Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Lies and the lying liars who tell them

I've been thinking about this a little since Peg said I should add it to my suggestions for an informed election. I'm sure its a good book. I think the survey results showing people get more and more misinformed the longer they watch Fox News is covered in it. What I've been thinking isn't specifically about the book, but about the lying.

All the hype lately about flip-flopping has really got me riled. On the one hand, I really think that we should not denigrate people for changing their minds. Once I thought having George W. Bush as President wasn't the worst thing that could happen. Now I've changed my mind. The thought that if someone in the face of new evidence changes their mind is in some way a bad thing is ridiculous. On the other hand, I guess what really disturbs me is the hypocrisy. They're all lying, all the time. We don't want to hear the truth. Lying makes us able to live with ourselves. Its as American as apple pie.

Show me one person who during the run up to the war didn't know we were being lied to and I'll show you someone that wasn't really paying attention. When Powell went to the UN he was spinning so hard I bet he had his own internal gravity. Lying is like air, its all around us and we need it and people that complain that there are lies should hold their breath until the lying stops and see how that works out.

And two politicians accusing each other of lying? and we get wrapped up in it? and even care a little? What's the joke? "How do you know a politician is lying? His lips are moving." Maybe it was teenagers and not politicians, but its just as applicable.

Last special, Chris Rock asked the audience "Who lies more, men or women?" We could just as effectively ask "Who lies more Democrats or Republicans?"

For men and women the answer goes like this: Men lie more, women tell bigger lies. A man's lie would be like "I was at Steve's." A woman's lie would be like "It's your baby."

Democrats and Republicans?

A Democratic lie would be like "I didn't inhale" or "I feel your pain" or "I did not have sexual relations with that woman."

A Republican lie would be like "Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction."

I'll leave it to the class as an exercise to determine who tells more lies and who tells the bigger ones - and which are the every day ones and which ones ruin peoples lives.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

This stuff rocks

A link of the day.

You know those motivational posters you see advertised in the airline magazines, "Successories?" They all have language like:

“Meeting people halfway is the most significant trip we can take. We don’t work for each other…we work with each other.”

Some of them are kind on nice in a very corporate, smarmy kind of way. I've yet to work in a place that actually diplays any of these things. Through another blog I recently found a supplier that might lead me to purchase some of these on my own. Do check them out:

Just exactly up my alley. I thought this one would be perfect for the wall of the Oval Office these days:

Take a peek through their whole inventory. It's pretty neat.

What's Your Analysis

I have to admit I like the phrase "its not." Like I used it yesterday. It makes me giggle. I guess sometimes stupid things are incredibly funny to me.

"My head must be full of good ideas."

"No, its not."

"Now that you mention it I have been feeling a little stuffed up."

Just too much fun. I have to tell you though that the title on this post I think is even funnier. Mostly I guess because we hear it so often on the news.

"Pakistan is massing troops on their Southern border, Bob what's your analysis?"

"Well Jerry, that's when you're at the doctor and they make you pee in a cup."

I swear I crack myself up sometimes.

Monday, September 27, 2004

My head is packed full of good ideas.

No, its snot.

Today, once again, I am left to marvel at the ability of the human body to create with nothing. This has to be more than a zero sum game. Some kind of perpetual motion machine applied to material, without question putting out more matter than is going in.

Sometimes while in this state I wonder about the utility that we are missing, and truthfully downright wasting with the use of anti-histamines and decongestants. Can you envision a car that runs on snot? Fields fertilized by snot? Snot as livestock feed? Buildings built out of solid snot bricks? Engines lubricated with snot? The middle east is such a dry climate, I bet we could rule the world if we could just shift from an oil to a snot economy. Probably easier than hydrogen anyway. Do you think when the political candidates talk about "bio-mass" that they are really talking about snot? Because I assure you "mass" is exactly the type of vocabulary I would use to describe it.

Well, it can't last forever. I hope it can't last forever. Where did I leave that Allegra?

Please disregard this post. It's just the snot talking.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Where do you get your news?

Last year I went to see Al Franken speak at the Carnegie Music Hall. It was a very disturbing evening that started off with some sort of Jewish culture game show which was followed by Second City doing about an hour, followed by several CMU actors doing really very indulgent sketch comedy, and finally after what felt like three or four days Al Franken. Al and Second City were quite good. How some of our students managed to get themselves scheduled doing sketch comedy following Second City I will never figure out.

I have always liked Al Franken. I think the first time I noticed him in an appearance on Weekend Update where he declared that the 70's - the "me" decade - were over, and that the 80's would be "the Al Franken" decade. I guess it didn't really work out that way for him. Truth be told, it looks like this decade might turn out very well for him.

Anyway, one of the things I remember most clearly from his evening was a discussion of the results of tests done with people who either listen to Rush Limbaugh or watch Fox News on a regular basis. These results indicated that this particular group of people thought they were among the most informed about current issues. The results also showed that of all groups, even counting people that didn't really have any news source, that people watching Fox and listening to Rush were typically the most misinformed of anyone surveyed. He also went on to say that if you figure in how long they had been listening that there was a statistical correlations that indicated that the longer you listen the stupider you get.

Big surprise.

Which brings me to this:

which is an article that suggests that people that regularly watch "The Daily Show" on Comedy Central are better informed on the issues surrounding the presidential candidates than people that watch a comparable amount of network news.

I had been meaning for a while to plug The Daily Show. This seems as good a time as any. They have really been spot on on the issues this year. Plus, they just won the Emmy for best variety show and for best writing on a variety show, so I guess I'm not the only one who thinks they've really hit their stride.

With Dennis Miller having inexplicably surrendered to the dark side its good to know that there are still some available, insightful, interesting, and humorous alternatives to the more obvious right wing media representatives. Those on the right are constantly being energized by their standard bearers. In an election year we ought to do the same. I recommend that you absolutely watch The Daily Show with John Stewart. To that recommendation I would add HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher, and I would go out of your way to find a way to get connected to Air America Radio and listen to Al Franken and to Randi Rhodes (and to the Majority Report with Janeane Garofalo if you're into her). The Air America link is in the margin. Work these streams into your own routine, and try to sell them to your friends. We have to get engaged this year.

Friday, September 24, 2004

School started weeks ago...

...just when will I realize it?

There's a rhythm to academia. Fall to spring, summer, fall to spring. You don't really notice it so much when you first come to teaching from the world, but it is a comfortable pace from educational days that reasserts itself once one is back within the environment. For some reason this year I am decidedly out of step.

Its not a problem thing though. So far classes haven't been effected. The actual teaching of classes is one of the easiest and most comfortable parts of my gig. Its everything else that is off kilter. All the meetings and organization that surround the actual teaching. For several weeks now that stuff has been piling up on a counter in my office while I blissfully pretend it isn't there. Would that it were true.

That will all come to end soon. It has to. Without attention the pile would just become to tall and unstable and some campus person would come and condemn my office. We can't have that. Besides, a large portion of the pile is now homework.

Do you know the worst part about homework?

If you give homework, you have to grade it.

So far in my time teaching I can't remember a time where I have not given an assignment I thought was appropriate because I didn't want to have to grade it. I could see how that could happen though. So the last couple of days I have been welcomed to my office by 26 organizational charts, 26 bid sheets, 4 show breakdowns, and 4 show estimates. All of which there are students anxiously waiting for.

Remember the Seinfeld when Newman was talking about the mail, and why postmen go insane?

"Because the mail never stops. It just keeps coming and coming and coming, there's never a let-up. It's relentless. Every day it piles up more and more and more! And you gotta get it out but the more you get it out the more it keeps coming in. And then the bar code reader breaks and it's Publisher's Clearing House day!"

Often, I feel the same way about homework.

Well, hopefully plowing through a pile of work will help me get my year kick started, learn the names, set up the grade spreadsheet, just get going. If not, well it will be like I told the thesis class today: if you don't pay attention the year will be over and you will have missed it. And then there will be a summer, and a fall and spring...

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Return from Ivan

The on again off again antagonistic relationship with Verizon is off again. After four and a half days with no phone, and more irritatingly no DSL, the phone just magically fixed itself.

We were so irritated though that we made the guy come out anyway. After he checked it out he told us that our tap from the street line had become intermittent, but due to people calling us and our calling out we had managed to re-fuse the connection. But since he was there anyway he rebroke it and reconnected it again.

As a result the DSL is now running roughly 50% faster than it ever has before.

All in all I continue to realize that we came through the storm better than most. I mean, all that happened to us was a few days without a phone and now it works better than it did in the first place. Others - well others did not do as well:

That page is a picture of several recreational boats up on the fountain at Point State Park. Seems more than one marina on the Allegheny just washed away, piers, boats, and all. One of the guys I work with went to a game at the stadium on Saturday and said they watched stuff like that wash by all afternoon. Here's another look:

Can you imagine the phone ringing "Hello, do you know where your boat is?"

Truth be told this is really the least problematic of the things that happened here because of the rain. Many communities were really devastated. The people are trying to rally behind them. But its quite a bit to do. Scary how fast things can turn.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Fun with Photoshop

Who would have thought that to get married in this day and age that you had to be able to do digital artwork and construct web pages? I swear I think we've made many things in life more complicated than they have to be. I feel like I am doing marketing for a show.

Now all we have to do is figure out the whole guestlist thing so we know who to send these to.

Ok, well actually thats not "all we have to do" there's quite a bit more. This whole process is a real good measure of how you're going to do after the wedding. And I thought buying a house was hard. That was easy compared to this. Please feel free to expound if you have wedding or wedding planning advice.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Ivan broke my DSL

Have to write something to move Marisa down the page. So taking time away from my Sunday install crew suprevision to post from the office as the computing situation from home is, well, poor.

Ivan visited Western PA on Friday. My commute home which is typically 20 minutes was closer to two hours. Roads were blocked by floods and mudslides, and those that weren't were clogged bumper to bumper with traffic trying to avoid the floods and the mudslides. Allegheny county set an all time record for rain that day with close to 6 inches. At least the original prediction of "four days of rain" didn't hold up, even though it felt like we got four days of rain in about six hours.

All things being equal we faired very well. The gutters didn't fall off the house and the basement stayed dry. The creek out back become a swift flowing brooke and probably swelled to 10 times its normal size. We think it would have to swell to like 1000 times its normal size to endanger the house though. Considering what we see on the TV and hear on the radio others in the area got it much much worse. The borough of Carnegie had 4 feet of water on their main street. Just about all the businesses in the community were decimated.

The worst on our end? Our phone now sounds like early communication to the moon. Hard to motivate a company to repair static on the line when a significant portion of their customers have no service at all. But, dirty lines mean no DSL, and trying to use the standard modem connection got me 4800 baud which I have to say is now obsolete as far as contemporary software is concerned.

At least the cable isn't out.

So, curse you hurricane Ivan for breaking my connection with the outside world (oh yeh and ruining the lives of all those other people - that sucks too).

Thursday, September 16, 2004

You make me feel like Dancin'

ah, just look what boredom, a digital camera, a net connection, and a gif animator can do.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004


There's one the spellchecker will have trouble with.

I need to add a movie to my profile, it's one I always forget about. I do think that if every time a movie is on cable, no matter what time it is or where you catch on to the movie you watch it through to the end, well that must be a favorite movie. This is actually another convergence of a sort, as last night, late last night "Spy Game" was on and I found myself thinking how I would never think of it off the top of my head, but I really do like movies with Robert Redford: "Spy Game", "The Horse Whisperer", "Sneakers", "The Natural", and this other movie. Then today I was listening to Randy Rhodes on Air America (you really ought to be listening to Air America) and she was talking about Donald Segretti and ratfucking. Which caused me to remember "All the President's Men."

So there's one I need to add.

Now, some of you might find the thought process that took me there a little strange. I assure you that the reason Randy Rhodes was talking about Donald H. Segretti is stranger. "All the President's Men" is about how Woodward & Bernstein unraveled the Watergate break in. One of the links in the chain they discover is Donald Segretti. I always remember this guy because he was played by the actor who played Rossi on "Lou Grant" and I think the character was so annoying that the actor apparently never worked again. Its always seemed unfair. Anyway Segretti is a guy who worked tangentially for the Nixon campaign and the Republican party as part of a "dirty tricks squad" that would cause trouble for competing candidates. It was something they had started in school elections in college that they laughingly referred to as "ratfucking."

When questioned as to the activity (in the film) Segretti talks about how they never did anything criminal but did things "with a little wit." They would issue fake memos on the competition's stationary asserting embarrassing things, go to opposition rallies and heckle, leak embarrassing storys to the media, things like that.

What's the connection?

Today on the radio I heard that Karl Rove, big time GOP strategist, worked for Donald H. Segretti as far back as the Nixon campaign. So who cares? Well, something that didn't really make sense suddenly seemed a little bit clearer viewed though this lens.

We've all been hearing quite a bit about CBS, and W, and the National Guard, and a memo that seems to question the President's service. Almost as quickly as CBS reported the thing the republican's jumped out front and called "fraud." At the time all I could think of was how stupid it was to fabricate something that was going to get such scutiny. So now we're listening to hours of talk radio about IBM Selectrics and proportional fonts and in a position to not be able to hear from the one person we'd need to hear from, the author, who is dead.

What kind of Democratic Jeff Gillooly would think they'd get any mileage out of swinging this pipe? You get a little media splash, then you're found out, and in the end your candidate and his staff look foolish. Oh, and in the meantime the issues, nobody talks about the issues. Come to think of it, that would be an ideal outcome for the Bush camp.

That's why Randy was talking about Donald H. Segretti. Today someone put it together and speculated that it was in fact Rove who fabricated and leaked the National Guard memo, to move the story and make Kerry look foolish. Very subtle, has a little wit, and at least in my head is the only explanation that rings true. And absolutely within the realm of what I have come to expect from the Bush people.

I swear these guys make me more embarrassed every day.

Thanks Mr. Gates

Today, Bill Gate’s foundation gave CMU $20,000,000.00

We’re going to have to build a building just to hold it, which is what I think he’s got in mind anyway so I guess it works out.

The grant is to the School of Computer Science, which means that over in Drama we’ll likely not see much of a difference. I don’t mean to say that what’s good for CMU isn’t good for Drama, I’m sure it is a good thing for the entire campus community. But wouldn’t it be nicer to be able to spend the money ourselves, ok I mean myself.

I haven’t the faintest idea what I would do with a $20 million donation to Production Technology and Management. A scholarship endowment seems like a good idea. It turns out the twenty million might not really go that far there. Tuition here is north of $20,000. If we wanted to give full ride scholarships with a stipend to as many students as possible a twenty million dollar endowment only really gets you on the order of 20 students. Since the target enrollment in our world is something like 55 bodies we would have to short some people. And that assumes a fairly stable market and not really reinvesting any of the money. It boggles the mind how much money you need to have to really not have to worry about how much money you have.

Still I think I would start with a $10 million endowment for student scholarships and at least one faculty chair (that’s something like a $3 million requirement if I remember correctly). Maybe say four student scholarships, two grad and two undergrad, and a fund to do capital purchases in the option. That’s half the money gone. Who would have thought spending ten million dollars would be so easy. Poof!

Now that I think about it, probably the entire balance goes to the endowment. A portion dedicated to reinvestment, some for awards, production expenses, faculty development, visiting lecturers & workshops. If the return on one million is likely between $30,000 and $80,000 the full annual payout could go very quickly.

Or, since the school does seem to be operating well as is, maybe the endowment income should go only for things we’re currently not doing. An annual option faculty retreat to Maui leaps to mind. I could really use a car & driver. This approach seems to make more sense. I’ll have to give it some more thought.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004


A convergence of W stuff today in my inbox. And so now I share with you. The first, a video to be found here:

And the second, a nice resume included below. Please lets not re-elect this guy.

George W. Bush – My Resume
Just so you know:

I attacked and took over 2 countries.
I spent the U.S. surplus and bankrupted the US Treasury.
I shattered the record for the biggest annual deficit in history (not easy!).
I set an economic record for the most personal bankruptcies filed in any 12 month period.
I set all-time record for the biggest drop in the history of the stock market.
I am the first president in decades to execute a federal prisoner.
In my first year in office I set the all-time record for most days on vacation by any president in US history (tough to beat my dad’s, but I did). After taking the entire month of August off for vacation, I presided over the worst security failure in US history.
I set the record for most campaign fund raising trips by any president in US history.
In my first two years in office over 2 million Americans lost their jobs.
I cut unemployment benefits for more out-of-work Americans than any other president in US history.
I set the all-time record for most real estate foreclosures in a 12-month period.
I appointed more convicted criminals to administration positions than any president in US history.
I set the record for the fewest press conferences of any president, since the advent of TV.
I signed more laws and executive orders amending the Constitution than any other US president in history.
I presided over the biggest energy crises in US history and refused to intervene when corruption was revealed.
I cut health care benefits for war veterans.
I set the all-time record for most people worldwide to simultaneously take to the streets to protest me (15 million people), shattering the record for protest against any person in the history of mankind.
I dissolved more international treaties than any president in US history.
I’ve made my presidency the most secretive and unaccountable of any in US history.
Members of my cabinet are the richest of any administration in US history. (The poorest multimillionaire, Condoleeza Rice, has a Chevron oil tanker named after her.)
I am the first president in US history to have all 50 states of the Union simultaneously struggle against bankruptcy.
I presided over the biggest corporate stock market fraud in any market in any country in the history of the world.
I am the first president in US history to order a US attack AND military occupation of a sovereign nation, and I did so against the will of the United Nations and the vast majority of the international community.
I have created the largest government department bureaucracy in the history of the United States, called the Bureau of Homeland Security”(only one letter away from BS).
I set the all-time record for biggest annual budget spending increases, more than any other president in US history (Ronnie was tough to beat, but I did it!!).
I am the first president in US history to compel the United Nations remove the US from the Human Rights Commission.
I am the first president in US history to have the United Nations remove the US from the Elections Monitoring Board.
I removed more checks and balances, and have the least amount of congressional oversight than any presidential administration in US history
I rendered the entire United Nations irrelevant. I withdrew from the World Court of Law.
I refused to allow inspectors access to US prisoner! s of war and by default no longer abide by the Geneva Conventions.
I am the first president in US history to refuse United Nations election inspectors access during the 2002 US elections.
I am the all-time US (and world) record holder for most corporate campaign donations.
The biggest lifetime contributor to my campaign, who is also one of my best friends, presided over one of the largest corporate bankruptcy frauds in world history (Kenneth Lay, former CEO of Enron Corporation).
I spent more money on polls and focus groups than any president in US history.
I am the first president to run and hide when the US came under attack (and then lied, saying the enemy had the code to Air Force 1)
I am the first US president to establish a secret shadow government.
I took the world’s sympathy for the US after 9/11, and in less than a year made the US the most resented country in the world (possibly the biggest diplomatic failure in US and world history).
I am the first US president in history to have a majority of the people of Europe (71%) view my presidency as the biggest threat to world peace and stability.
I changed US policy to allow convicted criminals to be awarded government contracts.
I set the all-time record for the number of administration appointees who violated US law by not selling their huge investments in corporations bidding for gov’t contracts.
I have removed more freedoms and civil liberties for Americans than any other president in US! history.
I entered office with the strongest economy in US history and in less than two years turned every single economic category heading straight down.


I have at least one conviction for drunk driving in Maine (Texas driving record has been erased and is not available).
I was AWOL from the National Guard and deserted the military during time of war.
I refuse to take a drug test or even answer any questions about drug use. (wink,wink)
All records of my tenure as governor of Texas have been spirited away to my fathers library, sealed in secrecy and unavailable for public view.
All records of any SEC investigations into my insider trading or bankrupt companies are sealed in secrecy and unavailable for public view.
All minutes of meetings of any public corporation for which I served on the board are sealed in secrecy and unavailable for public view.
Any records or minutes from meetings I (or my VP) attended regarding public energy policy are sealed in secrecy and unavailable for public review.

With Love, GEORGE W. BUSH The White House, Washington, DC

All this above is of course presented for its humorous, rather than factual value. I leave it to you to evaluate the voracity of the claims.

Sunday, September 12, 2004


I totally missed 9/11. The last two years I had some awareness that the day was passing. Just after the attack I bought a t-shirt on some donor campaign for the foundation or something. For the last two years I've worn the shirt on 9/11 - like it was a concert I'd been to or something. This year I think I was oblivious.

I wonder if this is a good thing or a bad thing. I am someone who (at least I think) has never really come to grips with what happened that day. I can talk about it fine, but visuals are hard, and that "thud thud thud" audio of the tower collapsing is just too much. But even in that state of being, the date itself crept by unnoticed. Maybe there's a holiday dimension to the thing. People rushing to memorialize the occasion with a holiday or a monument I believe have really missed the gravity of the event. I guess geographically this is a harder argument to make, but temporally I think it makes sense.

Interestingly, probably the most aware I was this year was a geographical connection. I'd gone to see Melissa Etheridge at Seven Springs. The ski resort is in rural PA, and actually fairly close to Shanksville - where the fourth plane went down. Melissa has a song "Tuesday Morning" about 9/11, and this time it got a very emotional response from the crowd. It was interesting seeing the looks of recognition on the artists and some of the other fans as they made the connection.

I think its odd that with all the emphasis being placed by the Bush people on 9/11 in his re-election campaign that the date itself got by with so little fanfare. Maybe that means that they actually are people and they didn't want to insult the memory, or maybe it just means that I don't pay even the least bit of attention to the Bush people. Let's hope it is the former.

But is it a good thing or a bad thing? Does this represent some kind of recognition or healing or is it more indicative of a typically American short attention span? I like to think that I am not as afflicted with political ADHD as the next person, but this might prove otherwise. I have to say, I think that in this case its a good thing. In general I think people have been attached to 9/11 in an unhealthy way. In the beginning it was different, but over time the media representation, legal wrangling, and political ass covering and glory hounding (a real interesting combination I must say) have really split the country, upped the hype and the body count, and in the end done very little to make us more unified, proactive, or smart about our role in the world. Maybe a little distance will help to show how loud we've been shouting and how little of substance we've been shouting about.

Friday, September 10, 2004


I got an email today out of the blue that reminded me of a site that should appear here. The site is:

and is an index of evolved theatrical vocabulary that is not really taught in textbooks. My personal favorite is "toblerone" used when referring to a long triangular prism shaped piece of scenery. There's a bunch to add. When I first posted the list I got a bunch more suggested. One of my more favorite new additions would be "Siamese tieline" which is slang for zip-cord (which I guess is slang for lamp cord).

The email today was actually another educator asking about some curious omissions from my index that are actually some of the most widely used terms. The two he asked about were "BFH" and "RCH." BFH can be sanitized to "Big Friggin Hammer." I guess RCH could be sanitized to "Red Curly Hair" but if you ever said that to someone in the industry they would laugh you out of the shop. They are apparently doing some kind of training manual including some of this vocabulary and couldn't really figure out how to deal with the terms that are particularly crass.

I had a similar problem when I started working. Occasionally I would forget where I was and just start talking like a stagehand or a project manager. A teaching expert who observed me called me on it once. Both the person from the teaching center, and a campus sexual harassment counselor both told me that common industry parlance was inappropriate in an educational environment. (I asked them, they weren't busting me.) The counselor told me that her worst nightmare would be going to work with people from a construction site because of the normal behavior of people in the trades. I decided not to tell her that a shop or a theatre during a build essentially is a construction site.

Over the intervening time I have managed to clean up my discourse, although occasionally if I get really into a topic the educational veneer will disappear. I think its a shame we can't really prepare students for what they will hear when they actually get onto a set. Some of the graduates I stay in contact with have commented about the unexpected roughness of the field. But, not everything is necessarily fair game for school. I guess in the end maybe this isn't something that I need to be teaching.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

When did I become a Lawyer

Today I wrote fine print:


The semester grade will be broken down by the following percentages:

Homework/Projects 59%
Mid-Term Exam 10%
Final Exam 15%
Participation 16%

The rating of participation is completely at the discretion of the instructor. Evaluation of participation includes attendance, attention, contribution to classroom discussions, and ability to process and integrate feedback.

A verbal evaluation of the semester may be done at semester reviews. Any student who feels they are not receiving adequate feedback or wants a private evaluation may make an appointment to receive one at any time during the semester.

Grading for this course will be ABCDR as shown in the School of Drama handbook. For this course, the SOD Conservatory grading scale is as follows:

100% - 92% A
84% - 91% B
76% - 83% C
68% - 75% D
74% and Below R

Please note that as a core PTM course, a grade of C or below may trigger an academic action for PTM students.

Exam scores should be evaluated on the same scale listed for semester grades listed above. Students will be informed at the time exams are returned if the scores will be curved.

Individual homework assignments will typically be assessed on a 10 point scale. Work submitted acceptably presenting everything as required by the assignment instructions will likely receive a score of 7 or 8 depending on presentation. A 9 will be awarded for excellent work. To receive 10 out of 10 a student will have to demonstrate something special, a dimension to their work, presentation, or improvement that was exceptional and unexpected. It is not completely unheard of for a submission to receive 11 out of 10 for truly special work, although the occurrence is rare. As you can see from the scale above, Drama students are expected to regularly earn 9 out of 10 points on homework. This grading can be pro-rated for assignments of differing value.

Any student not understanding any grade they have received is encouraged (all but required) to make an appointment to discuss the work, the expectations, and their performance.

Up to date semester grading is usually available throughout the semester. Students are encouraged to keep tabs on their performance as they go.

So when exactly did it come about that to be able to teach a class, to write a syllabus, that one should have to study contract law? Can't I just say "you'll get the grade I gave you, and you'll like it!"


Wednesday, September 08, 2004

I am so glad today...

... that I don't work for NASA.

There are days when as a technical director I really think that somewhere along the way I screwed up. I mean, at the end of the day at my job, its just a show. In fact now I can fall back to "It's just a school play." Its a little mantra some of us in theatre repeat to ourselves when something isn't working. But really, there are days when I lust for significance - for the work to be more meaningful.

And then, then there are days like today. Days when I am absolutely certain that as lousy and stressful as my day might be it can't be as bad as that other guy's day - the guy with the meaningful gig.

I don't know if you noticed it earlier today, but a project manager at NASA (their technical directors) had a very bad day. Billions of dollars and six years of work literally crashed into the Utah desert, apparently due to faulty equipment. Failing like that, so catastrophically and so publicly must be awful. This isn't shodenfreud. Understand I am not happy this happened to this guy (I don't know for certain it is a guy), I am just so totally stoked that it didn't happen to me.

I remember a few years ago I had some very high profile projects, things that ran on national television. I sat at home watching TV, or for one spent the entire night in an LA hotel room, praying that the next camera shot wouldn't be something I engineered falling over on David Brinkley or Bill Clinton. In my world I guess that's as close as I will get to NASA project manager. I can't imagine the stress these guys live with. Their projects go for so much longer, involve so many more people, and cost so much money. Ugh. Today I was glad I went into theatre.

So, I ask the 2.2 people that read this to send out good vibes to those people at NASA, picking up the pieces - literally, who had a really lousy day.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Alphabet Soup

I am a SME.

I'm not exactly certain how it happened. One day I was just me, and then without warning I was a SME.

In the process of becoming a SME I think I may have moved from the ESTA RSWG to becoming an ETCP SME. Of course all of this came long after the disbanding of the ESTA CPC and the formation of the ETCP CC. It seems though that I will not be part of the ETCP CC, just an SME.

Still, I am thankful for being a SME. I hope that the whole SME thing will really help with my CMU SOD RTP. I wonder if it will be enough to swing the SRC and the CRC, my being an ETCP SME, as well as being a part of the RSWG - oh, and the ESTA ESWG. That way I can remain in the SOD PTM option.

Last week I went to AMP in KC for the first SME meeting. It was cool. They even paid me.

SME = Subject Matter Expert
ESTA = Entertainment Services & Technology Association
RSWG = Rigging Skills Working Group
ETCP = Entertainment Technician Certification Program
CPC = Certification Program Committee
CC = Certification Council
CMU = Carnegie Mellon University
SOD = School of Drama
RTP = Review, Tenure & Promotion
SRC = School Review Committee
CRC = College Review Committee
ESWG = Essential Skills Working Group
PTM = Production Technology & Management
AMP = Applied Measurement Professionals
KC = Kansas City

Monday, September 06, 2004


The recent kitten experience has led me to a discovery about the weight of holidays. Everyone is familiar with religious holidays, and of course we all know about civic holidays. In both cases our knowledge is often limited to the first tier of festival, there are many of both types of holiday we probably are unaware of. I know that while working in Chicago I had to be educated regarding Kazimir Pulaski day.

There appears to have developed an even more powerful type of holiday, and I would venture that this is also a largely American development. But by no means is it a civic remembrance. More prominent in the US than any civic or religious holiday is the new breed, the retail holiday.

Recently I read an entry in the Palmyra Sliver about early Christmas preparation. Peg had indicated that it seemed awfully early to be thinking about such things. Interestingly, my own weekend experience would lead me to believe that in the eye's of retailers it is very nearly November. If it is, then Christmas preparation seems absolutely appropriate.

There used to be a certain metered progression toward the next holiday. Little rest stops along the way you could count on. Summer began with Memorial Day, then we had the 4th of July, and then summer would come to a close on Labor day. After than things would move apace through Columbus Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and then Christmas. Retailers would generate merchandise choices and sales campaigns linked to the next holiday cycle insuring that there would be turnover in seasonal merchandise and the possibility to renew interest in sales as the year moved on.

Somewhere along the way though somebody figured something out. It was probably someone with an MBA and they likely presented it with a Powerpoint presentation. The thought goes like this:

"For many of these holidays there is simply nothing to buy."

What good does it do for commercial entities to hype holidays that don't lead to sales. Really, what good to you is Columbus Day? If you don't sell turkeys, what good to you is Thanksgiving. Besides, it turns out a lot of these holidays are actually politically incorrect and disrespectful to some slice of the population. Although it does seem odd that the same people being sensitive about offending the American Indian (excuse me, Native Americans) in October and November seem to have no regrets about bludgeoning many demographics come the end of December.

So, what does this yield? A sequence something like: Mother's Day, Dads & Grads, July 4, Back to School, Halloween, and "Sparkle Season." I love that last one. A real triumph for politically correct Pittsburghers. All with something to buy. Interestingly it is my belief that as well as certainly helping to generate sales that this practice also plants its foot firmly on the gas pedal, accelerating the rest of us ever faster through the calendar. This weekend we went shopping for outdoorsy stuff for a picnic on Labor Day weekend. Sales people looked at us like we were deranged. That merchandise belongs to July 4, and that had ended long ago. In fact we had also mostly missed back-to-school, which I guess was alright because we wanted lawn chairs and a grill not bean bag chairs and a miniature microwave oven. Each time we would walk into a store and find the spot where that seasonal merchandise would be, what did we find? Halloween candy, at least it wasn't Christmas Tree ornaments.

Seems to me that we could all relax a little bit if we would take the time to enjoy the time we're in rather than forever leaping to the next marketing bonanza.

Saturday, September 04, 2004

Patio Furniture

Today we decided that we would have people over tomorrow for a barbecue. So this morning we went out looking for a grill and for some patio furniture. Here is what we came home with:

Please allow me to introduce, who we think will be called, Bra'tac and Freya. They are the two newest members of our household and are both 8 week old longhair kittens.

Now, I have to go find some chairs.

Not a "likely" voter

I have a confession to make. I did not vote in the last Presidential election. Truth be told I didn't vote in the last two elections. When Perot was running and made it look like he might let George I beat Clinton, I voted then. I really had no fears that Dole would do any damage. This last time? Really I just didn't care. A whole campaign of watching Al Gore and George II and I just couldn't bring myself to vote for either of them. Why would I? Neither of them could even hold my attention let alone capture my imagination or provide even the slightest inspiration. They just sucked.

George Carlin used to have a bit about the people that get elected in this country. It went that people are always disappointed in those that run for office and wonder where the good candidates are. His point being that what we get, those really are the best there are at any given time. Well, last time our best just sucked.

In the election that ended too close to call it turns out my particular Gore vote would not have mattered. Al Gore took PA by a slim margin, but he did take it. I can't help but wonder how many other people there are across the country that felt the same way I did. How many of them happen to live in say, Tennessee, or maybe Florida. Although my disenchanted non-vote didn't turn out to matter, I am certain there were many that did.

I know for my part I am not going to do that again.

All the election discourse of late has really been making me ill. I think the candidates are mounting lazy campaigns and the mainstream media is being even lazier in covering them. Somehow, both sides have managed to structure things so that not one significant concept gets discussed. I can't help but think that this is specifically designed to ward off intelligent voters. If they never really talk substantively, then the educated electorate becomes bored and doesn't pay attention. Once those thinking people are distracted they can win on their base with lightening rod issues: the war, gay marriage, guns, abortion, 9/11, terrorism...

Ugh, I'm moving to Australia.

Can I tell you something? Anything related to 9/11 would have happened and would have happened with similar success regardless of who was commander in chief. The shock of the event was too great for even the most reluctant leader to let the Taliban and Al Queda off with no retribution. As far as the election, the war on terror is pretty much a moot point.

Would we have gone to war in Iraq? Probably not. But the if we did or if we didn't argument here is sticky because it in all likelihood was the right thing to do. The argument that we went about it in the wrong way has real teeth. Unfortunately that does not soundbite very well, and requires people to actually think rather than simply froth.

All of these front and center issues just muddy the water in my opinion. Americans have very little memory. Donald Rumsfeld spent his entire tenure within the Bush administration up until 9/11 waging war against the Pentagon. He was the biggest force for downsizing our military there was. The Bush defense team wanted to run the military like a corporation. Now they strut like they have worn six-shooters their entire term. Where are the people with the memory to call them on this.

One of the other blogs I read from time to time has an encyclopedia of things like this if you're interested:

In the end though, I think even reversals like this are not the true story. The true story is that George W Bush and his people are jerks. Just pricks. They don't for two minutes care about you or me and they don't think we will do anything about them. In fact, they will lie to you to your face just to get you to lean toward believing what they want. The whole run up to the Iraq war they just kept getting more and more desperate with what they chose to use as their party line to the point that I was absolutely sure that it was more a case that they were simply going to keep talking until we agreed or got bored, but they had clearly already made up their minds and were going to get it done; with or without the US public, with or without world consensus, and with or without congress.

But even without thinking about any of the hot buttons or issues from today's news, and without re-arguing the results of the last election there are plenty of reasons to remember that this group should be sent packing. Environment, Education, Taxes, Corporate Crime - all pre 9/11 issues, all very much still an issue, and all being totally drowned out by noise issues.

And even if John Kerry can't command attention, imagination, or inspiration the non-noise issues can and should rally you. Things like the war, terrorism, gay marriage, gun control, and abortion are really too evenly split among Americans to really make any headway regardless of leadership. In many ways they are "President Proof." True, with a perfect storm of political maneuvering one of these issues could be horribly compromised. But really they are all very much stalemated. The other issues, ones that people don't shout about or print signs or bumper stickers, they can be changed without much fanfare and the current administration has moved those agendas along way too far, way too quietly, and with way too little resistance.

Who cares where John Kerry was that Christmas? I care that US education is a shambles.

Who cares if George II showed up for military service? I care that the gap between the wealthy and the middle class is expanding.

Who cares about Iraq? I care that energy corporations wrote American energy policy.

Don't be distracted by the noise. See these insider corporate jerks for who they are and get out and vote Democratic. The incumbent administration has had their turn at the trough. And if you, like me, have become an "unlikely" voter then this November make the change with me and make your vote count.

Friday, September 03, 2004

Disaster Averted

Last night we had our very first homeowner disaster. Just after going to bed we heard the sound of running water. This is something that I normally ignore, usually a toilet filling, or the ice machine, or the dishwasher. Just nothing that ever needs attention at that moment. This time that was not the case at all.

This time, Marisa discovered that the downstairs toilet was somewhat dysfunctional. The lid of the tank had popped off, the filler pipe had somehow grown taller than the tank, and water was running. At this point however as bad as it looked and sounded, nothing was really wrong. At least nothing until we tried to fix it.

At this moment I would like to insert into this story something I have likely seen many times on "This Old House" and simply chose the one moment I actually needed the knowledge to be the one where I completely failed to call it forward. It goes something like this:


Simple enough. Now back to our story...

After trying to lift the float to stop the flow, I tried to push the piece that had inexplicably grown back to its normal size. It was at this moment that it cracked and out toilet tank changed from utilitarian object into an object of art - a fountain. Allow me to reset the scene: two recent homebuyers, dressed for sleeping are not jumping and shouting around a very pleasant water feature in their guest bathroom. Finally I remember the supply valve and turn it off.

By this time it is raining in the basement, but eventually it stops.

Today we bought a lovely American Standard toilet part for $8 and installed it in less than the 15 minutes the box promises. Once again, disaster averted.

From now on I will remember to hear Richard Trethewey in my head before I begin.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Shoe Psyche

Used to be, when I played ultimate in college, that getting a new pair of cleats would make the next few games that much more special. We used to call that the "shoe psyche." Since then I have found that the shoe psyche applies to many other items as well. I definitely get it from new office supplies, just makes me feel more organized. I bet you get it from a new car, but I would have to buy one to know.

Today I have computer shoe psyche.

The new machine arrived today. P4, 512RAM, and all the trimmings. The cherry on the top? 19" flat screen digital monitor. Its just too huge. I can't get over it. I opened excel and it was HUGE.

Definite shoe psyche.

Lots of cool stuff - got to go figure it out.

We have a date

and a place.

June 26th, 2005 in Bloomington Indiana.

I have 297 days left as a bachelor. I've got a lot to do.

Hopefully now some of the other pieces will start to come together. I continue to think if this was someone else's wedding the whole thing would have been planned weeks ago. Marisa and I have this problem of being too flexible, and with noplace to start its really difficult to make any decisions at all. So we went from Chicago to Bloomington, to Pittsburgh, back to Bloomington, and from August to June.

Turns out if you're Jewish it is really difficult to have a religious service in August. Its like the whole month is nuked out for holidays. Now we know. Too bad we won't have another wedding to plan.

So, two decisions down, 4062 to go.