Letters to Holly

Friday, December 21

Sick Again

The cold sandbagged me, and another medicated night was spent in the guest room. I'll be sure to clean it up before you visit, don't worry. I'll hose down the bed. On the good side, I was given Friday off, and I've spent the day so far eating oranges for the vitamins and drinking coffee to dehydrate myself. I think we'll have soup and bread tonight (Your Sis calls it "prison food") to bolster my revolted tummy. I'm taking long soaks with magazines and novels to warm myself up.

I finished My Mom's CD and wrapped it for the tree. Except for you, I think we're done giftifying.

You'll be in town starting tomorrow night, and we'll try to make the vacation as spoiled as possible. And I'll be healthy by the time you arrive at the house.

Picture of the Day
We've got the tree lit for you.

Thursday, December 20

Dog Gone

The writers' strike hasn't hit our TV routine much. The benefit is that we can catch up on shows like House missed during my play rehearsals. But what we watch so often -- Jeopardy, This Old House, Survivorman, football -- don't employ those kinds of writers. "Pro wrestling" and "unions" are rarely uttered in the same breath so those scripts aren't affected by the walkout.

There was an odd thing on the Survivorman we watched last night. Les Stroud is a Canadian outdoorsman who drops himself in remote locations to live off the land for a week. He carries cameras and a few supplies to challenge himself. This recent show had him dog sled through Labrador, in the Arctic Circle. On the second half of the trip, he decides he needs to make the odds worse, and he jumps off the sled and watches the dogs vanish behind the horizon. He then spends the night outside in snow trench. He makes a point to say the dogs will follow the trails back to the rescue camp, about 100 miles away. But the next day, the rescue crew extracts him because the weather is turning the reliable lake ice into sludge. They all helicopter out. But there is no mention of the dogs. We had no idea if they returned or survived in the melting ice.

A quick check of the official Survivorman message boards shows that the dog's owners knew Stroud would separate from the dogs, and they in fact did make it back to camp. No word, however, on how long it took them to make it. I'd wager it was more than two days, and those dogs had no food. That's harsh. Cruel, even. I can watch the show to see Stroud risk his fool neck but not to take a chance with a pack of work dogs. Then again, I know squat about sled dogs. I was unhappy with Stroud neglecting to make overnight shelters for the dogs similar to the ones he made for himself.

My university plays Boise State in Hawaii Sunday night for the first weekend of bowl games. I don't see my guys doing well. I say they lose by 21 points. Your Sis will join me in Asheville tomorrow for what is supposed to be a shot day at our office.

I'm fending off another goddamn cold.

Picture of the Day
I could do Subway for lunch.

Wednesday, December 19

Days of Wine and Scorches

I found out, just yesterday, that I in fact do get to play more fantasy football. I apparently had a bye week before what's called the consolation round where the low-end teams fight it out for third place. If my team wins this week, I get to play next week. The rosters are now locked, however, so I can only play the team I fielded last. The projections say I'll lose, but at least it's another week of intense stat watching. And God help the Miami Dolphins.

We indeed hosted the teacher buddy, and I indeed set off the smoke alarm with the grilled chicken. She used to work in newspapers, and we swapped war stories. We talked and talk and talked and killed a bottle of wine. It made for a late evening and a dramatic crash into the bed. Earlier in the day, the office went out for a Thai lunch.

I'm technically done for Christmas shopping, except we'll have to buy you something when you visit. Something that catches your eye while we're out and about. Something to celebrate the end of exams. Or we can just throw open the liquor cabinet and play video games all night.

Picture of the Day
Red glass octopus. Just 'cause.

Tuesday, December 18

No Coffee

A new Ingles opened right near the office, and I walked down to meet the Starbucks staff, with whom I'm sure I'll become familiar quickly. But the stand isn't open yet. The sign says it won't open 'til almost New Years. It's odd. The pharmacy is open, the bakery is open. And yet I am deprived of my crackuccino. For this, worlds shall pay.

My Mom asked for a Christmas mix CD for a present, and I have about 12 songs at the ready. Half the disc is from either our Dean Martin of Charlie Brown Christmas discs.

We're hosting a teacher buddy for dinner tonight, and I hope to make chicken alfredo without setting off the smoke alarm. Again.

I'm waiting for Your Sis to ask Your Parents when they want to come over for Christmas dinner. Then I can tell My Parents when to show up.

Moving Picture of the Day
Here's the official trailer for the Batman sequel, and wow is it geek nirvana. Heath Ledger is unrecognizable, and Brokeback Mountain proved he can act his ass off. Too bad we have six months to wait for this.

Monday, December 17

Sometimes Invisible

Often, when the two of us are out and about in our hamlet, a student will walk up to Your Sis to talk about school. And I'll step back a bit to let them chat. Also often, the conversation will end with "see you laters," and there will be no acknowledgment that I'm there. No introductions, not even a glance my way. I become Ghost Husband. It's a horrible feeling.

We dug into research papers, and the grading was scattered throughout the weekend. The threat of the possibility of snow sent us to the grocery store. We got no white stuff, however. We went to a surprise birthday party Saturday night and ate potato soup and cake.

We went to a sports bar Sunday to watch the New England game, and I discovered the bliss of six live football games available on five TVs. It was a divine visitation of pigskin and snow. And we ate like pigs. We then rented and watched the third Pirates of the Caribbean film (finally), and it was an exhausting experience. I liked it, but I'm glad we saw this on our smallish TV to constrain it to an acceptable dosage.

To reward ourselves for grading papers, we decided that Sunday dinner would be red velvet cake. And so it came to pass.

It's A Wonderful Life airs Christmas eve at 8 p.m. on NBC, and I've set the TiFaux to record it.

Picture of the Day
"I don't believe it."
"That is why you fail."

Thursday, December 13

Christmas Cheer

Because of some transaction loophole (either from the car dealership or the registration process), a third-party telemarketing group found out that we bought a new car. Beginning within the month we bought the car, we've been inundated by recorded telemarketing calls warning us that we have to act fast to extend or renew our car's warranty. It's crap. The real warranty lasts two years or 120,000 miles.

The calls tend to come when we're at work, suggesting the company thinks we're still the original retired homeowners. Not unusual. We get a lot of daytime calls that target an older demographic -- health insurance, gutter guards, home security, etc. The message doesn't identify us by name or the make/model of the car. It's as generic as possible, hoping to reel in some confused older person with ready access to their hopefully packed bank account.

But tonight, we got the call while we were gobbling dinner (homemade pizza). I answered, and the call instructed me to stay on the line so I can reactivate my warranty. I didn't hang up, and a voice asked for the make and model of my car. Here's how it went:

Him (bored and mumbling): Make and model of the car?
Me: I don't think you're connected with the company that sold us the car. Who is this?
Him: Are you [my first and last name]?
Me: Yes. And if you're connected to my warranty, tell me the make and model.
Him: Sir, we --
Me: What's the make and model?
Him: [pause] Alright, buddy ...
Me: No, buddy. Tell me the make and model.
Him: Go to hell, alright.
Me: You go to hell too, pal. This is a scam.

And I hung up. I really hope they call back.

Your Sis is sometimes surprised by how rude I can be to telemarketers, but I'm not by default. I know folks who did this for a living. It's a shit job, and folks gotta eat. I've even done the job myself, making fundraising cold calls for my first college. When the callers make the sales pitch, I say by habit "no, thank you, I'm happy with the [product] I already have. Good bye." If they realize the pitch is over, they usually thank me, skip to the script section of the company's phone number, and we exchange good byes.

But sometimes there are the folks who refuse to acknowledge the denial and assume that my courtesy means I'm a customer who wants to be wooed. When they continue the pitch by interrupting my farewell, then, yes, they are free game, and I give them hell. Doesn't matter how much pressure they're under to sell the merchandise. A smart salesperson knows when it's not happening and moves on to the next number.

And let's be honest here: If I have a bad day at work, and I can't tune into Your Sister's wavelength, an unwelcome sales call is a great outlet for frustration. But I normally, usually, mostly don't look for someone to kick just 'cause they have a shit job.

The scrapbook is 90% done. A few more printed pages, and I can wrap it up.

Picture of the Day
A new image from next year's Where the Wild Things Are film.

Wednesday, December 12

Grading the Burritos

This semester's senior projects were yesterday, and Your Sis was among the teachers watching and grading. The scores had to be tallied, and a small group of teachers went to the local Mexican restaurant to eat and add. I helped out. Beforehand, I tightened up the pages for the scrapbook, and I should definitely have this done by the weekend and under the tree by Sunday.

I had to take the car in today for it's required 15,000-mile tune-up, and Your Sis is dismayed that I drove that many commuting miles since April. But it's not so bad. I mean, I'm driving a new car. I'm no longer fretting that my engine will fall out near the airport.

My Secret Santa sent me a fantastic comic series called Scott Pilgrim. It's definitely influenced by Japanese romance manga, but it also brings in rock bands and video games. I throughly enjoyed it. I hope I don't steal from it too blatantly for my own material.

Picture of the Day
Hulk sketches.

Tuesday, December 11

The Project

OK, here's what I'm working on for Your Sister. (I'm pretty sure she never read the blog, and if she does, well, babe, you just skunked your Christmas.)

I'm making her a scrapbook of the Washington trip.

I've never scrapbooked before, but I happen to know someone who's made a career of making and selling scrapbook supplies for more than ten years. We went to high school together and even worked together at the daily newspaper back home before she turned to this. She and my first wife were tight and shared scrapbooking as a hobby for a time.

Now I know that this can get expensive quick; the variety of props is staggering, and that's before you look at papers and stickers and the albums themselves. I wanted to do this proper but without blowing a chunk of change for something that looks like it was made by a blind Boy Scout. Luckily, scrapbooking has turned digital where the entire page can be assembled with software and then printed as one sheet. And that becomes my territory: page design.

I have the photos and found a great album, and I've spent a few weeks recreating the timeline and playing with layouts. I wanted to pay matte paper for a decent printing, but what I bought yesterday is so thick, it won't even roll through my printer. It's a useless pack of cardstock. Luckily I have some photo paper left. It'll be about 34 pages as it stands now. I think she'll like it.

My fantasy win wasn't enough to get me in the playoffs, and my season is effectively over. I can still coach for three more weeks, but I can't advance to the fantasy championship. I still want a winning record.

The NFL Contest
HER PICKS
NFC: New Orleans (6-7), St. Louis (3-10)
AFC: Indianapolis (11-2), New England (13-0)

MY PICKS
NFC: New Orleans (6-7), Carolina (5-8)
AFC: New England (13-0), San Diego (8-5)

It is no truly possible for New England to win every game as they have two easy games coming up. New Orleans, Carolina, and St. Louis are examples of how weak their conference is.

Picture of the Day
Here's an example of a spread.

Monday, December 10

Trimming the Tree and the Comatose Wife

IYour Sister, sick once again, slept virtually all weekend. We put up the tree Saturday night, and we placed some wrapped gifts underneath it Sunday. I hope to have her Secret Project Gift finished by this week. There are so many sudden invites to Christmas parties that we have to choose which ones to attend. I've never had this dilemma before. I should also mention that she's killing me at the Have a Holly Jolly Christmas tree-spotting game, but mostly because I don't know the lyrics to the song.

I stayed up Saturday night to watch a three-hour UFC show. I've become addicted to mixed martial arts in the last few months. I was a boxing addict in my younger days. I watched the last days of Ali and the glory days of Sugar Ray Leonard and Marvelous Marvin Hagler and Hector Macho Comacho, Bowe, Holyfield, and the ascension and disgrace of Tyson. I loved boxing back when it was decent. UFC has easily surpassed it, and I love a well-executed submission win.

Tom Brady remembered that I rely on him for my fantasy team and helped me to a win this week, bringing me up to 7-7 for the year.

Picture of the Day
I forgot to post the finished Spidey image. I'm drawing again, and I'll post more sketches during the week.

Friday, December 7

Luxury

Your Sis had such a good day at work that she ended the evening with a soak. She never uses the tub. Incredibly, she used the bathtub whirlpool jets for the first time. We've been in that house for more than 2 years.

We ordered pizza and watched tiFauxed House and some football. I manged to turn to Entertainment Tonight just in time for her to see the coverage of Speed Racer, and her face just lit up.

I think we're putting up the tree this weekend. I mailed out my Secret Santa gift despite a hard sell for Priority mail from the lady behind the counter. A very hard sell, almost belligerent. If we meet on the street, I shall challenge her to a duel.

Moving Picture of the Day
She saw this: the trailer for Speed Racer, by the folks behind The Matrix and V for Vendetta.

Thursday, December 6

Comfort Food

I bought Your Sis Nutella and Graham Crackers to help her get through the cold, but she saved it to eat once she got better. I think we ate half of both last night. This was after I tried a new chicken and zucchini recipe that unfortunately came out like a stew.

She never noticed until this year just how many jewelry ads run on all channels, targeted to make men think they have to buy baubles for the womenfolk. It's a deluge. Kay, Jared, Zales -- they push the hard sell on us poor, stupid men. Your Sis does want a new necklace for Christmas, but she's still looking at designs and stones. But no diamonds, she says.

Moving Picture of the Day
Swedish Chef, Animal, and Beaker sing Danny Boy.

Wednesday, December 5

Sketchy

Your Sis shook off the cold yesterday. I took her to a local restaurant with a fireplace, and she practically sat in it, muttering "fuego es bueno."

I made a large rough based on the initial sketches. This gave me a chance to listen to my DVD commentary, and now it seems like something only I would be interested in. I don't think I'll add it to the DVD copies. Unlike the sketch, this rough would include shading and muscle suggestion. I fiddled with the idea of a background but abandoned it.


I then made a lightbox tracing that I'll later ink over. I'm aiming to mail out the sketch to my online Secret Santa recipient by Friday.


The Christmas Project is moving along quickly, and I may have it finished by next weekend. I think we'll put up the tree this Saturday.

Monday, December 3

In the Meantime

We attended our first school basketball games of the season Friday night. The girls team is sloppy except for one freshman who obviously plays against older brothers. She's astounding. She has deadly skills and the right attitude. She didn't change expressions once, never argued a foul, never pouted over a missed shot. She played hard and well. I want to see all her games. The boys killed the county rivals, but they weren't as much fun to watch.

We Christmas shopped the next day. I'm trying to piece together Your Sister's gift, but she insists on tagging along with me in town and making shopping close to home impossible. We split up in Asheville, and I did find just the thing I need to get the project started. Yes, I'm being vague. She is now sick at home after a miserable Sunday. I laundered and grocered and tended to her. But mostly I started the Gift Project assembly and worked on a sketch for an online Secret Santa. He asked for Spidey.

Also? I dusted off the Katamari game to hone my Damacy-Fu.

Picture of the Day
Here are the sketches I popped out early last week. I began a larger rough Sunday, and when that's tight, I'll copy it to another sheet to ink.

Thursday, November 29

Happy Birthday

To ensure there are no Three's Company-level misunderstandings, I told Your Sis about the MySpace page. I showed her how the site works and that I couldn't be found by searching for the name of our town. But when we did that search, we found a bunch of her students' pages. She was fascinated by what they were saying and how. They love to talk vulgar, only they do it badly. I think she could spend the whole night reading their pages.

We worked over rough drafts of research papers, and some of these are lousy. Lacking in basic sentence competence, and a number of these kids are from the local Private Academy for Precious Snowflakes Who Can't Hack Real Classrooms. Those parents are getting ripped off if they think their kids have a head start before entering high school. One paper was so bad we sincerely wondered if it were a Babel Fish translation of a paper written in another language.

Picture of the Day
I couldn't find the video. Even with my significant search-fu.

Wednesday, November 28

An Adventure into Another Universe

I've tried search engines and various email addresses to contact folks from my college days. A good number of those I managed to find have MySpace pages which allow you to email them only if you have an account. So, with a great trepidation unfelt since my very early days online, I signed up yesterday for a MySpace page. I then emailed via the site two gals I knew from college and university and let folks on one message board know I had taken the plunge.

It worked. I've heard back from one person with whom I shared an ECU newspaper office, and I've been befriended by the message-board people. I can see the appeal of the site. It works like a one-page website, but I prefer the options of my own page at GeoCities. That site's free 25 megs of space is plenty for what I want to do there. The MySpace page is strictly for those folks who are trying to find me or want to contact me.

I had a monster headache after work yesterday, bad enough to require medicine. I never get those kinds of headaches and certainly never take pills for them. It faded eventually, and Your Sis enjoyed the chance to play nursemaid again.

Picture of the Day
One of the new pics from 2008's Indiana Jones sequel. Screw the mileage, it's the years.

Tuesday, November 27

A Minor Correction

I wrote this yesterday:
4) Brooke seems to have trouble with the new baby, and she's quite the conversationalist.

This is wrong. I meant to say she has no problem with the baby. If not for the occasional feeding, you wouldn't have known there was a new baby in the house. She slept almost the entire time which is normal for this age, I learned. I don't know how much of Brooke's doll play is affected by the baby. I mean, she's almost three. Don't all girls go doll crazy at this age?

I worked on my commentary track experiment for the play DVD. I think I'll have to make two tracks; my DVD player is freezing as the original track got longer. I don't know how practical this is going to be for people to use. I think they'll have to play the DVD and the tracks using separate PC software, and that's clunky design.

Geek Pictures of the Day


The first official image of The Joker from the Batman Begins sequel. Even though I am a card-carrying geeknerd, I don't reflexively flinch from this new design of the character. Batman Begins was the best Batman story I've seen (or read) , and I look forward to seeing what they do in next year's film. Heath Ledger is a fine actor, to boot.

+ + +


In geek developments, the New York Times reports on Gail Simone, the new writer for the Wonder Woman comic. She's the first regular female writer in the franchise's 66-year history. She follows a five-issue fill-in arc by a female novelist, and, having read it, I can tell you she had no business writing the comic. The big companies love bringing in big names from other media, and only a handful have made the shift successfully. The title has veered wildly in quality over the past five years, and this new writer hopefully can right the ship.

Monday, November 26

Thanksgiving

It was a good drive with the parents both ways. Dad and I split the driving Thursday but I drove the whole way Friday, including the jaunt back up the mountain to Chez Ass Smack. I also drove twice and back to Hendersonville within 12 hours this weekend, and now, after my work commute, I'm pretty damn sick of driving. Here's the highlights:

1) Your Brother and Our Sis-in-Law made the same spread as last year minus a baked turkey. They fried both birds this year, and the fixins were damn good eats.

2) Your Brother has grown a beard to piss off his boss, who personally dislikes facial hair. This is a office-wide gesture to stick it to the man.

2a) Your Brother and Sis got to talk briefly on Friday morning, and he advised us to consider any baby choices carefully.

2c) This was after an extended grilling session Thursday from Our Sis-in-Law who was determined to discover just why we haven't banged out a child. Even My Mom backed me up during the conversation when it was obvious the questions just wouldn't stop.

3) Joanne and My Mom got along great.

4) Brooke seems to have trouble with the new baby, and she's quite the conversationalist. Also, she's obsessed with Dora the Explorer. If you want to win her over, make with the Dora talk.

4b) She also has about three dolls named Madison and another named Emily. This information could save your life one day.

5) We left after a Friday brunch, and I had to drag Mom away from Joanne so we could start driving.

6) My Parents are now officially old: We stopped often for potty and smoke breaks. Also, lunch at Waffle House.

6a) My Mom handled riding through Atlanta pretty well. The traffic was much lighter than we expected.

6b) There was no small plane with a banner advertising suit sales as You and I saw when we drove back from Alabama.

7) While it was a pleasant visit, it was a short visit. Drive in, eat, sleep, eat, drive back. We missed you, but you didn't miss anything big.

7a) Except me scaring Brooke when she asked me to chase her and then got scared and wailed and wailed and wailed. I wanted to die.

7b) But this incident seem to convince Our Sis-in-Law that, maybe, no, I should not have children.

I got up early Saturday to give blood. My cold had died down enough for me to do this (which I only do for free cookies). We watched Pan's Labyrinth that night. It's not a kids movie. At all. It's violent and creepy and dark. Of course, we loved it.

We caught up with Kathy and Travis for Sunday lunch, and I invited him out for a man-date to see The Mist, a film I've waited 20+ years to see. And it is very good. Some divergence from the original story, but it works very well at what it's doing. This is a horror movie with monsters, not a monster movie. So if you see it, prepare yourself for good acting and lotsa tension.

The NFL Contest
HER PICKS
NFC: New Orleans (5-6), St. Louis (2-9)
AFC: Indianapolis (9-2), New England (11-0)

MY PICKS
NFC: New Orleans (5-6), Carolina (4-7)
AFC: New England (11-0), San Diego (6-5)

My fantasy team got killed this week, bringing me to 6-6 for the season. We watched the Patriots evade a shockingly game Eagles team last night.

Picture of the Day
The Thing dressed as Blackbeard rapping NWA. I Photoshopped this for one of my message boards.

Wednesday, November 21

I'm Going to Spike My Turkey Gravy with Cold Medicine.

The cold fades away slowly, and I remain in the sick bed at night. Today, my voice has turned bass, and I'm unable to sing along with the iPod. But I can add great background harmony. I've become a Pip. We grabbed Mexican food for supper and watched some Jeopardy before I retreated to the bathtub for a hot soak with the newest Vanity Fair. My best friend NyQuil helped me make it through the night.

I got an odd call from My dad earlier Tuesday. When My Mom talked to Your Sis Monday, there was some sort of comment about which car we'll drive to Alabama. My Dad called to apologize to me over his unheard remark that our new car isn't as safe as theirs. I had no idea about any of this. I was baffled. And I don't care which car we take. I assume we'll take theirs; My Mom hates driving through Atlanta and mountains, so she should be in her car to feel more comfortable.

Picture of the Day
A matter of perspective.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Tuesday, November 20

Sniffle, Cough

While home sick, I watched two films. Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle is an utter disappointment. Such a cast, such a production, and a pretentious drab script. A shame. Altered States is a hum-dinger of early '80s scifi. I hadn't seen it in years and years. I also played some Katamari Damacy. Your Sis loves to play nursemaid, and she made cookies before I went to bed.

I'm at work today and feeling about 50% better. The throat is a swamp, and my nose acts up once an hour. But I feel OK.

I officially won my fantasy week for my first winning record after 11 weeks.

Picture of the Day
The possible monster design from the upcoming Cloverfield film.

Monday, November 19

Neil Simon and Meteors

Thanks to a DVD-burning trade with a fellow university alum, we now have many new movies to watch, and Friday was The Bourne Identity. Tight, small action film, and you can tell they hedged their bets on the ending in case the profits didn't warrant sequels. If it ended there, all would be well. Now we want to see what comes next.

I met with the director Saturday morning for coffee and gift exchanging. She bought gifts based on the original play Witness for the Prosecution, and I never did learn just when the switch to the Ayn Rand was made. She got pen sets made to look like pipes. It's cute. She liked her book and the cast messages. She pressed her case about the stage lights (even handing me a handout of pictures from the DVD with and without lights), and I mollified her politely. We traded war stories, and she took every opportunity to insult the backstage director. I don't think she knew his behavior problems on previous shows, and I didn't know that he had tried to name himself technical director during the show. It was a nice chat, and I'd work with her again if the stars aligned.

We met up with an alum of Your Sister's for dinner and a play. We caught The Good Doctor at Furman, an anthology of small skits written by Neil Simon inspired by Chekov. I consider myself a fan of Simon, yet had never heard of this. It was great. Very funny, with a sharp young cast. I'm not used to good theatre from college kids. But they nailed this.

On the way back up home, she and I stopped on Bald Mountain to catch the Leonid meteor shower. We first saw them in 2001, one of first dates. Thhis night's show was milder but still worth the time and cold. The very, very cold. We nestled in a crater on the flat rock side of the mountain for an hour before drunks and shivers made us leave. We stopped in farm land and saw some more before getting home right before 2 a.m. And now I'm sick. I've fended off a cold for a week now, and it finally struck Sunday. I'm at home sick from work as I write this. I'm hoping to assault my sore throat with buffalo wings tonight to teach it a lesson. I'm also determined to kick this before the drive to Birmingham Thursday.

We watched Beowulf Sunday. My eyes hurt from looking at everything. Because this is animated through motion capture, I'm squinting to see eyelashes, beard hairs, scale detail, light play, etc. I have a headache from staring over this film.

It's a tight action film. They've made changes to the story that even my English teacher wife approved of. What I really liked were the creative camera movements and the attention to conveying the actors' choices. Anthony Hopkins acts like Hopkins. Malkovich is undoubtedly Malkovich (the scene where Unfirth confronts Beowulf steals the film). The animation isn't consistently fluid, but there are some images that make me gasp.

The elements make this movie sparkle and they all involve the monsters. Grendel is fully formed in concept if not biologically, and I miss him when he's gone. The dragon is, of course, designed well, but the movie takes of when it first flaps its wings, and we get about ten solid minutes of action.

It's going to be compared to 300, and they're similar but descended from different perspectives of animation.

This is fun, and funnier than I expected.


The NFL Contest
HER PICKS
NFC: New Orleans (4-6), St. Louis (2-8)
AFC: Indianapolis (8-2), New England (10-0)

MY PICKS
NFC: New Orleans (4-6), Carolina (4-6)
AFC: New England (10-0), San Diego (5-5)

Friday, November 16

Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me There's Nowhere to Eat in Asheville

It snowed yesterday but nothing stuck. Brutal cold after the Wednesday's lovely 70 degrees. Windy too.

We ate at The Noodle Shop and browsed Malaprop's before the NPR show last night. The panel was Paula Poundstone, Charlie Pierce, and Roxanne Roberts. Here's what THEY WON"T TELL YOU!

1) It lasts about 2 hours and is cut in half for broadcast.

2) They rerecord specific sentences as needed after the show. Also, Carl Kassel and Peter Segal constantly repeat their sentences if they stumble over words. This is edited out. Peter gets a smidge testy when the post-show retakes go on too long.

3) Peter warms up the crowd for about ten minutes before the show and then takes audience questions after it.

4) The edit out the really bawdy jokes. Paula said stuff I know won't make the air. Also she made surprising references to her legal trouble from a few years back.

5) The celebrity this week is Robby Benson, who now lives in the area. His interview before the "Not My Job" segment went on for about 15 minutes, and he won over the crowd with dry wit. But he used a ball joke that might not see the light of day, even though Charlie riffed on it later.

6) It's a simple set. Two podiums for Peter and Carl, a draped table for the panel and a cushy chair for the guest celeb.

7) The show begins with entrances cribbed from the Chicago Bulls including the arena PA guy and the Alan parson theme.

8 ) It's a great show this week. One segment sees Paula clueless about an Australia Santa ban on "ho ho ho," and she can't guess the answer to the question. For a good five minutes, the entire show tries to clue her in, and her inability to get it had the audience in tears.

9) The panel, seen live, comes across much sharper, much quicker with jokes to the point you wonder if it's staged.

10) Like watching sausage being made, the show loses its charm when you see it assembled. I'm still a fan, but the grandeur is gone.

We exited the theatre around 10 p.m. and discovered that everything was closed or practically vibrating from the live band playing inside. No snack date for us. I was starving and grabbed fries from McDonald's on the drive back.

Picture of the Day
The set at the Diana Wortham Theatre.

Thursday, November 15

400

Blogspot says this is my 400th post. Yea.

FYI, Best Buy is selling West Wing Seasons sets for $15 each. I don't know if you collect these things, but we were cuckoo of West Wing Puffs, and when Your Sis heard about the prices, she practically commanded me to go. The scene in Wizard of Oz when the witch sends out the winged monkeys from her castle tower? She looked like that. We already had 1 and 2, so I grabbed 3 through 7 during a rare lunch break on Wednesday.

I downloaded a freeware MP3 program called Audacity to make a commentary track on the play DVD. Not only am I geeking out over the technology, I'm vibrating with glee that I'm gonna make a commentary track. I should go MST3K on it.

One of her co-workers had issues with the latest issue of the school newspaper. The front page features a very large article about abortion. The subject matter isn't an issue here; it's the type of article written. It clearly is an opinion piece, albeit one written badly. Also, there's an interior picture with a kid flipping the bird in the background. The teacher is worried about backlash for both these things and asked me what kind of reaction to expect. Obviously, I can't predict that. I told her that when these are the kinds of problems that plague student-run papers.

The teacher who advises the staff is feeling overwhelmed. I've offered numerous times to help out with any concerns they have, to act like an unofficial adviser. The picture is unfortunate, but it happens. It happens on live sports TV coverage. The kid, who's clearly recognizable, should be in more trouble than the photographer or the editors.

The front-page article is, I'd wager, the best effort of a kid who doesn't understand the distinction between journalism and editorial. His editor should have said something, if she knew the distinction, and the adviser should have said something, if she knew the distinction. We have people who don't know papers making papers, and things like this happen. It's not actionable. It's merely incompetence. In the last paper, an article ran with ginned-up quotes attributed to a teacher. That's much worse than what's happening in this current issue.

Suddenly, it's cold. Literally, over night, it's cold. We're catching a taping of NPR's Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me tonight, so you might hear Your Sister's laughter on this week's show.

I found a recipe for a simple glaze:
- 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons orange or pineapple juice
- 1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
Mix together and brush. I made it last night on grilled chicken and pineapple. You don't have to only use this on meat. Any baked or grilled fruit will work well.

Picture of the Day
From the most recent shuttle flight.

Tuesday, November 13

Veterans Weekend

Your Sis and I had the rare three-day weekend off. She wanted to shop a bit, and we drove out of town after grabbing eats at the local bakery. She wants pearls for Christmas, and we looked at a few options at mall jewelry stores. The prices are reasonable, depending on how fancy she wants to get. I picked up a GI Joe t-shirt because I'm a manchild.

Then the show took up Saturday and Sunday evenings.

We had a lazy Monday with grocery shopping bolstered by Starbucks. We watched the entire play DVD, and I realized that for whoever I give a copy, I must add a commentary track. I gotta figure out how to do that.

The director is still sending emails accusing the managers of "insubordination" and accusing actors of being "amateurs" and "loose cannons" if they had any trouble with the lights. I don't think she meant to include me in those categories, but she did so in the last email sent exclusively to me. She wants to meet to exchange gifts. The artistic director of the theatre sent out a mass emails saying the problems with this show will be addressed in a theatre pow-wow and would never happen again. The drama continues to pursue me like a yapping dog.

The NFL Contest
HER PICKS
NFC: New Orleans (4-5), St. Louis (1-8)
AFC: Indianapolis (7-2), New England (9-0)

MY PICKS
NFC: New Orleans (4-5), Carolina (4-5)
AFC: New England (9-0), San Diego (5-4)

Indy has now lost two in a row. I won my fantasy week to make my online team 5-5.

Picture of the Day
Battlin' lawyers!

Monday, November 12

Last Show

Much like the play itself, one is left wondering who the real bad guy is and to what degree either party had dirty hands.

Here's what I could piece together through backstage conversations and emails: The videographer was brought in by the back-seat director. He's worked with this theatre before, but this is his first time taping at the courthouse. He allegedly told the back-seat director that the 3-foot lightstands on the edges of the attorney tables were creating hotspots. They didn't have the oomph to cover a wide area, and the close foot traffic made them too apparent. When the attorneys stood near them, we apparently lit up dramatically. The videographer had to tape the show twice because of sound issues and wondered if the second taping could be done without lights. The back-seat director then told the stage managers about the concern. The director wasn't at those shows if I remember right, so she wasn't consulted.

Tradition and good manners dictate that the director hand over the keys to the show once the show opens. Actors trade stories of those occasional directors who insist on making notes and changes for each performance, including after the last show. It would be abnormal to call up the director at this point regarding the lights. The stage managers got the comment about the light and had to make a decision. They surveyed the actors as to what effect removing the lights might have, but it wasn't worded that way. I got the question as "what do you think of the lights." I wanted to take care in answering, because while I didn't know about the video problem, I remembered that the stage managers built the light stands. I didn't want to knock their handiwork, but I did say I had problems with the lights, although I could and had work around them. Enough people answered similarly, and the managers shelved the lights. The camera guy didn't like them, and the actors wouldn't miss them.

When the director came to see the show again on the second weekend, she noticed the lights and asked about them. Unfortunately because the videographer talked to the back-seat director, she took it as another of his ploys to undermine her and became convinced the managers had been turned against her. She confronted the husband before the Friday show and then the wife in a between the first and second acts. The wife manager claims the director also noticed a Kleenex box on the witness stand, claimed it didn't belong, accused the manager of making yet another change behind her back, and threw it at her. This would have happened in front of the audience. That box belonged to the courtroom and had been in that position since we started rehearsing almost two weeks before. I nudge it toward the crying widow in Act One. She never mentioned it during that time. The lights were brought back in.

Sunday morning (more than 24 hours later and seemingly after the dust had settled) , the director sends out an email excoriating the managers, defining their roles in comparison to hers and accused the back-seat director of sabotaging the lights to both screw her over and, honest to God, getting rid of the lights so all the actors would appear as ugly as him. She repeated her "phantom voter" term to refer to actors who, as she saw it, didn't have the courage to approach her with concerns and thus had no place in "show business." I didn't know to what degree my comments about lights may have been mentioned, and she went to great lengths to personally insult the managers, and I had to respond.

Theatre is an outlet and conduit for experimentation and artistry, and the success of those efforts bloom in a structure of discipline and professionalism. And one of the absolutes of theatre is you don't screw with crew. When wronged and ornery, they can ruin you onstage and backstage. They are the field generals and the wardens. I have stage managed once, and before that I already had respect for that particular office. And it extends to the make-up folks, costumers, tech folks, ushers -- all the people who make the show work but don't get a curtain call.

I've seen this director handle the back-seat guy badly, and I've seen her juggle a production stung by chaos almost every day: Cast changes, absences, diva behavior, lack of access to the performance space and props, etc. But nothing excuses such an outburst -- intentional and public -- toward stage managers when they were doing exactly what they are supposed to: make decisions when the director is away. So I emailed everyone as I responded to her.

She replied that there were private messages from the back-seat director that proved that he had made all this up in an effort to belittle her, and my comments proved that no one would stand up for her. She would not be there for the last performance nor for the cast party. And she added that he "had won after all." I almost pulled a muscle rolling my eyes. "Paranoid" doesn't begin to cover it. I don't care why she'd rather be patted on the head then on the back, but if she doesn't care to exert her proper directorial authority in a professional way, I have no reason to stand up for her in any argument.

And I still had a show to do. There was obvious comment on the emails backstage before the show and during the cast party. People were happy with what I had said and how. The stripper said she knew things had gotten bad if I were responding to the accusations. I've bitten my tongue during this production. I have this venue to vent if I have to, and as I always said, this isn't my sandbox to clean up. But, again, you don't fuck with crew. The defendant is determined to write the board of the theatre with all the war stories. She used to be on the board, and she might have some weight to her comments. But even if the director isn't asked back, the back-seat guy would still be there to badger another director for potentially the fourth consecutive show. He may not have been the problem in this last specific scrum, but he's no angel either. I do make sure to hide the book I bought for the director so no one is tempted to scribble in anything mean-spirited. I did ask her to email me her mailing address so I can at least send her this gift. If she doesn't, I'll keep it. I'm tempted to refund the money for everyone who pitched in $2.

The housekeeper and I run lines before Act One so she wouldn't miss any lines. She also organized a cast party after the show and lines up the dishes and directions. She keeps a kosher house and wants to approve the dishes we offer to bring. I make my roasted potato and onion dish (chop them up, add oregano, basil, coriander, bake for 25 minutes at 450), and she OKs it. This is a short run for a show; we're all used to nine or 15 performances, and we have plenty of energy for this last go. No senioritis here. We do it well. We have a good crowd, and they pick up on the details early. No one nods off in the jury this time thankfully (I didn't mind; it gives me fewer eyes to lock onto during my arguments). The Swedish housekeeper blanks but I steer her back on course quickly enough. The first housekeeper gets all her lines in. I'm aware that I each line I deliver is the last time I have that scene or moment, and I try to give them a proper send-off. I feel good about the closing argument, but again get no "guilty" verdict. It's a clean sweep for Doc.

The cast party goes well, and we slowly peel off for the evening and say our good byes and congratulations. I'll miss this cast. They gelled very well despite the hiccups. We had game actors digging into their roles, determined to do the lines justice without hamming it up or carrying a method-acting air. It was a good atmosphere backstage, and the focus was on presenting a strong show. I don't fault this ensemble for bad management, and I intend to see them in subsequent shows as a sign of community-level acting efforts. I'm happy with what I did, even if I can't bring myself to watch the whole DVD just yet (I'm hypnotized by my lack of chin). The two months seems to have flown by, and now I have to become accustomed to free evenings again. But there are projects here and there to tackle, and I'm not soured enough on theatre to ignore audition listings for other companies. There is a musical I might try in the spring: School House Rock. I've worked up the nerve to sing onstage.

Official play website

Rehearsals
Fifth Show
Fourth Show
Rehearsal Party
Third Show
Second Show

First Show
Biding Time
The Last Rehearsals
Countdown: Two Rehearsals
Extra Drama
Countdown: Three Rehearsals
Countdown: Four Rehearsals
Countdown: Five Rehearsals
Countdown: Six Rehearsals
Countdown: Seven Rehearsals

Clock is Ticking
My Big Speech
Punching a Cop Is Bad, Right?

Act Two Redux
Friday Through Sunday
Eggshells
Drama!
Getting Serious
Our First Friday
Act Three Lines
Dusting Off Act One
Line Trouble
End of Second Week
'Go and Do Likewise, Gents'
Script Work
J'Accuse
Cramming
Walking and Talking
Readthrough
Marking the Floor

Auditions

First Night
Second Night
Third Night
Fourth Night

Sunday, November 11

Fifth Show

I made sure to eat plenty during the day. We lunch at a Biergarten in Asheville and I down potato soup right before donning the costume. Backstage, I'm impatient to start. The first housekeeper asks to run our lines for Act One. We do the first four pages which climaxes in a very emotional scene; she's worried most about this part, describing the body on the sidewalk and the defendant's reaction. She stops the reading there, saying the rest of the scene is the easy part.

So, of course that's the part she drops completely during the performance. It's not a vital section -- it's a bit of comedy that also shows my character can be brusque -- but it's half a page. My attorney ends the examination, and she volunteers what she thinks is vital information. However, she states that she doesn't know what is actually going on and meekly apologizes. My character treats her like a parent questioning a lying child and dismisses her again. None of this happens tonight. When we get backstage during intermission, she's aghast. There's no way I could have salvaged that chunk; I can't end my questions and then ask "are you sure that's all?"

The courtroom air is mighty dry, and I chug water all during Act One. It's a nice audience, and we insert longer pauses to allow them to laugh. The private eye is feeling his role tonight, and the cop apparently has family here, as he gets big laughs for very small details. I drop a line in Act Two, but the other actor doesn't even flinch. The Swedes -- housekeeper and bookkeeper -- and the stripper go over big tonight. I nail the cross examination of the defendant, and in fact, it may be my best third act so far. But it doesn't get me a "guilty" verdict. I don't think I was in any way distracted by the song going through my head right before my closing argument (Duran Duran's "The Reflex"), and in fact it may have distracted me from cramming over my lines right before I stand up. This happens sometimes; a song will repeat in my head, sometimes while I'm onstage.

Sunday's show is our last, and I have the mix of relief and surprise that it's over so quickly. I intend to attack the script for this show, wringing out all I can without turning into a ham. Well, a bigger ham.

Oh, lovely. just got his email from the director about the stage-lights:

I am well aware of the behind-the-back manipulation that went on to eliminate my lights. Show business attracts many pathetic little egos who can never be wrong even though it might make them look more attractive in the long run. I can only assume that the pathetic little ego who bulldozed his way into eliminating the lights merely did not want to be ugly alone.

...

Please accept my apology for the lights' placement on Friday Night. The Stage Managers got surly and resentful and did not set them in their proper positions.
So I broke my embargo and spoke up:

I'll respond to one particular point only:

"Please accept my apology for the lights' placement on Friday Night. The Stage Managers got surly and resentful and did not set them in their proper positions. "

We were asked backstage what the actors thought of the stage lights, specifically the actors sitting in front of them during the show. I answered honestly that they were glaring in my eyes and awfully warm. I worked around it. I turn my head more toward the witnesses, and I chug a lot of water. This wasn't so significant an issue that I felt a need to petition against it. But I was asked, and I answered.

I'm on the periphery on this stage-light conversation and others here in email or during this production, and I saw the question as springing from concern and not an effort to manipulate a stage detail for ego's sake. I'm positive that what I said was a factor in their decision. But the conversation we had was not a surreptitious effort to undermine you, Liz, or plant a flag on this production. Neither the question nor the answer was communicated -- nor I believe intended -- that way.

I can only speak for my own experiences with them, but the stage managers have been nothing but class and support and guiding hands to make this show the best it can be. I've seen no conspiracy of phantoms or Iagos to mold this show in your absence. To paraphrase Magda, I am under the director, and I religious actor and respect director. I'm not the only one.

And I intend, as I'm sure we all do, the make this last show a humdinger. I've dipped deep into the DA office petty cash to encourage the jury to get me the right verdict for once.


Official play website

Rehearsals
Fourth Show
Rehearsal Party
Third Show
Second Show
First Show
Biding Time
The Last Rehearsals
Countdown: Two Rehearsals
Extra Drama
Countdown: Three Rehearsals
Countdown: Four Rehearsals
Countdown: Five Rehearsals
Countdown: Six Rehearsals
Countdown: Seven Rehearsals
Clock is Ticking
My Big Speech
Punching a Cop Is Bad, Right?

Act Two Redux
Friday Through Sunday
Eggshells
Drama!
Getting Serious
Our First Friday
Act Three Lines
Dusting Off Act One
Line Trouble
End of Second Week
'Go and Do Likewise, Gents'
Script Work
J'Accuse
Cramming
Walking and Talking
Readthrough
Marking the Floor

Auditions

First Night
Second Night
Third Night
Fourth Night



Picture of the Day
Jesus Christ.

Saturday, November 10

Fourth Show

After a four-day break from performances, the script now seems so small and manageable. The physical distance from the courtroom is paralleled by a mental distance. I see the forest instead of the trees. I have a deep sense of calm and habit, and it's so comforting that I refuse to question it and dredge up the anxiety. This is how you're supposed to feel in the second week of a show.

The DVDs of last week's shows greet us as we walk into the legal library. I put the remaining magnets and the Ayn Rand book next to them. There's also a sign-up sheet for the Sunday cast party, and the hostess (the first housekeeper actress) is fretting over who brings what. The director is here tonight, and she wanders backstage a few times, forcing me to hide the book. She also apparently has words with the stage managers over the absence of the light stands.

It was my understanding that a) she had washed her hands of the show once it opened, as is common with directors; and b) she had agreed with the consensus that the lights were both useless to the audience and distracting the actors. We did at least one show without them last weekend, but I'm told they are coming back by Liz's decree.

I find out after the show that Liz was furious about the lights and hounded the husband stage manager about them before we started Act One. According to him, she demanded to know who had chosen to remove them and suggested it was the back-seat director. It's possible that guy suggested we remove the lights initially, but the way I remember it, the managers (who designed and set up the lights) asked us all what we thought of them. Unsatisfied with his answer, the director went after the wife manager between acts one and two to such a degree that she later said she'd never work with this theatre again. After the show, the back-seat director tried to assuage the managers, asking them to come to the cast party regardless of the director's presence. And then he said that she wouldn't be involved with future shows because she's not part of the theatre.

It's not a phrase I like to hear from a company. Now, yes, I believe he's taking a liberty by speaking for the theatre as a whole, and he may have been merely trying to calm the guy. But, you know, I'm not part of this theatre either. If what I hear is true, the director and I have done one show with this group, and this is it. So, technically, I'm not a part of them. Don't get me wrong; I'm not looking to be defensive, and I am already on record as saying I won't come back. But that kind of exclusive mindset isn't healthy for a company this size, and it's yet another unattractive attitude I've heard him display. Even if the director was a bad choice to direct, even if she won't be welcomed back, he'll be there, and the confrontations between them also took place during shows with other directors.

I don't think there's clean side to this, nor one I need to stand on. Neither is brimming with maturity. Nothing I say is going to jolt them into changing their ways, and those crusading efforts can be used better on things like cleaning out my workshop or finally tackling the painting for the living room.

The stage manager husband also says something to me that blows my mind. He said about my performance that he had never seen anyone do something like this. This number of lines with virtually no prompting. From even the limited degree of experience I have, what I'm doing is a given. I have a healthy role in a 90-page script. Secondary Shakespeare characters would have more lines than this attorney. But this isn't the kind of theatre that would try a Shakespeare, I realize. This is a company content to be literally a little theatre, to mount shows small in scope and script, and the role I have might seem daunting to them. But they do big shows in the summer. They just did Fiddler, they did Oliver! last year. Huge casts and large roles. I don't in any way look down at the cast and crew of this show. They've, in general, put in the time and effort that would be asked from a larger theatre. Because of time or initiative, this company isn't doing what might be considered heavy lifting. They've mounting larks. They're having fun. That's no sin. But in that casual air may come a casual ethic, and certainly I've seen an unprofessional one.

The show tonight goes well. The audience is d-e-d, dead, and we can only rouse them with the Swedes and some tension in Act Three. The stage manager from Cat makes the jury, and we make friendly eye contact during my closing argument. I later learn she voted for "Gooper," part of the minority four votes in ultimately a "not guilty" verdict. I'm terrified that everyone can her my starving stomach throughout the play, and I can't quiet it with all the water from the tabletop pitcher. There are tiny line stumbles throughout but we all know the gist of our lines even if the exact wording falters.

After the show, I meet an audience member who played my part during the 1970s production. Turns out, he had two weeks to learn his lines when the first actor dropped out. He admits he used note cards, and this might be what the back-seat director has misremembered. He said attorney notes were a precedent from other productions and more credible to the audience. Maybe he forgot (or maybe not) that the cards were a necessity in a last-minute casting.

I check the DVD quickly when I get home. Thankfully, the camera panned away from me during last Saturday's mental hiccup. The camera missed it entirely, maybe by design of the cameraman. If so, thanks muchly. This is an image from the DVD. It's fancy stuff, complete with opening music and credits.


This is when I'm questioning the first housekeeper, the second witness of Act One. Both my suit and feet look ginormous. That's the defense attorney and defendant in front of me. You can see how we sit facing the audience.


Official play website

Rehearsals
Rehearsal Party
Third Show
Second Show
First Show
Biding Time
The Last Rehearsals
Countdown: Two Rehearsals
Extra Drama
Countdown: Three Rehearsals
Countdown: Four Rehearsals
Countdown: Five Rehearsals
Countdown: Six Rehearsals
Countdown: Seven Rehearsals
Clock is Ticking
My Big Speech
Punching a Cop Is Bad, Right?

Act Two Redux
Friday Through Sunday
Eggshells
Drama!
Getting Serious
Our First Friday
Act Three Lines
Dusting Off Act One
Line Trouble
End of Second Week
'Go and Do Likewise, Gents'
Script Work
J'Accuse
Cramming
Walking and Talking
Readthrough
Marking the Floor

Auditions

First Night
Second Night
Third Night
Fourth Night

Friday, November 9

Rehearsal Party

When I got home, Your Sis was already laying out the grub and heating the oven for the buffalo nuggets. I helped put together the rest of the food, and the first folks showed up around 6:30. We had just about everyone by 7. The stripper, cop, and first housekeeper couldn't make it, but the judge did. The stage managers ran down the new procedure for the curtain call, punctuated by seating the jury before we take bows, and we snacked while running lines.

We sat in a circle, speeding through the dialogue and trying to ignore the cats in the laundry room. Eventually, Your Sis carried them off to her office where she was trying to work. The defendant and the widow took turns chatting with her. Eventually, I had to bring the widow back to the line-through so Your Sis could get her school work done.

We tore through the lines. We were in Act Two within an hour and finished before 9. The show usually runs just under three hours. I handed out the magnets and asked folks to sign the Fountainhead hardback for the director. Some asked what they owed for the book, and it broke down to about $2 a person. I'll take the book and magnet to the courthouse Friday for everyone else. The defendant and handwriting expert liked the comic pages hung in the hallway.

It was a casual atmosphere, and folks left right after we finished the lines. Some asked about the ceramic plate we used as a wedding guestbook, and I told the story of buying the house and the jailhouse wedding. This would have been the part of the party Your Sis would have liked the most. When everyone left, I fetched her from her office, and we had everything cleared away or washed in half an hour.

The lines are all still in my head. I had no trouble summoning them even without preparation. The first show after a break can be weak as the cast can become more nonchalant about the production. I don't want to be too casual tonight, but I don't want to dredge up the nerves. The medical examiner suggested I try to woo the jury more, and it's a good note. But I think my guy is aggravated by the collapse of his case, and I think his inability to hold that in makes him distinct from the coll approach of the defense attorney. I'll see how it feels when I get to that point during the performances and maybe soften the sales pitch is it fits.

Official play website

Rehearsals
Third Show
Second Show
First Show
Biding Time
The Last Rehearsals
Countdown: Two Rehearsals
Extra Drama
Countdown: Three Rehearsals
Countdown: Four Rehearsals
Countdown: Five Rehearsals
Countdown: Six Rehearsals
Countdown: Seven Rehearsals
Clock is Ticking
My Big Speech
Punching a Cop Is Bad, Right?

Act Two Redux
Friday Through Sunday
Eggshells
Drama!
Getting Serious
Our First Friday
Act Three Lines
Dusting Off Act One
Line Trouble
End of Second Week
'Go and Do Likewise, Gents'
Script Work
J'Accuse
Cramming
Walking and Talking
Readthrough
Marking the Floor

Auditions

First Night
Second Night
Third Night
Fourth Night

Picture of the Day
My official play photo. Man, you can really see the make-up.

Thursday, November 8

Pre-Game

The latest word is that we'll have everyone at the rehearsal party except the cop, the first housekeeper, the judge, and the stripper. The stage manager's email mentioned something about grabbing props, but I don't intend for us to use them tonight. And here's a little protocol dilemma: I'm hosting the party but am I running the show? The stage managers are timid about making any rulings, and I took over the rehearsal plan to replace the originally scheduled Thursday run-through. I envision a casual line progression to dust off our brains before we open again Friday. We don't need to walk around or exchange props. And if I'm manning the conn by default, we won't.

My experience with and as a stage manager says they become the secondary directors. When a performance starts, they take over. When a show opens, what they say goes. I'm not used to timid stage managers. I'm used to folks who don't assume people will know what to do or things will fall into place. They fret, they over-prepare, they become stern nannies. That's what a stage manager should do. Knowing how to fix costume disasters is handy too.

I bought more food on the way home last night and found the book I ordered from Amazon. I also checked the magnets, and they seem to stay adhered to the lamination. The shindig starts around 6:45, and if we just sit and say our lines, we should be finished before 10. We'll need to be. Some folks have to drive back to Asheville. One of us can't legally drive after 9. She carried a note from the director after every rehearsal in case she gets pulled over, as teens with permits can be out after 9 if they're working. This will be the first party I've thrown in the house.

I tried out lines from various scenes, and all the lines are there, almost casually reporting for duty. I fried up some chicken and experimented once more with gravy. Your Sis typed up a test while read my new comics and kept one eye on the basketball game.

Picture of the Day
This is a comparison of the original Star Trek cast and the actors hired to play those roles for the new film coming out next year. They're mostly unknowns, and that makes sense for an ensemble franchise, but I still think Gary Senise would have killed as Bones McCoy.

Wednesday, November 7

Various

I sent the final magnet image to Officio Maximus and picked up the laminated cards after work. I think they turned out OK.


I ordered 30, which should cover the cast and crew. I can hand them out at the rehearsal party. Still no idea how many folks we'll have. I had just enough leftover magnetic tape from the winter show to apply to this batch. The lack of rehearsals has ruined my internal calendar. Suddenly, I have too much time to deal with.

Your Sis and I watched an American Masters special on Carol Burnett. I didn't realize she watched her show when she was a child too, and we howled for 90 minutes. That show was one of three major factors -- along with MASH and the Muppets -- to my humor from the 1970s. In the '80s, I was influenced mostly by stand-up comics. I watched their HBO specials in my room with the volume way down so the parents wouldn't hear the bad language.

By weird timing, a collection of 1980 GI Joe comics I ordered months back arrived at the house yesterday, just a few weeks after I discovered the new toys. Your Sis is interested in these comics, to my delight.

Tuesday, November 6

Failures Abound

I'm shopping for a swank Ayn Rand book for the director. Barnes & Noble, the biggest brick-and-mortar bookstore in the country, doesn't have it. This special hardback 50th-anniversary edition of Atlas Shrugged came out last month, but both my local stores say all copies have already been sent back to the distribution center. These are sizable stores. They can't display an anniversary hardback during the holiday-shopping season?

I'm instead order the book through Amazon and use their magical get-it-there-yesterday shipping so the cast can sign the book before our last show. The reaction to the rehearsal party invite has been tepid, and some are saying they won't come to any rehearsal as their parts are too small. I can understand this if we were dealing with monologues, but they interact with actors with lots of lines, and those folks (me, included) could use those actors to keep their lines tight. It would be nice if the director would flex her muscles here, but, then again, what good would that do to for a show with three performances left? She can't replace anyone who refuses to rehearse. It's disheartening.

I tried to vote this morning and was told we live one block too far to vote in municipal elections. Oddly enough, there are apparently no state matters for us to decide. I walked away slightly disenfranchised. Could have sworn I voted for this level of candidates two years ago.

It was a refreshingly normal Monday night for us. Jeopardy, This Old House, football, wings, beer. The simple comforts. Your Sister shocked me by asking for jewelry for Christmas. She rarely asks for Christmas items, and she never asks for jewelry so early before a gift holiday. This shouldn't detour me from the gift I have planned for her.

And what about you? Whatcha want for Christmas?

Picture of the Day
I don't think this muppet ever had a name.

Monday, November 5

Third Show

I'm in the make-up chair before My Parents arrive in town. I spend the morning running lines once and just once. I'm tired of anxiety and will set my brain on cruise control for the play. I will trust the lines will emerge on time. We're told backstage that the videographer is taping toe show again because the video sound was ruined by the air system. Today, the air system will be turned off, but the body heat of the courtroom should keep us comfy against the chilly fall air. The lightstands that sit in front of the attorney tables are gone; maybe they didn't do any good after all.

The producer, who suffered two heart attacks just as this play started rehearsals, attends today's performance and sits in the front row, about five feet from me. My Parents and Your Sis sit on the row behind them. I make eye contact with them as I take the stage and never look their way again. Midway through the First Act, I'm feeling that accelerated heartbeat and, as I can't blame it on the lights or a sense of nerves, I'm thinking my sitting posture tightens the suit around me. Also, Windsor knots constrict.

The lines are indeed there as I summon them. A small blip occurs with the second witness as I sear she jumped a line, but I pick it up in about two seconds. I can tell she's rattled by it, and she misses a few of her lines, but the gist gets across. The rest of the act goes smoothly. It's a good audience; they laugh loud and long.

Backstage we change in the law library and shoot the breeze. The young cop plays his portable Nintendo, some of us scan the script, some gossip, some recap Act One slips. The question comes up about a gift for the beleaguered director, and I volunteer to buy her an Ayn Rand book and everyone can sign it.

The second act goes well, until the Swedish bookkeeper takes the stand. Right as his hand leaves the Bible, the air system kicks on, and from the back of the courtroom comes "jeeeeeeeesusss." The videographer. He won't pick up our lines now. The system was supposed to be turned off. It comes on three more times during the performance, and I guess we'll see him again next week. The third act goes very well, and I;m really feeling my lines, to the point I worry I'm overdoing it. Doc misses some objections but we glide passed them. When the stripper takes the stand from the audience, I see my boss walk into the aisle so the actress can get up. I register this for a second and go back to the show.

Not guilty by an 8-4 vote. Doc has won outright. I can only manage a moral victory next week. But I'm relieved to have this time off. We're supposed to rehearse on Thursday, but the rehearsal space is being used for the next production. We really only need a line-through; we sit and say our lines. No acting, no movement. It can be a casual refresher. The stage manager asks if I want to do this, and I'm all for it. So is the defendant. And after conferring with Your Sis, I'll suggest today in an email that we have folks to our house for a rehearsal party. This will make up for us missing out on hosting a cast party after the show closes. I won't even look at my lines until Thursday afternoon.

Official play website

Rehearsals
Second Show
First Show
Biding Time
The Last Rehearsals
Countdown: Two Rehearsals
Extra Drama
Countdown: Three Rehearsals
Countdown: Four Rehearsals
Countdown: Five Rehearsals
Countdown: Six Rehearsals
Countdown: Seven Rehearsals
Clock is Ticking
My Big Speech
Punching a Cop Is Bad, Right?

Act Two Redux
Friday Through Sunday
Eggshells
Drama!
Getting Serious
Our First Friday
Act Three Lines
Dusting Off Act One
Line Trouble
End of Second Week
'Go and Do Likewise, Gents'
Script Work
J'Accuse
Cramming
Walking and Talking
Readthrough
Marking the Floor

Auditions

First Night
Second Night
Third Night
Fourth Night


The NFL Contest
HER PICKS
NFC: New Orleans (4-4), St. Louis (0-8)
AFC: Indianapolis (7-1), New England (9-0)

MY PICKS
NFC: New Orleans (4-4), Carolina (4-4)
AFC: New England (9-0), San Diego (4-4)

Such a weird year in the NFL. There are a handful of really good teams, and then the quality of the league plummets. I won my fantasy week when my major stars came through. We taped the Colt/Patriots game and watched it after dinner.

Picture of the Day
Steampunk Pacman.