Drooling on the Pillow

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Irony Stops Fifty Feet Up 

I took Grace into the City tonight to the New Victory Theater to see the Golden Dragon Acrobats. I blogged about the New Victory previously here and I highly recommend pretty much anything they do for kids under twelve or so. Very high production standards, very together organization and they put on great shows on the New Deuce for not that much money. Our seats tonight were somewhere around seven bucks. Links to the New Victory are there under the link above.

The Golden Dragons are as amazing as, well, Chinese acrobats. Hoops, balls, flags, drapes, chairs, hats, poles, spinning plates, ladders, umbrellas, bikes and yo-yos all perform perfectly impossible tasks. You see it; you don't believe it.

However, take away the astonishing tricks and the unearthly skills and you've got the Power Rangers. Same costumes, the same operatic pose queens. We once put on a show in college that consisted of nothing but curtain calls. The act of soliciting applause and accepting acclaim at the end of the show or the completion of a trick reminds me of the discredited notion of "ontology recapitulates phylogeny". In fact, what a curtain call does is sum up and recreate the essential elements that took months or years to develop in putting together the piece. And it calls upon you, the audience, to render an opinion whether you want to or not. Standing up, sitting on your hands, golf pattering or cheers and beating your hands bloody; they all make you a part of what has happened and the way the bows are presented usually says something about the process that's brought you to that moment. Or at least something about what the creators intended.

Chinese acrobats solicit applause in a very imperious and stylized way. The moment is taken and a specific response is demanded. I like it, though. I like the confidence of it and the formalism they adhere to in the presentation. Six to ten year olds are taught dramatic structure by Sponge Bob where, not only can anything happen, but nothing happens without a heaping ladle of irony. Perhaps the irony is the come-on for the adults (and I do laugh out loud at Sponge Bob occasionally), but maybe snarkiness isn't what we want to lock our kids into before they get to Mark Twain.

The headline act is a kid that does the stacking chair act where he puts one chair on top of another straight up into the air and does his one-armed handstands at each level. He eventually got up well above the proscenium, probably fifty feet above the stage. Then he starts putting the last chair at queer angles and doing his handstands. It was terrifying, frankly, to watch and when he started milking his applause and teasing us with 'one more' and demanding applause, the house gave it to him willingly. His demand broke a spell of disbelief and brought us back to realizing it was a real guy doing a seemingly impossibly dangerous thing. The audience adored him for his demand. Most people, I bet, like me, were forced to the realization that, even if I could do it, there's not enough money in the world to make me do it. Great stuff.

For those who didn't get their nightly dose of irony at the New Victory, a couple doors down at B.B. King's there was a long line to get in to see Davy Jones of the Monkees.

Friday, November 18, 2005

John McCain 

From an Op-Ed in the New York Post:
Imagine Iraqis, working for the new government,
considering whether to join the police force, or
debating whether or not to take up arms. What will they
think when they read that the Senate is pressing for
steps toward draw-down?

Are they more or less likely to side with a government
whose No. 1 partner hints at leaving?

The Senate has responded to the millions who braved
bombs and threats to vote, who put their faith and
trust in America and their government, by suggesting
that our No. 1 priority is to bring our people home.

We have told insurgents that their violence does grind
us down, that their horrific acts might be successful.
But these are precisely the wrong messages. Our exit
strategy in Iraq is not the withdrawal of our troops,
it is victory.

Americans may not have been of one mind when it
came to the decision to topple Saddam Hussein. But,
though some disagreed, I believe that nearly all now
wish us to prevail.

Because the stakes there are so high - higher even
than those in Vietnam - our friends and our enemies
need to hear one message: America is committed to
success, and we will win this war.
I don't pretend to understand what the motives are of those in government or elsewhere who are calling for an immediate withdrawal or insisting on a full public accounting of intelligence in the middle of a conflict and I'm not about to characterize them.

I'm not being coy or insinuating about this. I'm certain there is political calculation in the mix on both sides. Beyond that, however, principled arguments can be made for staying or going. I'll only say this: rage and frustration, probably stemming from the 2000 election, are blinding much of the Left to the principles that oppose them. From that they conclude that anyone who opposes them is without principle. Your arguments needn't be coherent or consistent when you perceive your opponent to be evil.

I don't think of the President's opponents as traitors. Some may be, of course, but I don't think that's significant in this argument. I think they're mistaken.

Where I've Been 

There's been a massive meeting going on all week in our office. I was told the deal had fallen apart and things would be quiet today, giving us some time to put the place back together. In fact, before I left last night I arranged for a number of cars to take the participants to JFK

Alas, I arrived this morning to find them back and dealing away. I don't do much blogging when things are especially hot at work, which accounts for Sluggo's lameness all week. I've got one of those jobs where I have a good deal of time some times and less than no time the rest of the time. This week when I got home it was an adult beverage and play with the kid.

I found one of the clients sitting at my desk when I arrived this morning. I was about to give him the heave when he started talking to me about my collection of books. He also likes history and especially military history. That was because, he told me, he was in the Falklands War.

That was a first for me so I got another chair and sat down and we had a nice talk. I have Brit friends who you don't want to get started on the subject, but I didn't expect that the first participant I met would be from Argentina.

I know about as much about the Falklands War as he did about the American Civil War, but both were of interest to each of us so we filled each other in on what we found most fascinating about those conflicts and had a very enjoyable half hour.

Just to show you what a vital cog I am around here, though, these guys have been here for four days and I thought they were Mexicans.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Blogging Is A Whizz 

Mike Peters must have been following me home.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

To The Canton Restaurant, Thanks For Everything, Sluggo 

I just found out that the Canton Restaurant in Journal Square closed. Don't panic, this happened a year ago, but Sluggo's J-Square sources are coming off an extended break.

I havn't been there in a couple years and was only there maybe half a dozen times total, but if you never ate there, let me tell you, you missed something.

Not the food. The food was okay to not so okay, but I don't think, with the possible exception of the old Luchow's on 14th street, I ever saw a place shimmering with so much atmosphere.

It was built in 1930 and absolutely nothing was done since then to the basic design. There was a large dance floor surrounded by two levels of banquettes, all done in heavy sculpted wood with dragons and script. Red and gold. It was dark. It was very easy to imagine Sydney Greenstreet sitting at his regular table in the corner. I always ordered a Manhattan or similar sophisticated highball. I noticed women (even habitual suds-slammers) tended to order drinks the color of '50s linoleum with paper umbrellas.

The waiters looked like they were there from the beginning and hovered just this side of surly. They would give you a look like they were deciding whether to kill you right now or alert the white slave traders in the back of a likely candidate.

The Canton was used as backdrop for a number of movies, including To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar.

It's still there and someone could buy it and carry on the tradition, but, according to the Jersey City Reporter article linked to above, potential buyers have been scared off by the lack of parking in the area.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Alert Dick Clark 

I'm not a big celebrater of New Year's Eve, taking a more contemplative approach than most. It's good to know that I'll have some extra time to think dark thoughts and you'll have some extra time to party up this year.

From Joe's Dartblog.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Hear Me Roar 


Which Family Guy Character Are you?

By way of Fausta (who is Lois).

I'm not complaining, considering the alternatives.

Old Time Religion 

Pat Robertson believes, or claims to believe, that the town of Dover, PA is due for some divine retribution because they voted out school board members who believe in Intelligent Design. Frogs, locusts, dead babies or famine; he wasn't specific, but he was clear that bad times are on the way.

For the record, I have to admit that I'm sympathetic to the idea of intelligent design (lower case) as I, though an agnostic, believe that something had a hand in creating the universe. It's not a position I'm going to advocate or defend. I don't have any pursuasive arguments or reasons to believe that, I just do. The reason I still call myself an agnostic is that whatever the ontology of the entity I'm positing, it's being has to be of a nature so far beyond our puny earthling brains as to be profoundly ineffable. Could be an old guy with a beard, could be a ham sandwich.

More likely, it's something that cannot be expressed, cannot be conceived, cannot be understood even in the barest of outlines. One of the most interesting innovations of the Judeo-Christian tradition is the concept that God exists outside of time. While it tangles them up in the notion of predestination, it's also one of the deepest and most important conceptualizations made by man. Some guy sitting in a tent almost four thousand years ago had a theoretical understanding of the nature of time sophisticated enough to realize that God couldn't be contained within it.

It's a little depressing to realize that that Semitic genius set in motion a train of thought that eventually coughed up Pat Robertson. Looks like we got off the rails there, somewhere.

My grandfather was old-time religion personified. A lovely, generous, hard working guy, when it came to the bended knee he was hard, unyielding and perfectly sure of himself. If you strayed off the path he was the proverbial ton of bricks. I know for certain, though, that he would rather have cut out his tongue than get caught speaking for God. He was concerned with his life, his behavior and making his life as perfect a reflection of Christ's teachings as he could. He expected his family to do likewise, but beyond that, life was life, people were people and we were all sinners.

I like to think he would have buried Pat Robertson under a mountain of bricks.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Good Night, Nurse 

The 26th edition of The Carnival of the New Jersey Bloggers is up at No-W-here in two parts. The first part is here and the second is here. The host, Anonymous B. Nowhere, offers up some words of wisdom for would-be Carnival hosts here.

Second Verse, Same As The First 

Jim's muse didn't exactly abandon him this morning, but she wasn't really cooperating either, getting stuck on the old Herman's Hermits skittle song, I'm Henry the 8th, I Am.

It turns out the group is still together (minus, since 1971, Peter Noone) and are doing, according to the web site, 200 dates a year. The picture on the web site looks like the staff at a California funeral home.

While my muse has been sleeping off a bender for most of the past week, dazed and inert, Jim's post caused her to stir for a moment and mutter.

I went to college in the late sixties. It was the age of educational experimentation. Well, experimentation was pretty much the template for just about everything. I was a theatre major. I think I mentioned before that the head of our department, Sister Marita of the Sisters of Loretta was the only member of Actor's Equity to also be a nun. She was about the cutest thing you ever saw in a wimple. My sophomore year she took off the habit. Junior year she quit the order. Senior year she got married. That's the arc we all were on.

I had a girlfriend who was spending her junior year abroad at the Sorbonne. I woke up one morning and decided I wanted to keep seeing her so I put in a proposal for an "independent study" in which I (and a friend) would spend junior year abroad "studying" European theatre. They loved the idea so I spent the year hitchhiking around Europe, having a blast and finding out my girlfriend was very bad news.

I came back and wrote a 50 page paper that was 90% fiction and got 18 hours of 'A'. All in all, I thought, a pretty slick deal.

The part that made my muse twitch this morning was that while in London we arranged an interview with Peter Noone, who was doing a John Guare play that I happened to have done just a few months before. He was still with Herman's Hermits, but obviously looking for a life after.

I think it's possible that my friend had misrepresented us as American journalists because there came a time early in the interview in which I saw a sag of recognition in his face, but I think it's also possible that he was glad that we didn't write for a teen mag. He was kind and charming and intelligent and gave us a certain amount of material we wouldn't have to later make up.

I leave it to you to decide if this is actually a blog by Peter Noone on his (purported) web site.

The only other event of note involving a celebrity on my amazing European adventure was getting kicked out of Stewart Granger's apartment in Paris.

Another time.

Correction: I lazily put Farley Granger in there instead of Stewart.
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