Wednesday, December 19, 2007

No Reason Why Not

My interview with David Blixt is finally up over at Metroblogging Chicago. Please swing by there and check it out.

Working on it has emphasized, for me, how little I actually know about journalistic writing. Shame on me, being the son of a journalist and all that.

Special thanks to David for sitting and chatting with me. We should do that again some time — without the recorder, or the guy with the coke-bottle glasses coming over every few minutes to quote Shakespeare at you.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

What Have I Got In My Pocket?

Peter Jackson is going to produce The Hobbit. Finally! I hope he directs it as well. And I hope Ian McKellen plays Gandalf again. And of course Andy Serkis has to play Gollum. And my vote for the younger Bilbo would be Martin Freeman of The Office and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy fame.

According to the article Jackson plans to split the story into two films. I'm cool with that, although I don't know if it's necessary. He managed to squeeze the other volumes into a film each, and those were far more dense than The Hobbit. But one film or two, I'll still line up to see whatever Jackson does when it comes to Middle Earth. I can't wait to see Smaug.

Any thoughts on who should play Bard the Bowman? Or Thorin Oakenshield?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


I got two tickets to see Ministry for Mandy's birthday. They're playing the House of Blues on May 8th. To be fair, the tickets are a present to myself as much as a present for Mandy. But I think she appreciates them, just the same. At the time that I bought the tickets, the 8th was the final show on the North American leg of the band's farewell tour, but after it sold out they added a second show for the next night. Oh well.

Anyway, I wrote about it in a little more detail over at Metroblogging Chicago. Please stop by there and check it out, along with the other articles and writers who contribute to the site.

Also, coming soon to Metroblogging Chicago, my interview with local author, actor, director, and spoiler of women, David Blixt! Stay tuned!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

YO, JOE!!!

Pardon my nerding out for a moment, but I just read a bit of exciting news: Rumor has it that Ray Park (better known as Darth Maul from Star Wars: Episode I — The Disappointment Begins) has been cast as Snake Eyes in the upcoming live-action adaptation of GI Joe. Park has long been many fans' favorite choice for this role. He's a hell of a martial artist, and that's really all the role requires since Snake Eyes doesn't speak. Hell, he doesn't really even show his face.

I've also heard that Sienna Miller is apparently signed to play the Baroness. Also cool. Not a name I would have picked, but I have no specific complaint. Really, as long as they get the hair, glasses and body-suit right I don't really care.

Now, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, You haven't posted in over a week and all you've got is crap about the GI Joe movie? Fair enough. Although, truth to tell, there's not a whole lot to report here. I have a sprain in my right foot for which I am taking Prednisone. It seems to be doing the trick. I haven't had caffeine, or soda of any kind, since Friday. While the headaches have passed, I am generally cranky and in a foul mood all the time. I'm hoping that phase passes soon. Rehearsals for Journey's End started last week; so far, so good. And, if I hadn't blown the last of my paid time off waiting for Comcast then I certainly would have used it today, as I have a full-on cold that makes my head feel like it weighs about forty pounds.

Also, have you guys seen the trailers for The Golden Compass? It's so... so... shiny! I must see it! Plus it's got William Donahue of the Catholic League all bent out of shape, which is always an added bonus. I haven't read the books on which this movie is based, but they are on my Christmas wish list.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Case Closed

The Right Brain Project's Chalk closed yesterday, and I am sad to see it go. I met an amazing group of people, all of whom I hope to work with again. The experience was quite the adventure in non-Equity theatre. There were nights we had to shout our lines over brass bands; other nights we competed with bagpipers. There was a strong chance that the last two shows would be performed under the florescent room lights — although it thankfully never came to that. There was the night our tech team showed up and found large chunks of the stage missing. Pros that they are, the show went off without a hitch. And I think I may have given myself a stress fracture in my foot about three weeks ago when I stepped off the stage in the dark and the step wasn't there. I don't know for sure, though; I see the doctor tomorrow morning.

However, we had a blast the whole time. I can't wait to see what the RBP cooks up next.

So, tomorrow I begin rehearsals for Journey's End with the Griffin Theatre Company. Also, this will be the closing weekend for Trap Door's Emma, co-directed by my good friend Shane and featuring my fight choreography. And last week I learned that I will be appearing in BackStage Theatre Company's Bloody Bess: A Tale of Piracy and Revenge next summer. I don't think I have ever had this many theater projects in the works at the same time before. Very exciting stuff!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Incommunicado, Part Deux

Did you all have a lovely Thanksgiving? All of you who are Americans, I mean. Those of you who are not, I hope your Thursday was lovely. I did my part by watching football and eating too much. What? You did, too? That's crazy! There was a unique wrinkle to yesterday's festivities: Not one but two of my in-laws announced their engagements to the family. So congratulations to Caryn and James, and to Bev and Don.

And now, the continuing saga of my ongoing battle of wits with Comcast...

So, I had an appointment for a technician to come out Tuesday morning, between eight and ten. I received a phone call the night before, confirming the appointment. I received a second phone call early Tuesday morning, again confirming the appointment. This second phone call is significant, because it came to our home phone. We have Vonage, which means that to receive a phone call we must have a working Internet connection. After hanging up I jumped on the computer and found that our connection had indeed restored itself once again. But I was determined to follow my instructions to the letter, so I made no attempt to contact Comcast to cancel my appointment.

Around 8:30 I received a third phone call that not only re-confirmed the appointment but clarified that the technician would arrive at my home between 8:40 and 9:40. I sat on the couch and watched television, since that gave me a view of the street and I would know when the van arrived. I flipped channels until 10:30, when I finally decided to call Comcast and find out when the tech was planning on showing up. The friendly operator (they are all friendly) informed me that the tech had, just moments earlier, completed the assignment before mine, and he should be arriving literally any moment. I waited at the window with baited breath.

I called again a little after one o'clock. After once again navigating my way through the ridiculous Comcast phone tree I reached yet another friendly representative. I told this nice lady my whole story, and at the end she told me that she worked with the cable television section, and she would need to transfer me to the Internet section. After being rerouted I had to tell my story again, because the previous person did not bother to inform this new person why she was transferring me in the first place. This new person then informed me that my appointment was...

Wait for it...


By whom? I wondered aloud. By the technician himself, I was told. Why would he do such a thing? Oddly enough, that piece of information was not included in the notes my new friend had in front of her. She said that was unusual; normally when a technician cancels an appointment he makes a note explaining why. There was no explanation this time. I explained that I had already taken valuable time off work to deal with this problem, and I wanted to know if a new appointment could be made for that day. The operator could not do that herself, she said, but she could have the local dispatcher contact me and set something up. As an added bonus this mysterious local dispatcher would also be able to shed some light on why my appointment had been canceled in the first place. I could expect this phone call, I was told, in the next half hour to forty-five minutes.

An hour and a half later, the phone rings. Did I squeal with joy? Perhaps. With trembling hand I answered the phone. I placed the receiver to my ear and heard the dulcet tones of... another recording. My appointment, it told me, was scheduled for some time between one o'clock and five o'clock. Keep in mind, it was now 2:30. Specifically, I could expect the tech to arrive between 3:30 and 4:30. Yippee.

Mandy got home around six. I was, by this point, a bit cranky. I think I scared her a little. We sat on the couch and griped about our respective days until around seven o'clock, when the door buzzer interrupted us.

"No fucking way," I said.

"It's them," Mandy said, looking out the window.


"There's a Comcast truck right outside," she said.

I opened the door and told the very nice technician that I had been expecting him at ten o'clock that morning. I smiled when I said it. It wasn't his fault. He looked perplexed and checked the work order, which informed him that my appointment was supposed to take place between six and eight PM. It wasn't worth arguing. He was here now, so I explained what the problem was. He poked around, found the cause, and fixed it. In theory, that should be the end of the story. We shall see.

As an interesting footnote, however, I learned that the cause of the problem had to do with fact that our downstairs neighbor's cable connection was hooked up to ours with a splitter, rather than having a separate line. The splitter itself was inadequate to handle the load, which caused our connection to crap out the way it did. But here's what's funny: If we ever cancel our Comcast account, our neighbor will lose her cable as well because it would be plugged into an inactive line. Mandy and I are thinking we may want to write our neighbor a friendly note explaining why she might want to have Comcast fix the situation now, before it becomes a real issue later.

Monday, November 19, 2007


We are having Internet issues right now. That is to say, Comcast is having issues, and they are taking it out on me and my wife.

About four or five weeks ago our Internet connection crapped out. It was fine one minute, the next I was in Page Not Found world. We let it go for about a day before we decided it wasn't coming back on its own. I called Comcast, and the friendly operator took me through a series of troubleshooting steps before determining that my connection was indeed fucked. I made an appointment for a technician to come to the apartment and fix it. Later that day I received a voice-mail suggesting that the problem may have been fixed remotely, along with a number to call in case I wanted to cancel the appointment. Turns out our connection was back, so I called and canceled.

Two weeks later I had to repeat the whole process. Internet goes out; I call and make an appointment; the Internet comes back; I cancel the appointment. Everything was fine again, at least for a few more weeks. Then, last Friday morning, no more Internet. Again. I called Comcast and talked to a very friendly, very helpful man whose name I do not remember. He ran some tests — or at least he clacked on his keyboard and said he ran some tests — and determined that there was indeed something wrong with the signal coming into the apartment. He suggested I make another appointment, but this time I was to keep the appointment even if the connection resumed. I was in luck; an appointment slot was available that very afternoon.

The four-hour appointment window came and went, and no Comcast. I had places to go, and listening to Comcast's hold music had already burned a good way through my available cell phone minutes. I resolved to try again the next morning. On Saturday I spoke to a woman who sounded like she was on the verge of panic. This was before she tried to set up a new appointment for me, and then failed miserably at the task. For reasons still unclear the operator was unable to make any changes to my account, and could not change the previous appointment time, even though it was a day later. The best she could do was ask me to please call back on Sunday.

Which I did.

After sitting on hold for another twenty minutes I spoke to another operator who informed me that she was in North Carolina. She also informed me that nobody showed up at my apartment on Friday because the work order was, for reasons passing comprehension, transmitted to a technician who was based out of Portland. Oregon? Maine? Who gives a fuck? Either one is over a thousand miles from my house.

Now I am told that a technician will be at my home by ten o'clock tomorrow morning. Best case scenario, I'm back online by lunch tomorrow. I will have gone four days without Internet service at my home. I think perhaps my next phone call to Comcast should be regarding a discount to my next month's bill. I wonder how long I'd have to wait on hold listening to Yanni before that conversation takes place.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Metroblogging Chicago

I just put up my first post at Metroblogging Chicago. I'll be chiming in there a couple of times a week, writing about anything and everything related to Chicago. My friends Dan and Fuzzy are already regular contributors.

Come check us out!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Chalk Reviewed

The Windy City Times ran a great review of Chalk. I can only assume the reviewer did not come on opening weekend, when we were still working out a lot of kinks. Last weekend, however, we really started to hit our stride. I've worked on shows that just deflated after lackluster openings. These guys at The Right Brain Project, however, have such chemistry and enthusiasm that you just want to push that much harder to get it right. I can't wait to see what next weekend looks like.

I feel like the reviewers who checked out Chalk on our opening weekend were stuck watching what amounted to final tech/dress rehearsals, and the reviews certainly reflected this. We were not outright panned, but we received no raves either. (Although the Chicago Reader did point out our "above-average stage combat", which always gives me a warm and fuzzy feeling.)

Every review mentioned the restrictions of our performance space, and I would like to add that such criticism is truer than the reviewers know. We had limited access to the theater throughout the rehearsal process, and time from each rehearsal had to be allotted for striking the set each night, since the space was used for other purposes during the day. It basically looks like an oversize classroom. I have to hand it to our designers, who did some amazing stuff with lights and sound to overcome the room's inadequacies. There's this one scene done with shadows, while this one song plays... but I don't want to ruin it for you. I really hope I can get a recording of the soundtrack one of these days, since the music is incredible.

Chalk runs for three more weeks — that's only twelve performances! Don't miss out!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007


The Writers Guild of America is on strike. You may have noticed that the late-night talk shows have already gone into reruns. In a few weeks scripted television shows will have to stop shooting. The movie industry will be able to hold out a little longer, but soon something is gonna need a re-write and the only people skilled enough for the job will be out on the picket lines.

This affects me in a handful of ways. First of all, I watch an appalling amount of television, particularly the hour-long serial dramas. I am glad to know that the fourth season of Lost is already in the can, and shouldn't be affected by the strike. But what about Friday Night Lights? Or Pushing Daisies? Or Battlestar Galactica, for the love of Jebus?!? If those shows have to wrap their seasons early I may break out in hives, or worse: I might have to find something useful to do with my spare time.

Second, I have friends in New York and LA who are directly affected by the strike. They are effectively out of work until the dispute is resolved. They have not quite reached the status of a Joss Whedon or a Tina Fey, however, so things could get tight for them a lot sooner than other, more well-known writers. When they do go back to work, I hope they feel they got a fair deal.

Third, I fancy myself a writer. I even have a completed screenplay sitting in the bottom of a drawer (where it will STAY FOREVER, if I have any say in it). I am more interested in writing novels, but I'd love to take another crack at a screenplay some day. Or I'd love to write a novel, and then adapt it into a screenplay. That'd be sweet. But if I want to make a career out of it I need to know that I will be treated fairly for my work.

The movies and television shows we all love would not exist if it weren't for the writers. They create the worlds, the characters, the stories. So many flaws can be forgiven if they are in service of a decent script. It's the writers who deserve top billing.

More information about the strike and about the profession of screenwriting can be found at the Writers Guild of America website.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

I Have No Idea What This Means

I found this survey on my friend Fuzzy's page. It sounded interesting. It's very long, for an Internet quiz. I don't know what any of it means. Do you?

Your Aspie score: 97 of 200
Your neurotypical (non-autistic) score: 105 of 200
You seem to have both Aspie and neurotypical traits

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Maybe Next Time, NaNoWriMo

Tomorrow is Halloween, and for the last two years that has meant only one thing for me: National Novel Writing Month starts in two days. The event made November one of my favorite months. Samples of my NaNoWriMo output can be found here on this very site. It isn't, you know, good, but I'm still proud of it. And the bound copies of my manuscripts — the trophies, if you will, for crossing the 50,000 word threshold — look interesting on my book shelf.

After much deliberation, I have decided to forgo participating this year. I am a little sad about it, but mostly I am relieved. Cranking out three plays in the last two months has left me a bit dazed. I still have performances four nights a week, but I am grateful to finally have a couple of nights to spend with my wife.

Also, I have a couple of writing projects cooking, and I'd rather not set them aside right now. Last night was the last session of my writing class, and I left it with a clearer idea of my goals. Part of that means that I need to slow down a little and focus on the quality of my output. I found, the last two years, that once I typed "The End" on my projects I had a hard time going back for revisions. The size of the task was overwhelming, but also I felt I had already accomplished what I set out to do. I told the story. Time to move on.

This is, I feel, the wrong attitude if I ever want to get this stuff published. But I've learned that I'm not the kind of writer who can complete a draft, set it aside, and then pick it up again to begin revisions. I need to keep on it, polishing as I go, doubling back, cutting and pasting and tinkering and adjusting until I am finally happy with the result. That is the approach I want to use with my current projects, anyway, and NaNoWriMo, for all its wonderful aspects, does not lend itself to that style of work.

I have not given up on NaNoWriMo forever, though. Maybe next year will be a little less chaotic. If so, I will probably dive in once more. In the meantime, I want to wish everyone who does commit to this year's month-long writing frenzy the best of luck. It's some of the most fun I've ever had.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Chalk and Emma

Chalk opens tomorrow! Finally! I tell you, I haven't worked this hard on a show in years. My knees are killing me. It'll all be worthwhile, though. Here are the details:
October 26 — November 25
Thursdays — Saturdays at 7:30 PM and Sundays at 3:00 PM
No performance Thursday, November 22
Studio Theater
Chicago Cultural Center
77 E. Randolph St.

Tickets are $15, $10 for students and seniors. You can reserve tickets through the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs website.

Also, Emma opened last week. The reviews have been mixed, but generally positive. The show is, however, Jeff Recommended. The details for Emma are as follows:
October 18 — December 1
Thursdays — Saturdays at 8:00
No performance Thursday, November 22
Trap Door Theatre
1655 West Cortland Ave.

For information or reservations call 773-384-0494.

I'll see you on the night!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

This Can't Be Right

According to a recent survey, sixty percent of the adult population of the United States believes in a literal interpretation of the Book of Genesis where it states that God created the universe in six days. An appalling majority held several other Biblical stories to be literally true, as well. The only good news from this survey was the indication that people with more education tended toward less literal interpretations.

I think that if I were forced to accept the characters in the Christian stories as actual existing entities then I would be a Satanist. It's not that I think evil is groovy, or anything like that; I just don't get why anyone would worship a being who punishes you for acquiring knowledge. There's something creepy and Orwellian about that, don't you think?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Three Years and Counting

Today is my and my lovely wife Mandy's third anniversary. That's three years of undiluted Awesome. We should find a way to bottle it and sell it at high-end boutiques, although this brand of Awesome is so potent it may require a prescription.

Happy Anniversary, Mandy!

Friday, October 19, 2007

I Thought There Were No Sharks to Jump In Dillon, Texas

FAIR WARNING: I'm going to talk about stuff that has occurred on the show Friday Night Lights. I'm not going to mention anything that hasn't already aired, but if you're still catching up and wish to remain unspoiled, cease reading now.

* * * * *

For the 2006-2007 television season the finest show you could watch without stealing cable from your neighbor was Friday Night Lights. During its first season no other show could compare in quality of writing, performance, or direction. Anchored by the relationship between Eric Taylor (Kyle Chandler), a first-year high school football coach, and his wife Tami (Connie Britton), a guidance counselor at the same school, Friday Night Lights painted a vivid portrait of small-town family life. The student characters each fit certain archetypes but were written and acted so brilliantly that they transcended the mold of the typical high school drama. And, of course, there was football. But before anyone throws out the tired argument that "I don't like sports, therefore I have no need for this show," be aware that football is merely the MacGuffin that ties these characters together. The show is not about football, any more than Pulp Fiction was about Marcellus Wallace's briefcase. That said, however, Friday Night Lights offered a special insight into the psychology of the game.

The show's first season traced the team's efforts to win the state championship. After twenty-plus episodes, the Dillon Panthers' victory in the season finale was more cathartic than any feel-good sports movie ever made.

The first-season finale also offered tantalizing possibilities for the direction the show would take in its second season. Paralyzed star quarterback Jason Street had found an interesting new niche for himself, while still pursuing his dream of playing professional quad rugby. Quirky nerd Landry Clarke and reforming wild girl Tyra Collette formed a unique and entertaining friendship. Coach Taylor accepted a new job coaching at the college level — even though it meant being separated from his family for months at a time. And Tami Taylor learned she was having a baby.

Season Two started up a couple of weeks ago, and the first forty-five minutes or so of the premiere episode were like slipping into a comfy pair of sweatpants that just came out of the dryer. The Taylors had their baby, Grace. Their older daughter Julie was having doubts about her relationship with shy star quarterback Matt Saracen. Smash Williams was cocky as ever. Tim Riggins was drunk and scoring left and right — just not on the football field. Lyla Garrity went and found Jesus, which would be ridiculous for anybody but her. And her dad, Buddy, received a well-deserved insult from new football coach Bill McGregor that had to make any fan of the show smile a little.

And then, all of a sudden, I found myself watching an episode from one of the later seasons of Beverly Hills 90210.

See, during the first season, an unnamed creepy dude attacked Tyra Collette. Being the badass that she is, Tyra fought him off. Landry Clarke found her a little while later, and this event began an interesting bonding process between these two characters. The way these characters dealt with the event over the rest of the season remained both realistic and dramatically satisfying.

During the second-season premiere this creepy dude shows up again and attempts to up the ante, as it were, between himself and Tyra. After a brief altercation the man makes a few threatening remarks and then walks away, at which point Landry picks up a piece of metal and beats the guy to death with it. I KNOW.

Perhaps I am being melodramatic. Landry hit the guy twice. The first one put him on the ground; the second is what probably killed him. But still, right? I mean, it wasn't even self-defense. The guy was walking away. And then, to add a big sloppy fart to this turd of a plotline, Landry and Tyra dispose of the body by throwing it in a river. What the hell happened to my show?

It's simple enough to see where the show went wrong: The guy should not have died. Severely hurt, sure. Landry and Tyra would have to deal with the consequences, but the characters' cores would remain unaltered. But now? Now, whatever happened before is irrelevant. For these two characters the show can be about nothing but They Killed A Guy. No more fun banter between Landry and his best friend Matt Saracen about girls. No more snarky quips about high school lameness between Tyra and Julie Taylor. Because even if these events occur again, there is no way to view them without the They Killed A Guy filter. And that just makes me sad. If I wanted stories about teenagers committing murder I'd watch The O.C.

The third episode of Season Two airs tonight. Jesse Plemons (Landry) and Adrianne Palicki (Tyra) are excellent actors with a chemistry that is a joy to watch. They deserve a better story than this. Here's hoping the writers — who have displayed genius before — can find a way to dig themselves out of this hole.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Atheists SMASH!!!

The big criticism I hear about the New Wave of atheism is that we're all so damn angry. I had not noticed this myself, but maybe it's because I'm on the inside looking out. The prominent atheists I see on television don't seem particularly angry. Richard Dawkins comes across as pleasantly English, and Christopher Hitchens appears drunk and belligerent, but in a fun way. (I'm not saying he is drunk. But he does, on occasion, come across that way.) But I wouldn't describe it as angry.

Then I read Atheists and Anger on Greta Christina's Blog. I found it through a link on Pharyngula. Turns out, we atheists have a lot to be angry about.

I recommend the article because it is a list that should ring true not just for atheists, but really anyone who lays claim to rational, progressive thinking. I subscribed to the blog's feed, as well, because Greta Christina seems like one fascinating individual. Check it out.

Friday, October 12, 2007


The President vetoed a thing last week. I wasn't paying attention. He doesn't veto much, but when he does I can usually assume he shouldn't have done it. This time around he vetoed a bill that would have guaranteed health care to children whose parents could not afford insurance, but were not poor enough to qualify for Medicaid. The cost of the program, from what I understand, is about the same as the cost of two weeks in Iraq. But the President vetoed it because he saw it as a step toward Socialism.

I'm a firm believer in the idea that most things are the way they are in this country because it makes the most money that way. Cigarettes and alcohol are legal and marijuana is illegal because they make the most money that way. That story about finding a way to ignite salt water fizzled into the background because keeping the populace stressed out about oil prices makes more money. If the powers that be can find a way to make more money on water-based fuel or legalized marijuana you will see a paradigm shift.

The rule applies to health care, obviously. There is a consensus that the current system is totally jacked. Everyone running for an office of any kind is espousing some sort of "new" plan. Conservatives lean toward more of a free-market plan, while liberals push for more government control of the system, usually offering to pay for it with higher taxes on Things That Are Bad For You But Still Legal.

I have no idea how to fix a broken health care system. I just know that when I am standing in my doctor's office and my doctor has to consult a chart to figure out what drugs she is allowed to prescribe to me, something is very, very wrong.

I am fortunate enough to have health insurance through my employer. It came in handy a few years ago when I developed a kidney stone. I ran into a little trouble, though, because I neglected to call my doctor and ask her permission before I went to the emergency room. It must have slipped my mind while I was vomiting from the pain. Anyhoo, I received a bill from the hospital which I gratefully passed on to my insurance company. I remember that one of the tests cost twelve hundred dollars. That was on top of the seven hundred dollars just for walking in the door. I don't have nineteen hundred dollars. If I didn't have insurance I would not have been able to pay the bill, and I would now have collection agencies hounding me and screwing up my credit report even worse than it already is.

But here's what really worries me: I read once, a long time ago, that car companies deliberately build cars so they start to wear out just after the warranty expires. They could, if they wanted to, build cars that lasted longer, but this way customers are forced to go back and spend large sums of money on repairs or replacements. It seems to me the same might be true in a free-market health care system. See, there is one thing the health care industry must have in order to make money: sick people. It is in the industry's best interest to make sure there is a market for their product. It would not be cost-effective for them to, say, cure cancer, when there is so much money to be made from people who are suffering from it.

I'd like to think that a move toward Socialized medicine would negate that possibility. If the government had to pay for our health care, it would find ways to keep us from getting sick right quick, wouldn't they? Or would they just come up with a new definition of "sick," and give you so much paperwork to fill out just to prove you are sick that you'd rather just ride it out, even if "it" is a life-threatening tumor.

Sorry. I watched Children of Men a few weeks ago and I can't shake the feeling that we are all pretty much fucked.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Busy, busy, busy...

The Hound of the Baskervilles is winding down. We close Sunday. The run went very well. We had no bad houses, and a few great ones. And I got the hook-up for Chalk, which is in full swing right now. Combat rehearsals start tonight — I'm very excited about that, as you can imagine. We move into the performance space downtown next week.

I had my final check-in with the cast of Emma last Saturday. That show is shaping up nicely. The fights are in good shape, and what I've seen of the rest of the show looks interesting. The cast is talented and enthusiastic, which helps. Emma opens next week. I hope I'll get a chance to see it.

My writing class is a hell of a lot of fun. We're over half-way through, now. I wish I hadn't taken on as many theatre gigs right now, because they've severely restricted the time I have for writing. But I've gotten a lot out of the class, and I love just being in a room and talking with a group of people who are interested in writing and reading the same stuff as me.

My schedule has left little time for watching football, or any television at all. I did catch the last quarter of the Bears-Packers game on Sunday (Huzzah!) and the last couple minutes of the Bills-Cowboys game last night (Boo!).

In other television news, I am so happy that Friday Night Lights is back on. Being back with the Taylor family and seeing Grandma Saracen is like curling up under a warm blanket. I'm liking most of the developments so far, except for one. Those of you who watch the show will know what I mean. The show has earned the benefit of the doubt, though. I am very interested to see how it plays out. Oh, and the new Panthers coach is a dick. But in a totally awesome way.

In the meantime, the volume of work at my day job increased by an order of magnitude this week, and for some reason I also picked this week to try and quit drinking soda. We'll see how it all goes.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Friends Don't Let Friends Google Friends

There are these two guys.

The first guy is someone I knew a long time ago. I mean, like a quarter of a century ago. During my Star Wars/Lego/GI Joe years, this guy was my best friend. I probably haven't seen him since 1984.

The other guy is slightly famous. He writes comic books. I don't know when I first heard of him, but it was at least two or three years ago. I think I may even have read one of his books. I've certainly heard of the titles.

I discovered recently that these two people, one of whom I remembered from years ago, the other I was vaguely aware of as a noteworthy figure in the hallowed halls of nerd-dom, are in fact the same person. The comic book writer is known by a different name. Wikipedia supplied a couple other pieces of evidence that makes me certain of the ID.

It's a weird thing. If I had come across, say, a MySpace page for my old friend, I would have instantly shot him a "Hey! Remember me? What's up?" message. But now I feel weird about it. I mean, the guy has a freakin' Wikipedia entry about him. I've read reviews of his work on Ain't It Cool News. I can't just try and contact him out of the blue now. I'll look like a dick. Won't I?

I'm genuinely curious. What, if anything, should I do here?

Monday, September 24, 2007

Something Is Missing

My goodness. Three weeks into the NFL season and I am only just now getting around to writing about it. Shameful. Truth to tell, there has not been much for me to write about. My football-watching experience is severely limited by my current theatre obligations. Last night's debacle at Soldier Field was the first game I could watch live.

Sad to say, I am losing faith in Rex Grossman. I know, I was among his staunchest supporters during his darkest outings last season. I really believed he had the goods, and he just needed some experience and a healthy, productive off-season to make him one of the top quarterbacks in the league. It appears I was mistaken. After three games he has passed for exactly one touchdown while throwing six interceptions. His completion rating is barely over fifty percent, and he's already been sacked nine times. Certainly it isn't all his fault, but most of it is. Watching him against the Cowboys, whose starting QB Tony Romo has exactly as much NFL experience as Grossman does, it became apparent that Rex's ability to throw the ball a hundred miles doesn't amount to much when you get sacked twice just by tripping over people. Rex's QB rating is only a few points higher than kicker Robbie Gould's, who has thrown exactly one pass this year, on a trick play. It was incomplete.

Now, I can't focus all my frustration on Rex. There are other players on the team who are not carrying their weight. Bernard Berrian's dropped passes last night could have changed the momentum of the game. Safety Adam Archuleta had a hell of a time wrapping up on tackles. And we're getting burned by injuries left and right. There's plenty of blame to go around.

And there's some good stuff, too. Greg Olsen looked sharp in his first pro outing. Desmond Clark had a great catch during our one touchdown-scoring drive last night. Our defense in general is still a monster, but the strain of having to win the game on their own became apparent toward the end.

There is a trend in the NFL, that teams who lose the Super Bowl have awful follow-up seasons. So far the Bears are doing little to break that trend. During the game last night you could hear the crowd chanting for backup QB Brian Griese. The change might give a slight boost for a game or two, but it won't fix the fundamental problem. I'm starting to think there is something in the mentality of the organization that makes it difficult for a quarterback to find his stride here. The Bears have had forty starting quarterbacks in the last forty-seven years. There has to be a reason behind a statistic as ridiculous as that.

But at least I'm not gonna ask for my money back for Rex's jersey. We went to the Super Bowl with that guy. You can't take that away from him.

Monday, September 17, 2007

The Wheel of Time turns...

...and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again. In one Age, called the Third Age by some, an Age yet to come, an Age long past, a wind rose. The wind was not the beginning. There are neither beginnings nor endings to the turning of the Wheel of Time. But it was a beginning.

James Oliver Rigney, Jr., better known by his pen name, Robert Jordan, has died. In March of 2006 he announced that he had been diagnosed with cardiac amyloidosis. At the time he said he had been given a life expectancy of four years. Since then his frequent updates through his blog were upbeat and positive.

I started reading his epic series The Wheel of Time in 1990. The series rivals Tolkien's work in scope and detail. Perhaps too much detail; I must confess I stopped reading after the seventh book, A Crown of Swords. I decided I would wait until he finished the series, then go ahead and read the whole thing. I was excited when I heard, after the eleventh volume came out in 2005, that the series would conclude at the end of Book Twelve. Now, sadly, it appears the book and the series will go unfinished.

George R.R. Martin has posted a very nice eulogy on his blog here.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

My Best Review Ever (To Date)

Catey Sullivan of the Pioneer Press News-Star had this to say about my work in City Lit's The Hound of the Baskervilles:

The combination of McCabe's adaptation, Theis able direction and the cast's pitch-perfect performances is evident early on, when country doctor John Mortimer (Christopher M. Walsh) reads a document that fills in Holmes and Watson (and the audience) on the Baskerville curse and highlights the necessity of getting to the bottom of the mystery before young Henry Baskerville (Chris Cantelmi) follows in the footsteps of his unfortunate ancestors.

Like a one-person symphony, Walsh begins his recitation with matter-of-fact understatement, and builds to a rip-roaring crescendo of midnight screams and sudden death at the ghastly hands unknown phantoms.

"One-person symphony." Hee! The rest of the review is just as glowing. Y'all should come check out the show. Just twelve performances left!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

When It Rains It Pours

I have another show to add to my list of upcoming... er... shows. I just got cast in the world premiere of Chalk, written by Brad Lawrence and directed by Nathan Robbel for the Right Brain Project. We had the first read-through on Tuesday, start rehearsals next Tuesday, and run October 25th through November 26th.

Also, the first session of my fantasy/science fiction writing class started Monday. Very exciting as well. More on that later.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Article of Faith

In the comments of an earlier post my friend and I spent some valuable server space arguing the definition of the word Faith. So, I looked it up. Merriam-Webster Online gave me these definitions:

1 a : allegiance to duty or a person : LOYALTY b (1) : fidelity to one's promises (2) : sincerity of intentions
2 a (1) : belief and trust in and loyalty to God (2) : belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion b (1) : firm belief in something for which there is no proof (2) : complete trust
3 : something that is believed especially with strong conviction; especially : a system of religious beliefs

Fair enough. Please note in the second definition the idea of believing in something for which there is no proof. It is this clause which prevents me from applying this word to myself. To be even more picky, I might replace the word proof with evidence. But there's more to it than that. I won't use the word faith to describe myself because the Religious Right in America have co-opted the word. They have marketed it into something that creates an us-versus-them mentality, and made being a "person of faith" something the citizens of this country are expected to aspire to. They do it all the time. I must admit I'm impressed with their skill.

I first noticed this ability in the mid-'90s, when somehow the word liberal became dirty. Conservatives started affecting an odd slant whenever they used the word, and suddenly even the most die-hard liberals avoided connecting themselves with the word. They did the same thing to the word French. By the same token they managed to take the word patriot and spin it in a way that it excluded anyone who dared question the status quo. The general public reacted by avoiding anything that might label them as liberal, vilifying to a comedic degree anything considered French, and going to great lengths to display their so-called patriotism. The same thing has happened now with faith. If you are on the right side, the "good" side, if your are "with us," you must also be a person of faith.

I think we liberals need to fire back somehow. It's unacceptable that we should avoid identifying ourselves with terms the right has co-opted. It's not enough that we own up to these words in an attempt to take them back. That will only get us so far. We need to find words — common words everybody identifies with — and we need to own them. The question is, what words?

I'm open to suggestions.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Theatre News

I've got a few gigs coming up that I'd like to let you all know about. First up is The Hound of the Baskervilles at City Lit. We open this coming Monday, September 3, and run Fridays — Sundays through mid-October. It features the incomparable Don Bender as Sherlock Holmes, and my A Clockwork Orange compatriot Will Schutz Dr. Watson. I play Dr. Mortimer, who basically provides all of the exposition. Plus, there is fog. What more could you ask for?

I'll be providing the fight choreography for Emma, by Howard Zinn. The show is directed by Kate Hendrickson and co-directed by my good friend Shane Oman for Trap Door Theatre. The play is about the anarchist Emma Goldman and features Trap Door's Artistic Director Beata Pilch in the title role. This show will pose an interesting challenge for me as fight director, since there are going to be no actual props used on stage. However, the fights include weapons such as guns, knives, whips, and even a bowl of soup. Part of my job will be to show the audience that these weapons are in the characters' hands, even though the actors will be holding nothing. Should be interesting. The show opens Thursday, October 18.

Then in November I start rehearsals for Journey's End, by R.C. Sherriff. I'll be back on stage for this one. It's being produced by Griffin Theatre and directed by Jonathan Berry. We open in January.

See you on the night!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Pathetic and Sad

I was contemplating some kind of diatribe against Michael Vick, soon-to-be- former Atlanta Falcons quarterback and also-soon-to-be inmate of a federal penitentiary. I wanted to make a statement regarding what a sick fuck that douchebag turned out to be, and I wanted to take a few of the talking heads on ESPN and other sports outlets to task for not saying so themselves. Thankfully, King Kaufman at managed to sum up the whole thing for me, and far more eloquently as well. You can check out his column right here.

Dumb, dumb, stupid, stupid, dumb.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Godless Heathen

I am an atheist. My wife knows I'm an atheist. Some of my friends know it. I haven't exactly kept it a secret, but it just doesn't come up in conversation that much. I think it's something that many people don't want to talk about. Maybe everyone I know agrees with me on a level basic enough that the issue doesn't require discussion. Or maybe everyone is horrified but just too polite to say anything. Either way, for a little while now I've been wanting to come out of the closet, as it were. I want to go from being a secretive behind-closed-doors atheist to a flaming, ride-my-own-float-in-the-parade atheist. We do get a parade, don't we? No? We should work on that.

I remember during the 2004 elections thinking that I rarely got to participate in any good political sparring matches because everyone I knew was a good devout liberal like myself. Secretly I was relieved that I never was forced to defend my position, because I do not have the head for facts that skilled debaters need. I knew what I felt in principle, but the moment someone threw a statistic at me I was screwed. I worried about defending atheism in the same way, until I discovered this whole modern movement — the so-called New Atheists. Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris. A new trinity. Not unholy; antiholy. I found them through their prophet, or perhaps gateway drug, PZ Myers.

Professor Myers is a terrifyingly smart man who writes in a style that makes me feel comfortable in my own level of intelligence while still being awed by his. Being a biologist, Myers' writing often delves into, well, science, which I do not always understand, but it is impossible not to be caught up in his enthusiasm. Through his blog I discovered something that liberated me. He made me realize that I do not need to be a genius to be an atheist. I just need a little common sense.

The whole point of atheism is admitting that we do not know everything. For some people, an admission like that requires greater personal sacrifice than trusting in some unseen, unknown force to make sure everything turns out all right in the end. Atheism is not a statement of fact; it is a simple request that you support your claims with evidence. I think there is no god, or gods, who created the universe and everything in it and watches over it and possibly directs its affairs. Why do I think this? Because I have seen no evidence of it. John McCain can say he sees the hand of God in a Grand Canyon sunset, but so far all I know is that erosion occurred over millions of years, and sunlight refracts as it passes through the atmosphere. Does that make the view any less spectacular? I think not. I still have the capacity to be awed by the beauty of nature, even — perhaps especially — if there is no mysterious hand shaping the scene.

I remember reading several years ago about whether or not William Shakespeare was in fact the author of the plays credited to him. I couldn't help but wonder, would Hamlet or Macbeth be any less brilliant if it turned out someone else wrote them? Of course not. And by that reasoning, is our universe any less wondrous because it shaped itself over billions of years rather than being swirled into existence in a week? Would the fact that you and I are even here to have this discussion be any less miraculous?

I know, that last bit sounded all light and fluffy, and that's not the kind of atheist I want to be. I want to be IN YOUR FACE, please, if you don't mind. I want to rage about the blurring of the line between Church and State. I want to wax incredulous about proponents of "Intelligent Design" being elected to school boards. I want to shine a harsh light on the bizarre aims of the Religious Right. Mostly, however, I want to live my life, write some stories, work on some plays, maybe raise a family. But that may be too much to ask.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Master of Verona

I posted this review on, but I thought I'd reprint it here because I'd like to get the word out about this book. David Blixt was the fight director for the stage version of A Clockwork Orange I was in just before I got married. He's a cool guy and he's written a hell of a book, and I hope you all go out and get yourselves a copy.

From my review on

This book has it all: adventure, intrigue, drama, duels, battles, and a little sex thrown in for good measure. And the characterizations are extraordinary. If Mr. Blixt had not done such an amazing job building such complete, three-dimensional characters, it would be hard to believe that such intriguing figures as Cangrande, his sister Katerina or the fascinating Antonia Alaghieri actually existed. As a bonus, the narrative is liberally peppered with appearances by some of William Shakespeare's most famous Italian characters, and we see how the turmoil of northern Italy at the beginning of the Renaissance led to the famous feud at the heart of "Romeo and Juliet."

One aspect that I particularly enjoyed was the characters' various dispositions on astrology, which plays a central role in the novel. Given the time period, it is fascinating to watch as a culture begins to shrug off the mysticism of its past.

It is a wonder that more books don't employ the setting and characters of David Blixt's debut novel. Between the people and locales which inspired the works of William Shakespeare and the historical personages of Dante and Cangrande della Scala, I am amazed that more writers have not mined this period more thoroughly. That said, I wonder if there are very many who could do it better than "Master of Verona."

You can buy the book right here. I suggest you do so.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

The Bourne Ultimatum

There is a fight scene in The Bourne Ultimatum, which I saw last night, that forced me to alter certain preconceived notions I had about the "proper way" to film a fight. It occurs at the end of a lengthy and incredibly tense three-way chase scene, where the hero Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) pursues a CIA "asset" — a trained hit man named Desh (Joey Ansah) with skills comparable to Bourne himself — who is tracking his target, Nicky (Julia Stiles) as she weaves her way through tightly stacked buildings in a crowded neighborhood in Tangier. The chase culminates when all three meet in a tiny apartment, and Bourne and Desh throw down.

I have two pet peeves when it comes to filming fight scenes. One is when the director restricts everything to tight close-ups of the combatants' faces, so that you see nothing of the fight itself, just the characters' reactions to whatever is happening. That's just cheating. This is not a problem from which the Bourne films have ever really suffered, but in this particular scene the location presented certain obstacles that made tight framing a necessity.

My other issue is when the scene is edited using a mind-boggling array of fast cuts. I understand the intention here, which is to create a sense of disorientation. This rarely works, however, as it makes me stop watching the movie. I just wait for the scene to end so they can tell me who won. This scene involves two professional killers trained in hand-to-hand combat and at the heights of their respective games. The actors are in fantastic shape, and they move unbelievably fast. Combined with the confined space, this is a set up for one frustrating fight scene. Against the odds, though, Ultimatum pulls it off.

This fight sprawls through two rooms, but neither of them are big enough to fit the three characters involved comfortably. As a result the camera is forced in close, but director Paul Greengrass employs a handheld style that relies more on moving the camera quickly to whatever point is most important. It feels frantic, but Greengrass is careful to ensure that the audience sees something specific in each shot rather than just a blur of frenzied motion. There are quite a few fast cuts, and the actors move so fast that most of the choreography is a blur. A few salient points shine through, however. In particular the brief use of a book as a weapon got a visceral response from the audience, and in the second stage of the fight the appearance of a straight razor and a towel ramped up the tension nicely.

There was no music whatsoever during this fight. The only sounds were the labored grunts of the combatants, the impact of fist on flesh, and the occasional crash of broken furniture.

Here's the thing: The tight location, the speed of the actors, the careful camera work and the intimate sound design all combined to create a fight scene where the audience flinched out of concern that they themselves might get hit with a stray left hook. This sort of chaos often takes an audience out of a scene because they stop watching the movie and start wondering about the actors' safety. Ultimatum managed to avoid this pitfall, instead creating a fight that enhances the characters, forwards the plot, and raises the stakes of the overall story.

The end of the scene served to underscore what makes Jason Bourne stand out in the sea of American action heroes. The nature of his struggle is such that for every fight he wins, he loses another part of himself. Everyone who has followed his story since the first film knows that "Jason Bourne" is not this man's original identity. "Bourne" is a cold-blooded killer, a man whom the hero has come to abhor. But with each death Bourne claims a little more of the hero, and Matt Damon is fascinating to watch as he portrays this internal struggle.

Friday, August 03, 2007

The Curse of MySpace

In the last four hours I have, via my MySpace page, received messages from Diane, George, Shirley, Rae, Ricardo, Angie, Odessa, Earle, Chelsea and Kirk. All of these people have three things in common: They use the phrase "what's up?" as a subject heading, they do not have photos uploaded to their accounts, and THEY DON'T FUCKING EXIST.

I'm a simple guy. I take pleasure in simple things. One of those things is when the little "New Mail" icon on my Yahoo! mail account lights up. But today it has brought me naught but heartache, as each time the new mail turns out to be an alert from MySpace informing that some new phantom wants me to click on some obscure link so I can see their real pictures, 'cause MySpace won't let them show their favorites, if you know what they mean, wink wink.


Tuesday, July 31, 2007


George R.R. Martin, my favorite fantasy writer and fellow football fanatic, has written a very nice short piece about the passing of Bill Walsh on his blog. Bill Walsh, as some of you may recall, coached the San Francisco 49ers during their late '80s heyday, and is also the creator of the West Coast offense.

Also, Roger Ebert wrote an excellent eulogy for film director Ingmar Bergman, whose work inspired filmakers from Woody Allen to David Mamet. If you haven't seen them already you owe it to yourself to check out Persona, The Seventh Seal and Fanny and Alexander. I don't always agree with Mr. Ebert's reviews, but I always read his first because his writing is so good. This piece on Bergman is no exception.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

I'm gonna talk about this book now, and I'm gonna mention stuff that happened in it. Per my own rules, I will now give everyone who has not yet read it time to leave the room.

Are they gone?


Ho. Ly. Crap. I finished it last night at about 1:30. My mind is still blown. I don't remember the last time I felt such satisfaction at the conclusion of an epic series like this. Probably not since Return of the Jedi have I come away from something with the profound sense that I had an Experience with a Capital "E." Reading this book, I was part of something bigger than myself.

Speaking of Star Wars, Voldemort is a villain on par with Empire Strikes Back-era Darth Vader. I dare you to come up with a fantasy villain who managed to be as terrifying. It's such a popular conceit in current fiction to have the villain be a master manipulator/man-behind-the-curtain type of character, who, once his facade is discovered, reveals himself to be a sniveling weakling. But with Voldemort, like Vader before him, I felt a genuine concern for the safety of any character that shared scene-time with him — even the other bad guys. When Harry, Ron and Hermione escaped from the Malfoys' house, I actually winced at the thought of what would happen to Bellatrix and the others. I mean, this is Bellatrix we're talking about here. If she'd gotten hit by a bus I'd have cheered, but I cringed at the thought of what the Big V would do when he found out she'd lost his prize.

And speaking of Bellatrix, how cool was that throw-down at the end with Molly Weasley? Ol' Molly went all Sigourney Weaver at then end of Aliens on her ass! The nerd in me thoroughly enjoyed all of the major players having their own special moments toward the end. Neville Longbottom killing Nagini? Too awesome.

I'm proud to say that I totally called it about how Snape's actions were all part of Dumbledore's greater scheme, but the chapter in which Harry observed his memories through the Pensieve still rocked my world. The story of Severus and Lily, even told in the short movie-trailer-style snippets, was about the saddest thing ever. Someday soon I'm going to sit down and re-read the whole series from the beginning, and I think that Snape will be the character most altered by my knowledge of what happens next.

One has to admire, I think, the finality that death has in this series. Even in The Lord of the Rings Gandalf comes back. He couldn't go half a book without coming back to life. In the Star Wars series Obi Wan Kenobi kept showing up, glowing in the dark. But here, the dead stay dead. Even at the end, when Harry used the Resurrection Stone, the figures who appeared barely even said anything. Besides, they weren't there to keep him company; they were their to make his journey to their side of the veil a little easier. And Harry had to die himself (or close to it) for that last conversation with Dumbledore. I had assumed, going in, that when Harry got stuck he'd just find a way to talk to Dumbledore's portrait, and it would be like the old man had never left. But Rowling avoided that route, I think wisely. It made the characters' sacrifices that much more significant.

Also, if nothing else about the series marked it as British, having the nebulous space between Life and Death represented by the train station at King's Cross pretty much settles it.

Scenes I cannot wait to see in the movie: The Death Eaters ambushing the Order of the Phoenix in the air as they try to sneak Harry to a safe house; the duel between Professor McGonagall and Snape; Nagini jumping out of Bathilda Bagshot's body (if they do it right, the MPAA is gonna shit themselves); and pretty much the whole Battle of Hogwarts.

And as much as I enjoyed all the action sequences, I still had room to love the warm and fuzzy bits too. I didn't really know what to make of Harry and Ginny Weasley's relationship after reading Half-Blood Prince, but there was no denying their connection this time around. And while everyone was hoping Ron and Hermione would hook up, or at least saw it coming from three or four books back, when she finally jumps him in the Room of Requirement I had to give a little cheer, followed by a good laugh at Harry's reaction. And seriously, if Snape's story doesn't bring a little tear to your eye then you are underdeveloped in the soul area.

I have one minor complaint, and that was with the resolution of the Malfoys' plotline. I have no problem with Lucius and Narcissa choosing their son over their allegiance to Voldemort. However Rowling gave the moment to Narcissa, when she whispers to Harry and then announces that he is dead when she knows he is not. It should have been Lucius. He was the one we met first, and the one whose arc we wanted to follow.

I hope there are no more novels about Harry Potter. Twenty years from now, if she really, really wants to, I suppose J.K. could crank out a story about those kids we met in the epilogue. Or better yet, their grandkids. But preferably not. That said, I do think there is room for other stories told in the Harry Potter universe. On Rowling's website one of the FAQs involves the lack of American characters in her stories. Her response basically said go ahead and write our own. I find myself wondering whether or not there is an American equivalent to the Ministry of Magic, or where American wizards learn their craft. There's a really great opportunity here, and Rowling practically dared is to take advantage of it.

The last seven-book arc I completed was Stephen King's Dark Tower series. The last chapter of that story was one of the biggest letdowns in my reading history. J.K. Rowling, however, stepped up and showed everyone how it should be done. Some might complain that everything wrapped up a little too neatly in the end, but frankly that's how I want my Harry Potter. Gift-wrapped.

Next, we'll have to see how George R.R. Martin does with his A Song of Ice and Fire series, also slated for seven books. If he can keep his conclusion as murky and open-ended as Rowling's was neat and clean, then all will be right with the world.

Oh, and that epilogue. I freakin' loved it. I wanna give Albus Severus noogies.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Spoiler Alert!

A book hits the shelves at 12:01 tonight. It's about a boy who goes to school to become a wizard. I'm told it's the seventh, and last, in a series of books that have been rather popular among the clannish sort that read such things. Perhaps you've heard of it.

I'm not going to have the cash to procure my own copy for another week and a half, and so I have to wait while certain people around me ravage through it this weekend and then dance around me like they have to pee because they WANT TO TALK ABOUT THE BOOK SO BAD, but they CAN'T, because I haven't read it. This is an imposition that I have pressed upon them.

I am reminded of a story my friend Shane shared once, about two guys he knew. Guy A made some reference to the movie The Sixth Sense, revealing the big twist at the end. Guy B got all bent out of shape because he had not yet seen the movie. At first Guy A was contrite, because that sucks, but then he reconsidered. "Dude," Guy A said to Guy B, "that movie came out five years ago." Actually, it came out in 1999, so let's just assume this conversation took place in '04 or somewhere around there. Anyway, Guy A's point was that the statute of limitation on spoilers had run out for that film.

It got me thinking, there really should be a statute of limitations on spoilers. If someone doesn't have the common decency to know, at this point, that Verbal Kint is Keyser Sose, or that Dil is a man, or that Soylent Green is people, then no one else can be held accountable if they reveal that information. It's been out there long enough that if you don't know about it, even if you haven't actually seen the movie, read the book, whatever, then you just haven't been paying attention.

Here is what I propose:

1) For films, the statute of limitations on spoilers is six months from the release date, unless the DVD is released LESS THAN six months after the original release. In that case, the limit is three months from the DVD release date. Films made for television have a statute of limitations of one month from the broadcast date, although who the hell even watches those anymore?

2) For books, the statute of limitations is one year from the date of publication, UNLESS that book reaches the Top 10 in sales on either Amazon or the New York Times bestsellers list, in which case the limit is three months.

3) For episodic television, the statute of limitations on any given episode runs out when the next episode airs, unless the episode is the last episode before a hiatus, in which case the limit is two weeks. Which means that I can tell all y'all that Jack and Kate will eventually get off the island.

4) In situations where more than one limit applies, such as a film version of a book, the limit runs out on the EARLIEST possible date. Which means that even though the movie version of the new Harry Potter book won't be out for a few more years, the time limit on spoilers still runs out three months from tomorrow.

5) And this is an important one: Revealing spoiler information before the limit has expired is punishable by death. And that's if it's an inadvertent slip. If you're a dick about it, you will be strapped to a chair and forced to watch consecutive episodes of The Simple Life until your eyes melt out of your head.

I guess the point is, DO NOT TELL ME WHAT HAPPENS IN THE NEW HARRY POTTER NOVEL. But if I still haven't read it in three months, go ahead and tell me because I obviously don't care that much.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Progress Report

I am halfway through Week 3 of "pre-training," as outlined in this book. I have not yet reached the point where I actually start, you know, running. There's still a couple of weeks to go before then. For now it's just walking, a little faster each week. Not as easy as it sounds when you are as out of shape as myself. That said, the last time I stuck with an exercise plan for longer than two weeks was in the spring of 2001, when I had to get in shape to play Macbeth at Columbia College. That was the best shape I'd been in since high school. Unfortunately I was also on the Atkins diet at the time, which did help me drop about forty pounds, but also gave me a kidney stone for my troubles.

As for measurable results, as of this morning my weight had dropped below 290 for the first time in about a year. So that's something. When I get below 280 I'll call it progress. I've recently discovered that I actually like tofu (at least some of the time), and that should help, I think. I'm still working out the whole diet thing.

If I get really ambitious, maybe one of these days I'll try giving up soda again. But let's not get too crazy, right?

Monday, July 16, 2007

Pardon Our Dust

How do you like the (slightly) new look?

I decided, after four months of paying twenty bucks a month for web hosting of which I used less than one tenth of a percent, that I could accomplish the same thing by just transferring my custom domain name here for free. Hence the updated digs. You will notice a flurry of new posts as well; these are bits of content from my old website that I wanted to maintain over here instead. Overall not much is changing. It's just a little more compact, and, well cheaper. Which suits me perfect.

And, as I am hoping to use this site as a calling card, I needed to finally update the title so that everyone knows it's all about boring old me.

Also, for those of you who link to this blog or my old website, both addresses ( and now come here.

Comments? Suggestions? Bags of cash? All welcome here, as always.


If You Really Want to Hear About It . . .

I was born in 1974, in Quincy, Illinois. When I was very young my family spent a year in Memphis, Tennessee. My one memory of that time involves my mother asking me what color crayon I was using, and I answered, "Brown." This caused some sort of an uproar that included my father saying, "It's time to move." I realize now that I must have spoken in a Southern dialect. My parents deny any memory of this episode, but I believe it to be the real reason we eventually relocated to the south suburbs of Chicago, Illinois.

Baseball, GI Joe, Legos and Star Wars dominated my grade school years. I attended Orchard Hill Farm School, which was unique in that it was actually located on a small farm. It even boasted a handful of horses and sheep. Much of my time at Orchard Hill was spent convincing my teacher not to bust me too hard for not doing my homework. I was awarded "Most Likely to Become a Swamp Salesman." Not kidding.

Orchard Hill also saw my first foray into the theater arts. When I was ten years old I wrote, directed and starred in a stage adaptation of Voltron. Yeah, the cartoon. Again, not kidding. It was a huge hit.

My parents divorced when I was nine years old. When I was ten, my dad remarried and moved the family to Muskegon, Michigan. I entered the Mona Shores public school system, where my swamp-selling skills did not serve me nearly as well as they once had. But I did get to play football, which helped. During my first few years in Muskegon I also began a life-long relationship with authors like JRR Tolkien, Arthur C. Clarke, and (my personal hero) Stephen King. Later, in high school, my interest in performing reappeared when I enrolled in the school choir.

At best you might say I was an indifferent student in high school. I was uncomfortable and awkward around people my own age, preferring instead to stay in my room reading with the stereo cranked. The big threat was always, "If you don't get your grades up, you won't be able to go to college." As far as I could tell, "college" just meant more school, which was the last thing I wanted. My parents grounded me regularly as well, but since I mostly wanted to stay in my room and read anyway it made for an ineffective deterrent. Don't feel bad for me; I got over it eventually.

I did manage to graduate high school and spent the next few years floating around Muskegon, trying to figure out what to do with the rest of my life. I wrote fiction off and on, but lacked the discipline to really get serious about it. I attended the local community college with disastrous results. The one bright spot was the local theater scene. For a small blue-collar town where the most popular hobbies all involve shooting things, Muskegon has a surprisingly large theater community. At the time the town boasted a civic theater company, an independent non-profit theater company, a professional summer-stock company, and a fine arts camp. Also, the community college's productions opened their auditions to the public. There was plenty of stuff to do. Very little of it paid anything, but it was a lot of fun. Also, it gave me a direction to explore career-wise. In 1994 I bit the bullet and moved to Chicago with the intention of pursuing a career in theater.

It didn't take long for me to realize I had no idea what I was doing. I decided to give school one more try, enrolling at Columbia College Chicago where, aside from a decent education in the craft and business of theater and a few enlightening classes in fiction writing, I met Mandy, my future wife. After dating for eight years, off and on, we tied the knot in the fall of 2004.

My theater career remained stagnant until about 2004, when I declared that I was no longer pursuing acting as a career but instead relegated it to "hobby" level. Then I got cast in a production of A Clockwork Orange, which I almost turned down but cause it ran until the week before my wedding. Mandy told me to go for it, though, and I've been pretty busy ever since. I average four or five shows on stage per year, and another two or three behind the scenes providing stage combat choreography.

I do still write, although that comes and goes. There is a Gloria Steinem quote that defines me: "I hate writing, but I love having written." Every once in a while I do manage to crank something out, though. I sold my first short story, Highway Robbery, to Allegory e-zine (formerly Peridot Books) in 2001, and I am a two-time winner of National Novel Writing Month.

I stand 6'1" and am very overweight, although I'm working on that. I've got blue eyes, and brown hair with hints of red (and also a little gray) that I've been told is my best feature. I'm a rabid Chicago Bears fan. I love movies, and have a pretty extensive DVD collection. I don't read comic books very much, although I am really into anything Batman-related. And few things make me happier than loud, heavy, aggressive music.

I have two sisters, a half-sister, a half-brother and two step-brothers. I'm older than all of them. We're spread out all over the country, from Michigan to Indiana, to Arizona and Washington state. At home there's me and the wife, and our two cats, Zoe and Smogs.

That pretty much covers it. If anything major occurs I'll update this page. Otherwise, my regular blog entries should keep you up to date. Let me know if you have any questions.

See ya!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


A blog that I read frequently, PZ Myers' Pharyngula, posted this link, and I liked it enough that I thought I'd post it here too.

For your reading enjoyment, I present to you the 20 Blogging Commandments.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

My Jesus Year

I turned thirty-three on Sunday. I feel it is probably about time I start figuring out what I want to be when I grow up. To that end, my lovely wife has supplied me with a gift certificate for a sci-fi/fantasy writing class I want to take in the fall. We also had the first read-through for Hound of the Baskervilles over the weekend, and to top things off I just bought a brand new pair of running shoes, which I hope to wear out by actually, you know, running in them. I even went to a fancy running shoe store where they measure your feet every which way and make you run up and down the street in each pair you try on and tell you why you shouldn't run in cotton socks because they store sweat and chafe and holy crap.

I'm not saying I want to be a runner when I grow up. I'm just trying to be proactive. This guy turned me on to this book, although he doesn't know it, and now I've got myself thinking that I could actually make this work for me.

Mandy and I were in Muskegon the weekend before last. It was the first time in a long time (and also probably the last for a long time) that the whole family (or at least that side of it) was together. Always chaotic, always fun. My mom looks strangely bad-ass with her shaved head, but more importantly she is as energetic and enthusiastic as ever. We ate a lot, and swam a lot. And had a lot of ice cream. And Mandy and I took a canoe out on Black Lake with my friend Eric. I haven't been in a canoe since Boy Scouts, and I had forgotten how much I loved it. I gotta get me one of those.

Also, I participated in a round-robin interview for an article about stage combat that might get published some time in the late summer or early fall. I'll let you know if I hear more about it.

There may be one or two other projects brewing, but I don't want to jinx them by revealing the details too soon.

Happy July 4th, everybody!

ADDENDUM: To avoid any more confusion, you can find a definition of "Jesus Year" right here.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Elementary, My Dear Watson

Did you know that that line does not appear anywhere in any of the Sherlock Holmes stories written by Arthur Conan Doyle? The phrase originated in the 1929 film The Return of Sherlock Holmes, and was spoken by Clive Brook, the actor who played the title role. How the phrase came to be so inextricable linked with the character, I'll never know. I'll have to see the movie.

In the meantime, I will have to keep myself busy learning other Sherlock-related lines, as I have just been cast in City Lit Theatre's The Hound of the Baskervilles. We start rehearsals in a few weeks, and open the end of August. I play Dr. Mortimer, who (judging by the sides I read for the audition) is mostly responsible for the exposition. It's been about twenty years since I read the story, so I don't really know much more at this point. The script is on its way to me as we speak.

I am particularly excited about this project because I get to work with a guy named Don Bender, who will play Sherlock. He's a Chicago actor whom I've only just met at this audition, but whose work I've admired for a couple of years now. I can't wait to see him in action.

In other theater news, I saw a freakin' phenomenal play last night: The spectacularly-titled Mr. Spacky, The Man Who Was Continuously Followed by Wolves. It was written by Emily Schwartz and produced by The Strange Tree Group. Also, Mr. Spacky himself was played by a fellow named Scott Cupper, a fine actor whom I had the pleasure of directing in Rogue 8 Issue #3. Seeing Mr. Spacky was some of the most fun I've had watching theater in years. Sadly, the show closes tomorrow night, and if last night was any indication it will be totally sold out. But keep your eyes and ears open for this company in the future. They do some amazing stuff.

Lastly, a group of us are gathering at a local bar tonight to bid farewell to a couple of friends (or friends who are a couple, however you want to phrase it) who are making the trek out to Los Angeles to seek their fortunes. So long Chris and Jen! You will be missed. We are going to try and carry on the tradition of movie days without you. Although it will be nice to have a place to crash when Mandy and I decide to see LA for ourselves.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Various and Sundry

My good friend Direnerd got to interview Janeane Garafalo earlier this week. You can read the interview here. I like how he got her all riled up real quick and then just let her go. Fun stuff! He also interviewed comedian Patton Oswalt, which is uber-awesome, and he will have that one posted online soon.

[UPDATE: The interview with Patton Oswalt is now online, and can be read right here.]

Tomorrow, June 16th, Mandy and I will attend the wedding of our good friends Jen and Fraser. I for one am very excited for them both, and I am exceeding jealous over their three-week Italian honeymoon. The bastards.

And next weekend Mandy and I will make a trek up to Muskegon for a little family gathering. Ostensibly the occasion is that of my youngest brother's high school graduation (congrats, Tom!), but he actually had his official graduation party last week. Mostly it's just a chance for all of us to be in the same place for a couple of days. It happens very rarely now, with one sister living in Arizona, and another moving to Seattle just days after our little reunion.

There's not too much else going on. I had an audition last night, and I hope to have another coming up shortly. I also might have some new stage combat work coming my way, but I don't want to get too worked up until it's official. Rewrites on my last NaNoWriMo novel are progressing at a snail's pace. I really wish I had a clue what I was doing.

Oh! That reminds me: Next Monday I'll be attending a sci-fi/fantasy writing workshop. That should be interesting. I'm so curious to find out what kinds of people might attend such an event. I hope they're not all just like me.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

A Night With the Fights

By Mary Shen Barnidge, reprinted from Moulinet: An Action Quarterly, Number Two -- 2007.

Mercury Fur

fight choreography by Chris Walsh

All right, we've got four frightened street waifs -- one of them, a lanky transvestite in high heels and miniskirt -- seeking to free their wounded companion from a sadistic greedhead, armed with an automatic pistol and a meat-hook, while the would-be rescuers' arsenal consists of a butterfly knife and a revolver cached away earlier in the story. The play is a drag-'em-through-the-gutter-and- kick 'em-in-the-teeth British shocker by Philip Ridley, the setting is a condemned apartment strewn with debris, the fight is the climax of the plot, and the audience is seated close enough to the action to smell the sweat. Now, how is fight director Chris Walsh to deliver brutality commensurate with the story, without risk to persons on either side of the fourth wall?

"The script isn't very specific on how the fights play out," recalls Walsh, "The stage directions might say, 'Darren and Lola attack Spinx. Spinx has the upper hand, but slowly they wear him down'. And Greg Beam, the director, also had a few ideas he wanted incorporated into the schematic. When we started, Lola was supposed to end the fight with a set of brass knuckles, but those didn't read well under the lights."

Keeping the rough stuff upstage takes advantage of the text-mandated dim lighting and the low barrier between stage and spectators provided by the set design. Additionally, the arc of the scene, while demanding that actors trade dialogue for long periods between sequences, allows for leisurely phrasing of physical transactions. "It was important to remove the guns from the equation as soon as possible, because there's no reason for these people not to use a loaded firearm," says Walsh, "But even so, I tried to tailor the fight to the actors -- Spinx, for example, would benefit from extreme economy of movement because his physique lends an air of menace that would be diminished if he moved around too much."

The results are a variety of movements incorporating bladework, wrestling and pugilistic hand-to-hand, capped by a coup-de-grace executed with a gas mask -- an unlikely weapon, albeit established earlier as a potential bludgeon -- all so closely integrated with the action and dialogue as to ascertain that our attention is never directed at the craft itself, but instead focused wholly on the social dynamic it reflects.

Friday, June 08, 2007


A pipe broke in the warehouse where I work today. Smelly water and what I think is a genuine turd plopped out onto some of our product. There's a hole right in the pipe, and whenever anyone flushed a toilet somewhere in the building stuff flowed out like a faucet. The pipe is still busted as of this writing, but the Powers That Be have cleverly posted "Out of Order" signs on all of the bathrooms, and we've been promised that help is on the way. There is a hint of a smell, but not so you'd notice if you weren't looking for it.

I ain't cleaning it up, that's for certain.

All this flowing sewage makes me think of Republicans. By now you've probably seen the clip from the recent debate when Rudy Giuliani's mic shorted out while he was answering a question regarding his stance on abortion rights. The moderator commented that lightning caused the short, and the other candidates backed away from Giuliani's podium. The move was, I think, intended to be comical. Giuliani's stance on abortion rights, and a number of other social issues, are more left-leaning than the other Republicans running. The joke appeared to be that God had voiced His displeasure with Rudy's sinful liberal streak. However, I'd bet the farm that most of the men on that stage believe that is exactly what happened. The guys running for the Republican nomination are a bunch of scary-ass, superstitious, freaks.

Did you see the first debate, when no less than three of these nutjobs came right out and said they did not believe in evolution? Didn't these men go to college?

Now, I'm an atheist, and a recent convert to the Harris-Dawkins-Hitchens school of In Your Face atheism. Not that I get many opportunities to get in people's faces about it. Furthermore, I don't really have the educational background to debate the scientific aspects, but here's the thing: I don't need to, because I trust the experts.

Please note that I used the word "trust," as opposed to "faith." The difference is simple -- you have to earn trust. Trust is earned with evidence. These politicians who answer questions about contemporary social issues with Bible verses offer no evidence of trustworthiness, or even the ability to think for themselves.

I might as well listen to the sewage flowing out of a hole in a pipe.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Have Sword, Will Travel

I bought a sword yesterday. I bought it from a friend of mine, who got it as a gift from somebody else. Some might say that makes the sword "used." I like to think it means that the sword has a history.

It's a nice looking sword. It's a rapier with an Italian-style swept hilt and curved quillons, and a heavy Schlager blade. For those of you who are not up on your sword-speak, a swept hilt means that the part of the sword that protects your hand is made up of these pretty, swirling lines of steel, rather than a solid cup or plate. And quillons are the parts that stick out from the sides, just above the grip, that give swords their distinctive cross-shape. The quillons on my rapier are curved in sort of an S-shape, so that the quillon pointed at me curves up and the one pointed away curves down. And a Schlager blade is wide and flat, as opposed to a musketeer or epee blade, which, when you look straight at the point, is shaped like a triangle. The particular blade on my sword is pretty heavy, and I might look into getting a heavier pommel (which is the round part at the bottom of the grip) to balance it better.

The grip on the sword has a black wire-wrap, which looks pretty sweet but means I pretty much always need to wear gloves when I use it (which one should do anyway, right Woolley?).

My one complaint is that somebody went and painted the whole hilt black. I have no problem with the hilt being black, and if it were in fact darkened metal that would be awesome. But this is not the case, as the minute scratches in the paint will attest. I think I am going to make a trip to Home Depot at some point and find out the best way to remove the paint.

Also, I'm going to want to get a dagger to go along with the sword. They don't call it "Rapier-and-Dagger" for nothing.

The next question, of course, is, "What the hell am I going to do with a sword?" Well, quite frankly, not too much just yet. But if the fight choreography gigs keep coming my way then at some point soon it's going to come in handy. In the meantime, the upkeep will serve as a nice relaxing hobby.

And I know at least one or two friends who will be totally jealous. Sweet!

Friday, May 25, 2007

The Boob Toob -- Or Is It "Bube Tube"?

Did you guys see the finale of Lost this week? Was your mind not blown? And what about Heroes? I mean, a dude gets run through with a samurai sword, another gets transported to feudal Japan, and let us not forget the thermonuclear explosion. And for those of you who think I just spoiled it, shut up and watch the show. It's not what you think.

There were a few duds this year, too. I watched every damn hour of 24 this season just because last season was so awesome, but I cannot count the ways in which this show sucked. It basically took a plot element from each previous season and mooshed them together to make a wad of boring. And it started off well, too, which just makes its nosedive into crap that much more frustrating.

I did watch the three or four episodes of Drive that actually made it on the air. I figured if Nathan Fillion was the star it probably had to have something going for it. And it did, I think. Each episode managed to at least make me curious about what was going on, but I think the formula of complete strangers with murky pasts being thrown together for unknown reasons by unseen forces is getting played out. And the Matrix-style camera work on all the highway scenes, while executed adequately, just didn't add anything. It felt like scenes couldn't begin until the special effects got out of the way.

But at least Drive wasn't as craptacular as Studio 60. Holy shit, that show sucked. Was Aaron Sorkin always so condescending with his writing? Why am I just noticing this now? And I know that pretty much every real critic who's discussed the show has already pointed this out, but you can't have a show about comedy writers who are supposed to be geniuses and then show their material and have it TOTALLY BLOW.

So, as this television season comes to a close, I think I can safely say that Battlestar Galactica remains the best show that I can see, since I don't have HBO or Showtime and therefore I don't get to watch The Sopranos or Rome or anything awesome like that until it comes out on DVD. I will add that Friday Night Lights is far and away the best show on network television, and probably the best new show of the year.

O, Television! Whate'er would I be without thee? Curse you, Sweeps Week!

In On Writing, Stephen King suggests that we would all probably be better off if we just chucked our TVs out the window. I cannot help but think that is true, especially when I look back at the ruin my writing time has become in the past few weeks. It's an addiction. I am helpless against its charms. I'd be all right if they would just stop making shows that were so damn good.

It's the serial drama. I cannot get enough of them. Add that to the resurgence of science fiction as a popular television genre, and what am I supposed to do? Between Battlestar Galactica, Lost, Heroes and even Supernatural I have enough nerd-fodder to last me several lifetimes. Add to that shows like Friday Night Lights and The Riches and I might as well just live on the couch, subsisting entirely on Tostitos and cheese dip.

Thank goodness for summer re-runs. I can safely ignore them, and maybe now I'll actually get something done -- like catch up on my Netflix queue.


Have you guys seen this yet? I knew I should have gone to that extras casting call.

Friday, May 18, 2007

The First Draft of Anything Is Always Shit

So says Ernest Hemingway, who I suspect knew a thing or two about writing. I know nothing of writing, or so I am discovering. Or rather, I know nothing of re-writing. I don't think I've ever really seriously sat down and tried it before.

That's not to say I've never corrected anything I've written before. I mean, my dad was a writer. I couldn't write a two-page book report for my seventh grade English class without my dad marking it up with weird editorial symbols and sending me back down to make revisions on the old Commodore 64. But that was all cosmetic stuff. Spelling punctuation, adjusting the occasional turn of phrase. I never had to dig something out that had been sitting for a while and actually create a new draft that was significantly different -- and, more importantly, improved -- from the original.

Okay, the truth now. I suspect there was some composition class in high school that covered this. I guarantee that I was not paying attention, and did not do the homework.

Now, however, I find myself wanting to be a real writer. I have a first draft of a short story in my backpack which I carry around almost everywhere I go. I also have the draft of the book I wrote for NaNoWriMo in a pile next to my computer here at home. I think both of them contain ideas that could make great reads, but neither of them are there yet. And if I knew what the next step was, I would surely take it.

I'll figure it out. I kind of have to, really. It's either that or spend the rest of my life schlepping. I hate schlepping.

I am reminded of another quote, this one from Gloria Steinem: "I do not like to write. I like to have written."

That's me all over.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Form Rejection

A momentous event occurred yesterday -- a significant moment in my burgeoning career as a professional writer. A rite of passage, if you will.

I got my first form rejection letter.

I sent a short story to a magazine, and they sent it back with a lovely note addressed to "Dear Contributor," explaining that they were just swamped with submissions and couldn't possibly consider my story for publication right now.


I know, that doesn't sound like good news. And I suppose it isn't. However, I've read a few biographies of writers in my time, and I can't think of one that doesn't reminisce about this moment in their writerly lives. It's really exciting. Stephen King got letters like this once. So did Tom Robbins, and George R.R. Martin. And now I've got one, too.

Of course, I won't be a real writer until I have a big thick stack of 'em. But it's a start. Now, I need to take a look at that story and see if there's anything that really needs changing, and then send it somewhere else. And I've got to keep writing new stuff until I come up with something they just cannot afford to turn down.