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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Theatre Thursday: Arthur Penn 1922-2010

Arthur Penn, the director of movies like Bonnie and Clyde, The Missouri Breaks, and Little Big Man and the Broadway productions of Two for the Seesaw, Wait Until Dark, and the musical version of Golden Boy starring Sammy Davis, Jr. passed away on Tuesday leaving a Broadway and Hollywood legacy spanning six decades.
He is most closely associated with the classic Bonnie and Clyde, but one of his most moving films (and the one that I think probably really put him "on the map") is the adaptation of his Broadway stage production of The Miracle Worker retaining the original leads: Anne Bancroft as Annie Sullivan, the determined teacher who won't give up on deaf and blind "wild child" Helen Keller played by Patty Duke.
Most people remember this film for the touching breakthrough "water scene," but the most powerful scene for me is this one in which we see a battle of wills (and fists and chairs and water pitchers) as Annie tries to get Helen to eat her breakfast with a spoon.

I can only imagine how powerful this scene was performed live on Broadway. The trust among the actresses and the director in this scene is a testament to the the talent of all involved and proof positive that Arthur Penn was one of the greats.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Wildlife Wednesday: Driven

I don't really consider myself a "car guy," mostly because I have known some real "car guys" and my affection for the automobile barely even hints at their adoration for all things motorized.
Still, I am definitely hooked on the BBC program Top Gear. It's informative and a lot more fun than most TV shows I've seen about cars. It's also not everyday that you get to see a Ford Fiesta "road-tested" in a shopping mall. That was pretty cool.
Now, I can already hear you out there:
"But, Wolfster, it's Wednesday! You're supposed to post videos of animal babies and lecture us about conservation!"
Okay, two things:
First, don't call me "Wolfster." I hate that.
Second, wait for it.
On a recent episode of Top Gear, James May road-tested a car that he referred to as being the most important car for 100 years. Why? Well, we'll get to that in a moment, but here's a hint: this car is a big deal for little guys like Tazo - the baby sea otter at the New York Aquarium - and others of his species.
Cue cute video:

You see, the greatest threat to the endangered sea otter - even over poaching - is oil spills. When oil gets on a sea otter's coat, it loses the ability to repel water and keep itself insulated. Many otters freeze to death after an oil spill. Got it?
Okay, back to the car.
The car is the Honda FCX Clarity.
It is a fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) powered by hydrogen, not gas - or "petrol" as James puts it.
Tazo thanks you.
Now, I'm not going to start hawking cars here, and I can tell you that the Honda corporation is in no way compensating me for writing about the Clarity here on my blog. (Though, if anyone from Honda is reading this, let me just say that I'm open to the idea.)
I'm writing about the Clarity because I like sea otters, and seals, and sea lions, and seagulls, and clean water, and clean air (by the way, the Clarity has zero emissions as well), and I want to bring attention to a vehicle that just might help save the planet from humanity's present over-reliance on fossil fuels.
The Honda Clarity and the cars like it can be a major step in solving a number of financial, political, cultural, and environmental issues surrounding mankind's oil addiction.
You can watch the road test at the Top Gear site.
Also, I found the video and pics of Tazo at the website, and Tazo himself was rescued and originally cared for by the Alaska SeaLife Center.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Monday Motivator: It's not that complicated

It's been a few months since we've visited Larry Winget here, and that's just a bit too long, in my opinion.
Once again, Larry takes all of those complicated success principles we keep hearing about and throws them right out the window.

Superhero Sunday: Truth, Justice, and the Turkish Way

Superman is an American icon, sure, but for us to think that Supes can only be appreciated by American audiences is, well, pretty closed-minded of us. Check out this video of Superman in Turkey.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Wild Card: What a Bunch of Yobbos

"But I'm scheduling you a hair appointment."
Sebastian Shakespeare detailed in his column for the London Evening Standard several more incidents of bad cell phone behaviour in live theatre situations. The column heading "Why Not Give Asbos To These Theatre Yobbos" may prove a bit vexing for some of my readers, but fear not, cherubs, you are reading the blog of a dedicated anglophile. I've seen every episode of Monty Python's Flying Circus, Torchwood, Fawlty Towers, The Office (UK version), and Chef! (for which I really think Lenny Henry owes me at least a thank you note). I'm also a frequent viewer of Doctor Who, Being Human, and Top Gear. I've even seen no less than three episodes of Mistresses. Yes, I, a red-blooded American male, have watched and even enjoyed Mistresses. (It's kind of like a UK version of Sex and the City, only, you know, good.)
Okay, so an "asbo" or "ASBO" is short for "Anti-Social Behaviour Order": a penalty instituted under the administration of former Prime Minister Tony Blair for behaviours that are unsavory but fall short of being actually criminal. It is a civil order that can restrict behavior (yes, I know I'm switching back and forth with the spelling - it amuses me - let it go) in some way, though the issuance of an ASBO is now often viewed as a badge of honor (or honour) among youth rebelling against . . . well, I guess rebelling against the fact that they have too many freedoms to really rebel against anything.
Mr. Shakespeare, in a nod to his namesake, picked a humorous and derogatory term that rhymed with "Asbos" in order to round out his headline with "Yobbos."
"Put on side one of Led Zeppelin IV?
Really? That works?"
But what, you may ask, is a "yobbo" exactly?
Well, I suppose I could just direct you toward Urban Dictionary where you may discover the answer for yourself, but, as I am all about educating the public, I think I will instead provide some illustrative examples:
If your cell phone rings in a theater, you are a yobbo.
If your cell phone rings in a theater and you answer it, you are a complete yobbo.
If you don't use your cell phone enough to know how to turn it off, but still feel that you must have it with you in a theater: yobbo.
Possum on a gumbush!
If you use your cell phone often and simply forgot to turn it off: yobbo. Double yobbo for knowing better.
If you absolutely must have your cell phone with you and activated because there is the real possibility of a desperate emergency during the two hours you will be in the theater: what are you doing at the theater, you yobbo?!! (Besides, this is Denver! It's the touring production! We don't get Brian d'Arcy James! We get Tom Wopat! If we're lucky!)
If you have had a cell phone conversation while operating your vehicle that lasted more than three blocks and did not contain the phrases "Is it a right or a left at the corner?", "I'm almost there", or "Sorry I'm late, the salmon were spawning across Colfax again", you are a self-important yobbo.
If you text on your cell phone while driving, you are a dangerous, self-important yobbo, and not Skeet Ulrich dangerous: Lindsay Lohan dangerous.
On second thought, let's stay in.
If you have had a conversation on your cell phone in a supermarket that lasts for more than five minutes and doesn't include the phrase, "tell your brother the fire extinguisher is under the sink," you are a yobbo who is not as interesting as you think you are. Incidentally, the person on the other end of the line is also a yobbo for not yelling "Put a sock in it, you yobbo!" into their phone, or at the very least making a plausible excuse like: "I have to hang up now, I'm having a wart chewed off by a badger."
"Are you happy with your
current long distance provider?"
If you spend more than four hours a day on your cell phone and you are not a hostage negotiator, you are a yobbo, and you are probably a very annoying yobbo who wasted four hours' worth of somebody else's time.
Embracing technology and increasing productivity, efficiency, and making the world a better place makes you a cutting edge individual riding the wave of progress.
Embracing technology and being a pain in the neck makes you a yobbo.
Okay. Glad I could clear that up for you.
(I do now feel that I owe apologies to both Tom Wopat and Lindsay Lohan. I will be sure to take them a fruit basket when they come to Denver next year in the road show of Damn Yankees.)

Save-the-World Saturday: High Flying Adored

There is nothing quite as wonderful the sight of a great bird in flight overhead - well, unless you're a fieldmouse. . . or a lhasa apso. In Colorado, we get to see a lot of them: eagles, owls, falcons, hawks, and more.
Unfortunately, as is often the case, the expansion of "civilization" continues to impede upon the habitat of our feathered friends. Many are hit by cars or suffer other injuries as a result of encounters with man.
Sometimes kind souls find these injured birds and bring them to the Birds of Prey Foundation in Broomfield, Colorado where they are cared for, and, as often as possible, reintroduced to the wild.
I was fortunate enough to see a fully-recuperated golden eagle released into the wild near Keystone a few years back. It is not something I will soon forget.
Birds of Prey is a nonprofit, and relies upon donations, memberships, and patronage at the Birds of Prey Thrift Shoppe to continue their good and kind work. Check them out.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Friday Film Buff: Whipped

So, I know this may come across as somehow un-patriotic as she appears to be America's sweetheart, but I really must confess: I'm not a fan of Drew Barrymore.
Though she does seem like a very nice person.
I understand that she's lived quite a life. I've caught most of the Cliff's Notes version of her autobiography Little Girl Lost, and I acknowledge and applaud her difficult navigation from troubled child star to successful Hollywood actress.
Still, though: just not a fan. She's in a few of my "guilty pleasure" movies: The Wedding Singer, Charlie's Angels, 50 First Dates, (none of them particularly stellar movies anyway) but it always feels to me like she's trying awfully hard, and it pulls me out of the film a little.
Dangerously cute.
Now, she has definitely made some excellent career choices for herself in recent years (flashing David Letterman not withstanding. . . or included, maybe) and she has been a producer or executive producer on many high-grossing films like the Charlie's Angels franchise, Donnie Darko, and Never Been Kissed.
So when I saw that Drew had stepped into the director's chair for Whip It (2009): the roller derby/coming-of-age film starring Ellen Page (of whom I most definitely am a fan) I wasn't sure what to expect.
Ari Graynor. We like Ari.
The line-up was definitely favorable: Ellen Page, Juliette Lewis, Marcia Gay Harden, & Alia Shawkat, so I was definitely going to see the film at some point, but was I going to enjoy it or feel that these talented actresses were wasted in a mediocre film? The rest of the line-up was very potentially hit-or-miss for me: Daniel Stern, Kristen Wiig, Jimmy Fallon, the other Wilson brother (Andrew).
Well, I won't keep you in suspense any longer, piglets:
I loved it.
All of the aforementioned players brought their A-game, the story is funny and touching, and just when it starts to feel formulaic, a new wrinkle is added. I was also pleased to see one of my new favorite actresses on the rise, Ari Graynor, tearing up the boards as Eva Destruction. Whip It is a very good movie. I must give props to Miss Barrymore on a well-crafted film.
In fact, the only performance I didn't really care for was the role of Smashley Simpson played by . . . Drew Barrymore.
Well, can't win 'em all.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Theatre Thursday: Teamwork

Eric Simonson's new biographical play Lombardi starts previews today on Broadway with a scheduled October 21st opening, and I'm pretty excited about it. This is not because I am much of a fan or even very familiar with the legendary coach. I'm really not even much of a football fan at all. I'm familiar with some of Vince Lombardi's more famous quotes like:
"Winning is not a sometime thing. It is an all-time thing. You don't do things right once in a while . . . you do them right all the time."
I know he was a tempestuous but inspiring man and that his name is spoken with a certain reverence where sports fans congregate.
No, I am excited about this play (starring the amazing Dan Lauria and the phenomenal Judith Light) because it is opening up new possibilities for theatre. A few years ago, I was visiting my father and he was watching a game on some sports cable network. This was not particularly unusual except for the fact that it was a game from the 1970's. My father, who rarely wanted to sit through an entire movie was transfixed in the drama of a game for which he already knew the outcome. I sat down and watched it with him. I realized that it wasn't all that different from watching a great old movie - one of my favorite pastimes and something in which I would have some difficulty in getting my father to join.
I would be hard-pressed to get my father to go out and see a live theatre production. He only saw a handful of the ones in which I was a performer and none that I directed. However, I'll bet my dad would go see this show.
In a time when Broadway producers are essentially just moving popular movies to the stage in the hope of finding a new audience, and regional theatre producers are staging chestnut after chestnut in order to draw the increasingly distractable regular theatre audiences in their area, a simply staged production about an infamous and beloved football coach might just grab an audience full of armchair quarterbacks and take them someplace they've never been: inside of a live theatre.
Is this commercial pandering? I don't think so, and if it is, it's certainly on a far lesser scale than, say, turning Shrek or Spider-Man into a musical, wouldn't you say?
Theatre is one of those things that has a tendency to be pretty insulated. It seems like you're either a theatre person or you're not, and let's face it: most of the people in the world these days are not. Can that be changed? Absolutely.
Let's go back to my father as an example. My dad has a college degree, but he doesn't really read much. You won't get my dad to read The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. However, he'd read a book about Tom Landry (Hall of Fame former coach of the Dallas Cowboys). I know he would - even being a dyed-in-the-wool Bronco fan. He'd also see a movie about him, and I'd be willing to bet he'd see a live stage play about him, too.
When my younger brother was in Junior High School, he didn't like to read either. However, he had just about every book ever written about Led Zeppelin and could tell you names, dates, sales numbers, and other minutiae about the band just off the top of his head. I'll bet that if someone wrote a play about how Robert Plant and Jimmy Page first met, my brother - now in his thirties and definitely not a frequenter of live theatre - would find his way to a seat.
Audiences for live theatre are out there, we just have to find the stories to draw them in - and it is the stories, ultimately. It's not the mechanized stages or explosions. Those things can create buzz, sure, but buzz doesn't do much if they weren't already interested in the story.
I hope that Lombardi proves to be a first-time theatre experience for a lot of new audience members, and - with performers like Dan Lauria and Judith Light on stage - it might also be enough to open their eyes to seeing  other live shows.
Here's a video interview with Dan Lauria and Judith Light from

Wild Card: Hedgehog in the Fog

See, I told you Wild Cards would return.
This award-winning, animated short from Russia in 1975 only recently came to my attention. I enjoyed it so much, I thought I'd share it with you all.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Wildlife Wednesday: How Bout Them Broncos?

That's a pretty common thing to hear around Denver among football fans this time of year, and it begins many a heated discussion these days. However, I'm not going to talk about the strengths or shortcomings of the offensive line today. (Or any day, frankly. Not my thing.)
Today is Wednesday, and on Wednesday I talk about wildlife - specifically the preservation of wildlife. Broncos originated as a term that referred to a bucking horse, usually a wild or feral horse that had not been tamed or - in the common parlance - broken. These horses were often used in rodeos for the the bucking competitions. However wild horses are no longer used for that purpose thanks to the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1971.
Many Americans are not aware of the fact that there are still wild mustangs roaming the west (and a few off the coast of North Carolina), but not many. There are roughly 25,000 mustangs left in the wild.
Here's a video I found on the cool website

Over the years since 1971, however, there have been some interesting interpretations of the protection law, so there are a few organizations out there keeping an eye on these horses' freedom. Check out the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign if you'd like to find out more.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Monday Motivator: Rudyard Kipling's "If"

Skipping the usual fanfare, I'll just say that this is one of my favorite poems . . . ever.

by Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;
If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with wornout tools;
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on";
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings - nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run -
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man my son! 

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Superhero Sunday: Doctor Mid-Nite

The Unusual Suspects
Since I have decided to take one day off per week, eliminating the Tuesday Tutorial in the process, I thought that I would remove the "Wild Card" status from the Sunday entry and give it its own topic. (Wild cards won't go away, they will just become more "wild": showing up when you least expect them.)
Since I grew up reading comic books and idolizing the larger-than-life heroes within, I thought I'd devote Sundays now to those grandiose characters of pop culture: the superheroes.
I had a friend who referred to comic book heroes and the like as "modern American mythology," and why not?
The original Doctor Mid-Nite
Characters like Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, and Captain America and Wonder Woman represent the best that we see in ourselves and fight for the ideals and principles we hold most dear.
Superman is an immigrant (from another planet, yes, but still) who fights to preserve the American way of life. He is all-powerful, but uses that power to protect rather than to rule. Batman is devoted to justice and protecting the innocent.Captain America fights for freedom. Spider-Man's mantra is "With great power comes great responsibility." Wonder Woman represents the empowerment of women. (Even if she was the secretary for the Justice Society for a while. Hey, it was the 40's.)
I like superheroes, whether created for radio like The Green Hornet, television like Doctor Who, movies like Leeloo in The Fifth Element, novels like Harry Potter, or in the millions of comic books published for the last seventy or eighty years.
So, if you like superheroes like I like superheroes, stop by here on Sundays and see who's featured.
Today, it's the dark and mysterious Doctor Mid-Nite.
Prominent young physician, Dr. Charles McNider is blinded during a mafia hit while trying to help a wounded informant. While recovering from his injuries, he is attacked by an owl one night in his home. Upon removing the bandages from his eyes, he discovers that he is able to see in the dark. Assuming the mantle of Dr. Mid-Nite, McNider creates a set of special goggles that further enhance his ability in the dark as well as allow him to see during the day. He sets out to bring to justice the mafioso who ordered the hit that blinded him and to fight against the rest of the criminal underworld who only come out at night. Aided by his blackout bombs that make it impossible for anyone but him to see, Doctor Mid-Nite set about cleaning up the streets of New York one criminal at a time throughout the 1940s. Doctor Mid-Nite hit the scene just a couple of years after the Batman, and, while obviously something of a Batman clone intended to capitalize on that cowled avenger's popularity, Mid-Nite is an intriguing character in his own right, and predates Marvel's Daredevil by a couple of decades as the first blind superhero.
Doctor Midnight! Spandex!
Now, unlike the ageless Superman and Batman, Doctor Mid-Nite existed in DC's Earth-2 universe (which also had its own Superman and Batman) where superheroes do grow older. Charles McNider would be succeeded by his medical protege, Dr. Beth Chapel as the second Doctor Midnight (though spelled differently) in the 1980's. She was also one of the few prominent African-American heroines in comic books.
The 3rd Doctor . . . NOT Jon Pertwee
In 1999, the third Doctor Mid-Nite (returning to the original spelling), Dr. Pieter Cross, is connected to the first incarnation by having been delivered by the good Dr. McNider at birth.
All three Doctor Mid-Nites (regardless of spelling) were actual medical doctors, all blinded in tragic accidents, all possessed the ability to see in the dark, and all had wicked cool costumes.
Doctor Mid-Nite will never be as popular as Batman, which means that we will probably never see the Doctor Mid-Nite movie starring the flavor-of-the-week action star, and you know what? I think I'm okay with that. Some things are just fine staying on the page.
Someone calling themselves yahooandgoogle12 did compile all of Doctor Mid-Nite's very brief appearances on the animated Justice League United series here:

And another Doctor Mid-Nite fan, Wolverine121496 made this tribute video:

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Save the World Saturday: Spend Well

Today I'm going to do something a little bit different. Instead of pointing your attention toward a non-profit charity, I want to talk about for-profit corporations that are doing their part to make the world a better place.
Check out this 2002 article from
America's Most Philanthropic Corporations
Ford Motor Company topped the list with $137.6 million in donations in 2001. Target gave the largest percent of their income at 2.51% ($85.8 million). Now, I know that the article is a little old, but I suspect that - while the numbers may shuffle around a bit - most of the companies on the 2001 list would also be on the 2010 list. (If any of you find a more recent article, please post it in the comments.)
However, that's something that you can research for yourself. What's your favorite charity? I'll bet they have a website. I'll also bet that on that website there is a list of their biggest corporate contributors. Take note of the businesses that are helping your cause, and, even if you are not in a position to contribute to the charity yourself, you can choose to buy products or patronize businesses that already do.
Now, I suppose I could be cynical and suggest that these companies are only giving to charity as a tax break or as a way of raising their public image. Instead, though, I will be practical and say, "Who Cares?!?"
The point is that they're giving, and we should do whatever we can to encourage that, right?
For example, I'll walk you through the process for one of my favorite non-profits: the ASPCA.
Right off, I don't see a "corporate sponsors" link, so I'm going to have to look around a bit. No big deal. By clicking on the "Site Map" I can see a list of all of the pages on the site. Now, I'm having to look around a bit more than I expected to find this info (heads up, ASPCA, if you're reading this), but eventually I spy a couple of recognizable names under the "About the ASPCA" section.
Subaru. I'm not planning on buying a car anytime soon, and I don't know that I would make such a large purchase based solely on the company's contribution to charity, anyway, but if I were trying to decide between a Subaru and another vehicle, this might be enough to tip the scales.
Red Lion Hotels. I don't stay in hotels a lot, but now I will definitely keep Red Lion Hotels in mind if I do.
Lowe's. I already go to Lowe's about half the time when I need tools, hardware supplies, new keys, whatever. Okay, now I'll use them all the time. Pretty simple.
Fresh Step. Hey, no-brainer. I have a cat. I regularly buy cat litter. I'll have to discuss it with Adelaide (my cat), naturally, but I see no reason why she'd object to switching brands.
Okay, you get the idea. I already contribute to and support the ASPCA, but I wish I could do more. This is one way that I can.
I doubt I'm the first person to say this, but I like to say that we only get to vote once or twice a year in the ballot box, but we vote every day - several times a day - at the cash register.
Reward companies that are doing good with their dollars . . . with your dollars.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Friday Film Buff: The Man You Love to Hate

I think most guys who become actors have a list of dream roles they'd like to play some day: the suave James Bond super spy; the wisecracking, charming slacker that Bill Murray built his career on; the romantic hero; even the too cool, megalomaniacal, world-threatening villain.
Few actors dream about the opportunity to play the opportunistic, morally bereft TV reporter like that guy Dick Thornburg in Die Hard 1 and 2. Nobody really is chomping at the bit to take on the too-full-of-himself civil servant, like Walter Peck, whose self-important ego-driven bureaucratic meddling releases hundreds of captured spectres on the streets of New York in Ghostbusters. Few kids entering acting schools envision themselves someday playing pompous, vain attention-whore scientists like Dr. Noah Faulkner in Bio-Dome or Professor Jerry Hathaway in Real Genius.
However, none of these movies would be anywhere near as effective if not for these characters. They aren't sympathetic characters at all, and they aren't anywhere cool enough to really be villains, The terrorists are the real villains in the Die Hard films. Thornburg is just kind of in the way. The same is true of Walter Peck in Ghostbusters. These characters are just the jerks we want to see receive their comeuppance before the end of the film, like being deluged in melted marshmallow, punched or tazed by Bonnie Bedelia, or forced to watch their house destroyed by popcorn. Still, these characters are necessary for the story to be effective and somebody has to take on the thankless job of playing them on screen.
Well, nobody plays these types of characters as well as the man who played all of the aforementioned sleazebags, William Atherton.
An accomplished actor of stage and screen, the handsome actor is best known for the characters that make audiences seethe, and, depending upon what part of the city you live in, yell nasty things at the screen. For a long time after Ghostbusters was released (and maybe still) Atherton was greeted on the street by fans of the movie with the nickname that Dan Akroyd's character saddles him with in the film: "Dickless."
Well, I just wanted to take a minute to express my appreciation for the talented Mr. Atherton, both for his sleazy characters in pop culture cinema as well as for his performances in other projects like The Day of the Locust, the Centennial mini-series, his recurring character in the NBC series Life, and his many other film and TV appearances.
Thank you for taking on the thankless roles and playing them so well.
Now, here's a little something you may not have known: Atherton is a fine singer, as well, as evidenced by the opening credits of The Great Gatsby over which he croons "What'll I Do?"

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Theatre Thursday: Slings and Arrows

When I was a much younger actor, I was told by a slightly older actress - upon whom I had a considerable crush - that "Shakespeare has no subtext." Because I was very young, and because she was very beautiful, I accepted that statement as gospel at the time, but, in truth, I never fully grasped that concept. It was a phrase I would hear many times from many graduates of acting programs in years to come, but it still has never made a lot of sense to me. Perhaps this is one of those concepts that was stated at one point in the acting schools, misunderstood but accepted, and then repeated ad nauseum until it became "law."
Or perhaps there is some part of it that I simply do not understand, but, if Shakespeare indeed has no subtext, then how do we get such variance in the performance of the same scene (Act 3, Scene1 of Hamlet) from:

Sir Richard Burton

Kevin Kline

Kenneth Branagh

Sir Laurence Olivier

Mel Gibson

David Tennant

Sir Derek Jacobi (my personal favorite)

and Arnold Schwarzenegger?

Yeah, okay, I was just kidding with that last one. Incidentally, I did not forget Ethan Hawke's version of the same speech, unless by "forget" you mean "deliberately and mercifully omitted."

Anyway, how is there not evidence of subtext in each of these performances? Is there something I just don't understand? Is it simply a matter of semantics? Is this really just a ploy so that I can post several different actors performing the same scene in one blog entry as a matter of curiosity and novelty?
Hard to say. Hard to say.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Wildlife Wednesday: Hold That Tiger

In a departure from posting cute baby animal videos (but it does get your attention, right?), I wanted to share an article that I read today about the current state of tigers in the wild:
Economic Times: India Named the Most Dedicated Country Towards Tiger Conservation
I'll sum up some of the more concerning facts brought up in this article:
~ There are only an estimated 3500 tigers left in the wild.
~ Only 1000 of those are breeding females.
~ Tiger numbers are decimated in large part due to use of their anatomy in traditional medicines.
2010 is the year of the tiger, and it is disconcerting (and entirely possible) that by the next year of the tiger, 2022, there may be almost no tigers left in the wild at all.
However, actor Leonardo Dicaprio has another plan. Teaming with the World Wildlife Fund, the goal is to double the current tiger population by the next year of the tiger through conservation efforts and expanding public knowledge, and, as always, you can help. Follow the links, spread the word, support conservation organizations. Heck, even supporting your local zoo is helping to improve the future of tigers and other endangered wildlife.
The Denver Zoo, for example has a number of tigers that you can see up close and in person, including . . . four tiger cubs!

Yeah, I couldn't resist.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Last Tuesday Tutorial (Probably)

Ever since my hardware-imposed break from the internet a week or so ago, I've been thinking about how I would like to institute an "internet-free" day for myself each week.
I'm not sure just exactly how well I will be able to stick to it, but it seems that the first step is to figure out which day of my daily blog I would like to give up in the interest of going internet-free for the day.
Well, here's my thinking: I spend more time trying to pick an appropriate topic for the Tuesday Tutorial than I do any other. The thing is, if you want to know how to do something, you'll look it up on the internet. While the subject of my other daily blogs might inspire you to rent a particular movie, buy a particular cast album or play, or donate to a particular cause, it's very unlikely that my posting a video on how to change a flat tire will inspire you to go let the air out of your SUV tire and practice taking it on and off.
So that made the decision pretty easy. Starting next Tuesday, I am going to make Tuesdays my internet-free day - with necessary exceptions, obviously. The internet is a tool as well. I can't very well not work on my car if there's a problem because I've instituted a "wrench-free" day, can I?
So, anyway, here is today's tutorial:

Monday, September 13, 2010

Monday Motivator: Get Out of Your Own Way

Anthony Robbins is often an easy target for poking fun. He's really tall, he's got big teeth and a massive jaw line, he gets really excited when he talks, and he uses a lot of metaphors and catch-phrases.
I don't think he minds.
He's spent a lot of his life gathering wisdom, and he has made a career out of passing that wisdom on to others. Some of us don't use that information as well as we could, myself included. Myself especially.
So, sometimes I can use a little reminder, and maybe some of you can, too, which is why I do the Monday Motivator. It's for you, and it's for myself.
Anyway, here's a little refresher from Mr. Tony Robbins.:

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Sunday Wild Card: A New Day

This struck me as being a very good video for September the 12th. Turn up your speakers and dance. I am.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Save the World Saturday: Moving Forward

I won't spend any time in this entry asking you to remember the events of this day nine years ago. I don't need any help remembering, and I expect that you don't either. Besides, while the great majority of these calls to remember are genuine and sincere, the few that are largely opportunistic turn my stomach. So I have avoided as much of the media today as I can. Like I said, I don't need any help remembering.
I have been reflecting today on one of my favorite quotes from Mark Twain:
"We should be careful to get out of an experience only the wisdom that is in it - and stop there; lest we be like the cat that sits down on a hot stove lid. She will never sit on a hot stove lid again - and that is well; but also she will never sit down on a cold one anymore." -Mark Twain.
The last thing I want to do today is to get preachy, and I don't think that Mr. Clemens's wisdom requires any explanation. His quote and the wisdom behind it inspired my choice for today's nonprofit, because - at the end of the day - we all have to find a way to share this world.

The National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations


Friday, September 10, 2010

Friday Film Buff: Are You . . .Joe?

One of the rare joys of being a film buff is that moment when one gets to say, "See? I told you so!" (sometimes to nobody in particular) in regards to a brilliant but unsuccessful film that later garners a cult following.
In March of 1990, I sat in the darkened Gaslight Theatre in Durango, Colorado (next to the train depot) and watched a film that would forever change the way that I looked at movies. I was sixteen years old, and the movie was Joe Versus the Volcano. I loved it. My friends hated it.
"Stupid." "Lame." "Pointless." These were their assessments of the movie and they were on par with the rest of the country as the film absolutely tanked at the box office. On the drive home, I tried to argue about the symbolism, the irony, the impeccable comic timing, and the recurring themes, but it was to no avail.
For many years to follow, I would list Joe Versus the Volcano among my favorite films (if asked) to the usual responses of either "Seriously?" or "What's that?"
Vindication would come for me in later years as the movie gained a cult following and is now listed among the favorites of many film buffs. I get to say that I loved this movie when virtually nobody else did, and that is a source of some pride to my film buff ego.
If you haven't seen it, I suggest you do, and, if you were one of those early haters, see it again. You may have missed something.
Speaking of missing something, hidden among the stellar cast of Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan, Dan Hedaya, Lloyd Bridges, Robert Stack, Amanda Plummer, Ossie Davis, and Abe Vigoda is a very funny but not yet very well-known Nathan Lane.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Theatre Thursday: Make It So

Sir Patrick Stewart talked to about working on David Mamet's A Life In The Theatre and about his own life in the theatre, and I just think the man is so interesting, so I wanted to share it with you all here.
It's only a couple of minutes long, and the last twenty seconds or so are really worth seeing. Check it out.

And, just for fun, here's Sir Patrick poking a bit of fun at himself on the brilliant TV Series Extras:

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Wildlife Wednesday: Babies, Babies, Babies

So, the current tally of young 'uns at the Denver Zoo is : two giraffes, four tiger cubs, one orangutan, and one sea lion. (If I missed any, please let me know.) I've seen them all, and "cute" doesn't even cover it. If ever there was a time to visit the Denver Zoo, it's right now, and remember: every dollar you spend at the zoo ultimately contributes to the preservation of wildlife - both in zoos and in the wild. This is true of pretty much all zoos these days, including the Houston Zoo where these little meerkat babies (kits) just made their public debut:

Check out for more on these baby critters.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Tuesday Tutorials: Finicky Felines

About a year-and-a-half ago I somewhat reluctantly became a cat owner. Okay, okay, I became the "caretaker" of a feline. One does not own a cat. I am really more of a dog person, so the adjustment to having a feline companion has been an interesting one for me. Thank goodness for the internet and useful videos like this one:

There and Back Again

Due to the generosity of some good friends, I'm back online with a loaner iBook until I can fully resolve my hardware issues.
To be perfectly honest, I have been online for a couple of days now, but, well, I decided to savor the quiet for a couple more days.
It's amazing how much of a time suck the internet can be, and it took something like a major hard drive failure to wake me up to that.
So, what did I do with my little "vacation" from the internet? Well, let's see . . . I read a couple of books, I went for a quite a few walks, I went for a couple of early morning drives listening to the Mills Brothers, I knocked several movies off of my "to watch" list, I met an acquaintance in person whom I'd only known via Twitter. (Nice to meet you @ampersandwich.) I watched the first series of Blackpool with friends I'd not seen in a good long while. I even caught up with some of my relatives. Turns out I have a niece who's really into the Cure, another who's begun to dabble in film-making, and a nephew who is just starting to learn the finer points stage combat. I scored lots of "cool uncle points" for being able to speak knowledgeably about all three subjects. I even went to the zoo and saw the baby animals: 4 tiger cubs, a sea lion pup, a baby orangutan, and two giraffe "toddlers."
So, while I'm glad to be able to get back on the internet, I'm definitely planning to make better use of my off-line time as well.
I'll keep posting on my blog, of course. I know I don't have a huge readership, but it's my little corner of the internet, and I like to decorate it.
So, look for the Tuesday Tutorial later today, and I hope you will all keep coming back.