Drooling on the Pillow

Saturday, June 18, 2005

What Is Yasir To Me Or Me To Yasir? 

For the Goddess' birthday I got tickets to the matinee today of the Royal Shakespeare Company's production of Hecuba at BAM.

That's love.

I did a production of the Oresteia in college and at the Pearl Theatre downtown I did Antigone. Surely that's enough for one lifetime.

It was a real culture-vulture crowd and they really seemed to get off on it, but I'll be frank; Greek drama doesn't do it for me. And this was the RSC and Vanessa Redgrave. It was done just about as well as it can be done and, for me, it was an hour and forty minutes of brain-drilling boredom.

Now, the reason they did it and the reason Redgrave accepted the role is that they saw some parallels in the script to W and the war in Iraq. I was surrounded by people who wanted to signal that they got every single shred of irony frictioned off by the supposed parallels by forced laughter at the most inappropriate moments. Kids, Greek drama and irony are not a match.

But it did occur to me this afternoon that what it does resemble most in modern theatre is agit-prop. The same inevitability, the same lack of nuance, the same relentless level of passion and the same lack of simple life. It's drama. It's Greek. To me, it's still spinach.

Vanessa Redgrave may be a nit-wit, but she is a great actress.

To even the scales I made Lane promise to take me to a monster truck rally for my birthday.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Tris McCall 

Just got back from Tris McCall's set at the Brennan Courthouse. Definitely too cool for school.

I don't know how to describe it to you. I'm not very knowledgeable about contemporary music but I feel pretty sure if I was I still would never of seen anything like it. Try a little Buddy Holly, a lot of Tom Paxton, some Arlo Guthrie, presented by Moby. You with me?

But that doesn't really do it because what he sang about, mostly, was Jersey City, Hudson County and New Jersey politics and policy. Schundler, Mendendez, McCann, the whole crowd. And what made it more surreal is that Tom DeGise introduced him.

I won't use the term Geek Rock, but lets say if Mr. McCall offered to reconfigure your hard drive, you'd be very comfortable saying yes.

But he has a charming manner and he can really sing and really play and I enjoyed it thoroughly. His songs are funny or angry and do what he intends for them. I'm a fan. I plan to be there when he plays with his band the next time.

As a side note, I expected Mr. Snitch! to be there and I planned to unmask him. However, I saw no one with a black slouch hat and a furtive manner.

Detective Gullace 

There's a story in the Times today about the incident at West District Precinct in Jersey City on Wednesday night.

A young man named Corey Harley, a former convict and member of the Bloods, was brought in with his girlfriend and two young children when, upon being told he was to be charged with domestic abuse, he pulled a .22 caliber handgun and started shooting up the precinct.

Michael Gulluce, a 37-year veteran of the Jersey City force, who had never before pulled his gun from his holster exposed himself to the fire in order to drag the young women and her two children to safety and covered them with his body as more than 60 shots were fired in just a couple of minutes. He was 15 days short of retirement.

On Thursday he received the first promotion of his career, 30 years to the day since he transferred in to the West Side station. He was made Detective. He and his wife, Geraldine, plan to spend weekends at the Jersey shore in his retirement.

He's 64 and he looks like he wouldn't turn down a Krispy Kreme if you insisted. But he's all cop. And a very brave man.

Turtles All The Way Down 

Just in case you don't visit National Review Online, you should have a chance to read Jonah Goldberg's funny and touching eulogy for his father.

Life Was Like That 

Jim, at Parkway Rest Stop, takes a trip down memory lane and lists five things he misses from childhood.

I can't improve upon his list.

I'd have to take out sleighs, though, since I never rode one until I was an adult. I'd substitute bikes. In the small town I grew up in we weren't restricted in where we could ride them and it was our first real taste of freedom. And speed. And broken arms.

On second thought, take out bikes and substitute catching salamanders.

Thursday, June 16, 2005


In college I played Tolen in The Knack by Ann Jellicoe. The stage directions for his first entrance have the sound of a motorcycle roaring up outside and then Tolen swaggering through the door. This wasn't good enough for the director who wanted an entrance on an actual motorcycle. I'd never been on one.

So he found a guy who was willing to lend a Honda Superhawk to the production and give me lessons. I thought I took to it pretty well, but at dress rehearsal I plowed through four rows of folding chairs before coming to rest against the permanent seats. It would have been bad had there been an audience and I was willing to rethink the whole thing, but the director wasn't. He was in love with the idea. So on we went.

There were only five or six performances and I managed to get through them without killing anyone. It was excellent preparation, actually, because before the show I was thinking about nothing but not pancaking Sister Marita who always sat just beyond where I was to (theoretically) bring the beast to a halt. Once I did that successfully, I was a guy without worries. Which, basically, was Tolen.

I was thinking about that because it occurred to me that the theatrical notion of 'preparation' really isn't used in other walks of life. The idea is that you have to change from one person to another, from one set of circumstances to an entirely different world. You walk into the theatre as Jiggs McFeeney, but you walk onto the stage as Stanley Kowalski. To do this with some consistency there are any number of techniques which, if applied with with common sense, give you some assurance that the guy you walk onto the stage will be the one you spent a month coming up with.

It's never occurred to me to use any of this after I left the theatah. If anything, I do the opposite; I de-prepare. Walking into the office every day I tend to empty my mind and wait for the first anvil to drop. And if it doesn't drop directly on my head, it lands in my general vicinity.

You might say business is more like improvisation than staged plays, but improvisation takes at least as much training and preparation. I'm not sure how I would apply my training to my current position. Standing in the elevator muttering "I hate my mother, I hate my mother, I hate my mother" probably wouldn't help me avoid the anvils. Especially, I hasten to add, because it's not true.

So my question is; no matter what you do for a living, are there steps that you take, organized, disciplined techniques, to prepare yourself to do it? Or am I dreaming of having a form of control over my work life that is not there to be had?

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Those Who Can Do, Those Who Can't Blog 

I'm so grateful for the kindness of Michael Blowhard of 2Blowhards who has posted my end of an exchange of emails we had concerning the nature of performing and the relationship between playwriting and acting.

For me, this is tall cotten indeed.

Well, It Is Painless 

From The Dax Files:

You scored as Suicide. Your death will be suicide. What more can I say? Fact: Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.







Natural Causes








Cut Throat












How Will You Die?
Created with Quizfarm.com

I can understand how the test got the idea; I'm a loner and do loner things, but before anyone takes a notion to stage an intervention, please be assured that this is not going to happen. I've always had a persistant, if sometimes elusive, notion that good, and even big, things are going to happen for me. And I consider myself very lucky in the Lottery of Small Things, where the balls are spinning all day, every day. Parking places, finding things, kindness of strangers, customer service representatives who speak English. I tend to get the bounce, or at least, that's my perception.

The option of being eaten is a little higher on my list than I would like, but if I had to put cash money on something it would be electrical fire. The fact that it's not on the list is an example of my luck.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

China Story 

The population of China is 1,306,313,812 and when you go there to adopt, you go to either Peking or Canton to file the paperwork. (Beijing and Guangzhou are places where Chinese people live. Peking and Canton are places Americans visit)

So if you are adopting from the south of China, the office you visit represents the orphans of (very) approximately 650 million people.

Canton was, for long periods of the colonial era the only ground permitted to non-Chinese. It has European gardens and churches and run-down, but tidy, areas that might be Perugia or Alsace. Almost.

There were six of us in the party, including the translator/handler when we went for our pre-adoption filings and we barely fit into two cabs. We were deposited in front of a huge colonial gate. Inside we could see a large courtyard with several small buildings and a fantastic old pile of a building that looked like the work of a 19th century European architect working with Chinese motifs. From the center of the courtyard rose the biggest tree I've ever seen in my life, whose shade covered the entire compound.

We were hustled into a tradesman's entrance and up three rickety flights to an office that might have been thirty feet long and fifteen feet wide. Four or five young women worked in the room. There were two tables they used for desks and two smaller tables that held a hot plate on one and nothing on the other. One wall was lined floor to ceiling with file cabinets and there were stacks of papers and office supplies here and there on the floor. There was a telephone. No copier, no fax.

I asked Cherry, our translator, if we would be getting to see the rest of the office. She told me that this was it. This office and these few young women handled all the paperwork, all the documentation and approvals for the thousands of international adoptions coming out of the south of China every year. They looked a little frazzled.

Apparently, their boss had a little cubicle of an office one floor up.

Our paperwork was flawed, unfortunately, by the omission of a particular stamp on our visas. This resulted in a lot of discussion and some heroic work by Cherry, who gave the impression that she would gladly shoot anyone who made any of us unhappy. The young women trooped up to the boss' office and came down singly or in groups to ask questions or to clarify a point.

Finally, after an hour or so of sometimes heated discussion one of the young women opened an old suitcase sitting in a corner and pulled out a rubber stamp and showed it to the others. Much discussion, many consultations with the boss. Finally, it was explained to me that this was not the stamp, but it would serve to get me through until we returned in two weeks for the final papers. It was carefully and repeatedly explained to me how I was to cure the flaw in our visa. I didn't understand a word of it, even in English, but Cherry said she did and that she would take care of it.

And she did.

School Daze 

DynamoBuzz, NJConservative and Enlighten-New Jersey are all over the New Jersey Schools Construction Corporation this morning. This is a story worth flogging, as it's emblematic of Trenton's approach to problems; take the money, spend the money, but for god's sake don't get anything for the money.

The front end of this story is one of those arrogant, annoying, blatantly unconstitutional findings by the State Supreme Court directing the spending of tax money to correct a perceived imbalance. Some school districts have more money than others. Agreed. That the Supreme Court can 'fix' this problem by appropriating the Assembly's taxing power and throwing $6 billion dollars at it is not just arrogant. It's stupid. Putting Paterson's schools in state hands for fourteen years and raising the per child spending to $13,000 sure fixed that problem, didn't it?

Now it turns out that it may take an additional $18 billion just to accomplish the original goals.

If Bill Clinton were running for governor this year, he'd see this as an ideal Sistah Soljah moment and pound the crap out of it for a week. Mumbles Corzine won't touch this with a ten foot check. Will Forrester?

UPDATE: Enlighten-New Jersey provides a link in comments to a Forrester ad addressing this issue. Go to the Television section and click on "Got To Stop".

The Shield 

I'll be watching the season ender tonight on The Shield. As a series, it's got a few things going against it; mainly that it's not The Wire, but would like to be. Also, I don't buy Michael Chiklis for a moment as the rageaholic, street smart urban avenger.

What it does have is Glenn Close, who is terrific, as always. I love her because I was once doing a production of The Rivals downtown and she went out of her way to be nice and complimentary to me.

Note to celebrities: if you want someone to testify on your behalf at your molestation trial, just say something nice about me or The Goddess. We'll be there.

Monday, June 13, 2005

He Wasn't Much On Exfoliation, Though 

I saw an ad on the TV tonight where this young man wasn't getting any because, apparently, he was using the wrong moisturizer. As soon as he starts using Hydra-Power Invigorating Moisturizer by L'Oreal, man, he starts swinging.

When I'm confused and uncertain on moisturizing issues I always think, "What would Chesty do?"

Sunday, June 12, 2005

What We Did Last Night 

Lane went to a 40th reunion of her 8th grade class last night. I never heard of such a thing, but I guess they do those kind of things when you go to a school named Nightingale-Bamford. I spent eighth grade at Twinbrook Elementary Extension. There's no web site. And I haven't heard any plans for a reunion. If there was one it would probably be here.

Anyway, there's nothing like going to a reunion and being the skinniest person there, so she's a happy camper this morning.

As a result, I got to take Grace to see a show last night.

Let me recommend, first of all, for those with progeny still in the house, The New Victory Theater on the Deuce. It's in the old Victory Theatre, before that the Belasco Theatre, before that something else. It saw duty as a XXX house in the seventies and eighties. But it's a beautiful restoration and the place is a real gem.

And this outfit really does it well. They put on great shows at reasonable prices and every aspect of it, from reservations to customer support to getting in and getting out is smooth and easy.

Normally I can take New Circus or leave it alone and that goes for Cirque du Soleil, too. Very precious, very airy-fairy, far too meaningful for what I think of as an experience that needs (aside from good acts) only a little sense of threat and panic and lewdness to be successful. Just a bunch of Canadians and Swiss with an unlimited art budget. But that's just me.

The show last night was an example of the genre called Rain. It was all the things I complained about above (throw in a couple Belgians and Americans) but I had a great time and so did Grace. The circus acts were tremendous and there were a couple the likes of which I've never seen before. But it was done with a sweetness and humor that was (what all these shows are going for) disarming. I was disarmed. And amazed. And amused.

And the last twenty minutes was done under a rain storm on stage. You don't see that every day.

Don't Miss the Side Show 

Enlighten-New Jersey's Carnival of the New Jersey Bloggers #4 is hot off the server and is a nice mix of left and right and just goofy New Jersey stuff.

The highlight for me was The Center of NJ Life's observation that "Robert Schoeder, Paul DiGaetano and Todd Caliguire each received fewer votes than Democratic gubernatorial candidate James Kelly, Jr. Kelly resides in a group home for the mentally ill." That can spin either way. But don't forget, Todd Caliguire got only 7,201 votes more than Sluggo.

The Daily News now has a blogger column. I think. In the paper it looks like a column, but on-line it looks like a story.

The Jersey Journal Best of the Blogs column yesterday featured Coffegrounds and Dynamobuzz.
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