Monday, March 28, 2005

Torty Turtles, Every One Of 'Em

What do Governor Schwarzenneger, President Bush and Senators Rick "Man On Dog" Santorum and Tom DeLay have in common?

If you guessed that they're all proponents of so-called "tort reform," you're right.

But if you guessed that they've all filed lawsuits for damages, you'd also be right.

Shwarzenneger sued an Ohio auto dealer for unauthorized use of his image (in California courts, not less, despite the ad in question not running there). Santorum sued his wife's chiropractor for malpractice. (in what venure, I'm not sure -- he hasn't actually lived in PA for years.) DeLay sued a manufacturer for producing a defective copupling that played a part in the accident that killed his dad. And Bush sued Enterprise Rent-A-Car for renting to a driver with no insurance who got into a fender-bender with his daughter.

Now, I can't comment on the quality of the lawsuits. As far as I can tell, many, if not all, of them have merit of one sort or another. I've got no problem with them filing them. The courts can decide if anyone was in the wrong.

But you'd think that someone who's used the courts to redress injustices that happened to themselves or their families might be more sypathetic to other people who want to do the same.

I guess the world just looks different from the pocket of Big Business.

Rob

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Jilline Ringle

I don't know how many of you will recognize her name, but Jilline was a terifically entertaining actress and performer. I remember her one-woman show Mondo Mangia fondly -- in it, she'd tell stories of her family and sing classic songs, all the while cooking an Italian meal, served to the audience at the end. It was a wonderful, heartfelt show, crystalizing a message that's stayed with me to this day.

Food is love. I remember Jilline saying it, and how real it felt then, and still feels. It made me all the more grateful for the many home-cooked meals my mom made, the burgers my dad grilled, all of it. And it occured to me again tonight as I came home to Kathy feeling a bit under the weather, so I made dinner for her. (I can kiss her and tell her I love her all I want, but it's not chicken. Chicken is chicken, and it can do the job just as well -- although I admit it helps to do both.)

It's a simple message that adds richness to any meal, and it may stick with me for the rest of my life. So I've got plenty to thank Jillene for already. That's on top of the entertainment I got from the plays she performed in. She was a talented actress, and she's gone from us far too soon.

I didn't know her. I just gave her a good review or three, back when I was doing that sort of thing. God knows she earned them. Anyway, I'm ill-equipped to write any sort of obituary; if you want, Philadelphia Weekly has one here. I just wanted to take a moment to note her passing, and wish I could see her perform Mondo Mangia one last time.

Rob

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Welcome to the fall of Rome

I haven’t been paying much attention to the Terry Schiavo circus. For one thing, it’s horrifyingly sad. Plus, the grandstanding of DeLay and Frist make me sick to my stomach (can someone please take Frist’s license away? A heart surgeon delivering a diagnosis on brain activity based on a videotape has to be malpractice, doesn’t it? At the very least, it’s ethically… well, “suspect” doesn’t even tell the half of it. It’s reprehensible behavior.)

Anyway, I had heard something about Bush signing some law that would let the case go before federal court. But I didn’t know the details. Then I read this in The New York Times.

…supporters of Ms. Schiavo's parents, particularly members of the religious
right, leaned heavily on Congress and the White House to step in. They did so
yesterday with the new law, which gives "any parent of Theresa Marie Schiavo"
standing to sue in federal court to keep her alive.

This narrow focus is
offensive. The founders believed in a nation in which, as Justice Robert Jackson
once wrote, we would "submit ourselves to rulers only if under rules." There is
no place in such a system for a special law creating rights for only one family.
The White House insists that the law will not be a precedent. But that means
that the right to bring such claims in federal court is reserved for people with
enough political pull to get a law passed that names them in the text.


This is hideous. We’re losing the essence of our legal system to these dirtbags.

Rob

Monday, March 21, 2005

Head Shots Update

Man, did it go well. I'm a lucky man to have the actors I have. They totally sell what I wrote.

The whole evening went well, actually -- even the play that I thought was falling apart got a miracle, and totally came together. I'm not sure I understand it all, but at the very least it's fun to watch.

Rob

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Phew!

I just finished my 5-minute play for Spontaneous Combustion. It's a weird little piece called "Head Shots." I'm guessing it could be the strangest play of the bunch. You can see for yourself on Sunday, Monday or Tuesday night.

UPDATE: The actors, David and Brain, are doing a great job with it. It was pretty well-received at the read-through, and it looks like it will be starting out the night. It should be a lot of fun.

Rob

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Best Blogbounce Ever

I've been punching the little "next blog" button every now and then, but I only very rarely find something that appeals to me. But then I found this guy's blog. Looks like he's only been at it for a few days. But he seems pretty cool, and he directed me to Plustech's Walking Forest Machine. What I wouldn't give to drive one of these things! Definitely check out the videos, too.

Rob

Dancing Drugs

Consumer's Union has made up a fun animation about our prescription-drug culture. Take a look; it's funny stuff.

Rob

Spontaneous Combustion Begins in Two Days

Just a quick note about my upcoming weekend. I’m about to try a fun exercise at Theatresource. It’s called Spontaneous Combustion, and my friend Jen Thatcher turned me on to it. Here’s the deal.

Friday night, I’ll pair up with two actors. I’ll be given an opening line and a “cultural reference.” (I’m a little unclear on what this is. If I’m given “Pulp Fiction,” can I have the two actors dance like John and Uma?) From there, I go home and write my shriveled little heart out on Friday night.

Saturday, the actors get my script and rehearse.

Sunday, we all have a tech day. Then on Sunday night, it’s showtime! There are two more shows on Monday and Tuesday.

Now, from what Jen told me, every writer gets the same first line and cultural reference. Under these parameters, however, the five-minute plays go in wildly different directions. I’m really psyched about it, and can’t wait to see what comes out of my head – and then to see it acted out onstage is a crazy good feeling I haven’t had in years.

So, if you’re in the New York area and want to see what would pretty much have to be the most recent thing I’ve written (unless I sneak a page or two of Dash Dixon in during rehearsals), come on down to Theatresource. I can’t promise it’ll be good, but I’m sure it’ll be interesting.

Rob

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Listen.

Just a quick post about getting new music into your life.

Rob's been posting about podcasts quite a bit, and I was going to join him. And I will, soon, but for now go visit him to see what the rumpus is.

And I wanted to talk about Mark Morford's recent list of cool radio stations, most of which are available for listening online. His column is here -- there's bound to be something you'll like on it.

But for now, I'll just mention the first one that caught my ear: The Bone Conduction Music Show. Mark's description? "Goddamn fabulous. Old school. Beer and dogs and down 'n' dirty snappy banter and the finest eclectic mix of true devil's-music blues in the known universe, straight outta the deep-freeze beer chest that is Ann Arbor, Michigan. "

This is great stuff. Already it's introduced me to un unreal Dave Edmonds tune called "Dear Dad" -- it's in hour 2 of the March 11th show -- and a ton of other great tunes. Say hallelujah, grab your ankles and get ready for the blues injection. This show's downloadable in hour-chunk mp3s, and you won't stop with just one.

Jeri, Chiris A., Sharon -- we're talkin' about you here. You don't wanna miss this.

Rob

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Special LATP Investigative Report

As I was drifting in and out of sleep this morning, I weighed the evidence that my subconscious mind had obviously been mulling over all night during my dreams. The question remains: Is Sandra Bullock a mermaid?

Pro: She’d dropped out of sight for a few years. She could have been in Atlantis.
Con: She has legs.
Pro: She jumped out of a plane over the Pacific Ocean, and showed up a day later on a Los Angeles beach.
Pro: When confronted, she leaped back into the surf. Not even Prince Namor, the Sub-Mariner, could track her down.
Con: Aquaman wasn’t consulted, and he knows the Pacific waters better than that East Coast water baby.
Pro: David Spade, playing an abrasive tabloid reporter, claimed he had evidence, and was tracking down the story.
Con: He’d probably get his comeuppance by the end of the movie.
Pro: After Spade was convinced, we’d all find out that she really was a mermaid and she’d tricked him.
Con: But what about those legs?

Inconclusive: Bullock’s publicist has never mentioned it. Lori Lemaris and the Man from Atlantis could not be reached for comment.

So that’s it. Based on evidence both real and imagined, I’ve conclusively proven that Sandra Bullock might not be a mermaid. Maybe.

Rob

Friday, March 11, 2005

Click...

...here.

Made me laugh somethin' awful.

Rob

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Why Civil Unions Aren’t Enough

Words matter. If there’s anything I’ve learned from a life of talking, let alone writing, it’s that. What you call things directly affects how you see things, how you think of them. A rose by any other name is not a rose, not entirely. It may smell as sweet, but so does a cinnamon bun.

I don’t remember the first time I ever heard a gay man refer to his partner as his husband, but I think I remember what I thought when I heard it: “How cute.” This was years ago. I don’t remember who said it, or even if it was in person or simply someone I saw in a movie. Thinking about it, it was probably a live conversation – there weren’t a lot of gay folks represented on TV even 15 years ago, and I probably wasn’t watching those few who made it on the air. I never saw Torch Song Trilogy; it didn’t skeev me or anything, it just didn’t interest me enough to seek out. Not with The Last Starfighter in Theater 2.

So, My point was? Oh, right – “husband.” I thought it was nice that this guy was calling his boyfriend his husband. Nothing wrong with that, call him what you want. It sure as hell sounded better than “partner,” which sounded like a business arrangement, or “life partner,” which frankly sounds to me like a prison sentence. “Meet Crusher. He’s my life partner. Got any cigarettes?”

But one thing I never actually thought – that the guy I was introduced to was the other guy’s husband. I couldn’t take that at face value at all. He was a boyfriend, a lover, a…shudder…partner.

In other words, no matter what this guy said—not that he made an issue of it—I didn’t take their commitment as seriously as he did. As they did, husband and husband.

Now, I might’ve had a girlfriend at the time, or maybe not. But whenever I had a girlfriend, I was committed to her, and to the relationship. I might have loved her, I might have not – it really depends on the girl. But I was trying, I was faithful, and I like to think I was pulling my weight, relationship-wise. Sometimes it was work.

I didn’t see anything wrong with being a boyfriend. It was a pretty high level of emotional commitment, in my book. But I say this now, as someone who’s gotten to the “husband” chapter of the book: A boyfriend is NOT a husband. Not remotely. Neither is a fiancé a husband, despite what I thought of my level of commitment in that year and change. It’s not that I loved Kathy any less when I was a boyfriend, or a fiancé, or any of that. But the commitment is different. Not by nature, but by degree.

And when it comes down to it, I know damn well that heterosexuals aren’t the only people capable of the degree of commitment to be a good husband, or a good wife. If I can do it, it can’t be THAT tough – at least with the right spouse (another word I hate, incidentally – its gender-neutrality makes it sound somehow clinical. Esposa and esposo in Spanish are great, but "spouse" seems invented rather than organic). And it’s not just the will to be committed that makes the commitment possible. The word itself makes it possible. I didn’t think it was possible to be more committed to Kathy, to have more personally at stake in her health and safety and happiness, than when I was her fiancé. Fact is, I was wrong. Being a husband changes things, amplifies them. I imagine being a wife does, too.

Gays and lesbians should be able to marry. They should call their partners husbands and wives… and not only mean it, but have everyone know they mean it, and know what it means. Anything less is second-class. Civil unions may be a necessary step to get where we should be as a society, but they're just a step – not the destination.

Rob

Friday, March 04, 2005

As we start the weekend…

I should probably talk about last Saturday. Kathy and I went into the city to see the Gates. They’re the big orange portals that straddled the paths in Central Park for a few weeks, designed by an artist named Christo. We had a good time wandering through the park, taking pictures and looking around as the sun began to set. It was a chilly, gray day, and the orange gates looked imposing and terrific, like an army marching in formation.

We had tickets for a show later, so we headed out of the park and started looking for a subway. Before finding one, we found a choclatier called La Maison du Chocolat, where all the chocolate smells like money. (“Everyone likes money. Why do you think they call it money?”) Rather than buy a box of 2 or 6 bonbons (which we’d polish off in a heartbeat), I went into the back and ordered two hot chocolates – a bittersweet and a sweet. And was then told: “$15.20.” Yikes! Nonetheless, Kathy and I soon were ambling down 5th avenue, savoring our seven-dollar hot chocolates. Of the two, the bittersweet was better.

We headed downtown to the Theatre for the New City to see the Bindlestiff Family Cirkus. We had left some time for dinner, so we found a little bistro we thought was called the Anyway Café, but all interior indications pointed to Ame Russe, “a French bistro with a Russian heart.” We had a delicious dinner (duck ravioli for her; chicken stuffed with spinach, goat cheese and roasted peppers for me) with some martinis, and noted too late that they had a lot of interesting vodka infusions. But… we had to go. The circus started at 8!

The Bindlestiff Family Cirkus is putting on several shows around the city; the one we saw is called “From the Gutter to the Glitter.” In it, Mr. Pennygaff and Philomena Bindlestiff demonstrate a variety of sideshow and vaudeville acts, including sword-swallowing, fire-eating, top-throwing, trapeze artistry, whip handling, and balloon snorting. (You read that right.) Tickets were cheap–$15 apiece–and we had a blast. I even took part in a beer-chugging contest—who can down a bottle of Budweiser without using their hands at all—and got my ass kicked by a girl. But at least I didn’t spit the brew all over myself, like contestant number three did. And hey—free beer. Well, free Bud, anyway.

After I bought a top and getting it autographed by Mr. Pennygaff, Kathy and I headed to a little pastry shop to get desert. Then, sensing it was too early to go home, we went back to visit our Russian friends.

A live band began playing since we’d left, and the truth is, while they had some talent, they didn’t seem to have rehearsed at all, and the singer’s reach exceeded her grasp quite a bit. But Kathy and I found a little table against the wall, and ordered two shots of vodka—one infused with apples, the other with blackcurrants. Both were terrific, but the apple was the real treat of the two. As we were deciding what to try next, the manager (who’d recognized us when we came in) sent over two more complementary shots. Delicious, and slowly down the hatch once again. But I had my heart set on a lemon shot, so Kathy ordered another apple, and we had a third before heading back into the cold.

Hell, even the train ride home was enjoyable. At the theater we’d found a free magazine called Jest, which had us in stitches the whole ride home. A history of the Groundhog Day groundhogs. Polygamist Valentine’s Day cards. A jaywalka with badass attitude. And one of the funniest puzzles I’ve ever seen (but can’t describe without ruining the joke). Even the ads were funny.

Some days you get wall-to-wall good days like this, and when you do, you’ve just gotta appreciate ’em. Even if, as I suspect, this one was meant for someone else.

Rob

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Internet Switchboard

There are a few interesting conversations and items going on at some blogs that I (and quite likely, you) frequent, but in case you're not going there, I thought I'd direct you.

Mark at the Roost is hosting an interesting conversation about when it's okay to tell parents to control their kids. I don't have kids, but I have to admit I'm clicking rather regularly to see whether anyone else has commented. It's nice to have something else to discuss other than politics now and then -- and something reasonable people can disagree on is even better.

Jeri, Seething in the Wilderness, is listing the 44 things she'd do if she were president. She's up to #7; here's the first. (#6 is my favorite.)

And Rob at Usdin.net has brought up a number of good things, including podcasting (which is not only the New Cool Thing but is either a seed or a symptom of how the Internet can change the world--probably both), efforts to allow the FCC to censor cable TV & satellite radio, and the possibility that linking to a campaign's web site violates the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law. This last one could be an attempt to turn people against Mc-F, but it's worth knowing about just the same.

Rob (a linkin' fool)