Letters to Holly

Friday, June 5

Resilient Joy in Mudville

No Beasties. The concert sold out in a fraction of imaginary Hawking time. The ticket website went belly up in about a minute, and the box office sold out soon after. My alum buddy got a ticket (and one for his pal), and this is as it should be. He's a much bigger fan. I want to go. He needs to go.

As I typed that, the buddy called to say there may be an unclaimed ticket that I might snatch after all. It's a friend-of-a-friend thing, and that's as reliable as the breeze. I don't have high hopes. But a simmering back-burner notion of a chance is enough to keep me buzzing along.

Not that I'm in any way bummed. This is fun. Running to the Orange Peel for a ticket and weeding through a half-dozen rumors before I can hop out of the car makes for an adventure. It's something different, and it was all over in a half hour.

Plus, you know, if I don't see the show, I'm at home with my [nickname redacted] on our four-year anniversary. Win-win.

Your Sister decreed that we would begin the papers this weekend. She then announced a delivery from the kingdom of pizza and a command audience from the Netflix ambassador. We saw Taken.

The word for this film is "tidy." It's lean to the bone, giving just enough character development to show that there are real actors at work, and then we're off. It's credible and small and made digestible by Liam Neeson doing more than the script requires. In following the templates of the Bourne series, Ronin, and Casino Royale, this film maintains a small, steady vibration. There's virtually no reason why this film can't be shown on broadcast TV. There's very little blood. The gunshots are practically demure.

ADDED: Oh, right. If you can't remember where you saw the daughter before, she was Shannon on Lost, the blonde who translates Rousseau's map and canoodles with Sayid.

It's a fine, 90-minute diversion, and it allowed us to wolf down the pizza and slack right the hell off before we roll up our sleeves and make with the red ink.

With such background noise options as playoff hockey, playoff basketball, the new Green Day CD (good start, runs out of steam), and horse racing, we can knock out these papers tout suite.

In the News
Reports now say that no wreckage has been conclusively linked to the missing AirFrance flight. What has been spotted and pulled from the sea may only be cargo junk. Also, the humming of terrorism rumors are getting louder, even though this would be a failed attack. The lack of conclusive aggression dilutes the effort to terrorize. Terrorist groups can't aggrandize themselves with the possibility of an attack. They require probability. Or absolutes. That doesn't exist here. We may never know, and that provides no comfort. You can't prevent the unknown.

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The new big story is Obama's speech in Saudi Arabia and the domestic efforts for opposition sound bites. The president either was too hard on Israel or too effusive toward Islam. It also kicked up the deathless rumors that he's secretly Muslim (lookit dat middle name, y'all). I haven't seen word on Michelle or the kids going with him, and I would be greatly interested to see what respect they pay their hosts with culturally modest attire. Of course, Michelle is the piledriver that kills the Muslim Obama rumors. So much has been made of her bare arms that the loudmouths forget that a proper Muslim woman would never bear her arms. We all know what Michelle's hair looks like. End of debate.

Moving Picture of the Day
I'll just leave this here.

Thursday, June 4

Galactic News

I got a call Monday Tuesday night from a university alum whom I talk with online. He helped me out with the theatre magnets a few years back, and we've been to roller derby together. Great guy. He called me in a panic because of a rumor that struck him to the marrow: Beastie Boys are coming to the Orange Peel next week. The tickets go on sale Thursday afternoon.

The rumor bore out, and he's a frantic mess. This is his favorite musical act. They are performing practically on his front porch. Tickets will go fast, and he's terrified of missing out. Tickets are limited to two per person, and the security is much like that for the Tom Waits show, and that was strenuous murder to nab entry.

I got to see Waits. I'm going to see if my luck holds out again. I want to go. But that show is June 10, our four-year anniversary. I told Your Sis about the rumor as soon as I got off the phone with the buddy and then realized the date. She ordered me to go, using my first and middle names. So she's serious. I have the ticket page bookmarked, and my credit info is already cookied. I'm ready. If I don't need to give him my extra ticket, I'll try to talk Your Sister into going. She'll enjoy it.

If I get a ticket, I hope they perform Eggman from Paul's Boutique.

We went to the college yesterday. She drove her bike around campus for practice while I did a 5k distance. I've run 3 5ks this week, and I feel like I'm getting back into the groove. I decided to make a giant salad for supper, and it was scoash too gigantic. I don't know how we ate it all, but I fear I have a lettuce hangover. It's not helped at all by the thunderstorm that boomed so loudly and repeatedly over our house last night that I started to take it personally. On the plus side, I won't have to water the garden again until I'm retired.

Moving Picture of the Day
I remember Johnny Carson's Tonight Show. His charm was considered dowdy when '80s comics were getting vulgar and loud simply to get noticed. But those comic superstars were still getting their big break through Carson's show. Think of any top sitcom starring a comedian, and its star assuredly became recognizable because they killed on the Tonight Show. Roseanne, Ellen, Tim Allen, Seinfield -- all Carson kids. Probably the last comic to enjoy a hit sitcom was Ray Romano, and Letterman made him a star. Seinfeld was also a favorite of Letterman, as was Jay Leno, whose original comic material was brilliant and killer. He greatly diluted his style when he took over for Carson. It was a tragedy.

Conan won't have that trouble. Unlike Leno, he's captained his own show for more than ten years. Leno hosted the show like he was keeping Johnny's chair warm for his eventual return. Conan has his own style, and it's in full effect as takes over Tonight. Even Your Sister laughed out loud, and she's allergic to TV comedy.

His first two shows featured big acts -- Will Farrell, Tom Hanks, Pearl Jam, Green Day -- and I'm curious to see how good the show is when he's scraping the bottom of the guest barrel.

In the News
New Hampshire's governor signed a same-sex marriage bill into law yesterday, and the impact may be most felt by Mitt Romney. He moved away from Massachusetts and its alleged liberal wasteland with same-sex marriage. He moved to New Hampshire in hopes of establishing a conservative base for his probable 2012 presidential run and now finds himself in the same predicament.

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Newt Gingrich backed off his assertion that Supreme Court nominee Sotomayor is a racist. Limbaugh stuck to his guns, but added he would support her if she was pro-life. In other words, the initial GOP backlash backfired. S.C. senator Lindsey Graham is telling everybody with a microphone that he won't support her, probably because he doesn't want to seem friendly to a Hispanic in front of his fellow state Republicans.

South Carolina is not doing so hot; unemployment is near the top for all states, and the governor wants to reject stimulus money to bolster his own 2012 presidential bid (not that he has a chance in hell; the man is two-dimensional). The state Republicans fear another protest vote by the citizenry that would put the Democrats back in power just like what happened ten years ago. Folks then weren't happy that a GOP governor removed the Confederate flag from the statehouse roof, and they voted in a one-term Democrat to give the GOP what-for. Graham and other prominent state figures are trying to rally their base to maintain the majority.

But a boot-strap mentality isn't going to salvage a state that could quickly become another Michigan. South Carolina relies on cheap, un-unionized labor to lure foreign corporations, like BMW. Also, principles are taking a backseat to paychecks. Around the time that the flag came down, the state chapters of the Southern Baptist Convention hoped a boycott would show Disney and other "un-Christian" companies who was boss. But when Disney built a new plant in the state, people flocked to it for a job. The boycott dissolved. The same thing could very well happen to the state GOP if they think enforced poverty and polite racism will maintain power.

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Enough political blah-blah. Bring me Beasties!

Wednesday, June 3

Cracking My Knuckles in Preparation

Your Sister is within eyesight of the end of the school year, and that means things get more difficult. Everything is due, and the state computer servers can't handle the load. You'd think the state would stagger the schedule throughout North Carolina for teachers to input grades. You'd think. Research papers swoop into Stately Debacle Manor tonight, and I pledged two hours' worth of work tonight. I want to get a good start on them and spread the misery out into manageable increments.

She brought home a yearbook last night, and we took turns thumbing through it. She has two photos aside from her official mug shot: a picture of her walking to school for an article on the gas prices and a picture of her in my Flash t-shirt. It's a huge yearbook, similar in size to my senior year book from a school that was almost three times larger. Also, it's all color. It looks sharp.

We had so much rain that the garden doesn't require daily watering. The soil is dark, brick-colored, and pasty. I lost a few plants since the garden was begun, and I suspect they were weak seedlings.

In the News
The GM bankruptcy dominates news conversation here. The Hummer brand has been claimed by a Chinese manufacturer, but it will maintain our domestic plants and jobs. Saturn and Saab may be next for new ownership.

Something I continue to hear from professional eye-rollers is that this is socialism. The government reached out to scuttle GM and claim its profits, they say. But that's a contradiction. GM has no profits. Anyone who has financial ties to the company as its currently structured will lose money. Socialism -- true socialism -- occurs when a government takes over a profitable company and sucks away the profits.

This is exactly the opposite. GM instigated the federal involvement by asking the government for money and agreeing to conditions upon receipt of the money. GM had no plan to revive itself, and the government stepped in to soften the crash landing. Now if the government called dibs on Google, that would be socialism. Google makes money. The dealerships will be hit next as the bankruptcy courts decide how they can be shed or managed. The government continues to back the warranties.

Picture of the Day
I'm making a logo for the company's new bequest program. I was asked to tie in our unofficial Pan mascot, the classic columns from a previous program logo, and the name of the new effort. This is a simple sketch, but it has potential already.

Tuesday, June 2

I'm Going to Make With the Blah-Blah.

Your Sis worked late last night, and I killed time by running another three miles. And now I am sore incarnate. My Monday time was four minutes slower than the college run Sunday, and I blame the hills. A new 5k was announced for August, one that intrigues me with its claim as "the flattest mountain run you'll ever see." The July 4 5k may be out of my hands if the theatre goes ahead with its multiple performances that day. They'll need all hands on deck.

In the News
The rhetoric surrounding the murder of Pat Tiller runs the gamut. The local radio preacher skimmed over the matter, stating only his conviction that Christians will be blamed for it. Syndicated radio evangelist Albert Mohler spent much time comparing the shooter to those who plotted to kill Hitler. Randall Terry, the chief of Operation Rescue, said Tiller got what he deserved.

On the other hand, the left-wing outlets are accusing Bill O'Reilly of directly influencing the shooter, citing his many references to Tiller's clinic as a "death mill" and calling the man "Tiller the Baby Killer." Three years ago, someone using the same name as the shooter posted on anti-choice sites to ask about O'Reilly's involvement in protest coverage. There seems to be some influence. This shooting would then be similar to the Unitarian Church shootings last July when a gunman later said he was lashing out at the left at the behest of right-wing author Bernard Goldberg.

A few months back, new Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano signed off on a report called "Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment." It noted concern for those easily swayed into violence by wild-eyed, mass-market rhetoric. The report was booed by many pundits and commentators who saw the report as an attack on them. Napolitano apologized for the report's accusations. Then Sunday happened, and the report appears spot on.

It's not a first-amendment speech issue. All the idiots who stand behind a microphone and rouse their rabble into aggression are free to do so. But they also must be held responsible for the results of their comments. Freedom of speech is not a freedom from accountability.

As that article you posted yesterday on Facebook says, this is domestic terrorism. This was a specific, targeted shooting sparked by a fundamentalist fatwa. There's no difference between this and dumb-fuck yahoos tossing acid on women in Afghanistan. Yes, the attackers and directly responsible and should be launched into the sun, but light must be shined upon those who direct them to action.

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Another political shooting happened yesterday when a recent Muslim convert shot two Army recruiters in Arkansas. One died.

The AP says this:

A prosecutor said Muhammad admitted shooting Long and another soldier "because of what they had done to Muslims in the past."

Long and soldier Quinton Ezeagwula had recently completed basic training and had never seen combat.

Police Chief Stuart Thomas said Muhammad was a convert to Islam and not part of a broader scheme to attack the American military.

We'll see.

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The AP also reports this:
Former Vice President Dick Cheney said Monday he supports gays being able to marry but believes states, not the federal government, should make the decision.

"I think, you know, freedom means freedom for everyone," Cheney said in a speech at the National Press Club. "I think people ought to be free to enter into any kind of union they wish, any kind of arrangement they wish."

Cheney, who has a gay daughter, said marriage has always been a state issue.

"And I think that's the way it ought to be handled today, that is, on a state-by-state basis. Different states will make different decisions. But I don't have any problem with that. I think people ought to get a shot at that," he said.

Again, responses are mixed. Some point out that this puts Cheney left of Obama, and others aren't happy to hear Cheney supporting gay marriage in any context, with any conditions. It is very interesting to hear one of the Republican's most prominent speakers saying something that runs counter to the fundamentalists with whom the party hopes to establish momentum for the midterm elections. This is a moderate stance for Cheney to proclaim, and I wonder if this suggests a tilting to the middle ground to make the party more attractive.

Flash Link of the Day
Just in case you wanted an animation that shows how large a blue whale is in 1:1 scale.

Monday, June 1

So Much Occurs.

The last posted ended with
And that's that.

Except it isn't.

I was invited to join the artistic committee Saturday, and the meeting focused primarily on the summer slate of productions. We had two planned: the just canceled Rainmaker and the kid's show, Winnie the Pooh. The show scheduled after these runs in late October.

The first show is kaput because there weren't enough people auditioning. This wasn't helped by two shows debuting on the same weekend, including ours. The repertory is burned out. So what's the theatre's answer to this lack of actors? MORE SHOWS.

Here's what they want to do:

July 4 -- run a daylong performance of a kid's theatre melodrama. Maybe four performances during the day to bring in people attending the downtown holiday festival. This means we need to announce it, cast it, rehearse it, and mount it in just over a month on a holiday when most families might vamoose.

Two weeks later, run a Broadway revue dinner theatre. This isn't cast yet either.

Two weeks later, run a new show of short one-acts, including the one I just directed. Our mom actress is adamant she won't due the show without her script. The theatre wants to do the show as traditional show. No scripts. We have one play picked out of three, and no assurances of any returning cast members for my show or any slated for the other one-acts.

Two weeks later, Winnie the Pooh. Also not cast.

Two weeks later, audition for a musical to run late September. The musical isn't picked, it has no director or musical crew nor a cast.

Four weeks after the musical ends, the October show would run. We have a director but no cast.

MADNESS. Who will work backstage for these shows? Who will act in them? My idea of doing a full-up radio format for the one-acts was poo-pooed. It would allow the theatre to use five actors performing eight parts and eliminate the need for three directors and three backstage crews. That was dismissed.

Just this morning, I got a call about the mom part in my play. It was the insane director of the courtroom murder play. She wants the part. She was calling to have the part given to her over the phone. I told her, honestly, I understood the performance was not certain nor did I know for sure my original actress was out of the show. I took her number and told her I'd call when I knew more. That's probably a lie. She's cuckoo for Cocoa-Puffs, and I object to her effrontery. I ALSO object to this kind of ex cathedra gossiping among the repertory. It causes just this kind of complications.

I haven't agreed to direct the show again. Nothing has been established. the committee was brainstorming.

One thing it is making definite is a big musical next summer, and they picked Annie. They want to bring in families to work the show, on and offstage. If we reduce the number of shows and limit the seats for each, we can easily sell out each show.

Still ... more shows. Unbelievable.

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As I left for the meeting, Your Sis said she wanted to look at motorcycles. We went back to the Asheville store, and she bought a bike, the very same bike at the very same store I wrote about here. It's a brand-new Honda Rebel, and it had 2 miles on it. She test drove it in the parking lot following a short period of familiarizing herself with the gears and controls. After about two hours of forms and signatures and small talk with salesmen, she drove off the lot and back home on her bike. We took the parkway home, and she had no trouble with the curves, hills, or other motorists. She looked like she's ridden for years. She's goofy with joy.

We got home, ate a quick supper, changed, and drove right back out for the prom. It was at a new location, a country club across from the airport, and the weather was perfect. They had a a photo booth and Slurpee machines and a dance tent. It went swimmingly. We hung out with teachers and students alike. Your Sis was a vision in a small black dress, and I rented a tux. We were, dare I say, mackin'.

She did have to go into chaperon mode when a girl got sick. She blamed a bad sushi dinner, and Your Sis had hair-holding duty for almost an hour. We've all been there. I killed time with more Slurpees and talking gardens with teachers.

She drove her bike to work on Sunday, and I ran at the college for the first time this year. it hurt. I haven't tried three miles in almost two months, and the heat was brutal.

I discovered that, if an adult (like me) wears a superhero logo shirt out and about, children who see you will think you're that hero. Two different boys, aged no more than 4, went gaga over my Superman shirt in the grocery store and started bouncing in place. I could have given autographs.

We capped the night with homemade pizza and Speed Racer. I suspect the movie did poorly at the box office because it's much too long a movie for the kids it targets. It's a good family film, but the visual effects were overwhelming on our TV. On the movie screen, they may have been smothering. I do think the HDTV folks missed out by not promoting this as the DVD that could spark HDTV sales; it certainly pops off our TV, and we have a regular DVD player.

She's a leetle teender from the bike, but she's enjoying it. My Mom is in shock at the bike. She didn't know I married a hoodlum.