Thursday, January 31, 2008


I find myself in a pickle.

I have a MySpace account (a few, actually, if you count the fake ones for the fake bands I and a friend of mine made up and pretend to promote). However, it turns out that the Powers That Be over at MySpace are religious bigots. The forum "Atheist and Agnostic Group" was deleted by MySpace in response to a campaign by Christians on the site. MySpace deleted the group for the first time two years ago, but reinstated it. For some reason they did it again at the beginning of the month, and now they refuse to bring it back. Contrast that with MySpace's response to the hacking of the largest Christian group on the site: MySpace Founder Tom Anderson personally restored the group, and promised to protect it from future deletions. I suppose this shouldn't be a huge surprise, since Rupert Murdoch bought MySpace back in 2005.

Here's the thing: I like my MySpace profile. I tracked down people I haven't spoken to in years through it. I like the fact that it is customizable. I like being able to spread the word about upcoming theater projects and whatnot. But I cannot help but view this as an attack on my freedom of speech and religion. I might have to delete my account, just out of principle.

PZ Myers and New Humanist are also asking what the proper response should be. I'm certainly open to suggestions.

The Critics Have Spoken

Journey's End is Jeff Recommended! And here are a couple of choice blurbs from Chicago's top critics:
"It is all but impossible to leave the theater unshaken." — Hedy Weiss, Chicago Sun-Times

"You do not want to miss it." — Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune


Friday, January 25, 2008

Journey's End

Journey's End, directed by Jonathan Berry and featuring ME, opens Sunday. Come see it, if you can! Here are the details:
The Griffin Theatre Company presents
JOURNEY'S END by RC Sherriff
Directed by Jonathan Berry
Previews Jan. 19, 23, and 26 at 7:45pm, and Jan. 20 at 2:45 pm
Opening Night Sunday, Jan. 27 at 6:00 pm
Runs Thursdays - Saturdays at 7:45 pm, Sundays at 2:45 pm
Through Mar. 9
Tickets $19 - $24
For reservations contact the Theatre Building Chicago box office at 773-327-5252

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Fred Phelps Is a Horrible, Horrible Person

Fred Phelp's Westboro Baptist Church announced plans to picket Heath Ledger's funeral. You may recall hearing about these douchebags before; last October the church was ordered to pay eleven million dollars to the family of a soldier killed in Iraq after doing the exact same thing. According to the horrifying press release, the church is picketing Ledger's funeral because of his involvement with the movie Brokeback Mountain. I could have guessed that without the explanation since the web address cited at the top of the release is "". I do not provide a clickable link because the thought of having an actual working connection with such people — even in the half-reality of cyberspace — makes me fucking nauseous.

Would it be tacky to picket Fred Phelps' funeral when the time comes? What would be the point, other than to say good riddance?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

A Vision of the Future

Mark from Calladus Blog posted a freaky little story about the future of women's rights if the Christian Taliban — Mike Huckabee and his lot — are allowed to run things. If you've ever read a dystopian story like The Handmaid's Tale or Nineteen Eighty Four and wondered how it would be possible to get from here to there, here is a chilling step-by-step guide through the process.

I think Mark should consider expanding the premise. It would make one scary-ass novel.

Heath Ledger, 1979 — 2008

I didn't know the guy, obviously. Never met him, wasn't likely to ever do so. But I did like him a lot.

He seemed like a nice guy.

He seemed like a smart guy.

In the movies I didn't like, I liked him in them. Like A Knight's Tale. After Monster's Ball I knew he was capable of breaking out of that group of twenty-something actors who disappear the moment they look too old to play a high school student.

I still haven't seen Brokeback Mountain. No excuse for it; just haven't gotten to it yet. It's in my Netflix queue. I think I might put it off for a while longer, though. I heard the movie was depressing enough before.

And then of course there is The Dark Knight. Hell, I've got a picture of the guy as the background on my desktop at work. I didn't think of it like that; I thought I had a picture of the Joker up there. But it's different now, somehow. And it was supposed to be a trilogy, too. I wonder what they'll do.

I hope it was an accident. Beyond that, the how's and why's are really none of my business. I just can't help but feel like we've been cheated.

In the tradition of the now-defunct Like You Really Care, a Moment of Silence for Heath Ledger:

The New York Times ran a really nice obituary, which you can read here.

Monday, January 21, 2008


This happens every year: During football season I fall woefully behind on my DVD-watching. Sometime around the end of November I question why I even bother paying for a Netflix account. My DVR groans under the strain of all the episodes of Friday Night Lights and Heroes that I haven't yet gotten around to watching. But I persevere. Sometimes the stars align just right, and fate makes room for me to do some catching up. Like last week, when I had the freakin' plague and couldn't move from the couch for fear of coughing up something that might run off and torment the cats. I took advantage of this down-time to watch all ten episodes of the second season of the HBO series Rome.

Have you seen this show? Has there ever been a show like it? So epic in scope, so cinematic, with production values that put most full-length films to shame? Knowing that such things are possible, my hands nearly shake with anticipation for the day when George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire makes it to the screen. (Incidentally, I am waiting for the official announcement of a premiere date before I drop the extra cash and upgrade my cable service to include HBO. You hear that, HBO? Get cracking on this thing! You tell me when I can see it, and you will get my money. But not a moment sooner!)

Rome focuses on the friendship of two soldiers, Lucius Vorenus (Kevin McKidd) and Titus Pullo (Ray Stevenson), who served under Julius Caesar (played by Ciaran Hinds) during his invasion of Gaul. Interestingly, Vorenus and Pullo are historical figures, being the only two common soldiers mentioned by name in Julius Caesar's Commentarii de Bello Gallico. In that book Caesar makes a passing reference to an event wherein Titus Pullo became separated from his unit during a battle, and Lucius Vorenus pulled him back into the line. This moment is depicted in the first episode of Rome, although turned on its ear. In the show, Pullo separates himself from his unit due to bloodlust and lack of discipline, and Vorenus, as Pullo's superior officer, has to subdue the man and bring him back in line. This is the beginning of a relationship that will take the two men from one end of the Republic to the other as they witness, and play pivotal roles in, the events that culminate in the formation of the Roman Empire.

There are several aspects of the show that fascinate me every time I watch an episode. First and foremost is the way the show addresses the idea of pre-Christian morality. Slaves abound on Rome, but it is not exactly what you'd expect. The show depicts a society where both the slaves and the slave-owners accept the situation as normal. There are slaves whose function from birth has been to be the best friend and confidant of their owner. These characters display extraordinary devotion to their masters, even sacrificing their lives in a couple of fascinating scenes. Julius Caesar owns a slave named Posca, a Greek scholar whose main job is to point out to Caesar every little thing the dictator does wrong.

The women of Rome are particularly intriguing. Much of the action on the show center's around the feud between Atia (Polly Walker), mother of Octavian, and Servilia (Lindsay Duncan), Caesar's lover and mother of Brutus. In many ways the plotting, treachery and violence these two characters enact upon each other eclipses the worst acts perpetrated by any of the male characters. What makes it all the more intimidating is the veneer of politeness and social grace with which these women operate.

Rome gets the history right only in its broadest strokes. It takes enormous liberties with most of the historical figures' motivations, but at the same time it forces the audience to pause and consider the possibility that there most likely were earth-shaking, life-changing, history-altering events that all started because one anonymous individual said the wrong thing at the right time.

The show also plays very fast and loose with the time-line. Vast chunks of time are glossed over, or just ignored because, for the purposes of the show, nothing important happened. A pair of characters who meet for the first time at the beginning of an episode might have children together by the end of it. However, while the actual events referenced took place over a span of over twenty years, Rome covers the same ground in about half the time. Characters who were infants in the first episodes are barely ten years old by the end of the series. Most of the adult characters — the ones who survive — hardly seem to age at all. Only one character who did not begin the series as an infant, Octavian, was recast with an older actor halfway through. For the first season and first couple of episodes of the second, the role was ably played by young actor Max Pirkis. Then Octavian rides off to war, and the next time we see him he is played by Simon Woods. It gave other characters many opportunities to expound about how grown up he looked and all that, and it certainly reinforced the idea that the boy of the earlier episodes was now a young adult, but I suspect that the main reason for the recasting was a certain scene in one of the last episodes, which required a more, ahem, adult approach.

Oh, yeah — this show's got sex. You can't swing a dead cat without hitting T&A on this show. It skirts the edge of gratuitous, but only rarely does it teeter over. Mostly it serves to reinforce the notion that these people operate under a different set of rules than that with which we in Modern Western Civilization are familiar.

Rome is over now. You can tell just by looking that it was extraordinarily expensive to produce, and the cost was the main reason cited by HBO when they pulled the plug. We are fortunate, however, that HBO was able to make the decision early enough that the writers had ample time to complete the story. It could serve as a model for future television productions. And it proves that HBO is the right place to tackle a story with the scope of A Song of Ice and Fire.

Seriously. I'm ready to call the cable company right now. Just tell me when it's gonna be on.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Just Another Evil Motherfucker

Depending on what time of day you ask, Mike Huckabee is the front runner for the Republican Party's nomination for President of the United States of America. Holy freakin' shit. It's bad enough watching these douchebags pay lip service to the separation of church and state while receiving campaign funding from evangelical coffers, but this quote just straight up blows my mind:
I have opponents in this race who do not want to change the Constitution. But I believe it’s a lot easier to change the Constitution than it would be to change the word of the living God. And thats what we need to do is amend the Constitution so it’s in God’s standards rather than trying to change God’s standards so it lines up with some contemporary view of how we treat each other and how we treat the family.

There it is, people. He wants to replace the Constitution with the Bible. Dare I point out a sampling of other nations who use so-called holy texts as the primary tool of government?

There is a part of me that admires the balls on this guy, to come right out and say it like that. But mostly I have to agree with an acquaintance who said, "[I'm] terrified of Mike Huckabee. He's like a clown in the road at night!"
Ain't no party like a Theocratic party
'Cause the Theocratic party DOES NOT ALLOW PARTIES.

I'm gonna go take a nap now.


I read this article yesterday, and I discovered that I should try to post to my blog three to five times a week. This news just reinforces the fact that I am a lazy, lazy writer. But in keeping with the spirit, here I am anyway.

I'm sick. Again.

Oh, crap. See, that article said I'm supposed to stay positive. That wasn't a very good start. Let me try again.

I'm in tech.

That's a little better.

Last night the show I'm in, Journey's End by RC Sherriff, moved into its space at the Theatre Building on Belmont. I've never done a show there before, but I've always wanted to. Our theater is a big black box that demands a great deal of vocal effort. Our set is amazing. The lights look awesome. I can't wait for people to come see this thing.

As I said, we are in tech. For actors, tech is a fairly dull part of the process. There is a great deal of standing around feeling useless while people whose talents we will never comprehend say indecipherable things to each other. The actors' main job during tech is to stay out of the way, but be ready to jump on stage at a moment's notice. The process is painstaking and tedious, but only because the designers take their jobs seriously. The end result is that I look and sound good on stage.

I am also sick. I have a lovely chest cold that settled in last night. It is my third serious cold in six weeks, which concerns me a bit. My chest makes a lovely faint rattling noise when I talk, and my voice has never been deeper, when I have a voice at all. I did not want to burn a sick day at work so early in the year, but I really had no choice. I don't get sick days from the show. I really do have to be there.

We get our first audience on Saturday. That should give me enough time to get my voice back. In the meantime I'll just have to find a comfy corner of the theater in which to hunker down until I'm needed.

Friday, January 11, 2008

I Wasn't Gonna Vote For the Guy Anyway...

... because Ron Paul wants to get rid of, among other things, the IRS and the Department of Education. Now, I'm certainly for coming up with a more efficient way of paying my taxes, but I still expect all of us to pay our share. And the Department of Education? What the hell? I will never comprehend how it is possible that anyone in this country thinks education is a bad idea — unless, of course, they have a reason for wanting the populace to be uneducated. But surely our modern statesmen are above such sinister agendas?

Then again, old Ronnie P. has issues. I saw this guy for the first time a few months ago on The Colbert Report, and he kinda creeped me out. He looks like a cross between Ian McKellin and that guy who ran the Heaven's Gate cult. And now I read this crazy shit. Salman Rushdie deserves the same treatment as Holocaust denier Ernst Zundel? One should carry an unregistered firearm to defend one's self against "urban youth"? Homosexuals "enjoy the attention and pity that comes with being sick"?

Ron Paul is a sad, hateful man.

[Thanks to Pharyngula for leading me to this article.]

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

If ever you are in the mood to take a literary punch to the solar plexus, you might give Cormac McCarthy's Pulitzer Prize-winning The Road a try. I mean that in the best possible way. I just finished it in a thirty-six hour reading marathon, and I can't get it out of my head.

The Road re-defines the term "post-apocalyptic." It makes the opening chapters of A Canticle for Leibowitz look like a romp through Narnia. McCarthy creates probably the most brutal setting I have ever read. Nearly all life has been burned away. The few survivors scavenge through the ever-present ash, searching for canned food and clothing left over from the time before. At no point does McCarthy explain what happened to the world, but the cause is not the point of the story. The story follows two characters who are never out of earshot of each other, and never wavers from their point of view. We see the world through their eyes as they travel the titular road in the hopes of finding the ocean. We learn how they survive, and through their experience we catch horrifying glimpses of just how far humanity has fallen.

The setting firmly roots the story in speculative fiction, but McCarthy's language and sense of realism bridges the gap between fantasy and mainstream literature — something I find encouraging as a fan of fantasy and sci-fi, and who feels that genre fiction is not accorded enough respect among literary critics. I hope the Pulitzer, as well as the book's induction into the Oprah Winfrey Book Club, will open more doors for genre writers.

I saw the film adaptation of McCarthy's No Country for Old Men a few weeks ago. I have not read the book, but the same quiet intensity that runs through the film is equally present in The Road. The setting itself takes the place of No Country's Anton Chigurh as the monster pursuing the main characters. The scorched earth of The Road is far more menacing, however. Chigurh's victims at least occasionally had a chance to shoot back.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

One Nation, Under Dog

A couple of weeks ago a family member forwarded a mass e-mail which listed a so-called Common Sense Bill of Non-Rights. I provide a link to the list out of a sense of fair play, but I only recommend reading it if you are looking for something to put you in a punching mood. Mostly it is just a conservative diatribe against government handouts. Some of the points stated — such as the idea that we do not have a right to wealth, just the right to pursue it — I am willing to concede. Article V takes a swipe at universal health care. I thought my relative was making a bold statement here, considering said relative is married to a doctor.

But I really took offense at Article XI, which reads as follows:
ARTICLE XI: You do not have the right to change our country's history or heritage. This country was founded on the belief in one true God. And yet, you are given the freedom to believe in any religion, any faith, or no faith at all; with no fear of persecution. The phrase IN GOD WE TRUST is part of our heritage and history, and if you are uncomfortable with it, TOUGH!!!!

When I read this I confess I got angry, and had to fight the urge to launch an e-mail diatribe against my relative for sending such ignorant piss. But I have a pretty massive Irish Catholic extended family, and something told me not to rock the boat. I ended up deleting the offending e-mail.

Now I'm having one of those frustrating moments when you realize too late what you should have said, if only you'd been quick enough to think about it at the time. What I should done is responded politely, stating that I have to disagree with certain points in the previous e-mail, specifically the notion that "This country was founded on the belief in one true God." If that were true, then our Founding Fathers would probably not have made statements like these:
Question with boldness even the existence of a god. — Thomas Jefferson

I almost shudder at the thought of alluding to the most fatal example of the abuses of grief which the history of mankind has preserved — the Cross. Consider what calamities that engine of grief has produced! — John Adams

[T]hese governments . . . thus founded on the natural authority of the people alone, without a pretence of miracle or mystery, and which are destined to spread over the northern part of that whole quarter of the globe, are a great point gained in favor of the rights of mankind. — John Adams

During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the Clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution. — James Madison

What influence, in fact, have ecclesiastical establishments had on society? In some instances they have been seen to erect a spiritual tyranny on the ruins of the civil authority; on many instances they have been seen upholding the thrones of political tyranny; in no instance have they been the guardians of the liberties of the people. Rulers who wish to subvert the public liberty may have found an established clergy convenient auxiliaries. A just government, instituted to secure and perpetuate it, needs them not. — James Madison

Lighthouses are more helpful than churches. — Benjamin Franklin

Of all the systems of religion that ever were invented, there is no more derogatory to the Almighty, more unedifiying to man, more repugnant to reason, and more contradictory to itself than this thing called Christianity. — Thomas Paine

And of course, my favorite:
[T]he government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion; — The Treaty of Tripoli, signed by John Adams.

I really hope that e-mail gets sent around again.

Friday, January 04, 2008


I have a mustache. It is truly awful.

I had to grow it for this show I'm working on. It's not the first time I've had to alter my facial hair for a show. I've grown big bushy beards and sharp, sinister goatees. I even shaved my whole head once. But this is the first time I've looked in a mirror and did not recognize the person staring back at me. I am uncomfortable in my own skin. I keeping thinking people are staring at me when I'm not looking. It's physically disorienting. Yesterday I left the house without my keys and didn't know it until I got to work and found an e-mail from my wife telling me to meet her on my way home so I can pick them up. I must not have even thought about locking the door behind me when I left.

Everyone assures me that the mustache looks all right. I think they are just being nice, because they can see the haunted look in my eyes. I've got two more months with this thing. I hope I make it.

Oh, and Happy New Year. Did you have a nice holiday? I barely noticed mine.