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    Friday, January 28, 2005

    Will Again

    There’s another post on Will Kenyon’s blog. (See link at right.) Will’s parents, Mary and John, post what they said at the memorial service for Will last Wednesday night. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever read about what it means to be a parent. Ever since I became one, I’ve felt it was impossible to describe being a parent. I was wrong. The post is also incredibly touching, and incredibly heart-breaking, and if it doesn’t make you at least tear up a little, I don’t want to know you. Thanks to Mary and John for sharing this despite their grief, and prayers to them to help them through their pain.

    Wednesday, January 26, 2005


    I don't usually do the quiz thing, but as a law school grad and former lawyer, I liked this one. Courtesy Kris at Random Mentality (see link at right).


    and go to because law school made laura do this.

    Tuesday, January 25, 2005

    Neocon Delusions

    Interesting column
    by a former Assistant Treasury Secretary under Reagan and Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page. Here’s a key paragraph:

    America has blundered into a needless and dangerous war, and fully half of the country's population is enthusiastic. Many Christians think that war in the Middle East signals "end times" and that they are about to be wafted up to heaven. Many patriots think that, finally, America is standing up for itself and demonstrating its righteous might. Conservatives are taking out their Vietnam frustrations on Iraqis. Karl Rove is wrapping Bush in the protective cloak of war leader. The military-industrial complex is drooling over the profits of war. And neoconservatives are laying the groundwork for Israeli territorial expansion.

    Read the whole thing though. I’ll be commenting more later.

    Courtesy Altercation. (See link at right.)

    A Fun List

    Found this a number of different places, including Tbogg and Poor Man. (See links at right.) I proudly give you, The 50 Most Loathsome People in America of 2004. Here are some of my favorites.

    45. John McCain:

    Crimes: Survived years of torture in Vietnam only to become a bend over buddy for a sheltered rich dunce. McCain could have bolstered his largely unearned air of credibility this year had he stood against Bush, but instead chose to show us all that that no principle is too fundamental to humanity to be overlooked in the name of party loyalty. We can only hope that they’ve got something on him, something big.

    Smoking Gun: Returned to criticizing Bush as soon as it didn’t matter anymore.

    Punishment: Vice President under Rumsfeld.

    44. Ellen Degeneres

    Crimes: Turns out to be the most boring comedian, gay or straight, since…ever. Her Seinfeld on Quaaludes routine isn’t just tedious; it’s harrowing—watching her belabor a gag that wasn’t funny in the first place about opening a jar of pickles for minutes is enough to make anybody groan. Her cookie cutter talk show succeeds for the simple reason that, beyond the gay thing, viewers know that Ellen will always be nice and won’t let any negative information invade their fragile minds. If Degeneres were a straight man, she’d be getting booed off the stage at a tiny club in Scranton right about now.

    Smoking Gun: Tolerated Anne Heche.

    Punishment: Ten years as writer for “Mad TV."

    38. Toby Keith

    Crimes: The worst kind of proud-to-be-brainwashed dolt, one who feels he should express himself. The fact that this ambulatory hamburger’s opinions were ever given public forum is an indictment of our entire civilization and all human history leading up to this point.

    Smoking Gun: Plays country music.

    Punishment: Impaled on improperly installed American flag attached to tractor-trailer, dragged for 12 hours, eaten by wolves.

    22. Michael Jackson

    Crimes: Surgically transforming himself into a ghastly artificial creature, and then forcing himself on little boys. His ability to remain at large and to find parents still willing to let their kids sleep over at Jackson’s elaborate child trap both indicate a failure of our species as a whole.

    Smoking Gun: “Jesus juice?”

    Punishment: Forced to record and release new single as part of plea agreement, “Don’t Let Your Son Go Down on Me.”

    5. John Kerry

    Crimes: Managed to lose to the most hated president in American history by virtue of his total inability to convincingly portray himself as a human being. Didn’t even have the balls to show up during the Ohio election challenge in the Senate. So thoroughly vetted that he appears inhuman, incapable of speaking without repeating the same hackneyed phrases incessantly and gesticulating like a poorly operated marionette. Cursing his daughters with his frightening profile.

    Smoking Gun: Actually did vote for the $87 billion before he voted against it.

    Punishment: Quality time with wife and kids.

    4. Dick Cheney

    Crimes: So loathsome his own party is frightened of him. Manages to deliver stunning lies with an air of sneering authority. Shamelessly employs scare tactics in order to strip the federal government of any resemblance to the one described in the constitution. So visibly evil that all of the documented evidence against him is superfluous. The kind of guy who starts talking cannibalism the minute he steps on the lifeboat.

    Smoking Gun: Managed to make his own shame at producing gay offspring into a negative for Kerry.

    Punishment: Hacked to death by Mexican migrant workers.

    Monday, January 24, 2005

    The Englert - A Digression - A Response

    This was going to go in the comments, but it became so damn long I decided to just make it a post.


    I like Leo Kottke. Had the performance been on a weekend, I would have considered going. And for all the reasons Eric Kerchner cites in the PC article, the Englert would be the perfect venue for a performer like Leo Kottke. Had Mr. Kerchner phrased it that way, I’d have no quarrel with what he said. But he didn’t. He said that Kottke was the perfect Englert show. And there is a world of difference between saying the Englert is the perfect venue for the show and saying Kottke was the perfect performer for the Englert.

    (And just as an aside, the Paramount in Cedar Rapids, the Five Flags Center in Dubuque, and the Adler in Davenport would all be as intimate as the Englert and almost as beautiful. On the other hand, none of these facilities are probably willing to host a show by the Iowa City Sweet Adelines or the Iowa City Community Theatre. But I digress.)

    (And just as another aside, it was less than a year ago that Mr. Kerchner told me that he didn’t think live music acts should perform at the Englert. There’s no money in live music, he said. If you think the theatre community of Iowa City is upset about the direction the Englert is taking, you should talk to the how the live music community in Iowa City feels about it. But again, I digress.)

    Would people attending the Kottke concert think it was petty nit-picking? Perhaps those with no understanding of the history of the Englert would. But that wouldn’t make them right. And that wouldn’t change the fact that there are a lot of people, people who were closely involved in the process for a long time, people who gave of their money, of their skills, and of their time, who wouldn’t think it was petty nit-picking.

    As I pointed out in the letter, as Kris has pointed out at Random Mentality, the Englert was designed to be a community performance space. It was designed to be a facility that could be used first and foremost by local artists. We knew that we would have to bring in touring acts to help us meet budget. But those acts were to be a supplement, not the main course.

    (As a final aside, unless you’ve got some definition of community hiding in your pocket that isn’t in any dictionary, how can “community arts” be anything but local artists and performers? I love Jimmy Buffet, but just because he would be recognized and appreciated by a lot of people in the area if he performed at the Englert, that doesn't make a Jimmy Buffet performance community arts.)

    And that notion of a community performance space is what was sold to the public. Would kids have held penny-fundraisers at their schools to help open a Little Hancher in downtown Iowa City? Would people have opened checkbooks and wallets all over town at a time when two other major capital fundraising campaigns were going on to build another professional facility in Iowa City? But that notion of a community performance space wasn’t just a key part of the personal fundraising, it was a key part of all aspects of the fundraising. The community performance space was an integral part of obtaining 501(c)(3) tax status (status as a non-profit organization) which was essential to convincing donors to contribute. (I know. I wrote the 501(c)(3) application and dealt with the IRS during the application process to receive the non-profit status.) The community performance space was an important element of the Englert receiving Vision Iowa funds. I know for a fact that there is concern among some current members of the Englert Board that they will risk losing non-profit status and have to return the Vision Iowa funds if there are not enough community artists using the facility.

    If the Englert Board had made the decision to pursue the idea of a community performance space and, having pursued it, found out that it wasn’t feasible, I wouldn’t have any problem with what is being done. It’s the fact that they weren’t even willing to pursue the idea and the fact that the public face of the facility is so openly antagonistic towards that idea that frustrates me. I know I’m not alone in this, and I know the number who feel the same way is growing every day.

    Will Kenyon

    Will Kenyon passed away this weekend. He only lived a matter of months.

    This means nothing to you. It should mean nothing to me. Every day, thousands of infants die around the world. What’s the death of one more? How many other deaths were in the paper that I read about before or after I saw Will’s obit?

    Well, in an abstract way, the death of any of us diminishes all of us. Donne was right about that. But that’s not why I’m writing. That’s not why I was affected. It means something to me because I felt I knew him.

    Will’s father, John, wrote about Will’s all too brief life on the blog he maintained. (See link at right.) Go there. Read from the start. If you do, you’ll know why I’ve got tears in my eyes right now writing this. It’s a heartbreaking story, especially if you have kids of your own. It’s the chronicle of a brave life, of a tough life, of an all too brief life. It’s the story of Will’s life, and it’s a story worth reading, even if you know the end. I’m sure it’s a different read for you knowing the end, but it’s a powerful story nonetheless.

    It’s also a story about how the Internet has changed things. Yeah, I didn’t see the death notice on the blog first. I was reading through the Sunday paper yesterday and saw it there. But the punch I felt when reading the obit was directly attributable to the blog. I would have recognized the name of the parents without the blog. I’ve emailed with Will’s dad before on theatre publicity stuff when he was with the Gazette’s brief Iowa City paper. So the name would have registered. But it would have been meaningless without what John was able to do. It was a way for him to keep distant relatives updated. I’m sure it was also a way for him to release some of what he went through by writing it down and sharing it. It might also have been a way for him and Mary (Will’s mom) to draw strength, knowing they were getting support from all over the world, from friends, family, acquaintances, and strangers. And maybe, maybe, in some unknown way, we sent some strength Will’s way as well. If the death of any of us diminishes all of us, couldn’t the opposite be true? Couldn’t enough positive force from all of us enable any of us?

    So say a prayer today for John and Mary as they deal with the loss of Will. Say a prayer for Will too, as he finds a new home and a new purpose in that place we all get called to someday. Hug your kids, your parents, your significant other, yourself. Live your life as well as you can, despite the odds, despite the problems and challenges. Put a little love into the world, and maybe in so doing, if we all do it, we can send some energy to support someone who might need it. It’s worth a shot, right?

    Friday, January 21, 2005

    The Englert - A Digression - An Update

    The PC called - they were looking for verification that I had written the letter to the editor because they want to run it. So be on the lookout for it!

    Thursday, January 20, 2005

    The Englert - A Digression

    Kris at Random Mentality (see link at right) mentions that the Press Citizen has given some coverage (extremely brief coverage, but coverage) to ICCT’s production of Guys and Dolls. (I am boycotting Guys and Dolls myself, but for personal reasons. You? Should go.) Perusing the online Go section of the PC, I found this article about the Englert. Here’s the key quote:

    "Kottke is the perfect Englert show," said Eric Kerchner, executive director of the historic downtown theater.

    That quote prompted this letter to the editor that I just sent.

    It’s sad, and telling, that Mr. Kershner considers Leo Kottke to be the perfect Englert show. Considering the number of people in the Iowa City area who donated time and money under the assumption that the Englert would be a community performance space, I imagine there are far more people in the area that would consider the perfect Englert show to be one involving any of the area musicians, dancers, actors, singers, and others that the Englert Board promised would be performing at the facility.

    David Pierce
    Past President, Iowa City Community Theatre

    We’ll see if it gets published. This, of course, has prompted me to restart my Englert series, which I had kinda let fall to the wayside.

    More Fun From The Religious Right

    Conservative groups complain about the dresses Jenna and Not-Jenna are wearing to the inaugural balls. Story here. PDF copy of letter here. Here’s the good parts:

    We celebrate with you this week because Christ has allowed you to be His servant in this nation for another presidential term. But already there is a challenge to the biblical norms that you stand for, and it comes from within your very own family. This Thursday, your two daughters, Jenna and Barbara, will appear before the earthly world in attire that cannot be described in any sense as modest.

    As you know, dress and appearance are an important reflection of our Christian values. "We are what we wear," as the saying goes, and according to this edict, your own daughters, bejeweled and bedecked in garments that plunge of neckline and cling of fabric, cannot be said to reflect the deeply-held believes of the tens of millions of "values voters" who sent you back to that highest office in the land.

    You have four years -a brief time only - to leave an imprint for righteousness upon this nation that brings with it the blessings of Almighty God. Do not risk offending Him in these early days of your second term by presenting forth your own daughters as Oholah and Oholibah, who, like Jezebel, painted their eyes and decked themselves with ornaments to entice men to commit adultery with them (Ezek 23.)

    Here’s Jenna’s dress. Here’s Not-Jenna’s dress. Nothing here that is particularly provocative nor trashy, at least by red carpet standards. And while I believe the girls have certainly done their share of things that are worthy of mocking, this certainly isn’t among them. It’s a glitzy night, and they want to look glitzy, and there is nothing wrong with that.

    But. (You knew there was a but.) It is awfully nice to see some of the chickens coming home to roost from the religious right. They think they put W. back into office, and they want what they feel is their due, and they could end up plenty miffed if they don’t get it. Already some are starting to complain because Bush wasn’t properly supportive of amending the Constitution to protect marriage. (Story at the Washington Post here. Registration required.)

    Prominent leaders such as Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, and many rank-and-file Bush supporters inundated the White House with phone calls to protest Bush's comments in an interview published Sunday in The Washington Post. "Clearly there is concern" among conservatives, Perkins said. "I believe there is no more important issue for the president's second term than the preservation of marriage."

    In the Post interview, Bush, for the first time, said senators have made it clear to him the amendment has no chance of passing unless courts strike down the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which protects states from recognizing same-sex marriages conducted elsewhere. Challenges to the act are pending in state courts from California to Florida.

    "It was not articulated that way in the campaign," Perkins complained.

    I have a feeling Mr. Perkins is going to end up being upset about a lot of things that were not articulated that way in the campaign.

    Original link via Tbogg (see link at the right).

    Wednesday, January 19, 2005

    Call Backs

    I hate this part. Everyone is getting a part - that's how youth theatre works - but not everyone is getting a good part. Some folks are only going to get a couple of lines. I invited everyone back to the call backs, and now I wish I hadn't - I just didn't think there would be time to get people called and let the ones I need to see to decide on parts know and let the others skip. I may try telling folks at the start that they might not be selected to read, but that I will open it up at the end to let anyone read anything.

    Tuesday, January 18, 2005

    Who Knew?

    As most of my regular readers are aware (both of you), I was asked by Young Footliters to direct their March show. Now, I’ve never directed kids before (the cast of Glengarry aside), but I said yes anyway, if they would help find a show. I looked around myself, and was leaning towards directing a classic 40s comedy of some sort (or earlier – Charley’s Aunt had come up in my mind at one point). But due to a number of factors, Footliters opted to try a script based on Laugh In. They ordered the scripts sight unseen.

    Yes. I said Laugh In. Sock it to me, bet your sweet bippy, good night Dick Laugh In.

    Auditions were scheduled for last night and tonight. The scripts came in last week, and we all well, we all were at various levels of displeased with the script. To be fair, I was impressed by how the jokes managed to be both inappropriate for the age group I’m directing AND stale and humorless. After a quick discussion Sunday night, we decided to try to find something else.

    Yes. I said Sunday night. With auditions less than 24 hours away, we decided to bag Laugh In and try to find something else. We did this on Sunday night.

    So I went to the library yesterday afternoon and started to search the catalog for plays for young adults or children. I looked at a lot of catalog entries, til one name jumped out at me. It was a name I like, a name I respect. David Mamet.

    Yes. I said David Mamet. Author of Glengarry Glen Ross (among others), which I directed last fall, which contains over 175 f-bombs. That David Mamet.

    The library had a collection of children’s plays written by Mamet. So I rushed to where the collection was located and quickly scanned the book. The first play, The Poet and The Rent, had the right number of parts I needed. It also was dedicated to William H. Macy. As far as I was concerned, that was two quick things in its favor. It soon became three things in its favor. The play is a clever, funny, smart, piece that doesn’t speak down to its cast, that doesn’t involve fairy tales (do you have any idea how many plays for kids involve fairy tales?) and is simple to stage – no elaborate sets, no elaborate costumes, no elaborate props. Just basic, good storytelling.

    I checked out the book, photocopied it, and brought it to auditions. I had about eight kids tryout last night, and they seemed to enjoy the piece. We checked today, found the script was at Samuel French, ordered copies and got the rights.

    So I’m directing Mamet again. And I couldn’t be happier with it.

    Thursday, January 13, 2005


    There’s a nice post at new donkey about the religious right. Here are the key passages:

    How many Southern Baptists know that their Convention endorsed liberalized abortion laws prior to Roe v. Wade? Or even that an ACLU-style absolutism about separation of church and state was long the most distinctive trait of their community, dating back to Roger Williams and to the early English Separatists? How many contemporary Presbyterians know that John Knox opposed the celebration of Christmas? And how many American Congregationalists really understand that the same tradition that made their community so notably progressive on issues like slavery and civil rights also made them for many decades the very fountainhead of nativist and anti-labor sentiment?

    Maybe a lot of them, but I doubt it. At one point in our history, religious pluralism created a way to define ourselves distinctively within the common American civic creed. Now the arrow seems pointed in the other direction, with religious identity being less and less a matter of heritage, doctrine and liturgy, and more and more a matter of consumer choice--and of secular values.

    It's this last point that compels me to write about this subject. To be blunt about it, millions of those Americans who can't name the four Gospels probably have no doubt that those Gospels demand that they oppose abortion, gay rights, or feminism. More than a few Catholics who thrill at Dan Brown's bogus expose of the machinations of Opus Dei probably think the litmus test for being a "good Catholic" is pretty much the same menu of "cultural conservatism" and "moral values." And no telling how many Americans who can't distinguish Muslims from Hindus or Sikhs--much less Sunni from Shia or Arabs from Persians--have probably bought into the idea of George W. Bush's foreign policy as a religiously-based effort to vindicate Western values against an undifferentiated heathen horde.

    This is not an accident, and is not the fault of the religious rank-and-file, who are not historians or theologians, and have complicated lives to lead. But the rampant secularization of much of the American faith tradition in the not-so-sacred cause of cultural and political conservatism must be laid at the parsonage door of those religious leaders who have abused the prophetic function of their ministry to acquire a "seat at the table" of secular power.

    In particular, Christian Right leaders in every denomination who abet and exploit the doctrinal and historical indifference of The Faithful to promote an agenda of intolerance and self-righteousness are the true Secularists of contemporary American society, and far more dangerous to the integrity of our faith communities than all the honest unbelievers in our midst or in Europe or Asia.

    It seems to me that sometime in the next four years, the religious middle and the religious left are going to need to start making some noise or else risk ceding the entire discussion of morals to the religious right. And as New Donkey points out, the religious right, or at least the leaders of same, are more interested in pushing a secular agenda than a Christian one. Yet the religious right, or at least the leaders of same, are the ones dominating any media discussion of religious issues.

    Tuesday, January 11, 2005

    Blogger Ate My Post

    It was such a good post, too. Sigh. And I'll never have that recipe again. Oh NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Tuesday, January 04, 2005

    Everyone's Doing It

    And thus, my Dead Pool list:

    Louie Anderson – Comedian (03/24/53)
    Peter Boyle – Actor (05/12/37)
    George Carlin – Comedian (10/18/33)
    Fidel Castro – Leader of Cuba (08/13/26)
    James Garner – Actor (04/07/28)
    Boy George – Singer (06/14/61)
    Estelle Getty – Actress (07/25/23)
    Don Knotts – Actor (07/21/24)
    Little Richard – Singer (12/05/32)
    Stan Musial – Baseball Player (11/21/20)
    Joe Namath – Football Player (05/31/43)
    William Rehnquist – Chief Justice, U.S. Supreme Court (10/01/24)
    Diana Ross – Singer (03/26/44)
    Pete Seeger – Folk Singer (05/13/19)
    Jean Stapleton – Actress (All In The Family) (01/19/23)

    I see that Kris and I share Rehnquist, Greenman and I share Don Knotts, and Matt and I share, uhm, no one. Go my picks!

    Coming Soon - My analysis of our picks.

    Monday, January 03, 2005

    Top Movies List Revisited

    I knew I should have waited. I knew we were taking the boys to see the Incredibles on New Year's Eve, and that I should wait before posting. But I didn't. So let me make it an official top six list, push everything down one spot, and give the Incredibles the number one spot. And let's call it the best animated superhero movie ever and leave it at that. I rate it that high even though Lindsay Lohan's naked breasts did not make an appearance.