30 May 2004

Life is a highway

So I've had my mom's car around for the past two weeks in order to facilitate travelling back and forth to my parents' place to visit my recently hospitalized father. His current lifestyle of bedrest further accounts for why they don't need both of their cars right now. So far it's been nothing but a headache since I've had no real use for it and I've accrued $45 of parking tickets in my vain attempt to hide it from the Cambridge meter maids.

This afternoon, after watching a particularly depressing Sox game, my urge to get some use out of this car and my desire to get outside on the first sunny afternoon in a week plus some general wanderlust made me jump in and start driving north. I ended up taking a lazy tour of several of the nice communities of the North Shore, including Wenham, Essex and Gloucester. Just as I was crusing through my favorite nook of the lattter, Rocky Neck, I saw that the Gloucester Stage Co. had a show up tonight: To Kill a Mockingbird. "Why not?" I asked myself. I went in and inquired of the very cute box office manager (in my deepest, sexiest voice) whether any tickets for that evening's performance were to be had. After receiving an affirmative and smiling dashingly I purchased one adult ticket for the cheap-o price of $15. Even cheaper than the Somerville Theatre Coop!

The play was a part of the Gloucester Stage Conservatory, a nascent program of the now 25-year-old theatre, designed to bring young actors to the stage and help them get a leg up in that tricky industry. I had never seen this particular adaptation of Harper Lee's novel, and I haven't read that in quite some time either. Those of you who know me well will know that I usually remember almost none of the details of books or movies I've experienced more than a few months ago, so this was practically a fresh story for me. Now might be a good time to re-read the book, for this very reason.

The acting was a mixed bag. I got the sense that many of the older actors weren't professionals, but more community-theatre types who enjoyed the chance to be in a fairly well produced show in a pro theatre. The young, burgeoning pros were impressive 'cross the board. And the very young—Scout, Jem & Dill were sharply precocious. The standout performances were by Mayella Ewell, Tom Robinson and Maudie (the old neighbor who serves as narrator in the play—not sure what her role in the novel is). Mayella's only scene of substance is her testimony in the courtroom, which the actress rendered with heartbreaking authenticity (despite the actor playing Atticus bumbling through the scene as if he wasn't sure where he was). The guy playing Tom Robinson (listed in the program as "M.C. Spice") was the only one who convincingly rendered a country-folk Southern accent. The girl who played Maudie was marvelous. She captured her character's body better than anyone else, with a slight hunch that made a 23 year old girl a 63 year old woman (her face was a bit too fresh, though). Plus she managed to salvage a few of the poignant moments in the script, since the guy playing Atticus generally railroaded over all the others with the same bland disposition from start to finish.

So all in all a very nice show made fun to watch by talented actors. All the better when coming as a random distraction on a sunny Saturday.

26 May 2004

Something Completely Different

And lighthearted.

Wait, I have nothing lighthearted to say. OK, I'll make something up...

Have you ever had the experience where you either say, hear or read the same word a bunch of times right after another and suddenly it either sounds or looks really funny and out of place; like it can't possibly really be a word. That happened to me with "but" the other day.

Then again I can't even say the word "titmouse" without giggling like a schoolgirl.


P.S. MRhé: don't even think about posting a snide comment or I'll cut your jacobs off.

24 May 2004

One Bread

I heard about half of an interesting discussion on NPR this morning about the role of bishops proscribing the reception of holy communion by politicians who hold certain beliefs antithetical to the Catholic canon. Recently a few bishops have publicly declared that politicians who support positions (e.g. pro-life) contrary to Church teaching should choose not to receive communion, with some going so far as to say they will refuse to present such persons with the Eucharist should they approach the altar with the intent of taking it.

A huge proportion of Catholics receiving communion on a weekly basis (myself included) are not in the state of grace technically required by the Church to receive the Body & Blood. I've not been to confession in a couple of years and I tend to doubt I'm living fully within the guidelines set out by Mother Church. Furthermore, this is probably the case with the majority of my fellow communicants. I suspect the magisterium is treading on dangerous ground by starting this discussion since it could further divide the laity.

Setting aside the fact that politicians are not alone in sinfulness, is it wise for bishops to weigh in on political issues, using the Eucharist as a lever? I think it demeans the sacrament and the Church. The traditional approach to this issue is that each communicant examine his own conscience when preparing to take communion. Putting the decision about whether someone is in a state to receive communion in the hands of the clergy brings up a whole slew of uncomfortable situations. If the pastor knows person X is cheating on his wife does he just refuse to offer him communion?

Finally, is it really the right time for the bishops to be publicly castigating people for bending to weak morality when some of them have displayed such poor mental and spiritual strength themselves? One caller to the radio station brought this up in a very inarticulate way, kind of yelling about all the crazy pedophile priests and so on. The guests on the show (including the editor of America, the national Catholic weekly magazine) sort of brushed the topic aside saying that accusing the entire priesthood of such behavior based on the actions of a very tiny fraction is bigoted. I agree with that statement, but it isn't the relevant point.

Here's how I see it. A few bishops (at least) abused their power, in stark contrast with the teachings of the Church, to hide and disperse abusive priests. Did they wrestle with their consciences about it? Did they weep to their confessors about it? Did they abstain from saying Mass until they had settled their score with God? I don't know, but all of these things would've happened in private, much as the beliefs and struggles of Catholic politicians must remain separate and private from their duties as sworn upholders of the U.S. Constitution. Using a sacrament as a tool to bludgeon them into line is a disgrace.

The Church sets a very high standard for her members for very good reason— we are all challenged by personal weakness and we need to strive for something better.

18 May 2004

I need a new book

I finally finished Thomas Friedman's From Beirut to Jerusalem today, after creeping through it for more than a month. Contrary to most books that I read in this drip-drop fashion, I thoroughly enjoyed this one. It's just that non-fiction rarely grabs hold of you and takes you whizzing along in the way that great stories tend to do, so it takes longer to read & digest.

In any event, part of what makes this book so great is that it was written in 1988 and thus has a very dated perspective on its topic, which changes very rapidly. I'd like to follow it up (after a suitable interlude) with Friedman's 2002 work, Latitudes and Attitudes. But even that isn't really up to date, since it's pre-Iraq. I guess if I want his current opinion I should read his Times Op-Ed pieces (which I do). Speaking of which, I find David Brooks's editorials to be particularly insightful.

Anyway, I'm glad to have picked up a little history and insight into the nature of the problems we face today in that region as they existed 20 years ago. And now I need a new book to read. Something fun, perhaps.

17 May 2004


Snagged from amreezy.

A Break in the Clouds

The news today made me cry.

The front page of The Boston Globe carried a headline in 3-inch type: "Free to Marry". I had forgotten that today was the day when the Commonwealth would start issuing marriage licenses to gay couples. I started reading the below-the-fold article about the 10,000 person party which closed off Massachusetts Ave (fitting, huh?) between Harvard and Central Squares. People came together to party outside Cambridge City Hall, where the city's tuxedo-wearing school superintendent and director of public health welcomed couples in at 12:01 AM to get married.

What started in the afternoon as a sedate lawn party in front of City Hall, with running children, glow sticks, and panting dogs, had by midnight become a celebration so huge that it was hard to walk across the thin lawn without getting a face full of bubbles, knocking into someone with a sign reading “Mazel Tov,” or colliding with women singing “Going to the Chapel” accompanied by a brass band.

The cheer that went up at about 10 minutes past midnight, when it became clear that the first gay couple had filed their application for a marriage license, was so long and so loud that it nearly drowned out the final strains of Mendelssohn’s wedding march.

I never expected to have such a strong reaction to this story. But the whole night sounded so beautiful and I was so relieved that, despite all the terror in the world, I was reading a joyous news story with a 3-inch headline that I just cried.

16 May 2004

<i>The Saddest Music in the World</i>

I've actually seen a number of weird movies lately. These posts are incorrect in terms of chronological order—that is, I saw Saddest Music yesterday(Friday) evening and Secretary tonight(Saturday). I didn't think to write about the former until I had finished writing about the latter. I guess I could rearrange the timestamps, but I kind of like the idea of preserving the temporal dimension of the vector of thought in the bløgosphere.

So this film was in black & white with a slight blue filter and a vaselined-lens around the outside of the frame to present it in the style of the 20's, when screens were smaller and film was of lower fidelity. The film is set in 1930's Winnipeg and edited to look as if shot around that time period. It tries a lot of different things, and much like Secretary (below) it ends up feeling lumpy. But in this film there's a lot of good stuff in the stylistic choices that made up for my not really digging the story.

I'm not quite sure why they did this, but all the shots are really cramped. Even the outdoor shots feel as if hte buildings are sort of out-of-proportion models right next to the actors. The camera never pulls back more than a few feet from them. Maybe this is another way to emulate an older film style? It feels almost like filming a stage production because every scene could be set up and done in a small stage. There are no sweeping external shots and no big effects. But even more than that, some of the sets are downright claustrophobic. There's one house where everyone has to kind of squeeze around each other to move through the main room. It's hard to describe (obviously).


I watched Secretary this evening. I think it succeeded as a piece of artwork, 'cause it certainly has me thinking now. I didn't love it like I loved some movies, but it's not your typical film.

One of my big problems with it is that it seemed to reduce every character to his particular outrageous psychological complex. It's not like the movie was about one crazy person—everyone is fucked up in some way. And more than that, everyone is defined by his disorder. Lee (the female lead, played by the lovely Maggie Gyllenhaal) might be the exception, but they really cheat in making her come to life, because she does a number of voice-overs throughout the film. Then at the end it feels like they try to make the two main characters real people by giving them some seemingly slapped-on personality.

I don't even know if it worked as a study of a sado-masochistic couple. It never drew me in enough to let me identify with the characters. Lolita (the book, I've never seen any of the movies), on the other hand lets you totally identify with this despicable pedophile—it's what makes the book so powerful. This film always kept me at a distasteful distance. It was lumpy above all else. Moments flew in from nowhere and I never quite caught onto the through line for the characters. Their shifts in behavior seemed almost random.

I've bashed it a lot, but I didn't hate the film. Cinematographically it was quite lovely. The costumes Lee wears are really spot-on, plus there are some great camera shots and angles. I just don't think it really made it off the ground from a concept piece to become a real story.

13 May 2004


Sometimes I waste time by looking at the google searches which have referred hits to my page. I've commented on this before, but I noticed a couple of new ones which made me chuckle.

For one, I'm the 7th google hit for Mr. Barrett.

Even better was when I saw that someone had found my blog by searching for DOES ROYAL ARTERIAL FLUSH REALLY WORK? I'm totally amused that google includes the capitalization and punctuation in the CGI string.

P.S. Mrhé, don't even think about commenting on this entry.

11 May 2004


New poll: Who wants to come to AC with me some time this summer and check out the Borgata? Supposedly it's pretty fly. And I've been hankering to get in a ring game for a while now.

07 May 2004

Bagel Bites

I had the Bagel Bites theme song stuck in my head whilst in the bathroom today. The refrain is something like:

"Pizza in the morning, pizza in the evening, pizza at suppertime...when pizza's on a bagel, you can have pizza anytime!"

Now, I really like Bagel Bites and the Bagel Bites theme song, but why does the fact that the pizza is on a teeny bagel have anything to do with when you can have pizza?

05 May 2004

Peformance Mode

I'm in that mode that I get in during prod week where I've constantly got lines from my play running through my mind. The abrupt increase in dramatic activity always gets a couple of speeches or scenes jumping around inside my head. So for those of you who are not involved but may be subjected to my presence in the next few days, I apologize, but:

"Because I am not so clever as you, not so quick. Can you believe it has taken me this long to realize...I am a lie? To fall headlong into the blackness and see that the temple in my mind is a construction of self-delusion and that the keystone of its central arch is a breath of air? But it has taken me this long. I have lived all these years on that single breath. Led congregations in prayer all these years on it. Now I finally taste how stale and close is that air."

And now you know the kind of ornate verbiage Max has forced me to use.

Abu Ghraib

Today's New York Times has an excellent article about one of the abused prisoners from the Abu Ghraib prison, Hayder Sabbar Abd. It does a really nice job of capturing the schizophrenic nature of the American occupation of Iraq.

My own thinking on these events has bounced between two foci: the vocal Arab reaction, and the circumstances of the people who did these awful things.

First off, I was so angry this morning as I listened to the BBC news interview several Arab journalists for reactions in Saudia Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and others. They were all excoriating the United States for these horrific human rights abuses and on and on. All they wanted to talk about was how much the Arab world hated the US and how evil we are. How can these people be so two-faced? The regimes of the Gulf States as well as Syria, Jordan, Iran and others are among the most ruthlessly efficient governments in suppressing and killing their citizens in the history of the world. I mean to take nothing away from the outrage expressed at the abuse of Iraqi prisoners, but come on! Look at the level of transparency the US is exhibiting in tracking this down and squelching it. The idea that the United States is a leader of oppression in the Middle East is so ludicrous that I can't even argue logically with people who make such claims.

I don't think that these acts were perpetrated by a few isolated sadists. From conversations with friends in Iraq it seems like a lot of the men and women in the occupation force are pissed off at Iraqis. Their friends are being killed, they're being shot at, they're supposed to be hunting down "Baathists" while winning the proveribal "hearts and minds" of everyone else. How can we ask anyone to bear this psychological burden? "Here ya go, enjoy your stay in the desert. Make sure to be real nice to all these people...except for the ones who are trying to blow you up; you can shoot them. Oh, and by the way, nobody knows which is which!" So this brings us back to the prison guards stripping Iraqis naked and beating the shit out of them. Why'd they do it? I'm not sure, but I suspect more and more that admonishing the few individuals involved isn't really going to address the root of the problem. President Bush tells us and the world that this is not representative of America. I think he's right, but I think he's glossing over the fact that even freedom loving people are subject to feeling angry and vengeful.

I bet every one of the American kids over there has to fight himself every day—has to try to rectify his mission of liberation versus these people he's trying to help who just want to blow the crap out of him. I think these prison guards slipped down a slope from frustration to anger and at some point took out that anger in an incomprehensible way. Read the description in that Times article of the inane stuff they made these Iraqis do and you begin to wonder what brought these people this far. If I was thrown in the same position would I have done any better? I don't know.

I hope that there aren't more random Iraqis in naked human pyramids right now. I pray that God give all of us the strength to win that inner battle between freedom and hatred. I don't know what else to do.

04 May 2004


Poll: Will you be in Boston for a skeen at the ASL on Friday 5/21? We might even make it into a b-side prebirthday for a certain MRhé.

Lopez, Tuuuuuuuuuuunes

Two discs arrived in the mail last night: Here Are The Sonics and Speakerboxxx/The Love Below. They're both pretty hot, in completely different ways. The Love Below is especially rocking due to the wacky ways he mixes up different styles of music. My favorite so far is the random piano/drumbeat acoustic version of "My Favorite Things". Plus, there's random spoken word tracks mixed in (ala The Chronic) of which the best so far is definitely "God".