Drooling on the Pillow

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Sign of the Times 

Debra Galant, The Barista, has a letter in the Jersey Section of the Times this morning, gently slapping around Glen Ridge signage ordinances.

Friday, February 25, 2005


We had orange for the Ukraine, purple for Iraq. We should get ready for Lebanon.

I'm a guy that often gets The Look when I put on a tie in the morning. I just keep trying ties until The Look goes away.

Does anything go with Orange and Purple? Green is Lebanon's color, but I'm not confident in this area.

What We Do For Art 

I normally don't have the shuffle mode turned on when I listen to my iPod, but I did last night on my way home and it coughed up "My Name" a tune from Oliver!, which brought back some memories.

Sometime in the early '80s I was cast as Bill Sykes, the psychopathic felon, in a production of Oliver! at Queensborough Community College under a Guest Artist contract. Most of the cast were students and community members, professionals were hired for Bill and Nancy, Fagin, Bumble and, I think, Oliver. It wasn't my most memorable role.

The director was a friend of mine and thought he was doing me a favor by casting me. Truly, a paycheck is always appreciated, but this was a casting decision akin to having Adam Sandler in the title role of "The Henry Kissinger Story." I'm not a scary guy. Or a big guy. And I'm a tenor.

But I am an actor and a lot can be done with makeup and costume. I probably wasn't as bad as I thought I was, but I know nobody went home whistling "My Name".

The major reason I took the part was that Bob, the director, told me that E.G. Marshall was going to play Fagin. That would be interesting, I thought, but when I showed up for the first reading Bob took me aside and told me Mr. Marshall had backed out and Fagin was going to be played by Ray Heatherton. Also interesting, I thought, but not in the same way.

Ray was a musical star in the '30s, later a vocalist with Paul Whitman and other big bands and later, for many years, the host of a very popular Long Island radio show. And, yes, Joey's father.

He wasn't bad. Not bad at all. But he was very old. And very cranky. I got the feeling he was embarrassed to be appearing at QCC and dealt with it by complaining about everything and trying to direct everyone behind Bob's back. It didn't make for a happy cast.

Anyway, Bob was a believer in special effects and big, complicated sets. He liked spectacle. This set was fantastic, really. It was huge, and loaded with secret doors and passageways and it was designed with the climax in mind.

At the end of the play the angry Londoners are chasing Bill Sykes through the alleys and warrens of London and finally corner him. I am standing at the top of this pyramidal set on a pipe railing, about 25 feet off the stage with one hand holding a street lamp and the other hand grabbing Oliver's collar. I make like I'm going to fling him over the rail and into the Thames and say something like "Let me go or I'll kill the boy." A pin spot lights a man down left who raises a pistol and shoots. I'm supposed to clutch my chest and fall backwards off the set 25 feet into a pole vault pit.

Heights don't bother me. I was nervous, though, about throwing myself backwards into the dark from that height and uncomfortable with the fact that we didn't get to do any of this until dress rehearsal. When the moment came the lad playing Oliver (bless his heart) bobbed and twisted away. I'm sure he was just 'acting', but I knew that if he slipped off the back of the platform he wasn't going to hit the pit and I jerked down to get a better grip on him. My feet slipped off the pipe and I went straight down, catching my arm on the pipe as I went past. I landed half on the pit with, miraculously, the only injury a dislocated shoulder.

Well, the good part is, it was the end of the show so we got almost all the dress rehearsal in. The bad part is it took two hours to reduce the dislocation and I headed into opening night with a head full of pain killers.

Obviously, my standing-on-the-railing-hurling-vengeance-upon-the-crowd days were over so the next afternoon we worked out a deal where at some point in the final chase I would duck into one of the hidey-holes on the set and change costumes with a member of the chorus who was chosen because he could fit into the costume. He would do the final charge to the top of the set and the dive off the back.

It worked out well because my replacement was, or had been, I swear to God, an Israeli paratrooper and he loved doing the dive. He was great. He had a kind of heavy accent, though, so I had to stand behind the set and do the final line while he covered his face with his arm, Snidely Whiplash-style. We bumped the lights down a couple clicks and no one who knew me and saw the show ever noticed the difference.

Casting is Half of the Show 

Great shots of FBI informant Robert 'Duke' Steffer, the odorless 'cop' behind the Monmouth 11 sting, by Star-Ledger photog Andrew Mills are posted at Shabe's Jersey Side.

Report From The Front 

Tim Hill at The Atlantic Highlands Muse has a very informative post on a Borough Council meeting in the wake of the Monmouth 11 scandal and the funny business at the Monmouth prosecutors office that cut the sting short. He has also performed a service for Councilman Ray "I can smell a cop a mile away" O'Grady that is a bloggers highest duty. Applying a tag line that will stick. "I can smell an idiot a mile away." Mr. O'Grady will, or at least should, go to his grave with that hanging around his neck.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

I Blame Rove 

Tara, formerly Governor McGreevey's appointment secretary, got the Trump-a-Dump on The Apprentice tonight. She now is Senior Manager of Government and Community Relations for the Port Commerce Department of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Not bad for a high school graduate. Or was she?

After Golan Cipel and now Tara Dowdell, I'm thinking anyone who worked for McGreevey had better have a very tight resume, because it's going to get looked at very closely.

I Can Only Tell You Three Things 

This is from the early shift of the NRO "Timewaster" mill posted there by K.J. Lopez. It's called "Petals Around The Rose." I can only tell you two things. According to the website the smarter you are the longer it will take and I got it within twenty seconds. This does not surprise me.

UPDATE: There are semi-spoilers in comments.

Go, Bret 

Yesterday I received the first mailing I've gotten from the Schundler campaign. Its a slick and expensive looking brochure. The outside doesn't look like campaign literature, more like something from the History Book Club and the copy is "There's good news for those who missed the Boston Tea Party. You now have a second chance to make history . . ." His name is very tiny under the address. It looks to me like it's asking to get tossed. But then the only thing I ever ran for was class vice president in the fifth grade and I got hammered by Dorcus Evans.

The inside is much better and states his message very clearly:

Pass a constitutional amendment to slow the growth of
state government and send more of your tax money
back to local public schools and municipal government
to improve services and lower your property taxes.

Pass a second consitutional amendment giving
taxpayers effective new powers to control school and
local spending.

Cut state spending for non-property tax relief
purposes to close the state deficit.

These are essentially the points he's been making in much more detail for the past year or so with his organization Empower The People.

Dear Tina on Manners 

I usually enjoy Tina Brown's column in the New York Sun. While she often prowls the same fetid swamps as Modo she does it in a more adult mannor. And she can write.

Today, though, in the midst of an otherwise interesting piece musing on the tone-deafness of powerful men (Larry Summers, Michael Eisner, Howell Raines) she drops this in the punchbowl:
There were so many blunders of tone in the first
Bush term that Condi Rice in her Jackie O pearls
was required to go and suck up to wounded European
leaders in advance of the presidential visit.

Okay, European Leaders, how many felt sucked-up to? Tony, you don't count. Nobody else? How many felt softly bruised about the head and shoulders? You can put your hands down now.

As for 'blunders of tone' I think we are talking about Michael Kinsley's definition of 'gaffe.' An inconvenient truth spoken out loud.

Let The Marketing Begin! 

Mr. Snitch is far ahead of the curve in finding the salty snack lining in the Monmouth 11 scandal. Also, if the Sopranos lost it's bite for you when Big Pussy went to sleep with the singing fishes, he has the solution to that as well.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

A Dark and Stormy Night 

Tim Blair was a fly on the wall as a particularly fiendish Rovian plot was hatched.

Conflict of Interest 

What would seem to be a blindingly obvious solution to the projected $4 billion budget shortfall in New Jersey (fire a bunch of people and cut a few billion in services) is, of course, no such thing. But that's only partly because of the political cost of depriving voters of their accustomed teat.

You have to get used to understanding state government as an interest group, whose priorities conflict, as often as not, with the people it serves. In any government where there is no serious partisan competition, all governmental energies can and will be focused on institutionalizing itself. Taxes are raised, not to provide essential services, not to protect the downtrodden, not to build a better future. Your money is confiscated for three reasons: protect incumbancy, expand the percentage of the public dependent on the goodwill of Trenton, provide a fund to disburse to influential power brokers and businesses. As an interest group, it's easy to see why government resists spending cuts and focuses on higher taxes for the problems that high taxes got us into.

It's also obvious how our overlords fall into the habit of looking at the wealth of our state as being in one of two categories; their money and money they haven't gotten their hands on yet. From that point of view the Monmouth Eleven's crime was merely one of impatience. It's their money, after all, why should they be put through the drudgery of grabbing it legally?

There's a spot open now for a Democrat who wants to take on the county bosses and be the crusading Tom Dewey of corruption. That Jon Corzine is trying to sell himself as that Democrat after buying the nomination is just a measure of how far we have to go to get out of the swamp.

I don't think Democrats are more corrupt than Republicans, but if the Franciscans had a franchise on taxation and disbursement you'd see them in perp walks, too. It's nobody's fault but us Republicans that we're not competitive in this state. Until we are we'll have a government of the felons, by the felons, for the felons.

UPDATE: Perp walk photos courtesy of Shabe at The Jersey Side.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

My Girl 

Posted by Hello

On spring break and staying in the city. Missing her.

Jersey Being Jersey 

While the pols in Trenton mumble aimlessly about reform and pay-to-play legislation, the FBI went proactive today and cut a fairly wide slice out of Monmouth county's elected officialdom.

Patrick at Jerseystyle! has pictures and he links to the Star Ledger's AP story. Good lord, if they're taking down 11 pols in Monmouth county, when they get to Hudson they're going to have to open up another Guantanamo.

Anybody think this is the end of it?

Monday, February 21, 2005

Adolph's Grandson, Fair and Balanced 

Coffeegrounds, whose sub-head 'Evil Stalks the Burbs' always seemed to me to express an ontological ambiguity (who be the stalker, who be the stalkee?) links to a Daily Show segment on blogging that surrounds the story. It really does.

John Raitt 

If you've been waiting for the third shoe to drop after the news of the deaths of Sandra Dee and Hunter Thompson, it's John Raitt.

I always followed his career for the not very good reason that the first show I was ever in was The Pajama Game which was his first movie. Gordon MacRae stole his best two roles for the movies (Oklahoma, in which Raitt replaced Alfred Drake on Broadway and Carousel, which he originated). That happens often to women who lose their theatrical roles to movie stars with more chestal throw-weight, but it made no sense to me with Raitt, especially with regard to Carousel. If you listen to the original cast recording you'll agree that no one could do it better. And no one has. For me he had the definitive set of Broadway pipes. And from everything I ever read, he was a lovely man. A gentleman.

UPDATE: Go to The Glittering Eye for a great photo of Raitt and Jan Clayton in Carousel.

It's Not Easy Being Green in Black and White 

I stole this from Mr. Snitch, a Hoboken blogger who deserves more attention. It's a tribute to Jim Henson by a trio of French animation school students as a graduation project. It's eerie, creepy, beautiful and stunning.

UPDATE: I neglected to mention Mr. Snitch snatched it from Joeytomatos.com.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Do You Believe in Magic? 

I just finished watching a replay of the U.S./U.S.S.R. hockey game at the 1980 Olympics on ESPN. Yudus Priest, it was just as exciting as I remember it. The fact is, the U.S. team was a good deal better than anyone knew (there were six or seven solid NHL careers on that team) and the Soviets that year were a little weaker than anyone knew, but the last 10 minutes were about as good as hockey can get.

Previously I've acknowledged one of the five dumbest things I've done in my life (selling a 1953 Hudson) and I'm now going to acknowledge another. I had a ticket to that game. I sold it for what seemed to me the no-brainer price of $350. I was part of a repertory company in Lake Placid on a LORT contract from 1978 to 1980. The whole idea of the company was to be the American theatrical representatives to the world, but at the last moment the Long Wharf was brought in and we were dissolved. It wasn't a matter of us not being good enough (we did a production of Scapino that was gangbusters), it was just the way things work out sometimes. I saw that $350 as a kind of payback and it was. Just not the way I thought.

And the very worst part is, I probably could have gotten at least $500.

Toga! Toga! Toga! 

Spring break starts tomorrow and the Sluggo-babes are headed into the city for the week to stay with the mother-in-law. You know what that means. The beer truck backs up to the house tomorrow, the poker game starts at 9 am sharp and the endless round of sordid, meaningless coupling begins.

There are upsides to your wife not being able to negotiate her way on the computer to your blog. The major one is that she needn't know what an idiot and liar you are. Well, at least you're not providing documentation.


An article by William Voegeli, The Endless Party, in the latest Claremont Review of Books about the Democratic Party's struggle to discover/define/be honest about their message quotes Claremont's Editor Charles Kesler "Clinton apparently believed that there was a Third Way between fidelity and adultery and between telling the truth and lying."

According to Voegeli the lack of clarity and coherence concerning what exactly Democrats stand for goes back many years.
Raymond Moley, an erstwhile advisor to FDR, wrote of
the New Deal in his memoirs, "To look upon these programs
as the result of a unified plan, was to believe that the
accumulation of stuffed snakes, baseball pictures, school
flags, old tennis shoes, carpenter's tools, geometry books,
and chemistry sets in a boy's bedroom could have been put
there by an interior decorator." In 1940 another New
Dealer, the economist Alvin Hansen, admitted, "I really do
not know what the basic principle of the New Deal is.
I know from my experience in the government that
there are as many conflicting opinions among the people in
Washington as we have in the country at large."
This was perhaps not a liability during the Depression as they gave the largely accurate impression that, no matter who you were, there was something in the grab bag for you. They were sustained through World War II by a strong leader who, while not clarifying a unified message of the party, replaced it with a crystal clear voice of his own.

On they drifted through the decades, staying in power by being all things to all people until they bumped up against 9/11 when, what until then was merely exasperating to conservatives and annoying to thoughtful liberals became a positive liability. There's no question that mid- to late-twentieth century liberalism had accomplishments, some of which anyone would call a net gain for the nation, but their programme remained throughout this time merely rhetorical, a stew of inspiration and feelings. The bien penseur with hardening arteries.

He points out that the list of things Democrats are for is endless. Liberal policy prescriptions are aimed less at the polity than at the expansion and enhancement of individual license and potential. "We have seen the future, and it's an adult education seminar, where ever-greater latitude is afforded to ever-smaller souls, and where freedom means nothing higher than the care and feeding of personal idiosyncrasies. "The question they have to answer is what are they against?
Tell us that the stacking of one government program on
top of the other is going to stop, if indeed it will, well short
of a public sector that absorbs half the nation's income and
extensively regulates what we do with the other half.
Explain how the spirit of live-and-let-live applies, if indeed
it does, to everyone equally; to people who take family,
piety, and patriotism seriously, not merely to people whose
lives and outlooks are predicated on regarding them ironically.
Answers to these questions , or at least awareness of their relevance, were forthcoming from Scoop Jackson, Daniel Patrick Moynahan and, even today, from Joe Lieberman (Pariah-CT). Nancy, Ted and Harry? Over to you.
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