Friday, May 30, 2008

Harvey Korman, 1927 — 2008

"Where's my froggy? Daddy loves froggy. Does froggy love Daddy? Ribbit. Ribbit."

~Hedley Lamarr (Harvey Korman) in Blazing Saddles

His mind was aglow with whirling, transient nodes of thought careening through a cosmic vapor of invention. All I can say is, "Ditto."

A Moment of Silence for Harvey Korman:

Monday, May 26, 2008

The Atheists' Mission Statement

Greta Christina nailed it again. In her latest blog entry she lays out a clear vision of just what we Atheists are really aiming for. Actually, she lays out two visions; the utopian version and the version that requires more compromising. She points out the irony that in this case the utopian vision is actually the more achievable one, as religious beliefs do not really allow much room for compromise. But she also points out that, misguided as religious believers may be, positive change cannot be brought about by force. Imposing laws that regulate belief, or imposing belief systems by force, are antithetical to the true goals of Atheism. Religious believers must be persuaded. It's a lofty goal, and one that won't be achieved in my lifetime, but it needs to start somewhere, sometime.

I think it's my favorite thing she's written since Atheists and Anger. You should check it out. When she gets going about Atheism I feel like she's talking directly to me. Not so much with her sex articles. Not that I don't find those interesting; I just think she writes those for someone else.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

A Few of My Favorite Things

The next six to twelve months look promising, and not only because I am starting school in the fall, or because the Bush presidency ends in January. (Unless McCain wins — then we're stuck in a same-shit-different-President situation. But I'm trying to stay positive.) There's a bunch of stuff coming out in the next year that I'm pretty sure was created specifically to entertain me, Chris Walsh. I would just like to take this moment to thank the entertainment industries for thinking of me. To be honest I would have preferred it if you offered me a job, but making these movies and books and whatnot just for me is pretty cool, too.

First of all, there's The Dark Knight, which opens in less than two months. You are all looking forward to this too. Don't lie. Batman Begins was everything I dreamed a movie based on a comic book character could be. The one thing it lacked was the greatest comic book villain ever created: The Joker. Sure sure, Jack Nicholson blah blah seen it before blah. I'm not gonna lie and say I disliked Mr. Nicholson as the Joker in Tim Burton's film. He was larger than life. He made the movie. In fact, that movie was more about the Joker's arc than Batman's, which I think is where the movie failed. From what I've read about The Dark Knight I feel confident that the filmmakers avoided that particular pitfall this time around. And just based on the trailers I think they succeeded in one important aspect where the Burton film failed: This time around, the Joker is scary. I cannot wait.

Then, a year from now, we're gonna get something I've been wanting since I was eight years old: A live-action film adaptation of G.I. Joe. Granted, I do not feel the abundance of confidence in this project that I do with The Dark Knight, but so far I don't think the filmmakers have given us any reason to complain. The film is directed by Stephen Sommers, with whose work I am not very familiar. I know he made the Brendan Fraser Mummy series, and Van Helsing with Hugh Jackman. I have not felt the need to see any of those, but from the clips I've seen in commercials and trailers Mr. Sommers does appear to have something of an eye for action set-pieces, which is certainly going to be necessary here. I'm hoping, however, that there are not too many huge battle sequences, as that is not really what G.I. Joe was about. I was always more interested in, say, the Snake Eyes/Storm Shadow feud, or Snake Eyes' relationship with Scarlett, or the weird power struggle between Destro, the Baroness, and the Cobra Commander. Looking at the cast list on IMDb, I think they are going to focus more on these smaller stories. There's a kid cast as Young Storm Shadow? The Hard Master makes an appearance? Awesome. That was the best storyline in the comic book.

In general I'm pretty psyched about the cast, too. Ray Park of Darth Maul fame is playing Snake Eyes, which is just dream casting right there. Back in 2005 Ain't It Cool News came up with a fantasy cast of a G.I. Joe movie that included Mr. Park. They had some other great suggestions which were ignored, but this one was dead on. I'm equally jazzed to see Christopher Eccleston as Destro, Sienna Miller as the Baroness and Lost's Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as Heavy Duty. Some other casting (like Marlon Wayans as Ripcord) I understand less, but I'm willing to give these guys the benefit of the doubt. And there are two characters that I am dying to see: Brendan Fraser as Gung Ho (whose action figure in the 1980s looked like a member of the Village People) and Joseph Gordon-Leavitt as Cobra Commander. That last one just leaves me scratching my head. I hope it works.

Those are the big ones that I've been dorking out over whenever I have an internet connection and nothing better to do. But do not for a moment think that those two movies are all I have to look forward to. First of all, The Voice of the Falconer, the sequel to David Blixt's amazing debut novel The Master of Verona, just became available for pre-order on I've already got my order in. I am itching to find out what happens next with Pietro, Antonia, Cangrande and the rest of the gang.

And there is the upcoming Fourth Edition of Dungeons & Dragons to look forward to as well. I haven't participated in a role-playing game in a few years now, and I never played D&D with the 3rd Edition rules, but apparently this new edition is set to revolutionize the way table-top RPGs are played. I'm eager to get my hands on the new books when they come out in a couple of weeks.

Also, a little over a week ago the latest issue of Casanova hit the shelves. I've never been a huge comic book nut, but I'm curious to pick up this title because of who wrote it. When I was about eight or nine years old I lived down the street from this kid named Matt. We were pretty much best friends. We slept over at each others' houses and stayed up into the wee hours playing either Star Wars or G.I. Joe or building stuff with Legos. Matt had the better Star Wars toy collection; I had all the G.I. Joes. One time we got it into our heads to try and make our own comic books. I remember mine was called "Omega Squad" and it was pretty much entirely a rip-off of G.I. Joe, only all the main characters wore motorcycle helmets for some reason. I recall showing it to my dad, who said he thought it was very violent. I don't remember what Matt's was about. Anyway, eventually Matt's family moved away and we lost touch.

Cut to a quarter of a century later. There I am, bored at work one day, and just for funzies I'm plugging names of old acquaintances into Google. It occurs to me to wonder whatever became of my old friend Matt, who I used to think was one of the coolest people in the world. My Google search lead me to the home page of star-on-the-rise comic book writer Matt Fraction. Turns out, my old friend Matt still is one of the coolest people in the world. I am, of course, insanely jealous. But I also can't help but feel slightly responsible for Mr. Fraction's career path. For that reason if nothing else you all should check out his work.

Now I'm off to stab pirates. More on that later.

Friday, May 16, 2008


Mandy and I saw Eddie Izzard at the Chicago Theatre last night. Really good show. Not a great show, but really, really good. I posted a review over at Chicago Metblogs, if you're curious.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

A Small Victory

Turns out I won't need to make that trip down to City Hall after all. Good thing, too; my dress shirts all need to be dry-cleaned.

The Event Promoters ordinance has been tabled pending further discussion and input from the public. It will be at least a month before it comes up again. Some version of this thing will eventually be put to a vote and will almost certainly pass. The impetus behind the ordinance was the wish to prevent things like the E2 nightclub tragedy, but it is unclear how the actions of that club's promoters led to the deaths of those 21 people. The trick is making sure the language is clear enough so that the honest artists who are struggling just to acquire an audience are not lumped in with the unscrupulous scammers who are the intended targets of this ordinance. The Chicago Music Commission is already involved in reshaping the language; they were largely responsible for the decision to delay the ordinance in the first place. It seems to me that certain other organizations such as the League of Chicago Theatres also need to have a place at the table during this discussion.

I'm grateful to everybody who got involved; everyone who wrote or called their aldermen, or showed up at their offices to voice their opposition to this ordinance. I felt like I was part of something important. I still do; the work isn't done yet. We'll have to see what the next version looks like.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Tipping Point

Cross-posted at Chicago Metblogs:

The Event Promoters ordinance will go before the city council at 10:00 AM, Wednesday, May 14th. I received an e-mail from Brad Maier letting me know about a campaign to flood city hall with opponents of this ordinance. The campaign is being organized through The Point, and the goal is for 100 people to commit to attending the council meeting tomorrow. Save Chicago Culture will present a petition opposing the ordinance at the meeting.

Because the proposal was fast-tracked through committee, the Chicago arts community has had very little time to respond. I, for one, will be attending the council meeting tomorrow. If you care about preserving Chicago's theatre, music and comedy I expect to see you there too. If you can't make it, please e-mail your alderman and express your opinion.

Otherwise, I suppose you could just pay a hundred bucks a pop and go see Wicked again.

Monday, May 12, 2008

An Open Letter to Alderman Eugene C. Schulter

Dear Alderman Schulter:

This Wednesday, May 14, the city council is scheduled to vote on the Event Promoters ordinance. I ask that you vote against this ordinance. A large number of young artists, actors and musicians who would be negatively effected by this ordinance live in your ward, and there are several venues in your ward, including the Cornservatory (4210 N. Lincoln Ave.) and Martyrs' Restaurant and Pub (3855 N. Lincoln Ave.) whose business would be hurt if this ordinance passes.

I moved to this city twelve years ago because of the opportunities it afforded young artists, and I have made a career working with the many and diverse groups that perform in small venues. These groups already operate on shoestring budgets, and the Event Promoters ordinance would effectively destroy their ability to function.

Chicago has been the birthplace of many noteworthy artistic successes, from the Second City and Steppenwolf, to Smashing Pumpkins and Liz Phair. It is success stories like these that attract new artists to the city. None of this would have happened, however, if the ordinance had existed when these artists were starting their careers. If the Event Promoters ordinance passes, artists will be forced to pursue their crafts elsewhere, and Chicago's reputation for cutting edge theatre, music and art will be diminished.

Please do not allow this ordinance to pass. Thank you.


Christopher M.Walsh

Friday, May 09, 2008

I Can’t Hear You! I STILL Can’t Hear You!

[Cross-posted at Metroblogging Chicago.]

My ears are ringing.

Last night at the House of Blues the wife and I finally saw the Ministry concert I wrote about getting tickets for a few months ago. At that time it was the first of two final U.S. shows for the band; it became the first of four. For those of you who are interested, there are apparently still tickets available for Sunday.

I must confess, I am getting old. No more jumping around in the pit for this guy. We found comfortable seats along the rail in the mezzanine section, near the bar. We had a great view, and managed to avoid all the crap getting thrown around down on the main floor. Being slightly removed from the action did not stop me from getting up and doing a little headbanging when the moment called for it though. Now, of course, my neck is sore. Like I said, I am getting old.

Things kicked off early with opening act Hemlock, who, according to frontman/bass player Chad Smith, have been around for fifteen years but just got their first record deal last year. I don't know if that is something to brag about or not. Smith has an interesting stage presence. Imagine Hurley from Lost, and give him locks and a beard. Hemlock had a fun set, although their music did not exactly blow me away. It had a lot of crowd-friendly hooks, but lacked the visceral thrill one expects from a metal show. Smith is a capable enough frontman, but trying to talk the crowd into chanting the band's name came off a little sad.

The second act was Swedish band Meshuggah, whom I'd seen once before a few years ago when they opened for Tool. They put on a hell of a set. Their material is dark, heavy, and intricate, and their stage presence is almost overpowering in the House of Blues' rather intimate confines. Meshuggah never met a time signature they did not like, and frequently invite several of them to make appearances in a single song. The band is exceptionally tight — you'd have to be, to pull off music this complicated. Drummer Tomas Haake pulls off some virtuoso work here: He'll keep standard 4/4 time with, say, the cymbals or snare, while his feet kick out something entirely different to match the bass and rhythm guitar. Hearing it recorded is one thing; seeing it done live is a real experience. And the whole time frontman Jens Kidman just stood front and center, his presence all the more sinister for his economy of movement, just nodding gently with the music. Of course, eventually the lyrics would come around, and he would put one foot up on a monitor, lean into the crowd, and rip everyone's head off with his voice.

He kinda looks like my friend Blake. I never realized how scary Blake could be.

The main event started off with a fifteen-minute self-promotional PowerPoint presentation, or at least that's what it looked like. The first thing to appear was the logo of the Chicago Blackhawks projected on the massive screen behind the stage. We were then treated (or, depending on your opinion of the song, forced to listen to) a recording of "Keys to the City," Ministry frontman Al Jourgensen's homage to his favorite hockey team. The punk band Dropkick Murphys is famous in Boston for songs about their local sports teams, and there is a certain charm about it. "Keys to the City," by contrast, gave me the embarrassment shivers. It's not the best song. And it's way longer than a sports anthem really needs to be. That was followed by a trailer for the grindhouse-style horror film Wicked Lake, for which Jourgensen composed the score. Then we were treated to another recording, this time of "I'm Not Gay" by the Revolting Cocks, one of Jourgensen's many other projects.

Then, finally, finally, Ministry took the stage. They opened with "Let's Go," the first track from their last album The Last Sucker. The first set, which lasted an hour and a half, was comprised entirely of songs from Ministry's last three releases, Houses of the Molé, Rio Grande Blood, and The Last Sucker. The albums combine to form an epic three-hour anti-George W. Bush polemic. Seeing them performed live before a projected backdrop of brutal, disturbing imagery juxtaposing 1950s educational films about nuclear safety with the footage from the 9/11 attacks and the Iraq war is about as depressing as a rock concert can get. Combine this with Jourgensen's stage presence, which is eerily reminiscent of Ozzy Osbourne in the last few years, and I found myself starting to wonder just what I had paid for. There seemed to be a break in clouds for a moment when Jourgensen announced the title of the next song as "N.W.O.", a song from the band's 1991 mainstream breakthrough album Psalm 69, but he meant to say "No W.", which is from Houses of the Molé, and which is what they actually played. Not that the set was bad, by any means. It was worth it just for the exceptional guitar work from Tommy Victor and Sin Quirin.

The second set began with the band members meandering onto the stage one at a time, picking up their instruments, and creating random bursts of noise and feedback that built into mind-numbing cacophony until the dam finally burst and everything melded into the opening bass groove of "So What" from the 1989 classic The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste. From that point on the show was a relentless, non-stop wall of Awesome. When they finally got around to actually playing "N.W.O." Jourgensen handed over the vocals to special guest Burton C. Bell from Fear Factory. Bell's stronger voice raised the bar for the rest of the set, which confirmed for me that "Just One Fix" from Psalm 69 is still one of the heaviest songs ever written.

The band rounded out the night with a set from their final release, Cover Up, a collection of covers that include industrialized takes on the Doors' "Roadhouse Blues," ZZ Top's "Just Got Paid," and the Rolling Stones' "Under My Thumb."

I wanted to hear "Stigmata" and "Jesus Built My Hotrod," but you can't have everything. All in all I'd say the hearing loss was completely worth it. I came, I saw, I bought a t-shirt. I gotta do this stuff more often.

Friday, May 02, 2008

The Jeffs

The Non-Equity Joseph Jefferson Award nominations were announced, and I gotta admit I'm disappointed. Journey's End totally got the shaft. I thought we deserved a nod for Ensemble at the very least, if not for Production — Play. And some mention should be made for the technical achievements on the show, too. Our set was awesome, as were the sound, lights and costumes. And what about Nigel Patterson? How did he not get a mention? Robbed, I tell you!


There were a few nominations that did make me smile, however:

Signal Ensemble Theatre's 1776, which featured several fellows whom I met working on Chalk, is up for Production — Musical or Revue and Philip Winston, whom I met on The Hound of the Baskervilles and who got me cast in Chalk, is up for Actor in a Principal Role — Musical or Revue.

Paul S. Holmquist, who played the indefatigable Sergeant Major in Journey's End, is up for Director — Play for his work on The Island of Dr. Moreau with Lifeline Theatre. Hans Fleischmann (Captain Stanhope in Journey's End) is nominated for Actor in a Supporting Role — Play for In a Dark Dark House at Profiles Theatre. And Terry McCabe got a nomination for his adaptation of Hound of the Baskervilles.

On the technical side, Bob Knuth (whom I've worked with at Circle Theatre and who also happens to be my wife's boss at Second City) got a nod in the Scenic Design category for his company's production of An Ideal Husband, and Stephen Ptacek is up for Sound Design for his amazing work on Faster at the Side Project, for which I provided the violence.

So, congrats to all of those guys. I'm excited to have gotten chances to work with all of them.

Oh, and once again no Fight Choreography category. Lame!