April 29, 2010

-image-r.i.p. jg


December 6, 1964 – April 25, 2010.

Our hearts are shattered. We still can’t believe it.

We love you, J.

April 22, 2010

-image-sondheim teaches “sweeney”

Okay. Who knows how much time I have before the horrible blackness happens again?? We’re working on solutions, so thank you to those of you who have sent me emails with ideas/possible solutions. I’ll be around when I can — at the whim of this whole dealio — for the next week or so.

Recently, I stumbled across a bunch of YouTube videos featuring Stephen Sondheim teaching a variety of his songs at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London. This clip features “My Friends” from Sweeney Todd. (Circa mid-80s, I think.) This is like CRACK to me. Brilliant. What I think of the young guy’s performance here is not the point. He’s in school and, therefore, I assume he WANTS to be educated. (Oh, okay: He looks completely wrong for Sweeney, and he has no passion. But — BUT — I’m assuming they are simply working this as a scene and not necessarily rehearsing for an actual production. That’s the sense I get anyway. So, yes, his looks are moot. Who cares? Reeeeeer, Trace.)

I’m just loving Sondheim’s comments: “Address the razor.” “Make love to the razor.” “The man is crazy.” “Don’t be so sane.” Hahahahaha. I mean, it’s brilliant. It’s simple. It’s usable and accessible to the performers. This kid got a chance to be seriously schooled, however briefly, by one of the true greats in musical theater, the composer himself. I mean, what a gift, what a moment. Standing feet away from Sondheim himself while he watches you, shares his insights, his thoughts behind what he wrote, how that applies to you as a performer, I’d be quaking in my boots, personally, but what a thrill!

To the young man’s credit, I do think he improves with each critique from Sondheim. He progresses. He’s moving forward. No, it’s not great, but he’s moving forward. He’s listening and learning. He can sing, definitely, and his acting inches forward here. The girl playing Lovett is quite good, I think. Or at least in contrast. Notice how her performance elevates and energizes his. He needs her to do this scene with him. She’s pushing him. Watch how Sondheim is just SO enthusiastic. I love his note to her: “That was terrific. The banality of her emotions is what makes the contrast work.” YES! Exactly! What a great, helpful insight. His comments are full, rich, there’s so MUCH in them that they can use. And I love his expressions watching them. He’s supportive and …. well, just thrilled to see them performing his work. There’s this crazy glee in his eyes at some moments that just makes me laugh out loud.

He’s proud, I think. Just proud. I’m rambling and writing too fast and without thinking — uhm, because of my newfound fear of the looming blackness, but I just LOVE this.

To compare, here are Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter performing the song in the recent movie version. Yes, it’s the movie and not the stage musical — different forms, I know — but I include it here because I think what Depp does here proves Sondheim’s points. The razor is the girl. The RAZOR is the partner. It’s almost an erotic moment he’s having with this razor. I could have posted George Hearn’s version, but I’ve never been a huge fan of it. Great singer. GREAT. But he doesn’t find that seductive edge to this song. He does the crazy well, and he can sing the pants off of Depp, but Depp’s performance here is a blazing triumph of acting over vocal power. Depp makes you fear the razor and wish you were the razor at the same time. Yamahama. It’s sick. And, yes, it’s sexy, too.

The razor is the partner.

Watch and see how many of Sondheim’s insights in the clip above — from what? 25 years ago? — Depp uses in this song. Hey, if it works, it WORKS, and watch Depp make it work. Genius.

Also, I’m adding this random bit because I really did miss the presence of the chorus — the “company” — in the movie version. I understand how that wouldn’t have worked, but these are the lyrics at the end here, after Sweeney declares his arm complete again, and the song swells:

Lift your razor high, Sweeney!
Hear it singing Yes!
Sink it in the rosy skin of righteousness!

Quite thrilling with a full menacing chorus.

I’m scared now just thinking of it.

April 19, 2010

-image-ohno ohdear

All right. I don’t know how long I have before the “thing” happens again. The “thing” where my computer goes black for long stretches of time and won’t come back on for hours and hours no matter what I do.

So. Uhm, if you don’t see me around for a few days or so, I’m ….. I don’t know ….. getting my computer fixed or getting a new one or something else I’d rather not do.

Yeah. Not really in the budget right now, but it’s not something I can’t have. I need it for work, etc.

I am typing this madly before this puppy goes black again!

That’s the scoop, pippa.

April 18, 2010

-image-the “triangle of life”

All right, pippa. I’m posting an excerpt from an article on earthquake survival. Yes, I am! You may never be in an earthquake. I mean, I really hope you’re not. BUT just in case — and because the Easter earthquake out here was, uh, scary — I’m posting this. It’s fascinating because it goes against everything anyone has ever been taught about earthquake survival, but it also makes complete sense to me.

It’s not thrilling reading, but it IS informative. My blog is now a PSA. Great. It’s because of the love, naturally.

So, yeah, read on, Macduff!! Survive those Midwest earthquakes!!

My name is Doug Copp. I am the Rescue Chief and Disaster Manager of the American Rescue Team International (ARTI), the world’s most experienced rescue team. The information in this article will save lives in an earthquake.

I have crawled inside 875 collapsed buildings, worked with rescue teams from 60 countries, founded rescue teams in several countries, and I am a member of many rescue teams from many countries.

I was the United Nations expert in Disaster Mitigation for two years. I have worked at every major disaster in the world since 1985, except for simultaneous disasters.

The first building I ever crawled inside of was a school in Mexico City during the 1985 earthquake. Every child was under his desk. Every child was crushed to the thickness of their bones. They could have survived by lying down next to their desks in the aisles. It was obscene, unnecessary, and I wondered why the children were not in the aisles. I didn’t at the time know that the children were told to hide under something.

Simply stated, when buildings collapse, the weight of the ceilings falling upon the objects or furniture inside crushes these objects, leaving a space or void next to them. This space is what I call the “triangle of life.” The larger the object, the stronger, and the less it will compact. The less the object compacts, the larger the void, and the greater the probability that the person who is using this void for safety will not be injured. The next time you watch collapsed buildings, on television, count the “triangles” you see formed. They are everywhere. It is the most common shape you will see in a collapsed building.


1) Most everyone who simply “ducks and covers” when buildings collapse are crushed to death. People who get under objects, like desks or cars, are crushed.

2) Cats, dogs, and babies often naturally curl up in the fetal position. You should too in an earthquake. It is a natural safety/survival instinct. You can survive in a smaller void. Get next to an object, next to a sofa, next to a large bulky object that will compress slightly but leave a void next to it.

3) Wooden buildings are the safest type of construction to be in during an earthquake. Wood is flexible and moves with the force of the earthquake. If the wooden building does collapse, large survival voids are created. Also, the wooden building has less concentrated, crushing weight. Brick buildings will break into individual bricks. Bricks will cause many injuries but less squashed bodies than concrete slabs. (So be in wooden buildings at all times, pippa. Like yurts. This is somewhat less helpful information.)

4) If you are in bed during the night and an earthquake occurs, simply roll off the bed. A safe void will exist around the bed. Hotels can achieve a much greater survival rate in earthquakes simply by posting a sign on the back of the door of every room telling occupants to lie down on the floor, next to the bottom of the bed during an earthquake.

5) If an earthquake happens and you cannot easily escape by getting out the door or window, then lie down and curl up in the fetal position next to a sofa or large chair.

6) Most everyone who gets under a doorway when buildings collapse is killed. How? If you stand under a doorway and the doorjamb falls forward or backward you will be crushed by the ceiling above. If the door jam falls sideways you will be cut in half by the doorway. In either case, you will be killed! (He’s not a super cheery fellow, is he?)

7) Never go to the stairs. The stairs have a different “moment of frequency” — they swing separately from the main part of the building. The stairs and remainder of the building continuously bump into each other until structural failure of the stairs takes place. The people who get on stairs before they fail are chopped up by the stair treads — horribly mutilated. Even if the building doesn’t collapse, stay away from the stairs. The stairs are a likely part of the building to be damaged. Even if the stairs are not collapsed by the earthquake, they may collapse later when overloaded by fleeing people. They should always be checked for safety, even when the rest of the building is not damaged.

8) Get near the outer walls of buildings or outside of them if possible. It is much better to be near the outside of the building rather than the interior. The farther inside you are from the outside perimeter of the building the greater the probability that your escape route will be blocked.

9) People inside of their vehicles are crushed when the road above falls in an earthquake and crushes their vehicles, which is exactly what happened with the slabs between the decks of the Nimitz Freeway. The victims of the San Francisco earthquake all stayed inside of their vehicles. They were all killed. They could have easily survived by getting out and sitting or lying next to their vehicles. Everyone killed would have survived if they had been able to get out of their cars and sit or lie next to them. All the crushed cars had voids 3 feet high next to them, except for the cars that had columns fall directly across them.

10) I discovered, while crawling inside of collapsed newspaper offices and other offices with a lot of paper, that paper does not compact. Large voids are found surrounding stacks of paper. (Woo hoo for all the pack rats, I guess).

Spread the word and save someone’s life …

Uhm, so there you go. Sorry to bring the room down.

But, then, you can find “triangle of life” now, can’t you?

April 16, 2010

-image-another excerpt: “a reliable wife”

Another excerpt from A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick.

I can’t seem to shake this book somehow. I keep going back and rereading sections of this book. Goolrick is spare and bleak and resonant all at once. It strikes a deep chord with me. It just does.

A longer excerpt here. Ralph Truitt is at the train station, awaiting the arrival of his “reliable wife.”

The whole town is there, watching him …….

He had meant to be a good man, and he was not a bad man. He had taught himself not to want, after his first wanting and losing. Now he wanted something, and his desire startled and enraged him.

Dressing in the house before he came to the train station, Ralph had caught sight of his face in one of the mirrors. The sight had shocked him. Shocking to see what grief and condescension had done to his face. So many years of hatred and rage and regret.

In the house, before coming here, he had busied his hands with the collar button and the knot of his necktie; he did these things every morning, the fixing and adjusting, the strict attentions of a fastidious man. But until he had looked in the mirror and seen his own anxious hope, he had not imagined, at any step of this foolish enterprise, that the moment would actually come and he would not, at the last, be able to stand it. But that’s what had occurred to him, looking at his collapsed face in the spidery glass. He could not stand it, this wrenching coming to life again. For all these years, he had endured the death, the hideous embarrassment. He had kept on, against every instinct in his heart. He had kept on getting up and going to town and eating and running his father’s businesses and taking on the weight which he inevitably took on no matter how he tried to avoid it, of these people’s lives. He had always assumed his face sent a single signal: everything is all right. Everything is fine. Nothing is wrong.

But, this morning, in the mirror, he saw that it was impossible, that he was the only one who had ever been fooled. And he saw that he cared, that it all mattered.

These people, their children got sick. Their wives or their husbands didn’t love them or they did, while Ralph himself was haunted by the sexual act, the sexual lives, which lay hidden and vast beneath their clothes. Other people’s lust. They touched each other. Their children died, sometimes all at once, whole families, in a single month, of diphtheria or typhoid or the flu. Their husbands or their wives went crazy in a night, in the cold, and burned their houses down for no good reason, or shot their own relatives, their own children dead. They tore their clothes off in public and urinated in the street and defecated in church, writhing with snakes. They destroyed perfectly healthy animals, burned their barns. It was in the papers every week. Every day there was some new tragedy, some new and inexplicable failure of the ordinary.

They soaked their dresses in naphtha and carelessly moved too close to a fire and exploded into flames. They drank poison. They fed poison to each other. They had daughters by their own daughters. They went to bed well and woke up insane. Ran away. Hanged themselves. Such things happened.

Through it all, Ralph thought that his face and body were unreadable, that he had turned a fair and sympathetic eye to the people and their griefs and their bizarre problems. He went to bed trying not to think of it, but he had gotten up this morning and seen it all, the toll it had taken.

His skin was ashen. His hair was lifeless and thinner than he remembered. The corners of his mouth and his eyes turned down, engraved with a permanent air of condescension and grief. His head tilted back from the effort of paying attention to the bodies that stood too close and spoke too loudly. These things, borne of the terrifying stillness of his heart, were visible. Everybody saw it. He had not covered up a single thing. What a fool he had been.

There was a time when he had fallen in love on every street corner. Chased so tiny a thing as a charming ribbon on a hat. A light step, the brush of a skirt’s hem, a gloved hand shooing a fly from a freckled nose had once been enough, had once been all he needed to set his heart racing. Racing with joy. Racing with fair, brutal expectation. So grossly in love his body hurt. But now he had lost the habit of romance, and in his look into the mirror, he had thought with a prick of jealousy of his younger, lascivious self.

He remembered the first time he had seen the bare arm of a grown woman. He remembered the first time a woman had taken her hair down just for him, the startling rich cascade of it, the smell of soap and lavender. He remembered every piece of furniture in the room. He remembered his first kiss. He had loved it all. Once, it had been to him all there was. His body’s hungers had been the entire meaning of his life.

You can live with hopelessness for only so long before you are, in fact, hopeless. He was fifty-four years old, and despair had come to Ralph as an infection, without his even knowing it. He could not pinpoint the moment at which hope had left his heart.

April 14, 2010

-image-“you make me feel like dancing”

Do not ask me how I stumbled across this, I beg of you.

Anne Hathaway’s version of the 70s hit by Leo Sayer.

You know, this guy:


Wacky clown Jesus from Godspell!

Shudder, shudder, shudder.

Weird, but I fixate on only one thing in this disturbing-on-so-many-levels photo and I’ll bet it’s not what you think.

It’s this:

The GIANT YAWNING U’s between his fingers.

Look at them! LOOK at them, pippa! The arms of a starfish are closer together. They make me think of spiders. To get from one finger to another requires an exhausting trans-Atlantic flight. I don’t know. I’m really freaked out. I’m looking at my hands right now and I have nice pretty little V’s between my nice pretty little fingers. That’s normal, right? I’m sorry. I notice men’s hands. Kind of a thing of mine. I don’t like pretty hands on a man, nor do I like freaky yawning starfish hands. Honestly, I would never ever want this man ANYWHERE near me — definitely not my type and it’s not just the hands, shockingly — unless I came across a really stubborn mayonnaise jar. Then, yes, lose the suspenders, lose the hair, lose the t-shirt, lose the face, and get your wacky bag o’ jacks paws over here. And tout de suite on that, Crackie.

Good Lord, where was I?

Oh, the song. Yes. Please listen and don’t think about his hands, okay? And if you know the original, what do you think? Better? Worse?

Do you like her voice? Hate her voice? What?

I need thoughts.

Tell me things about this — anything — so I stop thinking about Starfish Hands.

April 12, 2010

-image-queasy quote of the day

“The rectum was negotiated without problem.”

DOCTOR: Rectum, we need to talk.
RECTUM: Oh, okay.
DOCTOR: Well, I think I need more money, you know, for what I have to do here.
RECTUM: Yeah, okay. I see your point. Well, whatever you want.
DOCTOR: Wow. That was easier than I thought it would be. Well, so …. great!
RECTUM: Look, I know how it is. I know I can be difficult sometimes.
DOCTOR: I gotta say, I never knew rectums were so self aware. Really. I’m impressed.
RECTUM: Well, thanks. I try. I have lots of down time to think, you know?
DOCTOR: Guess I never thought of that.
RECTUM: That’s all right. Just send a memo to my assistant with what you need and we’ll get it done, okay?
DOCTOR: Wow, Rectum. Thanks again.
RECTUM: You’re welcome. See you soon.

(And the hits I get from “rectum” will blow away the two dozen hits from Doc’s ringing endorsement of me. Woo hoo, rectums!)

April 11, 2010


“Yeah. The look on the executives’ faces was a combination of stoicism and confusion. Stoi-fusion is what we created. Uh, that’s not good.”

Brett Michaels, celebrity contestant, on last night’s Celebrity Apprentice after giving their project presentation to some mucky-muck executives.

Uhm, I’m kind of loving him. I’m really watching this show only for Brett Michaels now. If he leaves, my interest will poof into the ether.

Is it me or is he kind of funny and weirdly lovable?

April 10, 2010

-image-ah, the internet

Well, I shouldn’t be surprised but I am, a bit. My homeschooling survey — and what I chose to do with it — is taking quite a beating in the homeschooling blogosphere. Or, rather, I am. And I don’t care so much about that. I don’t have all that much invested in what strangers think about me. I do care, however, about the ability to make distinctions between things.

I’ll get to that in a moment.

I’ll be honest: The fact that I’m surprised clearly demonstrates my own ignorance and naivete on the topic, but I admitted that in the preamble to the survey. I said, basically: I know nothing. Beyond that, I was naive enough to believe that I’d primarily be having a conversation with my regular peeps who “get” me, have read me for a while, have been through some life with me, and therefore, have a better frame of reference for who I really am.

It’s embarrassing to admit that I didn’t really expect people other than my regulars to show up over here and answer the survey, but, yes, it’s true. If I’d considered that, I probably would have never published the survey. Really. I could see from my stats that many people did blog searches for the word “homeschooling” or some related phrase. It really never occurred to me that people do these kinds of searches, mainly because I don’t do these kinds of searches. I don’t seek out homeschooling posts; I have no need to. Our frame of reference is our frame of reference, I suppose, and sometimes that frame of reference functions like a pair of blinders. I wrote questions in a flurry, posted them, and didn’t give much thought to possible outcomes. Honest admission.

Some of the questions have been called ridiculous on various blogs and, yes, that’s true, they were. By design. (Another one I can think of was poorly worded — too vague — and didn’t actually ask what I meant to ask.) They weren’t meant to be offensive. They were meant to inject some levity into something quite consequential for many people. They were meant to keep things light. Or lighter. Clearly, there was some level of splaaaaat on that front, some level of falling flat on my face on that score. (Not exactly unprecedented on this blog, now is it?) However, judging from the amount of email I’ve received, my regular readers seemed to understand me and the new people, for the most part, did not. With no larger context for who I am or how I typically write or communicate, I can see how that might be possible. But it’s also true that every reader processed the questions through his or her personal lens. One can assume I really didn’t know much about homeschooling, really did want to be educated and that that was all genuine, or one can assume that I was disingenuous, harboring a secret agenda, and set out deliberately to offend large swaths of humanity. It’s a choice, I suppose, to assume a blogger is either presenting herself as honestly as possible or is playing games with her readers.

I shut down the post comments because there were a fair number of comments awaiting me in moderation that I found offensive. Some were personal attacks on me or other commenters and I refused to allow the conversation to devolve in that way. It’s my blog, it’s not really a democracy, and I reserve the right to host it however I see fit. Not everyone will agree with the choices I make to manage my own “cyber open house,” but, again, I pay the bills, so these are my choices to make. Anyone with a blog has a similar right, which I also support. I don’t have to like how someone manages their blog, but I have to support their right to do as they see fit as well.

As far as the comments that were posted, I had no issue with their content. I took issue with their tone. I see those as separate things, a distinction to make. True, tone is difficult to discern in cyber communications. Harder still when the people communicating are total strangers to one another, but based on some of my email, I wasn’t alone in my perception of the tone.

That said, my own tone in my final comments was nothing to write home about either. I was snarky and I want to apologize for that. I’ve apologized before on this blog and, knowing me, I’ll end up needing to do it again.

On the various blogs linking to the survey, I’ve been called a “complete moron,” a “control freak,” “stupid,” and “immature.” Again, I don’t care much what strangers think of me. I’m not persuaded to think these things of myself simply because total strangers believe it to be true. I’m not THAT spineless or easily swayed. I know who I am. I generally know what’s true and not true about me, and in the many places where I’m blind, I have loved ones who really know me to help me better see. So if strangers choose to think those things, that’s fine. I don’t mention it now for the sake of boo-hoo-hooing. I mention it now because I care about the distinction between situational judgments of a person’s tone or attitude and holistic sweeping judgments of an entire person based on a single interaction. You can choose to believe that a person’s failing in a given situation is indicative of a systemic failure in character or you can choose to believe that a person’s failing in a given situation is a person’s failing in a given situation and not the full measure of who they are. Sometimes there’s a larger context to a person’s actions. Sometimes a person has a bad moment. A bad day. Sometimes we can’t see the whole picture, especially on the Internet.

Every person has a larger context.

My comments in the end were snarky, but I tried to limit my comments to an appraisal of tone and behavior in a limited situation rather than an appraisal of any person in toto. That doesn’t excuse my tone. I’m simply saying that, in general, I try not to go “global” on someone. I cannot assess an entire person based on one moment in time. I can’t and, hopefully, I won’t.

So, again, I own what I need to own. When people on this blog witness me in a less-than-stellar moment, I hope I’m a decent enough person to let them witness me own it. The way I see it, I can cede ground without ceding myself. Own what’s necessary without disowning myself. I’m not diminished in doing so.

For the record, no, I’m not linking to these blogs. Not for my own protection — because an interested person could find them, I suppose — but simply because I don’t want anyone who feels they want to defend me to feel that they NEED to defend me. I don’t need or even want defending in this situation, so I’d really prefer that my readers let these bloggers express their opinions unimpeded. That’s why I haven’t included links. I know I have my pit bulls out there and I love my pit bulls. Oh, I do! But right now, I’m perfectly okay with these bloggers exercising their right to think of me what they will.

I’m not interested in changing anyone’s opinion of me. I don’t think I’m able to, really.

I’m simply interested in clarification and taking responsibility for my own actions.

(Comments have now been closed.)

April 9, 2010


It’s weird when you walk into a bookstore, pick a up magazine you normally pick up, and see your friends on the cover.


“Oh! Hi, you guys!”

Kind of weird.

Cool, but weird.

(Go check it out. Their house is fabulous.)

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