Strange, The U.N. deliberately omitted 8,000 pages from Iraq's 12,000 page Declaration of Compliance with U.N.S.C.R 1441 -- at the behest of the United States government, no less. Now why would we want them to do a silly thing like that? Oh, THAT'S why.
Like A Rabbit Punch To The Kidney That Takes Your Breath Away
I just saw an item in today's Seattle P-I reporting on a guilty plea copped by two guys who murdered a friend of mine back in 2001. The fact of the murder is itself bad enough, but what's really got me on the ropes is that I didn't know a thing about it until just this moment.
Jan Zabel was one of the first people I ever worked with when I moved to Seattle back in the mid '80's. We did a production of Joe Orton's "Loot" together at West Seattle Totem Theatre (now known as ArtsWest) with Stephen Grenley, directed by Ed Sampson, and we kept in pretty close touch for a number of years after that, although it did gradually drop off until we only saw each other infrequently. So far as I knew he was still living a quiet life in West Seattle, teaching voice, and pursuing his dream of being an opera singer. He was one of the nicest guys I ever met, and the fact that somebody felt he was so much of a threat to them, that they brutally murdered him in the violent manner described in the article just makes me sick.
It just goes to show that you shouldn't take any relationship for granted, because you never know when some lunatic might decide to blow you away.
Just Because We're Anti-War, That Doesn't Mean We're Pro-Saddam
Joe Conason, in today's Salon.com (click through the annoying ads for a day pass to see the full article) notes an interesting, albeit disturbing consequence of this past weekend's world-wide anti-war demonstrations, namely that the Iraqi government has now latched onto the idiotic notion that the 30 million people out in the streets somehow represent support for the Ba'ath Party regime. Nothing of course could be farther from the truth, but the result has been that Saddam's people are using this as an excuse to once again stall on complying with the UN weapons inspection teams (there's a more complete report in today's Washington Post).
Mr. Conason proposes a rather inventive solution to this dilemma, which is to take the protest directly to the Iraqi government to show them that this type of spin-doctoring will not be tollerated. Of course, most of us probably don't have the wherewithal to travel to New York to protest in front of the Iraqi embassy, however, he does provide an alternative means of voicing our collective disapproval. Simply send an email to The Iraqi UN Mission and let them know you will not allow your voice against the war to be twisted into a cynical and flat-out wrong-headed statement of support for the Iraqi government. I recommend addressing it directly to Iraqi U.N. Ambassador Mohammed Al-Douri, and while you're at it, cc The Iraqi News Agency, The Office of The Secretary General of the U.N., Kofi Annan, and U.S. U.N. Ambassador John Negroponte.
Perhaps, as Mr. Conason muses, a few million emails crashing their system might convince someone there to actually tell Saddam to pull his head out of his sand-filled ass-crack and start complying with the inspection teams pronto.
Whenever I need a quick pick-me-up from the drudgery of my day, I go here. Start at the bottom (Although the Blues Clues Animutation seems to not be working currently), and see how much this kid's work has improved over the past couple of years.
I really have to wonder sometimes why nobody at The Seattle Post-Intelligencer every gets angry enough at Theatre "Critic" Joe Adcock's incomprehensible lack of basic writing skills to kick his sorry ass back to the Gardening Section where he started.
A Case In Point. I mean, really does any of this hastily-scribbled-on-the-back-of-an-envelope (I know because I watched him scribble it) drivel actually MEAN anything?
Oh well, at least he didn't make us suffer through one of his signature strings of contrasting adjectives ("It was good and bad. Loud and soft. Funny and sad.").
And people wonder why nobody takes criticism seriously anymore...
30 Million Protesters Can't Be Wrong (Except If You Don't Care Whether They're Right).
So, the Anti-war march in Seattle on Saturday was quite the success, and judging from independent reports coming from other cities across the globe ours was one of the smaller turnouts (not counting the South Pole Protest. The estimate of between 15,000 & 30,000 here sounds about right, although I would have estimated closer to the smaller figure judging by the turnout at the Seattle Center. However, it also appeared that many people simply joined the marchers en-route, so the higher figure may actually be closer to the final count. Clark Humphrey has some excellent photos on his website, Misc. It was peaceful, only a teensy bit raucus, invigorating and probably futile, since the Bush Administration seems to be hell-bent on exacting it's euphemistic policy of "regime change", regardless of whether there is any evidence to support it's allegations or not. Bush II wants a war, then by golly he's going to get one. All we can do at this point is make damn sure he knows WE don't approve, and that WE will call him to account for it.
I was heartened to see a few of my fellow thespians in the crowd, and know there were even more there, based on other people's accounts. Next time, maybe we should coordinate and march en-masse.
And our contribution to the cause isn't quite finished yet. If you haven't already heard about The Lysistrata Project, that will be going down on the 3rd of March, so there's still plenty of time to get involved and add your voice to that of thousands of artists across the country and around the world.
Most of you probably remember the 1977 Diane Keaton movie "Looking For Mr. Goodbar", don't you? Okay, okay some of you probably weren't even BORN in 1977 -- sheesh! But, you've all at least heard about it, right? How Diane Keaton goes from being a morally-upstanding deaf school teacher, to a drug-addled, sex-addicted -- well, crackwhore, except without the crack. Anyway, the point is, you probably know that the name of a certain chocolate bar has been irrevocably and forever linked, by virtue of the film's (also the 1975 Judith Rossner novel on which it was based) title.
So, then given this unfortunate association, wouldn't you think SOMEONE at Hershey Foods Corporation might have felt just a tiny twinge of, well squirminess authorizing this?
Yeah, it's THAT day. 14 February. St. Valentine's Day. That one day in the year when all single, unattached people throughout Christendom are made to feel like poor, pathetic losers, because we don't have some significant other to exchange candy, flowers, jewelry, and greeting cards with, and in which our abject lack of companionship is thrown in our sad, hangdog expressioned faces by hordes of kissy couples engaging in an orgy of Public Affection.
Some of the more cynical among us (and you know who you are -- and so do I) will probably shrug off all this uber-romantic nonsense by making scathing comments about the rampant commercialism, the cloying sentimentality, and the caloric binging that this day brings. And normally, I'd be right in the thick of it, opining away at the hideousness of it all -- except for the fact that I am forced to acknowledge the deep, dark, shameful secret most of these spoil-sports share, but Dare Not Name.
We're all just envious of you, that's what.
C'mon gang, fess up. The only reason we poo-poo Valentine's Day is because, in our hearts we all wish we WERE celebrating being stung with Cupid's dart. We want someone in our lives important enough to send a mushy valentine greeting to, someone to take on a romantic, candle-lit dinner at our favorite neighborhood bistro, someone to say "I love you" to, and really mean it from the bottom of the soles of our feet. But we don't, and we know it, and on this day everyone else knows it too, and that just makes us sad and resentful, and so we lash out at those few lucky enough to have what we don't. That's what envy is after all, so why don't we just come clean for once and admit it?
Okay, that's probably not going to happen on any large scale, but in any event, I'm turning over a new leaf as it were. I'm not going to spend the day wallowing in self-pity, regret, envy or any other negativity. Who needs all that extra baggage in the suitcase anyway? I barely have room for my socks as it is.
So, instead, to you the few, the happy few I say, "Happy Valentine's Day to all of you. May you take the time today to tell that someone special how lucky you are to have found your perfect match, your partner in crime, the marmalade for your toast, the cream for your coffee, your better half, your best friend, husband, wife or lover. Tell them you love them with all your heart, body, mind and spirit. Remind them of all the secret things about each other that only the two of you know. Promise to keep those secrets locked in the safety deposit box of your soul, to which they have the only key." If you do that much, I'll be happy too.
And please, show some humility. Because, truth be told, the other 95% of us would trade places with you in a New York second.
One of the more interesting side-notes to becoming an Equity actor is that, because I can't act for non-union theatres without some sort of contract, which most of them can ill-afford, if I want to work at any of these places, I have to be willing to do things outside the normal ouvre of the actor.
Case in point: I'm running sound for Annex Theatre's production of "The Changeling", a Jacobean revenge tragedy given a smart and funny update by Annex Artistic Director, Bret Fetzer. It's been something like 16 or 17 years since the last time I worked a sound board, and although the basic skill set remains the same, it is simply amazing how much the technology has changed in that time.
Back in the day, I used to cut cues onto quarter-inch reel-to-reel tape from vinyl recordings like the venerable "BBC Radio Sound Effects Library", then splice them into a master tape with 12 inches of white leader between each cue. Quadrophonic sound systems were considered "state of the art" back in 1986 or '87. Today, everything is done digitally, either burned onto CD's or recorded onto Mini Discs, and instead of marking the cue on the leader with a Sharpie felt pen, now it scrolls across the display screen like an old-fashioned New York Times chaser-board (just one example of how new technology tends to mimic old tech in subtle and ingenious ways). All I have to do now is push a button and slide a volume-control bar.
Still, for all the advances, some aspects of the job are refreshingly familiar. The Clear-Com headsets are pretty much the same (but that may be because the ones we're using are at least 20 years old, they have Bakelite in them, for goodness' sake!), and Sound Designers still insist that the board op have a certain dexterity in terms of being able to instantly adjust volume and directional levels on-the-spot, instead of just having it all done internally within the recording itself. So, as sound op, it's still possible to be able to finesse the sound to fit the onstage performances; if someone is a bit late on an entrance for example, you can take the cue a bit late to match, and so on. Today, when there is so much controversy in the industry over things like "virtual orchestras", and withthe whole process of live performance becoming increasingly automated, it's really heartening to know that in some artistic realms at least, the availability of new technology is seen as a means to enhancing the creative process, rather than supplanting it.
By the way, you really should come see the show. February 14th through March 22nd. Friday and Saturday nights, 8:00 p.m. at the Jewel Box Theatre, Rendezvous Tavern, 2320 2nd Ave. Only $12. Call 206-728-0933 to make a reservation.
Every once in a while, I get handed one of those projects that proves the aphorism, "Shit rolls downhill", and which of course also serves to remind me of just exactly where I stand on the corporate food-chain -- namely right at the bottom with the krill and phytoplankton.
So, now I'm in the process (well aside from squeaking off a little spleen-venting rant) of merging two huge mailing lists, deleting the duplicates (roughly 40% of the total), printing 1500 mailing labels, putting said labels on postcards, then at some point going to the post office for 1500 postcard stamps because our recently left-the-company graphics person put a big old red thingie in the upper right-hand corner where the postage imprint would normally go, and so now I will also have to peel off the 1500 stamps to put on the postcards before they can be mailed, and -- oh by the way, this was supposed to have been done LAST WEEK, but they just handed it to me yesterday afternoon, with no instructions, no explaination, and the really, REALLY frustrating thing is -- not a single person in my department has either the time or inclination to help me with this vitally important mailing!
AND IT'S FOR A CHARITY EVENT!
Now, the above fact only slightly mollifies the seething resentment I am currently suppressing for my co-workers. I already spent a large part of my week contributing time, energy, money and elbow-grease supporting a whole plethora of good causes, and I do it both willingly and with great joy. But, in this instance, it's "The Company Charity", that one good cause to which pretty much every company contributes large sums, both to make them appear to be good corporate citizens, as well as (and perhaps more importantly) so they can take some sort of big tax write-off at the end of the year. And it is a GOOD cause, but I don't think anybody else around here has any genuine commitment to it, because every year when we start organizing this particular event, the logistics always get put off until the last minute, at which point it suddenly becomes MY RESPONSIBILITY to accomplish the near impossible task of mailing the announcements and the follow-ups, processing the entry forms, sending the reminder cards, organizing the schedules, putting together the thank you letters, and coordinating 90% of the rest of the logistics that make this thing happen, all with absolutely no aid, assistance or support -- and always on the same backbreaking, we've-already-missed-it deadline, because someone else was either too disinterested or too lazy to set things up on a proper schedule, so that this wouldn't happen in the first place.
BUT, IT'S FOR A GOOD CAUSE
This will now be my mantra for the next few days, as I am once again asked to do the impossible -- and then fucking DELIVER!
Oh, and if I'm lucky, I'll be rewarded with a cheap promotional tchotske for my efforts.
One of my co-workers just set down a carton of cinnamon rolls about the exact size and dimension of a flat of strawberries on the counter at my desk. There are 26 carbohydrate-loaded pastry treats now within arm's reach -- PLEASE SOMEONE STOP ME!!!
Tuesday I dropped my Handspring Visor Deluxe about six inches onto a carpeted floor and watched in horror as the touch screen cracked, rendering the unit inoperable. Fortunately, I was still able to hot-sync (for the PDA-deprived, that means downloading all the data stored on your handheld device to your main computer) and save the information, but the unit itself was toast. A quick web search indicated that it could be repaired, but I would have to send it back to the manufacturer, and because it was no longer under warranty, it would cost me about $150 to get the screen replaced.
Further searching indicated I could get a brand-new Palm PDA with a color screen for less than $200 at a nearby Staples store. The decision was pretty much a no-brainer, and despite the fact that I don't really have $200 burning a hole in my pocket right now, my desire for instant gratification, combined with a VISA card with an $8000 credit limit and a temporary 4.9% APR prompted me to walk down the street after work and pick one up.
$320 later, I walked out with a new Palm M-130 PDA, a 64 Mb expansion chip, a USB hot-sync cable (for syncing to my home laptop) and a three-year extended warranty. Normally, I would have skipped the later item, but since I'd only had the Visor for about 18 months, coughing up $40 for the extra warranty protection seemed justified under the circumstances. I now have something that fits in the palm of my hand and has more total computing power than all of the Apollo spacecraft that went to the moon - combined. And it's got a color screen. And I was able to restore all of my data from the Visor to it when I got back to the office. And I can download things like "Giraffes & Elephants" cartoons on it.
It was probably not an essential purchase, but I really do have most of my life organized into it, and so I just have to knuckle under and roll with it.
I also just got my beloved Bus back from The World's Greatest VW Mechanic. It had been acting up for some time, making a VERY loud noise (to which those of you who've heard it can attest), that turned out to be a cracked exhaust manifold. Not only did Ken fix the noise problem, but he also managed to seal a few valve leaks, get me a bit of heat up front (VW buses are notorious for not having good heating systems), AND get my turn signals working again!
Ironically, all this cost me -- yes, exactly $320, the same amount I just paid for a tiny little computer. The difference between the two items is that a.) the Bus is much, much bigger, b.) is 28 years old, and c.) considering all the restoration work I've had done on it, could easily last another 25 years, pending availability of spare parts, long after the new PDA is broken, discarded and leaching toxic chemicals into a landfill somewhere.
So, while I'm very pleased that Mr. Daisey will be returning to Seattle for a brief reprise of his show, I had to laugh when the ariticle stated, "According to (Intiman's Artistic Director, Bartlett) Sher, no fiscal crisis prompted the changes." as well as his statement that, "The Intiman is doing great, but we're being extremely careful to make sure we prevail." This of course when everyone in the Seattle Theatre community KNOWS that Intiman (like many other major companies) is collapsing under a terrific debt-load (in this case somewhere close to $1 mm, if not over that amount), brought about by overly ambitious programming, accompanying cost overruns, and a dearth of financial support.
Now, while I'm all for cost-cutting in these gloomy economic times, it's also interesting to note that the two shows Mr. Sher chose to excise from his season were well-known works with built-in audience recognition ("Tartuffe" and "Arsenic And Old Lace"), which despite having a combined 22 roles between them (which will now be reduced to a total of six with the two replacement shows) might have actually had a chance of bringing in audiences, and therefore contributing to Intiman's dismal cash-flow situation. So, rather than finding other ways to trim their budget (for example trimming fat from the bloated administrative line), they choose instead to sacrifice the product -- the entire raison-d'-etre for having a theatre company in the first place -- in order to survive. Isn't that an example of the military/bureaucratic mind-set that believes the only way to save something is to destroy it?
For those of you experiencing a moment of deja-vu here, this has all the earmarks of a redux of last year's "Waste" fiasco, and I have little doubt this decision was probably equally driven by Intiman's managing board, which has no doubt gotten tired of hyperventillating over the vast sums that Mr. Sher has run through during his brief tenure in Seattle, while at the same time watching box office and contributions fall off as individuals, corporations and government all go through a process of collective belt-tightening.
Also interesting to note is that these draconian measures were enacted primarily (or so the article states) to preserve what are most likely Mr. Sher's pet projects in the season, a production of Tony Kushner's "Homebody/Kabul", which he will be directing this fall, as well as Intiman Associate Artistic Director Craig Lucas' musical version of Elizabeth Spencer's 1963 novella, "The Light In The Piazza".
Now, arguably "Homebody" is a worthy piece, and certainly deserving of a top-quality presentation, while I know absolutely nothing about the latter work (but then of course, very few outside of hard-core southern literature afficionados probably do either), and so cannot comment on its relative merits. However, the constant program-shuffling of shows has to be making some people -- and not just myself -- wonder just what the hell is going on over there at the Seattle Center. My guess is that the board may be suffering from a very bad case of the Nervous Nellies, and has decided that despite the obvious popularity of the two dropped productions, they were just deemed too big and expensive to mount in the current climate, which of course begs the question of why they approved them in the first place. This is the second major reshuffling in two consecutive seasons, and one can only wonder whether the board has decided to play "Monday Morning Quarterback", because they are beginning to distrust their AD's ability to bring in a large-cast show on-budget.
In any case, it doesn't add up to a warm-fuzzy feeling, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if Mr. Sher and the Intiman board agree to an amicable parting of the ways within the next 12 months -- assuming Intiman lasts that long as a producing organization.
Normally, I'm not an angry person. People who know me however, will tell you that you won't like me when I'm angry, because I have the ability to transform into a hulking, green-skinned monster capable of untold destruction and mayhem. Fortunately, it doesn't occur very often, but when it does, pity the poor object of my wrath.
Saturday was a case-in-point. I spent the better part of the morning and afternoon trying to keep a lid on the volcanic emotions that were threatening to boil over. It seemed that everywhere I went, people were just learning the news, or in some instances, I was the bearer of sad tidings. First it was one of my neighbors, then running into G outside the Childrens' Theatre. Then people on the bus, then people at the Empty Space Shop. Each time, I'd have to literally stop and compose myself enough to speak in a clear, coherent voice and not let the emotions overwhelm me. Working helped. For a few hours, I managed to just focus on cutting, routing, screwing, gluing and stapling. Concentrating on the task at hand and not dwelling on my own feelings.
But of course, that can only get you so far. At some point the work stops, and the mind begins to return to the gnawing hurt rolling around inside your guts like a ball of razor wire. And then you start to get angry. It's a natural response, part of the grieving process as Elizabeth Kubler-Ross theorized many years ago. You have to work your way through it, but for someone like me, someone who can turn into a green-skinned monster given sufficient infusion of anger, it's not as clear-cut a process.
I decided I needed to do something good, something to acknowledge the grief, and come to terms with it. I went to Larry's and bought seven blue candles, some flowers, paper lunch bags, cat litter and incense sticks. Then I walked over to the Seattle Center Fountain. There was a large crowd showing up for a Sonics game, and I experienced another brief Hulk-flash when I got there and saw that no one else had thought to make a similar gesture. No crowds spontaneously gathering like for 911 or Kurt Cobain or GW-I. Just the flag atop the Space Needle lowered to half-mast, lit by high-intensity spotlights shooting straight up to the sky, as if pointing in the direction of where it all went down. But nobody seemed to notice.
So, I took my things, made seven candle bags and placed them in a ring around the edge of the fountain. Then I took seven of the tulips and layed them at the base of the walkway in a star pattern, then lit seven sticks of incense and placed them nearby. Then I sat down on a bench.
People came by, some stopping to look into the bags, curious but uncomprehending. Some kids started jumping over the bags like hurdles, chasing each other around and around with inexhaustible energy. One of them blew out several of the candles. A couple on the far side of the fountain relit them. I don't know if they even knew what they were there for, but I was at least solaced by the fact that they recognized they had some kind of significance and felt the need to respect that. Later, a group of teenagers wandered by and sat down near me. I could overhear some of their conversation, and it was clear a couple of the boys wanted to blow out the candle nearby, but the girls with them kept telling them not to. Finally, the temptation just proved too great for one of them. I silently walked over, relit it and returned to my seat. I was afraid if I said something it would come out hostile and threatening, so I just kept my mouth shut.
I stayed there for about three hours, sitting, gazing at the candles, watching the people, not saying a word, not wanting to explain anything, but hoping that somehow a few of them understood the message represented by seven small lights in the darkness. Finally, I went home.
I made the mistake of stopping in at the bar next to my boat. Anger and alcohol do not mix, I know, but I was at that point in the day when I just didn't want to feel anything at all. But of course, that means you have to drink an awful lot before you reach a state of insensation, and unfortunately, the big green guy snuck out when I wasn't looking.
Later, when I had him back under control, I made another phone call to apologize to the lady at the message service for yelling at her because the flag outside our building hadn't been lowered to half-mast like all the other flags I'd seen that day. So far as I know at 2:30 on a Monday afternoon it's still not lowered in respect of the dead.
I'm sitting here trying very hard, and not very successfully to keep from shaking and crying. It's Challenger all over again, the horror of that awful morning in 1986, seeing the unbelievable happen before my eyes, except for the minor detail that this time I was spared the agony of bearing witness. Seven people burning a hole through the sky, returning home to their beloved earth. Incinerated. Obliterated. I don't think I can express the pain and grief I feel, for them, for their families, for our nation and our world.
Every person who undertakes such a magnificent endeavor understands the risk. It's never "business as usual" for the astronauts, for their families, for the technicians and specialists on the ground. They all take their jobs very seriously, because they know people's lives are at stake. It's not a safe thing to do, and for those of us who have followed the space program from the very beginning, who never turned away when it got "boring" or "dull", who saw in those brave men and women a small token of our own aspirations, and who share our sense of awe and wonder at the incredible visions of our small blue world backdropped against the immeasurable immensity of the cosmos, we share the pain, the disbelief, and our thoughts are with the families of the astronauts, their co-workers, colleagues and friends.
I hope if any good can come from such a tragedy, that their sacrifice will not be a vain or empty one. That regardless of the outcome of the already beginning investigation, we cannot abandon the frontier of space because the risk is too great, or the cost too extreme. It is incumbant upon those who remain to ensure that the cause in which they died continues, that the dream they embodied lives on so that future generations have the opportunity to seek out and explore beyond the safety of our tiny blue planet.
STS-107 Commander Rick Husband
Columbia Pilot William McCool
Payload Commander Mike Anderson
Mission Specialist Kalpana Chawla
Mission Specialist David Brown
Mission Specialist Laurel Clark
Mission Specialist Itan Ramon
"These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Ye all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep."
-- William Shakespeare, "The Tempest" Act IV, sc i