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    Tuesday, March 29, 2005

    On The Lighter, And Sicker, Side

    Not going to add this to the links, cause who knows how long it will last. But if you need some funny, try this blog - Stuck In Rehab With Pat O’Brien.

    Oh, and this is just wrong. Wrong I say!

    Monday, March 28, 2005


    I don’t mean the following as an exculpation for Mr. Bentley in any way, shape or form, or as a mitigation of the heinous nature of what he did or the need to ensure he is punished to the fullest extent of the law, but, at some point, isn’t one of your fundamental responsibilities as a parent to make sure that your daughter doesn’t come into contact with the registered sex offender, particularly when the registered sex offender is the brother of the guy who is already in jail for repeatedly abusing your daughter? I know the mother bears no legal responsibility for what happened, but doesn’t she on some level bear a moral responsibility? Can you construct any scenario where “leaving my previously abused daughter around the registered sex offender brother of the guy who abused her” moves out of the “Not A Chance In Hell” category into the “Maybe Just This Once” category? Shouldn’t this be grounds for at least a strong consideration of removing Jetseta’s younger brother from the home?

    Wednesday, March 23, 2005

    Schiavo Thought

    I do eventually plan to write my feelings about Terri Schiavo, but work has been intense this week and I want to do it right when I do it. In the meantime, here’s a piece from
    Light of Reason. Remember, this is the viewpoint of a hardcore libertarian. I’m excerpting part – you should read the rest.

    This country was founded on the recognition of individual rights. The government properly exists solely to protect those rights. If you do not have the right to determine what happens to your own body, you have no rights at all. Let’s leave aside borderline questions here. These fundamental principles lead to the following results: they are why a military draft is absolutely wrong (if the government has the power to tell you how to spend one day of your life, let alone several years, and if you can’t control whether you live or die, you have no rights worth speaking of); they are the reason a woman has the right to abortion and has reproductive rights more generally (if she can’t determine whether to have a child or not, and whether close to 20 years of her life [at a minimum] will be largely devoted to caring for a child she may not want or be prepared to have, she has no other rights worth mentioning); and they are also the reason a person has the right to refuse any sort of medical treatment at all.

    At this point, it is nothing but the most obvious of red herrings to argue that Terri Schiavo’s wishes cannot be determined. That is precisely the question that has been litigated, over and over and over again, for close to a decade in the Florida courts. Every conceivable factual dispute has been addressed. The courts made the best determination they could, on the basis of the available evidence. And they concluded that the husband properly has the right to terminate medical treatment.
    And note this well. The primary and most important issue that the courts decided was this one: that, to the best of their ability to determine, Terri Schiavo herself would not have wanted treatment to continue. In other words, the courts have recognized that Terri Schiavo had the right to determine what happened to her own body.

    If you can’t determine that, you have no other rights. And if Congress has the power (not the right, mind you—language is critical here) to tell even one individual that he or she must have treatment when the person does not want it, then we are all nothing more than slaves in principle.

    And that is the totality of the argument. Argue about details all you want; it won’t change the fundamental principles involved.

    Monday, March 21, 2005

    More Fun With Signage

    On the marquee at Perkins:

    Wednesday Special – Buy One Muffin, Get Another One For Free

    Strangely enough, they have the same thing on the marquee at Touch Of Mink massage.

    Wednesday, March 16, 2005

    Hedda Gabler at ICCT

    One of the great things about participating in local theatre is that you meet, and become friends with, some really cool people. Our poker group is a theatre-oriented group, most of us having worked with each other at some point in the past few years.

    There are some problems associated with this, however. Case in point? ICCT’s production of Hedda Gabler. I’ve worked, associated, and hung out with everyone but one person in the cast. Indeed, at one point the only people onstage were four members of our poker group. This can make for some awkward moments after the show, when people you like ask how you enjoyed the play. “You were great” you have to say sometimes. “That one part was interesting where you did that” you say.

    Fortunately, this problem doesn’t arise with Hedda. Quite the opposite, actually. The production is great. The performances are great. I can’t recommend seeing the show highly enough.

    Some highlights:

    * There seems to have been a conscious choice not to attempt any dialects. Rather, a natural speaking style was utilized. This brought an immediacy to the show that made it far more compelling. Sure, the lines placed the show in the past. But the acting brought it into the present.

    * The set. I’m not a big set person. I like minimalist productions. But I can appreciate a good set, and the show has a good set. Nice use of the play space, functional doors and windows, and appropriate furniture. But the best thing about it was the piano room off the main stage. This was an area viewable when the door was open and out of sight when the door was closed. Playing portions of some scenes there was a stroke of genius.

    * The performances. The show was perfectly cast. Sometimes when you are watching your friends act, it’s tough to disassociate who they are as your friends. That is, they don’t truly become the character for you; rather, they are X being Y. Such was not the case here. Everyone became their characters, and there was no overlap between who they are as individuals to me and who they were as their characters (although, if you know Adam, there is something a little disconcerting about seeing him play a brilliant person undone by alcohol). Kris did a good job of bringing to life Hedda without making her a monster. Ditto Greenman as the judge. Brian played against type as the nebbishy, humorless Tesman. Adam was a great choice for Lovberg, and Annette, the only person onstage I’ve never worked with, was an appropriately sweet and determined Mrs. Whatshername. Madonna and Ellen rounded out the cast in small, but well-played, roles.

    Sure, it wasn’t perfect. For one thing, Kris started out a little stilted before falling into a conversational speech pattern. But that seemed to be more nerves than anything else, and it is more a brief situation with that night’s production than an ongoing problem. Something that did seem to be an ongoing problem was one scene where the second room was used. Kris and Adam were onstage, Greenman and Tanman were in the second room. But rather than standing there talking, they were moving around in there, and it was somewhat distracting, particularly because they weren’t on the verge of being involved in the scene on the stage. But that’s it. All in all it’s a very good production, and I would urge anyone in the area to see it.

    Oh, and I miss the fountain pop and the Hy-Vee cookies we used to sell at intermission as opposed to the pre-packaged stuff. But that has nothing to do with Hedda.

    Linkage Changes

    Okay, made some major changes to the links. First, I renamed the first two categories Highly Recommended and Recommended. Masters and Pros just seemed a little, I don’t know, juvenile. Second, I moved Daily Kos from the Highly Recommended to the Recommended. This is due primarily to Kos’ unrelenting criticism of the Iowa caucuses. I’m planning a post on this later, although it may end up in my Post Parts Word file with some other things I’ve planned in the past.

    I’ve also taken out Pandragon and added Americablog, Steve Gilliard, and Arthur Silber. All three are good writers, though Americablog tends towards news and the other two towards commentary. Gilliard is on the left, Silber is a libertarian.

    Finally, I’ve removed Pooh (cause she never posts) and added Wheezy. She nice, the Wheezy. I've also added Survivor Thoughts, another blog I am a co-author on.

    Monday, March 14, 2005

    The Kids Are Alright

    I was going to blog about this last week, but Mr. Feels Sad resigned from the Englert and that took up most of my words. As regular readers are aware, I was directing a show for the Young Footliters. That show, David Mamet’s The Poet and the Rent, went up the first weekend of March. We had three performances: Friday, March 4; Saturday, March 5; and Sunday, March 6.

    Now, if you had talked to me a week before the show (say at poker on Saturday, February 26) you would know that I was fed up. I was not liking the experience and was desperately wanting it to be over. The main problem was the lack of focus the kids had. We really could only rehearse for about an hour each night before they completely lost it and turned into a pack of wildings. My initial hope about the quality of the production was rapidly disappearing.

    Then a funny thing happened. We built the set that Saturday, though we did not rehearse. We didn’t rehears again until Monday, when we were on set in costumes with full props. In a word? Magic.

    I don’t know if it was getting into costumes, or getting on the set, or working the props. Doesn’t matter. What was a generally unruly pack of kids turned into focused actors and actresses working hard on their performances. Every night that week the show improved. It continued that way through the last performances. Oh sure, there were moments when things got out of hand. But they were few. By and large, the kids were great, and at the end I told Footliters I would gladly direct for them again.

    One of the greatest pleasures was seeing how, when all was said and done, I actually seemed to have had an impact on some of their lives. Oh, nothing dramatic. (Heh. Dramatic.) But they seemed to enjoy working with me as much as I enjoyed working with them. I had several newcomers, all of whom came through and gave great first performances. I had a couple of regulars that I was able to work out some nice comedic bits with. And I had two kids, one who was the biggest troublemaker, one who was a consummate pro, give great performances.

    It was a good show. I’m definitely proud of it, and I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to say that. I want to do it again, and I was sure I wasn’t going to say that.

    Thursday, March 10, 2005

    I'm Aiming For The Dog Next!

    Cat shoots owner. Film at eleven, story at Yahoo,

    BATES TOWNSHIP, Mich. - A man cooking in his kitchen was shot after one of his cats knocked his 9mm handgun onto the floor, discharging the weapon, Michigan State Police said.

    Yeah. An accident.

    Michelle Sand, a spokeswoman at the Iron River hospital, said Stanton was treated there before being transferred to Marquette General Hospital for further treatment. But Marcie Miller, a representative of the Marquette facility, said there was no record of the hospital receiving a patient by that name.

    Oh my God! The cats got to Marcie and are forcing her to lie!

    A telephone message seeking comment was left Wednesday at Stanton's home.

    Well duh, the cats aren’t likely to be answering the phone when one of them is a suspect in a shooting.

    State police said he was cooking at his stove when the cat knocked the loaded gun off the kitchen counter behind him.

    “I told you to scoop the litter!” the cat was heard to cry before firing.

    How Can We Miss You When You Won't Go Away?

    State 29 has this comment from the Gazette story about Eric Kerchner retiring.

    Eric Kerchner, who was 33 when he was hired by Englert Civic Theatre Group on April 1, 2004, said his resignation is due to criticism from members of the community that has psychologically affected his well-being.

    Okay, so maybe the horse's head WAS a bit too much...

    Wednesday, March 09, 2005

    Englert - More Thoughts

    I wasn’t going to comment on this anymore, but today’s PC article about Kerchner’s resignation and comments I’ve heard on the radio have brought me back in. It isn’t enough for him to go away – he has to make self-serving, disruptive statements as he goes. Sadly, that appears to be par for the course for him. Here’s the first paragraph from the PC article.

    After nearly one year as the Englert Theatre's executive director, Eric Kerchner has resigned, saying many in the organization and the community no longer shared his vision for the historic venue.

    Give me a break. The community never shared your vision. Maybe some members of the board did, but many did not. And really, if you’re coming into a situation where there has been a community effort to purchase, renovate, and open a facility, shouldn’t you be trying to share the vision of the community that conducted that effort instead of the other way around?

    "I wanted to make sure I could get the building open, then I had to assess whether everybody was on board," Kerchner said. "I just felt like everybody was not. I think the organization wanted to go in another direction, and I don't think I was the right person."

    In other words, you took the job thinking you could sway the public from what they wanted, then decided to leave when you realized you couldn’t. Nice.


    Kerchner's resignation comes at the height of the downtown theater's performance schedule, which includes renowned singers such as Leon Redbone and Greg Brown in April. Patrons are unlikely to notice any immediate change in the venue's operations, said Mike Partridge, president of the Englert's board, and the schedule is well set through fall.

    I love Leon Redbone. Really, I do. I own Leon Redbone albums and cds. I was one of about, oh, fifty people who bought tickets to see him the last time he was in Iowa City in the late 70s. When he was popular. When people knew his name. When he was still releasing new albums. But renowned? Not so much.


    "I am sure there will be quite a bit of people that will be happy to know I am leaving," Kerchner said.

    Eric? Are you lurking here?


    And from board member Matt Hayek: "Certain personnel matters just aren't appropriate for public discussion, I think that's fair to say. ... It was nothing short of a Herculean effort, but it was a stressful job. There's no doubt about that."

    This doesn’t just fall into the “Things That Make You Go Hmm” category, it falls into the “Things That Make You Go HMMMMMM!” category. But while I am sure our next poker game will be filled with speculation as to what this quote is talking about, it would be wrong to talk about it here.

    Really. It would be.

    I’m not going to do it, no matter how tempting it would be. Move along.

    Challenges in the past year included construction and finances, which resulted in considerable borrowing, as well accommodating national acts and local groups. Kerchner said outside criticism added to internal differences, making it harder for him to lead.

    "I was feeling the negativity was coming from more directions than just one," he said, also pointing to the public and the press. "I was feeling that people were losing faith in me."

    Yep. Tell people one thing, do another, and then blame everyone else for catching on to how you operate and not being happy about it. Again, nice.

    Kerchner said he began sending out his résumé a few months ago, sensing there were people involved in the project that didn't want him around any longer. He has yet to land another job, however.

    Now who thinks the horse’s head we left in his bed was a bad idea? Anyone? Anyone?

    The rest of the article is fluff stuff – nothing particularly objectionable. Or more pertinently, mockable.

    But wait! There is more from other sources. I was listening to KXIC this morning, as is my wont, and heard several news stories on this. In one Kerchner was quoted as saying that promises were made to ICCT before he came on board that were unrealistic, such as not having to pay for rehearsal space, and that ICCT members were upset when he wouldn’t honor them.

    First, there weren’t promises. There was an agreement. A contract. Some of the terms of that contract have been honored by the Englert. Some haven’t. But if push came to shove, I am confident we could prove the existence of that contract in court. Second, there was a reason that the amount we offered per ticket worked out to be so much higher than the flat rental rate. That’s because that ticket price would have included funds for rehearsal time. Finally, we were upset not because he refused to honor the terms, but because by his words and deeds he showed that he didn’t think we were a particularly worthy organization for the facility and that he didn’t think community performers in general were appropriate.

    I said this in an earlier post, I’ll say it again. If Eric had come out and said “In the first year or so we are open, we will need to rely more heavily on touring performers and higher ticket prices to ensure that we survive, but after we get our feet firmly planted we will start to open up the schedule to more local performers and open up the prices to more reasonably meet expectations” none of us would have questioned what happened. None of us. He said something similar to me on several occasions. That he wouldn’t say that to the community as a whole, particularly as the Englert started to draw some fire for the lack of local performers, is very telling. To me it says he didn’t want to say in public something that he eventually might be held accountable for saying.

    I don’t know if anyone is reading these posts beyond my usual readers, anyone like someone from the Englert Board or from the local media, but just in case, it is important to state some things. First, we don’t want to see the Englert fail. Far from it. For one thing, the only hope ICCT has of getting any return on the investment we made in the Englert (and it was an investment – we gave the money with the hope that it would help us grow and ultimately survive) is for the Englert to be a success and for us to be doing shows there. That increases our audience base, which increases our volunteer base, which increases our funding base. We need a healthy, active Englert, and we need it bad. While other community arts groups haven’t tied their future success quite so closely to the facility as ICCT, the same general thought applies. We don’t want to see the Englert fail.

    Second, we don’t think the Englert calendar should consist of nothing but community performers. The original Englert group, the original Board, the original volunteers made it clear that a mix of touring productions and community artists would be needed to make the facility viable. What we have been objecting to the past few months is the path the Englert appeared to have taken towards touring productions with local productions as an afterthought when they were thought of at all. It is becoming clear that the trip down this path was Eric’s idea, and that there was resistance within the Englert Board itself about this path. It’s a fine line, but a distinct line: You can be a community performance space that books touring productions in order to stay in business, or you can be a touring performance space that is willing to occasionally book community productions. It’s entirely about the focus. We wanted the former. He wanted the latter.

    Finally, we are realists. We, the performing artists of the community, realize that the things that were talked about when the project first started have changed. We realize that goals change, that things that once seemed realistic might not now be realistic. We understand that fact. We are willing to adapt. What we want, though, is a fair and open discussion about these things, not handshakes and press statements designed to get people off the Englert director’s back. We want results, not glad handing.

    We want the Englert to succeed, and we want to help it succeed. Let us. Don’t close us out, let us.

    More Movies

    Interesting news in the Press Citizen today. We’re getting more movie theatres.

    Moviegoers looking to catch a flick on the big screen could have more films to choose from at two shopping centers later this year, theater and mall officials said Tuesday.

    Tony Tillemans, vice president of St. Cloud, Minn.-based Cinema Entertainment Corp., said the plan is to add six screens to the Cinema 6 theater at Sycamore Mall and two at Coral Ridge Ten Theatres. CEC Theatres owns both complexes as well as Campus Theatres in Old Capitol Town Center.

    So far so good. But six paragraphs later we get the real reason for the increase.

    Tillemans said a goal is to play more popular movies at both theaters at the same time.

    Okay. So instead of, oh, four screens of Star Wars Episode Three: We’re Out Of Good Titles, we’d get eight screens? Great.

    But at least they said a goal, not the goal. So maybe we’ll get more first run lesser known films as well. That would be a good thing.

    For everyone but the Bijou, that is…

    Tuesday, March 08, 2005

    Kerchner Resigns

    Eric Kerchner, executive director of the Englert, resigned today. You can find the announcement from the Englert Board of Directors in the Press Citizen here. Here’s some excerpts:

    Eric Kerchner, Executive Director of the Englert Civic Theatre, announced that he will resign his position effective April 1, 2005. Kerchner has been Executive Director since April 1 of 2004.

    A year. He made it a year. A lot of us suspected that he was not in it for the long haul, but only a year? Sheesh.

    "One thing Eric does not get enough credit for is the amount of community-based acts he has booked," said Partridge. A number have already appeared on Englert's stage, and upcoming performances include the Iowa City Community Band, New Horizons Band, Iowa City String Orchestra, City Circle Acting Company, Young Footliters, Old Capitol Chorus, Greg Brown and Dave Zollo. We also have commitments from the Jazz Festival, ArtsFest and Arts Iowa City. And of course we plan to play a large part in Iowa City Community Theatre's upcoming 50th anniversary season."

    Now, I don’t mean to rain on anyone’s parade, but I’ve been involved with Footliters for the past six weeks, and closely involved (as in speaking with the President of Footliters every day among other things) for the past two weeks. The Englert was never mentioned except in regards to how expensive it would be to perform there. So I’m confident in saying that the Footliters will be surprised to know they are booked at the Englert. And I’m still a part of the ICCT Board, and while we hope to be able to do performances at the Englert as part of our 50th anniversary season, nothing is set in stone yet and a great many of us are pessimistic about the chances of doing any shows there next season.

    Nonetheless, this is good news. I met with Kerchner several times while I was still ICCT President, and I don’t think I ever got the straight truth from him on an issue. He’s a master of telling people what they want to hear and then doing the opposite of what he told them. He was also very clearly opposed to community artists using the facility, no matter what Mike Partridge might say in the press release. So the fact that he is leaving alone is good news. That good news is compounded by that paragraph I cited. Even if it isn’t the most factually accurate piece of writing, the fact that the Englert Board felt they had to say it shows that they know they need to bring more community productions into the building.

    So what’s next?

    Well, any search for a replacement that doesn’t involve a call to Justine Zimmer to see what she’s doing and to see if she’s interested is going to be an incomplete search. There is no one more capable or appropriate for running the Englert than Justine. Forget her background. She knows the building, she knows the community – in short, she’s perfect.

    But that’s for the Englert Board to do. The rest of us need to recognize that things aren’t going to change just because the main obstacle is gone. We need to keep up the pressure, although we probably don’t need to be as public about it. We need to let the Englert Board know that we are supportive of them and interested in using the facility. We need to remind them of the commitment they made to this community, and hold them to that commitment. Now is not the time to let up. Now is not the time to relax.

    It is time to smile, though, and wave goodbye to Eric Kerchner. We’re sorry you ever came, we’re glad to see you go, and please, please Eric – do be a stranger.

    Englert Again

    Well, Matt at Thoughts From The Oasis (see link at right) weighed in on the Press Citizen editorial from last Saturday. At the risk of being me-tooistic (one of the worst traits of the blogging community, if you ask me), this paragraph that Matt points out isn’t getting enough attention.

    That Wednesday's gala cost $60 for the performance and $100 for the performance and reception signals to many in the community that the Englert is now for the city's wealthy.

    Now, I’ve got nothing against the wealthy. But anyone who was involved in this project in the early stages can confirm what I’m about to say. The city’s wealthy are not the reason why this project got to where it is today.

    Not for a lack of trying on our part. We reached out to the city’s wealthy. We made efforts towards them to get them to donate money or time. We knew getting large donations from a few people would make our fundraising job so much easier. And some of the city’s wealthy did donate money and time. Not a whole lot, but some did. But this project was successful because of the many, many, many people who gave a little. People stretching their budgets to give $500 for a seat. Kids collecting cans to turn into change to donate. Elderly making $100 pledges over five years because $20 a year was really all they could afford. Those are the people who made this project a success. By and large (again, with a few notable exceptions), the city’s wealthy didn’t come on board until it looked like the project was going to be a success.

    All in all, it’s a pretty good editorial. It could hit harder – it pulls it’s punches at times – but it’s a start. Nonetheless, there are some aggravating things.

    Without question, the Englert Theatre refurbishment looks splendid, and its performances enhance downtown. The Englert, for many years to come, will stand as an icon of what can happen when a community comes together to save a be-loved building.

    This would have been a perfect spot to hit the point that the community came together for a specific reason – the establishment of a community performance space.

    But running through an overwhelming number of visions was a general sense it would be a community venue for community-based performers that would be accessible to by all community members. Right or wrong, some donors are unhappy that hasn't come to be, and this must be of concern to the wider community.

    Right or wrong? RIGHT OR WRONG? You mean there is a possibility that it’s wrong to be unhappy that the thing you were promised when you donated your money and time isn’t what you’re getting in return?

    To the theater's credit, there have been some local performances, especially during the holiday season.

    Yep. Two events that were official Englert fundraising events had local performers.

    You know, if the Englert hierarchy had come out and said “In the first year or so we are open, we will need to rely more heavily on touring performers and higher ticket prices to ensure that we survive, but after we get our feet firmly planted we will start to open up the schedule to more local performers and open up the prices to more reasonably meet expectations” none of us would be questioning what is happening. None of us. But they haven’t come out and said that, and it’s telling that they haven’t come out and said that.

    But hey, the issue made the editorial page, and not as a letter to the editor. It’s a start, and we need to keep the pressure up.

    Monday, March 07, 2005

    Why Yes. These Grapes Are Sour.

    Sometimes it’s about the greater good, and sometimes it’s personal. As many of you know, the Englert Gala Grand Opening was last week. Now, you would think that this might be a chance to bring together all the people who worked hard to purchase and open the facility. Like, oh, say the original board members. Or the original group of people who were involved before there was an original board. Like, oh, the original Secretary? But I know I didn’t get an invite, and I don’t know of any of the other originals who are no longer involved who did.

    But maybe this isn’t just personal. Maybe this is just another example of how the current Englert hierarchy is trying to move away from any connection with the original people and purpose of the theatre. Oh well. At least the Press Citizen is finally on that case. See Kris at Random Mentality, or wait for a post from me tomorrow, for more about that.

    Thursday, March 03, 2005

    I'm Back

    A couple of days without Internet access at work, combined with a heavy workload, has kept me away. But I'm back now! Yes sir baby, I'm back!

    Fun With Signage

    From the marquee on the Canterbury Inn, advertising the House of Lords

    “Enjoy a romantic evening in one of our private booths”

    Strangely enough, the Pleasure Palace has the same thing on their marquee…