Archive for June 2003

More Angst about my Dramatic IQ

One of the things that keeps perplexing me when attending plays is when it’s appropriate to stand when applauding a performance.  After so many years of attending, it seems I could discern the truly fine performances.  Still, since I feel that I’m not qualified to judge, I remain seated even when I feel like leaping from my seat as the sole standee.

The audiences here at Ashland are predominantly sort of older middle class, middle brow folks, and I notice that they react a lot more viscerally to the comedies than the histories or tragedies.  I’ve wondered, and still wonder, if the actors in the Ashland company don’t respond in kind with their performances, and sort of feed this cycle.  Wish I knew enough to say for sure.

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Stageset for Romeo & Juliet

In Fair Verona…

As I related below, we’ve been coming to Ashland for plays for 12 years or so, but I’m not sure I’ve approached the plays I’ve seen on dramatic terms.  I’ve never acted, nor been around the production of a play, and I tend to deal with plays in terms of literature.  I always try to read the Shakespeare plays that we’re going to see, just to relieve me of concentrating on dialogue, releasing me to appreciate nuances in the performance. 

This approach is probably about 70% effective, since a good play must have character, plot and language.  The parts I miss out on through ignorance are the stage design, costumes, “dramaturgy” (as I understand it, the conversion of the written script to vocal delivery and, in the case of “legacy” plays like Shakespeare, what to cut, and whether to modernize any language).  I’m thinking I might benefit from some sort of drama classes in order to advance to a new level of understanding.  It may be a good idea to consult Christopher (!) Key for further guidance.

We saw a production of Romeo & Juliet the other night.  Heretofore, the best productions I’ve seen have been the Zefferelli and Luhrmann films.  While the Zefferelli was probably more classically complete, the Luhrmann was the first instance where I felt the participants were really teenagers, awash in testerone and bad judgement, and not 35-ish actors trying to play teenagers.

The production this year borrowed some aspects from the Luhrmann film: big silver pistols, a black Mercutio break-dancing, a hispanic Tybalt - and the actors were unrelentingly young.  All these had a positive effect, and I was happy to have seen it.  I still think, however, that Paul Sorvino deserved a Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of Juliet’s father in the Luhrmann film.


So, I’m on the road, in Ashland, trying to make do with the downright medieval strictures of dialup internet access, when my laptop freezes.  I try various remedies, and eventually just power it down.  When I power up again, I get a message saying a file named SYSTEM is missing or corrupt, and that I need to insert my Windows 2000 cd and try to repair.  I carry all kinds of unnecessary stuff on the road - little speakers, a corkscrew, shorts in the winter and mittens in the summer, but do I carry my Windows 2000 cd? NO-O-O-O-O!

A normal person, someone in control of his life, would be able to go on a vacation and not be tethered to the internet, but I never seem to have all my work done by the time I leave for a vacation trip, and I am consequently relying on a fast, reliable internet connection at my destination and the continued flawless performance of my laptop.

I used the phone book (another medieval device - I always use Yahoo! to search for phone numbers or business addresses) to find a computer store.  Looks like most computer folks work out of their houses here, if they work at all, but I managed to find a store squirreled away in a strip mall.  I called and confirmed that they had a Windows 2000 Pro cd, and drove over.  The cd turned out to be a burned bootleg copy, but I felt ok because I actually do own my software.  Turns out I couldn’t “repair” my existing Windows installation without my Rescue disk.  You know, those rescue diskettes we always make when Windows prompts us during installation?  Or would make, if we had 4 blank diskettes and weren’t already burned out by the 45-minute installation process?

Even if I were sitting in my office, and had actually made a Rescue disk, there would be no way I could find it in the stacks and drawers of soon-to-be-extinct floppy disks.  Fingers trembling, I finally gave in and selected the choice to reinstall Windows from scratch.  I had a wild hope that somehow all my installed programs would magically appear when the installation was complete.  I waited anxiously as the series of progress bars inched excruciatingly to the 100% mark.  (why does it always take just as long to go from 99% to 100% as it does to go from 1% to 99%?)

The system rebooted, Windows came up, but the only installed program was Internet Explorer.  Moreover, it hadn’t found my screen drivers, so I was working in a postcard-sized display.

It’s taken me, in dribs & drabs, about a day to get my dialup internet connection back, Userland reinstalled and my screen back to normal.  I have no MS Office programs installed, can’t use Outlook to get my mail, so hundreds of Yahoo group messages are piling up in my mailbox.  But, hey, I’ve got the time.  I’m on VACATION!!!!

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Crater Lake

Gettin’ Cultured

We embarked on our annual trip to Ashland, Oregon to visit the Oregon Shakespeare Festival .  The “festival” is actually a drama industry that runs from February to November each year.  It has three theatres: an outdoor Elizabethan, an indoor that seats about 850, and a smaller, more experimental stage.  They produce a lot of plays and playrights other than Shakespeare, so it makes for an interesting week.  We’re seeing:

Hedda Gabbler
Antony & Cleopatra
Romeo & Juliet
Continental Divide (2-play cycle) - Mothers Against and Daughters of the Revolution
Wild Oats
Present Laughter

We started coming here about 12 years ago when our son’s school started taking a gang down.  We tagged along with them for a couple of years, then bought our own membership in the Festival and have come every year since, adding more and more days as we found more things to do in the area.

Ashland is just north of the California border on I-5, and about 10 miles south of Medford.  Its downtown is full of restaurants and boutiquey stores catering to those attending the Festival, but it’s also home to Southern Oregon State University, so there’s an underlayment of counterculture, at least the sort that college kids play at. 

There is some fine hiking and outdoor recreation within 20 minutes’ drive.  In fact, we can walk up a street from our lodging and soon be on a National Forest trail.  While we’re here, we’ll most likely hike a portion of the Pacific Crest Trail, take a drive to Crater Lake and do a little rock climb on an old volcanic plug called Pilot Rock.  Mt. Shasta is a distant, but frequent companion on many of our outings.

Broadbandus Interruptus

I have cable internet service and, except for the unforgivable suspension of service when AT&T severed relations with Excite! @home a couple years ago, the service has been great.  You may recall that incident - the two companies played a game of corporate chicken, with the miraculous result that the only injured were us bystanders.

Anyway, Comcast took over from AT&T a few months ago, and I’ve been waiting for signs of fallout.  A few weeks ago, their signal started dropping out now and then, seemingly at midday.  Since I often work from home and rely on Terminal Server connections to clients, this was more than a nuisance to me, but seemed too infrequent to go through the hassle of calling support.

Finally, on Tuesday, I started losing the signal consistently, so much so that I repaired to Cafe Maree to use their WiFi signal.  I feel a little bit odd sitting in a cafe, debugging Crystal reports and SQL queries, taking phone calls and stepping people through software while others are carrying on vital social exchanges or reading thoughtfully, but, hey!, the cafe needs the business right now, and I need the connection.  So charge me double.

The consistently bad signal spurred me to call Comcast support, and they scheduled an onsite tech for Wednesday afternoon.  I awoke Wednesday morning gratified, in a way, that the signal was still misbehaving.  I headed for Cafe Maree briefly, then to a client’s, then back home in order to be available for the tech.  I walk in, and guess what?  The cable modem lights are on solid, have been all morning, according to my late-rising wife. 

I sit through the early afternoon, hoping for the signal to drop again - sort of like a suicide vigil, yelling “jump! jump! jump!”, or being in the bathroom at the doctor’s office before an examination pleading with your nose to “bleed, dammit!” like it did all day yesterday.  The tech arrived and (surprise) was very brisk and competent but, with no problem to troubleshoot, was reduced to fiddling with a couple things and, I thought, looking not a little askance at me.  I felt like pleading to be believed, since I make my living in technology and tech support, but that probably would have made it worse.

So, whatever voodoo occurred to rectify this problem, it’s on for now.

Bookgrouplist Meetup In Chicago-1

I mentioned below that I would post from Chicago a week ago, but, like most of the promises I make, this one will be kept, perhaps even exceeding expectations, but be delivered so late no one will care.
The occasion for being in Chicago was a first-time face to face meeting of several members of an online book club we’re in. We’ve corresponded for over a year, so everyone was pretty comfortable, although my wife was a little wary because most of the other attendees were women. So sweet of her to be jealous - I don’t think she was faking.
The ostensible gathering point was the Printers Row Book Fair, featuring booksellers’ booths and lectures. The weather on Saturday was just about perfect. We sniffed a bit at the booths, then went gallivanting all over downtown Chicago. We visited the Chicago Art Institute, Navy Pier, walked along the shore through Lincoln Park and up into the Gold Coast north of town, a mix of high-rise condos and jaw-droppingly charming brownstone houses. The image of Chicago that comes to mind, especially to a Northwesterner, is of a big, dirty, inhospitable city. However, they have made a great effort to make downtown pedestrian-friendly, and on a nice day it’s a pleasure. (I’ve also been there for an Easter sleet storm that coated my car with 4 inches of ice).
Just to earn our chops as a book club, several of us attended a reading by Margaret Atwood - she’s on tour flogging her new book Oryx and Crake. She’s a witty and, in her contemplative way, passionate about issues facing humanity.
Folks pretty much adhered to their online personas, oddly enough (don’t know how they viewed US, however). A couple of the women were into this over-50 Red Hat Ladies thing, a sort of sweet bravado against the inevitable, I guess. Also made it easy to find them when they wandered. (At 52, my wife is in denial, and indignantly dumps all the AARP mail into my pile, so she was defiantly bareheaded and unmoved by their entreaties to join in. She’ll be rock climbing in the Tetons next month with 20-somethings, so I’ll allow her the affectation.)

My First Prosthesis

About a year ago, I had a molar develop a crack in a root, leading to it’s extraction.  The extraction went swimmingly, owing to the generous prescription of Percosets, of which I retain more than a few as a palliative against the apocalypse.  The pain attached to the event derived from the fact that the tooth sported a gold crown that cost me about $1,000 in 1985 dollars, which crown I foolishly left at the oral surgeon’s in my haste to get home and imbibe my Percosets.

Anyway, today I had an appointment with a Doctor of Maxillofuckyerfaceup in order to explore the beneficence of an implant.  My options are to have a “bridge” made, which involves blasting away at the two teeth adjacent to the crater left by last year’s extraction so they can serve as anchors for a three-tooth contraption that they’ll cement in place.  Though this is a marked improvement over my grandparents’ unnerving teeth-in-a-jar freak show from my distant youth, it still involves trashing yet another $1,000 gold crown.

So, the dude today describes a process whereby, for $2,000, he’ll drill a hole in my jawbone and pound in a knurled titanium post.  The fervent hope is that my jawbone will embrace this titanium post like a Republican’s asshole embraces the male member of an energy lobbyist, and in 4 months my regular dentist can bolt yet another $1,000 crown onto this post.

I’m scheduled to receive this wonder of technology on 6/30, after which, fortified by (hopefully) more Percosets, I’m supposed to see the The Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra at Chop Suey in Seattle .  Been a long time since I’ve had to chew a margarita at a music venue, so I don’t anticipate any problems.

A picture named rose_garden_6.jpgWoodland Park Rose Garden

A picture named rose_Garden_4.jpgRio Samba