Happy Halloween
It's amazing how much your mood lifts when you get your electricity back.

It's also funny how your personal sense of crisis ends once your regain a semblance of normality to your life. The day after Wilma hit, when everyone had a power outage, I remember telling Monkey how being without electricity didn't suck so bad when everyone didn't have it--it only started to suck once neighbors got it and you didn't. Now we're among the haves instead of the have-nots, and it feels like the worst is over, because it is, at least for us.

So far, the restoration is really spotty in our neighborhood--on some streets, you'll see one or two buildings with power, then none for a couple of blocks, and then blocks of full restoration. Downed trees really did a number on our neighborhood.

The local groceries are starting to stock perishables again, which of course means that we bought perishables, since we have refrigeration again. No streetlights yet, which means that there probably won't be any trick-or-treaters tonight--we weren't able to go all out because of the storm, but Monkey is outside looking like a very young Elvira with a bucket full of Hershey Nuggets.

So there we are--our latest adventure in weather. How long till this season is over again?

I'm back, sort of.

Right now I'm sitting in Amy's truck in a Winn Dixie parking lot in our neighborhood. We still don't have electricity, but this plaza does, and I'm posting from a local coffee house's WiFi network. They aren't open, but their network is up, so here I am. What follows is a long day by day of the hurricane and aftermath from my very limited vantage point.

1:00 Tuesday afternoon

Wilma has come and gone, and it was a nerve-wracking experience. Even though I grew up in hurricane-prone Louisiana, I’ve never actually been this close to a major storm. I’ve often felt the after-effects—flooding, loss of electricity, living conditions far more primitive than I’ve become accustomed to (which is not the same as primitive living conditions, no matter how tv talking heads try to portray it).

We’re better prepared than many, simply because we’ve been campers in the past, and many of the basic tools of camping come in handy. We have a small propane camp stove so we can cook, we have a small but efficient cooler for perishables, a battery operated radio, fluorescent lanterns and candles for lighting, etc. We also have a propane grill that, fortunately, survived the storm, despite it being outside and unceremoniously dumped over. So for dinner last night, we had grilled chicken and the last of our Publix-brand potato salad/cole slaw/noodle salad—quite a feast, considering that we had no electricity or running water.

It disturbs me greatly when tv (or radio) talking heads describe the conditions after any natural disaster in these hyperbolic terms, not only because it reflects how spoiled we’ve become by modern convenience and how dependent we are on technology for comfort, but largely because it causes average people, those who have been caught in the middle of it, to think that they’re experiencing something far worse than they really are.

For instance, I’ve already heard, on the radio, callers describing the destruction in their areas as resembling a war zone. That’s ludicrous. For starters, in a war zone, once the destruction occurs, you don’t often get a quiet respite to be able to rebuild what you’ve lost, and you certainly don’t get local and federal government assurances that you’re going to get help rebuilding. Generally, you’re dodging bullets while you continue to try to get what you need to survive. Even the damage from Katrina (which I’ve heard more than one commentator call Wilma) isn’t like a war zone in those terms, even though it’s far worse than anything we’ve experienced with this storm.

Local tree damage has been spectacular to see, and I’ll post some pictures as soon as I get them developed. A huge mango tree in the yard adjacent to ours was snapped in half, and the trees in Victoria Park were devastated. According to our neighbor (who lost part of his roof), the old jet in front of the War Memorial at the park took another flight during the storm, so we’ll be going to check that out soon. For us personally, we lost a patio table. The wind picked it up and shattered the glass, and then jammed the frame between our two cars, leaving some scratches on the pristine (hah!) paint jobs and a very interesting series of scrapes on my windshield right where I gaze through while driving. I bet that’ll prism into some amazing disco-ball like rays just before sunset someday.

We lost electricity of course, and water power, which didn’t happen during Katrina. We just got water back, although the pressure is still a bit low, but that makes a ton of difference in terms of comfort. Fortunately, a low pressure system followed this storm, so the temperatures have been glorious—70s during the day and 50s at night. After Katrina, I slept on the tile floor in order to stay cool.

But I’ve been far more uncomfortable at other points of my life. All I’m really experiencing is inconvenience—no internet connection, no way to recharge my laptop battery when it dies (Amy’s been writing on her old manual typewriter for the last couple of days), no cordless phone (but we do have an old, junky, corded phone that we keep in the closet for just such occasions), we have to recharge cell phones in the car, no tv/dvd/videogames, and no air conditioning (which could be an issue if we’re without power for more than a week).

This storm could have been so much worse. The nerve-wracking part of it was about 12 hours long, which is incredibly short for a hurricane, and it happened in daylight, so we could keep an eye on what was happening, and that really helped. No school for any of us this week—no word yet on whether that means FAU will add on another week to make up for this one or if I’ll have to readjust my syllabi again. Doesn’t really matter, I suppose. I’ll add to this as the situation warrants.

10:20 p.m.

We were outside talking to our neighbor when one of out other neighbors came home—she works in a hospital north of here and she told us that the local police informed her that since the hospital was at the top of the list for power restoration, they’d be back online by Friday. Holy shit.

Amy’s on the phone with her brother who lives in Boulder—he’s giving us the lowdown from what’s available online. 98% of the tri-county area (Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade) is without electricity. The Mayor of Fort Lauderdale said that he doesn’t know of a single home in the city that has power. There’s a curfew from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and there are no alcohol sales permitted between those hours until further notice. About 80 planes were damaged at the Boca airport, which is right next to the FAU campus. But take heart—according to the Sun-Sentinel, the basketball courts and roller hockey rinks in Davie are apparently (and the article used the qualifier here) undamaged. Thank the gods.

We’ve also heard some tragic news. The Mai-Kai’s roof has apparently collapsed, which is sad because we were planning a visit there this Friday before the Wilma hit. It’s one of my favorite cheesy places in south Florida. Too bad it couldn’t have been the sucky Coral Ridge Ministries church, the one run by Dobson’s assistant demon, Kennedy.

Amy reminded me just now of an abomination we saw yesterday while walking around after the storm—a Lamborghini SUV. It wasn’t damaged or anything, which actually made it worse, I think—just the notion of a Lamborghini SUV made me nauseous.

Perhaps the most shocking thing I saw tonight, however, was the night sky. South Florida has beautiful night skies, but it’s because of the light pollution. The clouds put off this unearthly glow most nights. But tonight, it’s as dark as any night in west Oklahoma, and you can see almost as many stars. It’s actually eerie, considering what I’m used to since I’ve been here.

More pictures today. The fighter jet atop its little concrete pole has indeed eaten sod, and I took a lot of pictures I hope will come out. Pine trees bowed in half. Cars at the staging area where water and ice was supposed to be given out with windows smashed out. Given the number of coconuts we saw on the ground right across the street, I’m amazed that none of them wound up in my back seat. We’ll go check out our friend Don’s house tomorrow. He said he lost a major avocado tree and had some other yard damage. We also want to try to make our way north to Amy’s folks and see what happened up there.

One last thing. The lesson I learned from our little brush with Katrina was that the object is not to try to avoid having technology fail—it’s that when that technology ultimately fails, it needs to fail well. The best example I have is our junky corded phone, upon which Amy is talking with her brother. Amy’s parents and sister both have houses filled with cordless phones, not to mention cell phones, all of which depend either on electricity or batteries, neither of which are available (for power or charging) after a storm. Since our junky little phone depends on the power that comes through the phone line to operate, as long as they work, we have an outlet. Too bad we have so few local people to talk to.

1:00 p.m. Wednesday

Finally heard from Amy’s mom today. Apparently, cell phone service in Coral Springs is non-existent, and Deb was only able to call us once she was on her way back to Margate. Rob and Debbie are taking their son Payton to a hotel in Miami, and big Deb will be going with them—Rob drove all the way to Port St. Lucie yesterday in search of gasoline for his generators and couldn’t find any stations with power. Payton has to have electricity for his breathing apparatus, so since they can’t find gas, they’re relocating to someplace in Miami with power. Amy’s dad will stay behind to take care of his own cats and their dogs.

The local radio station coverage seems to have improved from yesterday. It’s less sensational, less filled with aggravating solipsisms and suggestions to not beat your wife or kids (seriously—that was part of the talk yesterday). I heard the Mayor of Miami expressing some aggravation at FEMA and the feds this morning about the problems they’ve had getting water and ice to affected areas in Miami-Dade county. FPL is saying that they’ll have 95% of the area restored by Nov. 15, and everyone online by the 22nd. I hope they’re pulling a Scotty here, saying it’ll take three weeks and then getting it done in one so they look heroic, but my bet is we’ll be closer to the 15th than, say, Halloween. That will make teaching, umm, challenging, to be sure.

The local news coverage has been dominated by Wilma, of course, and I wouldn’t have it any other way, but I’m still curious about what’s going on nationally. I got a glimpse last night that Fitzgerald had sent out his target letters and that indictments would be handed out today in the Plame matter; hints were that Rove and Libby were going to be hit with at least one count each. But I’m having trouble finding out anything more substantial—my cell phone’s internet won’t connect and the battery is running low on that as well—time to spend a few quality minutes in the car, I guess.

1:00 p.m. Friday

Yesterday we remembered that the hot water heater for our section of the complex is run by natural gas, which means no more cold showers. I tacked up the sections of the privacy fence which came down in the storm (with Monkey’s help)—I wouldn’t give it thirty seconds in another storm, largely because I used finishing nails for the last part, due to the fact that my cordless drill gave up right at the end. My laptop is on its last battery legs as well, so if we don’t get electricity soon or if we don’t find somewhere to plug it in, I’ll be reduced to keeping these notes on paper.

Speaking of electricity—neighborhoods close to ours are getting power back, which is encouraging. Downside is that on the Sunrise side of our neighborhood, huge trees are still blocking roadways and they took down major power lines, so if we depend on those lines, we’ll be down for a while yet. Fortunately, the local FEMA ice and water station is just across the park. We picked up four bags of ice and a couple of liters of water, and if the boil order hasn’t been rescinded yet, it should be soon.

I think my laptop has ants.

Our most precious commodity is still gasoline. Lines run for blocks, and the end result is often that a station will run out of gas before everyone fills up. On the turnpike, drivers are limited to 20 bucks a shot, which at nearly three bucks a gallon amounts to approximately the amount of gas it takes an SUV to get to the station and wait in line. We’re hoarding our gas, because we’re afraid we’ll have to start driving to Boca next week and won’t be able to fill up again without great difficulty. Living in San Francisco really helped when it came to picking out this place—Amy wanted a place that would offer us the ability to walk to get whatever we needed, and that has made this situation far more bearable than it could have been.

Speaking of work, I have no idea what teaching will be like when we get back—how many of my students will be in class? how many of them will be without power? will I still be without power? how much will I have to readjust my syllabi again? should I adjust my grading criteria to allow for the added difficulties brought on by the storm?

One last thing—Amy has invented a new cocktail I have dubbed the Katrilma. It’s the kind of drink that comes from whatever you have left over. Vodka, cherry juice and ginger ale over ice if you have it—dangerously sweet and powerful.

Saturday 6:00 p.m.

Power returned to the homes a block south of us, with a crackling transformer and flames popping out of the wires on the pole in the parking lot of the Greek Orthodox Church across the street. I walked over there to make sure a fire hadn’t started when I heard the howls of glee from down the street. Of course, that means we’ll get power back in two weeks—I’ve gotten a bit cynical about it lately.

I don’t really have much to complain about. We have hot water, we still have propane, we have plenty of canned food and restaurants are opening up all over the place, so it’s getting better. We’re still on a boil order, but with the FEMA water/ice drop right across the park, we’re in no danger of running out any time soon. The lack of power has gotten us all a lot closer—nights spent playing rummy by candlelight, breaking out our musical instruments and playing together. I’ve really become impressed with Monkey’s talent on the flute—she was improvising around my strumming and singing last night.

Rob and Deb brought Payton back from Miami today—they still don’t have power, but they filled their gas tanks down there and are back on the generator, and they have other options if that becomes an issue again.

We’re going to dinner tonight with some friends, and we’ll stop off for a beer and hopefully some pool afterwards (if the tables aren’t taken). The curfew has been extended to 11:00 now instead of the dusk to dawn one we were under.

We found out today that Monkey’s school situation will be day-to-day after Monday, while we head back for a meeting on Tuesday, with classes to resume on Wednesday. Here’s hoping we’re up and running at home before then.

5:30 a.m.

Looked out the window, saw the cover had come off the grill and stepped out to refasten it--not really raining yet but the wind is gusting nicely, and off toward the beach I saw what I believe was the electric blue glow of a transformer giving way. My lights flickered seeconds afterward, so I wouldn't be surprised if I'm coming close to going to bed.

Wilma update

Like I did with Katrina's little brush with Florida, I'll try to provide brief updates while I have electricity. It's about 3 in the morning and I'm the only one still awake. The wind just started whistling around outside--I'm not going to go out there to see what it looks like and I don't have a digital camera to load any pictures of it. I imagine the electricity will go in the next couple of hours, though it may hold out until we get the real storm later this morning--for Katrina, we kept it until the storm was practically on top of us, so if that holds, I guess by 10:00 a.m. (at the latest) we'll be dark.

We've prepped what we could, mainly for a blackout. Our landlady has shutters for the streetside windows, but none for the side and rear walls. They're sheltered somewhat, in the back by other units and on the side by a privacy fence and the house next door. We put duct tape on the windows in case they get broken, in a no doubt vain attempt to minimize the shattering, and Amy packed up her computer and wrapped it in plastic. Photo albums are on top of a tall bookcase, and we cleared out a closet to serve as an emergency hideout if things get really raucous, but I hope we don't have to go in there, because it would be cramped, to say the least.

Monkey has decided, by virtue of the fact that she will have been hit by both Katrina (full strength) and Wilma to refer to them collectively as Katrilma.

On the plus side, the weatherfolk keep noting that, once Wilma passes, a cold front will come through, dropping high temps into the 70s and nighttime lows into the 50s for a couple of days, long enough, we hope, for the electricity to be restored.

More later.

P.S. Quick film review--Go see Good Night and Good Luck. It is wonderfully understated and well-acted by all involved. Even McCarthy.

Waiting for Wilma

This is one time I wish I had cable or a satellite dish, just because there's a level of weather coverage you can get on television that you just don't get online yet. I can look at all kinds of satellite and radar imagery, but since I don't know anything about what it all means, it's useless. All I can do is just wait it out with Amy, Monkey and the cats.

More work pictures

Remember that post a while back where I said I worked in the coolest place ever? Here are some photos I got developed this weekend. The first is of a sunset, and the picture is crap--it doesn't come close to the real beauty that night, mainly because I know absolutely nothing about shooting skyscapes, especially at night. I need to work on that.

This one is of a bird, called an anhinga, which inhabits the pond I get to walk past to get to my office. It doesn't swim above the water--when it fishes, it either walks on the bottom of the lake or swims so that only its head appears above the surface. At times, you can see these heads pop up above the surface and bob along. Once it has finished feeding, it climbs out of the water and tries to find a breeze to help it get dry. I caught this one at the perfect time.

Don't know what these guys have been smoking, but...

My blog is worth $28,227.00.
How much is your blog worth?

That's more than I've made in most years.

Friday random ten

No semi-witticisms today--I'm under another pile of grading and there's a hurricane a-coming (maybe). Here we go.

1. Raspberry Beret--Warren Zevon
2. Chicken, Gravy and Biscuits--Lil' Ed and the Blues Imperials
3. I Don't Sleep, I Dream--R.E.M.
4. Soaked--Pinback
5. Strange Brew--Cream
6. Kissing the Lipless--The Shins
7. Splendid Isolation--Warren Zevon
8. Further On Up the Road--Eric Clapton
9. B-Boys Makin' With the Freak-freak--The Beastie Boys
10. Bright Future in Sales--Fountains of Wayne

Broke my self-imposed rule of no repeated artists, but only because it's Zevon.

Thursday Night Poetry

Getting in just in under the wire, this time with one of my own. This is a relatively new piece, and not related to my work on Jehovah's Witnesses. I wrote it while working with a student at Stanford--we were reading Philip Larkin at the time and it reawakened some of my latent formalism and linked up with some of my not-so-latent politics.

after Philip Larkin

I thought that it would last my time
as well, but now I have my doubts
that we can make it past this latest cry
of “Empire!” without losing out

on what might once have been. We are
not exceptional, not that we
ever were, except in legend-
makers’ mouths, our Founding Fathers

only real as Arthur, El Cid,
the Seven Samurai, Ah-nold.
Our myths are real to us, but still
they are but allegory. Now

we start to pay the price: belief.
Belief in what we thought we were—
saviors, fair, just, and then the biggie,
moral—and yet absurd belief

is what has brought us here, to this
time when quicksilver runs
in rivers and refineries
spill toxic chemicals in tons

into lakes where homes once protected
by levee and canal now sink
into silt that even when dry
will grow nothing for years, will stink,

this time where protest, a voice raised
is called treason by reckless cowards
who send others to do their will.
This is nothing that hasn’t come

before; it wasn’t reality
I thought would last beyond my time,
just the illusion. It’s possible
we’ll stay fooled. I hope I’m wrong.

Grandmama's Coming to Town

Not really--it's just that the latest freak hurricane shares my grandmother's name.

There has never been a hurricane like Wilma before. With an unbelievable round of intensification that saw the pressure drop 87 mb in just 12 hours, Wilma smashed the all-time record for lowest pressure in an Atlantic hurricane this morning. The 4 am hurricane hunter report put the pressure at 882 mb, easily besting the previous record of 888 mb set in Hurricane Gilbert of 1988. Since no hurricane hunter airplane has been in the eye since then, Wilma may be even stronger now. The eye diameter of Wilma during this round of intensification shrunk as low as 2 nautical miles, which may be the smallest eye diameter ever measured in a tropical cyclone. The only eye I could find close to that small in the records was a 3 nm one, the Category 4 Typhoon Jeliwat in 2000. It's amazing the hurricane hunters were even able to penetrate the eye--it's really tough to hit a 2 mile wide eye when you're flying crabbed over at a 30 degree yaw angle fighting horizontal flight level winds of 185 mph and severe turbulence. This is an incredibly compact, amazingly intense hurricane, the likes of which has never been seen in the Atlantic. The Hurricane Season of 2005 keeps topping itself with new firsts, and now boasts three of the five most intense hurricanes of all time--Katrina, Rita, and Wilma.

They're saying it won't be nearly as intense when it finally gets to where I am, partly because it will have crossed over a few landmasses by then--the Yucatan, Cuba, and the Everglades, none of which do much by themselves, but cumulatively can weaken it--and from the wind shear from the low pressure system which is supposed to make it essentially reverse course. That said, it could hit the Everglades as a strong 3/weak 4 and since it won't slow down that much, we could see some severe winds and rain even on the east coast of Florida.

Wonder what would happen if the soldiers tried to renege on their contracts?

Get their asses thrown in jail, perhaps? Next time I hear someone say that Republicans are the party that supports the troops, I may have to spit on him.

WASHINGTON – The Pentagon has reneged on its offer to pay a $15,000 bonus to members of the National Guard and Army Reserve who agree to extend their enlistments by six years, according to Sen. Patty Murray (D-Seattle).

The bonuses were offered in January to Active Guard and Reserve and military technician soldiers who were serving overseas. In April, the Office of the Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs ordered the bonuses stopped, Murray said.

The fact that these members of the Guard and Reserves may be eligible for other bonuses is irrelevant--they were promised this one, and the federal government yanked it, and since the Republican party controls all three branches of government, they're the ones responsible for it.

So if you're out driving around with a Bush/Cheney sticker on your car and you get flipped off for no apparent reason, don't get mad. You deserve it and you know it.

You see that?

Got the tickets yesterday. December 18th, we're all over it.

I saw the King Tut exhibit when I was about 10. My younger cousins had come to stay with us for a bit, and my mom took a day off work to get them their shots so they could start school, and as a treat, took us to the New Orleans Museum of Art to see the exhibit. My youngest cousin must have been about 3, and I remember holding her up so she could see the exhibits--it worked nicely for me because people stepped aside to let all four of us get close.

So Tut is back, and I'm taking my daughter to see him. She's more than a bit older than either I or my cousin was, but I think that means we'll appreciate it more.

I couldn't agree more

With all due respect to Holden McNeil, this may be the worst movie idea since Greedo shooting first.

Paradise Lost, John Milton's epic poem about Adam and Eve's temptation and fall, is to be turned into a feature film for the first time since its publication more than 330 years ago. Hollywood producers aim to keep the screen version faithful to Milton's 1667 original, a complex work comprising 12,000 lines of blank verse. The production is described as "epic in scope and size".

Hat tip to Robert at Lawyers, Guns and Money.

Friday Random Ten

I never get to this so early in the morning, but as you can see, I've done some pruning on the sidebar, so I figured I'd get this done as well. You know the drill--set your media player on random and post the next ten songs that pop up. No fair eliminating songs that will embarass you--if "Pour Some Sugar on Me (extended DJ Sergio mix)" comes up, you have to admit it. Here's mine for the week.

1. Walking to New Orleans--Buckwheat Zydeco
2. Dance Dance Dance--Big Smith
3. Sympathy for the Devil--Rolling Stones
4. Awake at Night--Hep Cat Boo Daddies
5. Birdhouse in Your Soul--They Might Be Giants
6. Traveling Riverside Blues--Eric Clapton
7. Mardi Gras Mambo--The Funky Meters
8. Funky Malaguena--Blind Snooks Eaglin
9. For Your Love--The Yardbirds
10. They Can't Take that Away From Me--Harry Connick, Jr.

A very New Orleansy Friday--Buckwheat, Snooks, The Meters and Connick--and completely by coincidence that I posted poetry from the area last night. Have a good one y'all.

Thursday Night Poetry

Tonight's entry is from a woman I feel like I've been chasing in a way ever since I started writing again: Alison Pelegrin. Alison and I went to the same university for our undergraduate degrees, although we never met while there, and then I followed her to the University of Arkansas for grad school, where my first year was her last. I just discovered Cochon de Lait which is her blog, and I plan on checking it out at length very soon. This poem is from her book The Zydeco Tablets:

The Zydeco Tablet

Who stole my monkey and my one good shoe?
I'm a traveling man looking for someone
To love at night, but every day I'm blue.

I'd walk ninety-five miles for a rendezvous,
Barefoot and bleeding, my collar undone.
Who stole my monkey and my one good shoe?

I'm the moody one coming to sing for you,
Rehearsing songs on my accordion.
I'm in love at night, but every day I'm blue.

I waltzed through Crowley in an orphan's suit,
No salt for the beans in my stew full of bones.
Who stole my monkey and my one good shoe?

Cochon de lait , I'd swallow nails to look at you,
Say your name until my voice is gone.
I'm in love at night, but every day I'm blue.

Sugar, you're the morning star, the midnight moon.
Of all the ladies in the Delta you're the one
Who stole my monkey. You're one good shoe
To love at night, but every day I'm blue.

Tough Day at the Theater, or
"I'm glad I didn't make attendance part of the curriculum."

Spent yesterday afternoon on campus at the final performance of the student production of Hamlet, or as Amy calls it, HAMlet. There's no getting around it--the performance really was horrible, even by student production standards, with which I have a fair amount of experience (by which I mean I've seen about ten productions, although this is my first FAU experience).

First, the good, and there was some to be had in this production. The director took a nice risk by casting Horatio and Guilderstern as women, as well as many of the other secondary military characters. It helped that Horatio could act, and a very minor tweaking of the lines (largely pronoun changes) gave this production a bit more of a heterosexual charge, since Hamlet's manly friendships were transformed into more casual sexual relationships. In short, Hamlet came off as a bit of a slut, which was a nice twist.

Then the bad. Where to begin? The lead actor was in over his head--he emoted, he moaned, he screamed, at times he howled his lines as though he'd been stricken by the full moon and was being transformed. What he didn't do was act. And when, during his breakup scene with Ophelia, he hurled her to the ground, pulled her hair and ground his crotch into her from behind, it became clear that this was not Hamlet being portrayed, this was an imitation of Mel Gibson (who was imitating his own Lethal Weapon character) taken to a ludicrous extreme. It's not prudery that caused me to recoil from that scene--it's that there's no justification for it in the text. At least when Hamlet seems to rape his mother in Zeffirelli's film (and in this production), there's an argument to be made that it happens (not a firm one in my book, but one to be made). But there's no such flimsy justification for the Ophelia scene. In fact, there's good reason to argue against it--Claudius and Polonius are in hiding, watching the action. When Hamlet attacks Gertrude, Polonius cries out and dies as a result. Surely Polonius and Claudius would have restrained a mad Hamlet from harming Ophelia.

Speaking of imitators, the actress playing Ophelia obviously got her inspiration from the same film, as she was trying mightily to channel Helena Bonham Carter. Her imitation wasn't quite as bad, for two reason--Ophelia, never a huge part to begin with, gets a number of her lines cut in Zeffirelli's film, and so when this student actress has to perform the entire part, she has to stretch a bit more that simply recreating Carter's performance, and she did reasonably well in that attempt.

The actor playing Claudius had some talent and seemed to understand his lines, which is more than can be said for many of the other players, but he lacked the commanding presence that Claudius requires. Laertes seemed ill-cast, and Gertrude substituted histrionics for emotion most of the time. Polonius seemed to know he was in over his head, and so simplified the character to try to get what he could out of it, which made him stand out as a brighter light.

But the largest defect really seemed to be one of directorial vision. Too often the director seemed to let these actors imitate other performances rather than forcing them to create their own. I understand that Hamlet is a long and complex play and that the director may have been happy just that a college troupe managed to remember all their lines (which they did for the most part), but you have to have more control than this.

And some errors are inexcusable. Throughout the play, there were actors standing about on the stage, obviously meant to represent courtiers or other minor nobility, as they had no speaking parts, and yet, as the play closes and Fortinbras enters, the two actors who had portrayed Rosencrantz and Guilderstern appear in new costumes to announce that Rosencrantz and Guilderstern are dead. Maybe, as Amy suggests, it's a postmodern thing. I thought it was dumb.

That said, Threepenny Opera opens in about a month. Since I've never seen that in any manner of performance, I won't know if those actors are channeling anyone (although if I see a Bobby Darin wink during Mack the Knife, I may get up and walk out of there).

Why I love Times Select.

It's simple, really. It's good for my blood pressure.

Sure, I have to navigate the university library website to get to my doses of Krugman and Herbert and Rich, but on the plus side, I don't accidentally fall on the kind of crap that Brooks writes anymore.

I slipped on a little of it this morning, however, because of my regular trip to a local coffee shop for the Sunday Times and some friendly chatting. In his first sentence, Brooks compared Tom DeLay to Howard Dean.

Hey Brooksie? I know you have to play this bullshit equivalency game in order to keep your moderate credentials among those few people who somehow don't think you're a hack yet, but let me fill you in on something.

Tom DeLay is a crook, who, if there's any justice, will have a boyfriend named Icepick in his future.

Howard Dean is the former 6 term governor of Vermont who has never, to my knowledge, been charged with any sort of impropriety either while as governor or as head of the DNC.

I know that may seem equivalent to you, Brooksie, but it isn't.

Fortunately, though, thanks to that wall, there aren't as many people who have to read your crappy comparisons.

Small World, huh?

I've only been casually following this evolution v. ID (aka sanity versus idiocy) trial in Pennsylvania, largely because it depresses me that we're having to revisit this crap at this late date, but I got a bit of a shock when reading about it today.

One of the witnesses for the defense, Barbara Forrest, was my Philosophy professor at Southeastern Louisiana when I was an undergrad, and let me tell you, the plaintiffs are in for some shit, because she was a hardass of the highest order when I was one of her students. I loved her classes, but man, was she brutal. And the way the Discovery Institute is spinning her testimony, it sounds like she hurt them badly.

So way to go Professor Forrest! Make Southeastern proud!

Friday Random Ten, Saturday Morning Edition

Long day with student conferences yesterday--for the last three days, actually, so this slipped. On the plus side, we saw the new Wallace and Gromit movie last night. It's a wonderfully sweeet and funny film. The previews all sucked major ass, as did the opening cartoon starring the Madagascar penguins--kind of made me think I probably didn't miss anything by not seeing that one. But go see Wallace and Gromit--it's delightful.

So here's the random ten, from my laptop's iTunes as opposed to my iPod:

1. I Shot the Sheriff (live)--Eric Clapton
2. Get Out the Map--Indigo Girls
3. Kill the Poor--Dead Kennedys
4. The Sky is Crying (live)--Stevie Ray Vaughan, Albert King, and B. B. King
5. When I Fall--Barenaked Ladies
6. Crossroad Blues--Robert Johnson
7. God Shuffled His Feet--Crash Test Dummies
8. That's a Plenty--Red Nichols
9. Shake a Leg--Marcia Ball
10. Love My Way--Psychedelic Furs

That's an interesting set there. I think I'm still a bit blues-heavy in my collection, but I don't know where else to branch off into currently.

What did you learn in Civics class, Jimmy?

Don't get your pictures developed at Wal-mart.

Jarvis had assigned her senior civics and economics class “to take photographs to illustrate their rights in the Bill of Rights,” she says. One student “had taken a photo of George Bush out of a magazine and tacked the picture to a wall with a red thumb tack through his head. Then he made a thumb’s down sign with his own hand next to the President’s picture, and he had a photo taken of that, and he pasted it on a poster.”

According to Jarvis, the student, who remains anonymous, was just doing his assignment, illustrating the right to dissent.

But over at the Kitty Hawk Wal-Mart, where the student took his film to be developed, this right is evidently suspect.

An employee in that Wal-Mart photo department called the Kitty Hawk police on the student. And the Kitty Hawk police turned the matter over to the Secret Service.

The poster was confiscated, and the kid and the teacher were questioned--over what is decidedly protected speech. There's no threat involved in a poster of Bush with a thumbs down next to it. Am I going to be questioned because I have a picture of Bush with the caption "Still Not My President" on my blog? I'm sure I can find a lawyer or two to handle that case pro bono.

But here's the real lesson--Wal-Mart sucks, and you shouldn't patronize an establishment that does this kind of shit. And next time, use a digital camera.

Thursday Night Poetry

I almost forgot, and on only the second week of my meme. This week's poem comes from W. S. DiPiero's newest book, Brother Fire. Simone is a friend of mine, as well as a former teacher, and a hell of a poet. He's gotten a contract to put out a New and Selected Poems next year, and he's also working on a book of essays which will be incredible. You can read one of his essays at the Threepenny Review if you wish. It's titled "Make Me a Picture."

Didn't You Say Desire Is

like the elephant fog
shredded north
a white sun going down
Bessemers fired
through clouds horizoned
on my dog-eared stack
It feels good and right
to waste earnest hours
of an early evening's
daylight saving time
in uncertainty and want
these cranky climates
changing in us while we
haven't started dinner yet.

You knew I couldn't stay away from politics forever, right?

It won't be a daily thing, I promise. Real life is intruding something fierce on the form of ungraded papers and student conferences right now. But this was too good to pass up.

Seems today that McCain got an anti-torture amendment passed in the Senate, in overwhelming fashion. 90-9, with one absentee.

Defying the White House, senators voted 90-9 to approve an amendment that would prohibit the use of "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment" against anyone in U.S. government custody, regardless of where they are held.

The amendment was added to a $440 billion military spending bill for the budget year that began Oct. 1.

The proposal, sponsored by Sen. John McCain (news, bio, voting record), also requires all service members to follow procedures in the Army Field Manual when they detain and interrogate terrorism suspects.

Now remember, this is the amendment that Bush said would cause him to issue his first ever veto if it was attached to the defense appropriations bill. I'm guessing that everyone with presidential ambitions and/or re-election concerns decided they didn't want that vote popping up in a commercial. But for the record, here are the nine asswipes who decided that the military needs to be able to torture prisoners.
Allard (R-CO)
Bond (R-MO)
Coburn (R-OK)
Cochran (R-MS)
Cornyn (R-TX)
Inhofe (R-OK)
Roberts (R-KS)
Sessions (R-AL)
Stevens (R-AK)

Maybe I'm too tired or something, but I'm having trouble coming up with a vile enough nickname for this group. I figure it ought to be based on a baseball team or something, due to their number, but I'll take whatever suggestions I can get.

The DC Douchebags, perhaps?

More photos
One of the drags about being a former Jehovah's Witness is the fact that your family members who are still Witnesses are supposed to disown you, for all practical purposes. It's not quite as severe as I hear the Mormon excommunication is--the Witnesses don't tell you to, or even encourage you to divorce your no-longer-Witness spouse--but your family is supposed to have little or no non-essential contact with you.

My sister and I have been on both sides of this--I was a Witness when she was disfellowshipped, and she was a Witness when I left the church. We both broke the rules about cutting each other off. We both felt that there were times when the church was misguided. We've stayed tight, and now that we live closer together--about a day's drive apart--hopefully we'll get to see each other more often.

That's her in the picture below, and her son, my nephew Cameron. He's a Spiderman fan, and has come shining through some pretty serious health problems when he was much younger.

And then there are some relatives who either aren't Witnesses, or who aren't letting it stop them from staying in touch with family. The older two are my grandparents (grandfather and second wife, but she's been around so long now she's family), and the younger two are my uncle Dan and his wife, my aunt Betty. Dan owned the first computer I ever played on, an old TI 99/4A, complete with tape deck drive hooked up to a little 13 inch tv, and I've been a gadget freak ever since then. Dan and Betty live in Pompano, not far from here, and it was good to see them again. It had been far too long--twenty years at least--since I'd seen any of them.

It's not going to happen again.

You see, it's easy to lose track of people when you actually believe you're going to live forever, or that if either you or they die, that you'll see them again after resurrection into a paradise.

But I'm not counting on that anymore.

My relationship with my parents seems to have improved somewhat in the last couple of years, since my dad's health has been touchy. I got to visit with them for a short period when I drove through Texas on my way to Florida this summer, and I heard from them right after Katrina. I'll take what I can get.

Guest blogger Wally

Since I shoot film instead of digital, and since I've been playing catch-up financially ever since starting this new teaching job, it's been taking me a while to get pictures developed and online. I get them developed onto a disk as well as into regular photos--Ritz Camera does my work for me and I've been pleased with them.I picked up three rolls yesterday, and I'll start carrying my camera to the office again, since I got some photos of an anhinga drying itself in the pond this afternoon, and some of a feeding flock of ibis yesterday.

So this picture is a couple of months old, and if you can believe it, Wally is now even fatter.

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