25 December 2011

A couple quotations to sum up the last few days


We should grey together
Not that pigeon-chested Trafalgar grey
The grey that greets you on that first October day

: The Beautiful South, "Have Fun"

How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your colon?
: Matthew 7:4 (adapted)



24 December 2011

Merry Christmas Eve Day, all!

So, which kind of Christmas ambulatory aid are you?

Tiny Tim's crutch (A Christmas Carol):


or

Kris Kringle's cane (Miracle on 34th Street)?



(Hint to my response: I miss Natalie Wood!)

20 December 2011

A true cultural milestone: Either I'm too old or...

...it's time for Hollywood to offer a film remake of The Lone Ranger (or both):

At last night's concert at Hartford Magnet/Trinity College Academy, the orchestra teacher, in introducing "The William Tell Overture," didn't mention (or even allude to) "The Lone Ranger."

I didn't think it'd ever be possible to separate the musical selection from the classic cowboy.



I was wrong. 

Or so I thought, then I found this.

Ta-da-dump
Ta-da-dump
Ta-da-dump-dump-dump!

Hi-ho, Silver...and away!



In honor of Hanukkah...

...and in the spirit of Judaeo-Christian ecumenism, I give you "Angelo Rosenbaum," a great seasonal love story!

In the December issue of the great British music magazine Mojo, Brian Wilson...

...is interviewed regarding the recent release of the reconstructed Smile album, and he declares the Beach Boys' masterpiece to be...

PET SOUNDS!

And I must heartily agree.



No, humanity hasn't changed in 2500+ years

The older daughter is a national finalist...

...in the poetry recitation contest sponsored by The Norton Anthology.  She chose the 17th-Century American poet Anne Bradstreet's "Upon the Burning of Our House."

You can see the contestants and vote for your favorite (hint, hint!) here:

http://books.wwnorton.com/books/bradstreet-video-contest/

I know I'm biased, but that doesn't mean I'm wrong.  Hers is the best recitation of this poem!

Enjoy!

19 December 2011

Man, Mr. Franco must've done REALLY BANG-UP WORK in the two class meetings he attended to even earn a D!

NYU professor allegedly fired for giving James Franco a D?; ‘Survivor: South Pacific’ declares its winner

By

According to one fired NYU professor, this guy is not as studious as he looks. Jose Angel Santana, a former New York University professor, has reportedly filed a lawsuit against the school in an attempt to get his job back. The reason he was fired, based on what Santana tells the New York Post? He gave student James Franco a D. Santana says the Oscar-nominated actor missed 12 out of 14 of his “Directing the Actor II” classes, earning him the low grade. Santana also asserts that other professors gave Franco high marks that were undeserved. “The school has bent over backwards to create a Franco-friendly environment, that’s for sure,” he tells The Post. Reps for Franco and the university have not commented. (New York Post)

18 December 2011

Two more questions to which I have no answers

1. Does it make sense that CT Attorney-General-turned-Senator Dick Blumenthal now gets front page coverage in the Hartford Courant for no longer being a front page story?

2. If "an educated consumer [was] their best customer," what does the demise of Syms say about the state of education?

17 December 2011

16 December 2011

Let's just say I'm underwhelmed by this response...



As I responded to the X.U. President when he disseminated the video just a little while ago:

Everything that you say in the first minute would seem to suggest that you were leading up to some decisive action, some reaffirmation of core Jesuit values (i.e., something more than the rather light punishment that has been imposed upon the members of the XU team most involved).
 
Instead you simply state the obvious: that Xavier should be better than this. Well, the actions and aftermath would seem to suggest that, if we are better than this, it's certainly not by much.
 
Please count me among the disheartened.


(a few of the) Questions which I really can't answer

1.  Do people really have so much broken gold jewelry just hanging around their house that they can collect it, bring it to "Good Ole Tom," and get lots of money for it?

2.  Why exactly does anyone need a boxed set with a regular DVD and a blu-ray disc of the same film?

3.  The purpose of watching a radio program on television is...?

4.  Once my free trial period is over, is there any compelling reason why I should PAY for HBO and Starz?  (So far, Secretariat and The Green Hornet would argue "no.")


5.  Wouldn't God, when Christopher Hitchens came knock, knock, knocking on Heaven's door just a few hours ago, want the old contrarian stayin' around there for some good rollicking conversations?


15 December 2011

Well, I guess the argument goes, if you're going to have to cut the salary...

...then, go ahead and just hire a woman!

If they're going to shut down the government...


...then I say really shut down the government: send EVERYBODY, and I mean everybody, home. 

Tell the soldiers overseas to make the best of it because they won't be getting any supplies (food, uniforms, transport, or weapons), until the government reopens. 

Tell anybody who receives federal assistance, there will be nothing coming their way, until the government reopens.

Tell everybody there'll be no mail.

Open the doors of the federal prisons because we certainly can 't pay the guards.  (Good news, Gitmo detainees and white collar criminals!) 

Shut down the federal monuments, the museums, and all national parks, until the government reopens. 

Tell ALL federal employees -- including all levels of all three branches of government -- that, until the government reopens, there will be no paychecks, no health insurance, no compensation of any kind....

If they're gonna do it, then they gotta do it right.

Of course, if the brave souls that are our Congress (I'm surprised I can even type those words!) ever  REALLY shut down the government (and let just a whiff of the reality waft toward the American people), not a single elected official would EVER be returned to his/her post again.

Stop posturing.  Make a deal.  Solve a real problem for a change.

14 December 2011

One important thing to remember about the Xavier-UC basketball riot...

...is that such things never happen with the Xavier FOOTBALL team, which remains undefeated since 1973!

13 December 2011

In tap class, I'm earning a whole new nickname!


RBH

"Rhythm Black Hole"

(because, if there's any rhythm inherent in that combination,
it'll disappear once I get ahold of it!)





12 December 2011

Happy 96th Birthday, Francis Albert Sinatra!


A swell duet by Frank and Rosie from 
the Reprise Musical Repertory Theatre's recording of  
South Pacific
produced by Sinatra.

11 December 2011

Perhaps your daughter's high school is too big...

...when you have to sign a permission slip for her to go on a "field trip" to the lecture hall.

And I'm NOT joking.

10 December 2011

Yet another honor denied me because of my parents....

Who can blame me for my blaming my parents for their not being celebrities, which, in turn, denies me the opportunity to be named Miss Golden Globe!

After all, aside from a famous mom (well, and also a pretty cool name, I have to admit), what's Rainey Qualley got that I don't?

Life IS unfair.

09 December 2011

Company's way more than just three....

Having cut my musical-theatre teeth on Gershwin, Kern, Rodgers and Hart and the lyricist Stephen Sondheim, I have come to the official Stephen Sondheim oeuvre quite late, thanks in part to Playhouse on Park’s previous Side by Side by Sondheim and the New Britain High School 2011 production of Into the Woods, in which my daughter played Cinderella.  (Add your own sarcastic theatre-dad comment here.) 

My aversion to Sondheim’s material, I know, stems directly from a bad experience of turning on PBS years ago and seeing Mandy Patinkin’s dabbing paint on a scrim as he sang (seemingly endlessly and seemingly without melody)  something like “Blue, Red, Red, Blue, Yellow, Blue, Blue, White, Blue, Green, Green Yellow, White…” in Sunday in the Park with George.  Where, I thought, was the poetic wit of this guy’s lyrics for Gypsy and West Side Story wedded perfectly to the music of Styne and Bernstein, respectively?  Thanks, but no thanks, I said.

Playhouse on Park’s current production of Sondheim’s now classic Company (from 1970?!?) has pretty much got me on the Sondheim bandwagon…and, yes, I’m sure Stephen has been waiting breathlessly for this declaration!



As tightly directed and choreographed by Leslie Unger, with the usual excellent musical direction of Colin Britt and performed by a very talented cast, the musical examines Bobby (Ryan Speakman) on his 35th birthday as he ponders his own lack of commitment, in light of the “commitments” of several of his couple friends.  Many of the songs are now standards, like “Being Alive,” “Another Hundred People,” and “Here’s to the Ladies Who Lunch,” and are powerful statements on the lives we lead, for better or worse.
  
As we’ve come to expect from POP, the ensemble of professional performers (Speakman, along with Amanda Bruton, Jennifer Lauren Brown, Kevin Barlowski, Hillary Ekwall, Erik Agle, Ben Beckley, Brian Detlefs, and Victoria Thornsbury), and the students from the Hartt School (Scott Caron, Alexandra Cutler, Keisha Gilles, Lea Nardi, and Meredith Swanson) sparkle throughout.  I enjoyed all the performances, each contributing to our understanding why Bobby, that thirty-something, is the way he is.  

And the show’s dramatic and immediate intimacy is highlighted by the sparse set and the proximity of the audience, which allows each of us to feel the tension, the love, the heartbreak, and that sense of, well, “being alive” the characters are so eagerly want.

The show runs through December 18th.  So, give yourself a holiday gift, and enjoy the Company!


22 November 2011

A FAR better answer would've been...

...it's not about the subject of the classes as much as the pedagogy involved, a pedagogy that should lead the student to an understanding of the investigative nature of all knowledge and the impossibility of knowing anything in a vacuum, as somehow unconnected to the larger world around us.

Doh.   

20 November 2011

Not to complain about my being overlooked again this year...

...and I don't necessarily think I'm sexier than Bradley Cooper (although I'm not exactly sure who he is), BUT among People Magazine's "Sexiest Man Alive" "contenders" pictured in the on-line Hartford Courant piece is Alec Baldwin.

Now, c'mon, maybe in 1988, when Mr. Baldwin managed to show up naked in every movie in which he had a role (Working Girl, Married to the Mob...), maybe THEN he was a contender.  But have you seen him recently?

 
Let me just put it this way, his aging hasn't gone as well as it did for Paul Newman -- who, for my money (even in his present condition), is probably still sexier than three quarters of this list AND me.

Dad Loves His Work (18 Nov 2011 edition)

8:25-9:15 AM
More discussion of Antigone in Eng 110 ( Freshman Comp) in preparation for a performance at CCSU the class will attend on 30 Nov

9:25-10:15 AM
Introduction to the perfect tenses (active and passive) in Lat 111 (Elementary Latin I) together with some translation of a reading adapted from Pliny the Younger's description of the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius

10:50-11:40 AM
Finishing up of Hannah Webster Foster's The Coquette in Eng 340 (Early Am Lit) and a whole bunch of poetry recitations by students, completing the assignment on the very last day

Noon-1:15 PM
Various Department Evaluation Committee duties (for English and Theatre)

1:30-5:15 PM
Bridge on the River Kwai reception/screening/lecture (N.B., Alec Guinness can convey more in the simple act of walking than most actors can in a lifetime!)

5:30-8:30 PM
Stealing Rembrandts lecture by Anthony Amore / reception for Friends of CCSU Burritt Library

13 November 2011

My Covington Latin School brick has been laid, I see...


...and I can't wait to see all the new contruction in person, BUT doesn't a name with dates -- set with any kind of permanence -- give off the air of someone dead?

(photo: Jamie Lancaster)

I'm not, by the way.

11 November 2011

So, is it just me, or are the Republican candidates for the Presidency...


...appearing on-stage together as often as a punk band in 1977?

At this rate, why don't they all just get a bus and
barnstorm across the country?

08 November 2011

Older daughter's op-ed on the recent storm (to be published in tomorrow's Hartford Courant)...

...can be found on-line here!


Joe Paterno, please call John Wesley Harding...


...he has a brand new song that's perfect for...er...how shall we say, your "situation."

I wasn't there.
I didn't see.
You'd be wasting precious time on me.
I didn't know.
It wasn't me.
Can I help with your inquiry?
You can bring me in for questioning,
But let me be quite clear:
I wasn't there;
I didn't see;
I didn't know;
It wasn't me;
I didn't cheat;
I didn't lie;
I have a perfect alibi...

John Wesley Harding, "The Harding Defense"
(bonus track from The Sound of His Own Voice)

"Yesterday, it was my birthday..."

...
I hung one more year on the line
I should be depressed
My life's a mess
But I'm having a good time.

... 
I don't believe what I read in the paper
They're just out to capture my dime
I ain't worrying
I ain't scurrying
I'm having a good time..."

Paul Simon, "Have a Good Time,"  
Still Crazy After All These Years (1975)




Okay, this isn't me really at all, but it is the day after my birthday.








07 November 2011

My birthday horoscopes from the Hartford Courant (or, "Erratic Uranus is in my 6th House"!)

For Today, 7 November 2011: "Getting what you want seems really important today. You might even feel as if you'll do whatever it takes to make that happen. But before you make any major moves or burn any bridges, stop and consider whether it's really worth it. Deep down, you prize close, harmonious connections with other people. If you fight for something, you have a good chance of winning. But what will you lose in the process?"

(Keywords: hubris, pride; Mood: hungry)

For the next year:
 
Scorpio Overview 2011
 
Erratic Uranus stirs up restlessness with daily routines, and instability in your work life. Take charge and initiate creative changes.

Transformational Pluto, your ruling planet, continues plowing through your 3rd House of Thinking. A Solar Eclipse in this sector on January 4th alerts you to an old perception that could be holding you back from achieving an important goal. That same day, generous Jupiter and electric Uranus meet up in your 5th House of Self-Expression. A surprising insight or turn of events helps you break free from old inhibitions and get in touch with your spontaneity. This is the grand finale of Uranus's seven-year journey through this house, shaking up your love life and inspiring you to experiment with new creative avenues. Lucky Jupiter moves through your 6th House of Work and Health from January 22nd to June 4th. Seize this opportunity to improve your diet and self-care habits. A vigorous new exercise program could be ideal for recharging your vitality. Revolutionary Uranus joins Jupiter in this arena on March 11th, helping you break free from old patterns. Exploring unconventional approaches to health and healing could be beneficial. Erratic Uranus in your 6th House, for the next seven years, stirs up restlessness with daily routines, and instability in your work life. Best to take charge and initiate creative changes rather than waiting for external forces to disrupt the status quo. But be aware that taskmaster Saturn continues to journey through your 12th House of Endings. In October 2012, Saturn will shift into your sign, signaling a dramatic rebirth. In the meantime, focus on completing long-term projects rather than trying to launch major new beginnings.

Scorpio Love and Romance 2011

Lucky Jupiter enters your 7th House of Partnership on June 4th, offering opportunities to attract a mate or strengthen a relationship.

Chaotic Uranus exits your 5th House of Romance on March 11th, ending a seven-year period of instability in your love life. You may have experimented with dating different kinds of people, or tried new approaches to relating. The rollercoaster ride is coming to an end, although there's more unusual activity moving in. Dreamy Neptune visits this sector from April 4th to August 4th -- a preview of a fourteen-year journey that will start next February. Romance can be magical, but also confusing. You could be more prone to illusion or fantasy when it comes to love. On June 1st, a New Moon Solar Eclipse strikes your 8th House of Intimacy [OUCH], a potentially powerful time for a new beginning in partnership. Generous Jupiter moves into sensible Taurus and your 7th House of Partnership on June 4th, until June 2012. If you're single, this influence opens excellent opportunities for attracting a mate. If you're already in partnership, this is an ideal time to strengthen and stabilize your connection. Traveling together, or finding other ways to expand and grow as a couple is key. Jupiter harmonizes with potent Pluto on July 7th and October 28th, increasing your magnetism and ability to connect. On December 10th, a Lunar Eclipse lands in your 8th House of Intimacy, and an emerging relationship could come to fruition. But this might also signal an ending, or a time to clarify your priorities. Although you have a tendency to prefer being mysterious, open communication is key.

Scorpio Career and Money 2011

Two dramatic Eclipses shake up your 2nd House of Resources. Look for a new way to utilize your skills and talents to increase your income.

If you've been thinking about changing jobs, you've got a great opportunity to make a shift. Lucky Jupiter moves through your 6th House of Work from January 22nd to June 4th. Jupiter made a brief visit to this arena from June 6th to September 9th last year, and a possibility that opened up then could now come into reality. This can also be a good time to add new skills to your resume, or improve current ones. Adding an element of unpredictability, on March 11th surprising Uranus explodes into this sector, for the next seven years. If you can go with the flow, this could be an exciting time when you experience more independence, creativity and flexibility in your work life. Trying to hold onto the status quo is likely to backfire. Better to embrace change and take the lead to initiate a new direction that you're passionate about. Boldness, innovation and originality are rewarded. Two dramatic Eclipses shake up your 2nd House of Resources. The first is a Full Moon Lunar Eclipse on June 15th, which might alert you to a pattern of over-spending and the need to tighten your budget. At the New Moon Solar Eclipse on November 25th, you have the opportunity to hit the reset button in finances. The Eclipse harmonizes with inventive Uranus, suggesting that creativity and flexibility are key to making a positive change. You might see a new way to utilize your skills and talents to increase your income.


05 November 2011

Older daughter's entry in the Norton Anthology Student Recitation Contest




Anne Bradstreet's "Upon the Burning of Our House"

Yea, Puritan American literature!

Blog post #801 goes to a verse from a song from John Wesley Harding's latest album...


...The Sound of His Own Voice, entitled "The Examiners." 

The song is a poem by John Whitworth set to music by Mr. Harding (a.k.a. Wesley Stace).

They can parse a Latin sentence; they’re as learned as Plotinus,
They’re as sharp as Ockham’s razor, as subtle as Aquinas,
They define us and refine us with their beta-query-minus,
They’re the wall-constructing Emperors of undiscovered Chinas,
They confine us, then malign us, in the end they undermine us,
They are there, they are there
They are there, the examiners are there

01 November 2011

If I were a leaf that survived the late-October snowstorm...

...which included the severing and crashing to the ground of large, large, limbs from even larger trees, I'm thinking that, having lived through that, I'm not falling off my tree for a long, long time.

Leaf collection?

Forget about it!

(Written on the floor of the second floor of the New Britain Public Library, where we've gone to get warm and charge our various electronica on this fourth day of no power.)

27 October 2011

Financial Aid Plan for Older Daughter's College Tuition (if she does not attend a CSU school)

Step 1: Wife divorces me and becomes the sole custodial parent.

Step 2: Wife remarries.

Step 3: Step-parent gets stuck with bill.

24 October 2011

Well, the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor...

...has just become another award which means less than nothing.  Okay, Tina Fey's winning last year was a simple case of a prize being awarded much too soon, but, given her creative clout (quite remarkable for a woman in Hollywood), I understood.  But Will Ferrell in 2011?

Think of the comic icons (and even not-quite-icons) who have not been so honored, despite a life of work in comedy: Alan King, Phyllis Diller, Carol Burnett, Dick Van Dyke, Sid Caesar, Robert Klein, Mel Brooks, Albert Brooks, Tom Lehrer, Martin Mull, yes, even Joan Rivers (for her earlier, funnier life), or Woody Allen (despite the personal issues) or Blake Edwards (even though I hate most of his films after, say, 1975).  Hell, how about Jerry Seinfeld or Larry David?  They at least changed the face of television comedy.  I could go on, but QED.

ANY ONE of these people is more worthy of this recognition than Will Ferrell. 

Man, you're killing Sam Clemens!  Shame on you, Kennedy Center.

 

How would I dance early American Neo-Latin poetry?

Well, it'd have to be a TAP number, for certain...Check out these "Dance your PhD" winners!


Microstructure-Property relationships in Ti2448 components produced by Selective Laser Melting: A Love Story from Joel Miller on Vimeo.

I LOVE scientists....



23 October 2011

My Judas Iscariot weekend began...

...on Thursday night with a production at CCSU of Stephen Adly Guirgis' The Last Days of Judas Iscariot and continued on Friday, Saturday, and today with a production of Godspell at the Newington Children's Theatre.   Both productions (the latter of which, as my frequent attendance should suggest, including my younger daughter in its cast) were well directed and acted, but I can only say that one of the scripts actually worked.

The Last Days of Judas Iscariot is (unfortunately) a sophomoric look at the the role of Judas in the Passion.  He's put on trial in Purgatory to decide whether he is, essentially, the worst human being ever for his betrayal of Jesus.  The weaknesses of this show, however, were not the performances or the well-paced direction.  I loved Bryan Kopp's Judas, Keith Johnson's Judge Littlefield, Zack Heidorn's Butch Honeywell, and Jake Frey's Satan and many other of the cast members' portrayals.  It's the vast majority of the script that lets everyone down: cast and audience alike.

I simply don't want, for example, and can't imagine anyone really needing, as foul-mouthed a St. Monica as the script gives us (even as down to earth as Augustine's mother might have been in real life).  There is a nice Augustinian moment when Judas is shown that evil is not an entity in itself (a.k.a., Satan) but rather the absence of God, but it takes a long time -- and an awful lot of silliness (and that may be way too positive a term) -- to get through the trial.  Shame on Mother Theresa, for example, for not refusing donations to her missions from a dictator (Duvalier...or was it Noriega?  I can't remember now) and Charles Keating, a central figure in the late 1980s saving and loan scandal (and imagine trying to equate those two figures with a straight face)!  Most surprisingly, however, given the length of the play, is that there is no new insight offered into the Judas character or into the idea that maybe he was just doing what Jesus needed him to do, what Jesus wanted him to do.  Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't Jesus Christ Superstar do this already...and didn't JCS do this better?

The only real redeeming script feature is the last 10-15 minutes when Butch Honeywell delivers his monologue about his wife and his infidelity.  THAT'S the play, ladies and gentlemen, right there.  All the trying-to-be-bleeping-metaphysical kerfuffle of the first two+ hours can be forgotten as a fleshed out character tells a heartfelt story of betrayal that can speak to an audience.

NCTC's Godspell, even with its new high school setting, offered no such problem.  The truly ensemble cast, all 12-16 year-olds, acquitted themselves and the songs with aplomb.  Well paced and executed, with fine musical direction, the production shows that a witty script with very good songs never goes out of style and can tell us much about human weakness -- and strength.  (And the young thespians showed how much more energy they have than their parents.)

"The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak"...indeed.

20 October 2011

The only good Gaddafi lyric I know...

...I offer on this, the day of the death of the Libyan strongman was announced.


...I blew up the bus
I started World War III
Hijacked the plane with Qadaffi,
Blew the hostages free
That was the devil in me...

(And I still prefer the Q to the G!)


I was never a fan of Orel Hershiser...

...when he was pitching for the L.A. Dodgers against my Cincinnati Reds, but I just LOVE his radio commentary on ESPN World Series radio broadcasts.  The play-by-play guy, Dan Shulman, is also quite good, but they gotta get rid of that Bobby Valentine since he adds nothing.  Doesn't he have a Safety Director job in Stamford, CT, that can keep him busy?  (And, yes, I know, he donates his salary for that position.)

BTW, Go, Cardinals!...and prove yet again that National League Baseball is real baseball...For example, St. Louis has to make the conscious decision to put a less-than-perfect fielder at third base, David Freese, because his bat's so hot, and they must risk taking out a pitcher who's pitching well for a pinch hitter -- when the situation demands.  That silly designated hitter rule runs rough shod over all the tough choices that a manager should have to make for his team in the course of a game.




PS: Another ESPN-brand personality I really like is the eponymous star of Dan LeBetard is Highly Questionable (ESPN 2, weekdays at 4:00 PM).  I can't catch it very often at all, but he (below on right with his father and show guest Pat Riley) can be quite entertaining.


19 October 2011

There are no designated hitters in the fight against cancer...

On the radio lately, I've been hearing a public service announcement (with Reggie Jackson, I think) about Prostate Cancer.  It states that, in the time it takes to play one nine-inning game of baseball, nine men die of prostate cancer.  A terrible statistic indeed, but is that the time it takes to play one nine-inning game of American League baseball (i.e., forever) or the much more efficient National League brand (under three hours) -- which, of course, would make the stat all the more frightening.

Just wondering...

18 October 2011

I tried, but couldn't, come up with a good "Norwegian Wood" pun for a title! (A review of Playhouse on Park's An Enemy of the People)




I have a fondness for the new production of Arthur Miller’s adaptation of Henrik Ibsen’s classic An Enemy of the People at Playhouse on Park because, in my senior year at the Covington Latin School in 1977,** the senior class mounted a production of the play.  I offer this tidbit because I never have seen another production – and was quite bummed that the 1978 Steve McQueen film never made it to wide release, or at least was never released in Cincinnati – and so I’ve been waiting a long time.  (And, no, I don’t have Netflix.)

I’m happy to report that I enjoyed this production, directed by Kyle Fabel…especially the very strong performances of the two leads.  In their portrayals of the brothers Stockmann (the doctor and the mayor at odds over the poisoned spring that jeopardizes the spa in which the city has invested its future), both Jeremiah Wiggins and Michael McKenzie earn excellent marks.  In neither case is his character merely a political position masquerading as a character; there’s a richness and depth to their brothers.  The personal, professional, and political, all blend into a rough, dangerous mix that, one is certain, cannot end well.

The supporting cast is less effectively dramatized by Miller…and results in more uneven performances.  The “radical” editor Hovstad, for instance, makes far too swift a turnaround in his meeting with the mayor, but any whiplash suffered by the actor, Aaron Barcelo, falls solely at the feet of the playwright.  The females, wife Catherine (Coleen Sciacca) and daughter Petra (Allison Layman) aren’t given a great deal to do either, but an audience cannot but like the spunky Petra…her father’s favorite, for sure!    

The production, as is always the case at POP, is a cleanly and effectively simple one in its set, lighting, and costumes.  This, however, is the first time that I felt the production was hurt by the small size of the cast.  While crowd scenes can be problematic to stage effectively (and difficult to cast since the extras are only needed for a single scene), the crowd scene at the Captain’s house needed, well, a crowd.  The larger speeches were still very effective, thanks to the two Stockmanns, but the rest of it – which hinges so much on the dynamic of the crowd in relation to the speakers – fell a bit flat.   

(One really nitpicky point: I’m pretty sure, given the debate over how poisoned the city’s medicinal springs are, the one thing we do not want to see the good doctor do before he faces the angry mob at Captain Horster’s house is take a big drink of water!)

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about An Enemy of the People is its bloody timely message.  From corporate greed and self-serving, political butt-covering, to the strength – and naivete – of the ethical, the play remains as true to our times as it was when Ibsen wrote it in 1882.  For that reason alone, it’s well worth seeing, but the performances of Wiggins and McKenzie make it a treat.     

Oh, btw, I was Morten, the older son, in the Latin School production.  Thanks for asking!





 **This was back in the time before high schools were required apparently to select only shows that students know so that, the reasoning goes, they’ll want to audition.  An exaggeration?  I think not.  How else can it be explained that, despite a century of great musicals from which to choose, both New Britain and Newington High Schools are doing Hairspray this year, while another three (yes, three!) area schools are producing the timeless Legally Blonde the Musical? (I simply don’t get it, especially given that most high school performers will perform anytime and anywhere in anything…indeed, open the refrigerator and, as soon as the light goes on, the young actors will start emoting all over the kitchen!) 



Christmas is coming...



...and the cooked goose is getting fat!  Now this would be a fun gift from 1960. 
Ladies, are you listening?



15 October 2011

A letter to the Hartford Courant editor...

...that was published in the CT Section on Wednesday, 12 October 2011, in the additional letters location there because, although we apparently asked for more letters (along with more of many other things throughout the Courant), we clearly must not have asked for all the letters to be printed in the same place! 


Re: “Keep Latin Alive” (10/10/11), I encourage all Latin students out there to keep studying because, if they know Latin, they’ll NEVER be out of work. 
When I was in graduate school at The Catholic University of America in the late 80s-early 90s, CUA surveyed high schools nationally and found that many more would offer Latin if they had teachers to teach it.  My own experience as a part-time Latin instructor proved those findings correct. 

I taught at several schools, and each one asked me to be full-time.  When I declined each offer (knowing that full-time teaching would delay my doctoral degree) and consequently was let go at school year’s end, I would find another part-time Latin job within weeks (often by being contacted by a school that had heard about my recent availability).  Indeed, the only time there has been a bidding war for my teaching skills was when I was a high school Latin teacher.
I am now a professor who has resurrected Latin at CCSU, and whose first class of students is starting a classics club, so don’t tell me there’s no interest, and don’t ever believe there’s not a seller’s market for that knowledge!  

10 October 2011

Tiger Woods's getting a hot dog....



...thrown at him should remind us why, once Tiger Woods became TIGER WOODS, he stopped playing tournaments like the "Frys.Com Open"!

And, before we get too caught up in the morality play of "look how far he's fallen," we need to remember there are still only 51 people in the world who play golf better than he does.

Heck, I'm not even sure I'm among the top 50 Gilbert Gigliottis in the world!

06 October 2011

When the dead bodies of British people start popping up...




...all over Seattle, we're going to start thinking that maybe the first trial of Amanda Knox wasn't so flawed!  Check out the link with the UNANSWERED questions...

(Okay, so I have no idea if this woman's guilty -- although, un-Americanly, I seem more frequently to think the accused are not innocent -- but my scenario above sure would have made a great Law and Order, when Lenny gets to go to Italy!)

05 October 2011

Dad Loves His Work (Oct 2011 edition)

A full day

8:25 AM   Freshman Composition -- First Year Experience

9:25 AM   Elementary Latin I

10:50 AM Early American Literature

12:15 PM Central Authors Book Talk -- Ava Gardner: Touches of Venus

1:30 PM  The Future of Higher Education in Connecticut -- a panel with Michael Meotti, Merle Harris, Bill Cibes, and Ned Lamont

4:30 PM Andrew Mallory (CCSU History MA, 2008) talks about his book Saints, Sinners, and the God of the World:The Hartford Sermon Notebook Transcribed, 1679-1680.


04 October 2011

My NEXT career move is to become the Chairman...



...of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

General Dempsey has a Masters Degree in English and loves Frank Sinatra. 

He's my kind of guy! 

(And I look pretty good when I get dressed up, too.)





(PS: Thanks, Ian.)

03 October 2011

My "Ava Gardner: Touches of Venus" book talk...


...for the Central Authors television program this Wednesday at 12:15 in the CCSU Bookstore was listed among the "Critics' Choices" in the Arts section in Sunday's Hartford Courant.

Booyah!


26 September 2011

The REAL upside to a locked-out NBA...


...is that, without all those god-awful regular season b-ball games, there'll be more Law and Order reruns on TNT!

25 September 2011

BREAKING Latin NEWS!


This just in: Latin's dead, well, except where it isn't (a.k.a., a story that has been written and rewritten for the past 30 years).


By KIM VELSEY

The Hartford Courant

September 23, 2011

After Suffield High School's Latin teacher retired in June, the district struggled in vain to find a full-time replacement for the nine students — out of the high school's nearly 900 — still enrolled in Latin.

A few weeks after school started, the district discovered that one of its third-grade teachers was certified in Latin and could hold office hours and a Saturday class. But the independent study will only be offered to students already in the program.

"Fortunately, we found a solution for students who were invested in the program, but it's definitely being phased out," said Principal Donna Hayward. "If I found a teacher, I would consider [keeping] it. But for a caseload of five or six students, I just don't see it as a sustainable program. The students aren't as interested as they once were and we're not finding Latin teachers anyway."

Board of education Chairwoman Mary Roy said she took four years of Latin in high school and "found it very useful," but "whether I personally feel it's important is not really important, it's if the administration feels that they can support a program."

If Suffield High eliminates Latin, it will follow in the footsteps of many other schools in north central Connecticut — both Enfield high schools and Suffield Academy, a private school, are phasing out their programs; Windsor Locks doesn't have a program.

Enfield Superintendent John Gallacher said that Enfield decided to end its Latin program because enrollment declined significantly. This year, the district is offering only upper-level Latin to about 40 students between the two high schools, which share one part-time teacher.

But nil desperandum, never despair, say Latin enthusiasts. The language, though officially dead, has managed to survive for millennia. While it fades in some pockets of the state, it continues to thrive in others, like Glastonbury and West Hartford High schools, the Norwich Free Academy and Edwin O. Smith High in Storrs, said Roger Travis, an associate professor of Classics at UConn.

"Latin is doing very, very well," Travis said. "Since its nadir in the 1970s, it has rebounded tremendously, with bastions throughout the Northeast and Midwest."

Latin's resurgence in the 1970s was largely the work of a generation of Latin teachers who banded together to create a tremendously popular curriculum called the Cambridge Latin course, according to Travis. The course integrated Roman culture and history, making memorizing declensions feel relevant to ancient, and also modern, life.

But difficulty finding teachers is a frequent complaint among districts, Travis said — at UConn, only about one student every two years applies for the Latin teaching certification.

Travis, who is one of several Connecticut Latin teachers developing a game-based computer Latin instruction course called Operation LAPIS, said that he believes online resources will soon offer districts and home-schoolers the chance to incorporate Latin into their curriculum, even if they do not have the means to hire a full-time teacher.

"It's always been a problem; there are more jobs than teachers" said Sherwin Little, director of teacher placement services for the American Classical League. Little said that although difficulty finding teachers and funding have challenged many language programs, not just Latin, Latin enrollment is up tremendously at elementary schools, particularly charter schools in urban areas.

Nationally, Latin was the fifth-most-popular K-12 language in the 2007-08 school year, behind Spanish, French, other (a group that included American Sign Language, Arabic and Hebrew), and German, according to a survey done by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages.

Mark Pearsall, who teaches Latin at Glastonbury High School and is president of the Classical Association of New England, said that while Glastonbury seems to realize how much Latin and other foreign languages help its largely college-bound students, No Child Left Behind has not been friendly to foreign languages, and they are often among the first to go during budget cuts.

"It's a question of whether language programs can survive those cuts," said Pearsall. "If a language maintains some foothold in a school, it's easier to bring back."

Pearsall added that most of today's Latin teachers fell in love with the language as high school students.

"It's a trickle-up situation," he said. "High school Latin students feed into college programs."

But the language's champions say that Latin is nothing if not resilient, which, for the record, is from the Latin resilire: to leap or spring back.

"It's lasted for 2,000 years for a reason," said Pearsall, "because it touches on the human element."

23 September 2011

Skylab redux!

With space debris back in the news, I figured I'd repost this from 2009.  Everything old is new again.

13 February 2009

The sky is falling (well, maybe)
News of the collision of US and Russian satellites in space earlier this week -- and the current watch on how the debris will fall to Earth and/or scatter in space -- transported me back to July 1979 when, a junior at Xavier University, I was working at a Cincinnati chili parlor, Skyline Chili, in nearby Norwood, Ohio.

(Yes, that's the "sweet" chili that's served on spaghetti with shredded cheddar cheese, onions, and beans that's not Texas, Memphis, or any other kind of chili of which most people think when they hear "chili," but don't condemn it unless you've tried it. It's GREAT. )

Anyway, it's 11 July 1979, the day Skylab I is scheduled to plunge to Earth "scattering debris across the southern Indian Ocean and sparsely populated Western Australia." Well, they say they know where it's gonna fall, but I'm no dummy: scientists predict things all the time that might or might not happen, so I'm taking no chances. I wear a hard hat to work at Skyline.

When I arrive at work, running into the restaurant like it's raining outside with my hand above my head, my boss, Corky, looks at me, looks at my hat, rolls his eyes, and asks,

"What's with the hard hat, Gil?"

(Corky was a great boss and put up with me a lot, but I don't think he ever quite understood that I was the kind of employee who, if Skyline had a theme song like McDonald's or Burger King, that I'd sing it all day long, while mopping the floor, wiping down the steam table, or cleaning the grill -- just like they do in the commercials!)

"Skylab's falling today, Cork. I want to be prepared"

"It's falling in the Pacific, Gil."

"So they say. You never know."

"So, you're going to wear that all day?"

"Yep. And I'm not going outside again until it's time to go home. Skylab's falling today."

"In the Pacific."

"So they say."

"What if I ask you to make the deposit at the bank today?"

"I won't go. I can't go. Skylab's falling today."

(If I were better read at the time, I probably would've "Bartleby'd" him, "I'd prefer not to," but I was but 17, and my Latin literary knowledge was better than that of the American Renaissance.)

"Oh, you're going, Gil."

(Somehow I knew he'd say that!)

So when the time comes to make the two-minute trip to the bank across the street, and using my best TV-learned spy/soldier/sneaking-around-teenager moves (slithering along the walls and the store-front window with frequent skyward glances), as the crosswalk signal turns green I dash across to the bank.

You'll be happy, if unsurprised, to know my trip return was without incident -- due, of course, entirely to my caution. Remember: Skylab fell that day.

I enjoyed myself tremendously that day at work. Corky got a headache, but that frequently happened to him when I worked.

Go figure.

For the next couple days, take a glance upward occasionally and watch out for space debris!

When appearing on "Wheel of Fortune"...


...contestants, during the introductions at the beginning of the program, apparently need to use an adjective to describe their family members.  I, for example, couldn't simply say, "I have a wife and two daughters;" it would have to be, "I have a lovely wife and two wonderful daughters."

For future reference here are some suggested adjectives for various family members:

Spouses/Significant Others:
swell
pretty or handsome
demanding
flirty
cheating
estranged
imprisoned

Children:
spiffy
well-behaved
spirited
rambunctious
annoying
silent

Parents
loving
aging
venerable
ailing
tight-fisted
ice-flow-bound

22 September 2011

Timing is of the essence -- at Playhouse on Park

Life, like comedy, is all in the timing, and no one knows that like Phileas Fogg, the uber-reserved English gentlemen traveler who accepts a trans-global wager in Around the World in 80 Days (at Playhouse on Park through October 2) with the same nonchalance most of us decide which tie to wear.  Punctuality, he would say, is not about avoiding delays; it's the acceptance of -- and preparation for -- the delays that will inevitably happen.  (That lesson alone is something contemporary Americans can learn from the Victorian Mr. Fogg!)

The adaptation of the Jules Verne novel of the 1870s, adapted by Mark Brown, and brought to vivid life by an ensemble of five very talented actors under the direction of Russell Treyz (who directed the equally exquisite Trapezium last season at POP), squeezes every last ounce of invention from the novel with such theatrical efficiency that Fogg's creator must be looking down quite fondly on how his creations have made so successful a transition to the stage.  (If all you know of Around the World is the extravagant Michael Todd film with a cast of a 1000 cameos, then are you in for a pleasant surprise.  And, if all you know of the novel is, well, the novel, you will not be disappointed.)

As brought to life by Russell Garrett (Fogg), Aiden O'Shea (Passepartout), Chris Mixon (Fix, et al.), Jef Canter (LOTS AND LOTS AND LOTS of characters), and Veronique Hurley (Aouda, et al.), the story lacks none of the thrills, laughs, and heart that Verne envisioned.  And the director shows us how immense an intimate theatre can be when the stage is peopled by talented performers.  (If Trapezium unfolded within a closed geometry, World accepts no boundaries.)  

The remarkable virtuosity of Canter pleases at every turn, as do the many incarnations of Mixon and Hurley.  No one works harder than O'Shea's back-flipping valet Passepartout, a performance of such physicality (not to mention tenderness) that I'm not sure I'll ever want to see the role played by anyone else.     Garrett's Fogg is the anchor by which all the craziness is held in check.  A character that, in lesser hands, could be but a stick in the mud, he wins the audience by degrees as he learns to love Aouda and Passepartout.

Bob Phillips' set, dominated by a large late 19th-Century world map, helps to keep the audience's head in the journey, all the while giving the actors appropriate spaces for all the stops along the way.  The costumes (Jennifer Raskopf), lights (Will Lowry) and technical direction (Steve Mountzoures) continue the excellence I've come to expect from POP.

There's no reason you can't find the time to go see Around the World in 80 Days at Playhouse on Park.  The trip, you will find, is its own, very entertaining, reward.  

13 September 2011

What's all this hullabaloo...

...about the Mets not being allowed by Major League Baseball to wear DKNY hats?

Who knew they were such big fans of Donna Karan?!

11 September 2011

My not-a-9/11 tale

Re-posted from 5 March 2009

A Little Piece of Me is Missing

So, yesterday, former First Lady Barbara Bush had her aortic valve replaced. She is reportedly feeling fine.

Good for her, and a swift recovery to you, Mrs. Bush.

I've been there, done that.

On Friday, September 7, 2001, I had my aortic valve operation at Hartford Hospital. From what I understand (I was asleep at the time, remember!), it wasn't as easy as Mrs Bush's operation because my valve and the pieces on either end weren't in such good shape, so trying to attach the new human valve (I was too young, I was told, to use a porcine or an artificial one) was problematic, but I came out alright and am doing fine still.

That's not the story, however.

Flash forward to the following Tuesday, September 11, 2001. It's morning, and I am resting comfortably in the Cardiac Step-down Unit of the hospital. On my little t.v. I'm watching, quite by chance, High Society (Frank Sinatra, Grace Kelley, Bing Crosby, Louis Armstrong), when a nurse comes in and says,

"Why you watching this? Don't you know what's happening?"

She then switches the channel to NBC, and Today with Katie Couric and Matt Lauer.

A plane had just hit one of the Twin Towers, but no one had a clue what was going on.

In hindsight, one can legitimately criticize a nurse in a cardiac unit for making a patient watch tragic events unfold live before his very eyes, but that's not what I was thinking.

In the moment, I was just really peeved that this nurse turned off High Society (!?!) and was forcing me -- even for a short time -- to suffer Katie-and-Matt's conjectures on what might have happened/be happening. Could there be a greater waste of time than that? I think not. (And I LIKE Katie Couric!)

As soon as she left the room, back to High Society I went.

During the weeks of recovery time at home, I avoided 9/11 coverage as much as possible (i.e., I didn't watch television, listen to the radio, or read the newspapers hardly at all. Even Tony Kornheiser on ESPN radio was 9/11 far more often than not).

As a result of my self-imposed sequestration, I missed a defining moment of American history and contemporary culture. Even on my return to campus, having missed the communal experience of 9/11, I was a little out-of-step, and, to this day, remain fairly distant from its impact.

I probably should be more uncomfortable with that distance than I am, but, if I had to do it all over again, I'm not sure that I'd do it any differently.