Sidereal ramblings

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Four-Part Harmony

I attended a concert this afternoon (at the Fairmont Opera House) by a group of young men, all of whom were students of mine before they graduated a year ago. They have been singing together for a number of years, and have gone "professional," playing shows in the upper Midwest and recording a CD and currently working on a second. You can check them out at their website, I've known these guys for a few years now, and each of them individually is a really interesting and great guy. They sing a variety of tunes in four-part harmony: doo-wop, classics, pop, originals, with occasional instrumentation -- acoustic guitar, piano, even drums. I am very, very impressed with the music these guys put together and the show they put on.

Closing Night (My Fair Lady Part V)

Earlier tonight (or last night, technically, as it is after 2:00 a.m. when I write this) we had our sixth and closing performance of My Fair Lady. The last night of a show is always kind of a bittersweet time. After several weeks of rehearsals and, in this case, almost a full week's worth of performances, you realize that you are doing it for the final time. It's also a time to say goodbye to friends I've met through doing the show. As readers of previous posts will know, I was not too excited to be doing a musical, and it's something I'm not likely to do again. I was happy with my speaking parts -- as the Butler, I had one line, and as the Bartender, I appeared in three scenes with two lines in each (except for the first one, in which I had only one line). I would've been content with that. I got to (or had to) dance in one scene, do a waltz, and frankly, by the end of the run, I was pretty confident with that. (They had to teach me how to waltz; I'm totally clueless when it comes to dance.) There were also two scenes in which I had to sing with between 10-20 other people on stage. What made me nervous about those scenes was that I can't sing, and I was primarily afraid of singing too loud, so that someone else on stage could hear me and be thrown off. I could've done without those bits.

It was a long night. After the performance, we had the strike, which took a very long time. Besides tearing down the set, we had to remove all of the community theatre-owned props, pieces, platforms, flats, etc. from the Opera House. (Some petty conflict between Opera House management and Civic Summer Theatre, which I'm not too privy to, and don't care to be, but they basically demanded that all CST stuff be removed from the building, instead of being able to store stuff there as they've done in the past.) This process took a long time. I worked harder than I'm used to, too. So after a long night of that, and a couple of gut-wrenching barbecued pork sandwiches (I appreciate the women who made food for all of us, but), it was about 2:00 a.m. by the time I got home. Not terribly late for me, but I'm pretty tired out.

Now we'll see how long it takes for all those songs stuck in my head to dissipate.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Funny in a Cookie

I went out for lunch with my friend Erin today at the China Buffet restaurant. The fortune in Erin's fortune cookie read, "You will receive a fortune. (cookie)" I think I may have disturbed the other patrons of the restaurant with my laughter. Freakin' hilarious.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

My Little League Baseball Career

My friend Stix posted on his blog about his son's somewhat disappointing experience playing little league baseball. It inspired a memory in me that I posted there, and thought I'd re-present here, in slightly edited form.

I played little league baseball one year when I was about ten. Going in, I thought I was going to be great; I wanted to bat clean-up. I had played baseball in my backyard almost nightly with the neighborhood kids. Often on a Saturday or Sunday, my family would go down to the local park and we'd all take turns batting and fielding. My favorite moments were when my dad would "bat flies" to us. I enjoyed this much more than hitting myself. I liked fielding. And I was totally impressed that my dad could hit the ball wherever he wanted to. He would just toss it up in the air and bat it, but he could hit it wherever he wanted to, even directly to one of us.

My little league experience was a disaster. The other guys could all play thousands of times better than I. They hit hard, played hard, and threw hard. I couldn't even see the ball coming when I batted. I'd never experienced baseball on this level before. I batted ninth every game, and the only reason I played at all was that we only had nine guys on our team. I played right field, and we all know, you put your worst guy in right field. (I may have played the other outfield positions on occasion, and I even played third base for one game, but didn't get to make a play then.) In every at bat for the season, I either struck out or walked, except for one time when I was hit by a pitch (by Scott Ender, who eventually ended up playing minor league ball; I always hoped he'd get into the majors, so I'd have a better story to tell, but he never did). I never once made contact with the bat on the ball, even to hit a foul ball. Our team won two games all season, one by a forfeit when the other team didn't have enough players (you could use one or maybe two subs --I forget which-- but if not enough of your players showed up, you were forced to forfeit that game), and the last game of the season, when I was so discouraged that I decided not to even go.

Thus ended my baseball career.

Sleeping weather

You know how most people love 80 degree summer days? If you know me, or have read some previous posts, you know I don't. We've had some miserable days (and nights) lately -- highs in the 90s and quite humid. Some nights when it didn't drop much below 80. Last night, after the thunderstorms went through, it cooled off nicely. It was in the 50s overnight and I don't think it even hit 70 today. For me, this is a little slice of heaven. And wonderful sleeping weather. It's 55 degrees right now, and with all the windows open in my house, my thermostat downstairs reads about 65. I'm lovin' it.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Opening Night (My Fair Lady Part IV)

I would say that things went fairly well for opening night, although we weren't without our problems. I know that I did my parts, small as they are, okay. We really messed up a few scene changes toward the end. I should take responsibility for some of that because they happened on the side of the stage that I'm stage managing at a time when I was over there. I really don't know who's supposed to be doing what and I probably should. Hopefully, things will run a bit smoother tomorrow. It's odd to consider that we have five more shows to do; I've never worked on a play that's had that long of a run before.

And, yes, Stix, we did get a standing ovation. Did we deserve it? Certainly not.

Dress Rehearsal (My Fair Lady Part III)

We had our final dress rehearsal on Sunday evening. I think it was my friend Stix who first told me of the phrase, "bad dress rehearsal, good performance." But I don't think our dress rehearsal went all that poorly overall. Except that I completely missed one of my entrances. I was on the opposite side of the stage when I realized that after the next line, I needed to be on the other side, with no way to get there that quickly. Luckily, one of my fellow actors was able to cover for me. I only had two lines and they weren't that important, but I felt like a heel. Hopefully, when we open tomorrow, I'll be in the right place at the right time.

Sunday, July 24, 2005


"It's not the heat, it's the humidity," we used to say. And, to an extent, we were right. But a more accurate measurement of the uncomfortableness of the summer weather is the dewpoint. I should point out that I'm not a professional meteorologist, but I am interested in weather. I think we all understand heat. Humidity is expressed as a percentage, and it's the percentage of moisture in the air comparative to what the air can hold. The hotter it is, the more moisture the air can hold, so the hotter is it, the lower the humidity can be and still seem sticky. (For about every 10 degrees Celcius, or 18 degrees Farenheit, the temperature goes up, the amount of moisture the air can hold doubles. So at 80 degrees the air can hold twice as much moisture as at 60 degrees, which is why a higher humidity at 60 doesn't feel as uncomfortable.) The dewpoint, or dewpoint temperature, as I understand it, is the critical temperature at which condensation (in the form of dew or fog) appears, or the relative humidity hits 100%. That is, if you cool the air without changing the moisture content, you'd reach a temperature (the dewpoint) at which the air can no longer contain the moisture it holds. So dewpoint more accurately measures how "moist" the air feels.

Dewpoints in the 60s generally feel kind of sticky. Dewpoints in the 70s (and today it's about 75 here in Fairmont, with a temperature of about 86) are described as "tropical." Yesterday the dewpoint was over 80, which has been described as "unbearable."

Pretty good for a non-science guy, eh?

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Miss Trimont

Tonight I attended the Trimont Area Junior Miss Scholarship Pagent. Like the last two years, I ran the spotlight for them, and set the other lights as well. The pagent is held on the same gym stage where I've done our school plays. Technically, it's not a beauty pagent, though many of these young women are quite attractive. The girls who participate (eight of them this year) are all going to be high school seniors in the fall, so while it's rare that I haven't had one in class already, I'll have them all in class come fall. The judging covers five areas 1) scholastic achievement (which I have a pretty good idea about); 2) panel evaluation (this is the one part I don't observe); 3) creative or performing arts (or "talent" -- they had some good ones this year: vocal, piano, dance); 4) fitness (for which the girls create a "routine" where they prance around the stage, doing some dance moves, and generally try to show themselves as "physically fit"); and 5) presence and composure (judged on how they appear on stage). Sadly, there is not swimsuit competition. Last night, I attended a rehearsal so that I could see what was going on and know when and where to move the spotlight (following the girls who dance, for example). By the end of the program last night, I had predicted the winner. I was correct, as I was last year.

Saturday morning

We had an early morning dress rehearsal today. Actually, they ran a couple scenes or worked on some songs or something to start with, so for most of us, we got to show up a half hour later (9:30) than originally scheduled. I understand why he (the director) schedules practices for Saturday morning; it gives us at least a sense of having some time off, having one night a week when we don't practice. We do have rehearsals seven days a week normally. This way, we've got all of Saturday from noon on until Sunday evening "off." However, for someone like yours truly, who has rarely gotten up before noon this summer, those early Saturday mornings can be a killer. (Imagine getting up three to four hours before your normal time.)

Dress rehearsal went fairly well this morning, though not surprisingly, energy levels were a bit down. (Friday night's practice went until after 10:30, after all.)

Friday, July 22, 2005

I just want some food

I ate lunch today at 12:30, more or less, rather early for me, but I hadn't eaten any breakfast (and I normally do). I snacked just a bit on some fruit and some cookies before going to rehearsal tonight, figuring I would eat something afterwards. As revealed in my previous post below, it was pretty late by the time that got done; it was nearing midnight when I got home. I can now attest to the fact that at midnight, there is not one single restaurant open in Fairmont. Not one. At least not on a Thursday night. I mean, our Perkins -- Perkins, for God's sake -- closes at 11:00. Much?

Tech rehearsal

Maybe I shouldn't have complained about the length of rehearsal the other night (My Fair Lady Part II). We had our tech rehearsal tonight, and as any theatre person can tell you, tech rehearsals are absolutely no fun for the actors. Our regular 7-10 rehearsal time got extended until after 11:30.

On the plus side (?), I was given yet another new job as a sort of assistant stage manager.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

"Cap'n, I need more time"

It was with a certain wistful sadness that I read in this morning's paper of the death of actor James Doohan, Scotty of Star Trek fame. It wasn't at all surprising; Doohan was 85 and reportedly in ill health for awhile now. Scotty wasn't my number one favorite character on the show -- as a kid, I gravitated toward Spock and Chekov, and in later years, I came to appreciate the late DeForest Kelley's performance as Dr. McCoy. But James Doohan was an integral part of the crew of the starship Enterprise, as the consummate engineer. He also did a lot of voiceover work on the original show. He will be missed

My Fair Lady Part II

Tonight we had our first complete run-through of My Fair Lady. Or, I should say, we were scheduled to. We didn't make it all the way through. For a play that should run an hour and forty-five minutes to two hours, a three-hour rehearsal wasn't enough time to get all the way through it. Admittedly, we had to stop a couple of times, but really very little time was lost there. It was mostly a matter of people stumbling over lines and not picking up cues. The pacing of the show was atrocious. And, frankly, there's not a lot of time to fix it. We have a tech rehearsal tomorrow night, and then three dress rehearsals (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday) and we open Monday night.

To quote nearly every character in Star Wars, "I've got a bad feeling about this."

Monday, July 18, 2005

My Fair Lady Part I

So, I'm in this musical. That's pretty unusual. I've directed a number of musicals (five would be that number) at the high school level, but this is the first time I've ever been in one. Last summer and this summer, I've acted in our local community theatre's summer straight show (for the non-theatrical, a "straight" show is a non-musical). I quite enjoy it, but I'm not a big fan of musicals in general. This year I knew that auditions for the summer musical, My Fair Lady, did not bring in many people. The director and board of the summer theatre had to recruit. The director, who also directed the straight show I was rehearsing for at the time, said to me one night, "Daryl, have you ever been in a musical?"

My basic response is I don't sing and I don't dance, why would anyone want me to be in a musical? But they did. I auditioned, and I got a role -- actually, several. I was hoping to be able to do a non-singing, non-dancing part, but I've ended up doing a little bit of everything. Here's kind of a breakdown of my bits:

I start by coming onstage at the very beginning of the show, but if all goes according to plan, I should be off within 30 seconds or so. This is my unnamed, high society character. I return in scene two as the bartender of the local pub. I like the bartender role. I get to throw a couple of guys out of the pub and across the stage, and I get to do that twice. In the first of those scenes, I have one line, and when I do the bit again in scene four, I have two lines. I return in the very beginnng of the next scene as Henry Higgins' butler. I have only one line here, but it's a fun one for me to do -- I base my character on a cross between Bruce Wayne's butler Alfred, and Jarvis, the Avengers' butler (both of whom are, of course, British). I'm offstage for a good bit then (that scene is quite long and contains four separate songs). I next appear again as the butler at the horse race scene, where I sing (what??) along with about 20 other people on stage. I can fake that. Then, in a bit I was just added to tonight, I appear wordlessly once more to help Higgins on with his cape as he prepares to leave for the embassy ball. I appear in the last scene, at the embassy ball, again as my unnamed high society character, where I have to dance a waltz as part of about twelve couples. Pity the poor woman who got stuck with me for a partner. She's been quite a good sport about it so far.

I am also onstage (as the butler) in the very beginning of Act II, where I have to sing a refrain of a song along with about ten other "servants." I don't know this one very well (again I was added last week after rehearsals had been running awhile), but also in the scene is the girl who was my "star" at the high school for the last four years, so I simply follow her lead. I then appear briefly in scene three as the bartender (two lines), and I'm done.

It's really a rather oddly written play. A number of people are only in Act I (perhaps not all that unusual) but there are only six characters who appear in about the last half of Act II. Most of the cast is finished by then. And only two characters appear in the last two scenes. It's a strange ending.

So rehearsals have been going fairly well, I feel, though I'm quite uncomfortable with the dancing parts. I don't really like the singing bits much, either, 'cause I really don't know how to sing, and I tend to sing quietly because I don't really want anyone else on stage to hear me and realize how bad I am.

Cell phone usage

I'm not a big fan of cell phones and don't think people should be using them while driving. I was reminded of this again yesterday while driving into St. Paul from the south on I-35E. There's some construction on the bridge over the Mississippi River and the freeway's reduced to one lane of traffic for awhile. Just before being constricted to one lane, a red pickup pulled in ahead of me. The woman driving was apparently one of those people who can only talk with their hands. She had her cell phone pressed firmly to her ear with her right hand, and was gesturing wildly with her left hand, only occasionally bringing it into contact with her steering wheel. In this restrictive construction zone area, she kept swinging out of the lane on one side, then the other. Sheesh.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Biking in the July heat

So after being taken to task a bit by my friend Stix for my previous post (wimpy?), I'll say a little something.

It's hot, miserably hot, and it's been that way for the past week or so, and there seems to be no end in sight. (As an aside, I'm a bit addicted to the Weather Channel, so I keep a close eye on current weather conditions and future forecasts. Really, it's fascinating stuff.) People who know me well know that I don't care much for summer's heat. In fact, I'll often say that once it gets above 70 degrees, it's too hot. And my friend Jeff will occasionally bring up that I once said something to the effect of, "If you can go outside without first putting on a jacket, it's too hot." I love cool autumn days. Temperatures in the 50s and 60s are just right with me.

It's been in the 90s lately.

Another thing that those who know me will remember is that I very much enjoying bicycling. I don't get to ride as much as I used to, and riding in Fairmont is a challenge (not a day goes by that I don't miss the bike path around Lake Winona), but I've been trying to do more this summer. Yesterday I went out for about 45 minutes or so, and rode my (current) standard of about ten miles, and I did so at the height of the day's heat. It was 88 degrees with a dewpoint of 68 or so when I was out. It was uncomfortable, weather-wise, but it felt very good to be riding, I must say. I was going to go today again (the temp was about the same as yesterday), but by the time I got around to being ready for it, it was nearly sunset (that's what happens when you don't get up until one o'clock in the afternoon).

So I rode inside. Last fall I bought a trainer, a nice little system that sets up in a small space and the bike's rear wheel attaches to it. There's a revolving cylinder that presses up against the back wheel which can be tightened or loosened, depending on how hard you want to work. I've been using it on days when I don't get around to riding until after dark, or when it's raining, and I used it some over the winter. It's a great system, and since I set it up in the living room (I had it in my basement for awhile), I watch TV while I ride. I usually ride 30 minutes or so, and it's probably a better workout than riding on the streets, since I don't spend any time "coasting," it's just a steady ride.

Friday, July 15, 2005

A post about nothing

Well, obviously I'm not posting to this thing every day as was my original intention. Mostly it was a matter of not knowing what to say. I had a few thoughts: I could talk about the oppressive July heat and the fact that I'm still going biking in the middle of it; there was this odd pie chart in the business section of the Minneapolis Star Tribune the other day; I could recommend Coupling, the British sitcom that my friend Stix sent me on DVD; I could reveal how things are going with My Fair Lady, the musical that I'm rehearsing for (and the first-ever musical I've been in); more tidbits from Fast Food Nation; or I could go off on politics and Karl Rove.

But I guess I'll just say nothing.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Fantastic Four

A long, long time ago (in a galaxy far far away) I started writing a comic book script for Fantastic Four, one of my favorite comics, one I've been collecting monthly since 1972. I had this idea for a long time before I started writing, but have learned a fair amount about the writing of scripts for comics in recent years. I've worked on a couple of things, and even completed a short story or two. But I was stumped on my FF script for a long time. And I often find it difficult and frustrating to write. Anyway, long story short, I finished it tonight. I'm quite sure it will never go anywhere -- Marvel comics doesn't take submissions from unpublished writers -- but I feel like I've accomplished something: my first, full-length, twenty-two page comic book script. If only I knew a dependable artist, I could take a look at some of my other ideas and see if I could actually get something published; self-publishing is very big in the comic book industry. At least it would be a start.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Fast Food City

I've been reading the book Fast Food Nation. I expected it to be more of an indictment of the fast food industry -- I tend to go out to eat a lot (single professional guy, you know) and I eat way too much fast food. I want to quit, or at least cut back, but I live in a city without a lot of choices, frankly. The book is fascinating; the statistics and personal stories in there are mind boggling. But it's more of an indictment of the food industry as a whole (I just read the chapter on meatpacking and slaughterhouses today) rather than just fast food. Though the fast food industry's boom is responsible for changes in other parts of the food "industry." Anyway, I figure I may just have to stop eating completely.

Welcome to my blog

As a teacher, whenever someone encounters me at some point during the summer months, invariably I'll be asked what I'm doing. This summer I was in a summer civic theatre play here in Fairmont, and am currently rehearsing for another. However, a lot of what I've been doing is blogging. Some friends and I created (well, one of them created; I'm just along for the ride) a shared blog that's been fun. Beyond that, I've been visiting daily blogs by my good friends Stix and K, and responding to some of what they've posted. So my answer to what I've been doing this summer has become "blogging." So I thought it was time to start my own. Here it is.