Thursday, March 31, 2005

USITT Session

I've put together some of the contents from the panel I did at USITT this year in Toronto. The panel was called "Get Your Show on the Road" and the panelists (left to right above) were David Holcomb from CMU, David Conte from Clark Transfer, Greg Galbreath from RockIt Cargo, Jonathan Deull from Clark Transfer, Steve Ehrenberg from Clear Channel, and myself.

The guys from Clark provided a great video for the session. If you would like to see it, you can stream it here:

Watch Clark Transfer

I've compiled my outline, participants quick bios, a student's notes from the session, and the Td&T article from last year about trucking into a HUGE .pdf. You can veiw that here (if you have a fast connection):


We had a great time, and the attendee reaction has been great. Hopefully this will lead to more sessions in the future.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Kids Today

So I was reading this article from the USAToday thing in the margin:

I mean, who can go by that headline without at least looking for a sec?

So I look at that article, and then I follow it up by looking up something that was in the article and it left me here:

Am I really that old, or is the world coming to an end?

The follow up item I checked out was a company called "Shanes World" and a link from there to this - this is NOT an appropriate link for the office:

Here's the scoop for those of you that don't want to get fired. There's apparently a company that brings "Pornstars" to your party to play sex themed games where that "prizes" are actual sex. This sounds a lot to me like organized prostitution. They get around this (I guess) by filming the entire thing which they then produce as a video for sale.

Which is what leads me to pondering my crotchetiness, or the impending end of the world. Because I think this is, perhaps, just a little, kinda/sorta, over the line. I think that this is not me being too old - the world is coming to an end.

When I was in undergrad, a bunch of us hired a stripper for one of the guys birthdays. Would we have done this? I don't think we would have, I certainly hope we wouldn't have. Is this really OK these days?

Makes you think though. Is the promiscuity of this decade (the one with "rainbow" parties with junior high kids and "pornstar" parties at college fraternities) different than the "free love" of the 1960's? Has to be doesn't it? The 60's were never about minors, were they? And there seems to be a cynicalness, a devaluing of your partner that I don't think was part of the '60s either. I mean, they called it "free love" not "free sex."

The reason this caught my eye originally was that last weekend the kids here at school had what they were calling a "pornstar" party. Fortunately in this case it was just a bunch of kids playing dress up and not people filming the party having sex with each other. But should even the benign theme be a relief?

I swear it's almost to make me back off my "no bad ideas" thing.

Kids today.

Knot Dating 05

Today was Knot Dating 05. I don't think teaching knots at the front of a class is effective, so I make everyone learn one knot on their own and then they teach each other, speed dating style.

In the past we've done a theme and played dress up along with the ropework, but since the class moved to the morning people have been less enthused about that kind of participation. So there was no theme this year, or rather maybe it was "slacker theme."

I don't participate in the actually knot dating, but I have almost inadvertently learned a few knots this week. I have added to my bag:

  1. The Butterfly Bend
  2. The Double Dragon Loop
  3. The Zeppelin Bend
  4. The Adjustable Hitch
  5. An alternate way to tie the Alpine Butterfly
  6. A ridiculous knot called the Bimini Twist

Mostly I tell people all they need is the Bowline, Sheet Bend, Clove Hitch, & a Trucker's Hitch. The next one up is usually the tautline hitch. I have to say, I like the Zeppelin better than the sheet, the double dragon better than the bowline, and the adjustable better than the tautline.

Geek geek geek geek.

Also, I like the snuggle hitch better than the clove, but I haven't quite mastered it yet. So I guess maybe next year I will have to change my "big four" to some new knots.

The Bimini Twist isn't really a knot that anyone would use. It's a 90-100% efficient loop and is intended for fishing line, for big game fishing. The knot is essentially a circus knot, except that a circus knot has four turns and the book says a Bimini twist has 20 turns. So maybe this is just a knot for parties.

Geek geek geek geek.

Everyone appeared to have a good time with class. I think I will try to come up with a theme for next time.

Even Steven

Second meeting with the tax people today. Go by and pick up the forms, Federal, State, Local, and another Local. Turns out the way it works here is that I have to actually physically take myself down to the borough office and have them verify that I in fact paid taxes to the borough before the City of Pittsburgh will believe me enough that they wouldn't expect to get paid.

It seems like the way it works is that Pittsburgh taxes everything you don't pay taxes on in another jurisdiction. What if your home jurisdiction doesn't have a city tax? Do they just get that as a bonus? Something a bit out of whack there I think.

Still, things worked out pretty well. Refunds from all jurisdictions. So at the end of the year I was a little ahead of the game.

Then we opened the other envelope. Those of you that work freelance may have also had this particular experience. The wonder of the 1099, the total lack of withholding, the opportunity to take deductions dollar for dollar, and the 500 pound gorilla: self-employment tax.

Its a sad truth that at the end of the year many theatrical freelancers wind up owing a bunch of money because of self employment tax due to the fact that the hiring organizations have tried to save a few bucks by paying 1099 rather than W-2. The other day I spent a good chunk of time reading IRS documentation to verify whether or not my intended really ought to be paid that way. It turns out her gig is grey enough that a case can be made either way.

Most of the time it is blindingly clear that when a theatre hires a freelance technician and pays them 1099 that they aren't doing it legally. In most cases if reviewed by the IRS these people would turn out to be employees, not independent contractors. Really the tax dimension isn't nearly as important as the workmen's comp dimension.

A rant for another day.

So adding the self employment liability to my credit and at the end of the year it comes up even Steven. Which I guess isn't the worst possible outcome. Still would be nice to have that free money.

I was talking to the accountant and relating how for years I had gotten much larger refunds and that I remember somewhere along the way they reduced the withholding levels and the refunds went down. Its not like the money went away, they just decided it would be better for us to hold it than for the government. At the time I remember hearing that the reason was so that people would have more money in their pocket to spend. Today the accountant said it was every bit as much that when the refunds came due the government often didn't have the money to pay out. So they changed the policy so they wouldn't wind up having debt to taxpayers they couldn't cover. That's an interesting spin.

So, no windfall for us this year. And the moral of the story is: "Beware the 1099!"

Monday, March 28, 2005


I am trying. I am trying fairly hard to care about professional basketball again.

For years and years I would devour all the pro hoops I could find. When I lived in New Haven I would watch everything NBC would run, everything TNT would run, the Knicks on MSG, the Bulls on WGN, and the Hawks on TBS. Now days, even the lure of high definition doesn't seem to be enough to get me to watch - and normally that would get me to watch flies fornicating.

Just this last week they started running the "rest of the season" cable package that includes every game and the entire playoffs. It's only $45 dollars, and for the first time in memory that didn't feel like too much money. Unfortunately I don't care enough to watch any of it, so why spend the money?

I watched hoops after Dr. J, after Larry, after Magic, after Michael, and after Michael again, so missing an iconic player shouldn't deter me. I just can't get into it. Shaq and Dwanye Wayne, Yao and Tracy, the Phoenix Suns? Who cares? What happened to the NBA - I used to love this game?

In some ways I think their own marketing machine got the best of them. Certainly at the moment that's a victory of style over substance where in the past they really had the substance to justify the style. They are always so keen to anoint the next superstar that they never really let someone become a superstar before the smack him on the promotions for the next game. The advertisers have probably been worse about this than the league. Now days there are kids (and I mean kids) with shoe contracts between their high school graduation and their first NBA tip. They've yet to even hit a professional free-throw and the marketers already have them plugged in. That can't help much.

They would get their stars if they backed off a little, and the stars that they got might have even achieved something to back up the status. I guess they are all competing for the next big endorsement opportunity (the sponsors that is), and they risk losing the guy if they wait for him to actually become the guy. But really, at the game people shout "you the man," not "maybe you might eventually be the man."

Maybe letting someone grow into it might not be the worst commercial, career building, and (wow) basketball decision. Also seems fairly clear that the money and the nature of the contracts, what with free agency bouncing guys all over the map, haven't helped either. Players are more caught up in their contracts than the championship. Professional success used to be championship rings, now its a phat bank balance. That can't help either.

There also don't seem to be that many compelling personalities at coach at the moment. The guys that coached the teams of the 80's and 90's were stars in their own right. Now they seem like interchangeable babysitters at the service of boy millionaires. That can't help either.

Every time you hear a career coach being shown his hat at the whim of a player it deflates the game. Somehow I guess things got going the wrong way when Latrell strangled PJ Carlisimo. But really, who would argue with Latrell? He's got to feed his kids. Its too bad that people like Phil Jackson have to decide how much the people management should cost in order to coach - and this from a guy who very deftly handled The Worm, and then walked away from Kobe. Something really wrong there.

I will likely get geared up and watch the conference finals. If things are real compelling I might even hang on to watch some of the finals. But I was a guy who used to watch 8 first round games, and knew every player on every team and every coach. Now? Now I would rather write about how much the NBA disappoints me than watch a game.

And that can't help either.

More Wither the American Theatre

Again, from the Times...

March 27, 2005
How Broadway Lost Its Voice to 'American Idol'

THE three women come from different times, different lands and different wardrobe departments. But since they are all denizens of that quaint provincial theme park called Broadway, the green-skinned witch (hometown: Oz), the pink-cheeked tomboy (hometown: 19th-century Concord, Mass.) and the ethnic rainbow of a waif (hometown: Paris, but now adrift in 21st-century Brooklyn) turn out to share the same voice.

Close your eyes and listen as their larynxes stretch and vibrate with the pain of being an underdog and the joy of being really loud. Bet you can't tell them apart. For that matter, bet you can't distinguish the heroines of the current Broadway musicals "Wicked," "Little Women" and "Brooklyn" from the average female finalist on "American Idol."

When it's time for a big ballad on Broadway these days, theatergoers can pretend they are still in their living rooms, basking in the synthetic adrenaline glow of their favorite TV show.

Give the people what they already have. This reigning philosophy of Broadway has been translated into a multitude of musicals inspired by popular movies and vintage pop songbooks. So why not reality television?

"American Idol" also-rans have been dropped into Broadway replacement casts, including Tamyra Gray ("Bombay Dreams") and Frenchie Davis ("Rent"). "Brooklyn," Mark Schoenfeld and Barri McPherson's gooey fairy tale of street people and pop stardom, actually features a climactic "American Idol"-style sing-off between a pair of crowd-courting divas.

But such examples are superficial, the equivalent of a matron who piles hip-hop accessories on top of her St. John's suit. The tentacles of the "American Idol" sensibility actually reach much deeper, into the very throat of the American musical, and may change forever the way Broadway sings. This is not a happy prognosis.

The style of vocalizing that is rewarded on "American Idol" - by its panel of on-air judges and by the television audience that votes on the winners - is both intensely emotional and oddly impersonal. The accent is on abstract feelings, usually embodied by people of stunning ordinariness, than on particular character. Quivering vibrato, curlicued melisma, notes held past the vanishing point: the favorite technical tricks of "Idol" contestants are often like screams divorced from the pain or ecstasy that inspired them.

The Broadway musical has always had its share of big-voiced belters, from Ethel Merman to Patti LuPone. But they have usually belonged to the tradition of Broadway as a temple to magnified idiosyncrasies, to performers for whom song is an extension of individuality. Which is why when Simon Cowell, the most notoriously harsh of "American Idol's" judges, describes a contestant as "too Broadway," it is meant as a withering dismissal. Carol Channing, Robert Preston, Jerry Orbach and Gwen Verdon wouldn't stand a chance in the court of Cowell. And if they were starting out today, they probably wouldn't stand a chance in Broadway musicals either.

Like the Olympics telecasts, "American Idol" celebrates stamina, will power and gymnastic agility. The most successful contestants take an athletic approach to a melody. They hoist, hold and balance notes like barbells in a weight-lifting exhibition. And the audience claps and hoots instinctively every time such muscle-flexing occurs.

That same Pavlovian reaction is now being elicited on Broadway as well. Eruptions of note-bending have joined the hallowed list of performance tricks guaranteed to inspire applause: precision tap dancing, Rockette-style line kicks, handsprings, successive pirouettes and indignant one-liners that are followed by the slamming of doors.

At the performance I attended of the new musical "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels," , the audience greeted each number with subdued warmth, though the show's stars, John Lithgow and Norbert Leo Butz, were working hard to put over the songs with style and character. Finally, in a self-addressed valentine that is the show's last number, Mr. Butz claimed his "American Idol" moment with one musically stretched-out phrase: "I think we still deserve a ha-a-a-a-nd ..." I suspect that the composer David Yazbek intended the moment to be comic. All the same, the audience roared with approval . It was what they had been waiting for.

That self-congratulatory element is also part of the "American Idol" package - the subtext that goes, "I deserve to be a star because it's my right as an American, and because I try so hard." It seems appropriate that musicals as seemingly different as "Wicked," a politically corrected back story of "The Wizard of Oz," and "Little Women," adapted from the Louisa May Alcott classic, both have first-act finales that are brassy (and virtually interchangeable) declarations of self-worth and self-determination.

In "Little Women," the tomboy heroine Jo (Sutton Foster) bursts out with a number about her will to succeed called "Astonishing." In "Wicked," the maverick witch Elphaba (a role created by Idina Menzel, now played by Shoshana Bean) proclaims her independence in the ear-blasting "Defying Gravity." (A parody in Gerard Alessandrini's priceless spoof "Forbidden Broadway" has Ms. Menzel "defying audio.")

When it opened, "Wicked" also starred Kristin Chenoweth, as Elphaba's opposite, the popular and pretty Glinda (now portrayed by Jennifer Laura Thompson). Ms. Chenoweth is a sunny, witty singer who suggests a cross between Mary Martin and Bernadette Peters. If Ms. Menzel tackled her numbers, Ms. Chenoweth teased and flirted with them. The face-off between the witches of "Wicked" became a nightly confrontation between Old and New Broadway. It was Ms. Mendel who won the Tony and, from what I gather from parents of school-age children, the hearts of the little girls in the audience.

You could argue that Elphaba is a Broadway archetype: the unprepossessing, unlikely creature transformed into a powerhouse whenever she sings. Certainly that was the charm of Ethel Merman, who became a Broadway star in 1930 in "Girl Crazy." A half-century later, Jennifer Holiday was bringing down the house in "Dreamgirls" by wrapping her voice like a boa constrictor around an angry ballad called "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going."

But there was something so distinctive as to be almost freakish about Ms. Merman and Ms. Holiday, as there often is about great performances in musicals. It's the spirit of uniqueness celebrated by the aspiring stars of "A Chorus Line" in the number "One," as in "one singular sensation."

By the 1980's, however, a homogenizing force had begun to steal over the Broadway voice. It started with the invasion of the British poperettas by Andrew Lloyd Webber ("Cats," "Phantom of the Opera") and the team of Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg ("Les Misérables," "Miss Saigon"). Their swoony, ever crescendoing music required voices that were pretty and strong, but not much else. It seems appropriate that the ultimate Lloyd Webber star was Sarah Brightman, who possessed a register-testing but anonymous soprano.

Lord Lloyd Webber's spiritual heir in the United States, Frank Wildhorn, came up with cruder versions of the poperetta formula. "Jekyll and Hyde," "The Civil War" and most recently "Dracula" were costume musicals drenched in ersatz blood and ersatz passion. Though his characters were intense, as mad scientists and vampires tend to be, when it came to selling a song they all sounded pretty much the same, especially with their voices synthetically processed and amplified by the aural equivalent of Sensurround.

These folks at least had vitality, especially compared to the cipherlike sounds of the jukebox musicals that came to the fore in the 90's. Whether the source was rock opera ("The Who's Tommy"), feel-good rock 'n' roll (the songs of Lieber and Stoller, for "Smokey Joe's Cafe") or the sublime standards of Duke Elllington ("Play On"), the performers largely registered as cute, eager and personality-free, like peppy summer interns in a Disney World pavilion. Even singing gritty ballads like "On Broadway" or rock anthems like "Pinball Wizard," their voices came across as shiny, smooth and antiseptic, like those of grown-up Mouseketeers.

The upside for the producers of such shows is that their cast members are eminently replaceable. Sui generis stars are not necessarily advantages for investors hoping for long, sold-out runs. (And a full-scale Broadway musical needs to run and run and run just to break even.)

So it would seem to make good commercial sense to create musicals that put the emphasis less on individual performance than on overall concept, shows like the Abba musical "Mamma Mia!" or the Disney singing cartoons like "Beauty and the Beast."

Then there is that greatest of all obstacles to intimacy between audience and performers: the microphone, which "American Idol" contestants use as if it were a body part. Though miking has been ubiquitous for at least four decades, it still feels oddly primitive at most shows. It's often hard to tell where on the stage a voice is coming from. And while uncertain voices can sometimes be smoothed and bolstered by mechanical amplification, good voices are often roughened or neutered by the same process.

It's not that the American musical is an ossified form that can accommodate new musical styles only through forced grafting and transplant. The real problem with the blandness of Broadway singing lies less in the material than in the execution. The rock musical "Rent" is filled with sugary pop effervescence. But most of its original cast brought quirky and specific interpretive intelligence to their roles.
In "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels," Mr. Butz delivers a hip-hop love song to material luxury that happily trades on the exuberance of the very style it satirizes. And in the title role of the Disney "Aida," Heather Headley found expressive emotional magic in Elton John-Tim Rice songs that seemed natural candidates for the "American Idol" approach of feelings-by-the-numbers.

Bernadette Peters, Audra MacDonald, Betty Buckley, Mandy Patinkin, Tonya Pinkins, Michael Cerveris, André De Shields, Mr. Butz and Ms. Chenoweth, among others, have all demonstrated that it is possible to go pop on Broadway without sacrificing individual flair. (And to be fair, "American Idol" has produced at least one star - Fantasia, last year's winner - with a voice and approach of her own.)

We must cherish such performers. Good, well-trained voices that can carry a tune and turn up the volume come cheap. What does not is the voice that identifies a character as specifically and individually as handwriting.

It's what you hear every time Barbara Cook, the 50's Broadway ingénue and enduring concert artist, sings a number by Stephen Sondheim or Harold Arlen. Ms. Cook has a ravishing soprano. But a great Broadway voice doesn't have to be pretty. Floating on a stream of exquisite sound is easy. Finding in that sound all the kinks and bumps and curls that make a person fascinating, exasperating and unique is what transforms a Broadway musical from a cookie-cutter diversion into ecstatic art.

Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Drama Pre-College Program

Could you spare a moment for me to do some marketing?

I would appreciate it if any of you could make contact with a high school counselor or drama instructor to let them know about our Pre-college program in Design & Technology.

We have a rigorous program for design and tech students, drawing largely upon content and faculty from our regular year program. It is a great experience.

The first time we tried this grass roots approach we doubled our enrollment. The more students we have, the more we can do for them (and the more people we can employ, and the bigger jump we can get on the fall...).

It really does have quite a bit of bang for the time it takes.

You can direct people to the pre-college website for information:

and tell them to email me if they have specific questions.

I know you are all busy, but this will really help us a lot.

Thanks much

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Fashion Police

Ok, so I am no trend setter, but if I may I would like to declare a few things as over...

The bouncy, skinny, bleachy, blondy thing with the belly shirt. It's over.

Girls younger than my students dressing like adults going clubbing to go to the mall. Over.

Women older than me dressing like their daughters. Over.

I know that "age appropriate" must be boring and conventional, but the rest of the world must really be laughing at us. American moms, if your girls are going out with friends, you know, to the movies or the mall or even to school and they look like they are about to que up to get into Studio 54; why not turn them around and tell them to put some clothes on. Oh, and after you do that, if you look in the mirror and see pretty much the same look, maybe you could go change too.

You're only as old as you feel, not as you dress. Wearing a micro-mini skirt doesn't make a 14 year old into a 21 year old. It makes her trampy. And a 35 year old dressed like a 21 year old isn't sassy, its kind of sad. 14 year olds aren't supposed to be hot, no matter what you saw in the Britney video, and a 35 year old can be hot dressed like a 35 year old.

Over. Put some damn clothes on. Really, you look ridiculous.

There are no bad ideas


Mom fired another salvo at me, calling my position on ideas semantics and saying that of course there are bad ideas. Her example is genocide. Genocide is always a bad idea. While puzzling through the thought I came up with my own extreme rhetorical example: child molestation. Child molestation is always a bad idea.

And yet, I am going to stand by my original premise. There are no bad ideas. I do not believe that a thought is bad (or good for that matter) until you act on it. Until then it is just an idea, neither good or bad, and once you act on it; it is the action that has relative value in a spectrum of good to bad (or in this case evil). In order to make this evaluation you need a context, an effect, and an intent. Failing that an idea is just an idea. Some ideas may be more comfortable than others, some may be obviously uncomfortable. That doesn't make it a bad idea though.

Genocide in the context we normally here about it usually elicits a negative response. Killing all the people of one culture is a bad thing. But does that make the thought of genocide a bad idea in and of itself?

First off, I believe there is a spin answer to this. The polio virus was the victim of a genocide. We purposely hunt down and killed an entire race. And it wasn't a bad thing. I would also say that a less standard application of the word, say a genocide on reality television programming. That too might be a good thing. In a rigorous argument though these would seem to be evasions rather than truly being on point.

So what of the context we really do abhor genocide? The action here is so vile that it is difficult to see where even thinking of this in an out of the box mentality would be a good thing. It is difficult to imagine a scenario where thinking in this direction would lead to anything positive - even from a brainstorming perspective...

"Lets kill all the left handed people."

"Well, that's some powerful lateral thinking, but I don't think that's going to be your best approach. Maybe we don't have to kill them, that's probably a little extreme."

"Ok, lets just round them up and send them to Florida."

So even just with respect to kicking the cobwebs loose this is troubling. In the end though, I still believe that while that is a fairly uncomfortable thought it isn't until one actually does something that it becomes "bad." Even the thought to do something uncomfortable isn't a "bad thought." There has to be an action.

Don't we need to be able to have a benign idea and realize that someone might act on it to understand how bad the action is? Having the thought that some other leader might be capable of a genocide doesn't constitute a bad idea. Putting yourself in their position and coming to the conclusion that you would pursue a genocide doesn't constitute a bad idea. In this case the idea of the genocide is a necessary, benign, idea that helps you understand the other person. Without that understanding, without having had the idea, you would not be able to come up with a contingency to prepare for the possibility of a genocide. As a parent, don't you need to think of child molestation to properly protect your child? Certainly these are out of the box thoughts, uncomfortable thoughts, but they would not constitute bad ideas.

I would also submit that thoughts like this are a good diagnostic tool, a signpost on the road to disaster. These are opportunities for a person to realize that there is a problem and act on it, or an opportunity for a second party to gain some insight and help to correct what will otherwise turn out to be an unfortunate agenda. But unless you believe that the thought is the sin, that all you gotta do is wanna - and then you might as well not get out of bed, you already did it; unless you believe that, then the idea is not the problem. Its the action that is bad. Seeing one's self have an idea like that, and then seeing one's self come to the conclusion that they should act on that idea; these are both moments for self reflection where one might decide they are going in a bad way. If catching one's self there leads to a change in course, then I would have to argue that the thought, the idea no matter how uncomfortable was in the end actually a good idea.

Of course everyone is allowed to have the thought that I am wrong. And I won't even call that a bad idea.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Title Change?

My mother, who is sort of an involuntary blog reader, suggested to me that my earlier post about the behavior of our Congress last week was testimony in contradiction to the title of my blog. Perhaps I need to re-think the title?

There Is At Least One Bad Idea

Doesn't really have the same ring to it.

Really, I believe I stand by the sentiment of the existing title. Its not the ideas that are bad. George Carlin used to do a routine about words, saying that there were no bad words, that there were bad intentions. I think the same might be true about ideas.

The whole root of the thought that there are no bad ideas is that discussion is always a good thing, trying to come up with alternatives is always a good thing. In my technical design class I teach students that sometimes when you're blocked a good way to get going again is to try to think of the worst possible way to approach something. The thought being that it gets the wheels moving, and even by identifying a solution you know you won't use, you might be lead to the bit of the thing that is causing the block, and once you can see it you may be able to solve it.

So I don't think its the ideas that are the problem. It's the follow through, the action. The problem isn't that the idea itself is bad, its that it is an idea that shouldn't be realized. Truthfully, that's not even the problem. The problem is that the people involved are so misguided that they don't recognize that their idea will not work well in application.

In the particular cases I was ranting about, it wasn't that someone had the thought "hey we should bring in a bunch of baseball players and talk to them," or "we really ought to make a law to try to save this one woman from dying," but rather that there wasn't anyone standing next to them that they believed in to say "you know, that's some powerful lateral thinking, but I don't think that's going to be the best approach."

This is why women go shopping with friends, right? And this is why guys go to the bar with a wingman, yes? Just in case they wander off the ranch out onto the savannah, they'll have someone there to remind them that they are perhaps being too innovative in their thinking, or shopping taste, or drunken dating.

I wonder who's job it is to serve as a congressional wingman. I assume this is their chief of staff or something. Some of those guys ought to be updating their resumes.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

What am I forgetting?

Tomorrow is tax day for me. This guy up the hill in Mount Washington is going to go through everything with me tomorrow. I spent Tuesday going through last year's bills and statements looking for deductions.

The person I had do my taxes in Vegas suggested to me that someone that does what I do, entertainment custom construction (well and now we can even add a level of education to that), could deduct pretty much anything entertainment related as "research." So, books, cable, magazines, movies - really it feels just a little bit slimy. I usually try to make myself feel better by taking only a percentage, but the more years I do that the more I think I just ought to take the full amount.

Still, in the end I think I take less overall than I probably would get if I kept better records. Although I am fairly certain an auditor wouldn't detect that difference with their proctoscope.

Anyone out there think more out of the box than I do? Got any good deductions I might have forgotten? Can anyone think of a good way to deduct pet care?

I'm fairly certain that if the US went to a flat tax, somehow I would be getting the shaft (along with anyone else that goes to work). But it would certainly be easier to figure out. The way it is right now I get to feel both slimy and like I got jobbed.

Oh well, one more day and it will be over for another year.

Clearer Heads Prevail

for the moment.

From the US District Court:

"This court appreciates the gravity of the consequences of denying injunctive relief. Even under these difficult and time-strained circumstances, however, and notwithstanding Congress' expressed interest in the welfare of Theresa Schiavo, this court is constrained to apply the law to the issues before it. As plaintiffs have not established a substantial likelihood of success on the merits, plaintiffs' motion for temporary restraining order must be denied."

Here's the whole McNews article:

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Moral Leadership

Earlier, while watching CNN, I happened to see Tom Delay talking on the floor of the capitol. He was trying to explain why they were taking the time they were to pass that bill for that solitary person. He defended what they were doing not on medical grounds and not on legal grounds, but on moral grounds. He said something to the effect of there being an obvious moral issue.

That really stuck to me.

Through all of my formative years and all those social studies classes I can't ever remember being told that our political leaders were to be our moral leaders as well.

My recollection is that morals really ought to come from Parents - from family, probably clergy, and maybe a little from teachers. But politicians? I have to say that I believe my upbringing has convinced me that they are not a very dependable group, not truthful. Why in God's name would we ever look to people we don't trust as much as used car salesmen to be the guardians of our morals?

Not me. I can think of better people.

This would appear to me to be another in a growing litany of difficulties I am having with the current political power structure. I mean, I guess I would like to have politicians behave in a moral manner. But I don't think I want any of them telling me what is or isn't moral. Might just be too tough wading through the hypocrisy. So many politicians are so obviously two faced, or repressed, or greedy. How are we supposed to believe that will even behave morally, let along make good moral leaders?

Also, I have to say that I think that governing sometimes forces moral choices, or moral relativism that requires more complex thought than I feel a person who feels they have a keen sense of morality might competently manage. Sometimes being in charge means that the moral choice for everyone isn't the moral choice for an individual.

Like just this week, in Florida.

It seems like a slippery slope if we start to believe that morals are the greatest shaping factor to political decision making. How far is it from there to religious republic?

If I get to choose, please give me political leaders who think the moral leadership should be someone else's responsibility.

Your Taxes at Work

I have to say I haven't been all that thrilled with the federal government over the last few days. While I was North of the border, the Congress saw fit to take time out to blow the lid off Baseball doping, and now that I am back they went to extraordinary lengths to pass legislation designed specifically to apply to exactly one individual.

That's some powerful stuff.

Powerful waste of time.

Baseball, well baseball is screwed up enough without the meddling of the United States federal government. Don't get me wrong. I am glad they care, and I think it was a lovely exercise to prove to parents that they care about kids and steroids. But really, come on, were these hearings going to actually discover anything? Were they actually going to do anything?

If these representatives of the people wanted to actually accomplish something then they would have sat on the local DAs and had the guys they brought to the hill investigated, and if there'd been anything to the thought gotten grand juries empanelled and had the users charged. Worrying that the team owners might let the guys off with a fine rather than suspension doesn't amount to anything. What they are doing is illegal. They ought to be charged and convicted. Teams that cover up ought to be charged with conspiracy or obstruction.

Bringing athletes up to the hill for a dog and pony show isn't serious. If they were serious about the problem, they would do something serious.

And then, just when I thought they couldn't get more pointless, they really, I mean really, truly outdo themselves. Two special sessions to get in the middle of a 15 year family dispute.


I just love the fact that the judge in Florida heard the argument and then took it under advisement without making any order, after two branches of the federal government dropped everything to make the hearing happen. I hope he just sits on his hands. Serves them right.

For one second do you think if this were a death row inmate facing execution that they would have gone to these lengths? We'd be hearing "the system ran its course, and now he gets what's coming to him." But in the case of a woman with absolutely no chance of recovery, where they've both exhausted every medical option and every legal recourse - for this one woman they are ready to drop everything they believe about state's rights and due process.

Showboats. Hypocrites. Critics.

They didn't take this much trouble to commit thousands of perfectly healthy soldiers to their death overseas on a war of choice. They didn't take this much trouble when cutting the funds for medical research that might prevent this sort of thing in the future. Of course they set aside much much more time and effort while grandstanding to protect the institution of marriage they so carelessly, absentmindedly, and nefariously undermined this weekend.

Who are these people? What could they possibly be thinking? Why are they trying to embarrass their political opposition in the face of such a personal human tragedy? As George Carlin says, "they're the best we can do."

We all ought to be embarrassed.

A key (for my Dad)

Dad complained that the last few posts were incomprehensible due to a veritable alphabet of acronyms. Maybe this will make it clearer...

ESTA - Entertainment Services & Technology Association
ETCP - Entertainment Technician Certification Program
ESET - Essential Skills Entertainment Technician
USITT - United States Institute of Theatre Technology
CMU - Carnegie Mellon University
CV - Curriculum Vitae
OISTAT - Organization of International Scenographers, Theater Architects and Technicians

That's certainly a mouthful.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Joe Pino - Rock Star

D-listed to School of Drama today:

Our own Joe Pino has won a Gold Medal in Sound Design at World Stage Design 2005 - the first OISTAT international exposition of set, lighting, costume and sound design.

532 designers from 43 nations submitted work for the exposition. An international jury of designers chose 20% of those designs to be exhibited during the OISTAT World Congress. Gold, silver and bronze medals were awarded in each design area, chosen from the exhibited designs by a different jury of international designers.

Please congratulate Joe when you see him!

OISTAT = Organisation Internationale des Scénografes, Techniciens et Architectes de Théatre OR Organization of International Scenographers, Theater Architects and Technicians.

Way to go Joe!

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Picture Key

I thought I could put little captions with the pictures in the AOL thing, but I appear to be mistaken. Here's the link to the photos again, and a key of what they are:

1 - To be or KNOT to be session
2 - To be or KNOT to be session
3 - CMU Alum Mike Schmalz
4 - CMU Alum Mike Katz
5 - CMU Technical Director Kevin Hines demonstrating
6 - Current CMU students, working hard
7 - The CMU Table, in a dark hole
8 - Opposition research
9 - Opposition research
10 - Opposition research
11 - Opposition research
12 - Opposition research
13 - Opposition research
14 - CMU Alum Andy Palmer, Chris Kennedy, Mike Schmalz
15 - CMU Faculty & Staff Tina Shackleford & David Holcomb
16 - CMU Alum Mike Garl
17 - CMU Prospective Chris Gabriel & Faculty Kevin Hines
18 - CMU Faculty Susan Tsu
19 - CMU Faculty Dick Block
20 - Faculty Kevin Hines, Alum Mike Schmalz, current grads Celeste Santamassino, Jacob Climer, and Megan Marrer
21 - Alum Andy Palmer and Staff member Joe Pino
22 - Opposition research
23 - Kevin Hines, and current student Noah Mitz
24 - CMU Alum Judy Stacier
25 - Get Your Show on the Road Panel, including David Holcomb and David Boevers
26 - Get Your Show on the Road Panel
27 - Get Your Show on the Road Panel
28 - Get Your Show on the Road Panel
29 - Get Your Show on the Road Panelist David Conte
30 - Get Your Show on the Road Panel
31 - Current grad Shannon Nickerson selling the program
32 - ETCP Rigging certification launch session
33 - Current 3rd years from "the other school"
34 - more hard working CMU students
35 - more hard working CMU students
36 - more hard working CMU students

Home Sweet Home

Canada was nice, but its better, I think, to be home. Nice drive, no traffic, no problems. Gas is very expensive, and the megasize tank on the new truck, at least compared to the old truck, really makes me notice. At least work was paying for this trip. Even with the gas it won't cost them as much as it would have to fly me there.

I have to say all through the convention I was missing home. Good to be back.

I wound up the conference going to the Yale Alumni reception. There weren't many people of my vintage there this year, and most of the people that I did know I had already hooked up with on the floor of the show. Still, the reception sevres its purpose. We'd supended doing CMU receptions. I think we ought to get back in the business of doing something - not what we were doing before, that was a waste of money. But we ought to be doing something.

Prior to the reception I went to the ETCP launch of the Rigging Certification. It seemed to go over very well. Several of the other SMEs were in the room. I thought it was very funny that all three of the sample theatrical rigging exam questions they used were ones I helped write. I guess thats three questions we can assume won't be on the test (which is ok, because at least one of them I had thought better of as soon as I left Kansas City). It looks like I am going to get to write a Td&T article about the ETCP program. One more thing for the CV.

Marisa and I were talking about the conference and came to the conclusion that they should have people taking notes at each of the sessions and make them available online. I think that would be pretty cool, and then people that couldn't get to the conference could still possibly learn something. There was one CMU Drama student at my session (as opposed to a half dozen of Ben's students). I think she may have taken some notes. If I can get them, maybe I will post them here.

I took a bunch of photos that didn't come out too too blurry. It's too many to post here, but I put them into a "You've got Picture's" album. The link is below:

Oh well, back to life in Pittsburgh.

Friday, March 18, 2005

USITT Day #3

Well, the session was a success. All the panelists showed up, we had a very nice dinner, and then we had a great session. There maybe weren't as many people there as we would have hoped, and in the middle of the thing a fire alarm went off and half our people left (only half of that returned after the alert). All in all a really cool session. I don't know if anyone else learned anything, But I certainly did.

This morning there was more ETSA - this time Publications & Assessment. Much discussion over we want to be doing a book, or a web site, or something else we haven't even thought of - flash cards? comic books?

Any ideas?

The lanyards we made are a real big hit, almost as much with general conference goers as with our own students. I think I may run a bunch with my own money and sell them at school.

Well, I'm off to an ETCP information session.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

USITT Day #1

So I am taking advantage of my work pass to sneak onto the show floor and use one of the computers. The floor doesn't open until tomorrow, and once it does there is usually a line to use these machines - so blogging from here might be kind of inconsiderate.

Although I am sure that won't stop everyone. Might not even stop me.

Today's agenda was the ESTA Essential Skills Committee. We have yet another acronym to add to my CV: ESET, which is Essential Skills Entertainment Technician. The group has been moved from ESTA proper to being under the ESTA Foundation. That will allow the group to function as a 401c3 organization and will undoubtably result in a huge tax write off for ESTA. We spent some time going over old business and then went back to working on the outline. This group is ripe for volunteers, so if you're interested in some theatre industry service this may be the place for you. Currently the biggest hole is in Costumes. We spent quite a bit of time today haggling over the title "Presser" and when it came down to it, none of us really knew what we were talking about.

I had lunch with Greg Bell. He's one of my mentors and currently that oh so rare breed, a tenured academic technical director - at Otterbein College in Ohio.

Fritz told me to go to the Technical Production Leadership meeting. I should have known he had something up his sleeve. I am now either a vice-commisioner or a project leader for this group in the area of Commercial Theatre Outreach. It was my idea, so I guess I should shut my mouth and be happy to have the position. One more thing for the CV. I also took the occasion to vent on "Entertainment Engineering" - one of my latest rectal itches. The room seemed in agreement, but I'm uncertain there's anything any of us can do.

After that I went to the Knot Tying session Kevin subbed in for me on. I had to leave the room because it was a sell out. Figures I would give up being on such a well attended session. Got some nice pictures though.

They're turning out the lights, I guess that means I have to go.

Monday, March 14, 2005

North of the Border

Off to USITT in Toronto.

I am chairing a session on trucking called "Get Your Show on the Road." It seems fairly organized, but I am sure it will fall apart in the next three days. If you are at the conference you should come, it should be fun - or at least funny.

No ETCP meetings, but I have ESTA meetings for Essential Skills and for Publications. Now that the certification program is a reality, the certificate program for essential skills seems that much more likely. I haven't met with this group in quite a while. It will be interesting to see where they are at.

And of course I will be on the show floor, trying to convince more people that they and their money belong at Carnegie Mellon. This year we have some rough brochures to hand out, and I think I scored big with some Carnegie Mellon lanyards for show ID badges. People always like that kind of swag at shows. Maybe it will help us get some more traffic at the table.

So, posting may be slow for a couple of days - slower even than the last couple of days. I've fallen pretty far behind in the writing and also in my blog reading. You let it go and it really piles up.

With me luck at the border. x2...

That's Littering, isn't it?

I can't figure out what the problem is, but for the third time since we moved in, we're getting the paper.

The thing is, M reads the NY Times online, and I read McNews, also online. We've never actually bought the paper. And yet, there it is, every morning on our lawn, a nicely packaged copy of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette destined to go straight into the trash.

The first time we got the paper it was some kind of "Welcome to the neighborhood" promotion where, like crack dealers, they gave you the thing for free for a little while and then called to say you had to pay to keep getting it. When they finally did call we told them we really didn't want it and please to stop throwing it on our lawn.

The next time they just decided we wanted it, and I had to call them to have it stopped. This was a problem because since we didn't have a subscription they insisted they weren't delivering it. Eventually I talked them into it though and managed to get them to stop.

I've no idea why they've started delivering it yet again, but here it is. One of my friends suggests waiting out in the morning and when they throw that days paper on the lawn that I throw the previous days paper at the driver. That might work. I think M is saving them up to spell out a nasty message on the lawn. I'm not sure they'd even notice that.

Why does it have to be the paper? If someone had to give us something we didn't order, why couldn't it be something we actually did want?

Caribbean Wonders/Horrors

Me and the Missus are looking into honeymoon destinations, probably something all inclusive with a beach.

Anyone out there have a particularly good or particularly bad experience with any Caribbean destination?

Sunday, March 13, 2005

More Document Madness

So I spent the better part of today converting two shoulder bags, two large storage boxes, a medium storage box, and a small storage box of documents into two kitchen garbage bags, two contractor garbage bags, and four neat(ish) piles of archival documents.

Fun was had by all.

Interestingly, some of the personal files went back as far as 1990. Those could not hit the shredder fast enough. All in all going through the stuff from the 90's was fun. Like a little travelogue of my life through that period. Phone calls to Boston and Brockport, expenses in Brunswick, Maine and Madison, New Jersey - random checks to random people, all interesting stuff. I found my acceptance letter to grad school, the letter I wrote my college prof for tenure in the position I have now, the ID badge from my 10 year high school reunion; it was a little treasure hunt.

If I may, I will share with you a dimension of the futility of the whole thing.

Apparently, at the end of the summer of 1994 - I would have been at summer stock in Maine - at the end of the summer I took all the bills I had accumulated while away from my apartment and put them in a folder labeled "misc. to be filed."

That folder then went back to New Haven with me, and sat. Eventually it moved with me to Chicago to my folks house, then to the apartment in Evanston. After a brief stay there it moved with me to the guest room at Bonnie & Tracy's house in Las Vegas, and then to my apartment at The Lakes. A little bit later it moved with me again from Vegas to my Shadyside apartment in Pittsburgh, and then to the Squirrel Hill apartment. Finally, last July it moved again, with me, to the house. The original contents of the file, undisturbed completed that whole journey, still with the original label "misc. to be filed."

That trip, over a period of 12 years, spanned more than 5180 miles.

Tonight, the contents of the folder, still unchanged and unfiled, went right into the shredder.

Part of me wonders if it wouldn't have been easier to have circular filed them back in Maine.

Friday, March 11, 2005

More Lego. Other Stuff

So once again, the infallible surfing buffet that is the Google Random Image generator has found some new stuff - and lead to a few other things as well. For your viewing pleasure, we have three videos.

The first one is what I found from the random image. It lead me to a site She seems to be at least some sort of minor celebrity in the NYC area, although I may be wrong. Anyway, part way down her page I found this:

Since The King of Pop has been in the news of late, and I have talked here previously about the role Lego played in my formative years, I thought it made good material for a post.

(by the way, she says she poached this link from: Gleny, it only seems fair to complete the citation)

Unfortunately, Lego seems only to be used for the characters and the foliage. They could have used it for the buildings and other things. Also, it seems like it was filmed at a somewhat smallish resolution, so its a little blurry. But its still worth seeing just to see the dance sequences.

So, finding this clip made me think of other videos I'd seem on the web. Hands down the funniest one I can recall is called "Troops." This film can be found on the website: The Unfortunately, the film is only available for download there as a .zip file. I looked fairly exhaustively to find a site that streamed it, but I couldn't. I did find one that opens it in a helper window if you have quicktime installed:

You will have to give it time to load. If you are on dialup it will take a while. Whatever your connection is though, its worth it.

The first film tied to Lego. This one ties to Star Wars. Its the story of a couple of Tatooine Stormtroopers just walkin a beat, and parallels the timeline of the Star Wars film. Sort of a backstory that you saw the results of, but never got to see in the movie.

I finally found that link on this page:

Which would be a nice way to kill a few hours, as it has about a hundred video links. Most are scavenged from TV. I won't post all the links here, but the Chris Rock clip that spurred a blog entry a few weeks back is there. There's also a fairly humorous Jack Black skit - I'm guessing from the MTV Movie Awards - involving The Lord of the Rings and a Prince Albert. And, as it appears we are getting dirtier and dirtier, a nice clip called "This Old Whorehouse" from an HBO show I can't remember the name of. I always thought this skit was funny because the Norm character gets to say:

"...and I've included a recessed shelf for your assorted love oils, which I think is a nice detail...."

Anyway, happy viewing.


Spring break seems not to be very much Spring, nor break... There is nothing less festive than planning a party... Sometimes even though you do want to help, you have very little to give... The only thing you win in drawings at the home show is a call from a salesman... Any diet that doesn't allow fries is in some way fundamentally wrong... One ought to shred garbage documents immediately, not after moving them from three apartments and two states... Premarriage counseling is a little like teasing a monkey... I still don't care about Martha Stewart... College admissions ought to be less like making sausage... It really is a bigger truck than I originally thought... The tagboard seems to be poaching comments from the posts... Each time I go to The Church Brew Works I am less impressed than the time before... Can anyone suggest a good "happy life after theatre" career?.. My 3rd years have 62 days and 15 hours to finish their thesis projects... There are 107 days 10 hours and 15 minutes until the wedding... Why should baseball players be able to get out of testifying before Congress?.. Live and Let Die is still a great movie, even if the channel guide says it is "dated"... I wish the cats didn't think the paper shredder was a toybox... Ellipses are an easy way to post when there's nothing in your head...

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Document Security

So over the last day or two I have been trying to consolidate piles of documents that have traveled from three apartments to this house. Naturally, I have been throwing away a lot of personal documents. So I have been thinking a little bit about identity theft.

I am, of course, the proud owner of a document shredder. Pretty much anything with a complete name and address or more goes in the shredder rather than just being pitched.

It did occur to me that a particularly dedicated indentity thief would not mind taking the time to paste together documents even if they were shredded. I mean, this would be a waste of time in my neighborhood, but I can think of a few places where it might turn out to be worth the effort.

Now I know that the people that make shredders make "confetti" shredders for this purpose. But really, that just guarantees more pieces, and if our intrepid felon is in for a penny he'll probably just buy that much more tape.

What we're looking for here is a genuine disincentive.

We need something that won't just make the job more tedious, but rather something that would inspire the thought in the person that really they were in the wrong line of work.

This is what lead me to think of my newest invention:

I'm thinking of calling it the "Watchcat Document Security System." The cats really do love playing with the shredded paper, and I can't think of anything that would make a crook think twice more than this. Its a match made in heaven.

Anyone want to put up some capital and be my business partner?

When did it become ok?

Mondays are garbage day. Every afternoon it is always interesting to see just where and in what position our trash can winds up in after the garbage men empty it. Usually it is just sitting in the sidewalk on its side.

Today, today our trash can was 15 feet into the neighbors front yard. The lid was three houses down, three houses down and across the street, three houses down across the street and as flat as a pancake. It had apparently been run over by a car at some point during the morning.

Where I grew up we didn't have the "bring your trash to the curb" thing. The trash guys would walk behind the house with a rolling can, empty our trash, replace the trashcan, and take the garbage away. If you didn't look in the can you wouldn't even know they had been there.

I understand that bringing your can to the curb is accepted and also reasonable. But when did it become ok for the garbage hauling vendor to just pitch your can wherever once they'd emptied it? Is it so much to ask that it simply be replaced where they got it, with the lid placed on it? To not do that just seems impolite.

I saw a thing on Monster Garage where they turned some car into a garbage truck and made a big joke about crushing the can and pitching it wherever. So I gather that this is a problem not unique to my street.

I get the feeling that had the car that ran over the lid to my can kicked it up and dented a neighbor's car, or thrown it into a kid walking home for school, that I would probably be on the business end of a law suit. I doubt that the vendor would have a problem, after all the thing is my property, my responsibility.

Oh well. So much shouting at the wind today. But then, I guess that is part of what blogging is for.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Out with the old...

...and in with the new

So roughly 40,000 miles (or at least seven years) of car shopping officially ended today with the purchase of a new Dodge Dakota.

I have to say I am very pleased with the truck, and also very pleased with the deal. Usually I think that with a purchase like this the most important thing is that after you're finished you feel like you got what you wanted and you didn't get taken.

In this particular case not only do we meet those two criteria, but I think we also got a great truck at a great price, and that we bargained successfully (after the fact, M said she felt a little bit like my Aunt Lois - and that is high haggling praise be sure). It turns out we did some good dealer research and found a good incentive, and we did some good internet research and found a particularly good truck - one they likely would not have shown us left to their own devices.

We started out well within what consumer reports says to pay, got them to sweeten the deal more than twice, and then got a free bed liner, a steam clean for the seats, and a lower interest rate than they initially quoted - and all without paying the maximum we would have spent.

The best part was that at lunch we picked a deal we would not exceed today no matter what they offered. I'm glad we did, because the second time they came back it was with a number I might have agreed to, but being that it was outside the rule we didn't angst over it there. We just said we'd have to think about it and that got them to come the rest of the way. If we hadn't put that hard number in our heads before we got there I think we would have paid their price on the second offer.

All of which in the end might amount to a hill of beans, and they certainly don't make a sale that doesn't work for them. But I know we didn't pay as much as we could have had we been less aggressive, and I'm happy with that.

It turns out the hardest part of the whole process was getting the plates off my old truck. In the end I think that took longer than the financing. They were so corroded it took three of us to get them removed.

So come on by and say hello. I'll give you a spin in my new ride.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

All David Class Mid Semester Honor Roll

All things pointing to a good semester for these students in my spring classes:

April Bartlett
Taylor Harris
Jennifer Henn
Adam Koch
Florencia Martin
Sara Rockwell
Beth Semler
Ian Schwartz

Congrats to all on a great quarter. Keep up the good work.

Half Way Home

I'm not sure when it happened, but half of the Spring semester has elapsed. The spring always blows by before you notice, but this year has been even faster. I'd even thought I had taken precautions to not get caught unaware, but its seems to be for naught. Between the days off at the top of the semester, and then Playground a couple weeks back, and now Spring Break and then ESTA/USITT the week after, there just never was much semester in this semester.

And now it is half gone.

We finally finished our interviews for next year's class today. Luckily I am only involved in the Pittsburgh interviews. I am sure had I gone to NYC, LA, Chicago, and Miami things would feel even more like a whirlwind. So we finished with the hopeful candidates and then I stayed and worked late, on a Sunday, during Spring Break to get into a stack of grading that has been growing out of control like kudzu in my office.

That's the problem with giving homework, even worse with exams, once you give them and the students go to the trouble of actually doing them you kind of have to grade them. I used to be so much more aggressive in giving assignments. At the rate I am softening, in two or three more years I won't assign anything at all.

I did eventually manage to find my desk, and the floor, under all the assignments and exams. I got my mid-term grades submitted just like I am supposed to, and solicited any problems with the PTM students that other faculty might be having so I can get my "letters of doom" started. All in all though I think I will let those letters sit until we get back. No real reason to sully anybody's break. Not like they'll do anything about it until we're back anyway. Might as well keep the stress quotient down, I so rarely get to decide.

So half a spring semester in the books, two weeks without class, and then only like six weeks until the end.

Zoom! Where did it go?

I had planned, earlier you saw it if you were following the site, to tie myself to the thesis schedule the 3rd years are on for my own writing of a book. Although I think I still have a longer document than the students, it hasn't grown much lately.

So many projects start and stop, or don't start at all. This gig is never ending, with so little perceptible headway. At least every semester you get to take a deep breath and pick up the pieces that got dropped.

One quarter to go.


I was today by e-mail that I am officially not allowed to make any more decisions:

I think your advisory committee needs to re-form, and fast. Clearly you're in no condition to be making any of your own decisions. Effective immediately you are to once more report to [sic. the committee] before doing anything that might remotely have any adverse affect on any other part of your life. We will discuss how to proceed. Have I made myself clear?

Its nice to know that even when I am not thinking that there are those that are.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

More Car Shopping

Today we continued the truck research by looking at this one:

The Dodge

It is real nice. It is bigger than anything we've looked at so far, and all they seem to have on the lot are 4x4 V8's. I really only feel like I need a V6, and I could really take or leave the four wheel drive. Upon hearing that, the salesguy made it sound like he'd basically sell me the 4x4 V8 for the price of a 4x4 V6, and that he really didn't recommend the 4x2.

Maybe he's got a point.

Worlds collide

So I have this friend - ex girlfriend - Stevie. She worked at Chicago Scenic and The Guthrie, interned at The Yale School of Drama, obviously knows me, and lives in Chicago.

And I have this student - ex student - Katy. She works at Chicago Scenic, worked at The Guthrie, interned ae The Yale School of Drama, obviously knows me, and lives in Chicago.

So it seemed like it might make sense to hook them up. Maybe they would turn out to be friends.

We're at The Grafton and we had some food and are drinking. I just told my ?actor space-painting? story. I think Katy's pretty cool.
You didn't tell me she worked at, like, EVERYWHERE I worked! I told her the REAL truth behind the tire story. You have been leaving out the best parts.
Katy says ?hi,? she's fine, and I'm going to talk her into moving to my neck of the woods.
She also says, incredulously,? All those stories are ONE girlfriend!?!?
Um, well, yeah, I guess they are...

Give me your # and we'll semi-drunk dial you. Won't that be fun?
S and K
Sent from my BlackBerry Wireless Handheld

I fear I may have made a tactical error. Only time will tell.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Really, that's not news

Sometimes I really do wonder about the news outlets we have available to us. I guess in some small way I am now part of this problem and not part of the solution. So, please, instead of a post criticizing this, try to imagine something wholly worth reading.

I am, of course, complaining about the wall to wall coverage of the release of Martha Stewart.

Last night I was watching CNN. OK, truthfully I was watching the Suns and the Pistons on TNT. During play stoppage I like to flip to CNN to see what is up in the world. Last night, after midnight, CNN had a camera crew and a reporter staked out on the road outside of the penal facility waiting to catch a glimpse of Ms. Stewart as she left. They had another crew at the airport, in case the driveby wasn't interesting - which it wasn't. A Suburban with tinted glass is not exciting.

For the last two days they have been almost "counting down to Martha" on CNN's morning show. Today they must have had a helicopter or a plane flying over the Stewart property taking pictures of her at home. I even heard them discussing Martha Stewart on Crossfire.

Really CNN, this isn't exactly news.

I'm fairly certain that CNN isn't alone in this coverage. I wouldn't be surprised (although I would be disappointed) to turn on PBS's "The News Hour" and find Martha coverage. So I guess I shouldn't be so hard on CNN.

Really the problem isn't CNN. The question here is the same as "Who is the real problem: drug pushers or drug users?" CNN is just pushing this K-rap. We're the morons that are buying it and putting it into our systems. If we didn't want it, they wouldn't air it.

What is wrong with us?

Really, who was the one that wanted to see those aerial shots of Martha today? Speak up. I'd like to meet you.

Whenever celebrity news dominates coverage, I am always left wondering what else is going on in the world. "Air America" has a promo going now with Susan Sarandon talking about seeing "Hotel Rwanda" where she posits: "what were we paying attention to then while we were missing this going on? OJ Simpson?" During the Simpson trial I kept wishing some news outlet would do a feature on all the other people arrested, tried, & convicted in the time it took to try OJ. During the John Benet investigation I wondered about all the other children murdered. During Chandra Levy and Lacy Peterson, I wondered about all the other missing persons.

It would seem to me that a news media that in a theatrical way was trying to build and educate its subscription base that the flashy cases would be a way into talking about the less flashy ones. And yet, even on an all news network like CNN, what we seem to get is flash.

I wonder who else was released from prison today and what they found when they got home? I bet there are plenty of interesting stories there. I also bet we don't get to hear them.

Thursday, March 03, 2005


I don't think my drawing is improving...

in fact I am quite certain that if someone turned this in for my class I wouldn't accept it.

Too bad I drew most of it.

I'm assigning my Technical Design class a realized project for the first time. We've done prototypes before, but never committed to anything anyone was actually expecting us to finish for them - anything with any kind of a deadline. We're going to build the entry icon for this year's spring carnival. Hopefully it will be something real cool, with some animation and lighting. Hopefully.

Still, its a real cool project. Too cool to let go by. Now I just hope they have the budget we'll need. Well that and that I can find someone to produce a better drawing.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Times: Peter Foy

Here's the Times article, and an Old NPR Feature on Pete Foy...

March 2, 2005

Peter Foy, Who Sent Performers Flying, Dies at 79

Peter Foy, an innovator in the art of theatrical flight who sent aloft figures from Mary Martin and Sally Field to rotund opera singers in full Valkyrie regalia, died on Feb. 17 in Las Vegas. He was 79 and lived in Las Vegas.

The cause was a heart attack, his wife, Barbara, said.

Described by The New York Times as "the most famous 'flyer' in show business," Mr. Foy spent his life suspending people by wires not much thicker than sewing thread and sailing them through the air by means of intricate systems of harnesses, pulleys and tracks he developed.

Mr. Foy lived, he often said, for the audible gasp from the audience when an earthbound performer suddenly took flight. He flew a string of Broadway Peter Pans, including Mary Martin, Sandy Duncan and Cathy Rigby. He flew Bob Hope, Jack Benny and Michael Jordan. He flew Garth Brooks over Texas Stadium and Nadia Comaneci over Times Square. He flew Liberace, piano and all.

Peter Stuart Foy was born in London on June 11, 1925. The Foys were a theatrical family, though no relation to the American vaudevillians of the same name, and Peter began his career as a child actor. At 15, he took his first onstage flight, suspended by a slender wire in the play "Where the Rainbow Ends." When the production's stage manager became ill, Peter took over for him, supervising the flights of other actors and the machinery that kept them aloft.

After serving in the Royal Air Force during World War II, Mr. Foy went to work for the premier theatrical flying company in Britain, Kirby's Flying Ballets, purveyor, its letterhead proudly proclaimed, of "Peter Pan Flying Effects, Somersaulting, Diving and Auditorium Flying." In 1950, he was sent to New York to supervise the flying for a Broadway production of J. M. Barrie's stage play "Peter Pan," starring Jean Arthur.

The flying almost sank the show. Though the tradition of theatrical flying dates back perhaps 2,000 years to the creaky deus ex machina of classical antiquity, it was largely dormant in the United States when Mr. Foy arrived. His art was so unfamiliar that the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, worried about the safety of the two young actors playing Wendy's brothers, threatened to halt the production. Mr. Foy prevailed.

He returned to America in 1954 to fly Ms. Martin in the musical version of "Peter Pan." In 1957, he started his own company, Foy Inventerprises, familiarly known to generations of theatergoers as Flying by Foy.

It takes two burly men to fly one person: one to hoist the actor, the other to move him through the air. Properly flown, actors do not simply dangle. They sail and spin and somersault. They move as their characters would: a horizontal streak for Superman, a soaring diagonal for Peter Pan. Mr. Foy developed much of the technology that made this possible. His wife of 52 years, the former Barbara Warren, gamely served as guinea pig.

Strapped into a harness and suspended by a wire that could be just over a sixteenth of an inch thick, the actor must appear to fly with no visible means of support. Lighting and backdrops hide the wires. "This is why, in a production of 'Peter Pan,' the nursery set will so often contain wallpaper that has vertical lines," James Hansen, general manager of Foy Inventerprises, explained in a telephone interview.

Among Mr. Foy's Broadway credits are "The Lion King," "Angels in America," "Aida," "Fool Moon, "Dracula, the Musical" and "Monty Python's Spamalot," now in previews. His other work includes the film "Fantastic Voyage" and the television series "The Flying Nun"; the opening ceremonies of the 2004 Olympics; the Ice Capades; and numerous rock extravaganzas, operas and ballets.

Besides his wife, Mr. Foy is survived by a sister, Patricia Musgrove, of London; a son, Garry, and a daughter, Teresa Foy McGeough, both of Las Vegas; and two grandchildren.

Given his work, Mr. Foy was understandably preoccupied with safety. (Ms. Martin once flew into a wall by accident.) In an interview with National Public Radio in 2002, he described the peculiar risks of "Peter Pan": "Once that person's in the air," he said, "you can't run out onstage and grab him with a hook. And so he'll fly towards that mantelpiece and go 'splat.' "

Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

NPR Foy story: Peter Foy, "Airographer"

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Slide Glide

The Slippery Slope

Is the name of one of the shows in the America Play Rep, which is being presented at the Carnegie Mellon School of Drama. Today, it was also sort of the story of my life.

I swear, the car shopping made me feel like this morning was much more unreasonable than I guess it really was. But for the first time in memory I was fairly cross with my truck and just wanted something with four wheel drive, or even something that was maybe just heavier.

Are you connecting the dots? Earlier on this site I had posited about clearing snow from a gravel driveway. I may not have mentioned that the driveway in question has a fairly aggressive slope to it, maybe one story worth of height in something like 35 feet. Equity would never approve that rake. So far the winter had not been too bad to me. There had been the odd morning or two where I'd had to spin my wheels up the drive, always trying to be conscious of not absolutely rocketing into the street once the ground leveled off.

Today was the first time when with the wheels turning in reverse the truck actually moved forward.

Still, a little shoveling, a little cat litter, and then finally a little fiance sitting on the open tailgate and up I went. And then straight to Lowes for more salt and 150 pounds of gravel for the bed of my truck. Hopefully that will be a reasonable temporary solution. After that, well there are two items that were in italic on my "to do" list that may have just gone to bold:

1. New Truck
2. Pave driveway

Too bad neither of those things will likely happen nearly fast enough for the next storm. Still, helps to stay focused, and maybe I will pull the trigger on a car. Stranger things have happened.