Returning the Favor and other Slices of Life

Returning the Favor
Returning the Favor
Now Available on Smashwords for Kindle and other ebook readers!

Thursday, May 31, 2007


The countdown is well underway and the odds of me doing anything productive for my next four business days (no wait, 3 business days and two hours) are practically nil. Yup, I've started the ever-present thoughts of "this time next week I'll be in Vegas," that precede every trip to hang with my invisible internet friends. It's a bummer that some folks who have been at every WPBT trip that I've been a part of aren't able to make it this time 'round, especially the lovely April.

But there are some old faithfuls, like The BlogFather, me, Spaceman, as well as a bunch of new folks like Astin, IronGirl, Lawchica and more. Plus, there's always the hope that Michalski will pull something good outta the trash to wear again. For you first-timers, here's an amalgam of rules that I've picked up from people from my trips. These tips should insure that you have a good time, and that everybody else does.

1) No, really, some people mean no pictures. Some folks work very hard to protect their visual anonymity and their real names. If you take pictures, and most of us take a TON, make sure it's okay with the subject to publish them. Some of us have had our photos plastered (our photos of us while plastered) all over the internet, so we don't care. Like me. If the camera can stand it, take as many as you want. I got this tip from Pauly before my first ever trip, and it still holds.

2) Don't sweat the schedule. Except for the tourney, most everything is timed with an "ish," so don't sweat it if you're late, or early, or decide at the last minute to hang solo somewhere else. The variety of great stories comes from people doing the unexpected, like playing mixed games with Dutch Boyd at the IP at 4:30 AM the night before you leave.

3) Drink a lot of water. Do not pull a Tripjax and try to drink like Al. That's a one-way ticket on a wheelchair ride if ever I've seen one. And if your buddy is so plowed that he needs a wheelchair to get home, for shit's sake take pictures!

4) If you've never been to the WSOP, make it a point to get over to the Rio at least once. It's a spectacle not to be missed.

5) Accept any free drink offers, and reciprocate. This is a crazy-generous bunch of folks, and the round you buy will be repaid in spades.

6) Don't forget to eat. This one's more for me than you, because I have been known to spend 11 hours at a table and forget to eat.

7) Poker chips are dirty. Like really, really dirty. My last trip to Vegas was the first one where I didn't come home with the creeping death flu, and it's because I became an obsessive handwasher for the trip. Every other dealer's down I leave the table to wash my hands. This trip I bought a couple of those little bottles of hand sanitizer, and plan on having that with me when I play. It might look a little germophobic, but the Vegas Ick is no fun.

8) Don't sweat walking up to a loud obnoxious group of people you've never met before. They'll be your best friends before you leave. I'll be in the Orleans bowling alley Thursday night wearing a Full Tilt hockey jersey (number 72) with Falstaff on the back. I'm 6'1 and 250 lbs, so all that makes me hard to miss. Can't wait to meet you.

And for me, my goal this trip is to play less poker and hang out more. I also plan to get bachelor-party drunk at least once, and I'm a big dude, so it takes a bunch. See you in a week!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Recall info

Well, shit. I've gotta go home and throw away a perfectly (as far as I can tell) pair of contacts, two lens cases and my solution, all because of a little bacteria.

Admittedly the bacteria can make me go blind if I get the infection is causes, so that's why I'm actually listening to the statements that government is making this time around. If you missed it, the CDC issued a warning today to contact lens wearers that use AMO Complete MoisturePlus solution that the solution may be linked to a very bad mojo type of eye infection that'll make you go blind. I know, they've been telling me forever that if I didn't stop that, I'd go blind, but anyway.

So if you use this Complete MoisturePlus (like I do), go home, throw away the solution, your lenses and any contact cases you might have. Yeah, it sucks, but if you go blind you can't look at your hole cards.


Remember when I said something about realizing how old you are and how out of shape you are by doing an hour of stage combat with an exercise freak/former fitness model that's seven years younger than you and roughly half your size?

Yeah, well, last night was time to re-stage that fight scene for the revival of Taming of the Shrew, so me and Shel decided to knock the rust off a little bit and change some things around this time since the stage we're working on is better than twice the size of the one we fought on last time. And today I can't lift my arms over my head and I think I have bruises in some places, but I can't see those places, so I'm not sure.

No, you may not look for the bruises. Unless you're a chick. Then we'll talk.

Highlights of the rehearsal were adding an airplane spin into the fight (no, she cannot airplane spin my fat ass, all the lifting and throwing is done by yours truly), her smothering me with her boobs at one point in the fight, and this little moment -

I look down to where she's sitting on the ground and giggle.

"What's funny?"

"I just had a retarded idea."


"Move over a little, lemme see if I can still do this."

"What are you trying?"

"In a perfect world, you'll reach up, grab me by the neck, and throw me over you, and I'll flip over and land on my back."

"That would be fun, " and she reaches for me.

"You might want to wait until I see if I can still do this roll before I try it with you under me and kill you."

"Oh yeah. Good point."

I can, in fact still do a standing forward roll, although somewhat less gracefully than I could 13 years and 95 pounds ago. So we incorporated that into the fight, and today my shoulder feels like something resembling raw hamburger, since four out of five rolls I landed perfectly.

The fifth one hurt. I missed a little bit and have a bit of a bruise, but no big deal. Nothing a few dozen beers in Vegas next week won't cure.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Anybody else noticing issues?

I haven't made any changes to the template of my blog in several days, but I just noticed today that my Adsense and banners are gone. This is across all my sites. Does anyone know what's up?

Vegas WPBT Plans

So this is kinda my plan for the trip to the WPBT gathering in Vegas. Some of these are "official" events, and some aren't. Anyone who'll be there is welcome to join me for any of these outings, or I'm happy enough to rage solo. But this'll give you an idea of where I'll be and when.

Wednesday - I get into town around 3, so probably 4ish by the time I get to hotel and get cleaned up a little. Plan to eat something light and check out the Orleans poker room. The Orleans has a 7PM Limit Hold 'Em Tourney for around $80 that I may check out, or I might roll over to the Sahara and play their 7PM NL tourney. I've never played a limit tourney live, so that might be interesting. It goes off at 7PM, so that's appealing.

Thursday - Daytime for me looks like satellite day at the Rio. I want to try my hand at a couple fo the single-table satellites they've got going, so that's kinda my plan for Thursday.

Thursday night is the first official WPBT Summer Classic Event - Get Drunk at the Orleans Bowling Alley! One of the things I'm hearing great reviews of about the Orleans is the bowling alley, and like all fine bowling establishments, it includes a bar! So meet me down there around 8ish, and we'll start drinking like we're college kids again. I might bowl, I'm making no promises, but I'll drink like a damn fish.

Friday at 2PM is a $250 HORSE tourney at the Binions Poker Classic, which is really appealing to me for some sick reason. So if I'm ahead for the trip at that point, I'll probably cruise downtown and give that a whirl. Otherwise, I'll fuck around somewhere else. Call me.

Friday night, back by popular demand - Official WPBT Mixed Games at the MGM Night, including the always popular round of drinking at the MGM Sports Book. We usually kick off around 9. If you want in on the mixed games, give a shout beforeheand so we know whether to try and book one or two tables.

Saturday at 2PM in the Orleans Poker Room is the WPBT tourney. Be there or be...something. Saturday night I wanna do a nice dinner somewhere, so if a few folks wanna join me, lemme know.

Saturday night - Get Drunk at the Rio with our working friends! Since so many of our buddies have to work the WSOP, I thought it would be nice to take the party to them for a change, so we'll find the biggest bar we can at the Rio and make assholes outta ourselves over there!

Sunday - Brunch at the Wynn was such a great time last time around, let's do it again. Lemme know ahead of time how many people are coming so we can make arrangements. Brunch is something of a misnomer, since I'm shooting for noon, but whatever.

So that's my agenda, some of these are "official" events, some are just where I'll be. The greatest fun for me at these events is the randomness of it all, so I'll see you there when I see you, and we'll hang and drink and generally cause a ruckus. I seriously plan on getting bachelor party drunk at least once in the trip, so look out!

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Cool internet toy

So I finally got around to upgrading Firefox on all my home computers today (the answer to the inevitable question is 2 laptops and a desktop) and I found a cool new plugin.

What? You're not using Firefox? Well, let's face it, except for Special K and Gregor, there's no one reading here who shouldn't be using Firefox. It's badass. And the new plugin that I found (I'm sure I'm late to the party here) is called Sage. It's a feed reader for RSS/Atom feeds that integrates pretty seamlessly into Firefox, and has a much better visual interface for reading blogs and things than Bloglines. And yes, you can import your Bloglines subscriptions to Sage. Just scroll down to the Export OPML function in your bloglines bar, export your subscriptions, then import them into Sage. Doesn't get much simpler.

Yeah, well, I get excited over new intertube thingys. Leave me alone. I know I'm a dork, leamme alone. You coming to Vegas? Have you not told me this information yet? Get off your ass, already!

Vegas Virgins check this out

This is a sponsored post for

On my first trip to Vegas for fun, I went around the web trying to figure out the rules and play sample games for a bunch of the table games so that I wouldn't be a complete idiot when I got to the casino. I know, I'm still a complete idiot, but at least I know not to hit on 20 in Blackjack. That only works with a very specific blackjack strategy. is a place where you can go and figure out how to play all those intimidating pit games, with dealers, croupiers and all those other crazy people that run casinos. They have rules and sample game sections for craps, baccarat, keno, video poker, slots, and of course blackjack. According to the site. "Our goal with is to make you capable of playing casino games accurately, which in turn gives you the best possible chance of winning."

I don't know if anything is going to give you a better chance of winning at slots, unless you bribe Grubby, but I know that after watching their short instructional video, I at least have a rudimentary understanding of what the hell is going on at a craps table. The site also offers a poker area, with a poker odds calculator and a "Hold Em Helper" device designed to teach novice players how to play weak-tight and fold suited one-gappers preflop.

A good idea for novices, I know, but I'm not a big fan of computer simulations telling me whether or not to fold a hand. I do like the fact that it asks good questions about position in the hand and action in front of you before suggesting an action, so it probably is a very good tool for beginning players. But I love suited one-gappers.

Of course, the site needs to make money to operate, and they are an affiliate of all the major poker and casino sites, offering deposit bonuses and all that jazz to folks who sign up using their bonus codes and download links, but I don't fault them that at all. They provide reviews of all the poker rooms that they are affiliates for, and allow players to make informed decisions about where to spend their hard-earned gambling dollars.

So I like the site, especially for folks on their way to their first Vegas adventure, who want to get some of the excitement of the casino with a shorter learning curve when they arrive.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Stop the Madness

No, really. I realized that those of you who read this through bloglines or some other source may actually have missed the info about the PokerStars Darfur charity tournament. Well, pay attention! Here's all the info. Sign up now!

PokerStars has teamed up with the cast and producer of this summer’s Hollywood blockbuster “Ocean’s Thirteen” to offer a truly unique set of tournament prizes. And, just by playing, you’ll be joining PokerStars in sending much-needed funds to relieve the suffering in the war-torn region of Darfur.

The four winners of the second “Oceans' Thirteen” Charity Tournament (see details of our first group of winners below) will receive a pair of tickets to the movie’s American premiere in Los Angeles June 5th, plus two night’s hotel accommodation and $2,000 for travel/expenses. The top 18 players will also receive a copy of the “Ocean’s Thirteen” DVD (available after its general release) signed by the stars. See full tournament details below.

In addition to providing our players with opportunities to help (see below!), PokerStars is donating $1 MILLION to the charity Not On Our Watch, as part of our continuing work toward social responsibility and giving back to the community.

The film's stars George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, and Don Cheadle, plus producer Jerry Weintraub (pictured) - have together launched Not On Our Watch to focus international attention on the ongoing suffering in Darfur. The donation will be made at a special event on May 22nd, two days before the May 24th World Premiere held at the Cannes Film Festival.

Darfur – the western region of the Sudan, Africa – has been embroiled in a deadly conflict for over three years. At least 400,000 people have been killed and more than 3.5 million men, women, and children are completely reliant on international aid for survival.

If you want to donate direct to the charity it couldn’t be easier. To transfer funds simply go to the main lobby, then to Requests, and drop down to Transfer Funds. Type in the User ID NOOW and the amount you wish to donate. The funds will then be taken from your account and credited to the charity. All money will go directly to the charity and PokerStars will match all funds donated!

NOTICE: Any money contributed to Not On Our Watch through PokerStars may not be considered a tax-deductible donation in some jurisdictions.

Ocean's 13 Cast

Last weekend, four PokerStars players won trips to the premiere in Cannes, France. On May 24th, PokerStars’ players JaspudUF, SM4RTASS, herbert, and berchem13 will all be on the red carpet.

PokerStars will also host a third charity tournament (date to be confirmed). The winner of this event will receive a professional poker table baize, signed by the film’s stars. If that doesn’t impress your friends at your Friday night cash game, nothing will!

We hope you will join PokerStars and the cast and producer of “Ocean's Thirteen” in helping such a worthwhile cause.

To find the tournaments, go to the lobby, click Tourney and then Special.

Click here to view the tournament terms

Overview of the “Ocean's Thirteen Darfur Charity Tournament”

These tournaments are special re-buy tournaments - the entire prize pool will be matched by PokerStars and donated to the Darfur relief efforts. At the conclusion of the event the prize pool, which will be temporarily awarded to the 1st place finisher, will be removed from the 1st place finisher’s account.

The amount will then be matched by PokerStars and sent forward to the Darfur charity. Thank you for participating - go re-buy crazy! – it’s for a good cause. Good luck!

Date: May 27th 2007, 15:30 ET
Buy-in: $10 plus rebuys.
Prizes: Top 4 receive tickets to June 5th premiere in Los Angeles plus 2 night’s hotel and $2k for travel/spending.
Top 18 receive autographed copy of “Oceans 13” DVD.
Total prize pool will go to charity and PokerStars will match the donation.
The tournament is open to all players. Good luck!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


This is a boring weight loss post. Deal with it. All circumstances are conspiring to limit my poker play to practically nil between now and Vegas, so what content I do have will be less about how I'm losing my ass playing poker and more how I'm losing my ass. Literally.

I knew I had gotten into the worst shape of my life back in the winter when I ordered a pile of new pants in a size to actually fit, a 44. I knew I was pissed about it when the kilt Suzy got me for Christmas was too small, since she ordered a 42. I knew it had to change when I started rehearsing for Taming of the Shrew and realized that I was more than twice the size of my leading lady, at 265 lbs.

Now I'm a big dude. I'm never gonna be Otis or CJ skinny. But this shit had gotten ridiculous. I was heavier than I've ever been, and for no good reason. So I got sick at SETC and couldn't eat for a few days. That was a start. Then we got into rehearsals for Shrew and I burned as many calories as I took in, and that helped.

But that all ended, and I wasn't losing anything, I was just holding steady. So a couple weeks ago I decided that not only am I a big fatass, I also spend too much money on food. You see, Suzy and I don't really cook. We eat out a lot. Our schedules are not conducive to sitting down together very often and eating a meal at home. And nobody wants to work for an hour or more for a meal that you eat by yourself, so we either nuke something or eat out. And eating out is friggin' expensive. So I started looking at labels, both for price and for calories.

All I'm really trying to do is limit myself to under 2,000 calories per day. Nothing huge, no starving or fasting or God forbid, exercise. Just eating less and paying attention to what I'm eating. And it's working. I weighed in this morning at 250, which is down 15 from where I started and I feel better.

Now 15 pounds doesn't seem like a huge amount, especially when I know I've got another 50 to go to get down to where I want to be, but try stacking three bags of sugar together and carrying them around all day. That's how I relate to it, and I feel pretty good about it. I'm hoping to shed another five before Vegas, because all the drinking and eating out there is sure to be a bit of a setback on my diet, but if I'm 245 or better when I fly out, it'll seem like a lot less hardship to make the long treks through those casinos.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Don't Call it a Comeback

So last night marked my return to directing, and the start of a new venture. I know, I don't have enough on my friggin' plate, I had to add something else. But hang with me, it's a cool new thing, I hope.

Last night was first rehearsal for Hamlet, and we had about 2/3 of the cast on hand for a brief company meeting and some ensemble-building exercises. Nothing like a ropes course or typical middle-management shit, but similar enough that you get the picture. A cast is like a family - dysfunctional.

Wait, that's not what I meant. Yet. I might mean that about this cast by the time we're all done, but right now I'm still all excited and I love them all. Check back with me mid-July and we'll see where we stand. But anyway. The first thing I do when we begin the rehearsal process is a game called 20 Questions. It plays a little differently than the original, though.

The cast, stage manager and I all sit in a circle. Beginning with me in the "hot seat," we rotate around the circle, and everyone in the circle gets to ask the person in the hot seat one question. Any question. Answering is voluntary, but everyone almost always answers. You get some good insights into the people you're spending so much time with for the next six weeks or so, and it breaks the ice, especially when you have about half the cast that has worked together many times before and everybody knows everybody else really well, and some folks that know absolutely no one in the room. So we played 20 Questions for about an hour and a half, and then I let everybody go home early. Hope they don't get used to that shit, it's a long play.

But the thing I started last night was my documentary. More like my friend JW and my documentary, since he's shooting it and editing it, I'm just providing the platform. He's shooting the rehearsal process for the play. I've always thought that the stuff that goes on before a show opens is far more interesting than what goes on onstage, and this is my chance to see if I'm right. We've got a pair of Canon XL-1 cameras, a few MiniDV tapes, a brand new 320GB portable hard drive, a laptop or two and we're gonna make a movie!

I'm sure it's not that simple, but it's probably not gonna be too much more complicated by the time we're done. So JW shot all the 20Q stuff, and got some good stuff on why people do theatre, what their best and worst experiences in theatre have been, and that kinda stuff. And he'll shoot intermittently as we go along. It might be interesting, it might be rancid shit, but it's something I've always wanted to try, and now I've got someone with the camera gear and ability to actually make that happen. I'll keep you posted.

And I'm done with online poker for another month, thanks to Gamecock deciding to rejoin the land of the living and taking my monthly FTP welfare check off my hands in exchange for some real live spendable money.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

No way to hold my head that doesn't hurt...

I realize that's not the first time I've title a post with lyrics from Kris Kristofferson's "Sunday Morning Coming Dow," but it's particularly appropriate today.

Frankly I think it was pretty apropos the last time I did it, too, but maybe for different reasons. I'm pretty sure I didn't drunk dial anyone, but I may have sent out one or two drunken text messages. And I'm 100% sure that I engaged in some drunken chat time and then managed to pass out with IRC and FTP both still open. So if I offended anyone, lighten up.

Last night didn't start off to be a Vegas "I'm gonna drink like a college kid again" warm-up, but when the bar ticket printed off twice and my second Hurricane (apparently the Category 5 version is a little strongr than their normal fare) arrived three sips into the first, it had all the makings of a good night. Which usually means a painful morning after.

Rewind further - I was at Boudreaux's, a local cajun restaurant trying to decide between Southern Fried Shrimp with Red Beans & Rice and the 14 oz. Ribeye with Garlic Butter and Smashed Potatoes with my sister, my youngest niece (yes, Rooster, that niece) and her friend Whitney as we were getting prepped for the Robert Earl Keen concert next door.

Now if you've never listened to Robert Earl Keen, go somewhere and fix that problem. He's a real-deal Texas roadhouse singer-songwriter who paints incredible pictures with his songs, and has been known to tear a joint down a little with some smokin' boogie. So me, Bonnie, Steph and Whitney were gonna try to make dinner last long enough to avoid the opener and then weave our inebriated path down the sidewalk to the show. We did pretty good, too, arriving from the pisser and bar runs to our seats with about 5 minutes left in the set change.

I'm often reminded that I live in a weird friggin' city when I go to concerts. When I call REK a Texas roadhouse kinda guy, I'm not bullshittin'. So when I see fewer than 10% of the audience that looks like they have any leather apparel and even fewer that look like they've EVER sat on a tractor drinking beer, it unnerves me a little. I wonder how many khakis had to die to clothe all those yuppies? Myself, I was sporting my standard concert attire, jeans, Birkenstocks, Snailtrax T-Shirt and WSOP denim shirt. So the cool factor among the crowd was standard Charlotte - non-existent.

But those yuppies came to throw down last night, because the show was absolutely packed. The Neighborhood Theatre has a policy that you can come in when the doors open and save your seat with a piece of paper and tape that they provide, and when we got in the door to mark seats at 7:15 there weren't four seats together anywhere. So we let the kids fend for themselves and Bonnie and I found seats. I know, lotta love in this family. And there were as many red #8 logos on Bud tallboys as you'll see in Concord next weekend (btw, do not plan a trip to Charlotte, or through Charlotte on I-85 for the next 10 days. It's Race Week, and capitalization is intentional. So is the capitalism of the event).

Damn, I'm rambling. I might have achieved the ever-painful state of being hung over and still drunk. Lemme close my eyes for a second and evaluate the situation here.

A little spinny? Check.
Feeling in all extremities? Check.
Cottonmouth? Oh fuck yeah check.
Headache like a mofro? Check.
Beer farts? Check.
Inhibitions still a little lowered? Check. Yup, still drunk a little. Good job, son.

Anyway, once we got ready for the concert to start, me with my 1st Place Beer (that's a PBR for you heathens) in a tallboy variety and Bonnie with a Yuengling (I can say it, but damned if I know how to spell it), she proceeds to warn the guy next to me that "He knows all the words but can't carry a tune in a bucket."

Sad but true, I am an unfortunate singer-along at concerts. Unfortunate for those around me whose hearing isn't as damaged as mine, that is. I couldn't carry a tune in a steam shovel, and at the level of inebriation I'd acheived by 9PM last night, the volume meter was definitely pegged at "FUCK." So Bob put on a helluva show, maybe the best I've seen him do ever, and certainly as enjoyable as the one I saw him put on there the night he blew the main breaker and had to play the second half of "The Road Goes on Forever" in the dark cause the stage lights were gone. And I'da thought that if I'da been sober.

Excuse me, I've gotta go do the morning-after walkaround of my vehicle. And then I might need to go die for a little while longer. But if you get a chance to catch Robert Earl Keen, do. He's high on the Falstaff list of approved boogie. And he's opening for Dave Matthews this summer for a but, so if you like that stuff, get to the show early. it'll be worth not smoking that last j in the parking lot.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

minor poker content

You guys do understand that I do still write about poker. right? Frankly, I probably write more about poker now than I ever have, between PokerWorks, Gambling-Weblog and thinking about getting Full Shill Poker rolling again. OK, admittedly two of those "writing" gigs consist mostly of cutting and pasting press releases, but hey, those are aggregator sites that are all about reprinted press releases. Regardless, over at PokerWorks I've got some decent stuff going on, including the recent coverage of the Wynn dealer union vote and the MGM/Mirage response. I think it's pretty good stuff, so go check it out if you enjoy seeing a bazillionaire like Steve Wynn take one in the chops from the little guys.

I sure did.

Anyway, I got my monthly fix from Full Tilt this week and since I can't really get that money out of there, I've been donking around with a few SNGs, trying to remember how to play this game on the intertubes. I'm batting .500 in cashes, and except for a moderately bad beat last night by a real doofus who reraised my AQ with K6 and caught a 6 to send me home when I pushed over him (I had an M of 6 and understand that I should have open-pushed, really I do), I'm having a little fun with it. I'll still happily transfer my monthly FTP money to anyone who wants to send me PayPal cash or give me cash in Vegas in a couple weeks.

Aahhh, Vegas. It's that time of year when I play a whole lot of Gram Parsons "oooohhhh Las Vegas" on the iPod, as my trip to that Crystal City gets closer and closer to makin' a mess outta me. I get in Wednesday afternoon and figure to get to the Orleans around 4, get something to eat, maybe a nap (since sleep will certainly be in short supply for the rest of the weekend) and play somebody's daily tournament at 6 or 7. Maybe at the Orleans, maybe the 7PM at the Sahara. I do want to try more of the cheapo daily tourneys the first couple days, and if I manage to nail one, I'm gonna buy in to the $1500 WSOP event. Not because I think I have a snail's chance at fucking a gazelle of winning the thing, but because it would be cool to freeroll into an event.

Don't hold your breath. My live tourney wins are more few and far between than blog posts by Hdouble (and if you really wanna know how seldom that happens, there are a bunch of people coming to Vegas this trip that don't know who I'm talking about - come back, Henry!) but it's cool to dream about while I'm sitting in the library having my morning constitutional. If that referenc missed you, understand that in North Carolina, the library is the room with the porcelain furniture.

If it still missed you, Daddy will esplain it all to you. I'm done with this for a while, I hear the recliner calling me for a nap. Yes, I know it's 12:30 on a Saturday and I've been awake less than four hours. But I'm still taking a nap, so bugger off.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Spring Cleaning

No really. Those of you that have been to my house regularly know that to call me relaxed in my attitudes toward clutter would be a serious understatement. More like "if there's a moderately navigable path from room to room we're good." Well, as time goes on, those paths become less navigable.

If you're anything like me, and God help you, some of you are, you've got more CDs than you know what to do with. And since some of you are gadget hounds like me, I bet I'm not the only one who has music stored on enough portable devices to obviate the need to ever actually play a CD again. In fact, I was looking last night at the CDs on the floor of the office (somewhere around 200) and in the rack in the office (somewhere around 700) and thinking "boy I need to get rid of some of this." Then I thought, "why not just get rid of ALL of this?"

With the exception of Suzy's car and when she's working in a costume shop someplace, we don't ever play CDs. I have a iPod jack in my car, and my choice of several iPods to jack into it. I have an iPod adaptor to play music in the stereo in the office, and the TV in the den. And a set of Portable iPod speakers if I need those, too. So I haven't actually played a CD in my house in well over two years. And now that I have all the iPod accoutrements for the car, I don't ever play them in the car, either.

So I'm dumping all my CDs. Almost all. Anything that Suzy likes to keep in her car, we'll keep. Obviously anything I've burned we'll keep. But everything else is going away. And a year or so ago (when I purged the first 500 CDs) I found an option that's way better than driving all over town to the four used CD joints and getting rid of things piece by piece. I sell all the shit online at They buy CDs, DVDs and Video Games, and they'll either give me store credit for more used stuff or they'll send me cash money via PayPal or check.

Full disclosure - if you click the link and buy something or sell them something, I get 5%. It doesn't come off your order, it's just a kickback for sending them traffic. But I really do use the site, I just sent off my second box of CDs this week to them today. I've been very happy with the service.

Now you'll get more cash if you've got the time and gas to drive around town to different music stores, but I doubt you'll walk out with it all. 'Cause remember, it's liking music a little too much that got us here in the first place. So if you've got a bunch of DVDs, CDs or video games that you want to dump, I'd certainly recommend This was not a sponsored post, per se, although I do get the aforementioned kickback if you click through to them using my link. I just think it's a good service and have been quite happy with them.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Shuffle off to wherever I damn well please

So after upgrading from my old 3G iPod to a nice black 30G 5G iPod in a nice protective case, I couldn't imagine why anyone would ever want something as small as a Nano. I mean, really, why would you settle for a 4GB music player when for just a little more money you could have a 30GB player? Didn't make sense to me. I mean, I have a LOT of CDs, somewhere in the 1,200 or so range, so I wanted as much capacity as possible for music when I travel.

Until I started wearing my iPod when I play cards. The 30GB iPod has everything I ever wanted in a music player. It's black and cool looking. It holds a flaming shitload of music, AND it can hold porn for when I get really bored. But it's heavy. And it's big. And did I mention that it's heavy? So for a tableside solution, not so much, unless I can guarantee that I'll be in a cool enough room to wear a long-sleeve shirt with a front pocket for my iPod. What to do? I don't want to lay out the cash for a Nano now that I have the big boy.

Problem solved. World, meet Shuffle. Shuffle, meet world. For $55 delivered ( has a refurbished store) with a 1-year warranty, I've got about 12 hours battery life and a couple hundred songs to wear on my lapel when I play cards. And the damn thing is just so small and cute! I'm sure it will take some getting used to since the controls are slightly different from the 5G, but at a net weight of around nothing, I'm now able to bring my iPod to games without worrying about a way to carry it. All about it.

Yeah, I kinda wanted the blue one, but for the $30 discount I got for buying the refurb, I'll hang with the silver. After all, $30 is half one night's stay in Vegas next month, baby!

Monday, May 14, 2007

In the Box

So after my less-than-impressive early exit from this Saturday's tourney at Big Dog's, it was time to get the cash game going.

What? You want to hear how I went out so early in the same tourney that I cashed in last week? And how I managed to drop $360 over the course of the night at the same place where I profited almost exactly the same amount a short seven days ago? God, can't imagine why, unless, oh yeah, schadenfreude. That explains it all. If you're unfamiliar with the term, go here.

Well, start with getting dealt AK twice and AQ once and getting called in three places for your raggedy flops. Then get AQ again, reraise the UTG raiser from 150 to 600 (blinds are 25/50) and fold to his T1,000 re-reraise. Then run JJ into AK and get sent to the rail by the rivered Ace.

So we had four folks ready to play short-handed cash game, but no dealer. So I look over at Big Dog, and say "I can deal." This is a little bit of a lie. While I'm a perfectly adequate dealer for our home games, I've never had to deal with a rake in play, but I figured 4-handed I couldn't screw it up too badly. Plus Dog was working a light rake anyway, 10% with a max of $5 per hand, far better than the rake at other local underground joints around here, which are usually a stated 10% max of $9, but as often as not 10% uncapped, which can get ugly fast in these freerolling NL cash games.

So I sit in the box, get a rack for my chips and the rake (my chips on the left, rake on the right, and get the drop box set up for the $5 chips. The tables were the standard type poker table you see everywhere for around $150, with the dealer set up in the center with the bottom cut out of a cupholder and a bucket bungee-corded to the bottom of the table as a drop box.

Sounds ghetto, but it's actually better than just using a rack on the table for rake (because then players really can pay attention to how much they're paying for seat rental) or the paint can hanging off the side of the dealer's seat (which beats the shit out of the 10-seat's knees). So I was racking greys ($1) and dropping reds ($5), while trying to keep in my head how much I'd raked so far and what was in the pot. I got it down pretty good by the time I was relieved by one of the regular dealer when the tourney got down to one table.

What I'd do was this - get the blinds out, deal the hole cards. At the end of that betting round, rake it all in, deal the flop. Then I take the rake after I deal the flop. After betting on the flop, deal the turn and then take the rake. There was seldom rake after the flop bet, because if a pot was raised preflop and bet out on the flop, we either reached a $50 pot pretty quickly, or the hand was surrendered. I was given no real instructions on when a bet became rakeable, so if there was no flop, there was no drop. Also if a bet was not called, rake wasn't taken from that bet.

I don't know if that was the "right" thing to do or now, but when Mike took over for me later on I paid a little more attention to when in the course of the hand he took the rake, and he always raked at the very end, before he pushed the pot. I liked my way better, as it didn't give the perception to the winner that I was taking "their" money, but rather chipping away as the hand progressed.

It was interesting to sit in the box for a little while, and I made about $20 in the 90 minutes or so that I dealt, which would certainly have been better in a bigger game, but since I was playing and dealing early on to keep the game going, it didn't bother me that I only got toked one out of every 3-4 hands, but the guys were pretty good to toss me a redbird a couple times. I can see how it could get to be pretty lucrative in a bigger game and as the game went along. No misdeals, and I only exposed one card accidentally by mishandling the deck, so all in all I think it was a successful experiment.


If you don't read In Search of Walden, you're missing out on a well-crafted, thoughtful blog of someone who's just like everybody else, working out who she is in this world a little bit at a time, and carrying us along for the ride. Found this little bit in Bloglines today -

Months later, she met the man I consider my father. It was a rough beginning. She was working at McDonald's. He was throwing pickles at his friends. She was pissed because she would have to clean up their mess. She told him so, and he fell in love.

I can see it. That's what good writers do, they paint a picture in a few words that you can see, smell, hear and almost taste vividly. Yup, poker bloggers marry up. This is more proof.

Friday, May 11, 2007

More Music talk

I promised poker talk after tomorrow night, so even less of that now. Except that I think Harrah's flattening the payout structure at the WSOP rewards mediocrity. That is all on that topic.

It's time for some musical recommendations from the fat kilted one.

1) If you've never listened to Reckless Kelly, go get yourself about fourteen PBR tallboys, buy or download their live album Reckless Kelly was Here, and have yourself a shit-kickin' good time. I would suggest making sure you have a hillbilly friend that you can beat the hell out of and still drink with to fully enjoy the album.

2) Cross Canadian Ragweed - stupid name, killer band. Cody Canada is a kickass songwriter, trust me. More PBR may be required for any of their albums.

3) Laps in Seven by Sam Bush - If you've read this blog for any length of time you know I think Sammy is nigh-messianic, and this is his absolutely finest studio album. I'm a sucker for live albums, so it'll be hard to beat the Fiddler's Grove concert I have of his, especially since I can hear my sister yelling in the audience that night, but for a studio album this is smoking. And it has his new banjo player, Scott Vestal, who brought a new dimension to the band.

4) Drive By Truckers - no beer, just whiskey. Lots of whiskey. Dirty old souther rock in the finest form. I recommend Carl Perkins' Cadillac as a track to start with. And yeah, if you buy the albums off amazon by clicking those link-type things, I get a kickback. Me, I buy the shit off iTunes cause it's cheaper, but if you're like my sister and your idea of fine literature is album liner notes, then I won't bitch if you buy the albums and get me a few pennies. Literally. Like 4% of the order. But if I ever add up to $100 in adsense and $25 in Amazon commissions they'll get around to sending me a check. Maybe by the time I've learned to play guitar and released a greatest hits album of my own.

Anyway, that gives you a little to start with. BG edifies you with Jazzy stuff to sip Shiraz to, I broaden your horizons with music to throw beer bottles at bands behind chicken wire with. Must be a slight difference in our upbringing, huh? :)

Concert Rant

I'll play poker tomorrow night, so look back later for poker content.

So last night I went to see The Duhks, one of my favorite bands. I love the music, love the vibe, think the fiddle player is cute as hell, and my infatuation with the lead singer is well-documented. Except she's not with the band anymore, and the new lead singer has a better voice, but isn't as hot. Oh well, moving right along.

So I meet up with Shelley and Karen for drinks before the show and then we rolled down the street to pick Suzy up at the theatre before heading on to the concert. I get there and notice the signs on the door saying that tonight's show is a non-smoking concert, which I heartily approve of. Then I see this nappy-headed guy on stage who isn't Leonard from the Duhks, and I wonder what's going on. As he starts to "sing" I realize that this is gonna suck. There's an opener.

Not only is there an unadvertised opener, he sucks. It's not like some of those hidden gems of opening acts, like Robert Earl Keen opening for Dave Matthews Band this summer (if you're going to see Dave Matthews, and I'm not sure why you would, get there early if REK is opening - he rawks!). Oh no, this is some mopey-assed singer-songwriter dork in desperate need of a stylist (or at least an unbiased fashion critic) who's desperately trying to channel Adam Duritz and missing. Badly.

So he sucked. A lot. And the show was on a school night, which made the 10PM start time for the headliner not so great for us old employed people's. Shelley didn't even make it to The Duhks, falling asleep on her stool midway through the opener's loser-ass set, and Suzy, Karen and I left after only about an hour of the band, because we were friggin' exhausted.

I know, getting old sucks, but is it too much to ask to let me know that there's an opening act for a concert on a Thursday? I've seen these guys several times, and it's about 50/50 whether or not there's an opener. Cause really, if I'd known they weren't taking the stage 'til 10, I probably wouldn't have gone to the show. I'm happy to do that shit on a weekend night, but Thursday's a school night, and I just can't play those reindeer games and do the shit I gotta do at work the next day (i.e. write another article for pokerworks, two for gambling weblog, and this blog post, but anyway).

Hamlet's almost completely cast, so it's getting close to time to go to work. If you haven't made your donation to Shakespeare Carolina yet, please do so now. We've gotten a couple of donations from generous readers, but need mo money to do the show justice. Click the Shakespeare Carolina link to donate.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

There are no Other People, just us...

Above quote from my favorite author's blog. I got tagged by Ms. All In to deliver seven details about myself and tag seven others. Let's see if I can find seven things that I will share with you that I haven't babbled about here earlier.

1) I first wanted a kilt because I thought they looked cool. I continue to wear a kilt because they look cool and they are really, really comfy. Let's face it, it's a brassiere-level conspiracy that the gender with the dangly bits wears the bifurcated garment as a rule of society. Let the boys swing free, I tell you!

2) I dropped out of grad school and am arrogant enough to think that I may never go back, at least to a program in Arts Administration. I may someday get a Master's in something that interests me, but it's doubtful.

3) I was once flown to Colgate University to be a guest lecturer in a class called "Religious Studies meets Queer Studies." I lectured about a production of Terrence McNally's Corpus Christi that I directed. If you know nothing about the show or its production history, it's worth a Google.

4) My greatest fear is that of being unremarkable.

5) I have never developed a taste for coffee or cigarettes.

6) I was 12 before I ever learned to ride a bike. But I haven't forgotten how.

7) I don't drink brown liquor. But I do have a quart of moonshine by the poker table at home.

I tag:



Wednesday, May 09, 2007

A Surreal Laughingstock, but a real nice lady

So Tammy Faye is dying. If you watched the Surreal Life when she was on with such classy icons of pop culture as Ron Jeremy and Vanilla Ice, you got to see a little bit of her. If you lived in the Carolinas in the 70s and 80s, you got to see too much of her, but if you ever met her, you'll miss her.

Right out of college I was a young freelance stagehand working around town, anywhere I could, when I got a call to do a week-long gig at Spirit Square, a local church turned into a 750-seat theatre (best room in town then, best room in town now). When I got there we started loading in lighting and watched as folks started loading in props and set pieces, adding carts and country fair type crap to the stage to fit the theme of the shoot. It was Tammy Faye Messner shooting an infomercial for her motivational tapes "If life gives you lemons, make Lemonade," and it was weeks before I got the smell of lemons outta my hair, which at that time was down around the middle of my shoulders.

She was a little woman, and our interaction with her was limited, but she was unfailingly polite and pleasant whenever she was asked to reshoot something for lighting, or had to stop and restart due to the inevitable technical tweaks and touchups. It was hard for me to reconcile this nice middle-aged lady with what I'd seen on TV as a money-grubbing hypocrite. I came to realize over the course of the week that her faith was really devout. She may have married a couple of real winners in a row (I think her second husband was getting ready for a prison sentence while we were shooting), but through it all, she maintained an unwavering optimism and faith that I found a little inspiring.

So when I would flip channels and see her on Surreal Life, I'd take a minute to watch, until the inevitable Vanilla Ice scenes, which would send me scurrying for the relief of the TV Guide channel or something else that dwarfs Ice in intellect. And it seemed like that sweet little lady was still hanging in there, having a good time no matter what curveballs life threw her. And even now, when the doctors have stopped treatment and she weighs only 65 pounds, she's still optimistic. She clings to her faith, and her faith holds her up, and I admire that kind of unwavering dedication to an idea.

So I'll miss the lady who was the laughingstock of a nation for her ridiculous makeup, the lady who made her reputation by being able to cry on cue and run rivers of mascara down her cheeks in a studio a few miles from here. Because I'll remember the sweet lady who made lemonade, even if she did have to stand on a pair of appleboxes to be tall enough for the shot.


Auditioning is the worst thing in the world for an actor. You work for days (more like hours or minutes in this world of unpaid non-profit theatre), get up on an unfamiliar stage in a room that you have no idea about the acoustics of, in front of a director that you have no idea what they're looking for, act your ass of for the three minutes you're given, and then all the feedback you get is a "thank you."

Well it sucks for directors, too, as we look at the audition work of actors we're familiar AND unfamiliar with, as well as trying to figure out not just who's the best actor at a set of auditions, but who will look the best next to each other and who will make a good stage picture, who you can age/de-age with makeup, who's got feet too big to ever find shoes for, etc. etc. etc.

So after spending three nights watching actors work and playing with them in auditions and callbacks to see who takes direction and who really, really wants the part, I'm almost done casting Hamlet. It was certainly easier this time around than it was seven years ago when I first directed the play, but there will be the inevitable conflicts with rehearsals, and my first choice for one role has already had to decline because of a conflict with performance, so now we're in the nuts and bolts of trying to schedule things, which is ever so much fun.

One thing that I'm going to try to do with this production is to film it. Not the show, but the process of getting there. I'm one of the few people that found Madonna's Truth of Dare movie intriguing not becuse Madonna flashed her tits (because really, who hasn't seen Madonna's tits a dozen times?) but because of the unfettered access involved in the film. Yeah, I know, a lot of that unfettered access was really, really fettered, but I think it would be neat to shoot the rehearsal process of a play and make a documentary of it as the thing progresses from all its disparate parts into (hopefully) a cohesive piece of theatre. It's always been true that what goes on in the process of getting a play on stage has far more drama than ever appears once the curtain rises, so I'm going to endeavor to share that with folks.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Banner Day

So Friday not so much. After hitting up a local tourney ($60 with one optional rebuy or add-on) and getting busted after a decent run when flopped two pair turns out to not be as strong as a flopped straight, I proceed to bleed almost the rest of my bankroll away at the ridonkulous cash game. AA cracked by a rivered flush, other stupidity for hours and hours had me questioning my purpose at the table. I had strangely thought I went there with the intent of taking money from the table, but as I left I realized that my true intention had been to donate all along. Silly me.

So instead of heeding my sister's words of wisdom and taking two weeks off to get my head straight, I put my last $400 in my pocket and rode off on Saturday to another tourney in another room. This game was much smaller, and less ridiculous, assisted a bit by the freezeout structure. There are very few freezeouts in the local card rooms, the tourneys are almost all rebuys, or at least a single rebuy. This one was a $55 freezeout, with 11 players. I chipped up a lot early, and then got eaten up by the blinds as I went absolutely card dead for the second hour. I hit a few boards before we got down to the bubble, but not much, mostly just hanging around on life support. I busted T to get us down to four-handed when my flopped straight was stronger than her flopped set, and then it was time to just hang on a little longer. The bubble burst, and the remaining three of us spent a good twenty minutes passing the short stack around the table until I finally went out in third, good for a $50 payout.

Yep, second time in a month I've cashed and shown a loss. Love it. But I turned the $50 into chips for the cash table (1/2 NL) and sat down short. I didn't mind sitting that short in a 1/2 game since most folks only bought in for $60 anyway. So my plan was to hang out until I got a big hand and just shove, because if this was anything like the other rooms in town, it was gonna be crazy.

Good thing for me it wasn't like any of the other rooms in town. This game played a LOT smaller, and a lot slower, and I was able to stick around on about my third hand for a very cheap flush draw and doule through the guy on my right when I hit the river, which made his wheel. I proceeded to catch cards for the next couple hours and slowly work my stackup until I had about half the chips in play, all on my initial $50 buy-in. I stacked the guy to my left a couple of times with good calls on his bad bluffs, and later on in the night had my Choir of Angels hand.

I'm in the cutoff or on the button, and there's a raise to $7 in front of me. I look down at the hand we love to hate, QQ. I call, as there are already several callers in here with me, and I either want to play a very big hand or get out cheaply if an Ace hits the flop. The Tc in the door doesn't excite me, but the Qc and Qh coming later on the flop makes me hear the Hallelujah Chorus resonate through my head.

Check, check and DrunkChuck leads out for $11. One caller, and I call. If he's willing to do my work for me, I'm willing to call him down for all his chips. Two EP checkers fold, and a blank on the turn. DrunkChuck leads out for $21, and the guy in the middle gets out of the way. I'm putting him on either a big pocket pair (not TT) or the flush draw, so I call again. The 2c comes on the river, and those angels singing get even louder, since that made his flush (in my mind). DrunkChuck leads for another $21, and I raise him his remaining $30. I'm sure he instacalls, but he sits and thinks, mutters something about the flush and mucks.

I do indeed say "that's a good fold, because Dem's Quads, Beetches" in the middle of a live cardroom. There are a few other decent hands, a few less than brilliant hands, but when it's time to go I'm up $375 for the night and have almost doubled my roll in a few hours.

There were some big differences between Friday and Saturday night for me. The Saturday night game had a LOT less money on the table, but the guys cared a lot more about the money on the table, which actually played much better for me. They never wanted to be shown a bluff, but if you had a decent hand, you could push them off a pot without too much trouble. The Friday night was much, much deeper stacked, but the table was also filled with people who could care less if they lost a grand at the table. It's hard to get that fold to happen when you're running bad and everyone at the table is deeper stacked than you. So I was able to play my game better on Saturday, because I cared less about the money on the table than the guys I was facing.

Another thing I did was focus. Somewhere about 5PM on Saturday it hit me that I've been neglecting to get my head straight for poker, concentrating more on having a good time while I'm losing than on playing my best game. That might account for the $2,000 I've pissed away in the last five weeks, huh?

So once I took a shower, I got dressed and got my gear ready. I grabbed my Full Tilt hat, got a long-sleeve shirt with a pocket for my iPod, made sure my t-shirt also had an iPod pocket (really thinking about a nano purely for poker, because the 30GB is just heavy), and spent a little time getting in the right head space. I've noticed that Jordan writes about having his poker wardrobe, and he's got a point. There's a certain comfort in having the right clothes, the right gear with me when I play. So I brought along the iPod Saturday night, and while I was paying attention to the players around me, I was watching them instead of chatting with them, and I think that had something to do with my success. I didn't run the iPod at the cash game, because by that time I was dialed in and in my groove, but it really helped me play well at the tourney, which I needed if I was to end up making any money and not being the guest of honor at somebody's Blogger Dead Pool standings for going busto again.

In another sense, Saturday was a watershed moment for me. Some of you can relate to this, some of you are built like Otis & CJ. I had to go buy some new jeans this weekend, because the button on one pair fell off and I split another pair along the inseam from kneecap to nutsack a couple weeks ago. So since Suzy is in hell week prepping for the opera I had two choices: do laundry or buy more pants.

Off to Chez Target I go, and lo and behold they indeed do not carry pants in a 44 waist, which is where my ass-coverings have been sizing up since about November of last year. So I thought to myself, "Self. You've eaten a shitload of yogurt lately, why not try a size smaller?" And sure as shit, I fit perfectly into a pair of 42/30 Levi's, marking the first time since college that I went to buy new pants that were actually smaller than the pants I had bought the last time through the store. There's still the weight of the average 4th-grader to lose, but fitting into a smaller pant size was a pretty damn good incentive to keep eating less and drinking more water.

Yeah, except for weekends I've pretty much purged sodas from my diet, which has not only led to a bit of weight loss and incessant pissing, it makes me feel better. Something else that's making me feel better is a daily dose of glucosamine for joint pain. I've had blown-out knees for years, a by-product of shoving hundreds of pounds of speakers up heavily inclined ramps into trucks at rock shows, climbing ridiculous ladders, and high school track. This is the first time in years that I can't predict the weather just by my aching knees. I thought all this holistic medicine stuff was the kind of hippy-dippy shit that does nothing but make GNC franchise owners rich, but this shit really works. So if you're aching in the mornings and stairs suck, start a daily dose of this shit and it'll help. That, coupled with the multi-vitamin and fish oil pills that my doctor recommended to lower my cholestorol, had me chucking down seven pills a day with my yogurt, but it's worth it if my knees don't hurt, so I'm all about it.

There you go. Life in the Falstaff house for the moment. Second round of Hamlet auditions tonight, let's see if I get enough people to actually cast the play.

Friday, May 04, 2007

New Site Live(ish)

So I started another website. Nothing huge, just a repository for lighting design photos, resume stuff and some of my scribblings. It's just getting rolling right now, but the eventual home for all my production photos and fiction/poetry/essays will be I know, real original, but easy enough for me to remember.

This blog will stay as it is, because frankly I make a little money off of it and don't want to give up the pagerank, plus that's not a poker site. It's just intended for people who want to hire me for whatever freelance stuff they're hiring for to be able to find me and peruse my work. I wouldn't bother adding to any RSS readers unless you're really jonesing for theatre photos. I'm not even adding it to my feeds.

On Teachers, Writers, Librarians and nanny States

Some of you who know me in real life might remember that I went to college to become a teacher, and English teacher specifically. A combination of low pay, early mornings and a realization that I'd be fired within a semester for telling some administrator exactly where he could shove his lesson plan led to my abandonment of this plan.

Most of the reason for me wanting to become a teacher came from the excellent teachers I had in school. One in particular taught me a valuable lesson about standing up for what you believe in, no matter the potential risks. There was a book on the shelves of our local middle school that a parent objected to. Our district had a process in place for challenging books in schools, but instead of following the procedure for challenging a book, the librarian there just removed the book. I don't remember how I heard about it, but being sixteen and full of righteous indignation (yeah, I know, not much has changed in 18 years except the mullet's gone) I wrote an editorial for the school paper about it.

Our principal reviewed the paper before it went to press, as was his custom (and Supreme Court-granted right), and asked me if I thought that was really something that I, as editor, should run in our paper. I didn't even question, my answer was "of course." The editorial ran, then the local paper picked it up and ran it, and then real reporters got involved. Eventually the book was returned to the shelves of the middle school after undergoing the proper review process and failing to meet the set guidelines for censorship.

But in the midst of all this, Ms. Hobbs, my English teacher, came up with an idea. We should do a grass roots campaign to raise awareness of censorship. So she helped up make buttons in various colors saying "I read banned books," which could be seen all over kids and some teachers around my high school.

It was these buttons that brought the issue to the attention of the public outside our school and to the local paper, which eventually led to the return of the book to the library. I didn't know until months later that there was a very good reason that Ms. Hobbs was the only teacher who wore her button for months - she was the only teacher willing to risk her job over it. Seems that the teachers at my school were told that it didn't reflect well on the school for this whole mess to be blown up in everyone's face, and that teachers continuing to sport our buttons would face disciplinary action, possibly even dismissal.

And she didn't care. She was a bit of a hippy at heart, and definitely a rabble-rouser, but she had the courage of her convictions, and that was all she needed. So she put her job on the line to back our play, and to stand up for something she believed in. That's something that's stuck with me all these years, and I still appreciate her for it. So today, when I'm reading Neil Gaiman's blog, I come across this link to Maureen Johnson's blog, telling of her current experience with book banning.

Maureen is a writer, and one of her books has recently been removed from a middle school library by a parent that objected to themes of homosexuality in the book.Now I'm not a fan of censorship in general, but even less so when the members of the committee that voted to ban the book haven't read the thing. So this got my dander up a little, and got me to thinking about Ms. Hobbs, and those buttons, and the one time a few people managed to get something set right when the censorship beasty raised its ugly head.

You see, here's my take on the whole thing. If this lady doesn't want her kid to read Maureen's book, fine. That is her right as a parent. But to take that option away from all the other parents in the area is just stupid. Of course I think there are books that aren't appropriate for all ages, but a book that was written for teens and read and defended by the school librarian is unlikely to have the same prurient material as Lady Chatterly's Lover (or anything else by Lawrence, but that's another post). Books are ideas, and the more ideas that our young people are kept hidden away from, the more likely they are to be blindsided by these ideas when they get out in the Big Bad World.

There are gay people in the world. I know that's a news flash to some folks in Bartlesville, OK (where this particular mess is going down), but it's true. There are also gang-bangers, meth heads, kiddie pornographers, serial killers dressed up like clowns (as if clowns weren't freaky enough) and Karl Rove. And forewarned is forearmed, as the cliche goes. BTW, there's a reason things become cliches - because they're true. So hiding your kid in the storm cellar is not going to protect them "until they're old enough to learn these things." Hiding them away from things in the world you don't like, be it homosexuality or Republicans, is just going to make sure that the encounter these things before they're ready to deal with them.

I know that if I hadn't read Alpha Flight comics as a kid I probably would have had a different reaction to my friend Jay telling me he was gay in college. Not that there was a whole lot of room for doubt with Jay, but having been exposed to the idea that there were gay people out there and that they were normal people just like me helped me deal with it, rather than going into the freak-out mode that someone growing up in rural South Carolina would normally have gone into when exposed to their first real live "fag." Books are how we expand our horizons outside our little everyday worlds, and it's a shame that some people don't want to see those worlds expand.

Anyway, I've got a lot of friends who stop by here once in a while who have kids, and I'm sure as hell not gonna tell you how to raise them. That's what therapy is for. But please don't hide them away from the truth. It'll only come back to bite you later.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Kitty r tu destroy werkplaze producktivitee

I r luvin the kittys.

h/t to Princess

Auditions - the other side of the desk

So this weekend I get to go back a little more into my confort zone - being the one watching auditions instead of the one auditioning. Auditions for Hamlet are Sunday and Monday evenings, with callbacks on Tuesday.

For the uninitiated, the callback is the Round 2 of the audition. When a director (me) looks at someone in an audition, they're looking at more than just whether or not someone can walk and talk at the same time without falling over (although that's very important!). They're also looking at how that actor fits with the rest of the cast and the mental image of the finished stage picture in the director's head. I refer to this as the "movie in my mind," a phrase I stole from a Canuck director I worked with a couple years ago.

So we'll have hopefully 30 or so people over two nights show up for the first round of auditions. They'll be vying for as many as 16 roles. Two roles in the show are pre-cast, two small roles that will be performed by actors that I'm very familiar with and enjoy working with. One of them is the Player King, which my buddy Chris (who directed Shrew) will play, and the other is the Player Queen, played by my wife Suzy. I've directed Suzy before and she's a great actress to work with. And she takes direction well from me on stage, if not in our home life :).

After I look at hopefully dozens of talented people, the process of winnowing down to who I can use begins. Then it's all about who looks good next to whom. If I cast a guy who's my size as Hamlet, then my Laertes has to be at least as big, or else Hamlet killing him in the end of the play doesn't look believable. My Claudius and Gertrude have to be somewhat close in age, so the sexual tension there is believable. I would prefer that Gertrude have a different hair color than Ophelia, so they don't look too much like mother and daughter.

None of those things have anything to do with acting ability, but all are considerations when casting a show. So I'm looking for a wide range of ages, sizes and descriptions, all of whom are fantastic actors, and all of whom are willing to give me their lives and all their spare time for a couple of months.

For no pay. Oh yeah, that's the other thing, there's no money involved for any of us. We're all working for free, something I'll rarely do, since I count on my design work to fund my Vegas vacations, but will do when the project matters enough to me. And this one does. So click the banner on the side of the page and gimme $25 to pay for Ophelia's bustier!

That's a quick insight into the mind of this director as I get ready for these auditions. Hope some of you can come see the show once we get rocking!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Another Fundraising Post

There will be a few of these coming along, get used to it.

As you know if you've visited here in the past few months, or if you've paid any attention to the banner on the side of the page, I'm involved in a groupd called Shakespeare Carolina. Involved to the extent that I'm directing the next production. A little play, called Hamlet, you might have heard of it once or twice.

Well, with public funding for the arts in Charlotte being what it is (that is, fucked), fundraising is tough. Our little company actually managed to come close to breaking even on our first show between contributed income and earned income (i.e. ticket sales). That's almost unheard of for a small theatre, and would never have happened if some great folks in our cast hadn't come out of their pockets with considerable donations at the last minute. When someone you know is working two jobs to make ends meet comes off with $300 to keep the show alive, it means a ton. And that happened in more than one instance on Shrew. Just when we thought we were going to have to punt or surrender, somebody came through for us.

As much as I love those folks for that, I'd like to not have to sweat that again. So I'm looking for donors. A lot of 'em. Specifically, I'm looking for 100 people to step up and donate $25 each to Shakespeare Carolina. This would give us the money we need to produce our summer stuff, and let us bank any ticket money for future productions.

If anyone out there works for companies that match donations, let me know (johnhartnessATgmailDOTcom) and I'll get you our non-profit paperwork. If anyone is feeling particularly generous and wants to donate more than $250, same thing applies. The organization is a federally-licensed 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization, so anything donated is tax-deductible. Donations over $250 require a letter from the charity acknowledging the gift, which we'll be happy to provide.

So loosen up the purse strings, go to the website and donate $25 (or more. More is fine.) to Shakespeare Carolina, and keep me dressing up in silly costumes!

I'm dead sexy

Update - If I win by a landslide, as requested by STB I will leave the kilt at home in June. So vote for me and preserve your eyesight!

So someone (read:me) has nominated me for the sexiest male blogger over at Veneno's blog. I decided to self-nominate largely because I couldn't handle the concept of Waffle's winning. So here's my case for all of you going over to YoYo's blog and voting for me.

1. I'm taller. Let's face it, except in extreme cases, short just isn't sexy on guys.

2. I'm fat. And really, what's sexier than a little whale blubber to cuddle up next to on a cold winter's night?

3. I'm a thespian. And we all know thespians are great with their tongues. What? That's not what thespian means? Shit. Maybe this one isn't a winner for me after all...

4. A vote for me is another move in everyone's favorite game - Tilt the Waffle! Just think of it like a c-bet with AJ on a board that whiffed you entirely, then catching your Ace on the River, Greenstein-style.

5. Because gosh darn it, people like me. Can't fathom why, since I find most people boring, asinine and basically repugnant, but they do. Must be my frickin' sparkling personality.

6. Because I sport the kilt, baby. Beware, childrens, the wife gave me a new kilt for Christmas, and it will be making an appearance in Vegas in June.

So go vote early and vote often, Chicago-style.