Wednesday, January 31, 2007

I Think I Did Good Today

Here's the board from Rigging class today. I'm in a university classroom and it has one of those dual, three panel counter-weighted chalk boards that are so much like the ones we don't have in Purnell. It's not completely paradise though, as often these boards act like they have helium in them and just start rising of their own accord. Still, it's nice to be able to do a whole lecture without erasing. (what with all the crap on the board in 33 I think I spend as much time erasing as writing)

So, my phone-photography isn't that good. I guess if I am going to do this I need to try to get the same angle on all the pics, lest we get vertigo looking at the combined image. In any case, I give you the blackboard from today's topic:

MA and Double Purchase Systems

The reason I think it went well is because for the first time I can recall, when I got to the end nobody looked confused. I suppose it is possible there was just a bunch of well hidden confusion, but my take was that people left understanding and able to do the homework. Much as I have tried, I haven't really felt that way before.

"How did it go?" you ask. Well I will tell you. It starts on the upper left looking at architectural configurations without available full arbor travel - places where double purchase systems make sense. Then we go to the top of the right board and draw up simple, kind of spot-line hemp systems showing 1:1, 1:2, and 2:1. Looking at these we get into travel ratios, pulling load, line tension, and structure load - defining all of these traits prior to really even mentioning mechanical advantage. Then we establish the notion of trading force for distance and M.A.

With everyone having made this trip we go into some particular weirdnesses about sheaves, changing direction, load-increase factors, and alternate drawing configurations. This lets me talk about how tying off to the load puts less strain on the structure than tying off to the rail. This is one of my favorite little rigging facts because there's this moment in the thinking when 50% of the load just seems to go poof and its gone. After traversing that material we do classic pulley systems, 2:1, 4:1, 3:1 and then offroad a little to 6:1.

And then with all of that established we go on to the Double Purchase Counterweight System, the 2:1 "against" lift line rigging and then the 2:1 hand line rigging giving the 1:1 handline to batten travel ratio with a 1:2 arbor to batten ratio. This is where just about everyone is usually glazed over. Today, less so.

Pretty cool.

(Also, just as a sideline, I think the idea of doing powerpoint slides for lectures consisting exclusively of photos taken of the chalkboard from a prior lecture would be too totally awesome. I think I will have to do that at least once.)

Monday, January 29, 2007

And Another One of Those Pictures

I've taken to discussing this sort of thing by saying "with great power comes great responsibility." Kevin says, somewhat more colorfully "Using AutoCAD for scenery is like cutting butter with a chain saw!"

Here is what draws such comments:

Perhaps I should forego the quip, and the note on the drawing and just estimate the time required to assure that the instructions are followed. Placing a platform ought to take two people about 15 minutes - get it, locate it on stage, affix it, really nothing can be done in less than 30 minutes but for the sake of the discussion we'll say 15. It won't matter.

Placing a platform plus or minus 1/64 of an inch I believe would take (in this theatre) something like 110 people, something on the order of four hours. The more precise measuring is fairly difficult and will require more people to make sure that things are left properly as they are affixed. There's also some fairly complex surveying that would need to be accomplished. Plus, the whole thing would need to be done under stage lights, with the proper ventilation, and with an audience to make sure the temperature and humidity conditions don't vary enough to cause thermal expansion of any of the parts.

A difference of 439.5 labor hours and 3.75 linear install hours. Might catch someone's attention.


I am not sure I am liking my new schedule... 20,000 is like 25 times less than I think we really need - maybe Cheney was right...Snow is no fun when you have to shovel... Something about Nancy Pelosi just rubs me the wrong way... If there are five more Cylons, then how could Hera possibly be the first hybrid - and for that matter, what about the "baby factories" in place on Caprica??? If there are no customer surveys and no time for repeat business, then the failure of a food product really can't be attributed to taste... If you are taking care of ordering the lunch, one of your jobs is making sure the people that give you the orders actually get to see the food... Really, I can't be the only rational person that thinks a Clinton run for the White House is a National waste of time... When Shane and Poppy finally get together I think it will be fairly epic... Maybe standard USB cameras don't interface that well with Macs... The page is a lot nicer without the Trump game music... One sneezing cat is a little cute, five sneezing cats is a damn national emergency... I was going to give the cool assignment tomorrow, all I have to do is figure out what it is, what it is worth, what they have to do, and how I will grade it... I think the Obama people are going to be very careful picking a slogan, "America wants BO" could be problematic... I was surprised to be more Yinzer than Chicagoan... It's been nearly two weeks since I have been to a McDonald's, that could be an adult personal best and is only slightly eclipsed by this past week's one year anniversary of my last trip to the "O"... If you are coming in to interview, try not to do everything on my don't do this list... I am usually pretty good at the whole packing thing, but I have finally admitted that when you have 8 pounds of shit, you have to go bigger than the 5 pound bag... Really, nobody is going to vote for McCain... A blue lamp shade makes it look like the room has a large swimming pool... Don't interrupt Trump in the board room when he is defending you...

Saturday, January 27, 2007


I was thinking about this idea a couple of months ago - but I thought nobody would be open enough to do it. Let's hope it catches on.

Think Progress: "Tester goes transparent. With encouragement from the Sunlight Foundation, Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) now posts his schedule online at the end of each day. “Whether it’s a visit to the gym, a meeting with the founder of the Montana Meth Project, or an interview with Wolf Blitzer, staff for Tester post his entire schedule online each workday — a Senate first.” "

Link of the Day

So, I have added this one to my daily rotation. I hope it brings just as much fun to you:

Just the best. To celebrate, I have done one of my own...

I think Bean has a big career ahead of him on the internet.

Friday, January 26, 2007


You are 74% Chicagoan!

Nice work. You know just about everything there is to know about Chicago. Stay out of the suburbs, friend!

How Chicago are you?
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Jeet yit?

You are 79% Pittsburgh.

Come on. I know you knew the right answers, but were ashamed and ascared to admit it. Do the quiz again, and this time be true to yourself.

How Pittsburgh Are You
See All Our Quizzes

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Another One

I'm not certain if "Turn on the lights" is right before or right after "Work on a table" on the list.

Summer Stock?

I’m getting questions from students on which are the better summer stock opportunities. I have my own suite of answers to this, but I figured there might be more knowledge in the ether. If you know of particularly good programs could you shoot me a note with the name and a short blurb. I’ll put them all together and make them available to everyone.

By Monday?


Wednesday, January 24, 2007

BN, Scientologists?

Tonight Mrs. TANBI and I went to the BN at the waterfront for some retail hiking - it was nasty outside. While I was looking around I saw something that lead me to the inescapable conclusion that the people at BN must be Scientologists.

The Science Fiction section of the store is and always has been alpha by author. This is something that as a shopper you get used to, and I will admit to feeling a certain reassurance from being able to see the copies of Flatland and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy that have resided in the upper left corner of the shelf for quite some time now. Next to this there is always one bank of shelves with new releases, both hard and soft cover editions of things new to the market. Often I look at this shelf thinking "gee, I read that six months ago, I wonder when they will move it." Occasionally I guess there are some surprises on the new release shelf. The one's I can think of recently would be LOTR and Narnia books, maybe A Scanner Darkly. This is a case where an old book gets a film or a TV show and so they move it out front for a while.

But can anyone explain to me why Battlefield Earth is the first selection on the BN Science Fiction shelf?

Not "L" nor "Ron" nor "Hubbard" begin with the letter A as far as I can tell, and for that matter neither do "Battlefield" or "Earth." There has never, to my knowledge, been a Battlefield Earth TV show. A quick check of IMDB shows that the Forest Whittaker, John Travolta BE movie came out seven years ago - long for even the most slothful bookstore man-animal to leave a book out of position. Looking at Amazon seems to suggest that the last printing of the book was 2001. I am at a loss.

Leading me to the only conclusion that seems possible. BN is very possibly a front for Scientology. I don't see any other plausible reasoning, and the rule is when you've eliminated all of the reasonable possibilities then the unreasonable must be the truth (or something like that).

I guess I will have to check some other BN's to be sure. I don't want to upset BN unnecessarily, and conversely there's the possibility that the Scientology people might hate BN and be upset too. So for the time being let's just call this a hypothesis in need of further research.

It would be very strange though.

Diebold Shows Anyone How To Break Into Their E-Voting Machines

Techdirt.: "Well, this is just fantastic. Following the claims that there's no real problems with e-voting machines, almost immediately followed by reports of massive fraud with e-voting machines in Brazil, Alex Halderman is pointing out that Diebold, in their infinite wisdom, are making it ridiculously easy to break into their machines."

Tuesday, January 23, 2007


I just read the State of the Union. I don't think I could have watched it. While reading, if it tangents into something that is just so much drivel you can just scan down to the next paragraph. I wish I would have thought of that years ago when we were listening to him talk about the scourge of anabolic steroids, or to how he was charging NASA with sending men to Mars.

Ah, the good old days.

Want to read it yourself? You can get it here at: Think Progress.

All in all theres some not too bad initiatives in there mixed in with all the normal Bush/Conservative/Republican/Righty/Religious/Neocon drivel. The deduction for health care sounds like a nice idea. What really struck me though was how little there was that was targeted to be happening in the next two years: eliminate the deficit in 8 years, cut fossil fuels in 10 years. If you lay out initiatives that complete 8 years after you've been in office - well, if that's the case I could do the State of the Union. It would have just about as much reality to it that way.

Nice to see "clean coal" mentioned again. Didn't these people watch The West Wing? President Bartlett told us a long time ago that that particular phrase was a triumph of marketing over substance.

If nothing else, I guess we can take heart that the number of George W Bush State of the Union speeches in front of us is considerably lower than the number we've already seen. All by itself that suggests to me that the state of the union is on an upswing. And these days, well, we have to make what we can with what we have.

Monday, January 22, 2007

That Picture Again...

I would say this never gets old, but it does. This year we've built an entire course around things like this. I wonder if it will help.

Mrs. TANBI thinks you just don't appreciate this thing until you are in your late 20's. Only then does your back get a vote in how you ergonomically situate yourself. I guess there's something to that, although it really doesn't speak to the efficiency part.

I guess that's why it's called school.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

We're Not Here To Cause No Trouble...

... We're just here to do the Super Bowl Shuffle!


I really can't wrap my head around the idea that the last time was over 20 years ago. Seems like it wasn't so long ago. The band was unloading citrus, I was taking Achievements, the Chorus was at Disney World, and the Bears were in the Super Bowl.

While I am happy that the Bears will be playing the Colts as it allows for some nice family wagering (the inlaws are from IN), part of me thinks we would have had a better sports story had the Patriots been the opponent. Seeing as how last time the Bears went to the Superbowl it was against the Pats - and how they'd really embarrassed them (really the old helmets were embarrassment enough). So if it had been the Pats we could have had a whole "Superbowl Revenge" storyline.

So I guess this year I will watch the game all the way through. It is a surprise. The Steelers' season wasn't one to foster thoughts of a championship, and the Bears did have a little bit of a late season swoon. Nice to know they were able to put it together in the end.

Alright - have to go start the guacamole; looks like we'll be having a party.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Network Building

I've been busy adding banners to the NewsPage for CMU School of Drama owned/managed companies. Here's what I have so far. If you've got others, send them my way!

Next Apple Product | Photoshop Contests | Are you Worthy™ | contest

When 33 Was 33

From a periodic West Coast contributor:

Friday, January 19, 2007


I can feel it coming. If not today, then tomorrow, or certainly the next day. Forty thousand hits! Well, there's something I never dreamed would have happened when I started ranting all that time ago. Since Katy just domained up, I think maybe I will start planning for 50k. Maybe at 50,000 it will be time to get a domain. Maybe Maybe not, that's pretty long. Some guy in Germany has which has always interested me as that's not how his name is spelled in German. Maybe I will use one of those domain poacher services and see if I can catch him forgetting to re-up. Or perhaps that's wishful thinking.

Thus ends today's "get the flash game of the site as quickly as possible" post.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

A Flash of Sanity!

Think Progress: "BREAKING: Bush to place warrantless spying under FISA.

The AP reports, “The Justice Department, easing a Bush administration policy, said Wednesday it has decided to give an independent body authority to monitor the government’s controversial domestic spying program.”"

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Link of the Day

Cool place, and some cool articles under "resources."

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


The sound on that game will get annoying, good thing it turns off... Today I got an email about getting too much email... It might just be me, but I think Don Marinelli would make a fabulous Max Bialystock... I think I don't like the snow either, but having a few minutes of sun today was nice... I shouldn't teach in 33 without turning on the lights... Three meals today, that never happens... It's nice with the Steelers out of it that the Bears are still alive, for the moment... If there's no time, then there's just no time, just forget it... I think it is ironic that at this moment my copy of the book "Getting Things Done" is buried under a pile of unopened mail... Kevin lost at copier roulette too... I saw Bush on 60 Minutes, I'd have rather watched someone plant a bush on This Old House... I still cant make the TV come out of my computer, must be missing a step... Playing Doom for the length of the movie might be more interesting than watching the movie Doom... The house in the Star Wars movie turns out to not be mine... Ro Laren will never learn proper feline peeing practices. That's sad... One of my FCEs said I make students read my personal blog. I can't remember ever even giving a student the address to this page... The excitement over those first 100 hours sure wore off fast... Suddenly, everyone is driving Mrs. TANBI's car... My caller ID says the person who is constantly calling our number by mistake is named Rodney. If he keeps calling I think I might post his phone number... We're waiting on hopefully good news here - cross you fingers for us...

Lets Get Ready to Rumble

Monday, January 15, 2007

Trophy Ceremony

Today in a brief private ceremony, Maddie received her TANBI t-shirt to commemorate her Fall 2006 Semester Reviews Shoe Championship. She joins previous winners Kate & Shannon.

Congrats again to Maddie!

A Great Disturbance

Mrs. Tanbi and I went to the movies tonight. A premiere! We went to the Waterfront to see "A Great Disturbance." Its a sort of "mockumentary" following four Star Wars fans around a convention.

It was kind weird. I saw the thing on this events mailing list I am on. I got my tickets by emailing one of the film makers. While we were sitting there we felt like we were the only people in the theatre that weren't in one way or the other involved with the movie.

That's the cast and creative team. They talked a little before the film. They'd also done their own little powerpoint reel of preshow stuff with film facts. The even had a movie jumble, it was "3O-PC" which got a few giggles.

They were giving away free copies of the DVD to anyone that came in costume. Dearth Maul was guarding the door...

Yoda arrived late in black tie...

I saw a couple of off-duty stormtroopers checking their tickets...

or maybe they were looking for droids.

Joe, I'm really sorry I didn't think to mention this to you.

Anyway, big fun. How often do you get to go to a film premiere in Pittsburgh? Plus, we were out and everything.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Game Day Score

A picture is worth 1000 words...

I do have to say though, that after the school machine scanned 3 pages of the first document, that "out of memory" were not words I would have expected.

It's Game Day

Today is the Sunday before class starts. Out there in the world you might not know this, but the day before class starts is game day. Not everyone gets to play the game. Mostly its just faculty and a few put upon graduate assistants. Even many of them don't get to play because there is often a line and only one person can play at a time. Also, unless the person in question is a true game novice, then when the first person loses nobody else gets to play for at least a day.

This is a game I really don't like. But I have to play every semester if I am to properly do my job.

What is the game you ask? Well I will tell you. I have chosen to call the game "Copier Roulette."

Here's how it works:

You come in to school when there's nobody around and you complete your documentation for the first day of class. So this is a syllabus - something that here at CMU explodes up to 7 or 8 pages that want to be copied, two sided, collated, & stapled. Then with that there are often first assignments that have sheets. Of course this is just in my world. In other worlds there are even bigger things to be copied. The Colloquium people seem to xerox nearly an entire library each semester these days, and there are always PMs and SMs churning out schedules, memos, and even scripts.

But I digress.

The gambling comes in by when you decide to make your copies. The further out you are, the better your odds of winning. Winning in this case would be represented by coming back to your office with everything copied, collated, and stapled. There are various degrees of losing. Sometimes you get your copies, but you have to collate and staple. Sometimes you get nothing. If you come in a week in advance, the odds are heavily in your favor. If you come in on Monday close to class time, your odds very nearly approach zero.

Really your odds are good pretty much up until the end of business on the Friday before. After that, there's a pretty steep curve until class time.

The reasons for failure come in all shapes and sizes too. It's possible there may just be a long line, or you could wind up behind one person with a big job to run. Then there are the old standbys - out of paper (which you can hedge against), out of staples, and out of toner (which can not be prepared for). The real culprit though is the paper jam.

There are a range of paper jam failures as well. Back in the day I really saw this range as wide, but I have since become jaded and they all seem the same. The grand-daddy of all of these failures is the "call key operator." I am sure when the race of humans is finally destroyed, a machine with a display reading "call key operator" will be involved. This is the double zero of copier roulette, the house always beats you and there's nothing you can do.

Somewhere short of that disaster is the best thing to find next to an unoccupied, working machine. Occasionally you have the good fortune to come upon a jammed machine that was fouled by an unsophisticated user. Then you might have to only add paper, or clear one little jam and then run your whole job. It's rare, but when it happens it is fantastic. Probably the most depressing incarnation of the paper jam failure is the "every other copy" failure. This is one where the machine works perfectly for a single copy and then jams. Once you clear it you get another perfect copy and then another jam, and another, and another. I used to have the patience for this, but no more.

Almost equally depressing is the "hidden scrap." This is what happens when the machine says there is something to be cleared but to save your life you would not be able to find it. You follow the numbers, manipulate the controls, probe away at the thing, close everything up, only to be told that you haven't found the little piece of lint it is grousing about. I used to have the patience for this as well, but yet again, no more.

So this is game day, and I am hoping that when I go to copy that I have a clear machine, but who knows.

There are contingency plans. Truth be told, only Monday's syllabus has to be ready for Monday. This time around I have one I don't need all the way until Friday - although the odds don't improve much as the week goes along. I also have a key to the other copier. But as the second copier is not as robust as the first, once the primary machine goes down, the backup isn't usually that far behind. Sometimes you can just bite the bullet and run all of the copies you need out of the printer. But that's just bad form, and of course leaves you with a fairly massive collating and stapling job. I've also got a company card, so I guess in the very worst case I could go to Office Depot and have them copy it. I'm not sure if that changes anything though - just moving into another league. We can't be the only people starting up Monday.

Perhaps this will be the semester I offer all documentation as .pdf files from my web directory. That'd moot the whole thing.

But where's the thrill in that?

Saturday, January 13, 2007

And Another One

Boing Boing: A Directory of Wonderful Things: "Pentagon official: Boycott Gitmo defense lawyers
A Pentagon official has called for a corporate boycott of law firms that represent Guantanamo detainees. He thinks that if you've been accused of conspiring to undermine democracy that you should be denied your democratic right to counsel, to prove how great democracy is. It's demo-crazy."


Think Progress: "Stephen G. Rademaker, U.S. assistant secretary of state for arms control, is leaving the State Department for a lucrative lobbying job at the firm of Barbour Griffith & Rogers."

Thursday, January 11, 2007

We Have a Winner!

Voting is closed. In an incredibly tight race, with a come from behind win, the winner is:

Maddie K!

Final tally: Maddie K - 24, Jesha - 23, Alana - 22, Maddie R - 10, Jenn O - 9, Jillian - 6, and tying with 5 Jenn B & Kathryn. There were an amazing 73 votes. Congrats to all participants.

No, No, Can't Make Me!

Who is it that I see about getting another week of vacation? We're back to work Monday and really I just feel like I could use a little more time. In the lingo: "I believe it is pedagogically necessary for me to have seven more days of recuperation."

I know this because I am really not getting anywhere on my list. There's this thing I am supposed to have done for a conference - done last Friday as a matter of fact. Is it finished? No. Stagecraft, Basic PTM, Computer Apps AutoCAD, Rigging Seminar, PTM Thesis syllibi, complete? No. Progress on the semester three PTM class? Zip. Schedule for next mini's stagecraft calls? Nope. Assignments and lecture notes for the first week of class? Um, no. Any progress on the grant proposals? Not really. Meet about a DP Showcase website? Almost, but no.

There seems to be quite a bit to do.

But if I'd been doing that stuff, it'd hardly be vacation, would it?

I did laundry. I suppose that's something. I connected the cable to my video card. But I can't get the sound to work. I was going to reconfigure the laundry room, clean up the garage, buy the whiz-bang catbox and install it, read the GTD book, put up some hooks, scan some family photos, finish raking the leaves...

But if I'd been doing that stuff, it wouldn't really be vacation then either, no?

Frankly the way things have been going I have been thrilled to be dressed by sundown. But I guess I ought to gear up a little more than that or I will either have to cancel class or teach in my pajamas, which I don't think would be all that disruptive, but the walk from the garage to my office would be very, very cold.

Maybe I should just come up with a real hard project and have all my classes work on it for the first couple of weeks. Thesis doesn't meet until the second mini, so that's one down. Cory is looking for someone to do a survey and drawing of the Gateway Plaza downtown, that almost sounds appropriate for the CAD class. I could have the Rigging class do a "practical" installing Alcina, but that would really only kill a couple of days.

I could have the Basic PTM class watch all of season one of Project Greenlight, and then follow that up with videos of The New Yankee Workshop. It would be different, but I think that would meet many of the goals of that class.

But somehow I think even in the backwater of theatre school I wouldn't get away with that sort of blatant vacation stretching. Which is too bad, because if there was a person to see, I would certainly want to see that person about getting another week of vacation...

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Meet the New Plan...

... same as the old plan.

Later tonight our President and Commander in Chief will hit the airwaves during Prime Time. It's Wednesday, but there's no Lost so I guess people won't mind all that much. The substance of the speech is supposed to be the culmination of his assimilation of the reports of advisers, the Pentagon, and the Iraq Study Group and how he's crafted this information into a new policy for winning the war in Iraq.

We should side trip here just to talk about the nature of the change of the discourse. Remember, it isn't the war in Iraq that we're fighting, it's "the war on terror." So the fact that we get a policy aimed at Iraq (if we do get a policy aimed at Iraq) is somewhat of a step in and of itself.

Although I think that's just about as far a step as we're likely to get.

It seems like they've leaked most of the idea already: a troop "surge" of 20,000 soldiers to hold the spaces cleared by us after we clear them because the Iraqis don't seem to be able to hold them. We have to say surge in quotes because if you look at the meaning of the word, it implies a momentary condition - typically involving something that rises and then falls. We're getting the rise part of the plan. I think it likely the fall part will be TBD.

Is it me, or is a troop surge just more "stay the course"?

Mr. President, when will the troops come home?

Well David, I'm glad you asked that. The troops will stand down when the Iraqis are able to stand up.

More of the same. The worst part is that I don't know what he could do. Is it within the realm of possibility that if he went to the floor of the General Assembly in NYC and said "oops. You were right, we weren't set up to do this alone." That the countries that haven't played a part in the Iraq campaign would step up to put their tongue in the fan so to speak?

If you will.

As it were.

Colin Powell had it right long long ago: "You break it, you bought it." But its not so much like breaking something at the store. If you do that you can leave it in the basement or put it on eBay or donate it to Goodwill or something. Breaking Iraq was more like adopting a kid. Maybe Powell should have told W that he could only have his Middle Eastern Country if he was going to feed it. Trouble is, there's no parent here to make sure the feeding gets done.

So we're going to surge the course.

What are we not going to do? Probably? We're not going to stop spending on the war as off the budget supplementals. We're not going to bring in more international participants to help shoulder both the monetary and personnel load. We're not really going to have any clearer picture of what it looks like when we're done.

I wonder if the United States can hold a past President financially liable for decisions made during his term of office?

No, we're in a CEO culture now. Bush will step down with a golden parachute I am sure. Something to rival any of the CEOs that drive their companies into the ground and then get paid off to leave. But think about it, who deserves more to live destitute for the remainder of their lives: the folks from Enron or the folks from the Bush White House? (We'll ignore whatever overlap there may happen to be between the groups.)

So, make sure you tune in. Maybe he'll pull a rabbit out of his hat. Because magic is the only thing that's going to make this better anything close to quickly.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Transformer Buddy - I’ll Take 20

OhGizmo!: "Yet another third party solution to this problem is the Transformer Buddy which is basically an adapter that offsets large transformers away from a power bar or wall outlet making sure they only end up using one spot. "

Sunday, January 07, 2007

So You Want a Career in The Theatre?

Not too long ago I found myself sitting in on a presentation, more a Q&A at a bagger weekend - or maybe parents weekend. One of those Saturday mornings I find myself in my faculty capacity talking to parents. In the course of this thing, one of the other faculty present brought up a tidbit I have since found is one of her favorites for this occasion, saying something akin to "at any given time more than 80% of Equity actors are unemployed."

Its possible she says this just to see the parents squirm some. There they are sitting next to their pride and joy children who are basking in the higher ed glow of the campus visit being told in so many words that their kids have no future.

In this particular case I took it upon myself to try to back them all away from the edge. I talked some about the difference between having "work" and having "a job" and how some actors work for a time and then don't work for a time and its built into how they are paid. I gave them a little line about how when an Equity member is working AGMA or SAG (or god forbid non-union) then they are in Equity's eyes "unemployed" for that time. Then some about how people who are essentially retired from acting keep their Equity membership for personal reasons. It seemed to help quite a bit. Several parents, mostly dads, stopped me after to say thank you.

Somewhere in the course of this rescue I mentioned that Actor's Equity is not like the Pipefitter's Local. They don't necessarily try to keep the workforce matched to the work available, and there's no hiring hall where you go to get into a show.

Which brings me to two articles from today's NewsPage:

The first is from the Times, although its been all over, about how the producers of the next Broadway production of "Grease" are going to cast their show through a TV reality show. I guess since they did it in England we have to do it here now. And that doesn't begin to convey the feeling I had discovering that there even was a production of "Grease" coming up.

Didn't it just close?

I guess the point I was looking for around this is that it is hard enough for Actors to land paying work anyway. Is there a real compelling reason to cast this way? It's not like they wouldn't have filled their audition call, and its not like they wouldn't have had dazzling talent show up for the auditions. One has to wonder if this is more about finding a "discovery" for the cast or finding the "disasters" they'll get to embarrass on the television show.

So through the miracle of the modern reality show we're going to convince even more people that maybe the career they have been looking for is Actor. Which rolls us around to article number two, which is supposed to be a positive sounding article from "Backstage" explaining that there have been more opportunities for actors in the past year. Specifically:
"In a report on conditions for the 2005-'06 season, Actors' Equity Association noted work weeks for actors rose by 9.6 percent in the Central Region, 4.5 percent in the West and fell less than 1 percent in the East. A work week is defined as one week of work for one actor. Overall, there were 299,493 work weeks. "
Which took me back to that weekend and the Pipefitter analogy. Doing the math, figuring an optimistic American 50 week work-year you come up with: 299,493 weeks/50 weeks/year= 5989.86 work years/year. Rounded and restated that means if Equity did work like a traditional trade union, they would close their books after accumulating roughly 6000 working actors because thats as many full time jobs there are.

But they don't work like that, and it's clear that the working actors don't all work 50 weeks out of the year. The article goes on to revise my colleague's 80% number:
"In a news release, Equity also stated the average number of union members working in a week was 5,759 (3,667 principals, 1,187 chorus members and 905 stage managers). With more than 45,000 members, approximately 13 percent were employed in any given week. "

I don't think that's going to make the parents feel better.

Saturday, January 06, 2007


Think Progress: "White House visitor records closed to the public.
“The White House and the Secret Service quietly signed an agreement last spring in the midst of the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal declaring that records identifying visitors to the White House are not open to the public.” The agreement came one day after Judicial Watch “asked a federal judge to impose sanctions on the Secret Service in a dispute over White House visitor logs for Abramoff.”"

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Plagiarism - ok Maybe More Like a Commercial

So I started the year off by pounding through the latest OSC book. Its near future science fiction, really just fiction, about a possible coming American civil war. Really its a lot like a Clancy book, but shorter and more focussed. It's also a wheels within wheels conspiracy story and all the way through you're never really sure who is pulling the strings.

Here's a little more background from the people behind the thing:

As Card books go, its a little less than. I guess that makes sense seeing as how really it is the bible for a video game just as much as it is a novel. Still its a good fast read.

Moreover, it makes some real interesting points about modern civil war, factionalization, history, and American politics. It would be very interesting to do a sort of "Ethics In America" type panel with Card as one of the participants, and maybe Newt Gingrich could bring his "Information Age" rhetoric to bear as well. The kernel of the thing has to do with comparisons of America to the Roman Empire and why the analogy is flawed.

So hooked am I by this line of thinking that I have stolen for you the entire text of Card's afterword from the novel. Do me a favor and convert my blatant plagiarism into a sales pitch and buy the book. Here's what Card says:

THE ORIGINATING premise of this novel did not come from me. Donald Mustard and his partners in Chair Entertainment had the idea for an entertainment franchise called Empire about a near-future American civil war. When I joined the project to create a work of fiction based on that premise, my first order of business was to come up with a plausible way that such an event might come about.

It was, sadly enough, all too easy.

Because we haven't had a civil war in the past fourteen decades, people think we can't have one now. Where is the geographic clarity of the Mason-Dixon line? When you look at the red-state blue-state division in the past few elections, you get a false impression. The real division is urban, academic, and high-tech counties versus suburban, rural, and conservative Christian counties. How could such widely scattered "blue" centers and such centerless "red" populations ever act in concert?

Geography aside, however, we have never been so evenly divided with such hateful rhetoric since the years leading up to the Civil War of the 1860s. Because the national media elite are so uniformly progressive, we keep hearing (in the elite media) about the rhetorical excesses of the "extreme rig~." To hear the same media, there is no "extreme left," just the occasional progressive who says things he or she shouldn't.

But any rational observer has to see that the Left and Right in America are screaming the most vile accusations at each other all the time. We are fully polarized-if you accept one idea that sounds like it belongs to either the blue or the red, you are assumed-nay, required-to espouse the entire rest of the package, even though there is no reason why supporting the war against terrorism should " imply you're in favor of banning all abortions and against restricting the availability of firearms; no reason why being in favor of keeping government-imposed limits on the free market should imply you also are in favor of giving legal status to homosexual couples and against building nuclear reactors. These issues are not remotely related, and yet if you hold any of one group's views, you are hated by the other group as if you believed them all; and if you hold most of one group's views, but not all, you are treated as if you were a traitor for deviating even slightly from the party line.

It goes deeper than this, however. A good working definition of fanaticism is that you are so convinced of your views and policies that you are sure anyone who opposes them must either be stupid and deceived or have some ulterior motive. We are today a nation where almost everyone in the public eye displays fanaticism with every utterance.

It is part of human nature to regard as sane those people who share the worldview of the majority of society. Somehow, though, we have managed to divide ourselves into two different, mutually exclusive sanities. The people in each society reinforce each other in madness, believing unsubstantiated ideas that are often contradicted not only by each other but also by whatever objective evidence exists on the subject. Instead of having an ever-adapting civilization-wide consensus reality, we have become a nation of insane people able to see the madness only in the other side.

Does this lead, inevitably, to civil war? Of course not-though it's hardly conducive to stable government or the long-term continuation of democracy. What inevitably arises from such division is the attempt by one group, utterly convinced of its rectitude, to use all coercive forces available to stamp out the opposing views.

Such an effort is, of course, a confession of madness. Suppression of other people's beliefs by force only comes about when you are deeply afraid that your own beliefs are wrong and you are desperate to keep anyone from challenging them. Oh, you may come up with rhetoric about how you are suppressing them for their own good or for the good of others, but people who are confident of their beliefs are content merely to offer and teach, not compel.

The impulse toward coercion takes whatever forms are available. In academia, it consists of the denial of degrees, jobs, or tenure to people with nonconformist opinions. Ironically, the people who are most relentless in eliminating competing ideas congratulate themselves on their tolerance and diversity. In most situations, it is less formal, consisting of shunning-but the shunning usually has teeth in it. Did Mel Gibson, when in his cups, say something that reflects his upbringing in an anti-Semitic household? Then he is to be shunned-which in Hollywood will mean he can never be considered for an Oscar and will have a much harder time getting prestige, as opposed to money, roles.

It has happened to me, repeatedly, from both the Left and the Right. It is never enough to disagree with me-I must be banned from speaking at a particular convention or campus; my writings should be boycotted; anything that will punish me for my noncompliance and, if possible, impoverish me and my family.

So virulent are these responses-again, from both the Left and the Right-that I believe it is only a short step to the attempt to use the power of the state to enforce one's views. On the right we have attempts to use the government to punish flag burners and to enforce state-sponsored praying. On the left, we have a ban on free speech and peaceable public assembly in front of abortion clinics and the attempt to use the power of the state to force the acceptance of homosexual relationships as equal to marriages. Each side feels absolutely justified in compelling others to accept their views.

It is puritanism, not in its separatist form, desiring to live by themselves by their own rules, but in its Cromwellian form, using the power of the state to enforce the dicta of one group throughout the wider society, by force rather than persuasion.

This despite the historical fact that the civilization that has created more prosperity and freedom for more people than ever before is one based on tolerance and pluralism, and that attempts to force one religion (theistic or atheistic) on the rest of a nation or the world inevitably lead to misery, poverty, and, usually, conflict.

Yet we seem only able to see the negative effects of coercion caused by the other team. Progressives see the danger of allowing fanatical religions (which, by some definitions, means "all of them") to have control of government-they need only point to Iran, Saudi Arabia, the Taliban, or, in a more general and milder sense, the entire Muslim world, which is oppressed precisely to the degree that Islam is enforced as the state religion.

Conservatives, on the other hand, see the danger of allowing fanatical atheistic religions to have control of government, pointing to Nazi Germany and all Communist nations as obvious examples of political utopianism run amok.

Yet neither side can see any connection between their own fanaticism and the historical examples that might apply to them. People insisting on a Christian America simply cannot comprehend that others view them as the Taliban-in-waiting; those who insist on progressive exclusivism in America are outraged at any comparison between them and Communist totalitarianism. Even as they shun or fire or deny tenure to those who disagree with them, everybody thinks it's the other guy who would be the oppressor, while our side would simply "set things to rights."

Rarely do people set out to start a civil war. Invariably, when such wars break out both sides consider themselves to be the aggrieved ones. Right now in America, even though the Left has control of all the institutions of cultural power and prestige-universities, movies, literary publishing, mainstream journalism-as well as the federal courts, they feel themselves oppressed and threatened by traditional religion and conservatism. And even though the Right controls both houses of Congress and the presidency, as well as having ample outlets for their views in nontraditional media and an ever-increasing dominance over American religious and economic life, they feel themselves oppressed and threatened by the cultural dominance of the Left.

And they are threatened, just as they are also threatening, because nobody is willing to accept the simple idea that someone can disagree with their group and still be a decent human being worthy of respect.

Can it lead to war?

Very simply, yes. The moment one group feels itself so aggrieved that it uses either its own weapons or the weapons of the state to "prevent" the other side from bringing about its supposed "evil" designs, then that other side will have no choice but to take up arms against them. Both sides will believe the other to be the instigator.

The vast majority of people will be horrified-but they will also be mobilized whether they like it or not.

It's the lesson of Yugoslavia and Rwanda. If you were a Tutsi just before the Rwandan holocaust who did not hate Hutus, who married a Hutu, who hired Hutus or taught school to Hutu students, it would not have stopped Hutus from taking machetes to you and your family. You would have had only two choices: to die or to take up arms against Hutus, whether you had previously hated them or not.

But it went further. Knowing they were doing a great evil, the Hutus who conducted the pogroms also killed any Hutus who were "disloyal" enough to try to oppose taking up arms.

Likewise in Yugoslavia. For political gain, Serbian leaders in the post- Tito government maintained a drumbeat of Serbian manifest destiny propaganda, which openly demonized Croatian and Muslim people as a threat to good Serbs. When Serbs in Bosnia took up arms to "protect themselves" from being ruled by a Muslim majority-and were sponsored and backed by the Serbian government-what choice did a Bosnian Muslim have but to take up arms in self-defense? Thus both sides claimed to be acting in self-defense, and in short order, they were.

And as both Rwanda and Bosnia proved, clear geographical divisions are not required in order to have brutal, bloody civil wars. All that is required is that both sides come to believe that if they do not take up arms, the other side will destroy them.

In America today, we are complacent in our belief that it can't happen here. We forget that America is not an ethnic nation, where ancient ties of blood can bind people together despite differences. We are created by ideology; ideas are our only connection. And because today we have discarded the free marketplace of ideas and have polarized ourselves into two equally insane ideologies, so that each side can, with perfect accuracy, brand the other side as madmen, we are ripe for that next step, to take preventive action to keep the other side from seizing power and oppressing our side.

The examples are--or should be--obvious. That we are generally oblivious to the excesses of our own side merely demonstrates how close we already are to a paroxysm of self-destruction.

We are waiting for Fort Sumter. I hope it doesn't come.

Meanwhile, however, there is this novel, in which I try to show characters who struggle to keep from falling into the insanity-yet who also try to prevent other people's insanity from destroying America. This book is fiction. It is entertainment. I do not believe a new American civil war is inevitable; and if it did happen, I do not believe it would necessarily take the form I show in this book, politically or militarily. Since the war depicted in these pages has not happened, I am certainly not declaring either side in our polarized public life guilty of causing it. I only say that for the purposes of this story, we have this set of causes; in the real world, if we should ever be so stupid as to allow a civil war to happen again, we would obviously have a different set of specific causes.

We live in a time when people like me, who do not wish to choose either camp's ridiculous, inconsistent, unrelated ideology, are being forced to choose-and to take one whole absurd package or the other.

We live in a time when moderates are treated worse than extremists, being punished as if they were more fanatical than the actual fanatics.

We live in a time when lies are preferred to the truth and truths are called lies, when opponents are assumed to have the worst conceivable motives and treated accordingly, and when we reach immediately for coercion without even bothering to find out what those who disagree with us are actually saying.

In short, we are creating for ourselves a new dark age-the darkness of blinders we voluntarily wear, and which, if we do not take them off and see each other as human beings with legitimate, virtuous concerns, will lead us to tragedies whose cost we will bear for generations.

Or, maybe, we can just calm down and stop thinking that our own ideas are so precious that we must never give an inch to accommodate the heartfelt beliefs of others.

How can we accomplish that? It begins by scorning the voices of extremism from the camp we are aligned with. Democrats and Republicans must renounce the screamers and haters from their own side instead of continuing to embrace them and denouncing only the screamers from the opposing camp. We must moderate ourselves instead of insisting on moderating the other guy while keeping our own fanaticism alive.

In the long run, the great mass of people who simply want to get on with their lives can shape a peaceful future. But it requires that they actively pursue moderation and reject extremism on every side, and not just on one. Because it is precisely those ordinary people, who don't even care all that much about the issues, who will end up suffering the most from any conflict that might arise.

Orson Scott Card, "Empire", pp341-347, Tor 2006

Voice Of God Revealed To Be Cheney On Intercom

The Onion - America's Finest News Source: "Telephone logs recorded by the National Security Agency and obtained by Congress as part of an ongoing investigation suggest that the vice president may have used the Oval Office intercom system to address President Bush at crucial moments, giving categorical directives in a voice the president believed to be that of God."


I guess the working won't be over for ever... The first run of SchemeWear sold out! I wonder if I will get to do more... Another First Night Video... My desk is a mess... James Brown, Gerald Ford, Saddam Hussein, and Jerry Boyle, now that is some weird ass play God is doing this week... Shoe voting will continue until the post leaves this page. It's a tight three way race at the moment, and Jenn and Kathryn have gotten past the shut out... Here's a pretty slick First Night video showing a lot of the other things that were around... The smallest thing can turn out to be important. Or put another way: two tarps, four broomsticks, a hand full of zip-ties, and 50' of line can make a huge difference in the rain... I'm thinking we're close to a goodwill trip here, or a garage sale, or both. Maybe a blog-sale... Two big envelopes to Chicago today, one for Katy and another I know not what for... My parents have poisoned my bedroom TV experience... I'm conflicted, should I upset the entire spring crew assignments applecart, or just leave it alone? Only time will tell... Here's a first night video that's a good example of why adolescents and video cameras are not a great mix... I forgot Heather's birthday. I am a weasel... Do I have to finish my work from last semester, or can I just start on the spring stuff??? Is January too late to finish raking leaves??? Strangely enough, dissolving confetti looks a lot like snot. And newsflash!!!: It doesn't necessarily dissolve...

Party at the Sliver!

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

First Night Pittsburgh Wrap Up - With Ellipses...

So, the message of the evening was: Damp, but not defeated... The rain held off all through the set up... Here is one of the early looks at Penn Avenue Place:

Although the events were at the cultural distric on Penn, you had to walk over a block to see the kick-off fireworks by the 6th Ave. Bridge:

Several people didn't get to Fort Duquesne Ave before the fireworks ended, but thats nobody's fault but theirs... The sound guys had to do their own tent due to a SNAFU, it very nearly blew away... Most of my work got re-assigned, my day job was mostly lean-to maker... The family tent people were very happy with their rocket, here's an early shot:

and here is another shot later, after a change in the weather... of course we used the right sealer, what are we some kind of ya-hoos???

Marisa did some very nice looks for the duration of the event. Here's something peachy from the Highmark pedestrian bridge:

Working in the Highmark building gives many opportunities for good work, but they'd really rather you not touch anything, and leave as soon as possible... The beeping in the background is the pedestrian alert that ran all night even though the street was closed. Cory says after a while you don't even hear it. He's wrong... Here's one of the more dynamic early looks on the side of Penn Avenue Place:

There were a bunch of other looks as well... Somewhere along the line the front of house heater got re-tasked, that was unfortunate... Reviews on crew food? "At least it's not flat meat" about sums it up... I tried to shoot this next look like a dozen times as a still, but it just doesn't capture it...

I spent a good deal of time hoping the crowd would spontaneously construct a dance to mirror the movement of the numbers. It didn't happen... Did you know that when dissolvable confetti gets wet it looks a lot like snot? Me either... Another of the pre-show looks:

Finally the iguanas had finished, the mayor had spoken, the clock had ticked down and it was time for the show...

It is at this point that I discover that like my phone, which only takes 8 second videos, my camera drops out at 180 seconds... Seeing as how the show was seven minutes that wasn't so great... Part two:

When next I looked, the camera had turned itself off, afraid I might be squandering battery power... The lights looked great... The confetti looked good... Zambelli was Zambelli... The ball? It was a ball... Here's the end look:

and of course, non of this would have been possible without the greatest designer/project manager ever, Mrs. TANBI:

A great time was had by all... The rain stopped just in time to load out... The lean-tos had done their job... My days as a crew member might be coming to an end, just too old... I wonder what team Cope will sell them for next year???

Here are some additional videos...

I Think I Said THat

Think Progress: "Former NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw, who delivered a eulogy at President Gerald Ford’s funeral today, appeared this morning on the Don Imus radio show. Brokaw agreed with Imus that it is “difficult to imagine” how the execution of Saddam Hussein “could have turned out worse.”

“[W]e portray ourselves around the world as the champions of democracy and the rule of law,” Brokaw said, yet Hussein’s execution “resembled the worst kind of nightmare out of the old American West.” As a result, Hussein, who “had disappeared, in effect, as some kind of a symbol over there, suddenly becomes a martyr.”"