Saturday, December 11, 2004

"I Believe in Spontaneous Bewitchments"

I was feebly trying to extract dead leaves from the grasp of the newly-lush front lawn this evening, when Samba, the absurdly-smiling dog from next door suddenly appeared, as did Gilberto Rodriguez, my poetic next-door-neighbor. Gil was in a hurry, though: "It's Second Saturday! We're doing a stripped-down version of our show. Come see it at "The Book Collector" (24th & J) at eight!"

A stripped-down version of a poetry reading? What would that be like? At first I thought of stock cars, then demolition derbies. Realizing that poets, even more than most people, probably talk too much, and that a stripped-down show might actually be pretty good (skip the Nietzsche, and get to the punch line), I decided to go.

Gil had been trying to explain what he did for several months, but since I'm not a literary type, I found his explanations hard to follow. Usually, I casually listen from over the fence to their backyard rehearsals, all the while going about other tasks, like rooting out sewer lines, or rolling squeeky dog toys past Cloudy, my irritable rabbit (the rabbit prefers an ordered yard, and it's fun to watch how a barking dog, chasing a stupid toy, can spoil her serenity.) From the aural evidence, the rehearsals next door feature lots of drumming, lots of gongs, and too much laughter for a sober Saturday afternoon.

Gil and Sheri's group is called Unheimlich (apparently meaning Uncanny, starring Sheri Adee, Rob Lozano, and Gilberto Rodriguez), performing the works of Baudelaire, Henri Michaux, Alexander Blok, and particularly the French poet Artaud, whose work is apparently difficult to produce, because Artaud appeared, most of the time, to be largely out-of-his-mind. For example, Artaud apparently was obsessed with the image of Tibetan monks flogging the dolphin in unison, and tried hard to make the audience obsessed with the image as well. Artaud behaved strangely, and his audiences rarely stayed completely through to the end of his bizarre readings.
Unheimlich approaches Artaud's writing with lots of physical, fairly low-brow, but nevertheless sophisticated comedy. Which works! Nice show! Apparently the show was stripped down because of a lack of space in the book store: thus we missed seeing Unheimlich's interpretation of Artaud's work regarding the corrupt Roman Emperor Heliogabalus, for which Sheri apparently constructed a large lingam to help illustrate.

I just bet Sheri constructed that lingam-thingum on a sober Saturday afternoon too. Probably with lots of laughter, drumming and banging of gongs, while I was busy next door scrubbing floors, or organizing dead batteries. Mysterious place, next door. Why does Samba the dog smile so much? I just don't know! I'll just have make a point of visiting my neighbors more often on weekends, it seems! And checking out Unheimlich again (maybe when they take the show to San Francisco)!

Friday, December 10, 2004

Lame Atmosphere, but Cool Gear

E. took sick yesterday, so I spent an inordinate amount of time in the Mercy San Juan Hospital Emergency Room. Things seemed pretty quiet yesterday afternoon at what must be, at times, one of Sacramento's crazy hot spots, so I had time to look around at the cool equipment.

I found myself admiring the cool new "nitrile" gloves, which have an unearthly blue color, like Paul Muad'Dib's eyes on Arrakin spice. I wonder about the name, though: I thought nitriles were gases - acetonitrile is a gas - so maybe the gloves are just made of a less-volatile organic. I got some powdered latex gloves in the 80's, as some kind of strange medical promotional item in the mail, and I kept them, because you just never know when you might need powdered latex gloves, but I guess some people don't like the powder, and some people itch from the latex - hence someone invented these cool new gloves. Someone please mail me some of these hot new fashion items!

They wheeled E. to the fourth floor, which appears to be staffed by all-Asians - people from a dozen countries, who are very nice, and nominally speak English: it's a veritable Tower of Babel over there. E. finds herself under the thumb of a patronizing, rainbow-language, drug-obsessed tyranny, where she can't sleep when she wants, where she can't eat what she wants, where she has to wear what they insist upon, where people only seem interested in her body: kind-of-like what being a fashion model must be like.
Idle Questions for Idle Brits

The idle B3ta question of the week: What have you lost over the years?, provoked me to respond with, "My Knife," a story which wasn't quite juvenile enough to make the Top 3, but did at least make the 'Best' answers page!

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Why Did The Mouse Cross The Road?

Last night, while driving south on 19th Street (near W Street) in the rain, a mouse hurriedly ran eastward across the street in front of my car. This mouse looked very much like the mouse that ran westward across the street (near P Street) about a year ago. That mouse looked as if it was fleeing the partiers at the Zebra Club (which opens at 6 a.m. to serve alcohol). The mouse last night looked as if it just forgot where the Zebra Club was located, or got confused by the headlights and the raindrops.
Apt Criticism

...of triumphant jerk Rumsfeld.
Flattery Will Get You Everywhere

Or will it? Apparently the Vatican tops the list of a very long line of folks exercised by Madame Tussaud's tasteless but amusing celebrity nativity scene, featuring Kylie Minogue. Gabe downstairs seemed relieved that even I thought it wasn't very respectful (even as it succeeds as theater).

But then, Kylie is a survivor. She knows how to rebound from controversy. Her new release sounds like an exercise in flattery...maybe of the audience?: "I Believe in You."

On Kylie's 'Body Language' album launch concert DVD, at the conclusion of her wonderful 'Breathe/Je T'Aime', she engages in a bit of audience flattery - so lavish it feels less like praise and more like a challenge to the beauty-deprived minions outside the concert hall (in distant places, like Sacramento). I know it scares me a bit:
Thank you very much! How are you all feeling? I can see most of you so far. I don't need to see you to know how gorgeous you all are! One thing my audiences are renowned for are their utter beauty!

Welcome news to those of us without lingerie lines, but with receding hair lines!

Here's an interesting article, notable mostly for the interesting comments appended to the end. Goth has a history as a movement, as one commenter notes:

I remember my goth days, I had a black mohican and wore make up even to go to the shops. And I was a second generation Goth, not even an original (so I'm talking mid to late 90s) so let's just stop this nonsense that it's all a fad. It's a youth movement that's been going for over 20 years and I still listen to the Sisters, the Cure, Nine Inch Nails and the Neo goth bands like Razed in Black, Goteki and the likes. And now I'm a 36 year old Librarian.

I've been listening to some of the Goth-oriented dance music. So far, I like the stuff quite a bit. I can see the appeal for the musicians: instead of composing dance music using tired old themes like "boy likes girl," you can explore new frontiers like "boy hates girl," or other dark story lines.

The only missing element to get a mass movement going seems to be the ethnic ghettoization of Goth among Northern-European whites: so far I see little evidence of Goth among African-Americans, Jamaicans, and other musically-influential minorities. That's probably where the dance element comes in: making the music more palatable for a much broader audience. Musicians have certainly overcome bigger obstacles before - witness the broad popularity of hip-hop and rap. Germans seem to be leading the way, although it's interesting that German groups, two times out of three, seem to prefer singing in English, even bad English, even though the German language is perfectly suited for the music (English probably sounds sounds more 'mysterious' to a German ear, or maybe it's just another effort to broaden the audience).

The musical theater crowd seems to attract few Goth-types, although the punker B. H. once explained that when she hears late-70's punk, she gets warm and fuzzy inside, because her punk parents played the stuff as lullabys when she was young.

I think I'd like to be a Goth (but what a hell of a sight I'd be with piercings and spiked hair - what little hair is left - nevertheless, more interesting than a comb-over). The impact of my makeover would probably be contrary to my interests among the engineering crowd at work, however, and might seem....bizarre, shall we say? (or is that the point?)

But then there's always the Bob Fosse musical theater solution: always wear black....always. The effect can be powerful: actor Roy Scheider wore little except black for a year after playing a character very like Fosse in the semi-quasi-autobiographical "All That Jazz" in 1979.

Hmmm....time to look at my earth-tone wardrobe.

Getting Donald Rumsfeld's Attention

The only way to deal with the inadequate armor issue is to strap Rumsfeld on the front bumper of a Humvee on patrol, and drive him up and down the streets and alleyways of Fallujah.
Exciting (but Ephemeral) Gravity Waves

On the lee side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains today (forwarded E-Mail from Alison Bridger, Professor of Meteorology at San Jose State University):

If you get a chance in the very near future (before they are gone), check out the "visible 1km loop" the waves in the bottom right corner stay locked in place while the winds blow by. It's cool!

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Junk Science Top Ten

Top ten lists beginning to appear! 2004 is winding up! As Monty Python might say, bring out your dead.
Midnight Sun Factoid

From the Alaska Science Forum (Courtesy of Frank):

The official high temperature record for Hawaii is identical to Alaska's warmest temperature. Thermometers in Fort Yukon (in 1915), and Pahala, Hawaii (in 1931), reached the same high temperature, a level that hasn't been reached since--100 degrees.

Monday, December 06, 2004

The Economy of Humor

It was interesting to see what lines in "Anything Goes" (music and lyrics: Cole Porter/book: Guy Bolton, P. G. Wodehouse, Howard Lindsey, and Russell Crouse) generated big laughs, and which didn't. They say the key to humor is timing, but it always seems something else must be required too. Four vignettes help illustrate the mystery.

Interestingly, after all these years, the audience really seemed to appreciate the paradox of a cursing clergyman. Myself, it's just not that funny, but the audience disagreed:

(Moonface Martin, dressed as a preacher, thanks Billy for helping him hide amongst the crowd. Billy replies:)

Billy: I know, I can't say goodbyes myself. I couldn't say goodbye to a girl. Now I'm in a hell of a mess. Oh, pardon me, Doctor.

Moon: Oh, I don't give a damn.

What's so damned funny? Beats me. But the audience liked it.....

Later, there were two perfectly witty exchanges that I thought deserved big laughs, but the laughs tended to be a bit tepid:

(Billy, in bearded disguise, chats up Mrs. Harcourt:)

Billy: Yes. The French have been so kind to my poor exiled family since the revolution.

Mrs. Harcourt: Really? You have to take your hat off to the French.

Billy: That's not all you have to take off for the French.

Damned funny! Ryan played around with Billy's timing: a fast delivery (or a slow delivery) seemed to work better than an even-paced, moderate delivery, for some crazy reason. Plus...

(Moonface Martin loses at craps to two Chinese men. The Purser had brought the men to Martin for him to explain the illegality of gambling:)

Moon: And may the Lord watch over you ... and make you better men ... although you're pretty damn good already.

Purser: Thank you for your help! (to Sailor) Take them below.

Moon: Boys, before you go, give me back my pair of dice.

Ching: Third class need pair of dice.

Purser: That's the spirit, make the third class a paradise.

Very witty! Very funny! And yet, in my opinion, the laughs weren't as robust as the joke deserved. The delivery was flawless, and the timing keen: what gives?

Strangely enough, the line of the show the audience seemed to appreciate most was right at the end. Interestingly, Arthur added the word "oh" (highlighted below in italics - it's not in the script), and that small change seemed to heighten even more the comic tension already established by Mary's (Mrs. Harcourt's) elliptical set-up:
(Rich and important Elijah J. Whitney charms Mrs. Harcourt:)

Whitney: Madam, may I tempt you with a little drink?

Mrs. Harcourt: Sir, liquor has never touched my lips.

Whitney: Oh, You know a short cut.

It was almost as if the audience had to laugh at that point, like a dam breaking at the very end of the show, to release the pent-up comic tension. Any satisfactory joke would do, even a fairly lame joke. Arthur innovated well, well within the spirit of the script.

The economy of humor is truly a mystery!

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Deborah Gets a Press Mention

Deborah McMillion-Nering and her wonderful art (inspired, as often as not, by 50's sci-fi) are the topic of a recent newspaper article. Take a look!
"Anything Goes" Closes

Nice show: too bad it had to close. As always, it was hard to tear down the set, so recently built with such lavish care. Amy is moving to Spokane - it will be sad to see her leave. On the other hand, it was wonderful working with Doug F., Don D., and meeting people like Celia and Megan. There is only one solution, the only solution - we'll have to do it again, soon!

The "Anything Goes" cast party was on Saturday night. I went to the party expecting to find - the cast (duh!) - but I was shocked out of my socks to find Pepper Von there. I don't why he was there....I suppose there was no reason why he shouldn't be there....nevertheless, I wasn't expecting him, and for some reason the effect was unusually startling, like the first time I ever saw one of those gasoline pumps with the built-in television screen.

One night, at two in the morning, while staring into space as I began pumping gas, I heard this strange voice right behind me - like fingernails on a chalkboard - and I turned around and gaped in wonder as Yasser Arafat, of all people, spoke to me from my gasoline pump. It was like a vision....or something. But what did it portend? Visions of Pepper Von can only be good, though (unlike Yasser Arafat).

Andrea Eve Thorpe will play Evita in the forthcoming DMTC show. I can think of few people better able to play the Argentine Cinderella than her! The "jackboot in the face, forever" that George Orwell associated with totalitarian ideologies like fascism and communism might be, not just tolerable but even yearned for, if the jackboot has a nice spiked high heel and bejeweled straps, of the sort Andrea likes to wear. Fashion kills, and fascist fashion will slay them in the aisles!