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January 25, 2004

Rory Revisited

Rory Leahy needs a much better introduction than what I gave him in my last post. So -- Rory Intro, Mach 2.

I met him four years ago, when he was a member of the Penny Dreadful Players. To be more exact, I became acquainted with Rory's work, and then a few months later I met the man himself. His work was a terrific introduction. Art not only speaks for itself. If it's good, it says great things about the artist too.

Rory was incredibly prolific. He never let up. He was a theater-dwelling giant who made the stage toss with his words like the Mongol invasion fleet in the monster waves of the typhoon of 1281.

At that time --three/four years ago, not 1281 -- the Penny Dreadful Players were a close-knit group who were constantly writing, and producing, and starring in each other's work. So I saw Rory doing something cool on a pretty regular basis. I saw him in many places and many guises. From a small turn as Blackbeard on the arm of a woman trying to make her ex-boyfriend jealous; to singing Marc Heiden's words about we'll never be receptive to truth because, well, we can't stop staring at teen celebrity hinders; to exploring the origin of evil as a viable personal philosophy in Turok the Inadequate; to exploring what would happen if Byron and Shelley, those Romantics with outsized appetites for life, rose from the grave with, well -- outsized appetites for life; to writing, producing, directing, and starring in full-length barrages of ideas and human conflict, set in the post-Apocalyptic future and in Evanston, Illinois.

Rory's work is verbal and clever. But the clever words aren't in the service of cleverness itself. His plays are densely populated, and almost every character has a lot to say. His dialogue, I think, is born out of a sense that almost everyone has something to say that's worth listening to. Except the mad scientists, of course.

Now, after ages of being trapped in the belly of the U of I, then cutting his way out and charting a raft for Chicago, he's got a crew together. Once again, his voice booms across the waves, strong and sure. Next month he's producing his play Lysistrata 3000. And he's joined us as the newest member of the What Jail Is Like collective. I couldn't be happier.

For all his work, this is one of Rory's first appearances in the online world. Technically, I've got his website only as far as the larval stage. But his weblog is up and wriggling healthily. And he's got the first two scenes of Lysistrata 3000 online. Take a look when you get a chance.

When I used to go see Rory's plays in Champaign/Urbana, I'd know how good they were by how depressed I was after seeing them. How, I would think, can someone ten years younger than me have such poise and grace, and be so far ahead? And, folks, he's still going. Next month, I look forward to being depressed. Just like old times.

January 22, 2004

Public Relations

Interpersonal relations hit a new low last week. Witness the following exchange at the local indie video store.

This video store is a place I visit regularly. Granted, I have the bad habit of never introducing myself to anyone at the places I go. Even if I do introduce myself, I make sure never to give my name. "Hey," I say. Or "How's it going." Or even "Boy! Spit-shine the Rolls in less than ten minutes, and I'll introduce you to President Grant."

However, out of excessive modesty, I never say "Hi! My name is Kurt, and I'm reasonably certain that we share a multitude of interests, including the divulging of our names to random underpaid customer service employees." Still, they know me at the video store, and they enjoy accepting my entertainment dollar.

On the night in question -- that night of dark and ominous developments in my ability to socialize casually -- the man behind the video-store counter was Jason Butler. Over the past few years, Jason has cranked out a load of shot-on-video features, with titles like Thoraxx II: The Breeding and Santiago Vs. Wigface. His stuff used to appear at the local Freaky Film Festival, until the fest ran its organizers ragged and they closed it down. Now Jason is forced to release his work at the video store where he works.

Here's an example of the kind of thing he does that puts me in awe. In Thoraxx II, Jason stars as Dr. Nasa, a homeless mad scientist. At one point, he sings a song about being a misfit who's turning into a giant ant. Two random bums serve as his backup singers.

After the song, the bums make fun of Dr. Nasa, who snarls "Silence, or I'll crush you with my pincers." He brings his arm up threateningly, only to see that his pincer -- on display during the song -- is once again just a human hand. "Curses," growls Dr. Nasa. "It was only a visual metaphor."

So. The video store. I go in, pick out my movies and go to the checkout. That's when the following transaction takes place.

Me: So how's Werewolf Cemetery [Jason's newest feature, currently in production] going?

Jason Butler: Oh, OK. Kinda slow. Due to this insane cold weather we've been having. [Pause] Or due to this insane springlike weather we've been having.

Me: Oh, no. That means insane hormones.

JB: What?

Me: Well, insane springlike weather nine months of the year means insane hormones nine months of the year.

JB: Oh.

Me: [Reddening as I realize that he must think I'm hitting on him, but unable to stop myself] Because spring is the time that people fall in love.


JB: Well, I don't need anything like that to happen.

It didn't help that two of the movies I was renting were The Birds and The Bees.

As usual, the solution to my problems is more porn.

Fortunately, in addition to porn, there's Rory Leahy. Next month, Rory is putting on his play Lysistrata 3000 at the Athenaeum Theatre in Chicago. I could explain what a great thing this is and why you should go see it, along with anything else Rory does. But he's an amazingly articulate guy, and he can explain it in his own words.

January 04, 2004

Human Interest

Leeza: And now, on the lighter side of today's headlines -- a Cleveland man who's trapped in his own chimney! For more on this story, we go live to Brock Hedlisgoy in Cleveland. Brock?

Brock: Thanks, Leeza. If you think you're regretting the holiday glut, just take a look at the inside of this chimney! It must be having a few holiday regrets right now! Regrets that are heartily shared by its owner, Mr. Gus Gaspasser. Hello, Mr. Gaspasser?

Gus: Just Gus, Mr. Hedlisgoy.

Brock: Ha ha! Of course. Your last name doesn't really apply to the current situation, since your fireplace isn't fed by natural gas.

Gus: No.

Brock: And, in addition, you're not being passed. Is that correct?

Gus: That's correct. I'm completely unable to move up or down.

Brock: Now tell us, Gus. How did you come to be in such a position? Were you creeping down the chimney to delight your gleaming-eyed tots with a visit from Saint Nick?

Gus: No, Mr. Hedlisgoy. Unfortunately, I'm childless.

Brock: Were you creeping down the chimney to delight your spouse with a visit from some consumer-age patron saint of post-holiday bargains?

Gus: Again, no. I'm unmarried.

Brock: Which explains why you're stuck -- but not why you're stuck in a chimney. Can you tell us why?

Gus: Well, Brock, I thought I heard my cat meowing in here, so I went to take a look.

Brock: And was your cat in the chimney?

Gus: I couldn't say. The meowing stopped, and I didn't think to bring a flashlight.

Brock: So, one might say you couldn't find your own cat with two hands and a flashlight?

Gus: I tell you, Brock. I wish my cat did have two hands, so that whereever he is, he might consider my plight and dial 911.

Brock: But then he wouldn't be able to give the emergency responders any specific information.

Gus: No. They would have to trace the call.

Brock: So tell me, Gus. How does your situation affect your employability?

Gus: Not as much as you might think. My iPaq lets me telecommute, but it's hard to write email with my arms pinned. I also have a company cell phone, but I can only use it for business calls.

Brock: So you can't call 911.

Gus: In the meantime, for meetings with clients, I do a conference call and they put me on speakerphone. But it's getting hard to come up with excuses for why I can't give my clients the proper amount of face time. Being stuck in a chimney kind of undercuts the reputation I've cultivated at the office: team player, self-starter, that kind of thing.

Brock: Whereas now you'd need some starter fluid to really get going.

Gus: Exactly. The upshot is, my managers decided I need closer supervision. So periodically someone calls to check my progress on key deals and point out what I'm doing wrong. I'm walking a tightrope.

Brock: It's a long way down.

Gus: For a safety net, I'm trying to close this deal with Monsanto. Instead of your regular chimney sweeps who need special equipment, they're looking to cut overhead by genetically engineering chimney sweeps who come equipped with their own bristles.

Brock: And who live on soot.

Gus: Right. They say my beard shows promise as a new scouring fiber. But they want to make the bristles rotate to give it true scrubbing action.

Brock: On the lighter side, what does a man stuck in a chimney do to pass the time? What thoughts go through his mind?

Gus: I spend a lot of time thinking about gravity, and also the coefficient of friction. I also dwell, perhaps to an unhealthy degree, on those golden days when I had the use of my limbs.

As it gets longer since I showered, and I get more tightly wedged in what's basically a pipe, I think about oil pipelines. You know Bechtel?

Brock: Not personally.

Gus: Back in 1988, after Chemical Ali gassed thousands of Kurds, the US planned to cut political and economic ties to Iraq. At the time, Bechtel was conducting negotiations to build an oil pipeline in Iraq, and they pressured the Reagan administration not to cut ties. And now, Bechtel has been awarded money out of the public coffers to build that pipeline. Really, when it comes down to it, the powers-that-be view us all as natural resources to be bought, piped, and exploited.

Brock: You realize, Mr. Gaspasser, that we'll have to edit that out in post-production.

Gus: I know. I'm sorry.

Brock: So, what else do you think about?

Gus: The Lord of the Rings.

Brock: Oh, LOTR3?

Gus: I think about furnaces and vents and smoke a lot. I wonder if, being stuck here, I've reached the end of a quest to my own personal Mount Doom. I wonder if I must now cast some burden into the fire, but am held back from doing so by my own greed and gluttony.

Brock: Well, it never hurts to lose a few pounds.

Gus: Also, Middle Earth. Why's it called that? What's it in the middle of?

Brock: I see.

Gus: And your co-anchor Leeza. If she was a recording artist instead of a newscaster, would she change her name to Lihz'zaa? And would the name change earn her a Grammy?

Brock: Well, Leeza, there you have it. Will Gus' mind crack under the weight of his predicament? Will he be forced to eat his cat to stay alive -- or will his cat get him first? And will his gut shrink enough for him to pop out in time to catch LOTR3 in theaters? Will the movie whet his anticipation for the hours and hours of extras on the DVD version? And in the meantime, will he try to fill the gap by purchasing any product emblazoned with the film's logo?

Gus: Logo, son of Drogo. Ha!

Brock: Will Gus escape in time to see LOTR3 sweep the Oscars, much like a professional chimney sweep wiping the filth from an average guy's fireplace? Not if Monsanto has anything to say about it! Now back to you, Leeza.

Leeza: Thank you Brock. Next, a man in imminent danger of losing his thumbs! How it happened, and how you can keep your own toes a-tappin' and fingers a-snappin'! Also, Kiwis. It turns out they can make movies, but why do they talk so funny? Stay tuned.