May 5th, 2003

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to The Forum

The West Allis Players held auditions for their summer musical, "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" April 28, 29 and 30. I have worked with director Mary Beth Topf on a number of shows and went to audition, recalling that she had told me I would make a good Senex (one of the main characters). Unfortunately, the role is just a bit too high for me, musically. I did, however, get cast as Erronius, the old man who's children were stolen by pirates. Buster Keaton played this part in the movie adaptation, and those are big shoes to fill. It isn't a huge part, but the scenes I'm in are quite stealable--. Oh, well, this keeps my string of non-singing characters in musicals--.
Performances will be June 20, 21, 27, 28 and a matinee on June 29. More details as they occur.

Salon, May 2, "Influence of the Media."

After two months of weather-related cancellations, Sue Blom's Salon met at her residence on May 2. Topic was "The Influence of the Media on Society." We had a very rambling and lively discussion. Questions raised included whether or not the United States can still be said to have a free press or not. Given the supine acquiesence of American media to the government line, and the shocking amount of material reported by other reliable outlets (including the BBC!) that went totally unremarked in the US, we tended to think that this was a serious question, although "independent" might be the missing parameter rather than "free". President Eisenhauer warned us about the "miltary-industrial complex," but we didn't think that the media was that sort of industry, too.

The other major question brought up asked why Americans purport to not trust the media, yet large numbers of people seem to believe everything they read or see. We did not have as satisfactory a conclusion, although desires for security, certainty, and validation were determined to be likely factors.

X-Men 2 Review

On Saturday, May 3, we braved the crowds to catch an early show of X-Men 2. Our timing was good as we beat the rush and got good seats, although the theater filled in pretty rapidly. We were surprised by the number of children under five that were brought by parents. It would have been my opinion that the violence would have been too intense for young children, but we didn't hear any crying during the film.

We enjoyed the film thouroughly. Contrary to some reviews, I thought there was considerable character development, particularly the Scott-Jean-Logan triangle, and the roguish teamwork between Magneto and Mistique. Famke Janssen as Jean Grey was particularly good this outing, and it was nice to see Rebecca Romijin-Stamos in person without the "Mistique" makeup. Brian Cox was an excellently nasty villain as the primary 'heavy', William Stryker, and of course, you can't beat Patric Stewart and Ian McKellen, reprising their roles as Professor X and Magneto, respectively. Allen Cumming was also excellent as newcomer Nightcrawler (And looked great, too. I thought the Nightcrawler teleportation effects were particularly well done.)Aaron Stanford as Pyro did well flirting with the "Dark Side."

The younger generation of mutants are present largely in cameo roles, although Bobby "Iceman" Drake has a larger role an another uncomfortable triangle involving Rogue and Logan. It was fun to see comic characters Syrin, Kitty Pryde, Hank McCoy and Jubilee, if only as momentary cameos.

The one disappointment was the treatment of "Deathstrike," who in the comics was Logan's long-running nemesis. Here, she is reduced to Stryker's pet killing machine, and I don't recall the character having a single spoken line. We know actress Kelly Hu (The Scorpion King) can do better than this, and it's a shame she wasn't given the chance. Nevertheless, I give the movie my strong recommendation.

Pat Hario's Bon Voyage Party, 05-03-03

Saturday evening, we drove over to Madison for a party for Madison fan Pat Hario. Pat is going to fulfill a long standing dream by shipping as a crew member on a year-long around-the-world voyage on a sailing ship, the barque "Picton Castle," home port Lunenberg, Nova Scotia. (A barque is a three-masted vessel which is ship-rigged or square-rigged on the fore and main masts, and fore-and-aft rigged on the mizzen, or stern-most, mast.) She had video and pictures of the ship, as well as a world map showing the itinerary. The Picton Castle is a beautiful tall ship, and can be seen at

It was a swell party as well, with really great eats and drinks, and quite a few old Madisonians we hadn't seen in some time. Admiration for Pat's coming adventure was universal, not least for the amount of work she has done just to enable her to take a year off from normal life and do this, and we wish her the best of luck.

Gaming Group, Mystery Men, 05-04-03

The ad hoc gaming group got off the ground again Sunday evening, with me gamemastering "Mystery Men." I'm using basically free-form "rules" and no dice. The milieu is Mill City, a cross between Milwaukee and the Gotham-like Champion City from the movie. Characters are "The Plumber," "MilitiaMan," "The Spider Man," (not the one you are thinking of) and Winter Noir, computer cracker extraordinaire.

Action got underway as The Plumber, on patrol, spotted thugs abducting a pawnshop operator. His intervention was greeted with gunfire, which drew the attention of MilitiaMan. The crooks fled and were interecepted by local sponsored superhero Braumeister (sponsored by Mill Beer). Things went wrong when Braumeister was affected strangely by his hyper-vitamin fortified beer drink and acted drunk, hindering both the characters and the police. A ne group of sponsored superheroes, the Nova Men, arrived on the scene to clean up and take most of the credit.

Smelling a rat, Plumber and Militiaman adjourned to the local superhero-wannabe bar, where they met The Spider Man and Winter Noir, who were interested in their story. Various degrees of detective work ensued, checking out the Nova Institute, the Nova Men, and the contents of a can of SuperBrew. Tune in next time as the daring heros recruit more help and plan a data raid on the Nova Institute!

Ashram, 05-05-03, "Show and Tell"

This evening, the spitituality discussion group, or Ashram, will be meeting at the residence of Bob and Judy Seidl. This month's topic is to show and tell about books or writings that have influenced your spiritual life. I won't be able to attend because of a first read-through for "Forum," but Georgie will, and I'm sending her with my list, which is as follows:

Tao Te Ching: For the first passage, that is often paraphrased, “The Tao that can be named is not the true Tao.” This is the first major religion that acknowledges that the Deity is nothing like an old man with a long white beard, and that it does not sit on someone’s shoulder like Jiminy Cricket telling us what to eat and not to eat, or whom to have sex with and who not.

Sayings of Confucius: Confucius has a lot to say to warriors and administrators. I particularly admire the portion that is translated as: “If you rule by example, the people will follow your example. If you rule by laws, the people will concentrate on staying out of jail.” The second part is certainly true. The first part is rarely tested.

Samurai Creed: In a very short document, it gives a very thorough analysis of how self-reliance and openness of mind can be applied to almost every situation, distaining reliance on material things. This would be a hard creed to live up to and few samurai ever actually did, but I still find it inspiring.

Messages from Michael: Too long to go into in detail, this text expounds a very elegant theory of the universe and our place in it that I find harmonious and aesthetically and spiritually pleasing. Whether or not the ideas were actually dictated by an ascended teacher or just synthesized from other sources by the writer, I have found many useful tools toward working out other people’s personality types and goals, and how to understand them.

That Hideous Strength: This book taught me a lot about the nature of evil: that much of it grows out of pride and spite, but chiefly selfishness, and that the greatest sin is cutting yourself off from the human race. Dehumanizing others permits all sorts of terrible behavior.

The Screwtape Letters: A lot more about the seductions of bad behavior and how we fall into it, but the chief inspiration found here was the idea that the Deity wants “lovers,” and not slaves or mere worshippers—that our goal is to rejoin with Deity of our own free will and because we want to, because we have become Godlike in our understanding of God, and that Deity desires this because it is renewed by our contribution. (This is also the ultimate conclusion of the “Michael” books, but I found the basic idea here first.)

All of these writings have helped shape who I am: I hope to be able to report on others' choices as well.