Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year....

To all my friends in the blogosphere, a happy and healthy new year to you all.

Here's hoping 2009 will be far, far better than 2008.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008


How could this have happened??? I was watching my post counter very carefully, but somehow, it slipped away from me. I was hoping to make note of my 100th post, and yet here I am, on post 122. Tempus fugit.

It's hard to believe that 122 posts have come by so relatively quickly. I remember when I started this blog in part as a way to get myself into the habit of writing regularly, in preparation for becoming a full-time freelance writer. While I sometimes don't write as regularly as I'd like, I still do it far more often than in the past.

I also have discovered a world (literally) of blogmates, and have forged new friendships with people from around the globe. For that, I am very thankful.

So, with my dram glass of MacAllan 12-year old single malt in hand, I salute all of you out there in the blogosphere that have helped me make this blog a success. You have offered advice and counsel at times, condolences when needed, and have hopefully made me a better writer by reading your work as well.

Here's to 122 more posts and beyond. Slainte!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

More Xmas hijinks.

Tom Lehrer is a bona fide genius. A Harvard professor, he began recording songs in the late 50' - satirical pieces with a bite that still resonates today. I have 3 of his albums, and even though some of the pieces seem a bit dated, many of them still ring true, and make me howl.

This particular little dittiy is rather appropriate for this time of year. Written in the early 60's, it is as relevant as ever.

Lehrer retired from performing and playing some time ago, to our loss. He still influences comedians to this day, and as Dr Demento has pointed out, is probably the greatest political satirist of our time.

Friday, December 19, 2008

I'm dreaming of a cheap snowplow service.

The winter weather machine that is lake-effect snow has roared in here like nobody's business. I shoveled a foot-and-a-half of snow from my driveway, there is more on the way today, and it is messy out there. The roads were a nightmare on Friday. The town didn't get to plowing our street until late in the night, as they had trouble keeping up with the main roads. It was coming down at several inches per hour, and for a time, visibility was close to zero outside my window.

I had to finally go out at about 3:30 or 4 in the pm to get started on shoveling out, (note the weapons of war to the left) and it was a pain in the ass. Fortunately, child labor is plentiful here, and for a reasonable fee we got some help plowing out. Also to the rescue was a neighbor with a plow blade on his truck. He runs a snow plow service part-time in the winter to pick up a few extra bucks. He's a paramedic in the northern suburb of Greece, (a town here, not the country) and is originally from Yonkers. We usually have a lot to talk about, and even know some of the same people from the EMS world back down in NYC.

Getting up this morning to find another 2 inches or so on the driveway, Mrs. N. and I figured it would be best to get it off before this second round comes in and blasts us again. Now, here is Mrs. N. doing her wifely duties - *SMACK* - OK, OK!!!! I mean we both were doing our duty....

Now, this will give you some inkling of how much snow we got:
As you can see, we earned a PhD in this storm, that is Piled High and Deep. Of course, Round 2 was on the way, and just as we were finishing, we could see it barreling in from the west. You can see the nice sunny weather from these two pictures, and then within a span of literally 2-3 minutes, it was "Auntie Em, Auntie Em" time here.

The wind started whipping up, and the wall of snow that followed started to sting the front of my face, and it was then when we realized it was time to pack up, head inside and get something warm to drink.

We haven't had anymore snowfall, but still the wind has been brutal, and temps have been hovering in the teens. We may get some more tonight, but I am hoping for not.

It's gonna be a long winter.

P.S. The white stuff started coming down again. I suppose I know what I will be doing come tomorrow morning. In the meantime, this is what the radar looks like:

Monday, December 15, 2008

Death needs to take a holiday.

Well, it was an adventurous trip downstate, to be sure.

Thursday morning, I had to go lecture at an undergraduate director's class at the RIT (Rochester Institute of Technology) School of Film and Animation, which was something that had been planned about 2 weeks prior. It went very well, and I have been asked back for next semester.

I went home, and finished packing for the trip down, but realized that I had to stop at work first to drop off some paperwork related to my health care coverage for next year. While getting all this together, I was listening to the weather report, and to my concern, kept hearing the words "ice storm" in the forecast. Great. Just what I need.

I logged on to the Weather Channel, and it looked as though this ice storm was barreling right up through Pennsylvania, and was going to cut through the southern tier of NY, right where I was going to be traveling. Sizing up my options, I decided that my usual route down I-390 might be worse than heading across the Thruway, and then going south down I-81 past Syracuse. As it turned out, you couldn't get there from here no matter what road you took. The ride to Syracuse went just fine, and then about 10-15 minutes past it, all hell broke loose.

A snowy blast that started as a trickle came down on me as I traveled further south. While I was able to keep driving the speed limit for a fair distance, I had to eventually slow it down, as more of the road went the way of the dodo. The snow became thicker, and it became obvious that there was ice building up. How did I know? Well, the number of vehicles I began seeing in the ditch on the left, or into the right guard rail began increasing exponentially.

I was going about 25 mph, with idiots still passing me doing 50, when I started fishtailing. The old emergency vehicle operation responses kicked in, but the car was having none of it. I started to pull out of it, but then the rear of the car got away from me, and I started doing a 180. Somehow, I didn't hit anyone or anything, and just pulled myself out of the spin in time to have the rear wheel of the car perched about a foot from the ditch at the left shoulder.

I took a deep breath, made sure that no one was barreling down on me, and pulled away, just happening to notice that there was another person that had glanced the guard rail on the right shoulder. He seemed to be okay, we waved at each other, and I continued on my way.

Things finally started letting up, the snow changed to rain, and I pulled into the gas station in Binghamton that I had been using as a stopping point since I started going to college in Buffalo in 1981. I called up my friend Sherri who lives in the Catskills. I was going to have to follow Route 17 through it to get home. The word was not good. Ice. Lots of it. I decided that staying put was a better option, but getting a room was going to be interesting. After the $142 rate at the Fairfield Inn made me wince, I found a recently renovated Super 8. It was clean, didn't appear to have any denizens lurking about, so I plopped down $50 (on plastic), and settled in for the night.

I made some phone calls home, and mom was especially relieved that I decided to abort the trip for now. Of course, it meant getting up at oh-dark-thirty to hit the road in order to make the funeral at 10:45. The bed was fairly comfortable, the room warm, so at least one thing on the trip worked out okay.

I hit the road at a very dark 6 am, and made it down to my friend's home in White Plains at 9:30. Slugging down a cup of coffee, we carpooled with another friend down to the Castle Hill Funeral Home in the Bronx. My friend was there, putting on a very brave face, very happy to see me. She had flown in from Arizona the day before, and must have been mentally and physically exhausted.

My friend's dad was a very well respected and liked man, as was evident by the turnout at his funeral. The service lasted about 30 minutes, and we followed the procession out to the cemetery in New Jersey. This was the hardest part of all, for my friend, her mom, and the rest of their family. This was an Orthodox Jewish burial, and as such, the family was expected to begin the burying of the coffin just to the top of it. I did put in a few shovel fulls, but it only made me more determined to make sure I am cremated. This is not what I want for myself, with people gathered around, already in shock, having to bury my body. my feeling? Burn me, spread my ashes (in a place to be determined) and have a party.

Personally, I think the Irish go about it the right way. Celebrate the person's life, and get drunk in the process.

I went to the shiva call Sat. night, (you can't sit shiva on Shabbos) after spending the day with my neice, who is gorwing up so fast, and while the circumstances were not he best, it was a reunion of sorts with some old friends that I have known for 30 years. Hopefully, we will all meet again under far better circumstances. I started for home Sunday morning, with just over a dozen bagels in tow, and heading back west on Route 17, came across beauty on the side of the road:
Branches encased in melting glass, the sun casting prism broken light onto the road. I pulled over, and just wanted to get the moment. Fortunately, it stayed off the pavement, and made the trip home easy.

Exhausted, I had little time to unpack, and then I had to work.

While scanning my e-mails, I went to reactivate my e-mails for the liver disease support group that I hang on, and while doing so, almost fell out of my chair. One of the members of this group for 10 years was found dead the day before. I helped start this group, and Joe had come on board not long after it was started. He battled Hep C, got transplanted, survived the Hep C combo therapy that rid his body of the virus, only to be brought down by what appears to be lung cancer. Joe and I were not close, and at times, were down right adversarial. Over the past few years however, we communicated privately more, and had developed a respect for one another.

This has been a true hell week for me. I think I need a holiday. Death can stay home and bother someone else for a change.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

...and the week just keeps getting better.

As if enduring the interview-that-never-should-have-been wasn't bad enough, I got the phone call yesterday that I knew was going to come. My friend who I wrote about that just put her dad into hospice called; dad died yesterday. I am hurriedly getting things together, throwing stuff into the car and will be running down to NYC later today. I'll be staying with my brother and his family, and while it will be nice to see them, I wish it was for a far happier occasion.

I'll have my laptop, and I'm pretty sure my brother has a wireless modem, so I'll see about posting when I'm there. In the meantime, think of my friend's dad; he endured a lot, and is no longer suffering.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

No joy.

I'll need an hour or so to sulk, then I'll be ok.

Cattle call.

"Who am I anyway?
Am I my resume?
That is a picture of a person I don't know.

What does he want from me?
What should I try to be?
So many faces all around, and here we go.
I need this job, oh God, I need this job."

From A Chorus Line

Friday, December 5, 2008

Life in freefall...then back up again.

Sorry I have not posted in a couple of weeks, but life has been a bloody rollercoaster since just before Thanksgiving.

Turkey day itself went quite well, with the both my SIL's visiting from Buffalo with their families, as well as Mrs. Nighttime's aunt. A good time was had by all, but it was the events of just before and just after that made life interesting.

The Sunday prior, Mrs. N. got a phone call from an old high school friend and informed her that his mom died. She was sort of a second mom to Mrs. N, so as you can imagine, this hit her pretty hard. Her friend asked Mrs. N if she wouldn't mind singing at the funeral, which she gladly accepted. She went to Buffalo Tues. for the wake, stayed overnight with her aunt, and then went to the funeral Wed. morning. I was originally going to go to the wake, and then drive back to Rochester to go to work, but my place decided to call a staff meeting that I could not get out of. I probably should have just blown it off, but it was for all the work-from-home people like me, and it had to do with some big changes coming down the pike. In the end, I really didn't have a choice.

So, Turkey Day comes and goes, and then on Friday, I get a phone call from an old friend of about 35 years, who informs me that she just put her dad into hospice. He has been battling prostate cancer for about 5-6 years, but it appears as this time, it is going to win. I expect that at some point in the coming weeks, I will be making a trip down to NYC for a funeral. I guess that I am now at that age when I should be expecting more phone calls like this. Thank goodness my mom is healthy.

Now, on the plus side, the fundraiser for our new theatre with our alumnus, Donna Lynne Champlin went extremely well. She was wonderful to work with, and it was old home week for her as well. She has even told us that if she needs to come back for a second round of shows, she would be happy to do it.

Back on Halloween, I met an acquaintance that had left town for some time, and has now been back for the past few months. She used used to do PR for the local art house cinema that is near our theatre. Lovely British woman that I used to bring back boxes of PG Tips for on my visits to Canada. She is now in the media relations/PR dpet. of a large not-for-profit agency here in Rochester. I told her about my situation, the writing business, and how I am looking around for another job while building my business.

We were planning to get together for coffee, when she asked me if I would be interested in possibly doing some freelance PR work at her agency, that there may be a need for such things in the coming month. I told her I sure was, and e-mailed her some clips from my portfolio. (Articles I have written, PR releases, etc.) Out of the blue this past Wed. I get a phone call from her co-worker, who asks me if I might be interested in a full-time position there as a PR/media relations specialist. Apparently, my friend passed along my clips to her, and I have an interview this coming Tuesday.

Now, this is to fill the position for a woman on maternity leave until March, and who may (or may not) come back. Either way, it is a foot in the door and an opportunity I have been looking for a very long time. I have always known the value of networking, and hopefully, it will pay off in a big way now.

So, I am grabbing on to the bars, and just riding the rollercoaster to wherever it leads. Wish me luck on Tues.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Let me get this out of the way now...

There. I think this covers the whole gamut of holidays.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Mug shots.

So, if you're like me, you probably keep several hundred coffee mugs (well, maybe not that many) piled in your cupboard, or hanging from wall mounted coffee mug hooks somewhere in your abode. We have so many, that we have divided them into the daily, the occasional, and the "used for purposes other than coffee" sections. We also have such a varied assortment: The ones made from kiln-fired porcelain, the cheapo ones you get from chachkis stores, the ones with funny sayings on them, and the ones that are personal in nature, that mean something to you for some reason.

I have several mugs that I use constantly, one that is a personal favorite, as it was given to me by a boss I was not particularly fond of, but that gave it to me out of recognition of something I had accomplished. I think it also was an attempt on his part to "turn a corner" in his own relationships with people after the death of his father. One of my favorite mugs is this one:

Many of The Bard's best insults on one mug. You can't go wrong with that, especially with it being issued by such a fine organization as:

(Don't ask why Blogger has rotated the pic, as I didn't ask it to.)

I always wondered how unemployed philosophers got along in these tough economic times.

Then of course, there are mugs that are educational. Need to broaden your horizons? Well, here's one that will help you learn a foreign language quickly:
So? What's on your coffee/tea mug?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

It starts to become a reality.

As I wrote about a month ago here, my theatre will be moving into a new performance space come this fall. While we are moving forward with certain essentials, such as getting a new hot water heater and venting pipes installed, along with modifications to other utilities-related items, (these need to be done before a Certificate of Occupancy can be granted) the first truly tangible sign that we are here is, in fact a sign!

While only a temporary sign, it is no less an indicator to the community that we have arrived.

It may not look like much now, but come September of next year, you will be amazed at the difference. It will look like this:

We can't wait!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Rough Boys.

While my musical musings these days tend to lean towards jazz and blues, I still have a deep fondness for rock, especially the rock of the late 60's and through much of the 70's, which I grew up with. I still remember with great clarity, listening to "Abbey Road," "Let It Be," and other Beatles albums with my friends, stealing them from their older brother's and sister's record collections. I was about 10 or 11 when "Let It Be" came out; myself, Camillo, Mark, and Craig all singing the title song together, but sounding more like the Mormon Tubercular Choir.

Around the same time, there was one album that came out that fascinated me. I didn't quite grasp what it was all about, but I recognized that the music was unique. That album was "Tommy," by The Who. It was the beginning of a love of this group that has lasted until today. While I enjoyed everything they put out, it wasn't until 1974 that one of their albums hit me square in the face, and spoke to me on a personal level as no music had ever done so.

"Quadrophenia." A loud, (Well, now what Who album isn't loud?) biting, heartbreaking piece of work by Pete Townshend. While it was a generation removed from me, set during the Mod movement of the early 60's, the themes it presented were something that any kid of 15 or 16 (which I was) could readily identify. Trying to fit in with the crowd, fashion, impressing girls, betrayal by friends, drugs, disillusion with one's heroes - these are all things that were the same whether you grew up in the Bronx, or Shepard's Bush, whether it was the early 60's or the mid-70's. I became a rabid Who fan, and in particular of Pete Townshend's writing ever since then .

"I see a man without a problem
I see a country always starved,
I hear the music of a heartbeat,
I walk, and people turn and laugh.

Is it in my head
Is it in my head
Is in my head here at the start?
Is it in my head
Is it in my head
Is it in my head, or in my heart?

I pick up phones and hear my history.
I dream of all the calls I miss.
I try to number those who love me,
And find exactly what the trouble is.

Is it in my head [etc.]

I feel I'm being followed,
My head is empty
Yet every word I say turns out a sentence.
Make love to a stranger
Just asking for directions
Turn from being help to being questions.

I see a man without a problem."

("Is It In My Head" - from Quadrophenia.)

The Who were the prototype for the punk bands of the 70's, and have often been referred to as rather aptly by the way, as the godfathers of punk rock. The death of Keith Moon, their insane, brilliant drummer crushed so many of us, and changed the style of the Who from that point on. They weren't the same after Moon the Loon died.

Musically, they were all incredibly talented, but the one that always made me drop my jaw was their bassist, John Entwistle. He was more than a bassist; he was a true musician, with abilities on other instruments as well, including the French horn. His style of bass playing changed everything, as he played the instrument not just to hold down the groove, but as a lead instrument. Listen to so many Who records and you'll see what I mean, but, this is a perfect example. This video is from their movie, "The Kids Are Alright," made shortly before Keith Moon died in 1978. It is an isolated camera shot of Entwistle during their performance of "Won't Get Fooled Again." Anyone who has ever seen the original clip from the movie knows how powerful that performance was, and then seeing Entwistle's contribution, you understand just what a genius he was. As Townshend has stated, "He realized he had the power to change the fucking instrument!"

I only saw The Who once, as I never had the money to see them in concert way back when. I saw them in 1989, on the 20th anniversary of Tommy tour, and still have the concert shirt. I have most of Pete Townshend's solo work, and still hope to get to see him when he comes around at some point. Oh, and if you think that they were just another dinosaur rock band, check this clip from the 2001 "Concert For NY," which was done not long after 9/11. "Won't Get Fooled Again," by a bunch of then almost 60 year-olds, that by everyone's estimation, stole the show.

"A tough guy, a helpless dancer.
A romantic, is it me for a moment?
A bloody lunatic, I'll even carry your bags.
A beggar, a hypocrite, love reign over me."

Monday, November 17, 2008

Silence is golden.

Normally. For now, silence means I can't work tonight. I have a wicked cold that has morphed into laryngitis. It's early in the seasons for me to get one of these, so I am hoping that this will be the only one. I can still breathe and taste things, and the zinc I have been taking seems to be lessening some of the nastier effects, but the bottom line is no voice = can't talk to customers = can't work.

Then again, that's not too bad, really. I can catch up on some reading, or some sleep for that matter, or both. Colds can wreak havoc on me, with my not-so-up-to-speed immune system, so I am hoping this is a quickie. Better this than the flu though.

I was going to blog about something else altogether, but am just not up for it. Maybe tomorrow.

Update: Voice is back, sinuses are still under assault.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Oh brave new worlds.

Sometimes we take our place in the universe just a tad for granted. As humans, we tend to be just a bit self centered, forgetting that we are really just part of a vast cosmic entity. Are we alone? Who knows, but we just got one step closer to that answer.

It seems that for the first time, scientists have actually photographed planets orbiting not just around one, but two stars. While we have known since about 1995 that there are other planets ("exoplanets") that orbit other stars, detecting them has been done by very indirect means. Now, the holy grail of planetary astronomy has been achieved, actually being able to see these planets with a telescope. Hubble was one of the one's used:

Yep, that little dot in the circle is a planet orbiting the star Fomalhaut. It's apparently just a baby planet, only 60 million years old, in a star system only 25 light-years away. This is practically around the block in astronomical terms. Read the article for the information on the other star and its three, count 'em three planets, that orbit it.

So get your hyperdrive engines tuned up, we're taking a road trip to Fomalhaut! Oh, and bring something to snack on please, and go to the bathroom first.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Ve haf vays uf makink you talk...

I come home the other day and find this interesting implement on the kitchen prep table:

Noticing the edge grip at the bottom of it, I begin to think; "Hmm...I wonder what I have done now? Has Mrs. Nighttime finally tired of some repetitive habit that I have, and is going to make sure I get rid of it?"

Gently lifting up said device, I looked at it head on and tried to get a different perspective:

It finally hit me; I was about to be living in a real-world "Clockwork Orange," or possibly become a victim of "The tall man" in "Phantasm." Boy I must have really ticked her off.

Or, it could be that this device was perfectly harmless. I'll leave it up to you out there in blogland. First one to chime in with the correct answer as to what this really is gets a cookie.

Monday, November 10, 2008

I'm embarrassed just remembering this.

VioletSky, little Canadian minx that she is, has tagged me with something that has forced me to reach back into the dim recesses of my past. The ghost of albums past is haunting me like a turntable in the night, making my head spin at 33 1/3 rpm until I am forced to admit the one embarrassing album that I actually purchased.

First, I will lay no claim to sanity while buying this, other than the fact that I was head over heels for a certain disco chick, back in the day. Yes, I will freely admit gentle reader, (stress on gentle, please) that in my desperation to get a date, I did (under duress) purchase said album by "Pablo Cruise," in 1977. Mea culpa. May I forfeit my Who fan club card, but the girl was just too hot.

May the ghosts of Keith Moon and John Entwistle have mercy on my soul.

So that this embarrassment may be shared by others, I tag:

Bendy Girl, Anna, Petite, Ryan(who might get off his ass and start blogging again), and Julia.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Blown to embers.

I never even heard the shouts from the neighbors. Sometimes, while working as I do, the headset I wear can muffle things to the point where I don't notice them. It's better than sitting in the office, where the drone of others around me makes it difficult to concentrate. It's a double-edged sword though, as it can also make me oblivious to danger, especially since being partially deaf in one ear drowns out noise even more.

I do keep the blinds open in my home office so I can see the comings and goings of people and cars. It was the sudden appearance of two fire engines outside my window that startled me a little, as we live on a quiet street. They passed by me, headed down the block, and I took a second to put down my headset and take a look outside. It takes a lot to shock me. What I saw two houses down on my side of the street damn near gave me a heart attack.

My neighbors' house was aflame. It was something out of a movie. The entire roof was engulfed, flames shooting out of the top in a Dante-esque nightmare. I quickly called into work, told them that the house next to me was on fire, (as I mistakenly first thought it was the house immediately next to me) and I bolted out the door, out not only see what was going on, but to hose down the side of my house, if needed.

I found a bunch of neighbors outside staring in disbelief. This is quite a lovely home, and the man and his wife that own it are very nice people. I approached the neighbor who lives right next to me and asked if anyone knew if they were home? She didn't though her and another neighbor had banged on the front door before the smoke forced them back.

There was no answer to their repeated hammering at the front door.

There was a bush near the front steps that had caught fire, after an upstairs window blew out from the heat. The first floor was not on fire, and the firefighters barreled into the front door, dragging hoses, and axes, their air packs making them look like a group of Darth Vaders . Their mission however, was for good, not evil. All we could do at that point was stand around and hope that no one was home.

I responded to many fires when I was a paramedic. I have treated burn patients, and the smell of burning flesh and hair is something I can still very vividly recall. It is one of those things that leaves a mental fingerprint that is never erased. In addition to decaying bodies, I hope to never encounter anything like that again. The last thing I wanted to do was to encounter it in the form of one of my neighbors.

The fire was feeding on the wood timbers, drywall, and personal belongings inside the house; flames raced from the left side of the house to the right. It ate voraciously at the roof, and as it punctured the vinyl siding and roofing shingles, there was suddenly a burst of water that shot forth upwards through the roof. The battle was engaged; primitive elements vs. modern technology. The tower ladder truck raised its bucket, and a second front was formed, directed towards the roof itself. After about 20 minutes, the fire started to die down, and the area became engulfed with thick smoke. The acrid smell of burning materials stung my nose.

I suspected that no one was home, as there didn't seem to be any frenzied calls for an ambulance. I could hear the chatter on the firefighter's radios, and there was no talk of anyone being found inside. At about the 30-minute mark, the neighbors pulled up in their car, just on the other side of the cross-street that borders their home. Relief was spread across all our faces.

They were surprisingly calm, but as I came to find out through another neighbor, this was typical of them. They simply didn't get rattled, and after hearing about what they had been through this past year, it was even more surprising. The wife has lost three members of her family in the past year, including her sister and mother. This was for her, as a certain monarch once remarked, an annuis horriblus.

I don't know what they are going to do with the house. They are an older couple; the kids are out of the house, so if they just took the insurance money and started anew, I couldn't blame them. I guess time will tell. One thing is for sure; the house is totaled. What the fire didn't consume, the smoke and water damaged beyond repair. I did find out that the husband, who is a musician, was able to save six of the nine vintage guitars that he owned.

After all was said and done, I began to think on the obvious. "What if that had been me?," I pondered. It was a blessing that they were not at home, and as they told me, things, for the most part, can be replaced. There are parts of a life that cannot be replaced. There are memories in a home that, once they are blown to embers, are gone forever. I'm not sure I could be as calm about losing those memories. They are part of who I am. I am beginning to think that finding a fireproof storage unit might be a wise idea. I don't live in the past, but I do cherish it.

It's time to take action. This all happened this past Monday night. I don't want to come home on another Monday night and find my home destroyed, and my past obliterated.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

I would never have expected this... this point in my life. Maybe when I was older, it might have happened, when I was perhaps in my 80's. I was not sure this country could yet overcome its racial divide. We have come a long way in that arena, but I thought there was still more to get past.

I think we did that tonight, in leaps and bounds. We did it because we saw through the fear that was being thrown our way, and focused on the core things we all deal with; just like in 1992, it is the economy, stupid. We also found it in ourselves to do what Americans do best, and that is look inside ourselves and know what we really want, and how we can achieve it. Others often deride us for our "cheery" attitude, loud and brash manner, and while it has gotten us into trouble, it also serves us well.

If there ever was a prime example of the "can-do" spirit of Americans, it was very clearly demonstrated tonight.

Of course, now the hard part comes. Now Obama has to live up to the rhetoric, the promises, and deliver as best he can on what he stands for.

Here's hoping he can do it.

Monday, November 3, 2008

What we deserve.

"If liberty and equality, as is thought by some are chiefly to be found in democracy, they will be best attained when all persons alike share in the government to the utmost." - Aristotle.

Tomorrow, I will wake up like any other day, crawl out of bed and drag myself to the coffeemaker before anything else, and then take stock of wht is on my plate for the day. Let's see:

1. Go over my daily calendar.
2. Check my e-mail.
3. Look over other blogs I have an interest in.
4. Prepare for a 12:30 appointment to lecutre a college death and dying class on organ donation.
5 . Vote
6. Stop at the coffee shop to read the latest chapter of my proofreading course.
7. Start research on a potential article
8. Go home, make dinner.
9. Work from 8 pm to 2 am.

Wait...what was that fifth item? Ah yes, tomorrow is Election Day. Why down on the list you may ask? Do I think it is of less importance than any of the others? Nope. I think this election is one of the more pivotal ones, at least in my lifetime. It is possible it may be the the single most pivotal one I have yet to experience since 1977, the year I turned 18, and voted in my first election. I am simply not going to get my hopes up too high. There is no such things as a sure thing, and opinion polls, like rules, are made to be broken. The only opinion poll that will matter at the end of the day is the one that is decided by Wednesday morning.

I made my decision to vote for Obama after McCain chose that unqualified twit as his running mate. While I don't agree with absolutely everything Obama wants to do, I find his proposals far more sensible than what McCain is offering, and I will gladly pull the lever tomorrow for Obama. I just am not going to allow myself to feel any sense of satisfaction until all the results are tallied, especially after the elections of 2000 and 2004. Yes, I voted for Bush in 2000, a mistake I did not repeat in 2004. I was one of those undecideds, I belong to no political party, and I base my vote on what I read about those running and what my gut tells me. Usually it is right, but it does make mistakes from time-to-time.

"Democracy is a device that ensures we shall be governed no better than we deserve." - George Bernard Shaw

Whatever the outcome, history will be made one way or the other. My only real concern is that at the end of the day, nothing will really change. A president is only as effective as the Congress that works with or against them. On the positive side, if the pollsters are correct, this will be the biggest voter turnout in a general election for some time. if this has propelled more people to take a stand, and exercise the right that others have sacrificed for, then at the very least, some good will have come out of this election. As frustrated as I get with these politicians, I always keep in the back of my head the maxim that if you don't vote, you have no right to complain.

I'll get back to you on Wednesday. Maybe I will be in a position to actually feel good about the outcome.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

An evil wind blows.

So, it seems as though winter has come early to this part of western, NY. We got our first snowfall (Okay, it was a dusting, at least here. Some places got a few inches.) and the wind yesterday made me start looking to see if the Wicked Witch of the West was hanging around here. The terrain here tends to be flat, though my house sits on a large hill. There are not a lot of trees around, so there is very little in terms of a wind break. When it does come through here, the wind can do a lot of damage.

Case in point: Two years ago, we had a really bad one, with gusts up to 50 mph. Apparently, either the postman, or FedEx, or someone came to the door, opened the screen door, and it got caught by a gust and was basically torn part way from the frame. (This is a heavy screen door, with a replaceable window for the wintertime.) Suffice to say that the repair job for that was a royal pain in the ass, as we not only had to replace the part of the frame and door jamb, but the piston for the door, and re-align it as well. I'm convinced that home repair is the major cause of divorce in this country, or at least marital strife.

Well, history has repeated itself as I came home yesterday to find the screen door damaged yet again. How it got caught by the wind this time is beyond me, as I thought it had been locked. I haven't inspected it closely, as it took an effort on Mrs. Nighttime's part (she actually found the door damaged before I did.) to get the door back in alignment to be closed. The piston is beyond repair, and I am hoping that the frame held enough that all I will need to do is bang it back into place.

What is going to be interesting is that Friday being Halloween, and all the neighborhood kids out and about, we're going to have some sort of temporary fix in place.

I guess this was our Halloween trick. I hope there's a treat around the corner somewhere.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Attend the tale of a new theatre.

My theatre has a new home!

Two weeks ago, the theatre I work with signed a 10-year lease for a new home, a former auto shop/bush washing garage that will be converted into a 140-seat, thrust stage theatre for the 2009-2010 season. (Down from our current 200-seat theatre, but we will be adding extra performances to make up the difference.) We have been looking for 15 months for a new home, as we have outgrown the space we have been in since 1997, and are looking for a place that is at ground level. Currently, we are on the second floor of a church, and it is hard for older and disabled patrons to make it up the stairs for performances. (The church is a historic building, and is not bound by the ADA rules regarding handicapped accessibility.)

This new theatre is near the Auditorium Center in Rochester, the theatre where Broadway traveling shows come through for the Rochester Broadway Theatre League. It is a very visible location, and we are busy planning a capital campaign to raise the needed $250,000 to renovate the building. We will be getting help from the owner, who is making certain needed (and expensive) improvements himself, which will be a big help.

First up on the fund raising effort is an enormous lift from one of our alumnus, Donna Lynne Champlin. She is a popular Broadway and Off-Broadway actress that got her start at Blackfriars at 15 in "Sunday In The Park With George," and performed in many other shows, most notably "Sweeny Todd." As all life is a circle, she was in the most recent Broadway revival of Sweeney Todd, playing "Pirelli," (along side Patti Lupone) and was Carol Burnett's personal choice to play her in "Hollywood Arms," which was written by Burnett and her daughter, Carrie.

She is bringing her one woman show, "Finishing The Hat," to Blackfriars for two perfomances in November with proceeds going to our capital campaign. You can check her out here: There is also a link on her site to Finishing The Hat. ("FTH" on the top of the page.)

I am trying to get a high res .jpg of a rendering of the new theatre to post, as Blogger doesn't accept PDF, and will post it here ASAP. We will also be putting a new page on the Blackfriars website very shortly dedicated to it. (

Today's entry in the "Stupid Human Tricks" department...

O.K., so you tell me: Just what the fuck was she thinking??? How many different kinds of stupid can one person be? Did she really think she was going to get away with it, much less help the candidate she was working for?


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

I guess I'm it....

Thanks to gemmak, I have been tagged.

Here are the Rules:
1. Link to the person that tagged you
2. Post the rules on your blog
3. Share six non-important things/habits/quirks about yourself
4. Tag six random people at the end of your post by linking to their blogs
5. Let each random person know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their website.
6. Let your tagger know when your entry is up

Quirks? Oh man, I can only list 6? Well, okay....

1. I will always make sure you walk on my right side, as that is the ear I actually hear out of. Well, I'm not totally deaf in the the other one, mind you, but just enough that you'll think I'm ignoring you.

2. When I talk to people, I make a very conscious effort never, and I mean never to use the phrase, "You know?" unless I am making an honest query about something. I hate it when people use that phrase over, and over and know? (Aw, crap!)

3. Spelling mistakes make me crazy, both when other people do it and I do it. Maybe that's why I am learning how to proofread. I also hate it when you point out something simple, such as "your" vs. "you're," and people poo-poo you about it. Learn proper grammar, goddammit!

4. I have a tendency to put something down, then 2 minutes later totally forget where it is. It's not dementia, but I'm convinced I'm part squirrel.

5. There is only one song in this world that can reduce me to tears, and no, I'm not telling you what it is.

6. My Bronx accent is far more pronounced when I am tired, or talking (tawkin) with my family on the phone. We won't even discuss what happens when I go home for a visit.

Ok, so, the 6 people I tag are:

1. Having my Cake
2. Purpleplus
3. Somethng In the Water
4. Liz
5. Alexandra
6. Andy

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Autumn, western, NY.

Rivers of gold and red, and still the occasional green, a crisp chill and frost in the morning. Breaking out the heavier jackets, and maybe a sweater at night.

Putting away the patio furniture, the screen in the front door replaced by the window, and the woodchucks, thankfully, seem to have retreated to their burrows until spring.

(Not-so) Weeping cherry trees still hang on to their green finery, but that will change soon enough, the burning bushes must have talked themselves silly, as their leaves are no more,

And the sunsets, for some reason, just seems to be a bit more spectacular...

Fall has arrived, but they're talking about some snow on Tuesday night.

Oh joy....

Saturday, October 18, 2008

To sleep, perchance?

I have read in the past on many an occasion that as one grows older, the need for sleep grows less and less. It doesn't mean that one does not need sleep period, but the amount that one needs grows shorter. I have to wonder if that is starting to affect me.

Now granted, I get to sleep a about 3:30 in the very AM on work nights, but as my commute is 30 seconds to my bedroom that is not as bad as it seems. The problem is that I only get between 6-7 hours, and that is often not enough for me. I find myself napping during the day for an hour or more to play catch-up. So last night, on my day off, I went to bed at the normal hour of about 11:30. (I personally wish I had been out with some friends, but it was one of those days, and I was actually pretty whipped.)

Well, I slept fine, until about 6:15, (oh-dark-thirty in my book) when I found myself wide awake. I didn't want to be, but there I was. I got up, fired up the coffeemaker, and just rummaged about the house. I wanted 8 hours, truth be told, but it seems I have to be beyond tired in order to get that, or pump myself with some Benadryl, which I don't like to do unless absolutely necessary.

I have to wonder if it is possibly a symptom of my circadian rhythm being off as well, being used to going to bed much later than I did. I still can sleep relatively deeply, but not like I used to. I quite literally slept through an earthquake once. I visited LA for the first time in 1980, and slept through a 5.0 tremor in my hotel room.

Well, here's hoping tonight goes better. Sunrises are beautiful, but I don't want to see them regularly. I did that for many years, as while a paramedic, I worked the 7am-3pm shift. I am more of a sunset person anyway, and a night owl.

Hoot, hoot.

Friday, October 10, 2008

"You call yourself a salesman you son-of-a-bitch?"

After the talking to we received the other day, (see previous post) it started to trigger a memory in my brain that just made me smile.

David Mamet is my favorite playwright. His work is so brutally caustic, so real, that you feel as though you have been through a two hour workout. It is even more so when you get the opportunity to perform one of his pieces, as I was fortunate to do when I was in "The Water Engine," about a year and a half ago. As with so many of Mamet's plays, the American work ethic, and salesmanship is at the heart of it, but the real titanic piece of work that he is known for is "Glengarry, Glen Ross."

The movie version of the play added an extra scene near the begining, in which Alec Baldwin delivers one of the most amazing monologues ever, and is often used by actors as an audition piece. While what happened on Wed. did not rise to the level of what is in this piece, there was a touch of this, a glimpse of what perhaps this corporate guy that came to us really wanted to say, but couldn't. Just watch this, and if you are so inclined, rent the movie. You'll see why I don't want to be a salesman. Oh yes, I know that being the owner of a small business requires salesmanship, but I'll do it my way, without trying to insult the people I want to be my clients.

Just watch it. It's a seven minute roller coaster ride.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

I used to be disgusted...

...but now I'm just amused. Elvis Costello said it best.

It always boggles my mind as to how the corporate world can manipulate language to make anything different than what it truly is. Case in point:

Over the past two weeks or so, we have been receiving e-mails from the powers-that-be at work advising us lowly grunts of a "special event" that was to occur yesterday, and that we were all required to attend. They blocked off 30-minute sessions throughout the course of the day so that the entire staff could attend without seriously impacting their staffing levels on the phones. (A reasonable approach.) However, when these e-mails went out, they gave no hint whatsoever as to what this "event" (read: mandatory training session) was all about. Some of us had our suspicions. They were confirmed once we got into this "event."

In the world of corporate operations, there is this little device called "up-selling." Essentially, it requires tech support folks like me to ask the customer if they are interested in adding additional services onto their account. If they respond in the affirmative, we route them to the sales dept., where the hard core sales people put the real squeeze on them in order to earn their commission. This is not a judgment on the sales folk; they're just doing their job. Now personally, I find the whole concept of up-selling distasteful. If I wanted to be a salesman in any shape or form, I would have become one. Unfortunately, this is one of the most closely scrutinized aspects of our "metrics," or standards that we need to meet.

As anyone who has ever worked in a call center knows, the "script" that you are given to use while conducting a call is a prime example of what can be described as "corporate-speak." It is so heavily laden with false pleasantries as to be more insulting than helpful. My experience tells me that most customers far prefer straight talk, and quick answers and solutions to their issues rather than convenient social pleasantries. But, let's take it the next step.

This "special" event was nothing more than a training session conducted by a representative from the main office, that flew here to Rochester to basically whip us into line. While we were doing fine in all our metrics, there was one area that was lacking, and that was, you guessed it, up-selling. So, groups of us were treated to the why's and wherefore's of up-selling, why it's important, and what we can achieve out of it. They do try to sweeten the deal by giving a small bonus for every up-sell that results in a completed sale.

Here's the thing though; the trainer they sent here must have thought we were all idiots, or at least some of us. He would ask a question such as: "What is the goal of being a salesman?" I piped up, "To sell the product." Pretty easy to understand, right? BZZT! Sorry, wrong answer, thank you for playing. "The goal of the salesman," he intoned, "is to overcome objections."

What? Really? Silly me, I actually thought having the customer purchase the product the company was offering was the main goal, but hey, what do I know? Now, overcoming objections is an objective, or even a tool, but it is not the goal. Any first year marketing student can tell you that. What was the real kicker was when he told us that our goal as tech support was to "offer value to our customer." I just sat there dumbfounded. This guy was drinking the Kool-Aid by the gallon. Spare me please. The goal of our efforts as tech support people is to offer a first-call resolution to the customer's issue, plain and simple. We may offer value in certain customer service options we give them as well, such as taking payments, and perhaps correcting certain account issues, but as for it being a main goal, no, sorry, not buying it.

One has to wonder when corporate America is going to get away from this type of useless language get down to what being in business is all about: get the customer to buy your product over what the other guy is offering. One can do this in a simple and direct manner, that does not insult the customer's intelligence, and actually persuades them that what you offer is best for them. I also wonder when they will get it through their heads that speaking to me like a child does not help as well.

I needed a real release when I got home, so I pulled up one of my favorite movie scenes, such as this one from "Charlie Wilson's War." Aside from the fact that I am a big fan of Philip Seymour Hoffman, there are times that I wish I could do what he did and get away with it.

Swelled with pride.

I got home from work tonight to find a message on my voice mail from my old paramedic buddy, Jeff. Seems the guy has gotten himself 15 minutes of fame in the NY Times. Jeff and I go back some years. I got him his job at St. Mary's Hospital in Brooklyn, was his medic partner on occasion, and then his boss. Glad to see him out there, still fighting the good fight.

Jeff, I'm proud of ya buddy! I'm 98 at my PAR!

(I removed the link, at the suggestion of a concerned fellow blogger, for personal reasons.)

Monday, October 6, 2008

I am a Scrabble board.

While I was awaiting the call for my liver transplant, I remember making a series of top ten lists; in my case, the "Top Ten Ways To Know You Have Been Living With Liver Disease Too Long." Among these little amusements was:

"You think that your blood test names (ALT, AST, CREAT, HbG, etc.) are perfectly acceptable words when playing Scrabble."

Let's face it: when you live with any form of chronic disease, whatever it is, your life tends to be reduced to these acronyms, from time-to-time. These days however, I've needed to learn a new one: HbA1C. (Gycosylated hemoglobin A1C.) Since I became a diabetic last year, this is an important test that I get done every six months, and is a better indicator of how well my blood sugar is being maintained, especially since I am on insulin. Today I went to my primary doc for my six-month check-up, and all is hunky dory. My A1C is right where it should be, and he is pleased with the way I have been controlling things. So, while I hate sticking myself with needles, it has been a good way to keep things as they should be. Small sacrifices, I suppose.

Now, the one thing that I have been trying to overcome is the disease of procrastination. I suffer from an extreme form of this disease, and have been desperately trying to overcome it for some time. To that end, a colleague at the conference I attended a week or so ago recommended this book:

I am starting it today, as in right after I finish this post...if I don't procrastinate about it.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The would-be-Empress has no clothes.

While the mainstream media must all too often be taken with a grain of salt, (too little reporting, too much circus sideshow) there are certain reporters and commentators that I respect. Fareed Zakaria of Newsweek is one such reporter. His work is more often than not, concise, free of extraneous bullshit, and has a style that does not insult the person reading it.

This week, he covers the case of Sarah Palin. Is she ready to lead? Of course the answer to that question depends on which side of the political spectrum you happen to lean towards, but Zakaria makes a reasoned, sensible argument as to why she is nowhere near ready. Consider this snippet from the piece, surrounding Palin's response to Katie Couric's question regarding the proposed bailout and health care:

COURIC: Why isn't it better, Governor Palin, to spend $700 billion helping middle-class families who are struggling with health care, housing, gas and groceries; allow them to spend more and put more money into the economy instead of helping these big financial institutions that played a role in creating this mess?

PALIN: That's why I say I, like every American I'm speaking with, were ill about this position that we have been put in where it is the taxpayers looking to bail out. But ultimately, what the bailout does is help those who are concerned about the health-care reform that is needed to help shore up our economy, helping the—it's got to be all about job creation, too, shoring up our economy and putting it back on the right track. So health-care reform and reducing taxes and reining in spending has got to accompany tax reductions and tax relief for Americans. And trade, we've got to see trade as opportunity, not as a competitive, scary thing. But one in five jobs being created in the trade sector today, we've got to look at that as more opportunity. All those things under the umbrella of job creation. This bailout is a part of that.

Zakaria responded: "This is nonsense—a vapid emptying out of every catchphrase about economics that came into her head. Some commentators, like CNN's Campbell Brown, have argued that it's sexist to keep Sarah Palin under wraps, as if she were a delicate flower who might wilt under the bright lights of the modern media. But the more Palin talks, the more we see that it may not be sexism but common sense that's causing the McCain campaign to treat her like a time bomb."

He could not be more correct. The gibberish that spouted from Palin's mouth was beyond the pale. I've seen first-graders form a more coherent thought that she did.

You can catch the entire article here:

(P.S. - A friend recommended this piece from Slate, and it too is a winner:

Smashed Pumpkins.

I never really liked their music anyway...

The scourge of binge drinking hits the Gourd family.

Shows you I really have not much to say today, so I am trying to fill the moments.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Yin and Yang.

I always find it a tad remarkable how life's moments sewing back and forth from sorrow to joy, suffering to rapture, in just the span of a few days. This past week was certainly a prime example of this, and it just cements the idea in my brain that I don't worry about going to hell or heaven in a world to come. They are right here, on earth, and we live these moments every day of our existence.

The beginning of last week, as you might have read, was punctuated by the sudden death of a 27 year-old co-worker; the reasons for which are still unexplained as of today. It was the low point of the week, and I was truly looking forward to attending the professional conference that I signed up for a couple of months ago, not only to learn things, but to put my brain on a different course. While one of the sessions went slightly over my head , (it revolved around editing in MS Word and the use of macros) the rest of the sessions gave me excellent insights into what I need to do to ramp my business into high gear.

The toughest part of this endeavor has been getting my brain to think in a business-like manner. I have never had to do that before, to think and be a businessman. Now, I know that can have some negative connotations, but it is a discipline I will need to develop if I want to make a true go at this. There was one speaker whose public speaking style needs refinement, but, gave a lot of valuable information on this very topic. He's a six-figure freelancer, and he didn't get that way by sitting on his ass. The only thing that I disagreed with him on was that in order to succeed, you need to think of yourself solely as a businessman, not as a craftsman, or an artist. I think you can do both, be a businessman when it is called for, and an artist or craftsman (as this is what a writer is) when one is writing. I always keep a saying from "Finding Forrester" in my head. Sean Connery tells his young pupil, "You write your first draft with your heart, your second draft with your head." This I think is the balance one needs if one is to succeed.

Oh, and on top of all this, an absolutely fantastic thing happened to my theatre this week. I am not at liberty to talk about it just now, but will in the coming weeks, maybe even the coming days. It is something we have been working on for about the past year, and will greatly impact our future. I promise not to keep you in suspense too long.

So, I started today on my first step; getting my home office organized, and setting realistic goals. Let's see what happens tomorrow.

Saturday, September 27, 2008


I'm attending a professional conference here in Rochester for freelance writers and editors, be back Monday. Until then, talk amongst yourselves...

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Death and taxes.

"In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes." - Benjamin Franklin, 1789.

First, thanks to all who left notes of sympathy regarding the loss of my co-worker and friend, Devin. It was greatly appreciated.

Devin's wake was held yesterday, and as was expected, the outpouring of grief was overwhelming. This was not surprising of course, given his age, his large family, and his large circle of friends. There were many people from work that came around the same time I did, later in the afternoon around 4 pm. The emotional toll for many was too much to bear.

If you have lived long enough, eventually you experience the loss of friends in your age group. My own experience has led me to believe that this can be even more overwhelming than the loss of a relative, with exceptions of course. The loss of my father was a truly horrific experience. The loss of several friends that I have known was, in its own way, just as devastating. For many of the young people at the wake, this was their first time experiencing death in this way. It is a right of passage in the course of being a human being.

I was there with a friend, Sarah, and she was upset for another reason. We had been there about an hour, when she turned to me and said, "I don't know why I'm not crying?" I just smiled at her, and told her that everyone deals with death in their own way. Grief is something that manifests itself differently from person-to-person, and she should not feel guilty about it. When the time comes for her to let out her emotions, she'll know when it is right.

Sarah is 25, and this is the first time she has dealt with the death of a friend. I think confusion is a big part of the grieving process, and this is something that she will need to sort out as well.

What came as a real shock was finding out that Devin's parents were on a much anticipated trip to China when this all happened. Devin's sister had the task of tracking them down, and then they had to endure a 20 hour flight back, not knowing much of anything. They didn't get to see him until yesterday, shortly before the wake began. Devin's sister is very nice, and is holding up well, given the circumstances. When this all hits her, I hope that she has someone to lean on, as I suspect she will go to pieces. Apparently, her and Devin were very close.

Taxes can be deferred, reduced, or avoided altogether. As life teaches us, death is never avoided. This is a hard lesson, but one that the young people at the wake are just beginning to realize. The Buddhist First Noble Truth is: "All life is sorrow." It would not be life otherwise. In order to be life, pain, death, loss are all part of the experience. Accepting this however, is the hardest lesson to learn.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


I'm not going to be able to get to that meme that Jay tagged me with for a few days, as I am dealing with the sudden death of a co-worker. The wake is today, the funeral tomorrow. He was only 28, and we're still waiting on the autopsy results as to why he just died in his sleep. I have my suspicions, but I don't really want to talk about it just now.

He was one of the 2 or 3 people that I truly respected down at work, and he was taken far too young. I cannot even imagine what his family must be going through.

"Of all the money that ere I had, I spent it in good company.
And of all the harm that ere I've done, alas was done to none but me.
And all I've done for want of wit, to memory now I cannot recall.
So fill me to the parting glass. Goodnight and joy be with you all.

Of all the comrades that ere I had, they're sorry for my going away,

And of all the sweethearts that ere I had , they wish me one more day to stay,
But since it falls unto my lot that I should rise while you should not,
I will gently rise and I'll softly call, "Goodnight and joy be with you all!""

Rest well Devin.

Sunday, September 21, 2008


It's been a busy weekend, and it has no intention of slowing down. The script read went very well, and Ali's professors gave some very good constructive criticism. It is an excellent story, though some more development is needed. The website for the film is here. It is in pre-production, and casting will begin soon. It is partially funded at this point, and as soon as all of it is complete, he should start shooting around May of next year. Ali has already invited me to Turkey to watch the shooting, and while I don't know if I could swing it financially, I'd love to try.

So, apart from that, I spent most of yesterday playing tour guide at my theatre. The Landmark Society of Western NY has these neighborhood tours every year. We participated in one back in 2005, and they asked us if we would do so again, so I volunteered to act as a guide, and give a history of the theatre to people coming throgh it. I had no voice left by the end of the day ,and my knees were aching.

Today is going to be just as busy, lots of house stuff to do, then work tonight. Ugh...

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Please pass the script and the couscous.

I was overjoyed when I received an e-mail from a student director that I have worked with in the past, telling me that he was back from Turkey to finish his Master's degree in film direction, and that he wanted me to be part of a script-in-hand reading of his thesis. In this program at the Rochester Institute of Technology, (RIT) the thesis is a full-length film that he will eventually shoot in his native Turkey, but he needs to have it read in front of his professors first as part of the process.

Ali Vatansever is an incredibly talented guy. I worked with him two years ago in a short film he made during his first year as a grad student, then did a voice-over character for one of his other films. He and his sister have their own film production company back in Turkey, and his story about how he got to RIT is really something.

Ali was originally slated to attend the University of New Orleans in 2005. Hurricane Katrina forced him to change his plans, and as he was studying on a Fulbright Scholarship, this was something that had to be done quickly. He chose to come to Rochester, and talking with him a little over a year ago, he told me that in many ways he was glad he wound up here instead of New Orleans.

Apparently, if he would have gone to N.O., the number of foreign students attending would have been significantly less. RIT has a large number of students from other countries in attendance, and Ali feels pretty good about that. Also, he is incredibly impressed with the acting talent here in Rochester, which is no surprise to anyone that has lived here for some time. As I have mentioned before, the theatre community here is quite extensive. He has been able to accomplish things that he might not have been able to do elsewhere.

He will be returning to Turkey, and his dreams are to make his home country the next Bollywood, without, as he puts it, "all the glitzy stuff," and make "serious films." I feel very privileged to be part of it, and hey, if he needs an American for one of his films, he's got my number and e-mail.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

As if things weren't bad enough.

It has been an eventful week in the investment world. Like many others, I have stock investments, and have been riding the rollercoaster for the past few years, but the what has happened in the past few days has been like nothing I have ever seen. I can't help but wonder if this is a taste of what my parents and grandparents experienced when the Great Depression hit, sans the bread lines.

I am not suggesting that we are headed for the Great Depression Part Deux, but it certainly is causing a lot of nervousness here. What is even more troubling, is the government stepping in and taking over what once were private financial institutions, such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. I keep reading in so many places that this was the right thing to do in order to stabalize them. But now comes this news, and I really wonder if it is a good thing that the government is stepping in a taking over. While it is not a nationalization of hte banks, they are going to have a huge stake in them.

Let me state for the record that I am a card-carrying capitalist, though not in an Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged sort of way. Her methods were far too radical. I shudder at the idea of the government taking over what were heretofore private financial institutions. (Update on this point: have to wonder if that is a slippery slope. I see Greenspan's point about taking it over then re-sellling them in chunks as smaller insitutions, but one has to wonder if the government would be willing to give up control of these institutions once they have them. I'm glad they let Lehman Bros. go under. If they screwed up, then it is their mess, (Lehman's) and they should fix it.

I don't pretend to be an economist, a banker or anything even remotely related to those professions. Hell, if I can manage my Quicken, I'm having a good day. It just seems a little odd to me that these banking and insurance behemoths would not have a better grip on reality. The housing debacle that seems to have started this mess is certainly a major culprit, but I am forced to wonder why there was no one in these companies that couldn't see this coming a mile off. Isn't this what they are schooled in? Don't they have enough savvy and experience to know when a bad investment is staring them in the face? This is the type of unbridled, Ayn Rand style capitalism that I don't agree with. There has to be accountability and responsibility to more than one's self.

The rest of us here in the trenches are left to just sit and wonder when the other shoe will drop.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Gone to the Great Gig In The Sky....

A sad day this is, as Rick Wright from Pink Floyd has died. He was, imho, an underrated musician, and was part of one of the bands that shaped my life as a teenager. Before Roger Waters co-opted the band for his own selfish reasons, Wright was a major contributer and songwriter. This was a short, sharp, shock, and he will be missed by all of us that loved this band.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

I revel in unspectacularlessness.

Okay, I don't think unspectacularlessness is a word. I can't find it in my Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary, but I'm going to use it and hope the spelling police don't hunt me down and kill me.

Thanks to Violet Sky, who played "tag, you're it!" with me, I shall now list 6 unspectacular things about me, whether you wanted to know them or not. Make sure you take your anti-boring pills prior to reading, lest you fall asleep from the sheer unspectacular nature of this post.

1. I talk to myself, sometimes incessantly. I really get this way in private, especially when I am writing an article.

2. I hate strawberries. They are the most vile tasting things on the planet, and I just don't get the fascination about them that some people have.

3. I am very physically inflexible, the complete and total opposite of Bendy Girl. If I tried to sit in a lotus position, I would need to be taken to an orthopedist afterward.

4. I get obsessed with a particular style of music, performer, or group and play them incessantly until my ears bleed. (Well, not literally of course.)

5. I got over my fear of heights by learning to rappel from the Niagara Gorge back in the 80's. This led to rappelling off the dorms at SUNY Buffalo, where I was going to college at the time.

6. I have to constantly tilt my head so that my right ear is pointed more towards the person I am speaking to, at least when there is a lot of ambient noise around, as I am 65% deaf in my left ear. Of course, this means I won't see them, as I am blind in my right eye since birth from a congenital cataract.

So there it is. Let's see. I tag:

1. Bendy Girl = Because I have never done her before...I mean, well, you know what I mean.

2. Guyana Gal - To help her get back into the swing of blogging.

3. Bina - Just to prove to her that she does not suck as a blogger.

4. Ryan - So He will get off his ass and blog again.

5. Peter - Just because he is, well, Peter.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Baseball - The All-American (British) game?

There is an old saying here that goes, "As American as baseball, mom, and apple pie." How about this one on for size: "As American as Baseball, mater, and mincemeat pie." No? Doesn't have quite the same ring to it? Well, if this story is to be believed, then instead of hot dogs, Yankee Stadium may have to start selling bangers and mash. Now, being the the harbinger of useless knowledge that I am, I do know that baseball is actually a meshing of cricket and rounders, with rounders being a child's game in the UK. I was advised by my former paramedic colleague from England that baseball was 'a kid's game being played by overpaid adults." Clearly he didn't understand the esteem that our national pastime is held in.

Then again, with this new finding, he may have been on to something.

I wonder how this will change the face of our blessed game? Here are some possibilities. Feel free to suggest some more. (I'm sure my UK friends will be more than glad to chime in...)

1. Teams will now be required to wear all-white uniforms. No individual colors will be allowed.

2. Players will be required to respond with the phrase "Yes, guv'nor." to all requests by the manager.

3. "Take Me Out To The Ball Game," the traditional baseball song, will be replaced by either the pub song of choice, or possibly "God Save The Queen." The "Star Spangeld Banner" will remain the opening song of the game, as it is derived from a drinking song anyway.

4. The "Seventh Inning Stretch" will be replaced with the "Seventh Inning Tea Time."

5. The World Series, a.k.a. the "Fall Classic," will be replaced by a series of test matches that will go on for at least 2 days minimum.

If you can think of anything else, let's have it......

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The boy, the GameBoy, and the Shawshank Redemption.

The boy was about 11 or 12 as my memory recalls. Time has pushed back his exact age to the point where I can only make an educated guess. He lived in Bushwick, a section of Brooklyn known for some very good Spanish restaurants, a small Italian section with a particular coffee shop that made a mean espresso and cappuccino, as well as some incredible pastries. Bushwick was also known for the squalor in which too many of its residents lived. Such was this boy's situation.

It was around the holidays in 1995. A medic I worked with had become involved in the Santa's Workshop project with the Post Office. You've probably heard of this. Kids write letters to Santa at the North Pole, the P.O. collects the letters, and then volunteers take them and try to grant the wishes of the kids who wrote them. the letters range from the predictable to the heartbreaking. Kids who want toys, to kids who want their mom or dad to have a job. My co-worker brought in the letters, and let us choose which ones we wanted. For some reason, this one kid's letter hit me.

It seemed like a simple and predictable request. The kid wanted a Nintendo Game Boy, something that was all the rage at the time. What struck me though, was the neatness of the handwriting. it wasn't the usual kid scrawl. Something told me that this kid paid attention in school. I couldn't say what it was exactly, just intuition. I was the end of the letter though that raised my eyebrows a bit: "My mom can't afford presents this year." I decided that this was the kid I wanted to help out.

I bought the Game Boy after much scouring, as he had a specific type in mind. it was such a hot item that year, it was almost impossible to find, and as the Web was just in its infancy, was not an option. I finally found the one he was hoping for, and wrapped it up along with a card from "Santa." While I would deliver it personally, I would not be telling him it was from me, though I am sure his mom would know it was me that bought it. Dad it seemed, was not in the picture, not an uncommon occurrence in this area of Brooklyn, where the family unit was often supplanted, or replaced entirely by gangs. I don't know where this kid stood in relation to that, but for now it seemed as though he was still on the straight and narrow, or at least I hoped so.

I got out of work a little late on that night in December. Don't ask the exact date, as I can't remember it. Driving to Bushwick was pretty much out of the way for me on my usual route home. I knew the street where the kid lived, having responded into this neighborhood on a regular basis. I parked the car in front of the brownstone building that had stood there for probably a century. The building was a memory vault. One could imagine hoards of kids back in the Depression playing stickball in the street outside of its entrance, or stoopball on its steps. Milkmen delivered their product to the apartments, when milk came in glass bottles, and you needed to skim the cream off the top of it. The building had seen better days. Now, it looked far more worn, and there was evidence that its upkeep was not something the current owner was overly concerned with.

The current owner installed an intercom system, and I rang the apartment buzzer that had the last name of the boy on it. A woman's voice answered, a heavy Hispanic accent with traces of suspicion. I just said "EMS," as anything else might have resulted in my not being let in. I was in uniform, as I didn't always change in the locker room, but wore my uniform home so I could wash it along with the others, especially if it was the last day of the work week.

I walked up to the second floor where the boy's apartment was, knocked on the door. I could see the inside cover of the peephole in the door sliding back, then the clacking sound of a police-style "Fox lock" being unbolted. The door opened a crack, and a thin Hispanic woman peered out. I introduced myself, and asked if she remembered her son writing to Santa at the North Pole. A bright smile then came over this face that appeared to have known nothing but hardship and sorrow and in mildly broken English, she told me she did. I told her, whispering as I didn't want her son to hear, that I had the Game Boy, and asked if I could give it to him? she called his name, and out of a back room came this slightly pudgy, animated boy.

"I understand, " I said without telling him my name, "that you made a request of Santa for a specific present."

Slightly bewildered, not quite sure of what I was getting at, he shook his head and said, "Yeah."

"Well, Santa has instructed me to give this to you, but not to open it until Christmastime."

The look on his face was only surpassed by the quiet "Oh wow" that came out in his astonishment. He thanked me, along with his mom, and I left, Lone Ranger-like, with my work there done.

Now, you may be wondering why I am relating a holiday story with almost three months to go until then.

A friend lent me the book, "Different Seasons," by Stephen King. In it is the novella "Rita Hayworth And The Shawshank Redemption," which the movie "The Shawshank Redemption" was based on. I had only seen the movie in bits and pieces, and wanted to read the novella first. I always enjoyed most of King's work, but enjoyed his non-scary pieces even better. This was no exception. "Shawshank" is a masterful story of the human spirit, and how kindness in the most terrible of circumstances is often repaid in ways we don't always anticipate. Such was what happened with the boy and the Nintendo.

In the novella, Andy Dufrense was in a physical prison as well as a mental one, and learned to break free of both. Such was the same in many ways for me while working in Brooklyn. While I could go home at night to the comfortable surroundings of my Westchester apartment, mentally I carried around Brooklyn at all times. Giving that kid the Nintendo was one way of dealing with that, and hopefully rendering a kindness at the same time. Dufrense escaped his insanity when he knew the time was now or never, and I escaped from the insanity that I found myself in as well.

I only hope the screws don't find out about me.