Sunday, July 31, 2005
Friday, July 29, 2005
My heartfelt condolences go out the the families, friends, and troop members of the scoutmasters who died at the Boy Scout Jamboree. I've deleted my earlier post about the Jamboree (unrelated to the accident) in order to make sure the two subjects weren't conflated. I certainly wouldn't make light of this tragedy.
In case you're curious (and hell, even if you're not. Sometimes I feel like I'm writing this so I can know what I was thinking a year ago...no audience required), Spontaneous Combustion went very well. The play I wrote, "Under the Boardwalk," was really well-received, thanks to the two wonderful actors who brought it to its virtual life, Jennifer Moses and Adi Kurtchik. Both of them continued to play and experiment with the roles through the show's three-night run. Adi came out of the dressing room in a completely new costume on Monday night, and a new personality to suit it. (Consequently, she was able to sell the final joke of the piece much better -- her visual alone set up the gag.) Jennifer had a dynamite "hooker sneer" which transformed into an devious smile as she began her sales pitch.
The evening itself was a mixed bag -- which it pretty much has to be, considering its origins. There were serious pieces -- which I think is pretty ballsy to even try, considering the format -- and funny pieces, including one (no, make that two) that were even more gonzo than mine. Which takes a lot of gonzo, believe you me.
Most important, though, was the sense of working together toward something wild and temporary. As much pressure-induced creativity as results from writing, acting and staging a play that didn't exist at all 48 hours before curtain, is the same amout of freedom in knowing that whatever you do, even if you screw up colossally, it'll all be gone by Wednesday.
But we didn't. We did well, and I'm proud.
Monday, July 25, 2005
Things I Miss from Childhood
I read this topic on Miss New Orleans’ blog, and thought I’d chime in. (While you’re there, check out this great post about a mysterious email.)
I miss these five things from childhood:
1) Riding my bike. And not just riding it aimlessly, but using it to go places. Used to be I’d go everywhere on it, and now, I don’t even have one. I should do something about that—especially since I’m once again living in a neighborhood where I can actually reach places I’d want to go by bike. Problem is, I still haven’t gotten over the psychological impediment that helmets are goony.
2) Dad, Nan and Aunt Esther. There are more relatives I miss, but these are the three that are gone that spring to mind. I think about Aunt Es’s love of old music, and realize I totally took that for granted when she was around. I miss walking into the family room and sitting down to watch a couple innings of the Phils with Dad. I’ve watched a little baseball since then, but it just isn’t the same. And Nan could always make me laugh, even when she wasn’t trying. Make that Especially when she wasn’t trying. I still have the $50 bill she gave me on the last Christmas she was alive. There just hasn’t been anything special enough to spend it on yet.
3) Seeing my friends every day. I’m not just talking about my childhood friends, either (although it’d be damn nice to see them more than once in a blue moon, too—although I’m as much to blame for that as anyone else). I’m talking about being in a little community of friends to hang with day in and day out. For most of the year, we were all at school; during the summer, we were at the pool. I’ve got a group of friends I see at work every day, and I always have fun with them, but I can’t kid you to say that it’s the same. Luckily, I get to see my wife every day (who inexplicably remains friendly to me), and I’ve got a damn good group of friends who I get to see more often than most grownups do (or at least, more often than it seemed my parents saw their friends). But those occasions when I get to see my friends constantly—a week down the shore, or Folk Fest—are magic.
4) My hair. Yeah, I’m a baldy. And I actually don’t mind it; if I keep my hair trimmed short it actually looks pretty good on me (I think). But damn if I don’t miss actually having options for it. Part it on the left, right or middle? Grow it long and shaggy? Ponytail? Spiked? Now, it’s either trimmed or it needs to be trimmed. Or its shaved altogether. (I’d also like the exuberance of having zero body fat back; another good reason to get that bike.)
5) Suspense and surprise. I love comics. I love reading comics, and reading about comics. I miss riding my bike to the drugstore and buying two comics and a box of Lemonheads. But I really miss having essentially no idea of what was going to happen in the next issue of the comics I buy. I don’t know if it’s possible to cocoon myself from spoilers so completely and still actually buy comics (and be informed of new books I might like)—particularly since, process junkie that I am, I love reading interviews with creators. Buy man, those few times when they actually pull the rug out form under me, I friggin’ love them for it.
So that’s my list. I’m going to formally tag Andrew to list his, but if you feel like self-tagging, just let me know in the comments section and go to it!
Saturday, July 23, 2005
Quick Update Before ZZZs
Spontaneous Combustion 18 is kicking off with a bang. It looks like I've got a script to hand my actors tomorrow...and hopefully I haven't flagrantly mixed any metaphors in it (such as, oh, I don't know, "kicking off with a bang?").
Seriously, I wrote another bizarro piece, and can't wait to see what Adi and Jennifer bring to it.
(Done at around three, buzzed with simple syrup iced tea until now.)
Friday, July 22, 2005
By the way, every now and then I'll link to a newspaper that requires registration to view its articles. In case you didn't know, you can get around that l'il step.
Just go to bugmenot.com and enter the url of the paper. The site'll spit you out a working username and password that will get you in and read what you want, without having to worry about being spammed for your troubles. It's an extra step to take, but the moment you spend now could save you time in the future, crawing out form a pile of spam -- and you can keep the rest of your information private, too.
Thursday, July 21, 2005
I’vebeen thinking a lot about a journalist’s right to protect a source’s anonymity.I understand the need to keep these secrets; it’s the expectation of confidentiality that gives some people the nerve to talk to a reporter in the first place.
Onthe other hand, there are plenty of people who take advantage of this supposed bond of secrecy. For instance, someone (or several someones) was leaking Judge Ethel Clement’s name as Bush’s pick all over Tuesday morning, in order to build the suspense for his Supreme Court press conference that night.I agree with Atrios on this point:Reporters should press the source for where they got the disinformation from– and if the source can’t give up their puppetmaster, then out them. Part of the bond is that the source is playing straight with the journalist; if he’s intentionally lying, the whole thing is null and void. But even in this case, there’s no reason for the law to get involved. It’s something that should be worked out between the reporter and the duplicitous slimeball…I mean, “source.”
Butthen there’s the matter of the Plame case. In this case, the leakers almostcertainly had another motive for speaking to reporters. And I agree with Molly Ivins’ sentiments when she writes in her July 14th column:
Look, reporters come armed with a notebook and a pencil. They do not carry guns, they do not have the powerto arrest people, they do not have subpoena power, they cannot force peopleto talk by holding them as material witnesses, they cannot sneak into theirhomes and read their computers. Generally speaking, if the law can't make a case without help from a reporter, they're incompetent.
What makes this different – and, I think, what makes Fitzgerald’s subpoenas to journalists valid – is not that a crime has been committed. Not even the severity of the crime – as severe as treason – makes the call for Matt Cooperand Judith Miller to deliver their sources proper. (Yes, it is legal; I justthink that it’s an action that’s damaging to our free society.) What makes this case an exception is that, in this case, journalism was used to commit the crime.
In a murder, homicide detectives search high and low for the murder weapon, knowing that by examining its condition and discovering its history they may findthe key to solving the crime. This case is the same: Journalism is what revealed Valerie Plame as a covert agent. But who pulled the trigger? The prosecutor, I believe, has the right and the duty to investigate the matter fully, asif he were a ballistics expert with a .38.Rob
Wednesday, July 20, 2005
I’ve been meaning to post this for a while. This weekend I’ll be participating in my second “Spontaneous Combustion” at Manhattan Theatresource. My first was so much fun that I’ve been keeping an eye out for another one ever since.
Here’s the deal. On Friday night, a bunch of writers will hook up (at random) with two actors each. We’ll be given a first line, a last line, and some sort of cultural reference to work into the script (last time, someone had to do an impression). Then we go home and write write write, returning on Saturday, jumpy and bleary-eyed, to give five-minute scripts to the cast.
After a few rehearsals and a lot more read-throughs, the night of one-acts goes up on Sunday night and runs through Tuesday.
I’m pumped. Last time, I wrote a short play called “Head Shots” that I think turned out really well – particularly since the actors I was paired with knocked it out of the park. This time – once again – I have no idea what I’ll write. I just know that, by Saturday at noon, I’ll have a new play.
I hope it’s good.
UPDATE: I've added a few links in case you want to come to the show. (Sunday through Tuesday at 8 p.m.)
Monday, July 18, 2005
Okay, spill. Was it one of you regulars?
I just looked up my site stats, and I noticed one word, googled twice to find me.
Now, I just Googled it too, and as far as I can tell, it's only other use is someone's screen name -- and maybe a defunct gamer ID. Could be the same guy, for all I know.
Have I started a meme? Or did one of you guys forget my url and figure the n-word was the quickest way to get here?
By the way, someone else was looking for a definition of schoolmarmism (via several sources) and came here. And, naturally, "underage thai" is still gets the perv vote. Also "amputee models." Got no idea what that's about. Sheesh.
Sunday, July 17, 2005
If you haven't yet, read this Frank Rich piece before it goes up behind The Times' pay-to-see wall. He does a great job pointing out what's forest and what's trees.
This case is about Iraq, not Niger. The real victims are the American people, not the Wilsons. The real culprit - the big enchilada, to borrow a 1973 John Ehrlichman phrase from the Nixon tapes - is not Mr. Rove but the gang that sent American sons and daughters to war on trumped-up grounds and in so doing diverted finite resources, human and otherwise, from fighting the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11. That's why the stakes are so high: this scandal is about the unmasking of an ill-conceived war, not the unmasking of a C.I.A. operative who posed for Vanity Fair.
Saturday, July 16, 2005
The Ninjatarianism Isn't Working...
...and besides, I had criminally good ribs the other night. Ribs so good I should be put in jail just for making them.
However, I've decided that, instead of eating only ninjas, I shall now eat only food killed or prepared by ninjas. Yes, I'm going ninja-kosher.
Thing is, ninjas are a secretive bunch. You can't expect them to put a little N in a circle on every cut of meat they butcher or cake they bake. That's against the ninja code. So, I'll have to assume that most food I can eat is prepared by ninjas unless I'm explicity told otherwise. The exception is brussels sprouts, since whoever heard of a ninja from Brussels. (Six foot four and fulla muscles, maybe, but can he drip poison down a string to kill James Bond? I don't think so!)
So there you have it.
Friday, July 15, 2005
Evan Hunter, R.I.P.
I flipped through today's Entertainment Weekly and got a bit of a jolt. Evan Hunter had died. He was one of my favorite writers, although, oddly enough, I don't think I've read anything Evan Hunter has written.
That is, under his own name. I've read a ton of books he's written under his better-known pseudonym, Ed McBain. McBain is best-known for his 87th Precint novels, police procedurals written from 1956's Cop Hater to last year's Hark!. I've read quite a few of these books, and enjoy the hell out of them. Besides being one of my favorite things in and of themselves, I can't imagine two of my other favortie things -- no, make that three -- would have ever come into existance without them. The TV show Homicide: Life on the Street owes a big debt to McBain -- even though it's based on a real homicide unit, and many times, on real cases. McBain changed the way we looked at cops, from heroes to civil servants, caught up in drudgery and paperwork and bad days and all the other hings real life brings with it. Yet McBain's civil servants find it within themselves to be heroes, putting their lives on the line for the innocent and the guilty alike. On top of this change in attitude, he rally crafted the way these stories are told.
Two great comics owe a big debt to McBain (and to Homicide, as well): Gotham Central, a police procedural in which everyday cops have to deal with Mr. Freeze and a guy who dresses like a bat and scares the crap outta crooks, and Top 10, Alan Moore, Gene Ha and Zander Cannon's comic about a police force in a city where everyone has superpowers. Both have McBain's attitude in their blood.
I got a chance a few years ago to tell Mr. Hunter how much I loved his work, when I interviewed him for the newspaper I was working for. We talked a bit about the 87th Precint, and then a bit about mysteries in general. I had just picked up on a trait that rus through many of his books: murder mysteries are all about the victim. He or she may not say a word, but they're the star of the book, as detectives dig deeper and deeper into who they were and why they were killed. It was good to be talking craft with someone who was so clearly a master of it.
I did see one thing Hunter wrote under his own name: Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds. He also wrote the book The Blackboard Jungle, and tons of other things. You can find out about them here.
Me, I'm gonna look over that list for one of the many books of his I haven't read yet. I've got a lot to choose from, but I'm confident I'll pick a winner.
Thursday, July 14, 2005
The beach was a lot of fun. I got to see my nephews and my niece, and I even read a comic book to one of 'em. I am now in the not-so-mild Itchy stage of my somewhat mild sunburn.
I read a Kinky Freidman novel, Frequent Flier, on the beach. The cat spins an entertaining yarn.
I haven't had much to say politically lately, but I have to say I'm enjoying watching Karl Rove get served a shit sandwich. I hope he's forced to eat it -- and order some for all his friends. But not his friends' friends, because apparently the President is friends with Kinky Friendman. He calls him up whenever he hears a good dirty joke.
We're closing the magazine this week, so I've been busier than usual. And the lawn is growin' growin' growin'. Sunday, there will come a lawnmower reckoning.
I started playing the Freedom Force video game. I'm not sure whether it's been cutting into my blogging time or my surfing time. Probably a little of both.
I hope Rehnquist retires soon. It's a given that Bush will try send one ultraconservative to the Supreme Court. But it'll be more difficult to send two up at the same time than it would be to get one approved, then another 6 months or a year later.
Jesus wants me to have fresh breath. Jim the Bastard explains.
Saturday, July 09, 2005
Always a Catch
I'm just about to head to the beach, but I wanted to blog for a moment about one of my favorite books: Joseph Heller's Catch-22. I rarely reread books. There's too much new stuff out there, and new-to-me stuff out there, forme to travel backward more than once in a while.
But I hadn't read Catch-22 since the summer before my senior year of high school, when the book was only 20 years old. Now it's almost 40. And it's every bit as good now as it was then, and more and more relevant.
Catch-22 focuses on an air force squadron stationed on Painosa, an island of the coast of Italy, during World War II. The lead character, Yossarian, is a bombardier who may be the one sane man in the world. As the colonels and generals keep on upping the number of missions required (it starts out at 30 -- by the end of the book it's up to 80), Yossarrian comes to believe that it's not just the enemy who's trying to kill him -- his own superiors are, too.
I don't want to talk too much about the book, or give away any of the absurd logical loop-de-loops Heller provides, but I do want to quote from one passage toward the end. Becauseeven with the Bushies up-is-downism, none of us have enough irony in our diet.
Morale was deteriorating and it was all Yossarian's fault. The country was in peril; he was jeopardizing his traditional rights of freedom and independence by daring to exercise them.
We all need exercise; even our rights. Remember to take yours for a spin regularly.