Gently shake the victim's shoulder and shout, "Are you all right?"
Oy. Last night was the Empty Space Theatre rent party at Con Works. Everybody had a fine old time, and it also turned into a bit of an Annex mini-reunion, what with the surprise appearance of Jillian and Alice. At one point in the evening there was a circle of Annex alumnus all standing together including myself, J and A, Bret, Chestnut and Narver -- it was a bit wierd, but most of us were very drunk by that point, so it DID feel like old times.
And Jillian did (sort of) apologize for kicking the hole in the wall at the Annex blow out bash, but tempered it with the excuse that she thought they were going to knock down the building, so she was just helping get the ball rolling -- and anyway, she just started the hole; other people helped enlarge it, which I think is probably true.
I am of course suffering the lingering effects of being out late on a school night, but fortunately there is absolutely NO ONE from my staff in the office today, so they will not bear witness to my bloodshot eyes, nor the purple pouches beneath them. I have a CPR recertification class this afternoon, however, which should be VERY interesting...
The State Of The Union Is Good (If You’re a Rich, White Republican)
So, Bubya (that’s a typo I know, but somehow it seems to fit) gave his annual State O' The Union address last night, and while there were a few notable surprises (like an offer of $16 b in foreign aid to African nations collapsing under the weight of the AIDS pandemic, and more money for drug treatment), much of the rhetoric was as predictable as it was on its face ludicrous.
One example: Bush declared that under his proposed tax plan the average family of four with an annual income of $40,000 would SAVE around $1100 on their tax returns, and pay only around $47! This of course doesn’t take into account the fact that this same family probably doesn’t even pay $1100 in taxes, if they file jointly, take additional deductions for such things as home mortgage interest, child care, tuition & fee credits, or contribute to an IRA or 401(k) plan. Hell, I make nearly that much myself, and as a single person I’m already getting a refund of almost $800, so where’s this so-called savings going to come from?
And of course we all already know how the elimination of the Corporate Dividend tax is playing around the beltway, where even many free-market Republicans are backing away from support for what is obviously a giveaway to the wealthiest 1% of Americans. Nobody buys the line for a minute that Aunt Petunia with her 1,000 shares of Amalgamated Widgets is going to see any significant income from this, since the majority of publicly-traded companies don’t even distribute dividends, and unless you own a gazillion shares of a stock that does (like, oh for example upper management types), what you’d get back would simply amount to chump-change.
And then there’s the issue of how he plans to pay for all the new initiatives he proposed, when he’s also spending untold billions on a war with Iraq (along with the inevitable costs of reconstruction), while at the same time gutting federal income, raiding the Social Security Trust Fund,and running the deficit up to new levels in the process.
Then there’s the shady Medicare situation. Sure, Bush proposes allowing seniors improved access to affordable prescription drugs, and that couldn't be a bad thing, right? But, what he doesn’t say is that in order to take advantage of this, many seniors are going to have to leave the Medicare rolls to qualify. Great choice: give up your Medicare benefits in exchange for cheaper high blood pressure medication. Might be a good time to invest in any charter bus company within a day's drive of the Canadian border.
As he moved from domestic issues to foreign affairs, the tone grew increasingly somber, and even his staunch supporters seemed reluctant to engage in the inevitable knee-jerk standing ovations that have become as ubiquitous at these events as a typical Seattle theatre opening. When he finally got around to the meat-and-potatoes of regurgitating the broken-record litany of Iraq’s crimes against the world (conveniently ignoring the fact that Pappy rubber-stamped the shipments of biological agents that his tow-headed spawn now cites as an example of Hussein’s megalomania), it was interesting to note that the entire Joint Chiefs, arrayed front-row center below the House podium, remained stone-faced throughout. They KNOW that any military action isn’t going to be a John Wayne style romp through the sands, that we will probably suffer hundreds if not thousands of casualties on our side, that most likely tens of thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians are going to die as a result of our action, and that in the end, it isn’t going to do one damn thing to prevent some fanatical ultra-fundamentalist Muslim nutcase from packing a U-haul truck full of fertilizer explosives and detonating it outside a public building somewhere. It will, however do wonders for U.S. oil interests (who even as we speak are buying millions of barrels of Iraqi oil on the spot market to make up for shortages due to the Venezuelan tap being shut down), no matter how much the administration denies it.
And for what it’s worth, I thought Governor Gary Locke made a very good showing in what is essentially a thankless job – delivering the Democratic response. His tone was measured and assured, and he contextualized his remarks in a way that made him appear to be a “man of the people”, something Bush has only managed with limited success.
g gets a special tip-of-the-hat from yours truly for being smart and perceptive enough to recognize there are times when it cannot be assumed that someone (namely me) will pick up on what may very well be obvious invitations to include one in an activity-in-progress -- and she did this twice in 48 hours!
Invite #1 entailed sitting with her and Freesia Thursday night at Dad Watson's pre-Empty Space Karaoke action. If she hadn't come over and made sure I understood that said invite had been offered, I probably would have just sat there by myself at the bar, nursing my Scotch, assuming they were having a private conversation and did not wish uninvited intrusion. I feel like I tend to be too much of a buttinsky in social situations as it is, probably from some desperate need to not feel like some passive, invisible outside observer, but there are times when I just totally misread the signals. This was one of them, but thankfully she was gracious enough to set me straight. And we all had a very pleasant conversation as a result.
Invite #2 came at the Big Birthday Dance Party for Loose Slots Saturday night at Mr. House, where she told me:
g: "You know, it's okay to dance with us."
c: "But, I don't do that."
g: "We don't care, just dance!"
Of course, I didn't, but it's good sometimes to understand that other people aren't nearly as concerned with your personal baggage, tics and phobias as you are.
Oh, and as if all that weren't enough -- she cleared up the mystery of "Who Is Ian, And Why Does He Think I'm Smarmy?", so that's another thing for which I owe her a "Thank You".
For those of you not familiar with this name, Bill Maudlin was one of the premier cartoonists of his age; an unabashed iconoclast, irreverent, independent-minded and not afraid to rub people the wrong way, even if it meant getting a dressing-down from somebody like Gen. George S. Patton.
His perpetually unshaven, rumpled, sleep-and-shower deprived alter-ego's Willie & Joe, eloquently depicted both the mind-numbing boredom (aleviated by short bursts of gut-wrenching terror), and existential ironies that made up the life of the common foot-soldier. Yet, his his humor was always of a gentle sort, even if it did all-too-often ruffle the feathers of the military brass, some of whom felt it did more to diminish morale than elevate it. Still, his popularity amongst the ranks was unquestioned, because in his work they recognized one of their own, someone who knew what he was talking about, because he'd experienced it first-hand.
After the war, he continued a successful career as an editorial cartoonist, winning two Pulitzer prizes (the first in 1945 in honor of his "Willie & Joe" work), the second in 1959 for his St. Louis Post-Dispatch depiction of Nobel-Laureate Boris Pasternick asking a fellow gulag inmate "I won the Nobel Prize for literature. What was your crime?" This was typical of his style, taking on unpopular issues with an unrepentant liberalism, using a soft, understated humor to skewer the purveyors of hatred, bigotry, incompetence and greed.
So, if you happen to run across a forlorn-looking beagle dressed in an aviator's helmet sitting at a checker-board bistro table, sit down, buy him a rootbeer and toast the passing of one of the greats.
In the past week, two more local theatres -- Empty Space and ArtsWest -- announced that they are running significant deficits this year and will be cutting staff and/or programming. This is on top of the spate of other recent similarly dire pronouncements of doom coming from ACT, The Village, On The Boards, among others, not to mention the Symphony, the Opera, and a whole plethora of smaller arts and cultural organizations around the region.
Now, granted times are tough and the current economic slump has resulted in a one-two roundhouse to many of these organizations in the form of lower ticket sales and reduced private/corporate/government support. But when you start adding up the numbers and looking at where most of the deficit-spending occured during the past year or so, one trend seems to be crystal-clear; the major cultural institutions have been squandering money like a 1990's era dotcom startup. And the attitude of many people on the administrative side seems to have been just as cavalier; "Oh, we'll just wait for one of our big-pocketed board members to cut us a check and wipe the red ink off the books in one fell swoop." Trouble is, those big pocketed patrons have themselves been smacked down to the mat by the plunging stock market and whatnot, so the pockets are no longer quite so big, nor is the hand quite so eager to reach into it and spread around the rapidly diminishing contents.
The result of this is that now most of our regions major cultural institutions (with a few notable exceptions) have racked up literally millions of dollars of debt (and if you throw in the $28 mm the City of Seattle loaned to The Seattle Opera to complete the underfunded refurbishment of the new McCaw Hall, that number goes into the tens of millions of dollars), which means the Seattle arts community is going to be hit by yet another set of combination-punches; at the very least millions of dollars that might have gone to sustaining and growing these same organizations will now be diverted to paying off debt, leaving less to go around for everyone; and in the worst-case, some of our valued institutions will cease to exist altogether, contributing to an already spiraling downward trend in support for the arts.
It's like we have our own cultural version of the Cretaceous-Tertiary cataclysm, with the dinosaurs being represented by these (for the most part) gigantic, overspending, under-delivering, inflexible organizations, while the on-going economic downturn gets to play the part of The Big Rock. And we all know what happened, don't we? Yep, the big ole' dinos couldn't deal with the massive climatic changes and became crude oil, while the small, scrappy little fur-bearing critters managed to eke out a marginal existence until the time was ripe for them to spring up out of the muck and start their own little evolutionary parade toward dominance.
Maybe in these tough times, it might actually pay off to be a little guy in a world full of lumbering behemoths. Keep that in mind the next time someone starts griping about the state of local Fringe Theatre.
If questioned by the authorities, I will simply have to tell them I have no idea how that yellow neon "Golden Arches" sign mysteriously appeared inside my bus yesterday morning. Honestly officer, I don't recall walking by the closed McDonald's restaurant at 3:00 a.m., and seeing a pile of abandoned signs on the floor, then thinking to myself, "Self, wouldn't it be tres amusant if you could just walk right in and snag one of those puppies?" And no, officer I do not recall walking around to the front door, and finding to my surprise and amazement (not to mention one of the few moments in my life where I've ever exhibited anything close to X Man-like precognative mutant psychic abilities) to find that said door was UNLOCKED!
And no, I do not recall walking back to the Marina carrying said neon sign, nor do I recall putting it into the back of my bus before skulking off to bed with an only slightly guilty conscience, much like what The Hamburgler must feel after pulling off yet another daring heist from Mayor McCheese's stash.
The Situation: At one point late in the evening (or more accurately, early in the morning) at Sjet's party, a sudden urge to dance swept through the assembled celebrants, fueled no doubt by too much alcohol, birthday cake and gummy bears. People were suddenly racing around The Gilded Lily, insisting that “EVERYONE MUST DANCE!” Joe Jackson was playing, which under normal circumstances can get my toes tapping like anything, but there was just one problem here – we were all IN PUBLIC!
I do not dance in public.
So, I ended up sitting on the sofa in the Room Full Of Dancing People, along with Patti and The Performance King, which led to –
The Observation: It suddenly occurred to me that the three of us constituted all the people at the party over the age of 40. And here we all were, sitting on our 40-year old asses, watching the “kids”, the oldest whom was probably just on the low side of that dreaded number shakin’ their groove thangs like it was 1999.
“So, self” I says to myself, “Is this just totally an age thing? Are we just a trio of fuddy-duddy killjoys? Is this what the future holds in-store for us? To just sit on the sidelines like chaperones at a junior high school hop?” Then I thought a bit more about the personages with whom I was sharing the Old Folks Sofa; Patti is very charming, very talented lighting designer, and The Performance King is a tattoo-sporting, punk-rocker, Porche-driving Renaissance Man, while I am – well, me. Surely, we don’t fit the definition of over-the-hill, lost-all-the-passion-for-life oldsters, do we? DO WE? HELL NO!
So, how to explain this? I guess I can’t speak for the others, but I know, deep down in my heart that it boils down to the simple fact that I am completely intimidated by the very idea of dancing. Always have been. Probably always will be. I know it’s in part a “guy thing” (although obviously, some guys don’t share this sense of discomfort), and stems from traumatic experiences at those very same junior high school hops that the moment suddenly reminded me of. I can still bring up horrific memories of those evenings, standing around the darkened fringes of the Huntington J.H.S. cafeteria, while all the popular kids were shuffling to “Bungle In The Jungle”, with most of the rest of us either trying very hard to look like we were too cool to dance, or in my case at least, being totally incapacitated by a quavering, abject terror at the possibility of being turned down if I DID ask someone to dance, or worse, of looking like a complete idiot due to an absence of any sense of coordination and style, if some girl actually accepted.
Most females do not seem to possess this genetic predisposition toward self-consciousness when it comes to dancing; they have some mystical ability to simply Let Go, to Not Care, and as a result, they abandon themselves to the music and the rhythm, exhibiting a grace and beauty of motion that I will simply never ever come close to replicating. Not in public. Some guys have this capacity as well, I don’t know where it comes from, and no it does not seem to have any correlation to one’s sexual orientation – it’s just one of those “either you have it or you don’t” things that I most definitely do not have.
Which is kind of sad, because there really is nothing that screams “I LOVE LIFE!” quite so much as a roomful of drunk, sucrose-amped birthday celebrants gleefully getting’ jiggy to Joe Jackson at 2:00 a.m.
But at least I recognize that as a True Thing, so maybe I shouldn't feel so sad after all...
This was the weekend of many birthday celebrations; Sven on Friday, and a pre-b-day celebration for Sjet on Saturday.
I love birthdays, better even than Halloween or Christmas. Sure, you get lots of candy and can dress up on Halloween, and you get lots of presents on Christmas, but a birthday is like your own special personalized holiday in celebration of YOU! You still get lots of sugary treats, can dress up like a Viking or a roller-skating Princess, and people actually put some thought into what they get you as gifts, because they only have to concentrate on shopping for one person.
I got Sven a Viking helmet-and-birthday-hat ensemble, inspired by Mr. SGNP’s “Giraffes And Elephants" comic-of-the-day, which was his birthday card to Mr. Sven. He’ll probably never wear it again, but he can never look at it and NOT think that it was an honorific presented to him on the day of his birth. Besides, it made him laugh, and that can never be a bad quality in a birthday gift.
Sjet loved the Atari 10-in-1 TV Game Joystick so much she called me “her hero!” which although perhaps a bit exaggerated in the real scheme of things, is nevertheless exactly the kind of reaction one can only hope for when giving someone a present.
So, happy birthday to all, and may you get all the things you desire!
Our T-1 line was down for five hours this afternoon, forcing me to actually perform tasks of a work-related nature. Unfortunately, this also meant that our sales reporting system was off-line, since some genius here decided a few months back that we should switch from our networked interface to a web-based one. And since most of my day-to-day tasks involve generating reports on said system, I was reduced to such awful make-busy work as making "2003" file tabs for things I'm not even sure I'll need to be filing.
On my way back to work from an audition this morning, saw my first Segway (tm) Human Transporter, one of those high-tech scooters that are supposed to be "the new evolution in mobility". Actually, it DID look pretty cool -- the postal delivery person was cruising up Dexter Ave. at about six or seven miles an hour, slightly above a brisk walking speed. He looked perfectly comfortable, no obvious problems with balance, and I watched him negotiate a sidewalk wheelchair ramp with ease -- actually looked like a very smooth ride. The only downside I can see is that they are rather large, with an overall width of about 2 feet and an 18 inch wheel diameter, so they're going to be a bit dicey on narrow, crowded sidewalks. On the other hand, it did have some nifty panier-type side-mounted storage modules, not huge, but certainly big enough to shove a laptop and a few groceries into.
Just wish I'd been able to pull out my eyemodule in time to capture an image of it.
Here in the real world many of us work for companies that still don't recognize this as a valid holiday, and that's really not the point of this little skreed anyway. The point is, that if you DO get to celebrate this day in remembrance of the late Dr. King, you can do something more than sit around congratulating yourself for getting a three-day weekend. One thing would be to go down to the MLK Day March and Rally starting at 9:30 a.m. at Garfield High School, 23rd & East Jefferson. Call 206-314-0719 for more information.
If you missed it, ConWorks' 14/48 "The World's Quickest Theatre Festival" happened again this weekend, and boy was it a blast! I didn't perform this time around, but my contribution was sufficient to earn me diety-status (along with fellow Annex stalwart Jaye Wilkinson) as "The Food God". My task was simple: keep 75 actors, directors, playwrights, designers, musicians, technicians, staff and assorted hangers-on constantly provided with commestibles of all varieties throughout the course of a 16-hour day. This is no easy task, as anyone who has ever spent time around hungry theatre types can attest. Actually, everything went quite smoothly with the exception of a minor catastrophe early in the day when we fell behind in creation of caffeinated beverage substances. Otherwise, our efforts were both consumed and appreciated, and as a result, a second appelation of status was confered upon me with the addtional title of "The Quesadilla King".
I had a lot of help, of course (even a God can't do this alone), and so special thanks to SGNP for coordinating all the scheduling, and to the ever-fabulous Molly & BenLau for their indespensible support, and last, but certainly not least to the amazing Heidi Darchuk for letting us do it in the first place.
Now, here are just a few of our satisfied customers:
For those non-geek types out there, Jon Johansen is a Norwegan teenager who back in 1998 scripted some code (commonly known in the cyberrealms as DeCSS), which allows anyone to play a DVD on any computer regardless of what operating system it uses. At the time, Jon intended the program to allow him to play DVD's he had purchased on his home PC, which used the Linux (pronounced LIN-ux) operating system, an open-source OS developed as an alternative to Windows and Mac. The Motion Picture Association of America went ballistic, filing a complaint with the Norwegan Economic Police (!) who promptly raided Jon's parents' home, confiscated all his gear and charged him with software piracy under the Digital Millenium Copywright Act, a piece of U.S. legislation which is designed to prevent anyone from reverse-engineering digital encryption software, which might later be used to create pirated copies of CD's or DVD's.
The significance of this ruling cannot be underestimated. Up until the past few years consumers have always had a certain amount of control over the content of material they purchased legally. For example, if you bought a record, you could later tape it for personal use under standard copywright "fair use" doctrines. Media industry trade associations like the MPAA or the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) sought the DCMA as a means of preventing consumers from engaging in these types of practices, by shoving all non-industry forms of recording for personal use under the rubrick of "potential piracy". Congress in enacting the DCMA essentially rolled over on the huge piles of money the industry threw at them, essentially making it illegal for anyone to do anything with a piece of digitally-produced media that the industry didn't approve of, and more importantly, wasn't compensated for. In short, just because you purchased a CD or DVD, under the DCMA you don't actually own what's on it, you only own the piece of plastic upon which it is imprinted, and have no right to use it in a way not approved of by the creator of the content.
This ruling is a MAJOR victory for the little guy (although there's no indication at this point whether prosecutors will appeal the unanimous ruling), and a big setback for Big Media.
Now get out there and keep burning those mixes kids!
About 15 minutes ago there was a really nice sunset outside my boss' office window, all orangy-gold against the slowly plumb-ripening purple sky. And here it is, time to go home and there's still just a tiny hint of daylight left.
This can only mean one thing -- the long, dark winter is slowly creeping on tip-toes toward Spring like a small child trying not to wake his parents on Christmas morning.
So how's this for a great way to start the week? I'm awakened about 20 minutes before my alarm clock is set to go off by a dull aching sensation in my lower abdomen, which rapidly accelerates to a white-hot, burning 16 penny nail being driven into my intestinal tract. We're talking mind-numbing, spots-in-front-of-the-eyes, doubling-over, want-to-cry, maybe-go-to-emergency-ward-instead-of-work type pain. Real Pain. Scary Pain.
About 10 years or so ago I had a brief, intense bout of something called Diverticulitiswhich is a mild inflammation of the small intestine usually caused by the presence of a polyp or small, sac-like protrusion in the intestinal wall. Basically, stuff gets stuck in there and can either cause an obstruction or a sort of absess. It's not life-threatening (although it could be an indication of some more serious condition), but when you get it -- and I hope you never do -- it feels like you've been stabbed in the gut with a piece of hot, rusty rebar.
Figuring this was in fact what it was, I limped to the shower, did all the usual morning ablutions while bending over the bathroom sink like I had osteoporosis, managed to get dressed and out to the bus, where I spent the next 20 minutes in a state of sheer agony, which makes driving the 520 bridge either an act of consumate courage or stupidity, take your pick. About an hour after the onset, the pain peaked out and gradually began to subside, just about the time I was reaching work.
Now, I feel pretty normal, although my lower insides are still a bit quivery from the stress no doubt. Still, I can only hope this is a once-a-decade phenomenon, because I surely do NOT want to wake up tomorrow or any other day for that matter feeling like I would like to die now please, and very quickly.
Two days into the New Year and thankfully we haven't bombed any third-world dictatorships back into the pre-Cambrian era yet. Only 363 more days to go. I don't think we'll make it.
There's a rainbow outside my office window right now, so maybe that's some kind of hopeful sign after all...
We did blow up the Space Needle Tuesday night, albeit in a very good way. The view from The Gilded Lily was quite spectacular. There's just something so decadent about standing around in a tux, drinking champagne, smoking a cigar and watching big explosions. This must be what it feels like to be a Republican. My only regret for the evening was that I didn't get or give one of those long, slow, smoldering "Happy New Year" kisses -- not even from a certain lady who claims she kissed "everyone" present. Maybe I'm just too polite. Maybe I should have just grabbed one of the many frankly very attractive women on the balcony and planted a big, soft, wet, sloppy one right on their lips. Maybe they would have gotten angry and slapped me -- or maybe not. It's my own damned fault for not having the guts to find out which way it would have gone.
Damn, now the rainbow has gone away. I shouldn't have uttered the "R word".