29 Mar 2004

The American Boychoir

Yesterday afternoon I went to see the Spring concert of the Nova Singers, a professional choral group based in Galesburg and the Quad Cities. Their singing was excellent (as, apparently, usual).

Performing with them was the American Boychoir, which is a few dozen boys in grade 5--8 recruited from all over the country to attend a residential school in NJ and tour the country singing. It was really wild to hear them. I never would have expected such a full sound; they had a bass section that sang impossibly low, given that nobody there was over 14 or so. And loud, too---the low bass section appeared to be just two, or maybe three, boys, with another couple that seemed to be singing a baritone. They blended really well, and they weren't standing in sections, so it was difficult to tell who was in which section except during the very polyphonic parts. :)

Oddly enough, I found that in many of the pieces where they were singing as a whole choir, the sound was almost indistinguishable from an adult mixed chorus. It was only when the solos and duets were brought out that I could really hear the distinctive "boy soprano" sound.

The weird thing, though, was how they acted. While a few seemed like, y'know, normal boys, many of them seemed to move very stiffly with "don't want to get punished for screwing up" looks on their faces. And all of them bowed in the most alarming, creepy fashion---while in their rows on the risers, they just slowly bent at the waist, letting their arms hang like rag dolls; they looked like marionettes or something. And they did it after every song. I have never seen anything like it. In curtain calls for plays, I've seen lines grab hands, raise them, and then fold at the waist; in more solo contexts, people put one arm across the waist and extend the other, or keep their arms at their sides and bow a little more shallowly with a nod of the head. Done individually this would have looked like some sort of stretching exercise; done as a group and in sync it just looked creepy.

"Maintenance, cleanup on aisle three please. We have a can of worms opened on aisle three." --Eva Schillace

Posted by blahedo at 10:11pm | Comments (1)

28 Mar 2004

Partying with the junior faculty

My parents swung by today on their way through to Iowa, staying for about four hours to meet Nutmeg and get lunch, and chat a bit. After they left, I ended up just taking a four-hour nap! I got up around 7:30, made myself a sandwich, fed the dog and took him for a walk, and then headed over to the party.

The turnout was pretty good, and I got to meet a bunch of the faculty that I didn't really know. The sangrea was excellent. By about 11:30 or so the group had thinned a bit, as people with bedtimes and/or kids left. We rang in my birthday with a bunch of Manu Chao songs (not that anyone else realised we were ringing in my birthday) as the dancing got started; we then cycled through about four decades of dance music. When the hiphop got started I drifted over to one of the conversation groups, and we kept talking until the party broke up around 3:15. The whole affair bore a striking resemblance to a lot of the better grad student parties I went to in Providence. :)

"Wait. Stop right there. That's all you need to say. You don't have a point beyond this. Your argument is stupid, vacuous and based on assumptions you don't have the language or ability to back up. On top of that, it's unwarranted here. This is where you need to shut up." --Theo O'Neal

Posted by blahedo at 3:40am | Comments (0)

26 Mar 2004

OK!

Galesburg HS put on Oklahoma! this weekend, and I went tonight. What a fun show. The production was a decent high school job; the vocal quality of several of the performers was unfortunately marred by a lot of problems with the sound system, though. At times, it almost seemed like it would be better if they just ran it without mikes. On the other hand, there were a few solo lines by members of the ensemble that the mikes didn't catch, making the words difficult to discern if you didn't already know them.

In any case, I was really impressed with the voice quality of the leads, Laurey and Curly. Both had clear singing voices with excellent range, and they easily carried through the gi-normous auditorium (which probably could seat 2000 or more, though only about 200 or so were in attendance).

I'm still trying to figure out why Will Parker was played by a community member I've seen in local PPCT productions. Maybe the high school couldn't field enough vocal talent? I mean, he did a good job, but it was too bad the whole thing wasn't all high schoolers.

Further evidence for the "small town != backwards/backwoods" file: Curly was played by a black kid. Yay Galesburg!

One thing I have to ask, though: is it now standard to keep talking through the entr'acte? They did that during Phantom, too. It's really annoying.

"It would be better to teach creationism in the context of a high school class on world religions or human origins, but not if science continues to be taught as Truth and religion as Something Gullible People Believe In." --Chris Tessone

Posted by blahedo at 11:54pm | Comments (0)

Thunderstorms.

At least, that's my best guess as to what made my dog crazy this morning. He got me up at 7, whining and crying, so I took him out (in the pouring rain, I might add), but he refused to so much as pee. After a few minutes, I brought him back in, dried him off a little with a towel, fed him, and decided to go back to bed for an hour. About twenty minutes later he started crying again, and this time when I took him out he finally peed after like five minutes; and then he kept up his crying after we got back in. What's weird, though, is that the whining wouldn't start at the lightning or thunderclaps, but at random times. So I have no idea.

This afternoon, when I got home, he was just fine. At least, as long as he was occupied downstairs; he kept staring up my attic stairs and whining, looking at me, and looking up them and whining some more---he'd go up and come down and then start the routine again. I checked; nothing there. Again, no clue what set him off.

I did, however, spend about an hour outside with him on the 12' lead tied to the laundry pole, and we worked on "Nutmeg, Come!" for about ten minutes. He seemed to be getting it pretty fast; of course, the training treats may have aided in that regard, somewhat.

"Sign a few contracts, the well-intentioned advise, and you'll get all the same rights as straight couples—that's an outrageous fiction, but not as outrageous as the notion that being almost equal under the law is good enough." --Laura Conaway

Posted by blahedo at 6:57pm | Comments (1)

25 Mar 2004

More about Nutmeg

Now that something on the order of two or three hours has been sucked out of my day, I am a lot busier. :P Despite getting a full night's sleep (7-1/2 hours or so) each night this week, I'm really tired, and my schedule's been thrown all out of whack. The dog's still really cute, though. :) Cute, house-trained, and incredibly well-behaved; I can't even begin to imagine why someone would've gotten rid of him. I walked him over to the campus the other day and let a bunch of students play with him---everyone loves him, and he loves them right back.

Oh, and yes, I've named him Nutmeg. I had been thinking nutmeg was more of a brownish colour, but in fact it's exactly the same colour of reddish-brown as the fur on top of his head. So there you go.

"Sometimes I think the greatest hindrance to our cause is the sheer force of the American legend. So strongly do people believe this country stands for freedom that they can't fathom it's ever otherwise." --Laura Conaway

Posted by blahedo at 11:43pm | Comments (1)

22 Mar 2004

DOG

I'm now the proud companion of a 1-year-old male corgi-sheltie mix. After inspecting the apartment, and spending a fair amount of time in my beanbag, he is now sprawled on my green rug, sleeping. Good boy!

Now I just need to come up with a name. "Zwei" is really tempting (can anyone guess why?) but he doesn't quite have the right look. Aside from that, I was thinking perhaps "Nutmeg" or something, to go along with "Cinnamon". I'm sure I'll come up with something good, but I really have to do it soon, because I feel like a dufus trying to get his attention without a name to call.

I'll get pictures up at some point, but I'm tired now and I really still should write my lectures for tomorrow. He's really, cute, though; the sheltie-type fur is very puppylike, especially when it's short. He has the huge corgi ears, except that his right ear stands up properly while his left ear flops down. It's absolutely adorable.

"Too many people see religious hypocrites and think that the only alternative is to become irreligious." --Fr Henry Bodah

Posted by blahedo at 12:09am | Comments (5)

20 Mar 2004

Le Fantôme

After an excellent dinner at Berghoff's, my mom and dad and I went to see The Phantom of the Opera downtown. It was... good.

The sets and stage management were awesome. The costuming was outstanding. The singing was good. Part of my problem, I'll admit, is that I just don't like the super-vibrato style that is characteristic of the coloratura soprano; in Carlotta this annoyingness is appropriate, but Christine should be much more pleasant to listen to. That much vibrato breaks all the great duets. Raoul was great, but the Phantom also had a bit too much vibrato to sound really good. My favourite characters (as usual) were the supporting cast; the owners, Piangi, Mme Giry, etc., all put on a great performance. The best scene for singing was undoubtedly Notes, at least in part because both Christine and the Phantom were absent!

Technologically, the most impressive was the first time Christine is brought down to the sewers; the boat drifting around the stage, the candles rising and falling, and the mist all gave a surprisingly convincing rendition of the scene. (I thought the pit musicians were going to suffocate from all the CO2 that was pouring over the edge of the stage; they must have a good ventilation system down there!) The famous chandelier was a little disappointing, as the pulley system didn't operate very fast, and so when it rises to the ceiling at the beginning, it drags a bit, and most especially when it "falls", it "falls" in a graceful, leisurely arc. Ah well.

Nevertheless, it was a fun night. I'm glad I saw it.

"The essential idea of conservatism is a pessimistic view of human nature; however, since a lot of conservatives are basically decent human beings, they tend to make exceptions for themselves.... The concept of the Rule of Law demands that the law be applied impartially, which leads to an an ongoing tension in conservative thought and action." --Michael Kimmitt

Posted by blahedo at 11:55pm | Comments (2)

18 Mar 2004

Yeah, that's what I thought

It started out as me being lazy and not getting out of the apartment much. And then, I became curious: just how much facial hair could I grow out in a week?

The verdict: not much. After a week of growth, at six feet you can just make out a greyness where a mustache would go, and the occasional light glinting off a light hair in what would be a goatee. This all has to do with me having A) very fine hair and B) very thin hair. Also, I'm only 25.

So all the people that have been telling the CS faculty that either John should grow his hair long or I should grow a goatee? It's all on John, folks. I'm already becoming the eccentric professor, I don't have to look scruffy, too. :)

"But, but wonky makes me happy. I'm into wonky. It's a thing." --Greg Seidman

Posted by blahedo at 11:59pm | Comments (0)

Syllabi scripsi

Ok, all done, now my students will know what I'm going to (try to) teach them. Now, to get a head start on writing lectures and homeworks! But first, home to eat and perhaps do a bit of knitting.

"In verse 143 in Sura Al-Bacarah (the Cow), the Almighty says: "And thus have we willed you to be a community of the middle way." It is this God-ordained 'middle way' that we Muslims have lost. And we must find it in harmony with today's and tomorrow's hope for moderation and a better quality of life for us all." --Izzat Majeed

Posted by blahedo at 5:20pm | Comments (0)

Obama for Senate '04

Barack Obama, after winning the Tuesday primary in a landslide, will now go on to campaign and, with a little help from us, win in November.

He was at Knox today as part of his tour of Illinois. He spoke for about a half hour and then took questions. He's a solid liberal, though as he points out, "is it that liberal to think that you shouldn't have to go bankrupt just because you get sick?" What really struck me, though, was that he never put forth just one single thing that was supposed solve all our problems, or even one problem. "There is no magic bullet," he said, and so for each problem he addressed, he listed three or four reasonable---and most importantly attainable---goals that each formed steps on a path to a solution. His major agenda items seem to be health care (and he's served on a health care committee in the IL Senate), the economy (primarily jobs, but also education), and Iraq. Which is a pretty good set of items to focus on right now. I'm really glad I voted for him, and I'm really glad he won.

Also worth pointing out: more people voted for him than voted for all the Republicans in the Senate primary, put together. There were more people in Dupage County that voted for Obama than voted for Jack Ryan. Now, they weren't head-to-head, of course, but it really shows that he, and our current political situation, really fire up Democrats to get involved. It's certainly not "in the bag", but boy do we ever have a good shot at it.

Now back to figuring out what I'm going to teach my kids about Operating Systems this term.

"True jihad today is not in the hijacking of planes but in the manufacturing of them." --Izzat Majeed

Posted by blahedo at 3:27pm | Comments (0)

16 Mar 2004

Seems reminder-worthy to me

There's a lot of stuff that comes over the faculty-staff distribution list here at Knox. Probably an average of three or four messages a day; for a wide variety of things. I'm forever getting announcements of something for sale, or no longer for sale; or of talks or shows or masseuses (not kidding), usually with one or two reminders following on the first one.

So with all the inconsequential crap that comes down over the wire (which I don't mind, really), you'd think something like "final deadline for handing in grades" would rate more than a line in the middle of a paragraph in a list of assorted announcements from the registrar, a week before the deadline. At the very least, it would seem to suggest a message the day before along the lines of "Remember, grades are due at noon tomorrow!" Especially since last term, grades weren't due until something like two weeks after the end of finals.

At least I was in my office (grading!) to get the call at 1pm from the registrar's office asking where my grades were. I'm not sure what they would've done if I hadn't been here. Send email, I guess. I'm just glad I was "on top of things" enough relative to my presumed deadline of Friday that I was able to hurriedly wrap it up in about two hours and submit them. *whew*

"You should have stuck to your original petty war against the Saudis and, perhaps, you would have brought some change for the better there. Instead, you brought wretchedness to proud but hungry and abused Afghans, with your empty slogans and your money, and showed them a new hell where bombs and chocolates fall from the skies." --Izzat Majeed, open letter to Osama bin Laden

Posted by blahedo at 3:34pm | Comments (0)

Of all the days...

Marvelous. The weather outlets continue to predict 2 to 4 inches of snow, but it's already over that, still coming down, and the radar makes it look like the storms only about halfway past. Any other day, I'd be all "snow day! Hot chocolate!", especially with "Spring" Break meaning I didn't have to go in to work.

What worries me, though, is how this is going to affect the primary. I think a lot of people are going to stay home, and it's going to disproportionately affect the candidates that don't have party machine support. Obama had a fifteen or so point lead in the last poll I saw, and I think he has a good shot at winning, but pundits were already predicting that Hynes was being undercounted in the polling due to machine effects, and this bit of bad weather is certainly not going to help matters any. The good news (I guess) is that it's also going to disproportionately affect the rural vote, which was one of Obama's weak areas; but then, his weakest areas further downstate look like they're not getting snow.

All of which is to say, I have no idea how it'll turn out. Go vote.

"Only dedicated herpetologists could characterize the vista up a turtle's gaping bunghole as a `spectacular view.'" --Cecil Adams

Posted by blahedo at 2:34am | Comments (0)

15 Mar 2004

Why I like the Honor Code

When I'm grading, if I run across a paragraph that sounds like surprisingly well-written academese, I get to say, "good work, they've nailed the mode of writing". I don't have a responsibility to, in fact I have a responsibility not to, go checking textbooks and online sources to see if they "borrowed" it from somewhere. Other places, even if I wanted to believe the student capable of it, I'd kind of feel like I had to check. Here, I can blithely assume there's nothing out of place. It's heartening, really.

Also, it's been snowing on and off all day, but a couple hours ago it started sticking; there's a couple inches on the ground now. It's supposed to keep snowing on and off for the next two days. I knew there was another serious snowfall awaiting us this winter.

"As for God, the guy invented the penis. He's gotta be pretty comfortable with it." --Kevin Audleman

Posted by blahedo at 11:37pm | Comments (0)

Finding my money

Merrill Lynch is trying to find my money.

When I moved from Providence, I figured I'd leave my account there, since it's not as though I ever visited in person anyway, and I didn't want to have to switch to a different person. But last, oh, October or so, I called and found out my financial adviser had left a few months previously (thanks for telling me, guys), and so I figured I might as well switch branches if I had to switch advisers. But then I dropped the ball and forgot about it.

As I was gearing up to do my taxes last week, I had a few questions about my account, so I decided now was as good a time as any to process the switch. I called the office in Peoria (Moline and Burlington are technically closer, but only by a little bit, and a trip to Peoria can turn into a pit stop on a trip to Urbana ;). I called them up, left my name and the fact that my account was in Providence, and was told they'd get back to me.

They just did; they were asking for my account number because they couldn't find my account, and Providence was claiming they didn't have it. Of course, I'm still getting statements and announcements and a few old-growth trees' worth of fund summaries and status reports; these all list my account as still being in Providence, though with no financial adviser. I was just logged in to their online site a couple days ago. So I'm not worried that it is there, but it is pretty funny that they "lost" it. Armed with the actual account number and my SSN, she was going to make another go at it, and should get back to me soon. And then, my account will move to Peoria.

Slowly but surely, I'm completing the move to Galesburg. I'm already starting to feel like an actual permanent resident. Which is funny not only because it's Galesburg, but because I haven't really felt like a permanent resident of anywhere since I was little---Providence came close, and that was where I spent more years than anywhere else and essentially my entire adult life to that point, but I always knew it was only temporary, until I got my PhD. Now, though, I'm here for the long haul.

On implementing perl on top of scheme: "You say this as if it were a gentle afternoon's exercise, rather than a lifetime of quiet torture." --Simon Cozens

PS: Illinoisans, remember to go vote tomorrow!

Posted by blahedo at 4:50pm | Comments (6)

14 Mar 2004

Dennis Kucinich and the IL Primary

Dennis Kucinich came to Galesburg today, and spoke at 11:00. I went to go see him. (Which meant I went to 7:30 Mass and met a whole new bunch of people, but that's a separate story.) I have to say, the other time I heard him speak (at the Harkin Steak Fry) must've just been an off day, because he was a great speaker today.

He talked about a lot of things, but a lot of them were tied together with the idea of a basic attitude change: right now, we spent hundreds of billions of dollars on the Department of Defense---which is really just a War Department---and blow off all the other things that we as a society should try to promote. He speaks of a Department of Peace; it would support and fund programs that try to reduce conflict, and remove the root causes of conflict. What if we, as a society, tried to unlearn all of those habits of thought that lead ultimately to domestic abuse and child abuse? What if we as a society stopped letting the corporations push through legislation whose sole purpose is keeping labour cheap?

He gave a great analogy: not so long ago in this country, most families didn't lock their houses, pretty much ever. Nowadays, we mostly do, and that's fine. But what if someone were to not just lock their door, but put in a big steel outer door, and a huge electrified fence, and get guard dogs, and pile sandbags up behind all the windows? We, their neighbours, would freak out, even if they claimed it was only to defend themselves. But that's exactly how the rest of the world sees the US.

Still, a lot of his solutions seem too extreme. NAFTA's a problem, certainly---and so, he says, we should just cancel it. The bigwigs have been given their chance to "fix it", that didn't work, so *bam* we should just get rid of it... I dunno about that. Return Social Security retirement age to 65? Nice in an ideal world, but not at all realistic. Indexing the age to slowly increase---even if it goes up more slowly than life expectancies---is a much better plan.

I continue to support Dean's platform over Kucinich's for the same reasons I ever did---it goes in the same direction, but is a lot more practical. I worry that the Dem leadership will see the folks who vote for Kucinich as not understanding reality or something like that, and therefore ignoring their voices entirely, whereas the Dean folks, while perhaps a bit left of party-centre, are within reach and therefore worth throwing a few bones to.

On the other hand, given the disenfranchisement of Illinois voters in the primary, any vote we make is more of a statement than anything else---it's been made abundantly clear that the Democratic Party is not interested in the opinions of Illinoisans when it comes to who should get the nomination, so perhaps we should use our vote for something else. Following that reasoning, it makes a little more sense (or is at least seems less nonsensical) to vote for an extreme candidate who is leaning in the right direction, just to demonstrate how strongly you feel that the party needs to move in that direction, even if you wouldn't want that candidate to win the Presidency.

In the end, I'll probably still end up voting for Dean on Tuesday, but either way, I'll come out of the booth regretting that I couldn't vote for both of them. What certainly seems true, though, is that for all those of you out there who abandoned a preferred candidate---be it Dean or Kucinich, or Edwards, or one of the others---due to "electability" or somesuch, you really might as well go back to your original choice. If there is an up-side to this whole stupid drawn-out primary process, it's that we don't have to worry about actually selecting the nominee. We can just make our opinions known; and we should.

(And don't you dare think of skipping the primary just because the presidential nomination's been decided. Whatever your political inclination, there is a dead-heat race for the nomination for US Senator from Illinois, and if you're of voting age and live in Illinois it's really your civic duty to go out and vote for the man or woman who you think will do the best job. It could end up being even more important than the Presidential contest---we're looking at a possible 50-49 split in the Senate, and which side has the 50 makes a huge difference.)

Illustration of argument in the alternative:

  1. I never met the victim.
  2. If I did meet her, I certainly didn't kill her.
  3. If the jury is actually fooled by the prosecution, and thinks I killed her, then you have to understand it was self-defense.
  4. Also, I'm completely batshit insane.

--Mike Peil

Posted by blahedo at 10:49pm | Comments (1)

13 Mar 2004

Italian Job

I finally got around to seeing it. (I only borrowed the DVD about three months ago... and of course people had been telling me to see it since at least last July, when I announced I'd be getting a Mini.) What a fun movie! And yes, my Mini is just like that, and it can do all those things. Well, except for the racing stripes.

Marky Mark is starting to look disturbingly like Pierce Brosnan as he ages.

Ed Norton needs to be careful lest he be typecast as the traitorous number-two guy (cf The Score).

And the only moment where I lost my suspension of disbelief was when the Minis emerge from the Metro tunnel. An unloaded Mini would tilt forward like that, since the engine is by far the heaviest part of the car. But with a load in the back? Tsk, tsk.

But it was still awesome. If, somehow, you still haven't seen it (hard to believe---to hear people talk I was the very last person in the universe to see it), it's a great movie to rent.

"May I suggest Girl Scout Thin Mint Chocolate Ice Cream? Available now in your grocer's freezer. I mean, if God exists, this is what's in His freezer." --David Singleton

Posted by blahedo at 11:35pm | Comments (0)

12 Mar 2004

&^$&^(* Secretary of State

Just got off the phone with the Secretary of State's office. They're now claiming that my plates will arrive around the last week of this month, or perhaps the first week of April. I asked him why it was taking so long. "Well, sir, they have to be made, and that takes time." Why does the website say six weeks then? "I don't know why the website would say that, it takes about two months." Nevermind that it's already been three months since I sent them my money.

To recap. The illiterate cretin at the BMW dealership made me get a random-number plate for my Mini because he was either too lazy to fill out the form for a personalised plate or too incompetent to know how. So, I had to wait until I'd gotten my numbered plates to file for new personalised plates. This I did in early November. Early December I received an application for personalised plates (that previous month was what it took them to check and see that my requested number was available). This I filled out and sent in my money, on 16th December.

On 23rd January, my check cleared.

On 29th January, my order "processed".

The first week of February, I called the SoS, and they said that the order processed on the 29th and that my plates would arrive in two weeks---whether from the 29th or from the day I called, it wasn't clear, but it was false in any case.

The last week of February, I called back. This time I got an incredibly long story about some warehouse fire, and there were shipping delays, and something something, but that in any case my plates should be arriving in a few more days, or a week at the outside.

So, I called back today, with the results I describe above. Oddly enough, in rereading the form I notice that it says a minimum of six weeks. In which case, I wonder why nobody pointed that out? And where were they getting their numbers? Thin air? It seems like an odd policy---if someone had said right off the bat that it would take until April, I would've grumbled, but I wouldn't have kept pestering them every couple weeks....

As the sign in my Women's Clinic puts it: "Never put anything into your vagina that you wouldn't put in your mouth". (OK, I know you wouldn't put a tampon in your mouth either. You know what I mean.) --ruadh

Posted by blahedo at 3:37pm | Comments (0)

Knitting pictures

I've updated the knitting pictures; they now include pictures of the diagonal socks, the jumper, the slipper socks, and the recently-completed winter hat. See my knitting page. That's still not even everything, but it's progress. ;)

"Why did that plane crash? My understanding is that the investigation is ongoing, but the gist of the current theory can be described as "pilot death." --Michael Kimmitt

Posted by blahedo at 2:12pm | Comments (0)

11 Mar 2004

Tired

I haven't had any caffeine all day, and now I'm really tired. On the one hand, I could fix myself a cuppa tea, and work on some grading. On the other hand, I could go to bed and get a good night's sleep. Hmmm.... I didn't get much (i.e. any) work done on Tuesday and Wednesday when I was up in Chicago, so I should compensate. Then again, my students would probably appreciate me not making stupid sloppy grading errors. Decisions, decisions.

"...much the same way that getting an "American" look is rather rough. I mean, there are a lot of overweight, loud, self-satisfied people in the world, so it's not like our cultural factors are dispositive." --Michael Kimmitt

Posted by blahedo at 11:11pm | Comments (0)

6 Mar 2004

Book readers

I've now listened to enough books on tape that I'm starting to recognise some of the readers. The current one, one Scott Brick, is great for Russian spy novels, but apparently the only accent he can do is Russian. This works less well in a novel with Spanish, Basque, German and Danish.... For the Danish guys, he can't seem to decide between Russian and bad Swedish, bad Scottish, and bad English accents. Gauuugghh.

Folks, He Isn't Kidding: "I need to keep up on all sorts of interests that might make me want to discriminate against people! It's a lot of work, but someone needs to do it, or else we'd have peace, love, and fellowship for all mankind." --Mark Hardwidge

Posted by blahedo at 11:36pm | Comments (0)

5 Mar 2004

TKS Rep term reviews

I just read the reviews of the two rep term plays in TKS, and both were panned by reviewers that missed the point and had no idea what they were talking about.

Lysistrata's reviewer complains that the play was over the top, and that the jokes were too bawdy. Um. There is actually a valid complaint there---the script itself is so over the top that the actors don't really need to be, and playing it straight will actually come off much funnier (the three actors I highlighted seem to have realised this). A few of the actors were more over-the-top than they needed to be. But the reviewer seems to take objection with the script itself, wanting the production to focus more on its anti-war message, and losing the slapstick. The message is perfectly easy to find, though, and even if she didn't understand it when she read her three different translations of the play, the play is meant to be performed as a slapstick comedy. It is not about clonking the audience over the head with its message---it's about slipping the message in there without the audience noticing. And it succeeds!

The reviewer of Trojan Women was disappointed that the play didn't have more action in it. Um. It's a lament about the war that just ended; what kind of action are you looking for, exactly? He also complains about the excessive "crying", which is odd, because there is really very little boo-hoo weeping. The characters are much too grief-stricken for that. Finally, the reviewer takes issue with the play as being "overdramatic"; he just doesn't know what he's talking about. He also manages to misspell both a character's name and an actor's name, but perhaps now I'm just being picky.

"The Supreme Court would have been irrelevant if Gore's campaign hadn't been run like an eighth grade class council effort." --Pete McFerrin

Posted by blahedo at 11:53pm | Comments (0)

The Trojan Women

The other play put on as part of rep term is The Trojan Women. The play itself is amazingly powerful; and quite difficult, having a chorus part and lots of monologues. It would be easy for it to turn into a bunch of people standing on stage and reciting speeches. But the talented cast really pulled off a masterpiece. I stood as I applauded, and those of you who know me will realise how significant that is.

Technically, the show was excellent. The sets were brilliantly constructed (and used for both shows, with an 18-minute set changeover). The lighting was rather elabourate, with many different cues to highlight a pause in the narrative or a change in the focus; although once or twice people were slightly in the wrong place for their lighting cue, overall it made excellent use of the play between light and dark. The costumes, too, were apt and well-constructed. The makeup was unfortunately overdone on Hekuba---Harbach auditorium is a little too close-up to do that sort of heavy black-line age makeup---but otherwise good.

It was the acting, though, of course, which blew me away. Every one of the six main actors had difficult monologues that they delivered with engaging passion and emotion. Cassandra's insane cavorting was surprisingly convincing; Andromache made us believe her very soul was being torn from her body. Helen's cold reasoning gave way to a more desperate begging, and Menelaos's bitterness practically dripped from his mouth. Talthybios is put in that difficult position of representing parties he has come to disagree with, and the internal struggle that develops there is played out progressively in each successive appearance on the stage. Even the chorus of eight women, despite speaking in a unison that almost resembles a chant, manage to convey the despair of the everyday Trojan women, who lost their fathers, husbands, brothers, and sons, and now are going to be further separated from each other, sent to a life of slavery. It's perhaps because of the chorus form that we can really see this as representing all the surviving women of the city---I've not seen Greek plays before, but the chorus is a surprisingly effective method of delivery, at least when done this well.

I've left out one person from that list, and that's Hekuba, because she really stood alone. On stage for essentially the entire play, she knits it together, watching as Cassandra, Andromache, and Helen get dragged off to the ships, and as her grandson Astyanax is sentenced to death and killed, and as she learns her other daughter Polycena has been killed to provide Achillles with a companion in the afterlife. Somehow, she managed to sustain the grief and mourning for the entire two hours without lapsing into cliché. And she didn't maintain a constant level of grief, which might burn out the audience or inure it to the pain, but rather makes it wane and then wax again, for maximum emotive effect. She adds other emotions into the mix---worry for Cassandra, pity for Andromache, and vengeful bitterness for Helen---but always with an undertone of sorrow and loss of her great city, sometimes with hope for the future and sometimes with an almost stoic "life, somehow, goes on" attitude. She also has probably half the lines in the play, and if she messed any of them up, she covered for them perfectly. As the play closes with her walking off the stage, she brings you with her; alas the fate of Troy and alas the fate of its women.

Alas for those of you who don't live in Galesburg. If you do, and you haven't seen this show, tomorrow's the last night. This social statement on the bleak lot of the survivors of war is the best performance I've seen in a good long time, and it's worth your time.

"I've come to think of life as a neverending attempt to hit moving targets, and things like spirituality and religion are attempts to slow down the target so that you can nail it real good once or twice before it slips away and you have to start running again." --Bob Murching

Posted by blahedo at 11:30pm | Comments (0)

Hey Auntie Em...

The wind out there is insane. Sustained of 34mph, with gusts up to 46mph. It's like it's a hurricane out there.

And the forecast is even better. Highs in the low 60s; cloudy with a 40 percent chance of rain, changing to snow after midnight.

Ah, March.

"You know, love the mother, hate the psycho evil born-again cult." --Joe Shidle

Posted by blahedo at 5:20am | Comments (0)

4 Mar 2004

Skip to my Ly

I saw Lysistrata tonight---the Knox rep term folks put it on. What a howler. First of all, when they say "explicit sexual content", your first inclination may be "yeah, yeah", but boy howdy, they ain't kidding! Anyway, Lysistrata herself was really well played, but three other actors stole scenes. The Spartans were played as having Russian accents (and Sparta itself being run as a Soviet commune, five year plans and all), and Lampito and the Spartan Herald really pulled it off. The real scene stealer, though, was the leader of the old women. She had a bunch of awesome lines, and her accent, tone, and delivery were perfect.

The whole thing was just really funny, though. And topical social commentary, too!

'It should be a movie. A movie musical, in fact. That entire first book of Samuel screams out, "MAKE ME INTO AN EPIC. INCLUDE AN INTROSPECTIVE BALLAD."' --Jonathan Prykop

Posted by blahedo at 10:13pm | Comments (1)

3 Mar 2004

A letter

Dear The Democratic Party,

Congratulations on selecting your nominee! We made the decision four weeks ago, and we'd hoped you'd hurry up and get it over with a bit faster, but we're glad that you've finally finished. Now we can stop giving you all this free coverage. We'll give you about an hour for the convention, but it's not really a news event, so that's about it. Paid spots only from here on out! Man, thanks for not making this difficult by pushing the final decision off til the convention---if you'd done that, we'd have to give you free press until July. You really saved our bacon on that one!

Love,

The Media

Posted by blahedo at 3:31pm | Comments (0)

Food fair!

What a cool idea. Today Knox invited a bunch of potential vendors to come to the Oak Room and serve bite-size portions of their food products to the Knox community. The Knox community, in turn, was given checklists of all these items to say if they liked or disliked them, and to give comments on them. A free lunch for everyone, and we actually get good food that passed our taste tests in the C-Store, the Gizmo, and in the Caf (not that I really eat in the Caf ever, but the students certainly do!)

"Why do I get the feeling that, though these are on the list of things which, like humping the wall, the window, or your wife in public when shnockered, endear you to your friends, your wife may not necessarily appreciate them on a day-to-day basis?" --Liz Chilton

Posted by blahedo at 2:28pm | Comments (0)

1 Mar 2004

Bummed

The great thing about having an Honor Code here at Knox is that as a general rule I can just assume students aren't cheating. I don't have to worry about making it difficult for them to cheat, because they've pledged an oath not to.

The really frustrating thing about the Honor Code is that if something catches my eye as really suspicious, I'm required to turn it over to a board mostly comprised of students, who are really really harsh about their punishments and don't seem to make use of the spectrum of penalties available to them, instead preferring to assign the same harsh penalty in all cases.

And they wonder why the faculty is reluctant to turn over cases to them....

"They laughed at Newton. They laughed at Einstein. Of course, they also laughed at Bozo the Clown." --Carl Sagan

Posted by blahedo at 11:20pm | Comments (3)

Great site

I just discovered WavSource, which has little audio clips from all over 20th century American pop culture. It's great. I wish I could think of some way to make use of it!

"To the Democratic party: I don't work for you. You work for me. I've got something /you/ want. You want my vote, you fucking woo me. You explain what you're going to do that I want you to do if I help put you in power. Don't even try to guilt-trip me by calling a candidate that deals with issues that I care about a "spoiler," because I'll be out the door faster than you can say "four more years," assholes." --Neal Groothuis

Posted by blahedo at 6:04pm | Comments (1)