31.8.05

Outed

Each new job is an opportunity to remake oneself, to jettison bad habits or traits and to create a new image of who you are.

I started my new job with that intention and to some extent that's worked. Except... I've been outed as a reader and as having a mind that traps trivia. Since I'm a librarian, I'm hoping that's going to be seen as a good thing.

If not, I guess I'll have to apply for Head Research Librarian on "Jeopardy" for my next posistion.

29.8.05

Notable Quotes

It is usual to speak in a playfully apologetic tone about one's adult enjoyment of what are called 'children's books'. I think the convention a silly one. No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally (and often far more) worth reading at the age of fifty--except of course, books of information. The only imaginative works we ought to grow out of are those which it would have been better not to have read at all. A mature palate will probably not much care for creme de menth: but it ought still to enjoy bread and butter and honey.

C.S. Lewis
"On Stories" from The World's Last Night and other essays

26.8.05

Love it!


Cat and Girl
hits it square on the head. (รพ : Librarian Avengers)

25.8.05

It's the little things

Years ago, my beloved Howard had to be hospitalized for a week. During that time I had to leave the apartment, because it felt empty without him. When we finally returned, he had one of those collars on that made him look as though he'd gotten stuck at the narrow end of a megaphone - it was supposed to keep him from licking his stitches and pulling them out, but in reality it made it impossible for him to eat. I removed it, he gobbled down some food, and then I helped him onto the bed. I lay back, he crawled on top of me, tucked his head under my chin and let out a huge sigh of relief. We held paws and slept that way for about three hours.

Howard's long gone and Mallory has taken to climbing up my side when I'm in bed reading. He puts his arms around my shoulder or kneads my neck and chin, occasionally snuffling my ear with his wet nose. Last night, for a variety of reasons, I couldn't sleep and so today I decided to take a nap. Mallory climbed on me, snuffled for a few moments and then tucked his head as close to my chin as he could and we fell asleep.

And when I woke up, the world seemed a tiny bit better.

24.8.05

106/60

That's my blood pressure - arrived at after trying two different cuffs and having two people take three readings each. My resting heart rate is 66. Another low number.

One of my friends keeps telling me that going from parchment to ivory does not a tan make. I guess I'm going to have to do a whole lot better if I want people to think I'm still among the living.

23.8.05

Never misunderestimate the powers of your Mother

My mother read my post about the toaster and found it funny. Good.

Then she called me to tell me that she did so remember who gave them the toaster: the parents of the children that lived next door to her when she was growing up (we're still close with the family). Not so good.

I'd have been a lot happier if she could remember conversations we had ten years ago. Maybe in another 36 years, she will!

Still, I said I'd correct the post and I have. Love you Mom.

20.8.05

They don't make wedding presents the way they used to!

Several years ago I was home, visiting my parents (in their version of Smalltown USA). In their basement, on one of the shelves, sat a toaster that I'd grown up with; I thought it'd been exiled to the basement because my father likes to toast bagels and this toaster didn't know from bagels. Silly me. It was there because it was a wedding present and my mother didn't want to offend the giver by throwing it away.

NOTE: Their wedding was in 1959.

My father, being the kind of guy he is, decided that perhaps he could fix it. He did. I took the toaster home and for the past 10 years I've been toasting with it; it even became part of a story I told to my Storytelling class: "The Brave Little Toaster". My mother made me swear never to throw it away, because - you guessed it - it was a wedding present.

NOTE: She doesn't remember who gave it to them.

Sadly, I don't think it survived the move. I put bread in, but it doesn't go down and the heating elements don't get hot. So I called home to report the casualty and my father suggested that 1. I get a new toaster, 2. I throw it out (Mom agreed!) but that 3. he might take a look and see if he could get it working again. Just to see if he can.

Because, you know, a wedding present toaster from 1959 should last longer than a mere 46 years.

18.8.05

May I just add

The Little Professor lists Signs that the books have taken over:

* Your parents send you an article from the L. A. Times that describes the lengths to which people will go to house their personal libraries--converting a garage, for example. It's not clear if this article is meant to be prophetic or admonitory.
* You remember that one of your father's professors kept books in his oven (until, that is, a graduate student turned it on). After all, you don't use your own oven for much of anything, so...
* Your mother recommends building library stacks.
* The books have pride of place in your voice mail message.
* When visiting someone's house, you automatically calculate how much wall space could be used for bookcases.
* You take the local bookstores into consideration when deciding whether or not to propose a paper for a conference.
* Visitors inquire if books have the same mating habits as rabbits.
* The furniture store deliveryman remembers you. And your bookcases.
* A trip to Chicago is incomplete without expeditions to Powell's, O'Gara's, and the Seminary Co-Op. Who needs to go clothes shopping on the Miracle Mile?
* Will work for books.

I'd like to add: you never pack for a trip without bringing a suitcase for the new books you'll pick up.

7.8.05

unFriendly thoughts

I spent my time at Meeting today trying to get the "bad" thoughts out of my head, but didn't succeed. In fact, more crowded in. What were those thoughts?

1. What do you do when someone you like says something (on a blog, in an e-mail, in conversation, where ever) that you find offensive. Not in a FCC-wouldn't approve sense, but in the "I can't believe you actually would say that and think I'd be ok with it" sense. Responding to something like that is difficult - how do you do it in such a way that the other doesn't feel defensive or that it doesn't become the thin edge of a rift?

2. What do you do when you find that someone you've admired or respected really wasn't what they were cracked up to be? You know, one of those Wizard of Oz moments, when the Great and Powerful Oz is revealed to be the timid charlatan behind the curtain. In this instance, though, there's no Glinda to show you how to get home - you have to do it yourself.

That's what I went in with. As I tried to empty my mind and let the Inner Light help, I heard snoring from at least four different people. When the a/c was on, it was too cold, and it took some time (and a great many clicks of the remote control) to turn it off. The only message during the actual Meeting was really an announcement. And several of the Afterthoughts seemed to be just rambling without purpose.

So here I am, sitting at home, feeling unsettled and unquiet. Not the way I'd wanted to spend my Sunday.

What I didn't see at the theater

Yesterday, I went to see "Philadelphia, Here I Come!" at the Irish Repertory Theatre. I'm not going to review the play, but I can tell you that the performance by James Kennedy is definitely something to see. What I want to talk about is the State of the Audience.

I went to see the show because I know a cast member and I know a crew member - and while I know that almost every waiter in the City is also an actor, it was clear that the audience wasn't made up of "friends of...". Rather, the average age of the audience was 60. Granted, it was a summer Saturday matinee, but still - 60? Not great if a theater company wants to survive. The audience needs a median age of 40-ish - difficult to do in these times. Part of that is the rise in ticket prices. I understand that theaters have to pay Equity salaries and IATSE salaries and rent and rental for costumes/props and royalties and other salaries and all that. But it does keep audiences - young, necessary audiences - away.

Artistic vision has something to do with it as well. When I was a Sweet Young Thing (as opposed to the middle-aged curmudgeon I am now) back in 1984, I moved to the Big Bad City because my first job out of college was as the Assistant Business Manager for a renowned Off-Broadway repertory theater company. They had introduced us to many works we now consider "modern classics" (and isn't that an oxymoron?!) and recently had transferred two hits to other OB stages. Many of the actors nurtured by the company are now well-known, and others make a steady living in the realm of "Hey, it's that guy!" performances. Yet when I got there, I became privy to the Behind the Scenes secrets: fiscally, the company was in bad shape and artistically, even worse.

My first season I got paid the whopping salary of $50/week. I worked in the Business and Box Offices, and got a pretty clear picture of the problems. The first was a really bad season that the critics savaged and the audience avoided in droves. One play was cancelled when it became clear that the author was unstable (going on stage and attacking - verbally - the audience and - physically - the people asked to escort her offstage was a major clue). There was a hugely lucky last play that saved the season and ended up transferring to Broadway. In the Business Office, though, things were even more dire. The Assistant Technical Director had been allowed to submit copies of candy wrappers in lieu of actual receipts - not cool in the accounting world. The computerized accounting program (remember, these were the Old Days in terms of computer programs - anyone remember WordStar?) allowed unbalanced transactions to be entered, so by the end of the year there was $10,000 in an account that we had to unravel. Of course, this $10,000 wasn't in one transaction: it was +$10 from one and -$.75 from another, and so on.

The second season my position was eliminated and I took a second job, working full time at an Elite Girls School on the Upper East Side during the day and working in the Business Office nights and weekends. For free. Why? Because by then I was the only one on the "inside" that had any memory of the previous fiscal year. We'd had two Managing Directors and three Business Managers and four Box Office Managers in one 12-month period. The company ultimately became fiscally sound, but the artistic vision never really came back. The Founding Member that had had that vision wanted to try Hollywood (Hollywood felt differently about that) and without that guidance, the company ultimately folded. I made good friends there, but the simple fact was, friends do not a viable theater company make.

Usually things aren't this dire in the world of Off-Broadway. Artistic Directors can leave, but the replacement is someone who can lead the company forward. Sadly, it's not uncommon for a company to not survive because the fiscal issues are too heavy a weight. And part of the problem is the aging of the audience. A subscription series that is priced for people not making millions (or even hundreds of thousands) is usually available only for previews and mid-week matinees. That's not helpful for people that work or have scheduling conflicts that make having a one-week timeframe problematic. Yet many companies cling to this old model and the results are... well... what I saw in the audience yesterday.

It's too bad, because Off-Broadway is where the exciting stuff is happening. It's where innovative productions and interesting actors are being nurtured. Losing that will mean losing part of our cultural heritage. What's the solution? I don't know. But there has to be one. Doesn't there?

2.8.05

Welcome

I'm a little in shock this morning: Terry Teachout has labelled me a "preferred blogger". Coming from him, that's high praise indeed. And a little dismayed because this is in the middle of inventory, when my blogging ability is limited (8307 items done, 31686 to go).

Still, welcome to all the About Last Night readers. Any friend of Terry's is a friend of mine. I've even updated the sidebar just for you. Enjoy!