Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Coping Strategies Wanted

One thing in my life that I am not coping well with at all is the insufferable conference call that I am subjected to on a weekly basis. I mean, look at me! Pathetic, aren't I?

Any ideas?

Coping Strategies

Folks have been complimenting me lately about how well I'm coping with things. I'm not going to say they're right, but I do find it easier to do something rather than nothing. There was a time in my life when I was very passive and would just wait for things to sort themselves out. But, as the residents of the Gulf Coast of Louisiana and Mississippi are discovering, that tactic rarely works well. The trick is to do the correct thing, rather than just anything. And I fully admit to working on getting that part of the equation right.

Some of my coping strategies of the past few days:

  • Instead of choosing to remain in the dark about my Dad's condition and just waiting for news to appear over my telephone lines, I'm getting very proactive. I've got most of his doctor's numbers in my Treo and have been in the process of calling and/or seeing them to help chart a better course of recovery. Yesterday I met with one of them just to give them information on what's been going on the last week or so. He, in turn, offered to go see my Dad in hospital in a few days. Don't know if that will make a difference, but it makes me feel a tad easier.
  • Instead of using my Dad's situation as an excuse to cease my weight loss activities, I've redoubled my efforts and have broken through that plateau. Current losses total 22.5 pounds. I'm still interested in the bike, but that's gonna have to wait a bit.
  • Instead of getting angry about the usual political stuff, I've just thrown myself into "Hauptmann" a bit more. The dancing last night at rehearsal was quite fun, and the actor playing my wife is an expert choreographer. "You're a good partner, Tom," she complimented. That's nice to hear, since it's been way too long since I've taken a dance class.

I promise more theatrical stuff, really I do! I've just got more things to cope with these days.

Monday, August 29, 2005

The Weekend that Was

Saw "Red Eye" and quite liked it. It's no "North by Northwest", but it's a great Saturday night date movie.

Dad continues to mend. They are weaning him off of various and sundry medications and are working on getting him up and moving around. He'll probably be released sometime this week, but we're not sure.

Attended a very nice surprise birthday party on Saturday night. But the highlight of the evening occurred after the party ended. Sweetie and I were standing outside of the restaurant with another couple and their child who's in the middle of potty training. The Father had the child up on his shoulders and was gently spinning around. All of a sudden, this look washed over his face and he took the child off of his shoulders and placed her on the ground. Before any of us had a chance to fully register what had happened, he knelt down and looked his daughter in the eye and the following conversation took place:

"Did you just pee on Daddy?"


"Well, then, it must be hotter out here than I thought."

Whereupon we all burst into uncontrollable fits of laughter. (BTW, both parents handled this situation perfectly. I hope that when I become a Father I'll be just as nonplussed.)

As we parted company, Mom was still a bit rattled by what just happened. I said to her: 'Hey, don't worry about it. Think of what a great Prom Night story that'll be."

Thursday, August 25, 2005

News of the Not So Good Variety

Dad is back in the hospital. He developed a high fever and abdominal pain over the weekend and rebuffed all requests from my Sister and I to seek medical attention. Sister took him to the ER on Tuesday morning and by Tuesday evening he was in the ICU, recovering from abdominal surgery. He is stabilizing and seems to be gettng better.

For those of you who may not know my Dad, let me fill you in a few things. He's a very smart (Yale-educated) man who has had an incredible run of good health over the course of his life. That run seems to have come to an end as of this past April, but either he doesn't realize or refuses to acknowledge this change.

So my quandary is this: how do you convince someone that their health has now changed and they need to be far more careful and proactive?

We're at our wits' end and can use any and all advice you have to offer.

Monday, August 22, 2005

More Rehearsal Notes

Cancel Red Alert. We have a replacement cast member! He read with us last week and we were able to talk him out of auditioning for "The Gin Game." I mean, come on! No contest!

All of Act 2 is now blocked.

Act 2 lines are due this week.

More later.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Rehearsal Notes

Just a few notes from rehearsals so far:

  • "Houston, we have a problem." A rather large one. We seem to have lost a cast member. I say "seem" because the gentleman in question has not shown up to rehearsal yet. He is new to this area, so perhaps there has been some major communications snafu. But if it isn't, he's got two problems:

    1. He's just blown off one of the more talented directors in this area.
    2. The cast he's just blown off is composed of six directors.

    It's still early in the process, so I'm not too concerned. But we need to get this guy or his replacement in here ASAP.
  • We laid down nine pages of blocking last night. At this rate, we'll have the whole show blocked by Labor Day weekend. And that's a good thing, because then we can start acting as opposed to moving around with scripts in our hands pretending to be actors.
  • There is a question about my hair. It may not be colored! But that matter is still up for debate.

More notes when they become available.

Monday, August 15, 2005

My Method (of) Acting

Part Two: Research & Script Preparation

Tonight marks the beginning of rehearsals. So I thought I'd better touch on the next phase of my process.

Since this is my first historical character I've played, research is going to be very important. I'm reading biographies of both Charles and his wife Anne,
as well as listening to popular music of the period. Some initial impressions:

  • Charles' grandfather fled Sweden because of a brewing political scandal and marital infidelities that resulted in the birth of his Father. That may explain a few things.
  • There is a great picture of Charles on the witness stand at the trial of Bruno Richard Hauptmann. At first glance, he appears uncomfortable. But the more I look at it, the more it seems that Charles is always wound up pretty tight.
  • Charles had no idea what would happen after he landed The Spirit of St. Louis in Paris. Maybe the kidnapping and murder of his child was a necessary sacrifice for all the adulation, fame, and money.

This process will continue through rehearsals, so I'll offer more insights as they come up.

Now, the next important thing I do is prepare my "working script". I write out all of my lines (and their cues, if necessary) by hand for two reasons:

  1. To help memorize my lines.
  2. To prepare the lines for textual analysis.

For a comprehensive explanation of the kind of textual analysis I do, please read The Actor and the Text by Cicely Berry. The process is pretty simple, yet layered. First, I look at each sentence and determine their subjects, verbs, and any important modifiers. What if a sentence contains more than one modifier? Then I try to determine which modifier is the most important. This is one of many choices that we actors have to make in the crafting of a role. What is of most importance to this character at this moment. Because this can always change later on. I also pay particular attention to slang words. From what I've been able to determine, Lucky don't use no slang. Interesting...

Then, I look for sound patterns, both consonants and vowels. Just doing this provides as much insight into your character as any biographical research. Why? Well, the prevalence of a particular sound (or sound pattern) can indicate one or more vocal choices you can make. People have different vocal habits: slurring, rate of speech, diphthongs, and accents. So you can play with these patterns to develop your character's speech.

Lastly, I divide up the text into "breaths" and "beats." What's a beat? Well, let's look at these famous lines and I'll explain.

To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them?

Ok, I'll show you my beat diagram of these lines:

To be, or not to be: that is the question:

This is the first beat since it is a complete thought. As an added bonus, it can be comfortably uttered in one breath.

Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, |
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them?

This is the second beat. Now, it's longer than the first. But it is a long thought, and you are probably going to take a breath at some point. I choose to take my breath in the middle, but you could take your breath after "troubles", thereby giving the last line more vocal weight.

Shakespeare, or any other verse text, is pretty no-nonsense when it comes to determining breaths and beats. Modern blank verse or text is a bit trickier. Punctuation can help you out, but not always. Take a look at some David Mamet and you'll see what I mean.

This process is almost complete, I'll probably wrap it up this week before rehearsals really get going.

Next up: the rehearsal process.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Stop Picking on D.C.!

Like all things in the blogosphere, this rant is brought to you courtesy of a blog post. Specifically, this line from this post from Catholic Packer Fan:

The biggest complaint by DC residents via radio programs and television? The complaint that DC was shunned by ESPN and the '50 States/50 Days' program, because DC is technically not a state. Of course, these are the same people who drive around with license plate border decorations and bumper stickers that read "Washington D.C., taxation without representation". Get over it, people.

(ESPN has since made D.C. the last stop on their tour. So, there you go.)

Now, I enjoy CPF's blog very much and he seems like a wonderful fellow. But I consider his feelings toward D.C. to be disrespectful at best and downright insulting at worst. I'm sure his comments were mainly meant in jest, but that doesn't make them right. As a life-long resident of the D.C. Metropolitan area, I have long considered the lack of congressional representation one of the worst hypocrisies in America. And neither political party has done squat to change this situation. I'll give the Republicans credit for being consistent in their lack of support while the Democrats have paid lip service to this issue for decades. (I couldn't find any mention of D.C. voting rights in either their 2000 or 2004 party platforms.)

Unfortunately, his feelings are shared by a majority of people who live "outside the beltway." And it's not as if they don't have some backup...

The Bone-Headed Constitution

  • Article I, Section 2 provides that the House of Representatives be "composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several States."
  • Article I, Section 3 provides that "[t]he Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State".

The Framers' language and purposes make it clear that the representatives provided for in Article I would be the exclusive legislators of the federal government. A plain reading of the Constitution indicates that the Constitution limits congressional voting representation to state residents. (taken from

Now, I hope that most folks realize there are problems with falling back on the Constitution. What are they? Oh, how about this one, and this one, and this one. So, just because it's in the Constitution doesn't mean it can't be changed.

Bone-Headed Congresscritters

In an earlier post I alluded to Congressman Henry Bonilla from Texas who wanted to rename 16th Street "Ronald Reagan Boulevard". But this example is not the most egregious. How about Bob Barr withholding much needed money from Metro unless they renamed a subway stop "Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport"? And what about the Congress' thwarting the D.C. Government's attempts to reroute trains carrying toxic chemicals like chlorine gas? Or their recent effort to repeal the District's strict gun laws?

I could go on, but I think you get the idea.

Bone-Headed Protesters

I understand that Washington, D.C. is always going to serve as a natural focal point for protest in this country. And most folks around here are ok with that. But if you're gonna come to protest, the least you can do is not trash the place. Or issue bomb threats near the White House. I mean, really!

Look, like it or not, there are people who actually live in the District of Columbia. They don't live in Maryland, even though they share a border with the Free State. And they are not part of the Commonwealth of Virginia either (we do have the Potomac River to help out). People such as my Father believe that the District of Columbia shouldn't have any kind of local population whatsoever. I jokingly asked him once if the National Guard should be called out to disperse the population into Maryland. He jokingly responded in the affirmative. So as long as we have American citizens residing there, I believe they should be afforded the same rights that all American citizens enjoy. Seems fair, right?

Well, there are politics in everything and simply asking for something just because it's the right thing to do won't get you far in this town. If you wanna get, you gotta give. So that's why Rep. Tom Davis' plan to offer full voting representation in Congress to D.C. in exchange for granting Utah an extra seat in Congress seems fair to me. Some of my more partisan Democratic friends scoff at this plan as being unfair. "Tell that to a D.C. citizen," I reply. "I think they can teach you a thing or two about what's fair and what's not."

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Weighty Matters

Well, I'm down 15 pounds. Yay me. But I think I've hit a plateau that I won't be able to break without some exercise. I used to be somewhat of a gym rat, meaning that I actually liked going to the gym. But the gym has become somewhat inconvenient, so I've been looking for a new outlet.

I considered taking up rollerblading again, but there's a problem: Arlington's got hills, kids. Lots of hills. Ugly, winding hills. Now I'm not afraid of a little speed, but I was never comfortable with navigating hills on two rows of wheels. So, I've not been on my blades much since moving in with Sweetie. I'm not getting rid of my blades just yet, but they are staying in the closet.

That brings us to bicycling. This started way back in 1991 when I began training for a charity century ride (that's 100 miles). On my second morning ride, I locked my back wheel on a rain-slickened wooden bridge, fell and fractured my left hand in two places. During the time I had two pins and a cast, I was informed of my acceptance to the acting program at CUA. So, out went the cycling.

But I never lost interest. I've kept up on every TDF since the late 80s, and even watched several Moab mountain biking championships over the years. My reunion roomie, Hugh, brought his bike to Kenyon and rode the Kokosing Gap Trail one afternoon. I was really jealous because it sounded like a lot of fun. And someone said to me that you should find something fun that will get you out of the house and exercising. Hmm....

My last bike was a fairly nice Univega mountain bike, but I'm not going to go singletracking anytime soon. But Arlington does have some nice hills, so I should have something upright and stable. I think that this will fit the bill nicely. And lucky me, a bike store in Arlington rents them by the week! So, in the next few weeks I'll rent one for a week and see if I actually get out and ride. If I do, then I'll buy it.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Cultural Notes

Ok, I've got other content to post here, but I thought I'd keep things light for the moment.

Saw "The Devil's Rejects" over the weekend and liked it a lot. And before you reject it out of hand, let me tell you two things: this movie contains the best use of music since "Pulp Fiction", and it has one of the better "cast of unknowns" ever assembled. Rob Zombie a legitimate filmmaker? Apparently, yes.

I've been chillin' with Coke Zero. (And that is probably the most commercial statement I'll ever make on this blog.)

Some bone-headed Congressman from Texas (shocker!) wants to rename 16th Street "Ronald Reagan Avenue". I'll have more to say about this later, but I'd like to make a counter-proposal: I'd like to rename W Washington Street in Pecos "TommySpoon Way". (And, for the record, it's still National Airport. If you call it by its other name I'll just stare at you blankly.)

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Seattle Highlights

We returned from Seattle exhausted yet elated. Such a fun time was had! Great people, great food, and such a great town. We're definitely returning at some point, if only to do all the things we wished we had time to do this time around.

The Pike Place Market

Fish throwing and the best cherries I've ever had. Oh, and the sandwiches at Three Girls Bakery are thrilling! Yes, thrilling, I tell you!

The Seattle Art Museum

If you can, catch the exhibit on Isamu Noguchi. Very innovative sculptor and designer of furniture, theatrical sets, and large public art projects. The pieces from his collaborations with Martha Graham ("Errand Into the Maze" and "Appalachian Spring") are stunning and provocative.


My favorite funkytown! Where else can you see a Troll Under a Bridge,


a statue of Lenin (with accompanying hot chick),

Hot Chick Hanging Onto Lenin

and an abandoned gas works turned into a public park?

Do Not Climb on the Giant Flywheel

The Everett Aquasox

Yes, they were crushed by the Tri-City Dust Devils 9-3. But we had such a great time! The Bride threw out the first pitch, the Groom sang the National Anthem, and the game ended with actual fireworks!

Oooh! Ahhh!

The Choir

Considering we had only four rehearsals, and only one with the entire choir, I thought we sounded pretty good. The Bride and Groom were moved to tears, and my Sweetie said we sounded "perfect." She wished that there was a tape recorder running. Sounds like we nailed it!

The Wedding

Many laughs, many tears, and much love. The space was grand and so was the couple!

What a Window!

The Reception

The beer, food, and music flowed all night. One of the best parties I've ever attended. We were honored to be seated at the 5-Spot table, named in honor of the restaurant where the couple had their first date. Later, the Groom proposed at the very same table!

Old Friends and New Friends

One of the best things about weddings is the opportunity to meet new people and get reacquainted with folks you haven't seen in forever. The choir brought together many Kenyon folks who I haven't seen or heard from in years. The added bonus being that I got to sing with them -- something I never got the chance to do while at school. So much thanks to Rob, Shelly, and Matt for carrying me through the songs with your skill and humor.

And thanks to the new folks! The Groom's Sister and her Boyfriend were a particular joy. Also one of the readers, his wife and adorable kids were an unexpected pleasure. Gots to get their contact information!

Not bad, eh? Now if only Sweetie and I landed jobs there and we could enjoy Rainier Cherries all year 'round!