Letters to Holly

Thursday, April 3


Longtime Reader writes:

what? teaching!?! is this some long, behind the scenes ambition that i'm only hearing of? i know that you've helped out with the yearbook and newspapers at the high school, and its obvious that they do need someone in that..unpaid position...but wow.

It's not an ambition. It's a pet project among the teachers looking to finally include me in their party banter. They have very little to talk about that doesn't include school, and when we all get together, I sit there quietly with nothing to contribute.

I'm happy to help out with school stuff, and there's plenty I can do when I'm away from work: paper stuff, art stuff, drama stuff, etc. Your Sis and I made a triptych display last year for a mandated classroom technology project. It was the toast of the tech fair. People still ask her if they can borrow it. The school librarian asked if I wanted to make section displays for the library.

This kind of stuff is more than enough to get me involved at the school, and I'll dig doing it. This doesn't include the grading help I provide when the flood of research papers bursts through the front door. But actually be a teacher and put up with the crap Your Sis bemoans when she gets home? I'll need a lot of convincing to walk willingly into that.

i had to take an art class to round out my art history degree; i choose sculpture. i spent weeks on my abstract representation of an artichoke.

What medium? Can you send me a photo of it?

congrats on finishing the play! bravo! i know you liked the company, esp. the director, but enough to do the next murder mystery that you typed so many bullet points against? the ACT show sounded more intriguing...

The director says he's talking directly with the writer and has permission to make changes. If that's true, I can offer plenty of alterations. I like the idea of trying another ensemble piece (as this is), but I can't see how they can put 10 people in the clubhouse's meager backstage area. We're scheduled to have din-din with the director and his wife next week, and I'm sure we'll talk about the play. It's possible, depending on play dates, that I could do both projects.

I made a copy of the play's DVD last night and watched a few minutes. I always hear actors lament the sight of themselves on screen, and I may be feeling some of that. Or I might accurately spot all the horrific wrongness I'm doing onstage. It was mortifying. I wanted to set the TV on fire.

I managed to get Your Sister to watch an honest-to-God monster movie in The Mist last night. I showed her the making-of documentaries to prepare her for the scenarios and creature designs, and we watched the whole thing in one sitting. And she liked it. Maybe it's because of I Am Legend. Perhaps she is digging well-crafted horror. But she said she'd be willing to see it the film's b/w version too. This was the second time I've seen the movie, and it holds up really well.

Picture of the Day
Promotional ad display for the Star Wars films running on Spike TV. I think they're running all 6 movies.

Updad's Keep Coming In

Dad had his altered chemo treatment yesterday and said he felt OK, but I could tell from talking to him on the phone that he was more tired than usual. He'll get a follow-up next week to see how his body handles it.

Your Sis and a few of her teacher buddies are trying to recruit me into their coven. The most vocal advocate thinks I should teach elementary school ('cause I'd be a fun teacher). Your Sis thinks I should teach middle school ('cause it would be potentially easier than high school). I lean toward more high school if only because I've had more exposure to kids that age. The town is crawling with them, and that's where one can teach more specified material.

Unfortunately, this is exactly why Your Sis thinks I would have more luck being hired for teaching on lower levels: English teachers are "a dime a dozen." But I wouldn't want to teach something outside my interests; on the elementary level, I wouldn't have to know so much of the other fields, but I'd still have to teach math, science, and history on top of the glorified babysitting. I'm also not convinced schools are ready to hire male teachers for the younger class levels.

Because the idea seems so bizarre for me -- changing careers in my mid'30s to take the job that makes Your Sis want to kill and drink -- we compromised: I'll shadow teachers on my next federal holiday but only at her school. I need to be convinced that high-schoolers are the wrong age group for me. It's still such a longshot. If I wanted to teach conveniently, I'd have to bet certified and licensed, apply for a job, and be hired in this district. All the while, I'd be unemployed. That doesn't sound healthy for our marriage.

And all of this is predicated on the notion that I'd entertain kids, not necessarily educate them. A teacher buddy wanted to have me come in to read to kids in various voices. From that it blossomed into my sticking around and teaching the class. The idea of a captive audience is intriguing, but -- yeah, I'm stuck on lots of buts about the whole thing.

I'm going to stroll the nearby grocery store to find items I can paint. I'd like to try produce, but of course it rots. I'd like to make something we can hang in the kitchen, but this first painting will be more an experiment than a real artwork.

Picture of the Day
Donkey Kong is real!

Tuesday, April 1

More Updad

Dad called after his Tuesday checkup to say the new outgrowth isn't totally unprecedented but it is unusual after two seemingly successful chemo cycles. He's gaining weight, but they can't figure out the source of the cancer. Suspicion turns back to his lungs, given the all-clear before. It would be logical; he does smoke like a chimney. The new chemo treatments will be stronger, and the doctor warned him he might suffer for it. They may have to relocate him to Texas or Charleston for further treatment, but that's a ways off for now.

Moving Picture of the Day

I can't decide if I like this video or love it. It's new from Paul McCartney. The song's catchy, and the production is lively. The dance work is iffy, though, but I enjoy how spry he almost is. He won't grow old to the point that he shrugs off pop and rock entirely. I admire that. However, I'm not convinced he was ever in the same room as any of those women. I suspect he was taught choreography, videotaped, and the women replicated his movements so he wouldn't appear so old.

Monday, March 31

Another Updad

Dad called to say that, right after his Thursday check-up, he sprouted new growths. The chemo scheduled for yesterday was called off until they decide what action to take. The sudden change after two apparently successful chemo treatments suggest some other factor at work, maybe something outside the body. But he's been off work for a month now, and I can't figure out what new house item (the gas stove, a scented candle) could affect him like this. He has a check-up today.

The first post-show night was awfully comfy. I worked on my lawnmower, getting it ready for spring usage. I had planned to buy a new one with Dad, but he obviously has larger concerns. I might be able to milk another year's work out of this mower, or I might catch Your Sister in a shopping mood and buy us something she'd like to use too. As much as I like the human-powered cylindrical mowers, you can't adjust the blade height on them, and we have to mow slopes. I did see an advertisement for a Newton battery-powered mower, and I'm curious about that.

Picture of the Last Couple of Days

In the News
I'm going to quote Neil Gaiman from his blog about a Significant Event involving the creators of Superman and DC Comics (owned by Time Warner).

This New York Times article is very good news, and was, I think, inevitable. In brief, a share in the copyright to Superman that should have returned to the creators, under laws that helped creators of art and music who had been ripped off when younger to regain a portion of the rights to their song or creation, has been deemed by a judge to have been returned to the heirs of Jerry Siegel, with Time Warner and DC Comics kicking and screaming all the way. (On the one hand, I can hardly blame them. On the other, the law was obviously the law, the conclusion was pretty much inevitable -- although I'm sure it's been an enormous relief to the family -- and I suspect the main purpose of the court case has been to put off the moment of reckoning as long as possible; not the moment of financial reckoning, because that clock started ticking in 1999, but the moment that the heirs to Superman could license Superman to entities other than DC Comics, which, as co-copyright holders, they are entitled to do. Marvel Comics publishing their own Superman comic, anyone?)
The story of the creation of Superman is almost as mythic as the character: Two Jewish kids from Cleveland cooked him up during the Depression and sold him to DC for a song and the promise of a regular gig. There's still some question as to what rights the estate might enjoy from elements created after that first issue (Jimmy Olsen debuted on the radio shows and then appeared in comics; Kryptonite, Luthor, Lana Lang, and a host of other now-familiar properties came later). The big franchises -- Batman, Superman, X-men, Spidey -- are the product of decades of work by hundreds of people. There's no way the rights can be spread to them all, but Shuster and Siegel handed DC the first Superman story intact, created outside the company. Their work was the basis of the novel Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Klay, although Jack Kirby (the king of comics) is a major influence there too.

+ + +

"The Nature Boy" Ric Flair retired last night after 36 years of wrestling. His last match was at Sunday's WrestleMania, and he was pinned by Shawn Michaels. Flair turned pro the year I was born (1972), and I watched him literally all my life. Flair outlasted presidents, athletes, friends, and fashions. He was indefatigable and a consummate showman. He enjoyed the boom in wrestling popularity and profitability during his tenure, and his only competition for Most Significant Wrestler is Hulk Hogan. Unlike Hogan, however, Flair is universally perceived as a kind and loyal man. His send-off last night was emotional and genuine as the entire WWE locker room emptied to pay tribute along with 15,000+ fans in Orlando. He won a record 16 world titles and established the supergroup stable The Four Horsemen which lead to a plethora of imitators through the last 20 years. Fortunately, he's relatively healthy and able-minded, unlike the majority of guys who hang up the boots, and he can enjoy his retirement fully.

Day 31: Last Show and Cast Party

I got up early to prepare a bacon bread dish and left it for the wife to bake while I was at the show. We had a block of seats reserved for a Lutheran Church, and this boggled my Baptist-raised mind. A show advertised to include adultery and murder and blackmail was getting church business? The cast was casual enough about the last show to the point that we found ourselves sitting on the stage while the audience trickled in to their chairs. This is usually a big no-no; the audience shouldn't see us until the curtain opens.

I handed out the magnets for the cast and crew who I could find before the show. The show ran fine. The audience, even the churchfolk, were into it. The cast was too. While we didn't whoop it up for our last show -- we stayed in character and on script -- we were determined to leave the stage on an entertaining note. We were professional. And speaking of professional and leaving the stage, let me brag on the director a second. He did something I've never seen before: As we took our curtain calls, he walked onstage and individually introduced the tech people and brought them out for applause. Classy. Classy classy classy.

I managed to beat the crowd to the house and played matire'd as the wife finished with the food. She held court in the kitchen as people came in handed me their jackets and started to nosh. Eventually we had 26 people hanging out and kibbitzing. It went smooth as silk and, my God, did these people pack away the wine. After about an hour, we assembled in the living room for the director's comments. He handed out certificates to all the show people and gave the cast pins of the drama/comedy masks. I was the last introduced from the cast, and, even though this was definitely an ensemble piece, I felt a bit like a leading man with his kind words. I presented him with the whiskey and congratulated him on a successful show. He took the giant bottle and said aloud "I have just the straw for this."

The party wound down, and the last to leave was the murderer, the kid we all think has a legit show of making a living at acting. We gave him bags of leftovers -- less for us to clean up or throw out. I think we surprised people with how well this worked. Some of the theatre members wanted to recoup our cost, but she told them to put it into their building fund. The mistress actress asked me about doing cover art for her CDs, and I may have finally convinced someone to let me do some official theatre art. Also, the director is trying to produce radio dramas over the summer, and asked if I would be interested (of course, absolutely).

So, yes, this was a success all around. The clean up went smoothly, and we ended the night gobbling the last of the sheet cake and finishing a bottle of chardonnay (both of which gave me a hangover his morning). I feel like I ran a marathon yesterday; I ache and move stiffly. But I feel like I worked on something better than I could have suspected and garnered more than I could have hoped. I'd work with that director anytime and the same goes for the cast. This was a solid experience, maybe the best I've had in my near-20 years of doing theatre. This was as good as it gets. But I have other things to work on now, and I look forward to trying something new.

Sunday, March 30

Day 30: Fifth Show

A heavy mist smothers the clubhouse as we arrive, and the parking lot is already packed. The ticket-table folk say we'll near 100 people tonight. The director pulls us aside to note a change to the props. An unnamed critic noted to him last night that the actors weren't consistent with where they touched the CD player to turn it off. The music is controlled by the tech table. The director wasn't happy conceding the point to the unnamed critic, and he wouldn't say who it was. That means we would know the person, and that means it was Backseat Director from the courtroom play. I hate that guy. That's a tiny detail, and there's more than one way to cut off a CD from playing: You can turn off the power, switch the stereo mode, or hit the "stop" button. Anyway, the director has placed a yellow button on top of the player for us to touch.

It is a good crowd. They answer the director when he gives his pre-show spiel, and we hear someone joke about being scared during the extended black-out before the curtains open. They're obviously expecting to relish this production, and I think the assumption that this will be like previous shows -- light, goofy, hijinx-ensuing -- leaves them confused when they watch me and the wife argue over finances and adultery. They do find lines to laugh at, and most of them are meant to be funny, but it's clear they weren't wholly prepared for this type of show. However, they are with us at the end when we're tightening the screws and my character is falling apart and the murderer is in full bloom. The gunshots seem especially loud, and the actors are caught up in the moment as much as the audience. It's a great ending, and we get good applause.

The receiving line goes well. I see my next-door neighbors and cast members from the courtroom play. The murderer talks with his acting teacher, and they exchange notes for a long time. I get a chance to brag on the director while he's in earshot. I found his particular whiskey at the local store (on sale, even), and I'll give it to him at the cast party tonight. I've already spent some of this morning making a bread appetizer with mustard, onions, and bacon. The rest will be made by Your Sis. Well, except for the party platter brought by one of the women who doubt we know how to throw a party. She called early Sunday morning to announce she was hauling in some extra food, despite our earlier assurances we had it all covered. I think we'll keep her tray in the closet just to prove our point. Today is the last show, and I plan to bring it and bring it strong.