31 Aug 2005

On moving

The thing about moving is that the first 2/3 of your stuff, by weight or volume (you pick) takes a bit of time and energy, and you make your progress, and you look at it and say, "wow, the apartment looks really different without all my stuff." However, at least 90% of the work is actually yet to come, in dealing with all the fiddly little stuff that doesn't group well into neatly packed boxes. And when dealing with this "last little bit", you work for hours and hours and can clearly see that you are just as far from finishing as you ever were, inducing despair and ennui. Until, finally, with no warning, you realise that you're done.

Then you have to unload on the other end....

"Recent fashion photography also is more than a bit misogynistic. If photographers and editors really cared about the role of women in society, they would use models above the age of 20, who look like they could complete a sentence." --Karen Lehrman

Posted by blahedo at 11:58pm | Comments (0)

28 Aug 2005

The Brothers Grimm

I found The Brothers Grimm to be thoroughly enjoyable. It managed to work in references to a lot of fairy tales, without ever really overplaying their hand; the main story was not based directly on any of them. There is a nice setup of Jake and Will as skeptic vs believer (in "fairy tales"), in an almost Mulder-and-Scully sort of way, and this fuels some very nice character development scenes.

Terry Gilliam's hand can clearly be seen in a number of places in the movie, injecting a bit of subtle humour into otherwise serious scenes.

It's still not exactly high literature, but I do think it was a pretty good movie. I understand that a number of critics have been panning it, but I suspect it's because they went in expecting something else. I recommend it to anyone looking for a fun afternoon movie with a good mix of action and relatively intelligent humour.

"Today, 30 years into feminism, we have models who look not just weak and unsophisticated, but also dumb and victimized.... Is this how women in fashion see themselves?" --Karen Lehrman

Posted by blahedo at 11:56pm | Comments (0)

25 Aug 2005

Le unpacking

I'm still moving things from apartment to house, but I feel a lot more moved-in now. I think it may actually have to do with the fact that Nutmeg has now permanently left the apartment (although he appears to have left his own weight in shed fur that I'll need to clean up yet). Or perhaps that I now have cable, and therefore internet, at the house. (I'm sitting on my couch in my new house as I type this, in fact.) My washer and dryer are now hooked up, and appear to work, for all that the washer sounds like it's flooding my basement whenever it dumps its water into the laundry sink. I have a new hot water heater. I have an assortment of kitchen supplies. My dresser will shortly be reassembled, and my bed will be made as soon as this load of laundry is done. Several of the upstairs rooms are a mess and will remain so until various other things get done, but that's pretty minor. At this point, the main thing is to force myself to keep going back to the apartment to work on cleaning it and emptying it out, rather than the much more attractive things I could be doing here, like unpacking my bookshelves.

"Regular expressions are their own little language nestled inside of Perl. (There's a bit of the jungle in all of us.)" --Programming Perl, 3e

Posted by blahedo at 5:12pm | Comments (0)

Silicone cookware sucks

I don't really understand why so many people like silicone baking dishes so much. They totally change the characteristics of the baking process, and no matter how much you grease them (and you can't grease them with shortening, you have to use the spray stuff) they still don't let go of your cake or whatever it was you were baking, causing it to break up into several pieces. Lame.

UPDATE: more complaining about silicone bakeware.

"Pay no attention to Anand---he was born without taste. "Dancer in the Dark" is the best musical since "Singing In the Rain"." --Casey Westerman

Posted by blahedo at 5:05pm | Comments (36)

24 Aug 2005

Plumbing

I was awakened today at 8am (I didn't need that sleep, really) by the plumber, who wanted to know if it would be okay for him to come install a new hot water heater right now. Still a little muddled from sleep, I eventually understood the situation and asked if 9 would be ok. Then I had to run around and take care of Nutmeg, then get over to the house to take a shower. (I have no clean clothes at the apartment! And if he was doing hot water work, I had to get the shower in before he got there....)

He showed up right at 9 and immediately got to work. The old pipes were so corroded from the copper-steel connection that he bent the steel one trying to separate them, so he ended up installing a longer-than-expected run of copper pipe. The removal of the old heater proceeded without ado, and someone from MSI came to deliver the new one---much taller---and it was put in place. He jackhammered out a brick and ran the 2" PVC pipe (I know, I know, but for HWH exhaust there actually isn't an alternative, as far as I can tell). Then he tried to turn the thing on, and while the fan started going, the heater part didn't. So he read the manual....

Turns out that since the last time he's installed a high-efficiency heater (recently, and otherwise the same model), they've switched to requiring 3" PVC. It detected the restricted airflow and wouldn't start. So then he sawed out the old PVC, went back and got 3", carved out a bit more brick, and reinstalled the exhaust pipe. And it worked! I now have a totally useless chimney.

Plan for tomorrow: cable guy installs cable and internet; water works does something to my meter; and I call the roof guys to make an appointment for that.

When you share wealth, you divide it.
When you share knowledge, you multiply it. --old Indian saying

Posted by blahedo at 6:01pm | Comments (1)

23 Aug 2005

I'm in!

Mad props to Christopher, Christopher, Steve, Morrie, and Noah, who contributed great amounts of help in moving all my furniture, books, and assorted appliances to my house. All that remains now is my TV, computer stuff (no internet at the house yet!), and kitchen supplies. Oh, and the piles of assorted papers and stuff that I shoved aside to go through later. *sigh*

But at least my house is now furnished. The living room actually looks pretty decent! And the kitchen looks a lot different with an actual kitchen table in it; the 1950s-vintage table and chairs fit perfectly.

Elapsed time to move: moving out of the apartment took a bit over two hours (with four adults and two kids). Moving into the house took about an hour and a half (with three adults). Not too bad, really. Although, I realised that when I did my long-distance move two years ago, I had a full night (two, as it happened) to rest between move-out and move-in. Here, I had an hour. About fifteen minutes into the move-in, I started losing grip strength and was worried I couldn't hack the rest of the process; but fortunately I got a second wind. Also fortunately, most of the house stuff was just going to the first floor, and the angles were a lot easier to navigate. :)

"I really don't feel like studying. Hm, maybe I'm hungry." --Emi Iwatani

Posted by blahedo at 11:33pm | Comments (1)

22 Aug 2005

Le packing

I've been telling people how great it is and how lucky I am to have a month-and-a-half overlap between closing on the house and needing to be out of my apartment. But now I'm thinking it's not. Not only have I gotten very little work done in the last month, but I was able to keep telling myself, "eh, if I don't have everything packed by the time I rent the moving truck, I'll just have people help move the big furniture, and I can move the rest later." And even the end-of-August deadline was a flexible one. Which means I was working under no deadlines at all, nothing to trigger my procrastinative deadman switch and make me say, "holy crap I need to get started!"

Which is why I've spent all day today packing up my apartment, and before too long I'll have to start resorting to labelling boxes things like "stuff from under desk", "stuff from on top of desk", and the like. Ugh. I was really hoping this move would be different. :P

"At least Cindy Sheehan now has her answer. It turns out her son Casey and 1,850 other U.S. servicemen and women just like him died so that Iraq could have a budding Islamic theocracy that, when it's not busy teetering on the brink of civil war, cannot come to a consensus---even when faced with a hard-and-fast deadline---on whether women should have equal rights under the law." --Jim Leach

Posted by blahedo at 9:15pm | Comments (1)

21 Aug 2005

Holy bat, crapman!

So here I am, reading Wikipedia and generally minding my own business, when a bat swoops in and starts flying around my apartment living room! When this happened at my house in Providence, we could just close off the room and open the outside door, and shoo it on out. But here, that wasn't really an option. It must've taken a half hour or more to get it; while it was flying in circles, I tried tossing a sheet up in the air to foul its wings, so I could bundle it up and bring it outside. Then it got stuck behind my big bookcase (the one that isn't emptied yet, naturally), and I almost had it by flipping a box upside down on the top of the bookcase and pushing it up there with a broomhandle, but then at the last minute the box went cock-eyed and let the bat out the front. More swooping. Then it bumped the bookcase and fell behind my TV, eventually crawling under the stand. This time I was able to flip the box next to the stand and poke at it with a (knob end of a) knitting needle, and I finally had it under the box. Slid a bit of cardboard under it, and bungled flipping it over (the cardboard bent), but I was able to get the box back over it before it started flying again. Finally got the cardboard situated, carried it out, and it looked around a bit and took off.

Throughout this little exercise, Nutmeg was a saint. He noticed the bat a few seconds after I did, and growled and barked at it, but after that just watched it (although he did snap at it when it flew rather close to him). Thank goodness. It was hard enough without having to have him at my heels barking the whole time.

After which, I went through the whole apartment looking for how the sucker might've gotten in. I had left the door to the attic storage open when I was retrieving boxes a couple days ago, and so all I can think is that there are bats in the unfinished part of the attic. I guess I should tell my landlord.

"Here's all you need to know about the American Tobacco Trail: it starts at slaves and ends at cancer." --Jon Stewart

Posted by blahedo at 9:53pm | Comments (2)

19 Aug 2005

Like fireworks!

There is an unbelievable amount of lightning activity going on somewhere almost straight south of Galesburg, maybe SSSE. It's up in the clouds, and it must be really far off, because you can't hear a thing. But, wow, I just stood outside with my dog for about ten minutes watching it. I even debated hopping in my car to get outside of the town's light pollution radius, but ended up just coming back in and writing about it instead. Really pretty, though.

"Can't someone take some human credit for a job well done?" --Jon Stewart

Posted by blahedo at 12:54am | Comments (0)

17 Aug 2005

The hot topic: Gaza

The events currently coming to pass in the Gaza Strip are obviously the single largest event to happen in the Israel-Palestine situation in my lifetime. I strongly suspect that it will prove to be the most important event in the entire Middle East in that time period. The obvious competitor is the current Iraq War. That will clearly have effects of some sort on Iraq itself, but outside of Iraq its chief effect looks to be an increased supply of terrorists---a quantitative, rather than a qualitative change.

But the Israel situation is different. It serves as a focal point for a lot of other conflicts both near and far, and so it has the potential to have much more widespread effects. I have said before that I couldn't see any possible good end to the Palestinian conflict, but that was largely because both sides seemed to be deeply tied to a downward spiral of retaliatory attacks, unwilling to give anything positive unless they got something in return but happy to attack the other.

Here, now, we have a unilateral concession on the part of Israel. "We're pulling out of Gaza. We'll get back to you in a couple months." This has been a source of consternation among the settlerist hardliners, as well as a source of suspicion among the Palestinians. But Hamas, of all groups, seems to be acting with surprised restraint right now. After this, the story isn't over, but Israel has restored a great deal of its credibility and political capital. It's true that the West Bank portion of this pullout was just four relatively small and isolated settlements, but they were settlements that were plunked right in the middle of a lot of Palestinian villages, and their removal restores contiguity to a lot of Palestinian territory. And much more importantly, the withdrawals from these four settlements and the seventeen in Gaza will prove that Israel has the willingness and the wherewithal to forcibly but nonviolently evacuate settlements, should that be placed on the table. It also provides an answer to questions of the form "Why should we trust that you will...?".

The first day of forced evacuation has gone as well as could be hoped. Here's hoping the rest go as well, and that both sides use this opportunity to move forward towards a sustainable, permanent resolution to the situation that will satisfy all sides.

You, O Lord, will keep us and preserve us always from this generation,
While about us the wicked strut and in high place are the basest of men. --Ps 12:8-9

Posted by blahedo at 11:55pm | Comments (0)

12 Aug 2005

Rain, rain, don't go away, take off your coat and stay awhile

After a year that was drier than any on record, ever, for over 150 years, yesterday morning Galesburg was hit with a thunderstorm that wet the ground and started the grass a-greening. Then, overnight, it started drizzling and wandering back and forth into a moderate rain, which continues even now.

And for all that it means I can't do some of the things I planned for today, and that I'll have to mow the lawn Monday (first time!), this is still an utterly unmitigatedly good thing. Even if we "catch up", the crop yields will be quite low, and it'll be some time before all the various retention ponds and reservoirs are replenished. But at least most of the crops and trees and grass won't die. And it's starting to feel and smell like a Midwestern summer again; it had gotten literally painful to walk barefoot on the sharp, desiccated grass, and despite frequent humidity it smelled more like a desert.

The "Drought of '05" (that'll surely have to be "aught-five" for the rhyming possibilities) will be something talked about for a long, long time, I'm sure.

The forecasts predict rain until Sunday, though. Thank God.

"I soon felt the astonishment that often comes to me during worship... it is the wonder that I should be there at all. My faith was non-existent, or at least deeply submerged, for so long a time, but liturgy pulled me back." --Kathleen Norris

Posted by blahedo at 1:10pm | Comments (0)

10 Aug 2005

Sailors were known...

Apparently, "sailors were known to knit their own windproof sweaters for long voyages." I know this because no less than 93 webpages, many of them news sites reporting on the "craze" of men knitting, use that exact sentence. What the heck? I just want to find a description of how to knit sweaters to be windproof, and I get all these assertions that sailors used to knit windproof sweaters. All of which use that exact phrasing---if I google for 'sailors "windproof sweaters"' I only get one more hit (referring to the same phenomenon). Indeed, there are only 26 hits for "windproof sweaters" that aren't about these amazing knitting sailors, and most of these seem to be selling them.

Now I'm kind of wondering if it's even true. If it were, I'd expect dozens of hits for patterns and knit technique pages about the traditional styling and so forth, or at least a page that actually backs up the idea, rather than just making the totally formulaic assertion. But the entirety of the internet doesn't seem to be coming up with much, which gives me pause. Does anyone know anything about this? Were the knittinge sailors of olde invented out of whole cloth for this "whoa, people with XY chromosomes can knit too!" thing that the media has been so fascinated with the last year or so?

"I began to despise mathematics when I sensed that I was getting only part of the story, a dull, literal-minded version of what in fact was a great mystery, and I wonder if children don't begin to reject both poetry and religion for similar reasons, because the way both are taught takes the life out of them." --Kathleen Norris

Posted by blahedo at 3:35pm | Comments (3)

7 Aug 2005

These things happen...

It seems a little like déjà vu. You're reading a mystery novel, and a detail comes up that seems slightly familiar. Oh, but perhaps the author used it also in another novel. Or... not. You get three chapters in, and more of it is coming back to you; you sort of remember the trick of the thing. Another chapter in and you remember the exact point on which the whole story turns.

And yet, there are little details that elude you. So you do what any good mystery novel reader would do: skip to the last thirty pages and read from there. :)

(How did that book end up on my unread shelf, anyway? I wonder if this is still leftover from that time Kevin rearranged my bookshelves to annoy me.)

"When artists discover as children that they have inappropriate responses to events around them, they also find, as they learn to trust those responses, that these oddities are what constitute their value to others." --Kathleen Norris

Posted by blahedo at 4:00am | Comments (0)

Adventures in Iowa

I had told Chris Sedlack that I'd help him move today---he's relocating to Burlington, and had lots of people to help at the Urbana end and not so many out here. Initially he'd told me he was shooting to be there around 3, but he'd call from his sister's place in Peoria.

At noon I call just to check in, and he has revised his estimate to "4, or probably closer to 5", and he'd call from Peoria. So I figure, he's maybe running even later than that; maybe he'll call around 3:30 or 4 or so.

So I head over to the house to get some work done (sanded all the baseboard shoes and started nailing the suckers in). Around 4:30 I start wondering if I missed the call or something, and decide to go back to the apartment and get ready to go. I take a shower, feed the dog, check my email and notesfiles, and by about 5:30 I'm thinking, did he lose my number? Running the numbers in my head, I'm increasingly certain that they must have at least left Peoria by now. And if they're already there, would there even be that much more to unload? Well, probably, but maybe I should get going. On my way out of Galesburg, I stop at Wendy's for a burger to go and hop on to 34 at Henderson. Just as I'm crossing Main, at a few minutes to 6, I get a call.

"Yeah, so we're just leaving Peoria now."

Ah. Well, now what? I'm now about 45 minutes ahead of them on the road. I could turn around and go back to my apartment, but I know that I would just schlump around and do nothing anyway. And I hadn't ever gone to Monmouth to explore, so what the hell. I kept on and drove around, which was pleasant. Monmouth College is a bizarre campus---it doesn't look 150 years old, and the look is a lot less congenial than Knox, and it just looks kind of... fake. If a bunch of people gave me lots of money and told me to build a bunch of buildings that looked like Ivy League college stuff, this is exactly what I would give them---if I didn't like them very much.

But anyway. After fifteen or so minutes of this, I decided it would be nice to sit outside for a while, so I pulled into the lot at the Warren County Courthouse and walked into the middle of the Public Square circle and started the Agatha Christie novel I'd brought. It's funny; the Monmouth Public Square circle and the Galesburg one are obviously poured from the exact same form, but Monmouth's is infinitely nicer.

Coming up on 7, then, I continued on towards Burlington, wondering if I'd run into Chris on the way. I didn't, and (of course) beat him there, so I sat on his front step and read a bit more. A few minutes later, I see a car I didn't recognise as Chris's being driven by someone I did recognise as Arun, and remembered that he'd agreed to drive Chris's car to Burlington. Tossing my book in the car, I saw that the car behind Arun was also part of the group; two people got out, and I was trying to figure out where I'd met the woman before, when it dawned on me that I hadn't---it's just that Chris's sister looks exactly like him. :)

A few minutes later, Chris pulled up in the truck and we commenced unloading it, pretty uneventfully. The rest of them cleared out at 9 (Arun had at least a three hour trip back to Urbana), and I stuck around and chatted for a while, then went with Chris to drop off the truck. The rental place was hilarious: they rent everything, from trucks to lawn mowers to---as far as I could tell---entire wedding sets, with candelabra and arches and lecterns. Wild.

And after dropping him off at his house, I headed back to Galesburg. I tried stopping at a Hardee's for coffee, but they didn't have any (!), so I did without, and honestly, it wasn't a problem. All this extra sleep I've been getting must be paying off.

"'Language is the only homeland,' says the poet Czeslaw Milosz, and here on the range, where there are many more antelope than people, if a discouraging word is ever heard, at least it isn't 'deconstructionism.'" --Kathleen Norris

Posted by blahedo at 1:00am | Comments (0)

2 Aug 2005

Catching up #3: The cloister walk

For FP this year we will be reading most of Kathleen Norris' The cloister walk. I'm really pleased that it got into the list; it is about so many different things I can't even decide what I most want to talk about. Kathleen Norris, though herself a Presbyterian, spent a lot of time in and around Benedictine monasteries, interacting with monks and nuns and praying their songs; this book is a bloggy sort of memoir on the experience.

For the Catholics in the crowd, there is a lot of material on the personal history of the Church. Real people, some later sainted, some not, living real lives with real struggles.

For the poets in the crowd, Norris discusses the relationship of poetry and metaphor to liturgy and truth.

She writes about the similarities between communal monastic life and communal small-town life.

She writes about feminism in and in reaction to Christianity.

She writes about the roles of sexuality and celibacy in a monastic community.

And I think her most important contribution in this book, to our course if not to the world at large, is the pervasive idea throughout that religion can be a radical way of life. One can find people on both sides of the debate who would agree that religion encourages a mindless complacency, one side concluding that mindless complacency is therefore good, and the other that religion is therefore bad. Norris casts a plague on both their houses: that wouldn't be good, but that's not what religion is, or at least not what it can be. Religion is in the stories that reflect our human condition and help us get a handle on ourselves. The psalms are a constantly recurring element of the book; she points out that many of them seem at first blush to be very un-Christian---angry, vengeful, even cursing. What they are is human; and we can all relate to the emotional content therein, even as we rework our thoughts into a prayer that we can rise above the temptations.

Catholic or not, I think everyone that claims to spend time thinking about religion ought to read this book. I can't possibly do justice to Norris's thesis in a blog post; I can't even summarise it well, because she is a writer and a poet who spent years carefully fabricating a text that teases around the edges of a lot of ideas that are, in a phrase coined by my friend Jonathan, "only approximately effable".

"I sometimes get in trouble when I refer to the Incarnation as the ultimate metaphor, daring to yoke the human and the divine. To a literalist, I have just said that the Incarnation isn't 'real'. As a poet, I think I've said that it is reality at its most alive; it *is* the new creation." --Kathleen Norris

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

Catching up #2: Kiss me, Kate

This past weekend, I saw the Prairie Players production of Kiss me, Kate in Harbach. It reminded me a lot of a high school musical, not least because nearly all of the actors were high school students or recent graduates. I don't know if this is usual for PPCT's summer show or not, but it seemed a little strange. On the other hand, most of the kids seemed to be pretty good, so I don't think it's a bad thing.

However, that's not how it appeared at first. The opening number, "Another op'ning, another show" was incredibly weak. The singing was weak, the choreography was weak (and poorly executed), and the whole thing just went clunk. I was squirming in my seat, worried I was going to have to endure another two hours of this. Argghhh.

Which is a shame, because that was probably the only really bad part of the show. The rest wasn't perfect, but I was able to get into it after that. I really wonder what happened. Perhaps it was just overambitious; I don't think any other number tried to move as many people around the stage on that scale.

Note that I haven't mentioned the music yet. The "pit" consisted of just one guy, the musical director. I wondered for a while whether he was playing on a cheap synthesiser or whether the music was canned... if the former, he was doing a great job of playing, but why did his keyboard have to be so cruddy, and if the latter, what the hell kind of crap canned accompaniment was this? It didn't include a single authentic-sounding instrument, and I know that our synth technology is better than that these days. Asking after the show, I found out he had played all the music through his iBook, and that he had sequenced it---track upon track upon track---all on his own. So, he gets really good geek points for sequencing it all through his laptop, and musician props for playing it all and putting it together. But I found that it really detracted from the show to have all the music sound like that. It also made a lot of the scene transitions a lot more self-conscious; having all the music pre-sequenced made it impossible to vamp while everyone got in place. Was it really so impossible to find a four- or five-piece pit orchestra? It's not like we need the Boston Pops, here. The high school musicals seem to manage just fine. (And the most gratuitous part of all of it is that he ginned up a canned "orchestra tuning" sound that went on for, like, a minute. Come on.)

After putting the first number behind them, the actors turned out to have perfectly good singing voices. Many of the songs were a real stretch, range-wise, which was a little unfortunate, but this is one of the hazards of doing musical theatre with a very small casting pool---you tend to be able to cast a given role for the acting or for the vocal range, but not both. The problem was compounded by the fact that the canned music was much too loud and the microphones seemed to have some... issues. I'm not sure why they were miked at all, actually; the mics were turned down or off for the spoken lines, and the voices carried just fine. Couldn't they just turn the accompaniment down? I definitely found the jaw-mounted sports announcer mics to be conspicuous and distracting. And even with the extra volume, the lyrics were often quite hard to understand. (Not that Cole Porter lyrics always make the greatest sense to begin with. :)

That rear projector in Harbach is just a problem. Does nobody else notice that the main light shines right through the cyc, and gets in your eyes? I'm pretty sure there are ways around this (mounting it much higher or much lower, for instance), but this is not the first time I've seen this happen here.

One funny thing I realised partway through the show is that the plot of KMK is really quite similar to that of Moon over Buffalo, playing concurrently in the next town over. Aside from taking place around the same time, both revolve around a play-within-a-play, with an actress estranged from her stage roots, and her former lover, thrown by circumstance back on the stage and into the company of that former lover despite a current engagement to another, who is also hanging around backstage. Hijinks ensue. MOB has more farce and less singing, but the similarities are certainly striking.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, a Cole Porter extravaganza unfolds. Light on continuity, but heavy on one-liners, word play, and individually great songs; the advantage of this is that even with a clunker of an opening, and occasional fuffs thereafter, the jewels were able to shine unimpeded. Cole Porter wrote some really catchy tunes, which were for the most part done justice. "Why can't you behave?", "Too darn hot", and "Tom, Dick, or Harry" will probably all be familiar to people, even if they're not sure where they came from---the last of these, performed with a perfect deadpan, had me busting a gut at the constant innuendo. "Wunderbar" is another familiar one; I suppose it was sung well, but I was too distracted by the dreadful attempt at a waltz. I really have to make all the local directors know that I'm perfectly happy to give crash courses in these things. "Where is the life that late I led?" continues to drive me crazy, because I know it from somewhere else, but I can't decide where. I have a nagging suspicion it's a Silly Song, but I checked the list from the collection and none of them seem to match. Argh.

The pinnacle of the show is certainly "Brush up your Shakespeare". It bears no connection by plot to anything else; it's just a litany of puns and jokes on the titles of a couple dozen Shakespeare plays. Many of which are only funny when performed with a vaguely Bronx-Brooklyn-mobster stereotypical accent, as indeed Jeff Cervantes and Kevin Dean did. Bravo!

Compliments also on the stage presence of the entire assembled cast; when a large set piece fell over backstage, knocking one of the onstage set pieces askew, the most anyone onstage reacted was a brief glance in that direction, and most not even that. The show goeth on....

Watching this play with a modern eye is a bit difficult. The plot (such as it is) has a bunch of men working to break a strong-willed woman, and succeeding. As played, the first scene where Fred is fighting with Lilli and holding her down felt very uncomfortably like rape. The spanking scene can be played a number of ways, but this show's Fred looked like he was angrily beating Lilli; I seem to remember another production (the movie?) where Fred at least was played as exasperated and jovial---not a huge improvement, I suppose. And it would be difficult to redeem the final scene, where Lilli goes on and on about how subservient women should be. This production tried to mitigate that a bit, with Lilli winking at Lois; I suppose that is supposed to mean, "this is what we say for the men's benefit, but it's a bunch of bull." But it's too subtle and (I think) can't be reconciled with the rest of the scene.

This show was decidedly a mixed bag. There were a lot of shining moments, where a funny line was well delivered or a good song well sung. But a lot of little problems conspired to make this show a lot less than it could have been. I certainly don't think my time was wasted, and I definitely plan to attend future PPCT shows. But I do hope that they go a bit better....

"I'm not saying that the Canadian system is perfect, or even awesome. I am saying that we pay twice as much per capita as they do already, so we could probably have a system that has the Canadian virtue of universal coverage and the US virtue of enough money thrown at the problem to produce, Voltron-like, a whole which is greater than the sum of its parts." --Mike Kimmitt

Posted by blahedo at 1:24am | Comments (0)

1 Aug 2005

Catching up #1: Moon over Buffalo

More than a week ago now, I hopped on 34 and drove down to Monmouth to see Coffee Bean Theatre's production of Moon over Buffalo. Somehow it managed to take me almost ten minutes just to get out of Galesburg---curse those poorly timed downtown stoplights---and so I arrived a minute or two late. For a wonder, the production had begun on time (what kind of a theatre company do they think they are, anyway?), so I had to stand in the back while my eyes adjusted, waiting for a scene change or something to find my seat. The Rivoli is an old theatre that must have been beautiful once, but after Kerasotes bailed and the seats and carpet were stripped out, what's left is more reminiscent of a warehouse. Seating was in chairs that had been set out on the bare concrete; more than adequate, of course, but not your typical theatrical experience.

But about the show. It took a while to get into, and I was a bit disappointed; having been billed as "side-splitting", I found it somewhat funny, but less than uproarious---until the second act. This is when the mildly funny setup from the first act really pays off. I sort of embarrassed myself with the raucous laughter the show elicited at this point, although the director thanked me afterwards. ;)

Tim Holmes as George played a masterful drunk scene.

Good farce is probably very hard to write, but it's fun to perform and fun to watch. It appeared that a few of the actors were making great efforts not to crack a smile during some of the best bits; but who can blame them? The sheer absurdity of the situation is hard to resist. For the audience, it's even better---seeing the elements click into place, and suddenly knowing what horrible misunderstanding will happen next, being powerless to do anything about it but groan in anticipation. Delightful stuff!

I have to compliment the actors and crew on the costuming, especially for the women. The dresses they found were really good period pieces---they might have been off by a few years, but they were very close---and very flattering, as 1950s dresses often could be. (Fashionistas take note!) I was a little taken aback by the aloha shirt on Paul, though; I guess they must've existed in 1953, but the one he had and the way he wore it made him look thoroughly modern and out of place, especially against the rest of the clothing. Ah well.

When I got in my car, I really didn't know what to expect; I just was jonesing for a good theatre fix, in somewhat shorter supply during the summer. I was pleased with what I saw---low budget fare, but talented---and certainly intend to check out Coffee Bean's upcoming productions.

"That we all begin inside a woman and must emerge from her body is something that the male theologians of the world's religions have yet to forgive us for." --Kathleen Norris, _Cloister Walk_

Posted by blahedo at 11:56pm | Comments (0)