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.