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.