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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

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Triumph of Texas

I really liked what I got to see of the Austin area this Christmas. Never having been to Texas before, here are two things that made it special:

1. In the Southeast an ugly store, strip mall or factory can totally dominate the landscape, what with the uneven terrain, high trees, and smaller sky. In Texas, though, humanity's crapitalist follies are always, always dwarfed by the sky, no matter how much neon they spackle themselves with.

2. Because there's more space (and maybe because it's the Holidays) everywhere we went seemed populated, but not crowded. In the Southeast urban centers it can seem like Soylent Green days are here, but in Texas I finally lost that sensation of the world being overrun by a plague of humans. It ennobled humans and the landscape both.

Anyway, I had a good time meeting Laurie's family and thank them for their hospitality.

P. S. Eric, start a blog, please.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Light and Christmas

Wow, I'm not sick anymore, except for a slight itch in my throat. Christmas Carol is almost over, and it's been a remarkable experience. Concentrated theatrical work after the kind of months-long little-bit-at-a-time production schedules I've been used to. They crack the whip more in this venue, and I like it that way because it forces me to be as good as I can be, and demands the same of all the other talented people in this show.

I'm reading Light by M. John Harrison. Good timing. Several characters who have turned their backs on the potential within the world and themselves are forced to reengage with life and themselves, much as I've been doing over the last couple years.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Unadvertised Deals

I went to the mall recently to buy a toy (I searched the net for a more indy toy shop in town, but turned up nothing). It's a couple weeks until Christmas, but it looked like a couple weeks before Arbor Day. Is this due to the recession? Is our consumer culture in freefall? That's probably just what we all need, painful though it may be. More likely everybody's at Wal-Mart. Speaking of which, one of our cast members had her purse snatched in Wal-Mart. She went to security and asked if they got evidence on the billion cameras they have in there, but was told all the cameras are dummies except in the parking lot and electronics. Moral: don't shoplift electronics at Wal-Mart, if you see what I'm saying. Say, don't you deserve some free snacks?

The show's going well, though some of us call it The Sickness Carol since most of the cast is folded in half with respiratory ailments. We're artists whose medium is our bodies, and what more fragile, unpredictable medium is there?

Thursday, December 04, 2008

This Gust

I got a few days off recently, and returned to Kannapolis, just in time to

A. come over all sick again, days after declaring myself fully recovered, and

B. have the bathroom plumbing get all backed up. After a few false starts the landlord found a plumber who has worked in this area for many years. He worked on our house as Laurie and I discussed Jonathan Haidt's theories about the role of disgust in morality. I was pretty convinced that disgust had long since ceased to be an overwhelming factor in my moral views; not that I never feel disgust, but that I can differentiate between immorality that inspires disgust in me (murder, rape, child abuse, etc.) and acceptable things that inspire disgust (smoking, odd but harmless sexual practices, etc.).

Eventually the plumber got everything working. As I shook his hand, he said it should be good for another five years.

"By then," he added, "Obama will be out of office and I'll fix it again. I did a job for a black lady the other day. She said she voted for Obama and she'll vote for him again. I said 'you may be voting for a dead man.' I don't believe he'll make it."

It's possible, of course, that he was expressing a fear that many of Obama's supporters hold for the President-Elect. But his twisted smile suggested otherwise. It's also possible that he was hoping for Obama to be killed because he simply doesn't like Obama's politics. But I assumed, and assume still, that he was hoping for Obama's death out of Honkey Pride.

I don't know when I've gone so swiftly from gratitude to loathing. I wanted to take the hedge clippers to this cross-eyed hillbilly's fist-sized adam's apple.

Of course I did nothing but glower at him and stiffly walk away, but the link between disgust and moral views was, for me, sharply reasserted.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Lumbering and Slumbering

One lesson I am learning and relearning in this Christmas Carol production is that to do theatre at this level one must have an acute attention to detail, and be able to manifest that attention to detail, with what? With one's body, one's face and voice. Every element of movement and speech must work towards the intended end, an end which may be multifaceted. This putting together of song, speech, movement and interaction isn't new to me, but NC Shakespeare is demanding more from me than I've had to give before. Trying to incorporate all the corrective notes I'm receiving is forcing me to become a nimbler, more conscious performer, less of an instinctive shuffler, more of a honed and prepared professional. I feel like a Popsicle stick being used as a scalpel.

Oh yeah, happy Thanksgiving! And nothing says Thanksgiving like John Coltrane!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

A Christmas Supreme

We had our first rehearsal in the theatre today. It's going surprisingly smoothly. I just tell myself I'm in my own Christmas Special and the motivation takes care of itself. I was always a sucker for Christmas kitsch.

As I left the theatre tonight I noticed a statue across the street. I strolled over to check it out, and almost burst into tears.

John Coltrane.

It turns out that High Point is his childhood home town. I'm working not far from where one of the Twentieth Century's most essential musicians spent formative years.

Excuse me; I'm off to listen to A Love Supreme for about the thousandth time.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


I've been awfully busy, what with the Christmas Carol and the being sick (again) but I think the main reason I haven't posted is that I mostly use the blog as a way to impose my luminous magnificence onto the world. Lately, though, I feel like I'm giving all I got to this show. It's amazing how a full-on professional show can command one's first fruits.

Anyway, I'm delighted with this experience, illness aside, and I've got another pro audition lined up. Also keep Frank in your thoughts, since he's up for a part in Gilligan's Island in New York. If you know Frank you know he loves him some Gilligan's Isle.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

An Open Letter to Laurie

I'm in my room in High Point. I'm sharing a nice apartment with two other guys. Both of them are very nice, but very young, and very up-and-coming. They're hardcore with the pro theatre at an age when maybe I should have been. So it's pretty intimidating for this 35-year-old geezer.

So anyway, I'm in a small carpeted room on a teensy bed, listening to the past-midnight chatter of other folks in the room. It reminds me of the poverty serious actors have to swim through. The Theatre is being very nice to us, putting us up in a reasonably nice place.

But you're much nicer to me.

I miss you and I love you.

Emerging from the Woods

In a few hours after posting this I leave Kannapolis for High Point and my first Equity-level professional production. At the same time it'll be my first extended separation from Laurie since we moved in together, and I'm going to miss her something sick, no matter how many friends I might make in High Point.

* * *

I can't articulate my roiling emotional mix with any finer-grained articulation than that, so I'm gonna natter about the woods behind our house now.

I'm rereading Mythago Wood by Robert Holdstock; it's a fantasy novel about a couple of brothers who realize that the woods behind their house are vaster and stranger than they could have imagined. The first time I read it I hated it for reasons which now elude me, and I wrote a cranky Amazon review that I now feel duty bound to rewrite. I quite like the book this time, and I sort of relate to the situation the brothers face. We have a small wood behind our house, and while there's nothing of the uncanny about it, it does make me tingle a bit to hear... things... rustling through the thicket. The cat noses around the fenced fringe of the wood with an evident mix of eagerness and trepidation.

One day the cat and I were sunning in the back yard when a pack of large dogs appeared in the woods on the other side of the fence. They happily romped by, disappeared, reappeared, passed along. Something about it unnerved me as much as it did the cat, and I'm not generally unnerved by dogs. Dogs roaming down the street might make me watchful if they seemed dangerous, but dogs appearing from the brush like actors sneaking through stage curtains gave me pause. What caveman intuition is awakened by creatures emerging from the woods?

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Cheers and hisses

First the Good:

We have a President who, like FDR and Reagan, has the power to move the USA with his use of the spoken word. Both the aforementioned Presidents reshaped the way the USA regarded itself and went about its business, and they did it in large part by talking to the public in ways that reshaped the ways we thought about our Nation. Such rhetorical skills have been missing from the Oval Office for a while, and I think our national confusion results in part from that lack.

On the personal level, Laurie has a groovy new Toyota, and next week I'm starting my first professional acting job.

Speaking of acting, Turn of the Screw, and your Humble Author, got a glowing review in Charlotte's free weekly! From what I've been told, Perry Tannenbaum is the theatre critic of record in Charlotte, so praise from him might help get things rolling around here. Okay, it's a small notice at the very end of an otherwise unrelated article, but I'll take what I can get.

Bad: I'm sick. Again. Had to cancel a party we were planning to pitch for my Turn of the Screw cohorts and Laurie's colleagues.

Laurie bought that new car so she could give me her old one. She's giving me her old one because the Saturn I bought at the Carmax in Hoover, Alabama has finally reached its end. The engine's cracked and leaking oil. This after spending a thousand bucks to fix the timing-chain-related damage. Have I mentioned that I took my Saturn to Hoover Carmax's service department again and again, begging them to figure out why it was making threatening noises? And they kept saying they couldn't find anything wrong, despite the timing chain practically leaping out and shaving their whiskers? Granted, I was ignorant for not staying on top of this whole replace-your-timing-chain thing, but they were professional mechanics! They couldn't sniff out the problem? Fooey on 'em.

Anyway, another annoying thing: Prop 8. But if we take the long view, then we can afford to let Maggie Gallagher take her victory lap. Time-and youth-are on our side, not hers.

A couple years ago I was in line at the grocery when my cashier, a young woman, chattered happily about how Britney and Madonna smootched in an MTV publicity stunt the previous night. The whole faux-lesbian thing charmed, rather than threatened, her. Granted faux-lesbian ain't the same as lesbian, but the point is that when that girl and her lesbian-wedding-episode-of-Friends-watching peers come into the fullness of their socio-political power, all these gay marriage bans are going to be armadillo husks on the side of the road. Which may be of little use to people who want to be married now, but keep calm and carry on.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Hope and all that

I started to write about the big housecleaning our country just had, but then I realized we haven't had a housecleaning; we just hired a new cleaning staff. Here's hoping they do a better job than the previous one.

Monday, November 03, 2008

If you're in Birmingham and not as cash-strapped as I was 90% of the time, do me a favor; go down to V. Richards and buy a loaf of their in-store baked bread. Be warned that the rye is tasty but turns into a bag of mold as soon as it hits the hot, humid Birmingham air. Maybe it's cool enough to stay good a while, though. Also maybe get some baked dessert goods, (the seasonal cranberry walnut tarts are pricey but worth it. So were the cranberry walnut pies, when they did 'em) and some Jona Gold apples if they got 'em. Say hi to Melissa the cashier for me if she still works there.

* * *

I'm eagerly awaiting the Charlotte Creative Loafing review of our Turn of the Screw production. Just cuz, here's the same reviewer's 2001 review of a different production from the same script (published the day after 9/11. Probably no one felt like going to see Turn of the Screw after that, but it's actually a darn good homeopathic remedy for psychic horrors of all kinds).

* * *

Another request for you B'hamites: Laurie and I won't be able to attend the Solstice Party (You know the one: Becky and Judy's) so show up, stay all night, get pickled, and remember that Laurie and I connected at the 2007 edition of the party.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Review of the Screw.

Show's over, but we got a review on Arts a la Mode. Not sure what this website's impact factor is on the Charlotte Theatre Scene, but hey.

It was a joy to do such a rich show and I'm grateful to Actors Scene Unseen for giving me the opportunity! I had a blast with everyone involved. Laurie and I are trying to get them over for a Creepy Movie Night, to make up for our rather circumscribed Halloween. I'm not sure I can convey the delight I found in doing such a rich production with such fine people.

Minor observations:

I sweat quite a bit under the hot stagelights in my heavy costume. During one performance I kept hearing someone in the audience whisper "He's sweating." We all engage art according to our own idiosyncratic concerns.

The Blumenthal, our performance space, has showers in the dressing rooms, but no hot water.

Tip for actors: if you see that an elevated part of the set on which you are expected to stand is made of particleboard, loudly question its structural soundness in front of the youngest tech crew member. When he gung-hos his way up to demonstrate the platform's structural soundness by leaping on it, and crashes through it, you will have made your point without argument.

Do not park on the street in downtown Charlotte. Use a parking structure. A castmember's mom's car got broken into via the window smash technique. The police caught the perp, said he's been arrested dozens of times, and warned that he's HIV positive, so watch out for blood around the broken glass. So yeah, parking structure.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I Made This

Some years ago I was cast in an improv troupe. At the time the troupe was engaged in writing a sketch comedy show spoofing TV shows. This was not a concept dear to my heart, but I was drafted as a sketch writer.

My first sketch was "The Malcolm X Files." I know, you're gasping with laughter already, but the hilarity didn't stop there. The story would follow Agent Malcolm X and Agent Skull-E (I know, hilarious) as they track down the truth about the Tuskegee Alien DNA Project. The show would end with a disclaimer: "The United States Government did not inject alien DNA into unsuspecting test subjects at Tuskegee. It was actually syphilis."

"I made this!"

I had thought I'd made it clear that the point of the thing wasn't to mock or belittle the victims of the monstrous real-life Tuskegee syphilis experiments, but to point out that the government is the culprit in many conspiracy narratives for reasons of its own making. But clarity within one's head isn't the same as clarity in one's work. Only the troupe's desperation for members (owing to a high attrition rate) kept me from getting the boot.

The show went on with some other corny bits I'd written or co-written, though, to a deservedly lukewarm response.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Watch Out For Splendour

I met Allison Bechdel and Harvey Pekar on Friday! I'm a fan of them both, but even though they were both really down to earth and approachable I got all tongue-tied.

One cool thing about Pekar is that a couple years ago he got to publish some new work with DC comics, the Batman people. Given this opportunity to connect with a mass audience, he wrote a bunch of stories about unclogging toilets. That's what I call authenticity. I tried to compliment him on this, but it came out sounding more like a complaint. It's hard to compliment someone for writing toilet-unclogging stories.

Allison Bechdel's Fun Home is an extended consideration of Bechdel's father, and we got to talk a bit about the book's spiraling, ruminative structure, which I found spellbinding. She sketched herself thinking in spirals in my book. It's a treat! I felt bad cuz I didn't buy anything (hey, I'm unemployed until November!) but after we schleped the 20-odd unlit miles from the civilized world to Kannapolis, Laurie read my copies of Our Cancer Year and Fun Home, so they've picked up a new reader.

Monday, October 13, 2008


I've been cast as a caroler/Ensemble Member in the North Carolina Shakespeare Festival production of A Christmas Carol. Which means I've got a job, and I'm making some useful contacts. Moreover, this is my first salaried acting gig ever. I've done a few shows where it was like "You'll get an unspecified cut of the take a little while after the show closes," but now I'm actually getting a specified (small, but living-wageish) bit o' money per week. I'm a pro at last.

The Director called me to give me the good news, and he mentioned that I'm just starting off as an actor. Depends on how you look at it, but I am starting off my real career, and I'm pleased to be working for an Equity Theatre. I expect this'll be a splendid chance to raise my game.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

And Then...

Some theatre folks in town recently told me about a difficult community theatre production they got hired for in a distant county. They were given some leeway to select the show, and they chose Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None, an old whodunnit chestnut.

The theatre board warned them that they may not get a big turnout for such an avant garde show.

"Avant Garde?"

How do you get less avant garde than Agatha Christie? I asked the director of this show "Did you do it in Esperanto, with the cast in animal masks?" She replied "We might as well have."

Anyway, I saw the movie version of And Then There Were None A.K.A. Ten Little Indians a few years back when I was having major mortality issues, and I was appalled. I'd enjoyed it as a child (British eccentrics traipsing about manor houses and such are a childhood favorite of mine) but the film's debonair attitude towards death offended me greatly.

It later occurred to me, however, that most Agatha Christie fans are a lot closer to their natural mortal ends than I am. Perhaps that's part of the allure of Agatha Christie's material... death as a plot point, largely devoid of horror or real significance, may help defang Death Itself in the minds of the fans.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008


I didn't get the touring company job. The quest for paying theatre work continues.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Second Post of the Day

They say that folks who listened to the Nixon/Kennedy debates on the radio came away thinking Nixon won. And one day I turned on the radio and for whatever reason the Nixon/Kennedy debate was on... not just an excerpt, but at least a big chunk. I don't know why, but I found it fascinating. Because I came away from it thinking Nixon sounded like a President, while Kennedy sounded like a country club president. But we've all seen the TV images where Kennedy looks like a Greek God and Nixon looks like, well, the sick sad man he would turn out to be.

I only caught the tail end of the Biden/Palin debate on the radio, but it sounded to me like Biden owned it. He was instantly metabolizing the questions and responding with fully formed, astute and experienced responses. Palin sounded like she was reading talking points of off flash cards. She sounded like a dipsydoodle. You know how THOSE Monty Python fans think that obsessively quoting Monty Python confers Python's brilliance upon them? She sounded like she had the same hangup about Reagan.

But now I've seen a smidgen of the TV version of the debate on Youtube. Old Wrinkled Guy Versus Hot Momma. So now I know why some folks give the debate to her.

I don't blame Palin for being who she is, though. As my friend J'mel put it, "Bears chase people. don't get mad at them." It's not her fault for being a poor pick. It's McCain's fault for picking her, or allowing his handlers to pick her. His judgement ain't the kind we can rely on. I have as many reservations about Obama's record and experience as anyone, but he's got my vote.

Back in Acting Action

Sorry I've been so quiet, but our modem fritzed out. So did my car. So did the economy. All on or around my birthday. Plus I got a sore throat, so if I owe you a phone call, that's why you haven't gotten one.

Anyway, I had a callback audition for a paying Shakespeare gig, and I believe I did well. Trouble is, so did almost everybody else. It was one of those auditions where we're all in the room together, doing scenes together, and we can see who we're up against. I'm up against some remarkable talents, and the director's in the position of choosing which wonderful performers to cast. About twice as many auditionees as available roles, and there seem to be many ways to cast it well. I want it so bad, but I'll understand if I don't get it, even though I think I gave good audition.

* * *

On a seperate note, Sarah "Harriet Meirs" Palin accuses Obama of palling around with terrorists. Wasn't she just palling around with Henry Kissinger? Glass houses, Sarah, glass houses.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Here's the latest cinematic effort by my favorite art-damaged punkabillys in all of Anniston, Alabama. I sent them $30 to join their fan club and then never got anything, so I consider myself a financier of this film.

Caution: non-narrative artypants goobledygook with dead animals and an uncomfortable-looking turtle. Harmony Korine fanboyism.

But it has some lovely images.

* * *

P. S. save people not banks.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

mysteries great and small

Today my car started freaking out on me. When I finally got home I comforted myself with the reassurance that getting called back for an audition was something I accomplished, while my car trouble was merely something that had happened to me.

Once I wouldn't have thought that. My accomplishments seemed to arise out of the same bubbling Pool of Fate from which car troubles surfaced; or, car trouble seemed to issue from me as surely as my accomplishments did.

Perhaps this fatalistic view is more accurate; we are merely subroutines in the program of life. But it's unhelpful, so I'll stick with my newfound distinction between what I do and what happens.

* * *

There's a bunch of garden stuff I was supposed to gather up and put in the shed a few days ago. Tomato cages, rabbit fencing, bird netting. It started raining, though, so I just dumped it on the grass and went inside.

Today I went out and found the whole tangled mess had been stacked by the fence in a tidy fashion. Laurie's outta town, so she didn't do it. So who did? Brownies? The cat? Maybe whoever slashed Laurie's tires wanted to makeup for it with a small anonymous kindness.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Called Back To a Good Place

I've rewritten this post because the original version was some of my most cluttered, unreadable prose. Anyway, I auditioned for a professional Shakespeare touring group today, and it was a marvelous experience. I may be commiting a faux pas by posting about it, but the director was interested in a collaboration, so she gave me direction and gave me feedback in the audition. That's the way to do an audition, by cracky! Now she knows what I can do for her, not just what I can do on my own.

I've been called back for next week. If I get this job it'll mean low pay, absence from home, and hard bus rides in unfamiliar rural settings. It'll also mean doing the work I've wanted to do for so long.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

I Is Sick

Obviously it's too bad about the new Great Depression and all, but at least it came in time to head off Gidget Goes Alaskan at the the pass. That is to say, it was looking like the election was really going to come down to a big high school style popularity contest, but now that things have gotten manifestly scarier, folks will remember this election is about stewardship of the USA, not Whom-do-you-identify-with?

Interestingly a quick scan of Yahoo's Opinion page shows right-wing columnists are desperately trying to steer the conversation back to how mean libs are for picking on that nice Sarah Palin lady. It can't last; soon they'll have to start blaming the Left for deregulation and corporate greed.

BTW sorry I haven't posted lately. Aside from gossip about venal Kannapolis shenanigans that I daren't post at this time for fear of getting Laurie and/or me in big trouble, I don't have many updates. Plus I been sick. About the most interesting topic I could think of to blog about recently was a thing about how Yes (my favorite band in high school) has gone from being a creative unit to an innit-4-the-$ nostalgia act. You don't really wanna read that post, do you?

Next Day Postscript: Okay, Gidget Goes Alaskan is a cheap shot, but picking her as Veep was a cheap shot too. And while I respect people who think that McCain has more to offer in the way of stewardship than Obama (and I see the point) I hope Obama will win the election and rise to the occasion.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Spurn of the Screw

Laurie has offered many useful insights regarding Turn of the Screw, but one of the most important is that my British accent sux.

This came as a shock right out of Turn of the Screw itself. In my younger days I was a Doctor Who and Monty Python nerd, preening myself on my Brit accent. I used it in public, and folks on the street asked if I was British. I played Limeys onstage, and knowledgeable directors praised my Britspeak.

Wha' Hoppen?

At some point I was old enough that the "American boy faking a foreign accent" shtick wasn't cute anymore, and I had to wean myself. Or perhaps my accent was never really that good... just a dumb kid thinking he was good at something, and a bunch of folks who either fell for it or were too polite to correct me. Laurie does not suffer from the average southerner's excess of politeness, for which I am grateful. I'd rather get constructive criticism now than on opening night.

But consider Clive James on Tony Curtis's famous "Yonder lies duh castle of my fadduh" line:

"...Here was... a living god... with an even more acute case of the stylish energy that the Americans had so much of they could hand it out virtually free to the less lucky nations... I even liked the way he said the line. I was practicing his intonation when I went home to my muddah... Tony Curtis weighed a line for its rhythm and melody, and said it as if it could be said in one way only, and no uddah."

I recently saw a classic British film called Black Narcissus, in which a convent of neurotic nuns set up shop in rural India. As a devotee of theatrical bogosity, I'm on record as enjoying the phony Indian accents the British actors in Indian roles employed, racial insensitivity aside. I think an engaging fake is as good as reality provided there's no confusion about which is which. But not everyone sees it that way,so I'd better hone my brit accents.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Welcome To North Carolina!

Page 1: Please fill out your full name, current address, previous addresses for the past seven years, and social security number.

Page 2: Please fill out your full name and current address again. Then list all your current and past employers. ALL OF THEM. If we find out you were a movie theatre usher or something for a summer in high school, but you didn't list it on this form, you will not be considered for employment.

Please include three references from each place of employment, and the full 9 digit zip code for each place of employment's physical location. PO boxes or mere 5-digit zip codes will not be accepted.

Page 3: Fill out your name, address, and desired position.

Page 4: Please write 1000 words about why you believe you deserve to be employed.

Page 5: Please fill out your name, current address, and check either yes or no to the following question:

Are you a registered sex offender, a nonregistered sex offender, a potential sex offender, or someone who ever accidentally found a cheap and repulsive swingers newsletter lying on the side of the road when you were a child?

If you answered no to the question above, do you believe you would be happier if you could honestly answer yes? Explain your answer.

Page 6: Fill out your name and address, then explain why you will be voting for Sarah Palin, or, after Election Day, why you voted for Sarah Palin:

Page 7: Fill out your name and address, then fill out any other names or addresses you have ever used, then fill out at least three addresses you have been to at least once over the past year.

Page 8. Name. Address.

Page 9. Handwrite your complete resume, even if you are including a printed copy of your resume. Then do it again on the back.

Page 10. How many months are you willing to wait for a response from this job offer? Explain. Then explain again in a different way.

Page 11. Go to a doctor and get them to fill this out, even though they probably have never seen this form before.

Page 12. Go to a lab and get a drug test.

Page 13. Go to a DIFFERENT lab and have a pregnancy and/or paternity test.

Page 14. Fill out your name, address, and social security number. Then do it again. And again.

Page 15. Go get some blank paper, make up your own form, then fill that form out.

Page 16. Fill out this form with information for forms.

Page 17. Explain in detail how the creation, filling out, and processing of forms creates a sense of progress and productivity.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Bride of the Screw

The script for our production of Turn of the Screw makes some interesting changes to the original story. In James things transpire in a perfectly balanced ambiguity, chilly and intellectual. In our play it's more of a melodrama, with accusations, arguments and agonized cries. In James the women are friends united against a percieved external threat; in our play the women are constantly veering into class conflict. In James the rational interpretation of events is left unspoken, conspicuous by its absence, but in our production Mrs Grose becomes an uncertain voice of reason.

I am sorry Mrs. Grose isn't friends with the Governess in our version, but perhaps a two-person adaptation with a minimalist production needs some interpersonal conflict to keep it from turning into an Edwardian Noh play. Then again, an Edwardian Noh play might be just what James would want. Probably not most of the audience, though.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Casting in Charlotte

"The audition process selects for the most blatant (and not even the most attractive) of the supplicants. As a hiring tool, it is geared to reject all but the hackneyed, the stock, the predictable-in short, the counterfeit." -David Mamet, True and False.

This comforts me when I consider all the auditions I haven't made recently. I'm also comforted by recent assurances from experienced members of the local scene that it's easier to get acting work in New York and Chicago than in Charlotte; partly because there's more work available, but partly because Charlotte theatre is so cliquey. Of course it's also possible that I just wasn't the best candidate for the jobs, but it's best not to dwell on that.

In my dollop of directing training I was told it's terribly important to ask auditionees to "Try it this way" or "Do it that way." In other words, see if they can take direction and accomodate the director's vision. No one's told me to do this in any Charlotte auditions, so I'm left to guess and trust my instincts. The results have left most directors cold, it seems. The directors all seem to be looking for someone who just walks in doing it right. Maybe there are enough talented folks in town that someone will stroll in and nail the director's vision right off the bat.

I recently lost a Childrens' Theatre callback audition for a villian role. I think the reason was that I seemed genuinely villianous. I guess they wanted someone who could communicate the notion of villiany without being too genuinely threatening.

Hope this doesn't seem petulant. I'm perfectly willing to assume that the directors in question made excellent casting decisions that simply didn't have space for me. I've been considering what I did in each audition that may have cost me, but since you don't really get feedback in this game I'm left guessing. I hope Turn of the Screw will draw enough local theatre folks that the exposure will get me into the scene. I'm really excited about this show and grateful to everyone involved.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Kannapolis: Duller Than Birmingham

One of the houses around here has been purchased by a couple who plan to give it to their son. The son grew up in this economically troubled little town, and lives in Indonesia now. The parents are hoping he'll move back to the old hometown because they bought him a house. They should have bought one-way tickets to Indonesia.

Anyway, Rev. Karen Matteson, the former pastor of the Birmingham Unitarian Church, is the new interim pastor at our local Unitarian church. What a surprise! We cycle around...

Our production of Turn of the Screw is just getting started and I'm quite enthused about it. Rest assured this is not my last mention of this.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Months Late, Dollars Short

A bit behind the times, but here's a few pix from The Charlotte Heroescon.

It's Kevin Huizenga, of Or Else and Ganges comics! His blend of Cheeveresque suburban mythologising and Nintendorobic monster faceoffs has made him one of the rising stars of my generation... okay, my brother's generation of cartoonists. Here you can see him drawing me a sketch. Thanks, Kevin!

Here I am with Tom Spurgeon, the Comics Reporter. Ever since he was editor of The Comics Journal he's been shaping my sense of how to grapple with art in a personal, even-keeled but incisive fashion.

Jaime Hernandez, one of the greatest living cartoonists, period! If you're not familiar with Jaime, go find the Love & Rockets comic book and get acquainted with his and his brothers' cast of characters. He was a joy to speak with; we discussed his roots in punk culture and how that shaped his DIY approach to comic storytelling. He answered my question about how he views Strangers in Paradise, a popular comic that I regard as little more that a tepid emo pastiche of Jaime's work (He sees the resemblance, acknowledges that SiP creator Terry Moore denies imitating Jaime, and shrugs). And...

he drew us a picture of Maggie, his main character!

And here's how I felt about that.

Photos courtesy of Laurie.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Return of the Screw

As a fan of ambiguous, creepy stories it gives me great pleasure to announce that I have been cast in a production of Turn of the Screw! It's a two-person production in which a woman plays the governess and a man plays the other roles. If, like me, you've avoided reading Turn of the Screw because of Henry James' less than breezy prose style, I'd suggest you give it a chance. Cozy up with it on a pleasantly spooky night, and it may stick with you... It actually reminds me of a favorite non-horror film, Last Year at Marienbad, because like that film it opens itself up to multiple interpretations but validates none of them.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Pamperin' Followup

Hours after posting that last thing about my Grandmother, I got a call from Mom telling me Grandma had finally gone to Heaven.

RIP Grandmother Barnett.


My Mom and Aunts have made a tough decision: Grandmother's long-time assisted living facility is pricey, and at the current rate she'll be out of money in two years. So they've moved her to a less expensive facility where she isn't pampered as much, and her money will last seven years.

Grandma is 97, in cruddy heath, and eager to go be with Jesus. If she had her way her body would have unclasped her soul long before. She doesn't like the new joint; she misses having attendants wait on her hand and foot the way a 97 year old woman deserves. I say let her go back.

If I'm ever in Grandma's condition, leave me in the pricey pamperin' place and send Dr. Kevorkian Jr. around once the money dries up.

Anyway, sorry I haven't been posting: Laurie has been wresting a grant proposal to the ground and I've tried to be a good house husband despite my shaky domestic skills. Plus I've done one audition that went well, and I'm gearing up for more.

I miss all ya'll from the B'ham scene. It's frustrating to go to a show and know I won't see any familiar faces.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Boring informational post

Now I have 2 professional auditions, one this weekend, the next the next weekend. Each show only has one role for an adult male, but they're both openings. Here's hoping!

Friday, August 01, 2008


I got another audition! It's for professional theatre, and it's a semi-long shot, but it's worth a try.

(please please please)


Our garden is a constant joy. We've got a miniature palace of plantlife, and we eat from it every day. I get to fend off critters and enjoy the beauty of this tangled patch. All those computer games I used to play were cheap substitutes for this.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Today's accomplishments

1. Chased rabbit out of the garden.

2. Listened to Minnie Pearl album.

3. Ate brownie.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Montreal was an eye-opener; I've spent most of my life in the SouthEastern US, and seeing how different things are up North made me want to travel more, see more, experience more (taste more.)

Getting to be with Laurie again after a week's absence was one highlight. The time apart relarn'd me on just how much I need her. She keeps me from going feral again.

Montreal looks different, sounds different, from anywhere I've ever been. The people look different. Different genetic lines, plus a Frenchier fashion sense, make Montreal as different from Alabama as it is from Mars.

Montreal has tons of free arts and music festivals. There's always free entertainment by top practitioners in the local scene. Thanks for nothing, The South!

I got to spend Saturday hanging with Rick Trembles, a groovy cartoonist and podcaster. If I ran a real blog I would have recorded our conversation for posterity, or at least taken notes. We covered all kinds of oddball movie and cartoon culture stuff, then he showed me some of the dope shops in town.

I hated to leave. The South seems so pokey now.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Newark, Sweet Newark

If your 4:55 PM flight was shifted to 7:30, then you were stuck in a stationary airplane till 11:00, then the flight was cancelled and all of Continental Airlines' employees fled when you approached to ask for help with getting a ticket for the next flight out, then Welcome Home.

Welcome Home to Newark. When you visit the Terminal C Men's Room, the floor might not be covered with wet toilet paper. That's the Newark Promise.

And when the guy in the toilet stall nearby explosively vomits, then flatulates like a dying elderly warthog, Then strolls out behind you to get in line for Burger King, you'll know it's Gotta Be Newark In The Morning!

And if you're ready for Jersey's finest cuisine, ranging from Burger King to Dunkin' Donuts to nothing else, then Newark Airport is on your side.

Remember, if your coffee isn't repulsively presweetened like a cup of liquified Cocoa Puffs, it's not Real Dunkin' Donuts coffee.

Remember, if your airline gives you a free hotel room after it cancels your flight, it's not really Continental Air.

Sweet baby Lewis, it's 2:53 AM, I'm sitting in a foodless food court, writing a blogpost (but not posting it since the airport charges for wi-fi) and the song they're broadcasting at us is "Hurts so good." Yes. It hurts so good. That's the Newark Manifesto.


Okay, I'm in Montreal (which looks like Paris in all my old Eric Rohmer movies) and I'm reunited with Laurie. Montreal is quite different from a typical Southern city. I'm extremely provencial, but if I'd been cold-cocked, carried to Montreal, and awakened to wander the streets, one look at the faces around me (nevermind the french and all) would tell me I was no longer inthe Southeastern USA.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Laurie's outta town; heck, outta the country. It's just me and the cat, alone against the evils of Kannapolis. To wit:

1. Birds. I figured the ever-present rabbits would be the main vegetable swipers (BTW The Wallace and Grommit movie, in which our heroes struggle with vegetable-swiping bunnies, is a joy. See it instead of that dreary-looking Batman flick) but our tomato-packed garden has become an enormous bird-feeder. Today I Christoed the whole thing in birdnetting, and this evening the newly ripened tomatoes were in fine, unpecked fettle.

2. Tire slashers. Is it because the mill's closed and there are no jobs, or because it's a sleepy town with little excitement? For whatever reason, someone keeps slashing my girlfriend's tires. My sadistic fantasies of catching and crippling the perp are unlikely to come true.

3. The YMCA. Laurie signed us up for a family account. I had a problem with my account (no photo in the system), they couldn't find me under the phony married name she had given me on the account, and the penny dropped. The desk lady (my neighbour, as it turns out) is delighted; she has triumphed over those who would mock the noble institutions of marriage and the YMCA admissions policy.

4. Unemployment. I didn't get called back for Peter Pan, and I've spent my time finding things like this (courtesy of Cake and Polka Parade.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


I just did my first audition in North Carolina. All I had to do was sing 16 bars. I chose "Ladies in Their Sensitivities" from Sweeney Todd, which is right out at the edge of my abilities. I knew I could do an easier song and do pretty well, but I figured that I should demonstrate that I could handle a challenge.

So how did I do?

I dunno. They cut me off in the middle of the song, perhaps because I was bad in some way I wasn't aware of, perhaps because my song is so slow and they wanted to keep things moving. When I perform I find I usually can't usefully evaluate my performance, but I think I did a pretty good version of the song. I'm just not sure whether the impression I made was "Aaron nailed this tricky song" or "Aaron's making measurable progress with this tricky song."

OTOH I was the only man auditioning, but that's not much assurance that I'll get cast. Directors always have little black books full of tried and true local performers...

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Singin' and Silicone

I'm about to audition for a professional childrens' theatre gig. Relearning "Ladies in their Sensitivities" and trying to recall what Andrew Gainey would say about my practice runs on it. The cat is not pleased to have me banging on a keyboard and making loud sounds to which he is unaccustomed, but the stakes are too high to worry about a cat's aesthetic judgements.

Congrats to longtime reader J. Goldstein, who's seeking his fortune in the Big Apple! Break legs, hoss. (That's right, the tables have turned... I'm reading your blog now.)

And since I know most of my readers are musical fans, I've included a link to some catchy industrial musical mp3s. I've been singing snatches of "False Economy" all day, to Laurie's non-delight.

Courtesy WFMU, an industrial musical of note.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Everything in the garden

Laurie has a small but dense patch of garden out back. The tomato plants are flourishing, and we have fresh tomatoes every yummy night. I'd forgotten how lovely the smell of tomato plants is. One of these days I intend to creep into the gap between the tomato cages, in where the foliage surrounds a human-sized space, and just enjoy the sensation of being surrounded by tomato vines.

I'll spray down with bug repellent, though.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

In a pleasant limbo... unemployment is the only source of tension. Working on a bodacious audition piece with which I hope to snag a tasty performance job. Hanging loose with Laurie and sitting in the backyard with the kat much of the time. It's quite peaceful... but I need a job.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Loot the joint

I moved out of my apartment Saturday, and due to my l'il Saturn's spacial limitations I left behind a ton of stuff. I also left the door unlocked, so if you want a souvenir of the Aaron in B'ham years, quick, drop by before Tuesday when my rental period expires and take anything you want. A lot of junk, but some good stuff too. Bring a truck and you could drive off with some furniture. Plenty of books too. Get it before Goodwill or my realtor does!

The front door is always locked but often propped open. 3903-A Clairmont ave.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Con, Man

Sorry it's been so long between posts. I'm moving, I'm trying to get a job in NC, and I'm writing this in V. Richards, which is continuing its proud tradition of neither knowing nor caring how to turn its alleged wireless on, so who knows when I'll get to post this (my omelet is yummy though). I'm back in the 'Ham as I write this, trying to sell a bed and take care of those last few details.

Anyway, the comics con involved me meeting Jaime Hernandez, Tom Spurgeon, Colleen Doran, and a slew of artcomix movers and shakers. Jaime was particularly approachable, and I am now the proud owner of a sketch of his main character, Maggie (Maybe I'll scan it later for your enjoyment. More likely I'll just take a badly lit photo of it and post that).

Here's the story of the sketch... Laurie told me that an old friend of hers was a big Jaime Hernandez/Love & Rockets fan, and always tried to do her hair like Maggie's from the comic. So we got Jaime to draw Maggie doing her hair. I
I just about busted out crying, to see Jaime Hernandez drawing for me. For a lousy $20! His sign read
(quoting from memory):

"quick sketches: free

nice pencil sketches: $20

Other people's characters: $40

Johnny Ryan's characters: We Pay You"

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Exit, Stage Left Even

This is my last Blogpost from my workplace of six years. Hello to Donna in case you do manage to look this thing up!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Final Weekend

Highlights of my final weekend as a resident in Birmingham (Generously extending the Weekend to Thursday to snag The Music Man):

Spending it with my girlfriend.

Getting all my belongings packed or donated to Goodwill.

Seeing musical theatre (Center Stage's production of the aforementioned Music Man) and straight (so to speak) theatre (Torch Song Trilogy). How apropos to close out with both flavors of theatre... and both shows had plenty of my friends and acquaintances in it, so yay!

Seeing Andy and Tommy's revised digs. I have bathroom envy.

Getting to holla at several key readers of this here blog (although I was a bit out of focus for reasons which will become clear in the final item)

Cutting off a Hummer, which has the same effect on me that owning a Hummer has on people who own Hummers; a totally stupid lizard-brain affirmation of one's dubious manhood. My approach is cheaper, if more dangerous.

Getting salmonella or something, vomiting three times in eight hours, and driving my girlfriend to the airport. Wait, that was a lowlight.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Mechanical elephants and sissy aprons-together at last.

The people have spoken, and they demand Sissy Apron. A few months ago I made fleeting mention of aprons and sissies, and that fleeting reference to a charmingly odd fetish has pulled in the Google searchers in a way that, say, yakking about Birmingham Alabama theatre doesn't. I feel a bit sorry that I don't really have anything to offer the sissy apron crowd. Someone suggested I write smutty stories on my blog, but since I mostly blog on the clock I suspect I'm pushing it as far as I dare already.

Speaking of Google, I recently remembered a children's book I once read about two children who drove a mechanical elephant around. I Googled "Mechanical-elephant children's book" and got a bazillion references, none of which were about the book I was looking for. Mechanical elephants would appear to be one of those topics that you could go your whole life without considering, yet which are lurking just around a lot of corners.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

You say sal-mon-ay-la, I say sal-mon-al-a

I'm listening to the unfortunately-named Julie Jargon on NPR telling us about the salmonella-tomatoes outbreak. McDonald's has removed the 'maters from their burgers. Now the only nutritious part of the Big Mac is no longer part of the Big Mac. Is this a harbinger of things to come?

I had tomatoes last night and intend to buy and eat some raw locally, organically grown 'maters tonight. Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! Locally grown stuff is yummier than stuff that's been sitting on a truck for hours anyway.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Color Plates

I've been browsing the net for good scans of art by fave painters, and it turns out there aren't many. Lots of lousy scans, though.

I once saw a Renoir live in a museum (don't remember the title, but the subject was an outdoor lunch party) and was astonished by how alive it was in person. I'd seen reproductions that looked fine but couldn't communicate the way the light bounced off the paint in such a way as to give the image a magical appearance of life. The figures seemed to breathe. I'd always liked Renoir before, but I'd never realized how magnificent he really is. Some art loses in reproduction.

Over the weekend I perused a book about commercial artists, and I realized their stuff is created to be reproduced, so it usually is created with an eye towards how certain colors and textures will look after being photographed and printed, while gallery art ought to be seen live. It's not often that one gets to see great works live, depending on where one lives... before reproductions, people had to actually go to Rome or wherever to gaze upon great works... if you were an artist you had to hoof it all over the place to get a full-flavored education about your medium. Nowadays we like to think we can thumb through a few good books of reproductions to get the same education, but Renoir showed me that that we can't put too much faith in those glossy plates...

Saturday, June 07, 2008


I'm posting from the library, just like a homeless person.

Anyway, for a couple months I worked as a security guard at a Barbie warehouse. A friend of mine who worked in the same warehouse and I became interested in catalogues of older Barbies, and would stand around discussing our fave Holiday Barbies, much to the bemusement of grizzled truck drivers. One mid-Nineties Holiday Barbie design was my standout favorite. Anyway, I just perused a library book about Barbie dolls which included all the Holiday Barbies, and I couldn't recall which had been my favorite. They all look fine to me now.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Conan the Suicide

The other day I was reading Horror: 100 Best Books, a collection of short reviews by horror writers and buffs, and one of them jarred me. It was nominally about a satirical novel by James Branch Cabell, but was mostly a gonzo misogynist rant in which the author described himself as a feminine reader while scorning both women and "masculine" readers. He decries women for tying men to their apron strings, saying (paraphrasing from memory) "Thank the Adversary there is nothing about me to attract a woman."

Turns out this essay was written by Robert E. Howard, creator of Conan the Barbarian. According to some biographical info I found, he was a fat bookish kid in a cow-town where fat bookish kids weren't held in high regard. His primary gigs in life were:

1. taking care of his ailing mother, and

2. writing armchair-macho fantasies about brawny guys who don't get picked on by cow-town bullies or have to take care of their sick mommies, being too busy smashing evil wizards and having their way with beautiful women.

When Howard's mother fell into a coma from which the doctor said she'd never recover, Howard shot himself (he stopped by the typewriter to write a poem first). He died at the age of 30.

Another thing Howard rails on in his essay: writers whose stock in trade is ambiguity. He doesn't name names, but claims that Cabell writes clearly, while too many modern writers try to conceal their ignorance by confusing readers. Was he talking about the whole James Joyce kind of Modernist thing? Not liking James Joyce is no sin, but I get the impression that Howard wasted a lot of psychic energy on trying to stave off and deny the complexity and ambiguity of life. Maybe if he'd embraced the Modernist fascination with ambiguity and complexity, instead of constructing a worldview in which everyone's roles in life are predetermined and ambiguity is represented as evil sorcery, he would have understood how much opportunity he had to recreate and redefine his life. And he wouldn't have shot himself.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

How Do You Do?

There's an old-time radio comic named Bert Gordon, better known as The Mad Russian, who would show up and say his tag line, "How do you do?," which seems like the lamest tagline in history if you only read it, but it works on the air; you can practically see his googly eyes popping wildly out of his skull as he says it. I dunno if Gordon had googly eyes, but he certainly sounds as if he did.

I have a dabbler's interest in old-time radio (or OTR as the hardcore fans call it) and I found out about the guy because The Mad Russian is a frequent guest on other comics' shows. It's obvious that he was familiar to audiences, cuz whenever they hear that "How do you do?" they go bananas, cheering and applauding. And rightly so, cuz The Mad Russian is one of the funniest comics I've ever heard. He livens up dull shows and takes good ones into the stratosphere. He's anarchic, surreal and frantic in a way many comics aspire to be.

Today he seems to be all but forgotten. He doesn't even have a Wikipedia entry. Every porn star who ever lived has a Wikipedia entry, but not The Mad Russian.

Today there's a celebrity hypnotherapist who bills himself as The Mad Russian, and Google finds him all over the place, but Bert Gordon languishes. Too bad. Try to find some Mad Russian recordings; his rediscovery is overdue.

Monday, June 02, 2008

The final month

I just gave notice to my realtor that July will be my last month in the apartment I've dwelt in since the pre-Lewinsky era. I've moved most of my stuff to Laurie's lovely mill house in NC, but I look around my apartment and wonder how I'm going to get all this stuff moved or removed. I'm gonna have to give away some stuff that's useful but not worth moving. From toilet paper spools to cheap TV and a nice but replaceable chair and ottoman, gotta get rid of 'em.

Selling a bed too. I'll miss my lovely mattress, but it's too small for two and I don't wanna move it.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


Sorry I haven't been posting... I'm a bit out of phase. Packing up my belongings... my apartment is dotted with columns of stacked boxes, like some kind of nerd ruin. I'm fixating on pulp horror stories for some reason. I'm having Antonioni-esque dreams. I'm in the "moving" zone, and it's an oddly liminal zone. As I type this I'm listening to an NPR story about squatters getting "cash for keys" from foreclosing banks, and for some reason some chimpanzee part of my brain is wondering if I can make use of this as a broke departing apartment resident, but that's why the chimp shouldn't dominate.

Recently read a short story by Clive Barker. It's a story about a 9-foot troll who eats people. It occurred to me that 9-foot trolls aren't on my list of things to fear, which puts it on my list of things to not fear. Maybe this is why I like horror so much all the sudden; if I'm not scared of it I'm Unscared of it, so boogums are calming. It's weird to think my sense of fear is so binary.

Also checked out Don Glut's DVD documentary I Was A Teenage Moviemaker. He's a guy who made short clunky monster movies in his Fifties childhood. All the movies star his buddies. In the doc Don Glut himself talks at us in his endearingly loopy way (Is he a deadpan wit or an oblivious oddball? Or a hybrid of the two? I can't tell, but he's amusing either way) and sits in front of a typical lurid horror movie poster, with a creature menacing a busty woman. No busty women in his teen flicks, whether because he wasn't interested or because he couldn't find any to play along, but plenty of creatures and non-sequiter plotting.

I also rented his other Netflickable flick, The Mummy's Kiss 2. It's soft-core porn junk, the kind with women kissing each other and whatnot. I'm amused by his switch from dopey all-boy monster flicks to all-girl smut flicks. It's an interesting metaphor for adolescent development.

Friday, May 23, 2008


For years I used to clench my jaw whenever I was stressed out; I often had a sore jaw. I also seem to have ground my teeth in my sleep.

Ever since I took up with Laurie, I've stopped all this. My jaw appreciates.

Thursday, May 22, 2008


My Birmingham Departure Timetable has been moved up. My realtor doesn't allow one to stay a fraction of a month for a fraction of one's rent: it's all or nothing. I was planning to leave in mid-July; given the choice between staying to the end of July or splitting at the end of June, I was leaning towards the former but Laurie repeatedly insisted upon the later plan. Oh, all right. Anything for a quiet life. Can I get my junk out of town in time? Not having moved before, and having been rooted to this cheap apartment since before the world had heard the name Lewinsky, I am uncertain.

Leaving the 'Ham is essential: I'm moving toward love and new life, though I'll miss the life and loves I have here and I'll probably be back from time to time to see old friends. I'd like to balance the urgency of leaving with a calmer contrapuntal note, but events are pressing me toward a more intense and explosive rush of action... not my usual approach.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

How you gonna keep 'em down on the farm after they've seen the meth lab?

I have no idea how long this article will be on line, but it reports that several rural counties here in Alabama have a meth epidemic. Police are finding meth labs in every other trailer.

From the article by Mike Cason for the Birmingham News: "...labs have been found in Marion, Franklin and Lawrence counties in northwest Alabama, and Randolph and Chambers counties in east Alabama. Authorities in Cleburne, Calhoun and DeKalb counties also report the problem.

"Germanowski said the "one-pot" labs have not emerged as a significant problem in Jefferson, Shelby and Tuscaloosa counties."

According to this link almost every one of the meth-infested counties are dry. I think I see a solution to this problem...

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The day I stole a Baby Coffin

In college I was assigned to be Assistant Stage Manager on a play of my Professor's own devising. The subject of the play was a white family that adopts a black baby, whereupon it turns out that everyone they know is a closet racist. It's a bit Young Goodman Brown, but it ends with the child dispatched via SIDS, which is narrative closure of a sort.

My only real task was to obtain a baby coffin, and get it for free. "Why not make a stage-prop baby coffin," I asked. Because we wanted authenticity, apparently, although we used a doll instead of an actual child for the baby.

I called every funeral supply company in Birmingham. They all informed me that they weren't in the habit of loaning out free baby coffins for the use of amateur theatrics.

I went to the theatre's technical director, affectionately known as The Milkman, and told him that I was unable to obtain a free baby coffin. He noted that it was almost five o'clock, so the company brass at most funeral supply companies would be gone. He called one out of the phone book, got the custodian, and informed said custodian that he needed to swing by real quick to pick up a loaner coffin. The custodian said he'd leave the door open for us, so the Milkman and I jumped in the Milk Truck.


We screeched up to the company building, ducked in through the side door, grabbed a suitable looking baby coffin, thanked the custodian, and

VROOOOM outta there.

I learned an important lesson that day; if someone says you can't have something, bamboozle the custodian into thinking you can.

I suppose there's a baby in a Birmingham graveyard whose coffin was the centerpiece of a bad play.

Monday, May 19, 2008

hi bye

We were not born to survive, only to live.

Laurie came to visit this weekend, and we did some living!

But we left a play at intermission. The first time we've done that, and the first time I've done that in many a moon, but the show was a dire letdown despite a few good performances. Maybe I'm less forgiving of Birmingham community theatre because I'm trying to separate from it in preparation for moving.

Anyway, at intermission we stood outside the theatre, planning to flee, but I spotted an old college chum (let's call her Carmilla) who was warm to me in those school days. Carmilla and I parted on cheerful terms, yet I found her flinty and unwelcoming today. She leaned against the wall of the theatre, smiling stiffly and giving me strained, cheerless replies, and it seemed to me that the theatre, which had been a second home to me for years, was speaking through her, threatening rejection if I abandoned the show.

We left anyway. I've left shows at intermission before, and returned to do shows at the same venue. Laurie and I went out to eat, had a jolly time, and look forward to my final move to North Carolina.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Mondo Gummo

I wanna write about some specific things I find endearing about my girlfriend, but she might prefer that I didn't, so I won't.

Instead I'll say a bit about Gummo, a movie I've been watching (in my typical way... not enough time to watch a flick from start to finish, so I watch a bit one night, a bit more another night). Judging from the movie's entry on rotten tomatoes everybody who saw it thought this film was either a masterpiece or the Devil's Handiwork. Have you ever felt like the last of the non-drama queens?

The film takes a Mondo Kane-ish semi-documentary approach to the lives of various white-trash types and makes me feel like I've gone back in time to high school. I had a fairly privileged upbringing, but I spent time with the white-trash (I use that term non-pejoratively, like Dorothy Allison) crowd. The documentary parts of the film where the author just interviews various oddballs have an authenticity that the staged sub-John Waters shock stuff often lack (although getting a guy drunk and letting him whine belongs on Youtube, thanks). Most of the overtly staged stuff feels like any old student film. Director Korine has a lovely visual sense, and his blending of film stocks and oddly synced sound feels like a sensible development of the Natural Born Killers hothouse style. A DVD bonus interview with Korine is a bit like a bargain-basement version of those loopy interviews Dylan used to do when he'd make up odd stories. Here's hoping Korine goes deeper into his off-center explorations of overlooked lives and drops the cheap provocations, which I regard as a distraction from his real talents.

* * *

An anecdote about white-trash high school buddies: John W. was a high-I.Q. fatboy who, in his own words, didn't apply himself. Midway through college I went to visit him in his new apartment in some cheezy neighbourhood of Chattanooga. Turned out he had married a morbidly obese woman who was old enough to be his Mom. They shared the apartment with her two sons, both of whom strongly looked like John's brothers. One wall of the apartment was covered with stacked-up TV sets. Each set had a picture problem, so they'd turn them all on and read across, trying to dead reckon between various v-hold challenged and staticky sets what was happening on Babylon 5 this week. I left, man. Never saw John again. Hope his TVs didn't fall no him.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Passing Time

Between burnt skin, peeling skin, and formerly fake-tattooed skin that resisted burning and bears the marks in negative of the erstwhile tats, my upper body has some odd patterning all over it. I'm also rockin' the spare tire, so I look like a decorative Buddha.

I'm really excited about moving my Birmingham departure into endgame. I'll be packing up and clearing out, with a tentative departure date in early July.

I'm currently fixated on the poetry of Derek Walcott. I listened to a CD of poets reading their poetry (The Caedmon Poetry Collection) and particularly liked his material and voice. I went to the library and found that he's quite prolific... they have a slew of his books. His work is deft, challenging, but accessable, sweeping in its scope but particular about details. It has historic and mythic heft, yet feels utterly personal. His poetry is my latest textbook for appreciating the world.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Burn Sizzle Fry

Sorry I've been away. I got sunburned pretty bad doing Macbeth. Better luck than John M., our Macbeth, who busted his head in a stage fight during the final show, but picked himself up and finished the play with brio. Go John! Anyone blaming this on the curse of Macbeth is invited to stage any other violent show in the concrete-and-steel danger zone of Sloss and see if they can squeak through without injury.

Anyway, the show was a triumph across the board, and I'm delighted to end my Birmingham theatrical career (give or take a possible forthcoming improv show) on such a high note, although my own involvement was pretty much limited to an over-the-top speech near the beginning. I suspect I pushed it a little too over the top in the last performance, but I love the First Sargent's bit and intend to use it as an audition piece.

Belly dancers played a role in the show. I envied the nuance and control they had over their arms... wish I could approach such delicate dexterity! I thought I recognized one from my school days, but realized the slightly prudish and shy gal I remembered could never have metamorphosed into a tatted-up belly dancer.

After the show I read the program and found out that it was indeed her. Of course.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Per our director's request, the Solar Monarch and I got a haircut and shave yesterday. The Monarch was kind enough to give me the hookup, as one of his coworkers is a licenced barber. She did a nice job on us. I look kind of masculine, which makes me uneasy.

We also got spray-on tattoos so we'll look suitably primal. I had to put baby powder on after showering to keep them from smearing. I'm more of a baby powder guy than a tats-and-butch-beard guy, but that's the magic of theatre.

Our Macduff regaled us last night with the tale of his second-biggest theatrical prank, and his third-biggest theatrical prank. I demanded that he speak of his biggest theatrical prank. He shook his head somberly.

"Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent."-Wittgenstein.
I have been asked about a "feed." I think I have a "feed" now.

Here is my "feed" unless I've screwed this up. I still don't know what a "feed" is.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

New link: suicidefood. If you've ever wondered why pigs on BBQ signs seem so cheerful about this whole BBQ thing, you're not alone.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Bigger, Faster, Bloodier

Shakespeare at Sloss's production of Macbeth is shaping into one of the best shows I've ever been in. I'm not pulling the weight on this; there are a lot of roles in this show in which someone shows up, says something interesting, and then dies or goes away. I'm one of them. I'm intrigued by the way Shakespeare fills out his stories with lots of richly detailed side characters. An actor seeking monologues could pick from Shakespeare forever without ever touching the famous bits.

Anyway, this production holds me in awe; director Elizabeth Hunter is really mining the ore of the text. And the fight scenes make me cringe in terror. I know they're really dances, but they look so brutal.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

More about Last Temptation

I am oddly fascinated with this article which I found while Googling Last Temptation of Christ. The author, Steven D. Greydanus, seems thoughtful and levelheaded right up until he draws his final conclusions, equating the image of William-Dafoe-as-Jesus kissing Barbary-Hershey-as-Magdalene with the imagery in racist propaganda films, and finds the racist propaganda less objectionable.

"Sometimes it’s possible to prescind from a movie’s offensive use of themes and appreciate its achievements in spite of its moral failings," our reviewer writes. "One can bracket one’s objections to the Marxist propaganda in The Battleship Potemkin, or the racist celebration of the original Ku Klux Klan in D. W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation, and still value the striking imagery of the famous Odessa Steps sequence from the former, or the groundbreaking editing in the climactic chase scene of the latter.

"But I for one don’t see how it’s possible to bracket all the objections that must be raised to all that is anti-Christian in Last Temptation, and still have anything worthwhile left over to appreciate or enjoy."

Well! I strongly question his use of the phrase Anti-Christian. "Anti-Christian" suggests a deliberate attempt to argue against or belittle Christianity. I don't buy it. The film makes use of fictive paradox to examine the role of Jesus, but while I can't read the minds of the film's creators, the logic of the movie is a validation of Jesus. Even if one does consider it to be blasphemous, though, comparing it to racist propaganda is problematic. The problem with racist propaganda isn't that it takes decent-minded people out of our comfort zones, but that it endorses ideas that are unacceptable if humanity is to thrive. Now, if Christianity is fundamentally true one could argue that blasphemy also endorses ideas that are unacceptable if humanity is to thrive, but exactly what kind of blasphemy is on display here? It's the kind of "blasphemy" that takes pious people out of their comfort zones, but that's not the same as a real attack on the heart and soul of Christianity. The film is not an attack on Jesus as a person or as God Incarnate, but rather a consideration of what Jesus was not, the better to highlight what Jesus was. The complex use of paradox which is essential to Last Temptation is shocking to conventional piety, but the end result of the film, if one takes it on its own terms, is a resounding validation of Jesus. Maybe not a conventionally pious one, but a validation nonetheless. It brought a tear to this Unitarian's eye.

I'm not saying there's no case for a Christian taking offense at this film; it constantly problematizes our understanding of Jesus and his role. But I think folks seized on the wrong parts of the film to worry about. Harry Dean Stanton as Paul has a speech about how the concept of Jesus as Redeemer is relevant regardless of the facts about the person of Jesus... that's probably the part you'd wanna fight with.

I met Randall Wallace, the famously Christian screenwriter, once. He spoke at a seminar about how his screenplay for Braveheart was in large part a free reworking of tales from the Bible, and how his script for We Were Soldiers reworked facts for the benefit of fiction. I asked him how he would approach the task of writing about Jesus; if he would let piety rein in his fictive approach. His reply shook and reconfigured my whole approach to life.

"I think Piety is a bunch of crap," said Randall Wallace.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Second Post of the Day: Last Temptation

This morning I tried to explain to a friend why the end of Last Temptation of Christ was so affecting for me, and failed. She wasn't steeped in Christianity the way I was, so the crucifixion doesn't pack the same inherent wallop for her.

Beyond that wallop (that any Jesus movie would have for me) this movie, through poetic, mystical reinventing of the Jesus narrative, reasserts one of the paradoxes that are central to Christianity. If you think someone is the Messiah who's come to usher in a new world order, and he gets killed, you were wrong and he failed, right? But Christianity takes this apparent defeat and asserts that it is, in fact, a mystic triumph. The mystic tension between common sense and this assertion gives the Crucifixion and resurrection much of its power.

In this movie, though, Jesus escapes from the cross. He has the obvious reason for doing so (getting crucified sucks) and lives a normal life, until his apostles return to blast Jesus for selling out humanity and his divine destiny. So Jesus goes back in time and returns to the cross. Jesus's last words on the cross are typically translated "It is finished" (at least in my faith tradition) but this film rejects that resigned-sounding translation in favor of the appropriately buoyant "It is accomplished!" And William Dafoe's triumphant grin is heartbreaking. I can't imagine any film asserting the triumph of the Cross with more power.

Admittedly lots of the film is a talky cinematic essay on Jesus rather than a compelling narrative, but I'm glad I watched it.

Kerns and Gallowglasses

I'm really excited about Macbeth at Sloss. Although my experience of the whole show is really patchy because I'm in so few scenes, what I've seen so far is smart, tight, carefully constructed and potent theatre. I'm delighted to be leaving town on an up note.

My part is still listed as Caithness, even though all of Caithness's lines have been cut or redistributed and I'm now playing the First Sargent. I only have one speech, but it's a fun, meaty, gritty speech. My character describes, and celebrates, the scene of battle which he's come to recount for the King; I celebrate, dissemble, and try to get my tale out before my copious wounds knock me down. It's fun! I'm playing someone whose warlike attitude is far removed from mine. His gung-ho "Put me in, coach" sensibility is an interesting thing for a timid mouse like me to explore.

In other news: just as I dig deeper into M. John Harrison's writings (I've started reading The Pastel City, his first Viroconium novel), he takes his blog offline. Boo!

I'm wearing a shirt that I took out of storage and washed recently. It smells like sour milk. This seems representative of my lifestyle in a way I can't quite explicate.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Plimpton Pixels

Yesterday I read something about how George Plimpton was the spokescelebrity for Mattel's Intellivision game system, way back when. I actually remember this. I didn't know who George was (My age was in the single digits) but I found the idea of a smart person talking up video game systems oddly compelling.

What if other game systems had responded by hiring their own public intellectual spokespersons? Susan Sontag rhapsodizing about the visceral eroticism of Odyssey 2, Marshall McLuhan raving about Atari's reprogramming of our concept of visual space. I think this could make for a funny sketch, but ideas are a nickel a dozen; someone's got to develop and concretize an idea for it to bear fruit. I don't have time to develop this notion so I thought I'd leave it here for anyone to steal. If the other folks in my improv/comedy performance group read my blog they might be able to build on this idea, but they don't read my blog so we'll miss this opportunity. That'll larn 'em! Next time read my blog, suckers!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Out of Viroconium

In This Interview oddball fantasy/SF writer M. John Harrison says:

"My feeling about escapist fiction has softened a little down the years but it has never really changed. I think it's undignified to read for the purposes of escape. After you grow up, you should start reading for other purposes. You should have a more complicated relationship with fiction than simple entrancement. If you read for escape you will never try to change your life, or anyone else's. It's a politically barren act, if nothing else. The overuse of imaginative fiction enables people to avoid the knowledge that they are actually alive. (In fact, various evasions, various kinds of fantasy, seem to me to be a kind of bad politics in themselves, the default politics of the day, through which we maintain our Western illusions of freedom and choice.)"

He has put his finger on one of the greatest problems I've had in my life. Once Harrison's words would have filled me with panicked resentment. Until a few years ago I engaged entertainment for two reasons: One was to learn how to function as an entertainer myself, but the main one was to replace the scary real world with a soothing artificial world. I watched The Neverending Story and dreamed of finding a book that would whisk me away to a colorful world of bald princesses, flying dogs and comfortable Messianic status for myself. I once said to a friend "Oz is better than real life," and I said it without irony.

Now I try to engage life in an active and expansive way instead of the timid and closed-off approach I've always had. The unpredictability and unfolding immanence of life is a pleasure to me where once it was a terror. Improv has a lot to do with this, but my engagement with Harrison's work has clarified the importance of fiction as fiction, rather than replacement reality. Thanks, M. John.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

I feel a bit guilty. During a girlfriend-mandated apartment cleaning session this weekend I tossed out 4 beer bottles I'd been planning to recycle. Weariness overrode my eco-friendly intent. I'm a bit ambivalent about going green; mostly I want to save the biosphere, but part of me is attracted to the idea of letting the Earth join its barren peers in the Guild of Planets. Uh, anyway, I've decided to compensate by grabbing, rinsing and recycling every bottle I find in front of my apartment building from now on (sadly, there's usually a stray bottle or two out there...)

Another thing Laurie has done to bring me up to par with everybody else: she gave me a coffee machine. The distinction between my old coffee lifestyle (wake up, eat breakfast, clean and groom, drive to work, log in and THEN have some coffee) versus having coffee (made to my specifications) first thing, changes the entire chemistry of my day.

We saw Glengarry Glen Ross at Playhouse. Good stuff, and Mr. Goldstein was the standout (no, I'm not just saying that cuz he's a reader). My only quibbles are that some actors were playing with fine-grained naturalism while others were working a near-kabuki style, which made it a bit stylisticly uneven, and the jury-rigged seating made it hard to see a lot of the action. It was a bit like radio theatre for the first act, which I kind of enjoyed but I bet other folks didn't.

Laurie and I also tried out a card game called Once Upon A Time, which is a storytelling game. I suspect the mechanics of this game could be pillaged for improv formats. I'll have to try it out with my improv crew.

Anyway, Laurie is awesome. Every home should have one.

Friday, April 18, 2008


I've been checking plays out from the library. I wanna see Beth Henley and Timberlake Wertenbaker plays. I'm just sayin'.

Anyway, Laurie shows up this afternoon. Fun will commence! There's been a big buildup since I've been trying to clean my apartment to the point that it will pass Professor Laurie's exam. I anticipate maybe a B-, maybe a C+. At least after this I'll be able to downshift the cleaning from a nightly desperate mad dash to a more measured pace.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

How 2 act guud wif arren wite master clas

Last night I rehearsed my monologue in The Scottish Play. The director chastized my "atrocious english accent." Per her orders I switched to using my own accent (whatever that is) and my performance seemed to gain in honesty and expression, just because I wasn't doing a plummy "Shakespherian" voice. Funny Voice Syndrome always bugs me in others, although I'm guilty of it myself. Or as Jane Bowles put it in Two Serious Ladies, "It is against my entire code, but then, I have never even begun to use my code, although I judge everything by it."

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

No Time

Darn it, I don't have time for a real post. Behind at work. Busy every nite too, rehearsing the Scottish Play and cleaning my apartment for Laurie's impending visit.

I'll do a linkpost instead of a thinkpost today: an archive of an old zine broadside called Cheap Truth, written more or less by Bruce Sterling from 1983-1986.
It aspired to edge-cutting and is now a delightful nostalgia tonic for kids like me who grew up SF nerds in the Eighties, even if we weren't reading the books in discussion.

CHEAP TRUTH! It's so cyberpunk. I'd actually like to talk about it, but I won't becuz NO TIME.

Friday, April 11, 2008

You gonna argue or fish?

I was scanning an online story about a new inspirational book. The article-though not necessarily the book itself-refers to the importance of "fulfilling childhood dreams".

My childhood dream was to be a fisherman. Childrens' book illustrator Richard Scarey drew fisherman cats in yellow rain slickers that looked cheerful, sitting on their boats and fishing. It looked like an idyllic lifestyle to my four-year-old self. I told everybody how I was gonna be a fisherman.

Do I have to be a fisherman now? If I don't, have I turned my back on my childhood dreams?

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Nostalgia Without Pleasure

Thumbing through a high school yearbook the other night, I was struck by how many attractive kids there were in my graduating class. Many of them weren't particularly well known, and certainly weren't the acclaimed beautiful people of the school; just a lot of pretty young women and handsome young men who never plugged into whatever social mechanism it is that turns some kids into the beauties and hunks of the school. Who knows why?

With some of those kids I vaguely remembered talking to them once or twice... I think a lot of people put out feelers to see if I'd be their friend, and I was too clueless and socially inept to even realize it was happening. I had important Dragonlance novels to read, vital Roger Dean coffee table books to study... who had time for new friends?

Moreover I think I was too cliquish. I really believed that if you weren't a card-carrying member of the Dungeons and Dragons table in the lunchroom, the prayer group that met Friday mornings, or the forensics team, then relations between us could never, and maybe should never, flourish. What was I thinking?

* * *

Speaking of what people were thinking in school, I had a teacher named Mr. Smith who taught Freshman world history. He looked rather like Dan Quayle. He took an interest in me and I in him. I don't remember much about these classes, but they satisfied my curiosity about other lands and my desire to, well, exercise my brain a bit. I think he stayed pretty close to the textbook, but had a speaking style I found engaging. I remember a couple of things about his class, though, that struck me oddly at the time and irk me now.

Uno: He skipped the chapter in our textbook about African history. He explained this by saying that Africa hasn't contributed enough to the world to be worth studying. !!! Africa contributed THE HUMAN RACE to the world. Maybe it hasn't contributed much stuff that Honkies named Smith can appreciate, but that's all the more reason to learn about Africa. Now I wanna find Mr. Smith and graft an African ceremonial mask to his face.

Dos: There were a couple paragraphs in our textbook about Buddhism. Mr. Smith devoted a day's class to "debunking" Buddhism by showing how, on the basis of the potted explanation of Buddhism our book offered, Buddhism was bogus. Weelll... any religion can be made to look silly if you come to it from the outside and take a reductionist approach. Smith and I were both outspoken Christians, and he loaned me a tract that I thought was pretty cool at the time. It might have been a genuinely intellectually stimulating class if a whimsical Buddhist could have offered a counterpoint by taking that tract to task.

This ties in to a recurring concern for me lately; what lessons did I actually learn, and from whom? These are the crap lessons I remember Smith teaching; what else did I pick up from him? I have a lot of bad ideas in my head, and lately I find myself wondering: how much of this did I learn as a youngster, and how did I learn it? How much of it was me misunderstanding what people tried to pass no to me, as opposed to people just misteaching me? I recall a church camp where they got all the boys in an auditorium so a woman could tell us all about what women want from men. I remember paying close attention but I don't remember what she told us. There's a lot of stuff like that in my past. How much of what's right and wrong about me comes from these lessons that I've conciously forgotten? Who taught me what?

I had at least one wonderful teacher whom I should write about later...

Monday, April 07, 2008

Theatre Yappin'

Thinking about theatre a bit.

1. I could write a quite critical review of a show I saw over the weekend, but I won't because I have too many personal ties to the show. This is why theatre critics shouldn't be chummy with the theatre crowd; it won't do to pull one's punches on behalf of one's buddies. OTOH critics should also be astute and knowledgeable about theatre, which is hardly characteristic of B'ham's arbiters of taste at the Birmingham News.

2. Rehearsing Macbeth at Sloss Furnace is one of the most remarkable theatrical gigs I've ever had. In one scene Banquo speaks about how birds residing in the castle are good omens... as we rehearse in the great pavilion that is our playing space, birds actually swoop through the rafters.

3. Our slim and sexy costume designer and her slim and sexy friends dropped by to show our slim and sexy director what our slim-and-sexy-person-centric costumes will look like. Those of us who are not slim and sexy (me) will look very bad indeed in these costumes. Are they just unaware that there are fat folks in the show, or are they trying to shame us for the sin of obesity? I'm an American, for crying out loud; I'm supposed to be fat!

Wednesday, April 02, 2008


Someone from Jamaica just googled across my blog while searching for "Dog blood tea." I don't know, and I don't want to know.

Edit: actually I did want to know. A little Google-fu shows that there's a "Dog's Blood Berry" in Jamaica, from which tea can be made with no harm to canines. Phew!

Narration Nation

The other night I called Laurie as she chilled in a hotel prior to one of them fancy scientist things she's always zipping around to. Over the phone she narrated the unfolding of dopey "reality" shows as she watched, then got bored with that and hopped over to a cheezy movie, which she also began describing in cackling detail. I have never, ever heard her sound as gleeful as she did narrating an old superhero movie. Maybe I should dress up as a superhero next time I see her.

My parents tell me that a friend of theirs is awfully nervous. This friend teaches at a Baptist-affiliated college. Very heavy conservative religious expectations in the air, right? And her husband is on a reality show over in Cali or somewhere. And the producers of the show are trying to railroad him into having a fake gay tryst with another dude on the show. It probably wouldn't be a problem if the show were unabashedly a drama, but since it presents itself as "reality" the woman is living with the fear that everyone in town will think her husband is publicly cheating on her with another guy. Then the show ends, he comes home... and will they be able to hold their heads up at the next Wednesday night potluck? Oh, reality TV! I guess it's the perfect entertainment for Neo-Con America. That and those Saw movies.

Monday, March 31, 2008


Went to Kannapolis to be with Laurie the past weekend. On the way there my tire burst outside of Leeds, Alabama. Thanks to AAA (And Laurie, who signed me up for AAA) I got back on the road pretty soon, but for much of the trip I was hyperaware of burst tires on the side of the road. There's a lot of them on Alabama highways. Leeds and Talladega seem to have tire scraps on the side of the road every fifty feet or so.


Laurie and I saw a play: Dark Play at the Charlotte Actors' Studio Theatre, CAST. It's a show about a guy who goes online and deceives people in chatrooms; things get pretty complex and intense. We liked it quite a bit: the cyberdecor throughout the theatre (chandelier-like arrangements of computer mice, etc.) was a compelling touch, the leads performed with energy and intelligence, and all in all it was the kind of vibrant theatre that gets me excited about the medium.

One big frustration: the play had big widescreen TV monitors over the stage adding (mostly unnecessary) illustrations of ideas in the play. There's a big final soliloquy near the end of the show in which the main character describes a near-death experience as a mystical breakthrough, and I got the feeling that it was the sort of thing I want to hear at the end of a challenging play. Sadly I'm not sure, because I was distracted by a barrage of bootleg Chris Cunningham rock video footage on the monitors. No doubt the intention was for the vivid and startling imagery to dovetail with the vivid and startling imagery of the monologue, but the effect was more like showing a bunch of explosions and striptease numbers during Hamlet's 2b or not 2b soliloquy: distraction rather than enhancement. You don't have to be Grotowski to think this kind of lazily conceived distraction from the heart of the show isn't exactly value added. I agree with Grotowski that the long-trendy notion that theatre needs big TV screens to stay relevant is kind of like how Democrats thought they had to be Republican-lite to stay relevant post 9-11. Down with multimedia bombast overwhelming simple human performances of rich and nuanced texts! It's like slathering ketchup on a spring roll.

Postscript: despite my cranky complaints I'm particularly exccited about CAST and hope that I'll be able to participate in their future work once I move to Charlotte. Laurie and I both think it's a going concern, and we want to help nurture it, despite the near-inevitability of a CAST person finding this blogpost and getting annoyed with me.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Alright, I'm sorry! For a brief moment of poverty-induced madness I put ugly stoopid ads on my blog. I don't know what I was thinking, seeing as how I never click on those ugly ads, and only five or six people ever seriously look at my blog in a day. I feel like I had the golden arches tattooed on my face. It's a little easier to clean my blog than to clean my face, though. Forgive me for offending your eyeballs with crap ads.

Anyway, my girlfriend pounded on my ads and adsense's shenanigans filter knew better. Instead of engaging in further get-rich-quick schemes we should probably make a movey about a couple that gets into doltish schemes.

Edited to note that I spelled "movie" as "Movey". I like "Movey" better and think I'll stick with it.

The Mystery of Pat Sotia

In my senior year of high school we were all assembled in the gym to hear a well-coiffed woman explain to us that we shouldn't have sex until marriage because promiscuity=pregnancy/genital warts, and that you can't trust condoms ("I know you love those orgasms, young people, but please..." quoted from memory). Unspoken subtext: get married quick. And if you do fornicate, then for crying out loud have the decency to not use a condom, because we can't have you skirting God's will, said will consisting of pregnancy and disease for nasty wicked disobedient fornicators.

The other day I found a picture of her in my yearbook, with the caption "Pat Sotia shares her views." A quick google on Pat Sotia and related phrases ("sotia abstinence", etc.) turns up nuffin. Did the yearbook screw up her name? Par for the course; it screwed up plenty of students' names too. But I wanna know what became of this woman. Is she part of the well-funded abstinence-only crew today? Has she gone into another line of work? I was the only kid in the school who

A. fell for it hook line and sinker, and

B. didn't run right out and get married.

So I have a few things I'd like to say to "Pat Sotia." Politely, but firmly.

Monday, March 24, 2008

French Fashion Illustration

Garance Dore. Spare and elegant. A bit like Josei manga, but no screentone.


For some reason this book jacket stuck in my memory and has haunted me since I was a kid in the Eighties and saw it in a cardboard display stand at Waldenbooks. I'm asking my design-oriented friends about the typeface... I'm fixated on it. It screams "Eighties" to me. Maybe it's associational. The Eighties were a time of following my Mommy from one store to another under a snowy Chattanooga sky. Bare trees lining the grey city streets, Christmas lights twinkling in the branches. Everything seemed charged with totemic mystery. Every drab department store seemed dusty and enigmatic.

There was a restaurant called the Brass Register which had, as part of its arch decor, a bathtub with a life sized soft knitted female rag doll taking a smiling bath. It weirded me out, embarrassed me, but amused my Mom into commenting on it. I was afraid to pass it on the way to the bathroom... it held the promise of danger, the same danger I sensed when grown women kissed my little-boy face.

I'd love to see it again, but I suspect it's long gone.