Saturday, December 21, 2013

Fire away. I'm comfortable with my point of view.

There was a fellow in the 19th Century by the name of William Winwood Reade, who wrote an interesting treatise titled THE MARTYRDOM OF MAN that had a certain vogue back in the day.  I would invite you to read it, if you've go the time and the patience, because it's a dense thing and a little more archaic than you probably would like.

But it did provide an interesting premise.

A single human being is a puzzle; there is no certainty, on any given day, as to which way the individual will jump given a certain set of stimuli.  We are, in solo, an insoluble puzzle.

However, in the aggregate, we become an almost mathematical certainty.  The more of us there are, given the same stimuli, the more likely we are able to predict the movement and outcome.

In the early Twentieth Century, they referred to it as Mob Mentality.  When a group of people get together, it is far more likely that the group will do something predictable, and in some cases a thing that the single individual would find appalling.

On a slightly less macabre note, we used the idea in the theatre to describe the beginnings of a comedy; you needed to reach those more outgoing people to laugh that first time; because that single laugh will give courage to the others who will hear that laughter and interpret it as permission to respond, and once that happens, the actors own the audience.

And in a literary note, Issac Asimov used the idea in the FOUNDATION series, and called it Psychohistory; that the larger the group, the easier to predict.....even years, decades or centuries down the line......

Which brings us to today.

A single voice transmitted over a video screen; a single sentence written on a social media page; an opinion spouted on the pages of a magazine than nobody reads anymore....and the world goes predictably mad.

And we become sheep, following the loudest voice, or what we consider to be the most learned opinion, or the prettiest, or the most popular.....regardless of the veracity of the voice.

And the few individuals who stand aside and actually watch this happen wonder if the voices that guide the mob are doing it for no other reason but that they can.

Like children with an anthill and a magnifying glass.

Let us resolve to listen before we speak; to research the topics that rile us; to read the books that are quoted and often misquoted; to smile at the opinions we disagree with and understand that the secret to the First Amendment is that you may disagree with the point of view, but you must defend the right to say it.....

Because one of the first precepts of Christianity is forgiveness.  It's also the hardest, because we are wired for revenge, and not forgiveness.....which is one of the reasons that The Christ was sent to us in the first teach a better way.

Where did that path go?  It was here just a second ago........

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Many a day goes by......

I can't count how many times I've looked at my face in the bathroom mirror and emphatically stated, "I f***ing quit."

It was a mantra several times in the 1980's.  In fact, it was a mantra that got me through some very tough times; for I felt that if I could say it, out loud, and MEAN IT, then I could DO it.

I had an exit strategy.  And that was enough to go on for one more day.

My current job has done a lot for the decay of my physical and mental health.  But I have pretty good insurance.  But a bad schedule.

It kind of reminds me of a book I remember reading when I was very young titled, WHAT GOOD LUCK!  WHAT BAD LUCK!

Such things as:

What BAD luck!  You fell out of the plane!
What GOOD Luck!  There's a Haystack to break your fall!
What BAD Luck!  There's a pitchfork in the haystack!
What GOOD Luck!  You miss the pitchfork!
What BAD Luck!  You miss the haystack!

It goes on like that for awhile.

The good luck is that I'm no longer butting heads with my new boss; we've reached a kind of reasonable peace treaty, shook hands and had done with it.  I admitted I was occasionally inflexible, but to my credit, it's a kneejerk reaction and NOT a long standing tradition.....I resist change right off the bat, but after about thirty minutes, I'm ready to concede.  And I also admitted that I was frustrated with every Supervisor coming through my office making it their first priority to adapt the culture to themselves, and not themselves to the culture.

As if changing seven minds is much easier than changing your own.


Anyway....there may be something more my speed coming down the pike, but I'm not holding my breath or fashioning any resignation letters....yet.

My eyes ache (no new glasses as of yet) and I've begun the holiday eating far too early.

And I went to a delightful Christmas party last evening, sponsored by my favorite Wife's employer.  They are a fun bunch of folks, and it was worth it to be sitting here with no sleep.  And let's face it; I've burned daylight on less fun stuff than that.

And yes, it's snowing.  And yes, it's cold.

And the wheel turns.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The following was found in the remnants of 100 monkeys on 100 typewriters.

As you probably well know, it's been what can only be described as "cold ASS."

Over the weekend, it did, in fact, get up to a high of 2.

And in fact, it did drop to a legitimate -22 at one point.  WITHOUT a wind chill.

The wind chill turned it into about -35.

And I.....LIVE here.

But enough about that.  There are other things to talk about.

My car was murdered by the cold.  Death due to terminal cancer of the starter.  Surgery required.  Resting comfortably in the garage.

I'm going to exact a wicked revenge upon the Snow Miser. 

In other news, I finally was forced to attend an appointment with an optometrist.  I am the last of my family to do so, and yes, it was a good long half-century run.

My left eye is worse than my right eye.  I have cataracts.  And apparently something in the back of my right eye that deserves some kind of annual attention. 

The last optometrist I attended, back in college, also saw that little something in the back of my right eye, and predicted that I would be blind by about 20 years ago.

Lying sack of crap.

But thanks to the Universe for putting that telegram on hold.

So, I have to have glasses; and I realized when he put the eyes together with the proper prescription that every muscle in my face relaxed.....and I had been attempting to will my eyesight not to be blurry.

That's a workout, kids.

So, I chose a pair of retro specs that'll make me look like I work at NASA in the 60's. 

I'll probably look like an old man.

Because I really do feel my age these days.

I see that the President shook hands with Raul Castro at Mandela's funeral; FOX is going a little crazy about it; I think they see it as just another treasonous act by this foreign born usurper to the throne.

I see it as a man shaking hands with another man, in the spirit of the occasion; the spirit of freedom; and the spirit of peace.

F*** FOXnews.

Oh, now they're back to Benghazi.  Good.  They've gotten really good at that story; they've only been rehearsing it for over a year.

I'm directing a show in a few months.....CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF.  I'm thinking of dressing everybody in cat suits and setting the theatre on fire.

Actually, I'm not.  Because nothing is worse than the fragrance of charred actor.  In a cat suit.

In reality, I'm looking forward to begin able to carry the whistle again; it's been.....a long time....since I directed.  I look forward to casting.  And I look forward to moving forward.  And of course, I look forward to finishing it.

It's the closest I'll ever get to anything even slightly resembling childbirth.

And in a year, who'll remember?

Perhaps I should completely butcher it, so at the very least it'll be memorable.

My Christmas shopping is pretty much done.

The useless thing on my wish list THIS year?

Light Sabre.  With sound. 

I'm a geek.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

One Shoe On.

When I was fifteen, I was cast in a play called DON'T DRINK THE WATER by Woody Allen.  It's a very funny play, and is still done today because a Jersey family trapped in an Iron Curtain Embassy just never stops being funny.  But when we did it, there was still an Iron Curtain, and Embassies didn't regularly get gutted and their occupants murdered. 

Cuz that would kill the comedy.

I can remember very few of the cast of that show, but I do remember this one guy; tall, gangly kinda fellow, with a distinctive voice and something in his eye that indicated a knowledge that just plumb eluded me.

In the first read through of this play, I remember he had this line; he was playing the Embassy chef, and he had this one, ranting line about how he was a former chef for the Queen of England, and the former Chef to the President of France, and the former Chef to the Maharajah of Shashneesh....and before that, he did very little cooking.

He did it.  And I lost it.  Funniest line reading.  Ever.

And the director.....made him CHANGE IT.

And it was never as funny after that.

Well, I grew up, and so did that tall, gangly lookin' dude who had the look that indicated blah blah blah.

I became an actor, a teacher, and these days a kind of communications expert.

He became this really cool musician.

Joe Henry has done eight or nine albums, produced God knows how many more, has performed all over the wide world and knows pretty much everybody worth knowing.  His lyrics are to be sought after and read and sung and savored, and in some cases, painted on the subway walls.  His voice is a thousand others, and his own at the same and longing and pained and content.

And yes, he's still funny.

I first saw Joe do a show in a high school cafeteria in the spring of 1978; and I saw him again last Tuesday night, in a cool little club in downtown Minneapolis; I was in the company of his Sister, Cathy, on whom I first crushed all those years ago, and am now exceedingly happy to have her as a friend-of-many-tales. 

Of the show, I will say this; I have been, for several decades now, been searching for a time when I could attend one of Joe's shows.  Never could.  But it was kind of this full-circle bucket-list kinda thing with me.  I was there during the early days when he was singing other people's songs, and I wanted to be there to hear him sing HIS songs.

It was glorious.  It was like being stretched through time; both feet planted in the present, and everything else shot into the past.

I had several hours with which to catch up with Cathy; to first tell the stories of there-to-here, and then dancing back in time for a bit......we ate grilled cheese sandwiches and tater tots.  I kid you not.

We ordered drinks, and sat at a table overlooking the small stage, and for the two hours that time simultaneously moved quickly and not, I gobbled up every single nuance; I heard old songs a new way, and new songs in an old way.  I laughed at the comments and admired the quick wit as Joe bantered with an audience that not only knew his work, but knew him, as well.

Seriously, somebody gave him Birthday greetings.

When it was over, and we sat at a table waiting for Joe to finish his signature obligations, I met a few other, great witted and charming people, and in the instant Joe came to the table, the thought struck me.

I have been a fan of his since before the first album; but for the love of GOD, I knew this guy, cumulatively, for about 20 minutes back in the 1970's!  What the HELL was I doing there?

He remembered me.  Which was remarkable.

He invited me to join them for dinner, which was even more remarkable.  The three of us talked about a thousand things, of home, and family and art and music and travel and how I wound up in a frozen wasteland and became a DHS spy.

And in the end, both Joe and Cathy hugged me.  He put his arm around my shoulder, and together we took the worst picture in the known world.  Apparently, we both smiled just before, and just after the picture was taken.

I traveled to the venue leading a snowstorm; and the following day I traveled back into the teeth of that storm.  And I was fine with it, and would do it again in a heartbeat.

Because some things are absolutely necessary.

And this was like forty of them.

And all day today, as the car died from frostbite and my eyesight finally faded enough to provoke action, I sang softly to myself...

Take me back to your house
And turn on the lights;
Everyone must pass this way

Sunday, December 1, 2013


A month ago, I made arrangements to see a fellow named Joe Henry in concert in Minneapolis.  I knew Joe briefly, many years ago, and attended an impromptu concert he put on while we were all young and in high school; I think that was the spring of 1978.  and now, a little over 35 years later, I'm going to sit and watch again.

His sister, Cathy will be there, and has been instrumental in getting me to go.

Instrumental, as in, "Hey, Joe's doing a concert in Minneapolis, you wanna go?"

Cathy was a stalwart companion during the early years of high school.  And I haven't seen her in about 33 years.  Give or take.

I'll be heading that way on Tuesday; and you'll never guess......we're expecting a blizzard and bitterly cold temperatures starting...well...Tuesday.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

And probably going anyway.

On Friday morning, something happened in my head; perhaps some of the unsightly calcium buildup in my brain shifted or something, but I suddenly remembered doing a play that I had so thoroughly repressed that it was a shock when the dim recollection came roaring back to full-bright.

It was a play called....gulp.....Opal's Million Dollar Duck.  And I wish I could say it was in my youth, but it was a production at the old Golden Eagle Riverboat.  It must've been 1988, or 1989.  I have no other specific recollection, except that the woman playing the title character seemed to think she WAS the title character, and I remember a scene when I was supposed to try to brain her with a baseball bat and she kept screwing up the timing (mostly because she had no timing) and since I was behind her she had no idea how close she came to leaking brain fluid out of her ears.

I don't remember anything else about it.  I don't remember any other actor in the show.....I don't remember the set, and my collection of old play scripts does not include that particular play.

I was......disconcerted at the memory.

I've been pulling together the various threads in the beginning process of directing Williams' CAT.  The first parts of the process are scary for me; looking at schedules and wondering about time....looking at the calendar and wondering if anybody will come an audition....wondering if my poor reputation as a serious theatrical professional will scare people off, regardless of my actual reputation as a first class idiot, which can never be off-putting.

Seriously, I have a merit badge in Idiocy.

I have a set in my head; no walls, just doors and furniture.  Everything can be seen from everywhere; there is no hiding or lying.

Most importantly, I have begun to hear the voices; the characters are beginning to talk to me.  I can hear the music.  So, I'm less worried than I was a while ago.

And of course, auditions aren't until early February.  So, I have time.

The outside of the house is decorated in the traditional Historiclemo way.  The interior will wait just a little longer.  I have made some purchases, and will make a few more before the end of the week.  A list of wants has been requested by my better half, and I am having a terrible time coming up with anything resembling a list.

One thing, apparently, is not a list.

Can you believe how quickly things more these days?