Letters to Holly

Friday, June 19

I Have No Feet and I Must Scream

I ran this morning in a shaggy, shoving way that convinced me I was falling apart. I couldn't find the breathing rhythm, and my feet were yelling at me like a pouting teenager. I sounded like Speed Buggy (Please tell me you remember Speed Buggy. Assure me I'm not a geezer. And, no, it wasn't the live-action dune buggy show. That was Wonderbug.).

It was the hardest run of the week, and I suspect I had nothing in the tank despite my snack and water. I was so cranky that I couldn't find a decent song on the iPod. It was just that kind of morning. I heaved my way up the final hill, checked my time, and discovered I'd gone faster than ever. 17:28. Eighteen seconds faster than Thursday, and a minute and eight seconds faster than my run Sunday. I'm taking tomorrow morning off as I will be in Charlotte at a geek show and on my feet all day. Next week, I'll try running longer distances.

Your Sister is driving her motorcycle to see Your Parents today. I don't think they know about it. That should be a fun conversation. Now that school is over, she has packed her days with Things To Do, including but not limited to upgrading my closet (from cave to wardrobe), designing bookshelves, and installing a gas stove. She thinks she's lazy in comparison to me because I run, and I give her a look that says "I'm giving you a crazy look because you are crazy and this is the appropriate crazy look one gives to crazy people."

The street work outside our house is not for high-speed internet but for new cable lines. It won't affect our internet installation on Monday, or so I was told. We found out just last night that DirecTV gave us virtually every premium channels for a year, and I showed her the Mystery Science Theatre 3000 movie.

In the News
Two new studies suggest autism may be caused by a deficiency of Vitamin D. The studies follow Somali immigrants to Sweden and Minnesota, and the rapid development of autism in those communities.

Moving Picture of the Day
Remember when I told you that Chewbacca was a symptom of the Bigfoot mania of the 1970s? Basically Han was a moonshine runner with his pet Sasquatch. It's actually a chunk of genius for Lucas to take that cultural scofflaw type, pair him with a hillbilly monster, and put him in space. Here's the opening for the Saturday morning Bigfoot show. This both fascinated and scared the poop out of me as a tyke.

There was also a bionic Bigfoot that fought Colonel Steve Austin.

Thursday, June 18

A Collage of Blah-Blah

Your Sister re-potted all her classroom plants and was finishing when I arrived home. We dumped old potting soil into the compost bin, and I straightened my fence posts. She made arrangements to fly to main next month to hang out with a high-school friend, and she'll get back a few days before I leave for Chicago. The new communication company is running lines along the roads, and a new conduit is right outside our house. I suppose this will help us next week when we get high-speed online internet. We're trying to contact the local piano tuner, and we're pursing installation of a gas stove in the big living room.

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I made stir-fry while Your Sister watched The Poseidon Adventure. I wonder if she'd be interested in the other dozen or so big-budget '70s disaster movies. There's an entire franchise of airport disaster films, and they led to the Airplane! spoof movie. Poseidon is a lean engine of character decimation. The small pack of survivors scrambling through the overturned cruise ship are picked off one-by-one by fire and gravity, and new viewers always try to guess who will survive. There has to be a name for this theme of survival suspense stretching from war films to disaster flicks to horror genres. Poseidon is driven by Gene Hackman's performance, and I will always watch a Hackman film.

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I ran 17:46 this morning, five seconds slower than yesterday. I blame stupid trucks at intersections. As I got halfway through an intersection, a stopped truck pulled out to turn. Near the end of the run, a second truck pulled halfway into the road, forcing me to run around him and dodge the traffic coming from the opposite direction. This town has more than its share of bikers and runners. I'm not the rare figure confusing the populace. I somehow managed to start this morning-run business right as school let out for the summer. I don't have to dodge schoolbuses, and Your Sister can sleep right through my clock alarm.

In the News
Iran's conflict sparks the inevitable political posturing here. The administration is adamant that it won't get involved in the election, so political opponents are obliged to take the opposite view. References to Reagan in the Cold War and how he handled the Polish Solidarity movement bubble to the surface. But the Iranian administration already accuses us of getting involved. Something I have not heard yet is the suggestion that Bush's Middle East policy created this. It's an argument that could be made easily, and the reform movement can be packaged as a direct result of our Iraq strategy.

For instance, one could argue that the reform movement is afraid that the current president will bring down American military into the country. Or the reformers are inspired by the open Iraq elections and want the same. But again, I'm not hearing this, and I'm surprised. I don't agree with it, but I'm still surprised not to see it offered anywhere. The argument that our current administration inspired this reform has been made, citing the desire for change in the election campaigns. Also, it's been posited that Obama's light tough with Iran has encouraged the young populace to perceive us differently than their president would prefer. If we play nice, he can't stay in power by displaying us as invaders and usurpers.

The protest marches seem poised to continue indefinitely, and rumors say the supreme mullahs are gathering to debate a direct involvement. It's even possible the Grand Ayatollah could be replaced via a Vatican-like assemble of Islamic clerics. The ayatollahs who have spoken out at least tacitly support the reform protests, and the presidency could lose the religious blessing of the mullahs. There's debate about whether this qualifies as a revolution like that of 1979, and the consensus is "not yet" mixed with "but it's not far from it. As I heard on TV last night while everyone expects this to end like Tienanmen Square, what if this instead is another Berlin Wall destruction?

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The push to reform healthcare meets the standard opposition: it's socialism, bureucracy will kill the sick, it will cost too much, it will bankrupt small businesses forced to provide coverage. I work for a small company. We have six office employees. I pay for my coverage with a medical reimbursement on my paycheck. I've worked for other small companies that offered healthcare, and even on minimum wage -- in high school -- I had some form of coverage. Colleges and universities provide free minor medical care on campuses via student fees. It seems like a feasible model to follow.

Think of it as club membership. For, let's say $50 a month, you join a local health company, and when you need aid, you go in and get fixed up. It's not a cumulative accoun; everyone pays into a pool. Seems like even a small town like where we live can support a profitable health club that cares for minor ailments. Possibly, on the side, one could pay for health coverage for big-ticket care, maybe for $50-100 more. That's $150 a month. That's less than what I pay no for blanket coverage based on deductibles.

I have to develop this. Let me put on my pondering pants.

Picture of the Day
A left-handed Wookie is probably where we get the term "southpaw."

Wednesday, June 17

Wake Up and Run

This morning, I ran the 2-mile course in 17:40, 40 seconds faster than Monday's run. I'm cutting twenty seconds off my run time each morning. And I'm feeling it as I type this. My feet are sore -- actually, my toes are asleep -- and my hamstrings are tender. Weather permitting, I'll run tomorrow without trying to break any records.

It's not as difficult as I thought to get up an hour earlier and run like I'm on fire. I can't stretch as far as I'd like when I first wake up, but it's apparently enough to ward off injury. I drink a few gulps of water and eat a teaspoon of peanut butter. I walk to the end of the street, start my music, hit the iPod stopwatch button, and run. Less than 20 minutes later, I'm at the intersection again, soaked with sweat despite my moisture-wicking shirt, and starting a victory walk. I go inside, stretch, lift some weights, and pile myself in a corner of the shower.

The rain vanished for enough days that I worried about the soil quality in the garden. I bought some manure to act as low-grade potting soil and plant food to sprinkle about the garden. It took perhaps a half hour to put all that down, and then it rained buckets. I'm hoping this spurs plentiful sprouting. The plants look okay at this point. The cucumber vines are crawling, the corn grass is stretching, and the pepper plants are budding.

Your Sister discovered that her school wing would be locked down for two weeks for maintenance. That left her a few hours to empty her classroom of all the plants and necessary books. However, it does mean she's essentially done with the semester. She slept in this morning as I walked out the door to run in the mist.

I called my actors to set the first rehearsal date. We'll meet next Tuesday for a readthrough.

Picture of the Day
This is a crimefighter zone. Do not use your Joker gas on the little ones.

Tuesday, June 16

I Ran. Iran. Eyeball Monsters.

Last April, I posted a review of very possibly my first ever comic.

Asheville has a new comic store called Comic Envy, and they have a cheap box at the counter. These are comic overruns or issues that aren't worth the trouble to put in the usual back-issue inventory. They had a nice selection of significant comics in there (Avengers Annual 10, introducing the X-Men's Rogue, for example). But what caught my eye was a comic that may be one of the first five I ever owned, a comic whose cover I haven't seen in three decades. My copy is a tattered pulpy mess, and I held onto for sentimental reasons. But now I have a clean version, and it was about $2. A steal for childhood glee.

OK, backstory: World's Finest teamed Batman and Superman for stories usually lasting one issue. Eventually, the writers got bored and shifted attention to tales of the Sons of Superman and Batman, Superman Junior and Batman Junior. This being the early '70s, the sons were traveling mystery solvers much like every Hanna Barbera cartoon from the time (Captain Caveman, Jabberjaws, Scooby Doo, Dynomutt, etc.). Think of it as The Dynamic Duo of Hazzard. Oh, and they are both named for their dads.

In this issue, the boys take a back road and find a Florida town without men. Women have a sovereign hidden hamlet. Any man unlucky to stumble upon them are jailed. The sons play it cool and go along with the arrest to sniff out the situation.

They learn that two of the town leaders have doubts about their men-hating agenda (especially once they set eyes on those new hunks). They mention their leader, Sister Sibyl, and the boys break out at night to follow the women to see Sibyl. They see the town's women worship at a monolith with one giant eye where they probably sacrifice the captured men, and the two doubters are seemingly absorbed by it.

The jailbreak is discovered, and the hounds have Batman Junior's scent; because Superman Junior is half-Kryptonian, he has no scent, we're told. Bruce and Clark switch costumes in a weird logic that the dogs will chase the Batman costume worn by Clark instead of chasing Bruce (the source of the scent) now in Clark's costume. It's an excuse to see Batman fly around. The boys elude the policewomen and fight two half-gator monsters who sound just like the doubting women. The monsters fall into quicksand, and we suppose they die.

The sons investigate the monolith and are attacked by the cover monster who identifies herself as Sibyl, an alien cast out from her world and cursed with ugliness. Embittered, she creates a town of women to worship her. She's somehow weakened by man magic or something. Superman Junior traps her inside the monolith.

BUT WAIT! It's actually her spaceship, and the craft flies back to her homeworld automatically. There she's tried for her villainy and sentenced to a jail of mirrors to stare at herself for eternity. The sons meanwhile use their man magic to erase the Sibyl spell over the women, and the comic ends with Bruce Junior surrounded by love-hungry swamp women, including the previously alligator'ed gals we thought died in quicksand.

If I showed this to Your Sister, she'd explode in an eye-rolling paroxysm of feminist indignation. So of course I want to do it.

Story Grade: D
Nostalgia Grade: A++
Campiness Grade: Eleventy Bazillion A's

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I ran this morning, and beat yesterday's time by 18 seconds, just by pumping my arms faster. Eighteen seconds. I'm already in the Jefferson administration. I may run 3 miles tomorrow morning for variety. Maybe stick with my 2-mile regimen for this week. I need to establish this new habit, I think, I before I make adjustments.

It's possible that Your Sister will be through with school today. If she can add her grades to the state server and pack up the room, she's done. She's vibrating with hope.

In the News
So. Iran.

The newest newsy news says a ballot recount has been ordered by the high supreme religious cabal, but this isn't the do-over demanded by the reform movement. It's unlikely a recount will unseat the president. No one knows if the protests will burn themselves out or grow larger. These are two images I nabbed from The Big Picture, a fantastic hi-res news image site.

The supporters of top opposition candidate Mirhossein Mousavi flood the streets.

A protester helps a police officer to medical treatment after fellow protesters cornered and walloped him.

A supporter of the current administration gives a student protester what for. Check out her Chuck Taylors.

Monday, June 15

Theatre Doings

A teacher party blossomed Friday night, and there was much revelry and '80s music. Your Sister spread the word about her motorcycle, and the reactions continue to range from "cool" to "wait, you?!"

I had another theatre meeting, and we defined the one-act shows. There will be four (as of now), and our one-act will perform first (as of now). I told them my Mom actress bowed out, and they suggested names. I accidentally named the show. The original "Potpourri" title was shot down by the theatre president, and we brainstormed. I made a joke about summer shorts, and it stuck. So we're presenting Summer Shorts (as of now).

I found out two of my actors are working another of the one-acts, meaning we'll have to split our rehearsal time. As if we needed to make this more difficult. I did advocate doubling parts early on, but that was when we might have used the reading format. As decreed by the committee, we're to be off-script and use fully realized sets (as of now). We have three weeks to rehearse and learn lines, and splitting rehearsal time is going to add a new degree of difficulty.

As the meeting ended, I was asked to help out a reading committee pick plays to debut next year. I agreed with a disclaimer that I will only grab one or two plays at a time. I won't do six a week like last year, not when I'm directing a play that opens within a month (as of now). While I was there, Your Sis attended graduation, and we accidentally met up with teacher friends for lunch.

We drove down to Greenville to meet Your Sister's college buddy and her mom for dinner and a show. The meal was at a swank new place called the Lazy Goat, and it encouraged plate sharing for entrees. Lots of cheese dishes. The pizzas were good. I think I impressed the ladies when I ordered the Spanish wine in my approximate Spanish dialect. The waitress didn't guffaw, and I took that as a small victory.

They indeed got us tickets for Carousel at Greenville Little Theatre, my one-time stomping grounds. I've been away so long, I had to remind myself I performed there. It was a big show chosen to end the season with a bang. It's an early Rogers and Hammerstein musical similar to their Oklahoma! -- ballet sequences, songs for various romantic subplots, a theme for the bad guy, and an awkward ending. It called for all hands to work hard, and the cast was game. The theatre always set itself apart from the other small companies with superior technical resources, and we got a spectacle.

I went backstage to see people I hadn't in five years. One guy reacted like I was Marley's ghost, and the daughter of another actor recognized me from a recent viewing of The Odd Couple video. I wanted specifically to thank the theatre's artistic directors, and I did. I was almost teary. They gave one of four Glass Menagerie roles to an unknown hick, and I did five shows in all with them before I moved. I will never regret moving here to woo Your Sister. But I can easily see what I would do if I stayed in town. I'd be a regular with this theatre. My current company just can't compare. GLT is in another league of repertory and resources. It's not a fair comparison, but it makes our current efforts seem all the more paltry. It was a late-night drive to get back home, and I was wired from an after-dinner coffee and seeing old friends. I made much blah-blah.

I ran Sunday morning, and I've decided to now run every day for at least two miles, preferably in the morning. From our street to the nearest green light and back is slightly over two miles. Most of that is uphill, and I'm now running a smidgen over 18 minutes. When that time shortens, I'll go back to three-mile increments.

Your Sis graded papers. I called one of the suggested actresses and gave her my sales pitch. I learned quickly that she had already heard the pitch by my theatre liaison. I talked to her for an hour about the show, our theatre backgrounds and philosophies, and the pitfalls of community theatre fluff. I'm impressed. I was worried the show would be beneath her, and I pinned my hopes on our conversation sealing the deal. I tried to convince her the cast atmosphere would spark a strong show. As I pitched it, there are good stories, and there are weak stories told well. We can do the latter.

Your Sis finished grading research papers, and I treated her to dinner as the endcap to Debacle-nalia. We watched a Netflix movie and ate more anniversary cake (De-Bake-analia) to finish the evening.

Monday's morning run was 18:20. In American History, that's the Monroe Doctrine. I'd like to cut that to the first Continental Congress (let's say 17:40). Eventually of course I want to be at Columbus's arrival.As I chugged up the last hill, Your Sis drove by on the way to work. Normally, I'd still be in bed.

The actress called and agreed to do the show. She had concerns about certain lines, and I assured her of I'm approaching the show as a sitcom, but not a stupid one. The humor comes from sincere delivery, not from yuk-yuk slapstick and clowning. She will have her dignity. I hope to start rehearsing next week.

Picture of the Day
I start every morning right with a big bowl of Trooper-Os.