Sunday, November 30, 2008

Black Friday

Black Friday is so named by the retail industry because it is hoped that the day after Thanksgiving will put them in the black, profit-wise. So it's a happy moniker, or supposed to be. But for me, this year, Black Friday became a darker day.

First of all, Thanksgiving Day was a delight for me. I accompanied a small gathering of friends to a local restaurant, and had the traditional Halibut On A Bed Of Garlic Potatoes With Sauteed Asparagus, just like the pilgrims. The only mar to the day was when one of my dinner companions, a gal who has known me for several years, asked, quite honestly, "Scott, have you retired?"

This question, innocently asked, pushed all sorts of buttons for me. I have recently allowed my natural hair color (salt and pepper) to bloom, and so anyone who has not seen me in a while is naturally startled by all the silver uptop. But I cannot believe that I look 65 years old.

So, the long holiday weekend was off with a big bang.

Just like everybody else this time of year, I am thankful for my family and friends and all the good and loving feelings I receive from them. I admit that I am also thankful for some material things, most especially my home. I feel very lucky to live where I do, and it was luck which put me here. I landed in DC only due to my graduate work, which included an internship here. It was never my intention to settle here, so my first home in The District really wasn't one; it was a hole in the ground which I dubbed "The Pit." It was a tiny basement apt with a door at the back of the closet leading into the furnace room. Once a month, when the oil for the furnace was delivered, I had to evacuate the place because of the fumes. Nice place, eh? I started getting work after I graduated, so I stayed in the city, and because I'm a lazy shlub, I remained in The Pit for over four years. Finally, it became apparent that I wasn't leaving the area any time soon, so I decided to improve my quality of life a bit and come up out of the ground. Rents at the time were running neck and neck with mortgage payments, and I was lucky enough (or frugal enough) to have a down payment, so I ended up on the hunt for a condo to buy. I had only two requirements, that it be centrally located (not a 'burb) and that it have a working fireplace. I looked at a few places, and landed in my current building because all the units had that fireplace. I was close to purchasing a very small unit located at the front of the building on the first floor when an aging hippy approached my broker in the hall and struck up a conversation. We ended up touring his much larger third floor unit (we toured all of it except the closet, which he declined to allow us to peek into. He was growing pot there). A month after our first look, I was moving in. This was nine years ago, and I've been very happy here. I've always been a homebody, and the one-bedroom is the perfect size for me, despite my tendency to clutter. Of course, I had to completely reline the chimney, replace the water heater, dishwasher, and stove, and still, after nine years, have not painted or re-carpeted. But that's my own laziness at work again. I'm lucky to be so centrally located, right on Capitol Hill, with my own parking space, a tremendous roof deck, and other niceties. And I caught a break on the price, too.

I've taken this schlep down memory lane to help remind myself how, all things considered, I still love living where I live.

The Tuscany is a building with about 20 units, and we all have a nodding acquaintance with each other. This is the Big City after all. It's a secure building, with a system which requires visitors to be buzzed in at the front door. Often, UPS or other delivery services gain entry and leave individual packages right inside the door. Recently, in fact on Black Friday, I discovered that a Christmas gift I purchased in anticipation of my trip to North Carolina for the hols, a big can of designer candy, was delivered last week, placed inside the security door, and then stolen. By one of my neighbors.

So this weekend, I'm afraid I've lost, not only 40 bucks, but my faith in the honesty of my neighbors. I know I'll recover, but from now on, as I pass one of my fellow Tuscans in the hall or in the parking lot, I will continue to nod, but will be wondering if this is the lowlife who stole a part of my family's Christmas.

Probably not the feeling one is supposed to have at Thanksgiving. Or perhaps it's spiritual payback for the theft my ancestors perpetrated on the native Americans during the time of the First Thanksgiving.
Yeah, I'll try to think of it that way...

Well, my Black Friday could have been worse, I suppose. I could have been that poor Wal-Mart employee who was trampled to death in New York, just because he stood in the way of a mass of crazed bargain hunters. But it might have been fun to be standing in the next aisle of that toy store in Palm Desert, where two shoppers' argument escalated to the point where they both pulled out guns and shot each other.

Be warned. Next time I go to Toys R Us, I'm packing heat.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Remembering Razzleberry Dressing

With the holidays officially upon us (even you Grinches who complain about Christmas Creep can't deny it), I thought the weekly Friday Dance Party might take on a holiday slant, at least in these pages. Scroll down and you will find a goofy clip which has a deeper meaning for me this time of year. You might recognize it as a song from Mr Magoo's Christmas Carol, one of those early 60s TV perennials to which boomers like me are attracted. I remember, as a kid, eagerly awaiting its broadcast each year. Though I was not a fan of Mr Magoo, there was something about this show which attracted me. When I grew older, I realized I loved the thing so much because it's a little Broadway musical, written in fact by Jule Styne and Bob Merrill (the writers of Funny Girl, among many others). The songs have the same bounce and sophistication as actual show tunes. Along with Jim Backus, the voice cast includes Jack Cassidy and Morey Amsterdam.

The program disappeared for a long while. Its lousy animation, and the fact that the Magoo character dropped out of fashion, are probably to blame. It never achieved the stature of other Christmas themed cartoons like Rudolph or The Grinch. But when it was released on video, I snapped it up, and have enjoyed it ever since. My great friends Scott and Drew are also admirers of this little charmer, and we had a standing tradition of gathering every year, usually the Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend, to sip champagne, nibble munchies, and watch the show together.

That routine is lost to us now, as we live on separate coasts, but I still plug the DVD into the player at some point over Thanksgiving weekend and raise a glass to that tradition. So, in honor of all those wonderful evenings we spent together (and as always, a nod to Larry's Friday Dance Party), enjoy the following clip.

Monday, November 24, 2008

William Gibson


He was a novelist and a poet, but Gibson was primarily known as a playwright and occasional screenwriter. He had two back-to-back Broadway hits in the late 1950s.

Two for the Seesaw, for which he won a Tony nomination, starred Anne Bancroft and Henry Fonda:
A year later, he provided Bancroft and a very young Patty Duke with career-making roles in The Miracle Worker:

Recreating their stage roles, both Duke and Bancroft won Oscars for the screen adaptation. Gibson won a Tony for the play, and an Oscar nomination for his film.

In 1964, he adapted the Clifford Odets 1930s play about boxing into the musical Golden Boy, earning another Tony nomination and providing Sammy Davis, Jr. a star turn. His Two for the Seesaw was adapted into the musical Seesaw in 1973, a production which launched the career of Tommy Tune as a dancer and choreographer (Tune won the first of his nine Tonys for his supporting role. Above are Michelle Lee, a shaggy-haired Tune, and Ken Howard in Seesaw).

In 1968, Gibson provided the Lincoln Center Repertory A Cry of Players, the fictionalized story of a young Will Shakespeare, stuck in an unhappy marriage and miserably employed by his father in Stratford. The play ran in rep with King Lear, and had a starry cast including Frank Langella and Anne Bancroft as the Shakespeares, with Rene Auberjonois, Stephen Elliott, Rosetta LeNoire, and Kristopher Tabori in support (a very young Paul Rudd was in the ensemble). I confess to a fondness for this play, as it provided me with a juicy role in my undergrad days, as Arthur, the young boy in the traveling players who always played the women.

I seem to have wandered into Memoryland here. Back to Gibson's obit:

Gibson continued to write for the stage, providing a flop sequel to The Miracle Worker called Monday After the Miracle, and a solo piece about Golda Meir, Golda's Balcony. The latter was a success for Tovah Feldshuh, who continues to perform the piece, and for Valerie Harper, left, who appeared in the national tour and the screen version.

Gibson continues to be remembered primarily for The Miracle Worker, which is constantly revived in community and educational settings, and has seen several television versions as well. In an interview several years ago, Gibson revealed this fun tidbit: in the original script, there was no mention of Annie Sullivan's Irish brogue, as the woman did not have one. But original star Anne Bancroft was having trouble dropping the very Noo Yawk accent she had been using for a year in Two for the Seesaw. Director Arthur Penn suggested the brogue, and it stuck. The role is now traditionally played with an Irish accent.

Coincidentally, local theatre Rep Stage is currently prepping Gibson's holiday play, The Butterfingers Angels, Mary & Joseph, Herod the Nut, & The Slaughter of 12 Hit Carols in a Pear Tree (here is a production shot of star Tim Pabon).

Gibson died this week at the age of 94.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

s'Newz occasional series mentioning current events which lately held my interest...

The belief that stock brokers, during the big crash of 1929, were leaping out of windows has been pretty much debunked as myth these days. But this actually happened: the current world-wide financial meltdown caused a Brazilian trader to shoot himself in the chest on the floor of the stock market. Ouch.

I was sorry to hear that one of my favorite comic actresses, Cloris Leachman, sought medical help this week for difficulty breathing. She apparently has pneumonia, and is home recuperating. I really am hoping she is not going to die, as her obituary would be dominated by her recent flamboyant stint on Dancing With the Stars. I have never watched an episode of the program (I avoid reality television), but clips of her antics have been hard to ignore, as they've been everywhere. That's OK, but I have such respect for the woman's talent that I really hope she gains some distance from the show before leaving us forever. She is reportedly the most "awarded" actress ever, with an Oscar, numerous Emmys, and even more Golden Globes and critics' circle awards. She first came to my attention as Phyllis on Mary Tyler Moore's sitcom, for which she won her first two Emmys. Somehow, she was able to make the self-centered character endearing. During her first year or so on the program, she won the Oscar for a highly dramatic role in The Last Picture Show, leaving no doubt of her versatility. With that history, I think it would be a crying shame if she were to be eulogized as that buxom broad who refused to act her age on a reality program.

Here's the most ironic story I caught this week. The late George Carlin, about whom I have already written, posthumously received the Mark Twain Prize for Comedy at the Kennedy Center in a ceremony which was held, and videotaped, this week. The television special covering the event will be broadcast in 2009. Carlin was famous for a lot of things, one of which was his infamous routine regarding the Seven Dirty Words You Can't Say on Television. During this week's ceremony, a video clip of that routine was shown to the audience, and was bleeped. Onstage. Live. I'm not talking about the TV tape which will be broadcast, which can certainly be censured during post-production; I mean that the tape of his routine shown to the live, in-person audience in the theatre at the Kennedy Center, was bleeped. I've had a little bit of experience with censorship at KenCen, though in this instance, the administration at the Kennedy Center disavowed putting any pressure on the producers of the show to censure this tape.

Carlin, wherever he is, is probably tearing his few remaining hairs out...

This last item reflects a sensibility which is creative, charitable, provocative, and kind of icky, simultaneously. Daniel Radcliff, the planet's most famous student wizard, will soon be wrapping up his Broadway stint as the sexually confused teen-aged horse-abuser in Equus. This particular production of the play is to be commended for its determination to raise funds for Broadway Cares / Equity Fights Aids (BC/EFA). Recently, they auctioned off various items associated with the play, including a signed script belonging to Kate Mulgrew, who is playing the judge in the piece. Her script brought a pretty penny from some star-crossed Trekkie. But there may be pandemonium in the theatre soon, as three matinee performances have been pegged to host another auction. This time, audience members will have the chance to buy the very pair of jeans worn by Radcliff during the performance. Our hunky Harry Potter will take his curtain call, dash backstage, strip off the jeans he wore throughout the performance (except when he was naked), and carry them back onstage to be auctioned off to the highest bidder. He'll even sign the skanky pants.

...I just have to let that image lay there for a while...

Friday, November 21, 2008

Friday Dance Party: It's Miller Time

With a nod to Larry Dalke's weekly Dance Party (his entry this week is truly hilarious, check it out at, please enjoy the above clip. The commercial was shot in 1970, when it was extremely rare for a star to appear in TV ads. At the time, with a budget reportedly well over 160 grand, this was the most expensive commercial ever produced. Everybody loved the spot but hated the product, which disappeared soon after this commercial ran.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Return of the Happy Dance

Many moons ago, I mentioned that I had purchased a scrumptious lobster tail to celebrate some terrific news which I was sure was forthcoming. That tail has been gathering frost in my freezer ever since.

It's been a long summer (and beyond) of inactivity for me, though I had some fun working on a film, and spent several days training young lawyers how to examine witnesses (that's not as provocative as it sounds). But I never really feel I'm working unless I'm in a show. As a result, I cast my net beyond the DC area, and spent several days auditioning for The Producers in Connecticut, and before that, attended a general audition for an up-and-coming theatre in North Carolina while I visited the pater.
More recently, I spent at least a month auditioning at a tiny theatre in Annapolis, for a production of The Fantasticks. I have unfinished business with the musical The Fantasticks, but that is another blog entry. Suffice it to say that, for now, that business will remain unfinished.

Though I confess I've been concerned about the lack of work, I am used to these periods of inactivity. My career has always had an ebb and flow to it; I tend to work a lot all at once, then remain unemployed for a while. Gladly, the current slump has come to an end, and there is once again Happy Dancing around here. That general audition I had in North Carolina at the beginning of the summer, after a loooong gestation period, yielded fruit, and I will be traveling back to NC in January for a brand new adventure. I'll be returning to the challenging world of Tom Stoppard (I did Arcadia a while back), tackling his first play.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern may end up dead, but not before I strut some stuff.

Tonight, I'm defrosting that lobster tail.

Saturday, November 15, 2008


When I entered grad school in the early 90s, I was surprised that no one in the gay community in South Carolina seemed aware of the Hit List. It's what we in Los Angeles informally called the group of corporations which had a history of contributing to anti-gay, anti-women, anti-human causes. Domino's Pizza neared the head of that list, as did Carl's Jr hamburgers, and especially Coors. That Colorado based beer company was at the time controlled by the Coors family, a group of right wing nut jobs who donated millions and millions of dollars to stamp out equality for everybody except white men. After a long (over a decade I think) boycott by the progressive community, the Coors company ousted its founders as CEOs, and reversed their positions, even offering domestic partnerships to their employees.

I've been thinking about that particular boycott, even as I now have Coors Light in my fridge. The Coors family still sits on the board of directors of that particular beer company, and receives profits from every can of beer I buy. And while the company which makes the brew is now progressive, the family is decidedly not. They helm a foundation which continues to do damage to equal rights around the country. So, technically, I am still funding hatred toward my own tribe and others.

This topic has reared its head in the past few weeks since the passage of Prop H8 in California. Due to the massive financial support the "Yes on 8" faction received from the Mormon church, the Marriott corporation has come under attack from those who want equal rights for all. Originally founded by a Mormon family, the company is currently being headed by Bill Marriott, himself a Mormon. Amid cries for a boycott, Marriott issued a sweeping statement which, while falling short of supporting equal rights, made clear his company's innocence of any wrongdoing:

As many of you may know I'm a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Some might conclude given my family's membership in the Mormon Church that our company supported the recent ballot initiative to ban same sex marriage in California. This is simply untrue. Marriott International is a public company headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland, and is not controlled by any one individual or family. Neither I, nor the company, contributed to the campaign to pass Proposition 8.

Thanks for clearing that up, Bill. But as a Mormon, I'm sure you tithe, right? Every good Mormon does, in substantial amounts. So while your corporation steered clear of the Prop 8 mess, you still handed over 10% or more of your gross income to your church, which in turn poured millions into the "Yes on 8" campaign. Did you stand up at any of your church meetings and denounce your church's stand, or even decline to contribute monetarily to it?

I find myself unable to accept Marriott's claims of innocence. But his attitude is at least understandable. I lived in Utah for a summer, and am well aware of the stubborn prejudice of that state's citizens. All he did was be a Mormon.

Another betrayal hits much closer to home. Once the list of individual contributors to the "Yes on 8" campaign was made public, actors and others who scoured the list were astounded to discover that the artistic director of one of California's leading musical theatres had contributed $1,000 toward passage of the amendment. Scott Eckern of the California Musical Theatre, a Mormon if you couldn't guess, expressed disappointment and surprise that his donation angered the gay community, a community in which he has worked for many years. It's astonishing to me that this guy works day in and day out among dozens of gays, and still sent a thousand dollars to a campaign to rob them of marital rights. His participation ignited a firestorm, including a personal phone call to him from Tony-winner Marc Shaiman, the composer of Hairspray, who promised that no theatrical work under his control would ever be performed at the theatre. The producer of Broadway's Avenue Q, which had granted rights to CMT for a production this season, stopped short of yanking those rights ("we don't break contracts"), but members of the creative team were considering writing a new song about Eckern's contribution toward bigotry and placing it in the show.

Of course, this guy has every right to believe what he believes, and to contribute his own money anywhere he pleases. But Shaiman and other artists also have the right to refuse to allow their work to earn money for those who contribute to bigotry. As that Avenue Q producer said:

That a man who makes his living exclusively through the musical theater could do something so hurtful to the community that forms his livelihood is a punch in the stomach. He didn’t just vote for it. One thousand dollars is a lot of money for an artistic director of a nonprofit.”
As news of Eckern's stand against same-sex marriage spread, he backpedaled furiously by contributing another grand to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), but the damage of his innate bigotry was already done. California Musical Theatre accepted Eckern's resignation on Wednesday.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Blame Larry

My buddy Larry has proclaimed every Friday to be a Dance Party on his blog (, and in the spirit of copycatdom, I present the above video.

Frankly, I think our Larry is confused about exactly what "dance" is. In the four weeks since he has inaugurated his Friday Dance Party, he has featured only one segment which contained dancing. Otherwise, he has presented rodents dancing, skeletons dancing, and, inexplicably, a steel-drum band who did nothing but stand still.

So, to help our Larry out, because we love him even as he becomes more and more confused, I offer the above video. These nine-year olds are actually DANCING...

Thursday, November 13, 2008


...another in an occasional series mentioning current events which caught my interest this week...

It looks like Jane Fonda is returning to Broadway after 46 years. During that brief hiatus, she won two Oscars, an Emmy, and the enmity of a lot of folks who called her Hanoi Jane. Even she now admits those photos of herself yucking it up with the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War were ill-advised. After a long period of self-imposed retirement, during her marriage to Ted Turner, she has returned to prominence as an elder stateswoman of the arts. I run hot and cold on Fonda, and not because of her political stances, upon most of which I agree with her. I'm not really sure she's as strong an actress as she's given credit being. Back when she was rebelling against her sex-pot image, she was trying to stretch herself (The China Syndrome comes to mind), and no one can argue with her Oscar winning work. Although I enjoyed her in Julia, the fact is she vanished in her scenes with Vanessa Redgrave, with Jason Robards, and even in her short scene with Meryl Streep (Streep is fabulous in her cameo appearance in the film). I admire her for snagging the film rights to the stage play On Golden Pond for the express purpose of appearing in it with her father. But here again, though she won an Oscar nomination for her work, she just couldn't keep up with her co-stars. Henry Fonda and Katherine Hepburn wiped the screen with her; even the little boy in the film fared better.

Speaking of actors who are well-known (and often ridiculed) for their political views, I was amused by the story of Tim Robbins on Election Day. There was some foul-up at his polling place in New York, but instead of giving up, Robbins pursued the error all day, ending up in court, where a judge ordered that he be allowed to vote. I'm loving that determination, particularly since we all know for whom he was voting, and New York was clearly going to Obama anyway. His particular vote was not going to make any difference, but he persevered. Democracy at work.

There was some sad news from the regional theatre front last week. Robin Farquhar, the long-time executive artistic director of the Flat Rock Playhouse in North Carolina, committed suicide. This sorry event happened just a day after the theatre had dedicated its new building which houses its educational wing. Farquhar took over the reins of the theatre from his father Robroy Farquhar, who himself had founded the theatre in 1952. I can't claim to have known Robin, though I met him once years ago, at a large cattle call audition in New York. I did not let him know at the time that the Flat Rock Playhouse held a special spot in my life. Back when I was a pre-teen, I spent several weeks every summer with the grandfolks in Hendersonville, NC. For reasons which escape me now, my grandmother one day announced that we were driving "down the mountain" to see a matinee at the Flat Rock Playhouse. I had never seen a play before. The show was Look Homeward Angel, and it made a lasting impression on me. In short, I was hooked. I knew that I wanted to have a career on the stage, and I owe that realization to the Farquhar family of director/producers.

Finally, this tidbit gave me the giggles and the icks at the same time. Last week, a packed house at the 9:30 club (a rock club featuring live music here in DC) was treated to an indoor shower. In the midst of a concert by a Grateful Dead tribute band, several patrons started to feel liquid streaming down on their heads. Looking up, they saw a grinning man leaning over the balcony, pissing on them. The man was arrested, and it was discovered that he was a Jersey City councilman. Spokesmen for the council assured reporters that Steve Lipinski, the Urinator in question, was a caring human being who always put the needs of others above his own. Lipinski himself apologized several days later, claiming to be an alcoholic who had fallen off the wagon at the concert. He was arrested for simple assault.

I'm sure it's not the first time a crowd got pissed by a politician.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The M Word

What a feeling. What a triumph of hope over fear, of positive over negative, of integrity over its lack. It's been a joyous few days. And though no one can claim that racism is now gone, we have proof positive that it will no longer be tolerated. A gentleman of color has risen to the highest office in the world, and he did so with a message of inclusion. There is no more room for bigotry and blind hatred in this wonderful new world.

Not so fast, Paleface.

In the midst of the euphoria that the Obama victory brought about, its exact opposite is also running rampant. In several states, the equal rights of gays were once again denied. And nobody really cares. It's still OK, you see, to condone discrimination against homosexuals. Not just condone it, but encourage it, as in Arkansas, where it is now illegal for a gay couple to adopt a child. Nowhere is this attitude more shocking than in California, the nation's most populous state, and one of its most socially liberal. The passage of Proposition 8, though by a slim margin, once again approves the idea that all men are not created equal. The women aren't, either.

So, California joins the lengthening list of states (26) which have amended their constitutions to prohibit same-sex marriage. In the past years, each and every time such an amendment is placed on the popular ballot, it has been approved. Each and every time. Except once. In Arizona, in 2006, the measure failed. A re-worded amendment was placed on this year's ballot, and passed. Which leads me to reiterate a question I wondered of gay activists in charge of this fight over a decade ago:

What the fu*k are you doing?

Certainly, the passage of Prop 8 had everything to do with the millions of dollars poured into the campaign by religious groups. They far outspent the "No on 8" group, and spread a thick goo of misinformation and hate-mongering all over the state.

But still, I ask gay activists who have been pushing for legal gay marriage for many years: why?

Specifically, why are you intent on calling our unions marriage? It is that hotbutton buzzword that so inflames the religious right, galvanizing them to shut down any attempts to gain equal rights under the law. Polls show that the majority of Americans approve of equal legal rights for same-sex couples. Let me repeat that. Polls show that over 50% of the American public agree that it is fair for committed gay couples to have the same legal rights and privileges as straight couples. This is even true of people who believe they don't know any gays, even people from states like Wyoming, where they prefer their queers pistol-whipped and strapped to fences. Even there, people agree that same-sex couples should have equal rights under the law.

But about 15 years ago, Gay Activist Leaders (let's call them GALs) decided they wanted our relationships to be called something more than Civil Unions, or Domestic Partnerships. They wanted us all to be married.

It is that word which ignites the ignorant and brings the bigoted into action. Polling done this week in California reveals an astonishing statistic, that African-Americans voted overwhelmingly to deny gay couples equal rights. A minority group which has struggled for their own civil rights for well over a century jumped on the bandwagon to deny another group theirs. This development is solely due to Gay Activists' insistence on using the M Word: marriage. By continually shouting it from the rooftops, our GALs have allowed this issue to be framed as a religious one rather than one of civil equality. The "Yes On 8" crowd shrewdly targeted black churches throughout the state and turned a fight which, at its core, is about equal rights for all, into a question of condoning, and even approving of, homosexuality. Americans as a whole have never been known for their tolerance, religious or otherwise, and African-Americans are no exceptions, even after the fight they themselves seem to have won with the election of a black president.

There doesn't seem to be a solution here. As long as we continue to insist that our unions be called marriages, constitutional bigotry will continue to spread across the nation. If calling our relationships Civil Unions or Domestic Partnerships will no longer suit, let's come up with a brand new name for them. Who the hell cares what they are called, as long as they afford gays the same rights and privileges as the straights? And getting a constitutional amendment reversed is nearly impossible. So, despite what I'm hearing from the GALs, that the fight will go on and progress is being made by bringing this issue before the American public, I know in my gut that the cause of our equality is taking backward steps.

In California, and everyplace else in this country, that will continue to happen, as long as we use the M Word.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Michael Crichton


The noted science-fiction writer who created the source material for many big-budget films died today from cancer.

The Andromeda Strain

Jurassic Park

The Lost World


In 1973, Westworld became the first film to use computer generated special effects. Crichton won the Oscar for Technical Achievement in 1995 for his development of computer programs to be used in film production. For his creation and writing of ER, he won back-to-back Emmy Awards and the Peabody. In 2002, a newly discovered herbivorous dinosaur was named in his honor.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Hanging With Chad

I have never had any kind of trouble voting here in DC, as my polling place is literally one block up the street. Located in a run-down middle school (all schools in DC are run-down), I usually wander up the street around mid-morning on election day. There has never been a line of people in front of me; the only waiting occurs while the election official laboriously tries to locate my name on her roster. In DC, our election-day volunteers usually find reading a challenge. And my name is a bit of a problem. I am registered, of course, with my first and last name, just like everybody else. Unfortunately, my name happens to be one of the most popular male names in the English language, so there is always some question about which "Robert Williams" I am.

But aside from that mild frustration, I have never, ever waited in line to vote in DC. But we've all been inundated with stories of the massive turn-out expected this year, so I thought I'd avoid any problems and vote absentee.

Last week, I walked downtown to the election board to pick up my absentee ballot. I almost always voted absentee in Los Angeles to avoid the crowds, though I suspect these ballots are never opened unless the election is close enough that they will make a difference. And here in DC, national elections are NEVER close, the city is so overwhelmingly Democratic. Presidential candidates don't even bother to campaign here.

But I want to do my civic duty and vote and all that. The elections board downtown was hosting DC's early voting, and a very long line snaked outside the office. Fortunately, I skipped right in to pick up my mail-in ballot. It was a pleasant walk.

I now have opened my ballot and read the instructions, which confuse the heck out of me. First of all, with this ballot, you have the option of mailing it in. At your own expense! And Warning! It may require additional postage! But why don't they already know whether or not the ballot requires extra postage? Haven't they weighed it? It's a single sheet of paper. Since they don't know for sure what the postage for the ballot will be, you have to take the ballot to the post office to mail it. Ironically, but completely typical of the DC government services, the lines at the post office are always substantial, while the line at the polling office is non-existent. Perhaps I'll decline to use the absentee ballot and just go vote.

But here's the even bigger riot. In order to obtain an absentee ballot, you have to claim to be out of town on election day, or too incapacitated to show up at the polling place. However, if you don't want to mail your absentee ballot, you can turn it in to the polling station on election day.

Got that? You have to claim to be out of town on election day in order to use the ballot, but you are allowed to turn it in, in person, on election day.

Who's at the wheel of this thing?