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Wednesday, March 31, 2004

No way around it

I went into the men's room on the basement floor of my office building today and I saw a man changing the diaper of an infant. The infant was lying on its back on top of the sink. A baby on a sink really disturbs me.

Friday, March 26, 2004

Elevator speaks the word

The elevator in the office building where I work displays this little newscrawlie thing that get quirky little stories from CNN or something. It informed me that a man who murdered his pregnant lover was inspired by "The Passion of Christ" to come forward and confess his crime. Christian fundamentalists will no doubt hail this as a miracle of justice and redemption and such. And it brings to mind something I've realized about Christian fundamentalists that modern, secular people just don't get. See, everyone thinks they're moralistic and judgmental, but the thing is they're *not*. Not at all. And that's one of the reasons they're so scary. *I'm* moralistic and judgmental. Most people with a shred of human decency are. E.G: I think anybody who murders his pregnant lover is pretty much a dick. I don't care what he says about Jesus dying for him, he's a dick. Jesus dying doesn't make him not a dick. I've done some dickish things in my life, but I'm better than that guy. Way better. But the fundies don't see it that way, they think I'm just as much of a dick as he is, they think we're *all* dicks because of our sinful natures. We're all equally awful, no one is truly good, and only this God person gets to judge, (although they generally seem to have a pretty good handle on His positions) All that matters is if you're sorry, and you tell Jesus this, because He's the person whose forgiveness you need to ask for, not say, your dead girlfriend, because she was a sinner too. Harlot.

Now I masturbate a fair amount (which most sane people don't consider sinful anyway, but let's say it's a trivial sin for the sake of argument) I'm not sorry about it. Not one bit. Therefore it's eternal damnation for me. But the murderer guy, who as established, murdered someone, is in a state of grace because he told Jesus he's sorry.

This is warped, but it's not judgmental or moralistic. I remember one Jack Chick pamphlet that's about two cowboys. All Jack Chick pamphlets are about something like cowboys, which is what makes them great. One cowboy is a lawman, honest, righteous and compassionate. But he's an atheist. The other cowboy is a mass murdering criminal but he tells Jesus he's sorry at the end. You can guess where they each wind up for eternity.

And these people are like a third of the American population and they control our government. Always a happy thought to contemplate.

See I'm judgmental, I think there are cool people, and there are dicks. Not saying there are no shades of grey, there are lots, but that's basically how it is. I think Jesus was judgmental too. I guess the fundies think he was the one person who had a right to be. I think everybody does. The ability to judge is what makes you *human* for fuck's sake. Jesus was always telling the hypocrites where to get off, because he had a sense of what was right. He was a cool person, Mel Gibson is a dick.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

The Next Big Thing

Of late I've been experimenting with the notion of getting a decent amount of sleep at night. This is a very novel concept for me. Interestingly I think college was the one era in my life where I slept as much as I wanted to. High school is actually much better preparation for the 40 hour a week lifestyle than college is, because it's so regimented. These days I get up at 6, come to work downtown, and frequently engage in some kind of exhausting theatre activity or something. I did that in college too except for the waking up part. Not caring about school had its benefits.

But anyway, last night and the night before I actually got to sleep before 11pm. Weird.

Anyway, never did the post mortem on Lysistrata 3000. It was great. Sold out last couple of nights. The cast got me a shiny watch. Good stuff. The next American Demigods project will hopefully see the light of day before 2004 is over, but given my usual organization probably not till early next year.

The big thing to promote right now is the weekly performance of my Improvolympic graduating class. Every Sunday night at 8 between now and April 25 I think, we'll be performing the ancient Chicagoan art of improvisational comedy. It's exciting, having been a frequent audience member for this kind of thing since I became a Second City cultist in 1995 but never really a performer. I've been taking classes with the core of my team members for a year now. They're a good bunch. I'd trust them with, if not my life, certainly my lunch order. And they're screamingly funny. We divide into two different groups, each with a different form, though the membership changes each night, i.e. one night I'll be in the first group, the next I'll be in another. The two groups names are "Grampa's Wrist" and (I swear I had nothing to do with this) "Rory's Angels".

Anyway, they're funny and you should see us.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Let Us Now Praise Famous Men

Last night was strange and beautiful. A man who I've been volunteering for and talking up to everyone I know for an endless stream of days won the Democratic party nomination to become the next delegate from the great state of Illinois to the United States Senate. He did this despite the incredible odds against him, including a multimillionaire who wanted to buy his way into the seat and candidates backed by the legendary Chicago Democratic machine. He beat them all. With passion, idealism and an unwavering loyalty to what he believes in.

Coming from a current events obssessed family, I was pretty politically savvy from a young age. I remember the distaste I felt when I was ten years old, watching George Bush crush Michael Dukakis with words I knew even then to be code for setting people against each other. "Liberal" meant you were unpatriotic and "soft on crime" and an enemy of the decent, God fearing, pants wearing white working class. Four years later, I watched an incredibly smart and charming gentleman named Bill Clinton beat Bush at his own game. But he did so by compromising so much of what liberalism was supposed to be about that one couldn't happen to wonder if it was worth the victory, a quandry that plagues his successors today. Not many people buy into the old Frank Capra idealism about good government anymore, but I'm one of them. I'm one of them because of Barack Obama.

I've never been directly involved in politics before, but six years ago, when a particularly annoying conservative Republican named Peter Fitzgerald (also a freewheeling millionaire) became an Illinois senator, I wanted to have something to do with taking him down. As is so often the case, the instinct was about beating the other guy, not to actually work *for* somebody. Among the Democrats, I could have worked for, my dad suggested a guy named Obama. Like many, I was instantly skeptical that someone with such a politically poisonous last name could get large numbers of Americans to vote for him, but I checked him out anyway, on the Web and such, and I really liked what I saw. Still, it was only an intellectual affinity. I decided to march in a parade supporting his candidacy on Memorial Day 2003. I remember somewhat awkwardly standing around, being told to pass out buttons to passersby and enjoying the campaign's free pizza. I was already fairly excited about him and the other volunteers seemed really cool, but I still wasn't sure if I belonged there. Then I saw the man in the flesh and I know this will sound corny but I instantly felt his spirit. We all did. His charisma is a tangible thing. As he walked up the slope of the downtown Chicago street with his famous smile, he quickly appraised us and said "Look at this *crew*!" There were probably only about twenty of us but this early in the campaign that was pretty impressive.

I knew right away that Barack had the makings of a truly great politician. Not statesman, not leader, but great politician. He had the charm and charisma of a Ronald Reagan or Bill Clinton. That ability to be warm, and funny and make total strangers like me, feel like his best friends. But he had more than that. Because he *was* a great statesman and leader, all that style was just the outward manifestation of his substance. Yeah, he was sharp and smooth, but it only belied his genuine wisdom and compassion. That annoying guy I mentioned, Fitzgerald, dropped out of the race, opting out of a second term, but that hardly mattered, I had somebody I wanted to fight *for*. To follow to the ends of the earth.

I'm usually as cynical and detached as the rest of you, believe me.

I got to hear Barack speak many times, and his standard stump speech articulates in perfect, soaring words what American liberalism is at its best. Not "big government" or anything goes decadence, but a belief that all humanity is connected, that every person is worth exactly what everyone else is worth. I hear him say it again last night, this time in his victory speech:

(Paraphrasing badly)

"If there's a child on the South Side of Chicago who can't read, that makes my life a little poorer, even if it's not my child. If there's a senior citizen in Alton, Illinois who can't get quality prescription drugs, that makes my life poorer even if it's not my grandparent. And if an immigrant is being denied his rights and being round up by John Ashcroft, that matters to me too."

And I realized for the first time last night, as many times as I've heard Barack say those words, I've heard them before too...

"While there is a lower class, I am in it, while there is a criminal element I am of it, while there is a soul in prison, I am not free."

-Eugene Debs

"Whenever there's a cop beating up a guy, I'll be there, whenever there's a fight so hungry people can eat, I'll be there..."

-John Steinbeck

"Whenever you have fed and clothed and brought comfort to my brothers, you have done so for me."

-Jesus of Nazareth

Barack Obama is a great man, but he's just the latest link in a long chain that stretches back to the first moment when human beings were able to look outside themselves and see their brethren in the same light as themselves, to see their suffering as their own, and shortly after this follows the noblest of our instincts: the determination to do something about it.

Because the last couple of plays I've done have basically been my life, I was never able to do nearly as much for the campaign as I initially wanted to. I helped out at the headquarters, made some phone calls, knocked on some doors. Every time I did I wished I could do more. The race was looking really close, it was definitely an uphill battle. As recently as a month ago, the polls had him tied or behind his two biggest rivals, who had lots more money and connections than he did. And with the pessimism ingrained in any liberal Democrat, I wasn't sure if we were going to pull it out. Eventually Barack started to rebound in the polls, as soon as he managed to get on TV. According to one poll he had an impressive lead at 33%, but I was still cautious. At a rally, one of his allies warned us that it would be an incredibly close race and we had to redouble our efforts, because the election would come down to five thousand votes. As I got up early yesterday morning to pass flyers out near a polling place, I had a tense, grim feeling, trying to prepare myself for anything to go wrong, for the crushing disappointment I know I would feel if it did. The weather was cold. People in this stupid country don't vote when the weather is cold. Then the night came.

Fifty four percent. Hundreds of thousands of votes.

At the victory party I made sure to say hello to a handful of people I had gotten to know slightly from other campaign events and adventures. People who had done far more than me. A guy named Jeff had helped run our efforts in Chicago's 47th Ward, considered a stronghold of Barack's closest rival had tears of well earned pride in his eyes as he told me that we had won there by a margin of twenty points. I saw a young woman named Rebekah there, who had become a major coordinator for the campaign, but seeing her reminded me of how she was one of the handful of people with me at that Memorial Day parade, almost a year ago. There were ten or twenty of us then. I looked around me at the massive reception room. Thousands.

Democracy lives in the United States of America. And don't let anybody, from any side of the political spectrum tell you differently. Wherever you are in this country, no matter how bad things look, there's some kind of movement to make things better. And if there isn't you can start one.

On the other hand, remember those noble, beautiful human instincts I mentioned a minute ago? They exist side by side with the worst. Humanity is capable of terrible evil, we all know that. From the banality of everyday corruption to the horrors of war and tyranny and worse. It's been that way from the beginning and I don't think it's gonna change anytime soon. But that's all the more reason to keep fighting, and we will.

Yes we will.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Self Discovery

People at my job have been e-mailing the Meyers-Briggs personality test around. It tells you whether you're introverted or extroverted and stuff like that. I normally don't much like this kind of test, because the questions are always arbitrary and the answers could be absolutely anything based on your mood of the moment you know? They seem about as meaningful to me as "Would you rather eat dinner on a Tuesday or a Wednesday". A friend in high school used to say he was an "ambivert". I always liked that. The only reason I mention this test is that I took it today and was revealed to be a "Champion". Champion. Fuckin' A.

Friday, March 5, 2004

And now the end is near...

Last chance to see L3K tonight and tomorrow at 8, you will forever regret not seeing it. At least mildly...

Thursday, March 4, 2004

once more...

The final weekend of L3K starts in three and a half hours. All our times have come...

Kurt saw the show last Saturday and had a good time. Must always please the patron. My next play will be about the glorious achievements of Kurt's family, begining with the Norman conquest of England in 1066 and through the ages, how his grandfather almost singlehandedly won World War II and so forth. Kurt says he wants to do more with the website, like put a cast list up, which is long overdue as they are the true heart and soul of the show.

Monday, March 1, 2004

odd turn of events

Wow, I got to work this morning, checked my e-mail and discovered that none other than Nick Green of the Chicago Reader read my denunciation of him:


Touche. Thank you for furthering the critical dialogue and exercising your
right to disagree with my review on your weblog. I would like to strongly
encourage you to collect (any or all of) these thoughts in a
letter-to-the-editor and submit it for print in the letters section of the
Reader (in the front of Section One); I think the readership -- especially
those who may have seen my review in this weeks issue and had their own
conflicted feelings about it -- would appreciate reading your response.

Nick Green

I made him say "touche"! I'll follow his advice and send that letter to the editor. I imagine he'll reply, which will lead to me writing *more* things here, and then he'll send me *another* e-mail and perhaps things will escalate to the point that we'll have a full blown playwright/critic feud that could last for years! That would be exciting. I can dream can't I?

Thanks for your support Twinters, "pretentious git"? I'm happy to see your time in England is rubbing off on you.

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