with my relative inexperience and wonky skills. I've been surprised by the diversity and idiosyncracy allowed in show tunes... I would have expected a more homogenized, pasturized vocal style would have been mandatory, but musical theatre is teeming with happy surprises for the receptive newcomer.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

A Great Big Kiss


I wish I were a girl group singer.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Kiss Me Kate

I have three songs in this show where I'm not safely ensconced in the ensemble-Another Opening, Another Show, Cantiamo D'Amore, and From This Moment On. The first song starts the show; I don't have any actual solo lines, but I'll be one of only a few voices for a few measures, and a goof at the beginning of the show could really mar the production. In Cantiamo D'Amore I've gotta make like an operetta singer as part of a trio; the other two guys are the real operetta deal, and at least one of them is cuter than me by a wide margin (haven't met the other guy yet.) The last song is a duet (I almost typed "duel!") with the lovely and talented leading lady, Michelle B., who awes me yet spurs me on to do my best singing for just that very reason. Everyone's doing fine work, and I think this is gonna be a show to take great pride in, but the challenge of doing all this singing is new to me.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Quick, Fragmented Update

"Fragments are the only forms I trust." -Donald Bartleme

Kiss Me Kate is at the center of my world now; I've bought several soundtracks of the show and I listen to them all day at work, occasionally breaking for other Cole Porter albums.

Easter was a joy-got to see my family and sing the Hallelujah Chorus as an auxilary member of the church choir. I even liked the preacher's sermon, so having panned him in a previous post I gotta give him props this time.

Did I mention Kiss Me Kate? We started doing choreography today. Since I am to dancing what The Administration is to slam dunks, they aren't hinging any showstoppers on my fancy footwork.

Having recently finished and adored the novel Bastard Out of Carolina, I am now reading Trash by the same author, Dorothy Allison.

I've noticed that Presbyterians are much better at responsive readings than Unitarians. Make of that what you will.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Casting about

Although we need days off from rehearsal so we can, y'know, do laundry or whatever, I enjoy rehearsal nights way more than off nights. It's interesting to do a show with such a large cast. I usually do little chamber shows with four or five people. A large cast feels like a small town, or a church, all coming together. My usual plays feel more like a tenement or a tiny wacko cult.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The Triumphant Return

I'm back online from the comfort and danger of my apartment, but I'm too sleepy for extensive posting. I'm sleepy because I'm working on the forthcoming local production of Kiss Me Kate while acting in a friend's movie. I gotta be at a comic book store at 5:30 AM tomorrow to deliver a line about Wolverine. Such is life.

This production of Kiss Me Kate is jam packed with cool people and relearning how to sing has been a joy. There's no sensation in my life like the sensation of really singing full out and knowing that it was good, or close to good.

As soon as I figure this Apple stuff out (I've only ever known PCs) I'll post a few relevant links. Kisses!

Monday, March 20, 2006

Inherit My Wind

Notes I would have given the director of the production of Inherit The Wind that I saw this weekend, had the director asked:

Brady, the prosecuting attorney, didn't get where he is simply by being loud and pious. He got there by knowing how to assure roomsful of people that he loves them with a Godly love. He got there by being charming. He got there by knowing how to crack jokes on the fly. Right now it seems like the community loves him because the script says so. Lets see him earn that love; this actor can do that as long as he's aware that that's the task at hand. Right now he just seems loud and pious. Have you ever talked to a good evangelical preacher? When they aren't preaching they're soft-spoken, friendly, earnest, humorous. Let's see that side of Brady; he should only preach when it's time to preach.

The H. L. Mencken character, the snarky reporter, doesn't seem to be aware that there are other people around when he makes his harsh, witty but mean-spirited comments. What does he want from the people around him? My answer would be that he wants to humble them with his witty insight into what's wrong with them; he wants them to know he's the smartest person in the room and that they're mere chimps next to him. That's not The One Right Answer, but it's one way for him to play off of other people, and it makes his humbling final scene that much more powerful. Right now the actor is just declaiming his lines into the air; he needs to be saying them to people around him, and paying close attention to the effect his words have on those people.

The Prayer meeting is one of the most effective scenes in the production. We really see the Flannery O'Connoresque paganism bubbling up under the cover of Christianity here. I'm still not sure that the fragmentation in the town preacher's relationship with his daughter has been established enough for the shocking development here to seem quite real. The actor playing the preacher is excellent, but right now I'm not sure why he makes the awful choice he makes here. (EDIT: "...Awful chioce he makes here." refers to the awful choice the character makes, not any of the performer's acting choices. The actor in question did a splendid job, plus he's a chum and I don't want him body-slamming me if he reads this.)

No one goes to the theatre to see people who know their lines, cues and blocking. People go to the theatre to see people talking to each other and trying to accomplish something with their lives in the face of great difficulty. Some of the performers here, notably the defense attorney, know that; make sure everyone else knows it too.

Friday, March 17, 2006

I promise this is my last post about this.

I realized late last night that I actually like Van Til's personal testimony a lot, and that kind of testimony is persuasive in a way that "rational argument" can never be. I think his instincts are right that personal testimony should be key to evangelism. I'm only annoyed that some people seem to want to take the leap out of the leap of faith.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Again with the Van Til

Why am I still chewing on Van Til? I'm not sure myself; it's not like I want to argue with the existence of God or the truth of Christianity, but something about the way he argues in favor of these things gets under my skin. Maybe if I post a little more about him I'll get it out of my system.
This article insists that Van Til's circular logic isn't question-begging because, to paraphrase, relying on a priori knowledge isn't question-begging. It is implied, though perhaps not directly stated, that the Existence of God is a priori knowledge. In that article by Van Til to which I linked previously he essentially argued (as I read it) that if you don't believe that the Existence of God is a priori then you're either confused by your sin-sick state or in denial.

I wonder how many people have really been converted by this line of argument. I maintain that this is question-begging, and the a priori thing is obfuscating rationalization. I'm out of my depth with arguments about a priori anything, but Van Til's insistence that without God all is chaos is hardly a priori; it's clearly rooted in a theological belief that God and the logic, structure etc. of life are inextricably linked, and that's just not a priori. I'm the last person to deny that it may be true, but it's still not something we can take for granted. Van Til himself more or less acknowledges at the end of that essay that no one's likely to drink the Kool-Aid on this if they weren't ready to from the start. Maybe what's bugging me about Van Til is the way everything I've read (okay, skimmed) by his followers never acknowledges that the guy more or less admitted that his arguments weren't likely to persuade the unpersuaded. Maybe that's why I've never heard of him before; his fan base seems to consist entirely of people who were already Christians before they discovered the guy. Most Van Til-centered writing and discussion I've come across seems to be a theological alternative to talking about baseball statistics, and I suppose this post is no exception.

Okay, that should be the last about that. I'm planning to audition for a musical Saturday! I haven't sung in any serious perfomance situation since my college years, but the director and I go to church together (I may as well point out that I'm a Unitarian) and says he thinks he can fit me in one way or another. I'm also slated to play a teensy role in a film a friend is directing. Some fun!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006


I recently stumbled across the old copy of C. S. Lewis's Mere Christianity that I swiped from my parents lo these many years ago... I'm considering doing a reread and posting my chapter-by-chapter comments here. Anyway, a web-searching mishap lead me to discover a peculiar blog devoted to an apologist named Cornelius Van Til. According to what I could glean from scanning a few of his devotees'commentaries, his key thesis was more or less as follows: Apologetics screwed up by trying to get non-Christians to meet on neutral ground with a "come, let us reason together" approach, because WE DON'T NEGOTIATE WITH TERRORISTS. Non-Christians are so totally wrong and out of wack with God's truth that there's no point in ceding any ground to them; all apologetic discussions must begin with the assumption that Christianity is true, from which starting point reaching the intended end-point of "Christianity is true" becomes rather a simple matter.

Well, I have nothing to say against his faith in Christianity, but there are any number of problems with that ideology. Isn't the whole point of apologetics to persuade the unpersuaded? Also that basic paradigm probably works just as well to sell Guru Schecky's Tabernacle of Potato Worship as Christianity.

But I didn't want to blow the guy's ideas (Not about God, but about converting the heathen) off without actually sampling his ideas; I know better than to assume that his followers speak for him. I soon found this article, which has a surprisingly different tone from the raised-fist belligerence I found on some Van Til-related websites. He's strikingly humble, even confessional, as he acknowledges that he cannot see any way for him personally to think his way out of Christianity. Van Til doesn't seem to be insisting that anyone accept the accuracy of his faith as a given term; only that we engage his testimony. I'm still not sure that testimony is particularly persuasive to the unpersuaded, and I suspect C. S. Lewis has changed many more minds, but I respect Van Til on the basis of this admittedly hasty glance. Some of his enthusiasts come across as if he had given them permission to disregard and belittle anything that's outside their worldview, but if they'd follow his example I suspect they'd be more humble, more effective, and certainly more Christlike. It's an interesting example of how a good or at least reasonable stance can get lost in the shuffle.

Friday, March 10, 2006

And Another Thing...

There's a meme floating around the blogosphere to the effect that these church burnings may have been part of a Methodist vs. Baptist proto-masonic conspiracy. This meme isn't getting any traction at ground zero because we know how stupid this meme is. There's no serious sectarian strife between Methodists and Baptists here. Period. It makes more sense to speculate (as some have) that the burners did pass by more affluent churches, but that's probably more to do with socioeconomic class conciousness than anything.

Another thing: some bloggers have made much of one burner's profession of Satanism, and the kind of anti-social rhetoric these guys posted to each other over the net. I think that's relevant, but not the way some folks want it to be. The notion that these twits were in the grip of some Dark Satanic Power is obviously tempting, but let's get real- "Satanists" are poseurs. Anton Levay made no bones about it-the Satanism thing was just a hook for his highly theatrical athiestic evangelism. These kids' Satanism schtick was more a symptom than a cause; it's Bad Boy Big Talk. It's part of the rhetoric these clowns used to turn their pathetic activities into a Wagnerian Happening. But churches and other houses of worship, respectable businesses and PTA meetings are full of guys who, as youngsters, drank, cursed, professed shocking religious/political/social values and reveled in Bad Boy Big Talk (and many of their well-behaved upstanding wives are yesterday's polyamorous bisexuals.) Their surface-level shockingness doesn't reveal the core wickedness; it actually concealed it. It made them fit in with many, many other college kids who act "bad" but would never do something so evil.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

More on Arsonists

A few more thoughts on those arsonists. As I said, I was a BSC theatre major, so maybe I've got a little insight into the motivations of these kids. Just scanning the blogs I've seen a lot of speculation; some folks home in on the UAB guy's profession of Satanism. A surprising number have speculated that it was some kind of Methodists Vs. Baptists thing. The latter set of theories reminds me that however much fun armchair conspiracy theorizing is as a parlor game, it's also a good way to look silly to folks who have inside knowledge.

When I was a student I did a lot of dumb things to test the boundaries of appropriate behavior/what I could get away with. In part it's about asserting one's own power; in part it's about seeing "God still loves me" by seeing what one can get away with. I recall one time a buddy and I were on a late night grocery run. A cute gal was in line in front of us. We saw her driving away and we decided to follow her. We didn't mean any harm; we just thought it would be a hoot to play at stalking. We followed her to her house, idled across the street as she went inside, sat there for a minute, just reveling in our naughtiness, and then drove off. Maybe we scared her, though she didn't show it. I'm not at all proud of this; we should have considered that we might really upset the poor woman. But I suspect it flowed from the same source as the arsonists' "joking" escapades.

The difference, I think, is that we didn't cross that final line; we didn't get out of the car and do anything to the woman or the property. We were Dungeons and Dragons nerds-we knew how to live out our evil fantasies in imaginary, harmless ways. Perhaps respect for other people was the missing ingredient in these boys-not a "yes sir yes ma'am" respect, but an awareness that however important the assertion of your identity is, it's not more important than a respect for other peoples' needs. In other words I'd suggest that the problem wasn't that they wanted to be "bad," but that they didn't understand that there's good bad and bad bad. Good bad is more decorative than functional. It's good to sing the song of yourself, even if it's a song that not everyone likes; it's just not good to try to drown out other people singing their songs.


So they caught those church burners, and two of them were Theatre majors at Birmingham-Southern College.

I was a Theatre major at Birmingham-Southern College.

So my response to this is a little more shaded than I might have expected. I just wanted the perps to get caught, punished (severely) and let that be it. But now the faculty that taught me so much lo, a decade ago, and their students have a big emotional fallout. I remember what a close-knit family the theatre department is over there. I went to BSC's website and found some cute pictures of one of the perps doing theatre with several smiling, happy students. They look so innocent, so pleased to be doing something creative and fun with this guy.

Monday, March 06, 2006


Avalon, a movie by Mamoru Oshii (best known for the Ghost in the Shell movies) is a live-action CGI-packed film about a woman who makes her living playing an immersive computer game; kind of like a Matrix version of Everquest, only with a more military concept. The film's style is so consistent with Oshii's other films that he's starting to look a bit artistically constipated; the same moody, fussily composed shots, the same quiet, joyless, tough female lead. Most of the film has a digital sepia tone that I don't care for; I like real sepia but the digital stuff just looks digital, like the high-tech equivalent of putting a color filter over the lens. But the special effects were simple and convincing to my eye.

I liked a lot of things about it. The movie has some teasing ambiguities: the logic of the game becomes disturbing in ways that reflect the logical shortcomings of most complex video and role-playing games. Not to give anything away, but there's a "little girl" who plays a key role in the game, and the way the heroine interacts with this girl is disturbing but logical according to the limitations of the seemingly realistic game. Is it misanthropy or just poor coding? We never know, but by the end it's apparent that the girl represents the morally ambiguous forces behind the game, or at least that's how the heroine seems to regard it. The final shot of the girl has a wierd wrongness that was achieved with subtle digital effects and was prompted by a minor problem with the footage, a happy accident (all this is explained in the making-of featurette on the DVD.)

The movie also plays games with the virtues and limitations of teamwork vs. going it alone, and where reality and convincing simulation phase into one another. This is nothing new for post-Philip Dick SF movies but is handled with wit. Oshii lets the ambiguities resonate and never tries to slap The Answer onto it.

The fight scenes are surprisingly dull; lots of intercut shots of people shooting, then the tank blows up or someone falls down. It makes me wonder to what extent the elegantly choreographed action scenes in Ghost in the Shell, were the work of animation directors and such.

Apologies if this reads sloppy; until I get my computer fixed I'm posting on the fly. Also apologies for posting about such nerdy and obscure stuff, but it's hard to forge in the smithy of my soul or what have you while I'm forced to wear pants. It is only while pantsless that truly great blogposts can be composed.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

War For The Oaks

War For The Oaks by Emma Bull. A much-acclaimed fantasy novel from a few decades ago... I'm almost done with it, and it's got me thinking about how my literary interests have changed. The book is basically a daydream, a ready-made daydream, and if I'd read it in my school days I would have loved it. Back then a daydream was what I wanted from any story, and stories that didn't work for me as daydreams were failures as far as I was concerned. But nowadays I prefer stories about how people deal with real problems, the kind of problems you can neither enjoy nor wish away, and so I'm finding War For The Oaks a disappointing read. Emma Bull is a skillful writer but a self-indulgent one; her central character, Effi, seems to be a wish-fulfillment version of herself, and the fantasy is mostly lifestyle fantasy. She's the leader of a hot rock band that never has any problems musically or socially. She has two cute boys in love with her. All the threats and problems in the story are mostly window dressing; they're about as threatening as a screensaver, and about as easy to stop. Effi only ever has the kinds of problems you dream up for yourself during a boring class, and she gets out of those problems with the kind of solutions you dream up. In this kind of fantasy you defeat the villian by just being the wonderful person you are. I much prefer the Guy Gavriel Kay / Ursula Le Guin approach, where you defeat the villian but not before he blinds you, rips your arms off, eats your family and rapes your friends. And that's in the third chapter. So the problem isn't just how to defeat the boss monster, but how to have a good life with no eyes, no arms, no family and a bunch of miserable friends.

Actually I love a good confectionary story too, like Jeeves and Wooster, The Importance of Being Earnest, As You Like It, and perhaps I'll get into the differences between these confections and this kind of ready-made daydream story in a future post.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Why hello there!

My home internet is down and is staying down due to a Jobian series of technical mishaps, so I'll have to resign myself to updating this at work and the library. Jeez Louise!

So what's up with me? Just played a part in a video shoot-It's visual accompaniment to a live musical performance; a cellist will play an original composition while this silent film plays behind him. I play a member of a peaceful cult gone bad.

Coming soon! Some thoughts on some books (God Knows by Joseph Heller and War For The Oaks by Emma Bull) and movies (Alphaville, Avalon, Tromeo and Juliet). Edit: some of these promises were broken. Not for the first time, not for the last.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Please Stand By

I want to post about many things, but my home internet is down... got a bad wire in the wall according to Bellsouth's tech, so I'll be switching to dial-up for a while, which strikes me as a positive step back... I waste too much time on the net because it's so darn easy with DSL. Dial-up is too annoying to suck me in, and it costs less, and since this is supposed to be the year of saving money... (not doing well at all on that front.)

Monday, February 06, 2006

My phone line went down Saturday, the same day I paid my bill (well before the due date, BTW.) I've been cut off for nonpayment before, but this is the first time I ever got cut off for payment. So until this jive is fixed my updates will be a bit lacking. Anyway, saw a bodaceous cabaret performance this weekend; hope to post more about that soon. And last night as I was preparing for a shower I noticed that I can see my torso bone structure better than I have since college. The no-chocolate diet is finally paying off! It's wierd how weeks go by with no hint of a change and then suddenly there's a noticable difference. Still a good ways to go though.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Because You Demanded It!

We live in interesting times, indeed... but rather than textually fret, I'm going to use my blog as a respite from, rather than a sounding board for, my worries Re: current events. So now some poorly-bibliographed nerdnotes on the comics I read the other night. These little reviews grew out of control, but I've tried to scale them back to terse yet informative blurbs...

Doom Patrol: Celebrated comics scribe Grant Morrison made an early splash with his run on this superhero team book by sprinkling esoteric occult lore and college-eddicated poesy over the usual superheroic shenanigans. It established the basic template for his later works like The Invisibles, yet is basically familiar food with exotic spices, while Invisibles is like exotic recipies with familiar utensils. The artists were on their learning curve, delivering uneven but often clever cartoony art; landscapes and original character designs are often imaginative, but facial expressions are often crude, more indication than expression.

Drawn & Quarterly Showcase Volume One! This came out a few years ago and features work by two different artists, Kevin Huizenga and Nicolas Robel. Huizenga's three stories center around a guy named Ganges, but feature a diverse array of topics. Two thoughtful comics essays (one on missing child notices, one on starlings) and one italian legend retold with hilarious gags and gloomy contemporary detail. Robel tells the story of a gloomy girl musing on her life to date; it is remeniscent of Debbie Dreschler's luminous early comics, but I don't think I've ever seen comics that communicated internal feelings and inclinations so effectively without sacrificing the sense that the story "takes place" in the world outside the protaganist, never shifting the "story space" to a purely internal space.

Marshal Law: A Judge Dredd writer and the artist of Alan Moore's way-better-than-the-movie series League of Extraordinary Gentlemen produce ultra-violent tales of science-fantasy mayhem with a cheeky drunk-testosterone-rage sense of humor. It's notable mostly for Kevin O'Neill's almost sculptural art. His oddly chunky compositions are allowed more flow and overlap here than when following Alan Moore's infamously detailed and rigourous scripts, and the whole thing feels like a visionary version of the kind of comics that guy you knew in high school who drew monsters might have gone on to do.

Sunday, January 29, 2006


Today in church there was a discussion about Intelligent Design, and one guy pointed out that a problem with comparing the world to designed machines is that with most complex machines there isn't one designer; there's a slew of people who worked on it. So Intelligent Design theory would seem to work better with Polytheism than Monotheism. Ouch.

I'm also signed onto a church program where you send little anonymous gifts to a child in the congregation, then there's a little cookies-and-juice (no liquor) party where everybody meets each other. My kid likes Yui-Gi-Oh (sp?) so now I have to go research which kinds of Yui-Ji-Oh cards are hip and which are passe. Why am I doing this? Because I have a crush on the lady who was working the sign-up table after church. Piety alone won't keep a church running! If I had a buck for every guy who's only in church because his wife or girlfriend requires it, I could start my own church. A Crystal Cathedral. And then there's the slobs like me who see church as (among other things) a classy alternative/supplement to the bar scene.

I swore I wouldn't do any more theatre type stuff for a while, but a friend is slapping a movie together and so I went ahead and auditioned. I don't know how the film will turn out, but the writer/director/friend is a wonderfully talented guy who is only just now putting his talents to active use, so even if the film turns out cruddy it's still cause for celebration. Ya gotta walk before you can run.

Weight loss update: Fuggidaboutit. I've kept my no-chocolate pledge, but since I'm scarfing all kinds of non-chocolate sweets it doesn't seem to matter. On that note I better go out and waddle around a little. Seeya!

Thursday, January 26, 2006


I've been watching the Muppets Season One DVD set, and it's interesting how much of the pleasure of the show is in the "acting" of the puppets, or of the puppeteers through the puppets. I never really thought about it when I was a kid grooving on the slapstick, but the way the puppeteers are able to simulate real human physical responses to emotional stimuli (little things like slouching, shrugging, lowering ones' eyelids in weariness) is just as important as the exciting and colorful character designs. On the other hand it's a bit disappointing how uneven the jokes are, and how weak Jim Henson's ubiquitious singing is. Still, Gonzo's willfully impenetrable avant-guarde routines and Miss Piggy's deranged courtship of Kermit are still funny, and I like how they stole a page from Jack Benny's playbook: female guest stars flirt outrageously with Kermit. Of course Benny always acted like it was only his due, while Kermit always seems abashed... Another surprise, at least for me; the more serious musical routines that emphasis strong singing (from the guest) and lyrical puppetry (like the graceful green dancing things in the first episode) are some of my favorite bits now. When I was a kid they couldn't be over and out of the way fast enough. Not that they aren't open to accusations of kitchiness, but they suggest possibilities for puppetry that the Jim Henson crew continued to explore over the years. I remember some show they did around 1988 with great fondness, in which they really worked the full cinematic possibilities of puppetry and did more storytelling along with the sketch comedy.

Monday, January 23, 2006

What a cut-up!

Are you familiar with cutups? William Burroughs popularized them... it's an approach to manipulating words in ways that can yield surprising results. Here's a digital cut-up device which admittedly defeats part of what Burroughs regarded as the point of the exercise: allowing writers to physically manipulate their materials, much as visual artists do. A sort of word sculpting. Still, digital toys for digital times...

The following paragraph is a cutup I made using this device-I just wrote a little paragraph about my life at the moment, which was a little too plain and a little too direct. I think this cut-up makes it more interesting and more truthful.

Lately I've been in an odd floating on a lake, feeling the grilling on the beach yet unable like life is a constant stream stream of minor problems and causes it is. I love her her better when I'm just trying state; enervated yet enthusiastic, like I'm sun's rays, excited about the food to swim to shore. It's of splendid things with a constant for concern. Well, I suppose she but I seem to love to be her friend.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

An odd day. But a restful one.

I slept late and woke up five minutes before church service was set to start; feel a bit bad about that. But I needed it; perhaps this will be an especially productive week now that I've gotten a head start on good, healthy sleep.

Anyway, it was oddly warm for this time a year, and cloudy. Dim and humid, almost like living at the bottom of a lake. I spent much of the day just strolling around; It's the first time I've felt sweat plastering my shirt to my back in months.

I've been reading Rumi: the Book of Love, a collection of poems by a Sufi mystic, translated by Coleman Barks. Lovely stuff. "Stop weaving, and watch how the pattern improves." I'm slowly learning how to live the truth of this.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Things I love about Karaoke

Black people singing country songs. Something about this just fills me with delight... maybe because it suggests that the melting pot is really working.

Exuberantly bad singers. Mrs Miller types.

When two or three nervous singers band together to do a song as a group.

When you can't tell how much of the singing you're hearing is from the people onstage, the people in the crowd or the prerecorded voices.

When gals do songs that are written for guys and vice versa.

My friend J'mel's story about singing "Thank You" by Alanis and making Pokemon characters the subjects of his thanks. "Thank you Pikachu, Thank you Geodude..."

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Why magic box no SING?

My computer's audio device thingy (Riptide audio or somesuch) has developed a deep spiritul need to not work. Being the kind of doofus who can't pick his nose without putting an eye out, I am certainly unable to rise to this occasion. It's probably for the best; one more reason to turn off the computer, go outside and soak up some sunshine, if there were any sunshine this time of year for a wage slave like your Humble Author.

But if the computer won't sing, no worries; I will! Tomorrow a few folks from my last show are heading to Starz on Valley Ave. to warble a bit of karaoke. Karaoke, the sport of kings, is actually an ideal activity for me at this point; I've gotten really passionate about outsider music, and karaoke brings it to your neighbourhood.

I have a few actual thoughts I'd like to share on a subject that's been nagging at me for a while, but I'm too sleepy to share them yet... but soon I'll have a few things to say on the subject of vicarious living. Take care till then!

Monday, January 16, 2006

In which I mention food more often than I expected to.

I'm feeling pretty fresh today, despite a mild headache (no doubt induced by sinuses and dim, drizzly weather.) Part of the good feeling is the residue from a splendid dinner with my buddy Chris at Taj India last Friday. Taj is probably my fave restaurant in town, but I'd only ever had lunch there, so having dinner there was a treat in itself. Chris was able to clarify some worrisome ambiguities (about which I need to remain ambiguous for now) and give me fresh confidence. A year or two back, and all the years prior, it never would have occurred to me that if I've got issues that I can't quite sort out, all I need is to ask a wise friend to lunch. When I sought advice it was usually through imposition, calling or knocking on the door and demanding an audience. Having yummy dinner is a far more pleasant and profitable activity for all concerned.

I neither have nor want a scale of my own, but I weigh in after lunch every day at the nurses' station at work, and I expect to see that giving up chocolate has paid off. Not that giving up chocolate is the only thing I've done towards losing flab... but giving the stuff up was my signal to myself that it's time to bolster my seriousness about loosing weight. I've also improved my (mild) weight training regimen... I've been wondering why some exercises that should be building up my chest, which looks utterly tuburcular, haven't had the anticipated results, and a brief fitness tips internet check reveals the nature of the problem-when I thought I was doing chest exercises I was actually doing back exercises. I wasn't even aware of it, although I was certainly aware of my backaches later. My mind-body connection has improved over the years, but it's still got a long way to go. I'm not looking to be buff, but I don't want a physique that inspires pity.

Saturday, January 14, 2006


Today I went for a walk out in the cold, came back in and rubbed my fingers through my hair. It was a much chillier sensation than I'd expected, since I had far less insulating hair protecting my scalp from my icy fingers than I'd expected.

This bugs me, and not because I'm vain. I always thought going bald wouldn't bother me, because I like the way bald guys look. But it bugs me because it's a reminder that my body's eroding, corroding, and that I can do some damage control but the end result is never really in doubt. Mortality is jive.

MLK Weekend

I promise you that sometime over the course of this long weekend I'll make a post of some kind. Lemmee simmer on it a while; stuff's happening in my life but it's too tender to talk about yet. I cooked up a little comic routine with the advice and consent of a Professor in Texas, which may or may not eventually be worth posting...

(Edit 03/07/07: said routine will be lost to the ages.)

Wednesday, January 11, 2006


I'm quitting chocolate until I weigh in at under 195 pounds for five business days. Hold me to this.

Monday, January 09, 2006


A recent USA Today editorial (here for as long as Yahoonews keeps it up) draws a connection between a decline in European religious faith and a decline in European birthrates. Hmm. Certainly both have been on the decline, but how direct is the connection? The article makes an obvious connection between the decline in religion and the increase in things like abortion, birth control, gay marriage and a general rejection of traditional families. That's not totally out to lunch, but it is very conservative Catholic (and the author acnowledges being a staunch Catholic.) Here in the States we're majority Protestant and we have loads of abortion and birth control. We've also got lots of babies.

The author also worries that secularism in America suggests that we may go the increasingly secular way of Europe. Not in this part of the country we won't! I think it's important to note that "Secularism" in the States is kind of a contextual thing. A lot of European secularism is coming from indifference or hostility towards religion, but many devout people in the States are in favor of ousting the Judge Roy Moores of the world from positions of political influence, not out of hostility towards religion but out of hostility to using the government as a bully pulpit for a specific theological point of view. Oh, and a desire to protect the interests of cultural minorities. On the other hand, something like France's recent ban on the wearing of religious signifiers in schools, including head coverings that are mandatory for some Muslims, was clearly done out of hostility to cultural minorities and to religious practice. But unabashed hostility to religion isn't likely to get very far around here. Flannery O'Connor, herself a devout Catholic and a southerner, saw that the religious threat in the Southeastern US wasn't a decline in religion but a perversion of it.

I suspect economics plays an important role in declining European birthrates. I know a few Swedish people who've expressed sincere confusion as to why anyone would want to get married. Maybe when a country uses socialist collectivism to create a really secure social safety net and dependable health care then people are less likely to feel the need to band together in more traditional ways, like nuclear families.

Sunday, January 08, 2006


Big ups to new ButDontTryToTouchMe reader and my unofficial ADD adviser Sarah H., Although she only grudgingly admitted to ever trying my blog and claims she didn't inhale. Maybe she'll yield to my siren song and return for a second helping.

It's pretty damn obvious that I'm ADD; I feel like this will be a year of new growth for me, but every time I think I'm making some progress in life I seem to hit a self-imposed invisible barrier. Perhaps freebasing some Ritalin will unlock a door or two.

Our Reindeer play was such a short production that we in the cast and crew aren't sick of each other yet, so we've started planning a few social outings, antlers optional. This goes a long way toward persuading me that we need more shows that can be thrown together at a moment's notice; the short production times keeps everything fresh, including the social aspects. I'm usually distraught at the end of a production run because it means the shantytown community is ending, but we've stumbled across a way to keep it going past the final show!

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Love despite

Loving all of it even while he had to hate some of it because he knows now that you don't love because: you love despite; not for the virtues, but despite the faults.-William Faulkner

I read that years ago and promptly forgot who said it; I didn't forget the quote, though. I've been paraphrasing it to myself ever since; it's been important to me, and I think it struck me precisely because I read it at at time when I was ready to understand how true it was. I think I was a junior or senior in college, and had been through enough arguments and make-ups with my pack of friends by then to understand that you have to accept that everybody, including yourself, is seriously flawed. Anyway I just stumbled across that attribution today, so thank you Bill, you cranky old lush you!

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Another Great Thing About Not Being Quite As Young As I Used To Be

Warning! Possible overshare ahead...

The age of innocent crushes has returned. As a boy, of course, I often had innocent crushes on any number of girls and women. Classmates, teachers, Mom's friends, the gal who cut my hair... Then adolescence hit and turned me into a priapic troll for a couple of decades. But now my sex drive has been relegated to the position of the loyal opposition, and I notice I have innocent crushes on lots of women. As a matter of fact, I hardly have carnal crushes anymore. Ever had the experience of wanting to fantasize about sex, but not being able to think of anything that turned you on? That happens to me a lot now. Maybe this isn't so great after all...

Monday, January 02, 2006

2006 Begins!

2005 ended thusly: our final production of The Eight: The Reindeer Monologues was... I'm gonna say a triumph! Apparently the theatre made some much-needed money with this crazy show, and we had a blast. I love everybody involved; we've discussed having a reindeer reunion dinner in a month, and I aim to make sure those aren't just idle promises. Anyway, I went to a party a few friends held; we sipped Old Peculier, traded wisecracks and dozed. The hosts retreated to their bedrooms; the remaining guests paired up into sweetly cuddling couples except for one guy. Guess who?

I have to keep reminding myself that the impenetrable Romance Barrier that surrounds me is like the Mark of Cain; a curse and a blessing combined. It's a protection; most people I know who are in relationships aren't really any happier than the rest of us, after all.

That gloomy note aside, I really do sense that this will be a year for some new shoots to bud; something about the vigor of this last show, both onstage and backstage, fills me with confidence. Boo-Yah, Gentle Readers; Boo-Yah!

P.S. I have been informed that the sentimental slop I sneered at in my last post is actually Moe, not moi. I was also informed that my misspelling invalidated my post's logic. Dream on, chilluns.