Friday, September 29, 2006

Friday, September 29th

This week started off with a horrific business trip to Cleveland. Thunderstorms ripped through the southeast on Sunday when I was flying throwing the entire air system into chaos. I boarded my flight in Birmingham at 2:30, then we sat on the tarmac for pushing four hours. Then we got to Atlanta where Hartsfield was a zoo and I sat for another four or five hours. Needless to say, it was well past 2 AM by the time I got to Cleveland and I got four hours of sleep before having to appear for my Monday meetings. (Pharmacy and Therapeutics committee for a Medicare D drug plan). Flew back Monday night without incident but was dog tired by the time I got home.

I read 'The Kite Runner' on one of the flights. Very, very good and I highly recommend it to anyone who would like a good literate read. On the surface, it's the story of two young Afghani men whose lives take different paths against the backdrop of Afghanistan's civil wars and occupations of the last few decades. Underneath, it's about all those great literature themes - family, loyalty, guilt, redemption, connection etc.

Work is more or less in a holding pattern at the moment. We're finally getting some more help in clinic so things should start to improve there over the next few months. I may even be able to take a little time off this winter.

Working on props for 'Little Shop of Horrors' this weekend. That and a theater board meeting that I am not looking forward to for a variety of reasons. We also plan to see friends in a production of 'The Last Five Years' tonight.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Wednesday, September 20th

This has been a highly unpleasant few days. After six or eight weeks of abdominal symptoms, I got to spend this last weekend preparing for a colonoscopy - which I had on Monday. While the procedure itself was fine, the resulting electrolyte imbalances have left me with horrible muscle cramps and the gut disturbances have given me hiccups and esophageal spasms. All of that has made it hard to sleep, concentrate or otherwise have a normal life. The results came back today. I have chronic inflammatory bowel disease (a gift from my father who has the same thing) - meaning a lifetime of medication and regular surveillance colonoscopy to prevent colon cancer and keep symptoms at bay. Welcome to middle age. Something was bound to go wrong eventually - I suppose this is god's way of keeping me sympathizing and empathizing with my patient population.

I would call my father and thank him, but he and my mother are currently in Europe floating down the Rhine and the Danube. They should be pulling into Budapest just in time for riot and revolution. Fortunately, they are both smart enough not to get off the boat if things are too problematic there. The genetic good news can wait until their return.

The first production of Tommy's new company, Magic City Actors Theater, opened last night - 'How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying' - quite a good show. The cast is amazingly good. The staging great. The tech a little ragged around the edges but a couple more performances should take care of that. They're doing a lot of stuff with projections and getting all the timing down takes practice and that's hard to do when the set's still being completed an hour before curtain on opening night.

Saw my friend Ellise's production of Paula Vogel's 'The Oldest Profession' at Birmingham Festival Theater this past weekend. Some great moments. The best being one of the 80 something grand dames of Birmingham society singing 'Proud Mary' a la Tina Turner. Must be seen to be believed.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Tuesday, September 12th

I could not possibly put my thoughts about 9/11 any more eloquently than Keith Olbermann did last night. Here is the transcript.

Keith Olbermann – 9/11/2006

And lastly tonight a Special Comment on why we are here.

Half a lifetime ago, I worked in this now-empty space. And for 40 days after the attacks, I worked here again, trying to make sense of what happened, and was yet to happen, as a reporter. And all the time, I knew that the very air I breathed contained the remains of thousands of people, including four of my friends, two in the planes and as I discovered from those "missing posters" seared still into my soul two more in the Towers.

And I knew too, that this was the pyre for hundreds of New York policemen and firemen, of whom my family can claim half a dozen or more, as our ancestors.

I belabor this to emphasize that, for me this was, and is, and
always shall be, personal. And anyone who claims that I and others like me are "soft", or have "forgotten" the lessons of what happened here is at best a grasping, opportunistic, dilettante and at worst, an idiot whether he is a commentator, or a Vice President, or a President.

However. Of all the things those of us who were here five years ago could have forecast of all the nightmares that unfolded before our eyes, and the others that unfolded only in our minds none of us could have predicted this.

Five years later this space is still empty.
Five years later there is no Memorial to the dead.
Five years later there is no building rising to show with proud
defiance that we would not have our America wrung from us, by cowards
and criminals.
Five years later this country’s wound is still open.
Five years later this country’s mass grave is still unmarked.
Five years later this is still just a background for a photo-op.

It is beyond shameful.

At the dedication of the Gettysburg Memorial barely four months
after the last soldier staggered from another Pennsylvania field, Mr.
Lincoln said "we cannot dedicate - we cannot consecrate we cannot
hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here,
have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract." Lincoln used those words to immortalize their sacrifice.

Today our leaders could use those same words to rationalize their reprehensible inaction. "We cannot dedicate we cannot consecrate we cannot hallow this ground." So we won’t.

Instead they bicker and buck-pass. They thwart private efforts, and jostle to claim credit for initiatives that go nowhere. They spend the money on irrelevant wars, and elaborate self-congratulations, and buying off columnists to write how good a job they’re doing instead of doing any job at all.

Five years later, Mr. Bush we are still fighting the terrorists on these streets. And look carefully, sir on these 16 empty acres, the
terrorists are clearly, still winning. And, in a crime against every victim here and every patriotic sentiment you mouthed but did not enact, you have done nothing about it.

And there is something worse still than this vast gaping hole in
this city, and in the fabric of our nation. There is, its symbolism of the promise unfulfilled, the urgent oath, reduced to lazy execution.

The only positive on 9/11 and the days and weeks that so slowly and painfully followed it was the unanimous humanity, here, and throughout the country. The government, the President in particular, was given every possible measure of support.

Those who did not belong to his party tabled that.
Those who doubted the mechanics of his election ignored that.
Those who wondered of his qualifications forgot that.

History teaches us that nearly unanimous support of a government cannot be taken away from that government, by its critics. It can only be squandered by those who use it, not to heal a nation’s wounds, but to take political advantage.

Terrorists did not come and steal our newly-regained sense of being American first, and political, fiftieth. Nor did the Democrats. Nor did the media. Nor did the people. The President and those around him did that.

They promised bi-partisanship, and then showed that to them,
"bi-partisanship" meant that their party would rule and the rest would
have to follow, or be branded, with ever-escalating hysteria, as morally or intellectually confused; as appeasers; as those who, in the Vice Presidents words yesterday, "validate the strategy of the terrorists."

They promised protection, and then showed that to them "protection" meant going to war against a despot whose hand they had once shaken, a despot whom we now learn from our own Senate Intelligence Committee, hated Al-Qaeda as much as we did.

The polite phrase for how so many of us were duped into supporting a war, on the false premise that it had something to do with 9/11, is "lying by implication." The impolite phrase, is "impeachable offense."

Not once in now five years has this President ever offered to
assume responsibility for the failures that led to this empty space and to this, the current, curdled, version of our beloved country.

Still, there is a last snapping flame from a final candle of
respect and fairness: even his most virulent critics have never suggested he alone bears the full brunt of the blame for 9/11. Half the time, in fact, this President has been so gently treated, that he has seemed not even to be the man most responsible for anything in
his own administration.

Yet what is happening this very night? A mini-series, created, influenced possibly financed by the most radical and cold of domestic political Machiavellis, continues to be televised into our homes. The documented truths of the last fifteen years are replaced by bald-faced lies; the talking points of the current regime parroted; the whole sorry story blurred, by spin, to make the party out of office seem vacillating and impotent, and the party in office, seem like the only option.

How dare you, Mr. President, after taking cynical advantage of the unanimity and love, and transmuting it into fraudulent war and needless death after monstrously transforming it into fear and suspicion and turning that fear into the campaign slogan of three elections how dare you or those around you ever "spin" 9/11.

Just as the terrorists have succeeded are still succeeding as long as there is no memorial and no construction here at Ground Zero. So too have they succeeded, and are still succeeding as long as this government uses 9/11 as a wedge to pit Americans against Americans.

This is an odd point to cite a television program, especially one from March of 1960. But as Disney’s continuing sell-out of the truth (and this country) suggests, even television programs can be powerful things. And long ago, a series called "The Twilight Zone" broadcast a riveting episode entitled "The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street."

In brief: a meteor sparks rumors of an invasion by extra-terrestrials disguised as humans. The electricity goes out. A neighbor pleads for calm. Suddenly his car and only his car starts. Someone suggests he must be the alien. Then another mans lights go on. As charges and suspicion and panic overtake the street, guns are inevitably produced. An "alien" is shot but he turns out to be just another neighbor, returning from going for help.

The camera pulls back to a near-by hill, where two extra-terrestrials are seen, manipulating a small device that can jam electricity. The veteran tells his novice that theres no need to actually attack, that you just turn off a few of the human machines and then, "they pick the most dangerous enemy they can find, and its themselves." And then, in perhaps his finest piece of writing, Rod Serling sums it up with words of remarkable prescience, given where we find ourselves tonight.

"The tools of conquest do not necessarily come with bombs and explosions and fallout. There are weapons that are simply thoughts, attitudes, prejudices - to be found only in the minds of men. For the record, prejudices can kill and suspicion can destroy, and a thoughtless, frightened search for a scapegoat has a fallout all its own for the children, and the children yet unborn."

When those who dissent are told time and time again as we will be, if not tonight by the President, then tomorrow by his portable public chorus that he is preserving our freedom, but that if we use any of it, we are somehow un-American.

When we are scolded, that if we merely question, we have "forgotten the lessons of 9/11" look into this empty space behind me and the bi-partisanship upon which this administration also did not build, and tell me:

Who has left this hole in the ground?

We have not forgotten, Mr. President.

You have.

May this country forgive you.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Friday, September 8th

Things are settling down into fall pattern. Tommy started school a couple of weeks ago and is spending a lot of time at the University of Montevallo working at his music classes. Diction, sight singing, vocal performance, music technology and choir seem to be on the books for this semester. While he is down there, I continue the work thing. Still trying to hold the outpatient clinic together despite problem after problem with staffing that makes it very difficult to keep enough caregivers in the clinic for patient needs.

On the good news front, I was cast as Lazar Wolf in a production of 'Fiddler on the Roof' that opens in January. This was a part I was not expecting and should be a lot of fun. How they are going to make this tall thin blond goy into Jewish papa, I'm not sure but I do get the best song in the show ('To Life').

Tommy and I went to NOLA for the Labor Day weekend. The city continues its slow recovery from Katrina. The quarter is more or less back to normal and downtown is rebuilding pretty steadily. Outside of there and the Garden District, however, huge swaths of the residential city are gone and will probably never be back. It's sad but inevitable given the various environmental and land management policies of the last century. When will we ever learn?

I'll be on stage briefly on Sunday at the Virginia Samford Theater doing my Cabaret Emcee thing in a bit for the Bravo festival for CenterStage productions - for those who've never seen that whole schtick.