Monday, August 27, 2001

Dubya was dogging my thoughts over the weekend. At least this time, he merely had me confused and a little miffed, instead of making my blood boil as he usually does. What set me off this time? It was reported last week that he's planning to give his $600 slice of the tax rebate pie to charity.

This was causing me a great deal of consternation. For those of you coming in late, I've been on the give-the-rebate-to-charity bandwagon for a while now. Seems like an efficient and elegant way to shove this whole cockamamie tax cut thing right back in Shrub's face.

Then he goes and does the exact same damn thing, taking all the wind out of my sails. I was downtrodden.

Luckily, a friend who caught my rant yesterday helped me see the fatal flaw in this calculated move of his. It was pointed out to me that by giving his rebate to charity, Bush is actually undermining the rationale that was the basis for this "risky scheme." As I understood it, we were all supposed to run out and spend our little windfall on Palm Pilots and Macy Gray CDs. By doing so, we would jump-start the flagging economy and it'd be "Happy Days Are Here Again" in no time flat.

So what does he do with his six Benjamins? He promises them to some non-profit group. When given this wonderful chance to lead by example and show how this little plan is supposed to work, he blows it. Instead of purchasing his wife a little bauble or himself a couple of new golf clubs, he kicks the cash over to the independent sector, subverting his own agenda in the process. He's doing my work for me.

Maybe I should send him a "thank you" card.

From the Out of Left Field file: I ran across Wil Wheaton's blog at his new site today.

I was never in the "I hate Wesley" camp (if anything, I was jealous; I wanted to be that kid), nor did have anything but positive views of Wil Wheaton himself. Nonetheless, I really didn't know what to expect from the site of a former Trek actor about whom I've heard very little for the better part of a decade. After spending about half an hour reading over it, I have to say, I like it. A lot.

What I like most is that he built the thing with his own two hands. No "Identity Management" company posting thinly-disguised press releases and digital glossies here. It's just a guy, his computer, and his thoughts. Which is exactly what a personal site ought to be, no matter what your day job.

I also like the fact that he plays a game with his wife which is very similar to one I regularly engage in with my roommate.

I'll wait here for you all to get your minds out of the gutter.

Wil's got this fake dog poop, see? He and his wife "try to put the poop in each other's stuff" in the most disturbing ways possible. If nothing else on his site had swayed me over to Mr. Wheaton's side, this would have done it.

For me and Hutch, the object in question is a very sensitive vibration-activated singing Pikachu. We affectionately call it the PokéBomb. We leave it in each other's laundry, tied to each other's shoes, under the driver's seat of each other's cars, et cetera.

This has turned into a fierce game of "can you top this?" I'm still pondering a response to his latest trap; he took a picture of the little guy and recorded its song. Then, while I was out of the house, he went into my computer, changed the start-up sound to the PokéBomb wav file, and made the pic my wallpaper. The next time I fired up the ol' thinking box, blammo! Pure genius. But I'll think of a way to best him yet. If you've got any ideas on how I can do that, pass 'em on.

Speaking of passing on ideas, I'm still taking entries in my Name the House of Cheer contest. There have been a number of worthy submissions so far, but I'd like the pool to be a bit larger before the final choice is made. Be a part of HoC history! Send in your suggestion today!
Posted @ 7:00 PM

Everybody up for one of those "find-your-whatever-name" generators? This is one of the best I've seen in a long time. It's actually a two-page quiz that defines your pirate name.

After you're done, check out the quizmaker's blog. Funny stuff, from what I've read so far.
Posted @ 3:09 PM

Friday, August 24, 2001

Continuing with this week's theme, "Blogging in the Face of Adversity..."

Rehearsals and sleep deprivation haven't been the only things keeping me out of the House, as it were. I've also been struggling with what I call "pre-migraines." These lovely little occurrences consist of blurred, distorted vision, budding pain behind or around my eyes and general befuddlement.

If left without treatment, after half an hour or so these things turn into full-blown migraines which can lay me completely out for the better part of a day. Luckily, a few hundred milligrams of ibuprofen taken during that thirty minute window keep the damn things in check.

Usually, I get three or four of these fun-filled sessions a year. In the last two weeks, I've had seven. They're sometimes brought on by big weather systems, so I'm hoping this is merely a case of my internal barometer being extra-sensative right now. If this hypothesis is correct, the storms that've rolled through the DC area lately are the main culprits. If not, well, then it's time to call the ol' doc and see about getting something stronger than Advil®.

In the meantime, I'm open to trying any herbal, alternative or folk remedies that might be out there, such as my dad's suggestion to slam some B complex down my gullet. Feel free to pass on any ideas you might have. As long as they don't involve a live chicken, I'm good.
Posted @ 4:56 PM

Tuesday, August 21, 2001

As I thought they might, rehearsals for the show are taking their toll on my Internet time. Last night we had to be off-book, and tonight is our off-music deadline.

While this means blogging has had to take a back seat this week, I do have something new to share. Brought to you by my extremely crude artistic abilities and a little photomanipulation software magic, here is the House of Cheer mascot!

He's just on top of the front page at this point, but I hope to add him to the rest of the site shortly.

I've had some thoughts about what to call this little guy, but I'm not really pleased with any of them. Since I'm stuck on this, I'm turning to you for help, my loyal readers.

Yes, all four of you.

Take a good look at this happy little abode, ruminate on it, then come up with a name that fits. I'll accept entries for a couple of weeks, then announce the winner. The person who provides the victorious appellation will receive credit in the Acknowledgements section and my sincere gratitude.
Posted @ 5:07 PM

Friday, August 17, 2001

I'm up far too late tonight, keeping a friend (who's working on deadline) company. While the editing process for that project rolls on, I've been cruising blogspace. It turns out that the only other people posting to their sites at this hour are kids in their early teens reveling in their last few days of bedtime-free summer vacation.

Looking over the angst and confusion flowing from these prepubescent bloggers over what life is throwing their way, I'm reminded what it was like to be that age. It makes me extremely grateful that I'm long done with part of my life.

I'm also struck by the fact that, when I was their age, these kids hadn't even been born. Yet here they are, putting up Web sites and writing in complete (if painfully misspelled) sentences.
Posted @ 3:03 AM

It's long been my belief that clichés become clichés because they're true. Last entry, proof that "the kids are all right" was unearthed. Today, we find evidence that it might not be a bad idea to "never trust anyone over thirty." In fact, thirty might be too generous.

Many friends and relatives have described to me what they call "senior moments." Usually, these take the form of forgetting where they left something they were just holding, being unable to recall the name of a familiar person, or struggling to remember a common word. I've always nodded sympathetically or laughed with them, as the particular instance demanded. But in the back of my mind, there's been this nagging little worry because the same things happen to me all the time. Was I prematurely losing my memory, I would wonder?

As it happens, there was no need for me to worry. I am losing my memory, but there's nothing premature about it. If a recent study out of the University of Michigan is correct, this process generally begins at around twenty.

Once upon a time, news like this would have worried me greatly. Now, I take comfort in it. Finally, I've got confirmation that our minds are slowly but surely slipping away from each and every one of us. And that's just as it should be.
Posted @ 12:50 AM

Wednesday, August 15, 2001

From a former roommate comes some excellent news for my current roommate. College roomie Steve tipped me off to an article from the Sunday Times of London that claims children who play video games are brighter than their non-player peers.
Finally, I see the value of all those PS2 titles Hutch has amassed in the last few months. The increased powers of concentration imparted by his hours of gameplay must be why he almost always routs me whenever we have a pun war.
Posted @ 4:57 PM

Sunday, August 12, 2001

Had a rather wonderful "small world" experience last night. My parents took me to see a hilarious, laugh-a-second performance of the Reduced Shakespeare Company at the Kennedy Center. This "other RSC" (not to be confused with the better-known and much less funny Royal Shakespeare Company) is on a US tour through December, and will pick up again in April. If you have the chance, I highly recommend seeing this show. Knowledge of the Bard is optional; in fact, you'll be surprised by how much Shakespeare you didn't know you knew as you sit there and laugh your ass off.

When one of the performers, David Razowsky, was introduced, he was identified as a graduate of Northern Illinois University, my alma mater. Although such luminaries as Dan "Homer Simpson" Castellaneta, three-time Academy Award® nominated actress Joan Allen, Academy Award® winning director Robert Zemeckis, and Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert have passed through its cinderblock halls, NIU isn't exactly a household name. Intrigued, I wanted to find out if Mr. Razowsky's status as a fellow Husky (no, not those Huskies; or those) was true or simply an obscure joke.

Luckily, David and his excellent stage colleagues Karl and Reed were waiting in the lobby to greet the public, sign autographs, and sell some RSC swag. When I asked David about NIU, he confirmed that he had gone there, getting a degree in photojournalism in the 80's. As I didn't arrive there until the fall of 1990, we missed sharing those halls of academe by several years. Still, we recognized all the same DeKalb-area landmarks, and we clearly held a common understanding about the dorms.

But that wasn't all. In further conversation, he revealed that he'd grown up in the Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago. Rogers Park is the most recent ancestral home of my father's side of the family. It's where I spent the first five years of my life, and an aunt of mine still holds down the fort for us there. My father, David and I reminisced about the old stomping grounds, including the Dairy Queen, where my dad may or may not have served young David an ice cream cone at some point, and the Fish Keg on Howard Street, source of many tasty meals for us all.

David echoed my own thoughts as we strolled the down the twin Memory Lanes of Ridge Avenue and Normal Road, eager for return visits to both places. Perhaps I'll make a pilgrimage out that way soon. I might even time it to coincide with that quintessential DeKalb event, CornFest. Here's hoping David can swing his own homecomings in the not-to-distant future as well.
Posted @ 1:43 PM

Thursday, August 09, 2001

A couple bits of Web-enabled naval-gazing dominate today's post, folks. If you're not interested in such things, you may want to skip down to the bottom where I gently rib a friend of mine.

I've started to surf the sites of my compatriots in the Blogger community, using the various channels enabling such exploration available on the Blogger homepage. I'm looking forward to the time when the "More Fresh Blogs" page will be updating again, but I digress...

Today's meanderings turned up an insightful rumination on the stylistic mechanics of hyperlinking. The coyly-titled Thlinking Deeply post to Doc Searls Weblog (and, specifically, John Waterson's well-reasoned letter) got me thlinking about my Web writing habits. Do I use hyperlinks in the best, most effective way I can?

I turned the question over in my mind for most of the day, then came to this conclusion: half unconsciously and half by design, I've endeavored to embed links into text in a meaningful way from the get-go, just as Mr. Waterson's letter recommends. The theory behind this wasn't something I considered: it just felt right.

So, as often happens, I've taken a bit of a mental journey just to end up where I started. While this might seem futile, I find it highly useful and informative. First, it confirms that I'm on the right path as a writer of Web content. Second, I've now got an answer at the ready in case anyone questions why I put all those links in my pieces.

I'm still struggling with the whole 'blog/blog thing. Blogger doesn't use the apostrophe. Godfather Tim does. I go back and forth on which I prefer.

I'm sure this looks like a very minor, indeed trivial, difference, but it's exactly the kind of thing that drives me nuts.

A tip of the hat to my friend Jen, the artist formerly known as Susan Lawrence. She is a genuine, charming and funny individual, but I sense a kernel of healthy egomania in her that I aim to nurture and see blossom. Hopefully, this mention on my little cowtown Web site will get the ball rolling on that process.
Posted @ 5:25 PM

Tuesday, August 07, 2001

Happy birthday and a quick recovery to HoC guiding light Garrison Keillor, who turns 59 today. He hasn't shirked from talking about his recent open-heart surgery, and he'll have an essay on the subject in this week's Time which doubtless will be poignant and elicit a few hearty chuckles. Godspeed, Garrison.

The title of the latest George Lucas space opera has been announced: Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones.

At first blush, I find this title too corny, just as I did with The Phantom Menace. I expect that my acceptance of the name will follow the same path as its immediate predecessor. Slowly, it will grow on me. Then, I'll love it, convinced that it couldn't have been called anything else. Finally, as the movie's premiere approaches, it will echo through my brain, shouted unceasingly by the seven-year-old inside me who still remembers the thrill of seeing that first, massive Star Destroyer engulf the screen.

I just hope the pattern stops there. I don't want to walk out of the theater again wishing Lucas had remembered, in the midst of all the CGI and woefully ill-conceived amphibian "comic relief", to do some basic storytelling.
Posted @ 9:36 AM

Sunday, August 05, 2001

I'm at a total loss here: under what possible pretext could the Sci-Fi Channel... I'm sorry, SCIFI! be showing So I Married an Axe Murderer?
Posted @ 4:43 PM

Friday, August 03, 2001

(Rounding out my Trilogy of Terror: The Audition Edition...)

Now that the audition process I've been involved in throughout this week is over, I can talk about the show in detail without jinxing my chances of getting in. I got the call last night, and I will not be reprising the role of Matt in The Fantasticks for the McLean Theatre Alliance.

Instead, I will be playing El Gallo, the rogue-for-hire who acts as both master of ceremonies and nominal villain in the play.

I thought I had been called back for Matt along with three others. I've never been at an audition where all the actors up for a role were so evenly matched. I felt quite honored to be among them, and coming out of there Wednesday I could not have told you which of us would get it. I really felt it would come down to intangibles that only the director and her staff could properly weigh.

The only odd thing was, there were no actors at callbacks for the role of El Gallo. That left me puzzled and led me to form a theory on why this was. It was possible that someone had come in and nailed it in his first audition. I further thought that a certain very talented actor who's active in the DC area had been cast in the role (though I didn't know if he'd auditioned for the show or not). Having worked with him before, I can verify that you only need to see him once to be sure of his abilities.

It is only now that I see the clues that I was being considered for El Gallo. The most blatant was the fact that, when I got the call inviting me to callbacks, the producer didn't specify for which role. If I wasn't so caught up in the details of the process, I might have gleaned something from that omission.

Ultimately, I'm glad I didn't figure it out beforehand. While it would have been fun and rewarding to revisit Matt after twelve years, El Gallo was the part, and the challenge, I really wanted. Being in the dark kept me calm and focused on the audition. I wasn't nearly as nervous as I usually am at callbacks. As a result, I was able to give what was probably my best audition effort since I got active in theater again about five years ago.

Now, of course, the real work begins. Our readthrough is Saturday, and I'm looking forward to seeing who I'll be playing with for the next ten weeks. Based on the sheer bulk of talent on display at callbacks, I expect I'll be part of a very capable troupe.

This week The Onion published a second installment in what's shaping up to be series set in an alternate universe where George W. Bush is a self-effacing genius. Like the first one, the piece nearly brought me to tears. Whether it is because of the potent humor or the sadness of the stark contrast between the character they've created and the real Commander-in-Thief, I couldn't tell you.
Posted @ 10:54 AM

Wednesday, August 01, 2001

Now, the waiting begins. Tonight I spent three hours at callbacks for the show I mentioned Tuesday. So the next day or two will be spent anxiously staring at my phone, willing it to ring.

If I get in, it'll be the first time I've repeated a show, possibly in the same role as the first time. A new experience wrapped up in old one. I like the sound of that.

Keep your fingers crossed for me.
Posted @ 11:44 PM


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