Regarding the whole transgender bathroom issue (and the ramifications thereof)

public-restroom

Let me take you back four months to Christmas Eve. Raise your hand if you spent a lot of time worrying about the issue I mention above. That’s what I thought – virtually nobody at all.

I’ve shared my theory on a few MEMEs that have popped up. Here it is.

THEORY: Virtually no one was concerned with, nor even aware of, a transgender bathroom issue until some legislator in some state decided that it WAS an issue – no, wait. Not an issue – a crisis; a crisis which required immediate action in the form of a law. END THEORY.

And then it hit.

Fan them flames, folks, whether it’s a fire or not.

And now we have people posting concerns about children getting mugged in the bathrooms. We have postings and pictures of “odd looking people” that carry texts that surmise what such a person might do in a bathroom. We have people posting similar things about how it’s not a problem so everyone else should just be quiet.

And we have states banning travel by state employees to one state or another based on what that original law-maker got passed.

And we have corporations that are making statements about how they’ll handle business within the jurisdiction of that original lawmaker and his law.

And we have people boycotting businesses who make some sort of statement about that original lawmaker’s law.

Don’t you wish we could get the same kind of fervor when it came to rebuilding our roads or improving our schools? Or when it came to funding schools? Or airports? Or tax policy? Or foreign policy?

It is time to stop these lawmaker-created crises… and its conservatives and liberals alike that come up with such things. Ban this. Limit that. Requirements. Penalties. Fines. Plug in your own favorites here as well. Many topics will fit, I guarantee it.

Government needs to be a positive thing; one of the words in the preamble of our constitution is “promote”.

Let’s get back to that. Time to start promoting, folks, instead of what we’re doing lately.

Community Theatre as a gift …

I have been given a gift.

 

That gift is community theatre.

 

Upon the upcoming opening of SPAMALOT here in Brainerd, allow me to describe that gift.

 

It’s the people, folks.  When it comes to friends I’ve made in theatre, I cannot possibly make a list of names, for fear of leaving people out, so I won’t go that far.  But if I put together a list of people I have gotten to know through community theatre, that list would include custodians, bus drivers, teachers, secretaries, students, computer technicians, professors, nurses, designers – and more.  Many of these remain friends; even though we may have not seen each other in several years, a little contact via Facebook or a chance encounter brings back all the joys of the shows we shared.  I also suspect this will remain true for the new friends I am making with this latest show.

 

I have shared the stage with people who used to be my students – and that is a very special relationship for me.  Community theatre bridged us from that teacher-student world to the friendship world, and I wouldn’t change that for anything.

 

I have shared the stage with theatre friends more than once – some going back decades.  Again, no names, but you might say a certain mayor of Finland and a certain member of the round table fit here.  I am sure that I will be able to say the same about the SPAMALOT cast – I am sure our paths will cross again over time as more shows come and go.

 

And those not on stage – the musicians, the techies, the directors, the ushers and marketing folks in the ticket booths – so many friends out of that arm of theatre are there, too.  I’ve not done much with tech over the years, but I’ve learned a whole bunch of stuff.  I’ve been a member of the pit orchestra several times – in fact, that was where I started with CLC theatre, back in the late 70s when a certain young lady (who later went on to play in a recent production of GLASS MENAGERIE) played the lead in THE UNSINKABLE MOLLY BROWN.

 

And on a personal level, community theatre gave me my wife – In 1982, while auditioning for GUYS AN DOLLS, the rehearsal pianist and I hooked up.  Lo and behold, a year later, Sue became my wife.  I can also say that I’ve shared the stage at one time or another with my two kids – in fact, all four of us were in OKLAHOMA in 1994 – and as far as I know, my son still holds the record for the youngest kid to have a spoken line on the CLC stage – “Who’s gonna be the auctioneer?”.

 

And the audience –  the support from friends and family  who come to watch a show just because they care enough to come see what I’m up to – that kind of stuff is priceless.   Then there’s the random chance of someone recognizing me for having done a part in a show – oh yes, a very special, humbling experience.

 

So to all of you connected with SPAMALOT, on and off the stage – may you be equally be blessed as I have with all the wonderful people connected with community theatre.  May you continue to enjoy the blessings that come from those people.

 

And I hope we share the stage again – real soon.

Movie Review: WHISKEY TANGO FOXTROT

wtf

WHISKEY TANGO FOXTROT

Tina Fey’s first shot into dramatic film making

Uninteresting? Yes. Unsatisfying? Yes. This movie was like reading one of those books where you’ve read over half of it, waiting for it to get started, so you don’t want to put it down because you have time invested in it – but then you get to the end and realize you pretty much SHOULD have put it down at about page 15.

There was no hook in the first few minutes. That should have been my first warning. But I stayed because I wanted to like it – I really did. I had hoped this would have been a good vehicle for Tina Fey to show her dramatic chops. We know she can rock it totally when it comes to comedy. There were moments when we could see that Tina Fey could indeed crack off a good dramatic moment, but apparently, this wasn’t going to be the movie to do it in.

Some have taken this movie to be a comedy. Negatory on that one, even with the producing team of Lorne Michaels and Tina Fey.

I am not a big fan of f-bombs and similar language… but that didn’t bother me in this one – it’s a military situation in Afghanistan – that’s going to be how the people talk, so no big deal for me at all when it comes to that.

There were a few story lines – three of them, really, and each of them took about five minutes to tell. That left 136 minutes of the rest of the movie to sit through . . . which, for the reason mentioned in the first paragraph, we DID sit through. Each of these stories could have been a movie in themselves with the right kind of writing and focus, but no, that didn’t happen.

Why the dissatisfaction? It might have been the writing – like I said, the three story lines took fifteen minutes. How does a screen writer fill up the rest of the time? I guess the answer is that you write a bunch of little vignettes. As a cinematographer, you shoot scenes of dark rooms while the characters are partying in the Afghanistan desert, or you shoot bouncing, shaking shots of vehicles racing down the dirt roads, or . . . well, that’s what it was.

So, I can’t give this one any kind of thumb up; more like a hand wave that says, “Eh…. “.

Facts:

151 minutes running time

Cast includes Tina Fey, Margot Robbie, Martin Freeman, Alfred Molina, Billy Bob Thornton

Written by Robert Carlock (screenplay) based on the book by Kim Barker (the Tina Fey character) titled THE TALIBAN SHUFFLE:STRANGE DAYS IN AFGHANISTAN AND PAKISTAN

Directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa
Produced by Lorne Michaels and Tina Fey

Poetry Time: Joyce’s Acorn

JOYCE’S ACORN

 

Equations rule physical existence.–

 

Gravity forces Newton’s apple

To fall at a specific speed.

 

Air pressure of a certain strength will

Lift the Wright Brothers’ airplane.

 

A ship at sea remains afloat

According to the laws of displacement.

 

For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

 

And so many more . . .

 

Plain.

Simple.

Perceptible.

 

NO such equations

Describe the effects of

 

Motherly love.

 

Apathy.

 

Child-like laughter.

 

Deep-seated hatred.

 

Such conditions defy all calculation.

 

Complex.

Abstract.

Intangible.

 

The mystery lives on:

How is it all possible?

How is it all NOT possible?

My Problem with Senator Rubio (and Those Like Him)

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Look folks, there’s Rubio praising his God and saying everything he does will be based on what he believes – making it sound like it is something that separates him from so many others.  Well, I have a problem with that.  He is no different.  We all bring our beliefs to the table.

 

Don’t you think that if a guy is a staunch outdoorsman, he’d bring that to the table – or if a lady is a master gardener, she’d be influenced somehow?  Or a teacher, or a pacifist, or a retired person, or a teenage kid, an artist, or an LGBT person?  We all bring our stuff to the table.  You have yours, your neighbors have theirs.  We all come to the table – no one’s background is any more or any less valid than the other.  First point:

 

I, like the senator mentioned above, would bring my Christian upbringing to the table.  Born and raised Lutheran, with smatterings of other denominations thrown in for fun.  There’s a certain Bible verse of how Jesus stands at the door and knocks.  (From REVELATION 3:20 – Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with me.)

 

See what it says there?  I see Jesus knocking.  The person on the other side of the door may or may not open the door.  It seems that Senator Rubio sees is quite differently . . . he sees not only Jesus knocking, but barging in, no matter whether the  other person accepts it or not.  This is where I part ways with Senator Rubio. When I share my beliefs, that’s all I can do.  I cannot make someone accept for themselves what I believe.  That’s not up to me.  I am no expert in the scripture, but I know of no place where Jesus chased someone down and MADE them believe what he had to say.  I wish Senator Rubio would do the same.  Next point:

 

I was also raised as the son of World War II veteran, so I also bring a pretty good chunk of American patriotism to the table, who was taught to respect the basic of that good old American sense of our representative government.  Standing when the flag comes by in a parade, removing my hat at appropriate times, voting, staying in tune with what’s going on in our country – that’s there, too.

 

One of those things that I have learned is that our country’s government is intended to be a representative government, a republic.  Everyone has the right to be heard by their elected officials, who in turn need to reflect that in their work as senators or representatives or judges or even presidents.

 

So if I choose to run for an elective office of some sort and actually get elected, you can pretty much bet that I bring what I bring to the table.  My Christian/Lutheran background will be there.  My understanding of how our government works will be there.  I trust that what I have learned from my earthly father and heavenly father will work together and be an asset, working in tandem to be a productive person for those who have elected me.  I apologize for neither, and am proud of both.

 

Is it fair to expect the same of those out there running for office?  I think so.

BOOK REVIEW: THE MAGIC STRINGS OF FRANKIE PRESTO

book cover

By Mitch Albom
Published by Harper Collins
497 pages

This is a novel for anyone who has ever listened to a musical performance that made your jaw drop, the hair on the back of your neck stand up, and your breath removed by its sheer beauty and power. This is a novel, too, for those musicians who have had that moment when you have been part of a musical performance that has left you feeling nothing but connected with the higher power of music. In other words, this is a book for all, because we’ve all had that kind of connection with music, one way or another.

Mitch Albom’s character, Frankie Presto, is followed from birth to death, tracing his life as a guitarist of phenomenal talent and skill. We see Frankie from his first days on earth in the mid-1930s, where his mother sacrifices more than anyone can be expected to . . . where a dog and a bachelor have their lives changed by the child . . . a teacher who grasps on to the young Frankie to teach the important lesson that music is more than the notes (quote from the book: a teacher’s shadow can hover for life) . . . to how the love of Frankie’s life comes and goes . . . to his connections with many musicians over his lifetime . . . to the success of his daughter as a benefactor of Frankie’s music . . . and so much more, but I had best stop there to not give away too much.

The author Albom has crafted a surprising way to tell the story. The narrator of the story is music itself. Music explains how talent is given to all in varying portions, of how all the musical styles out there are relevant, and then uses all this narrative to tell us Frankie’s story. And it is not exactly an omnipotent view, either. Music itself almost becomes a character of the story as well as the narrator. This is one of the marvels of Mitch Albom’s writing style.

The story of Frankie Presto is that of a career musician. He learns his music, he shares it, first in small places, and then through his travels, manages to climb to the heights of music popularity as a young rock and roll star, and then falls into anonymity as time passes. Frankie can sing and play the guitar as if he has been infused with music. In his adventures from Spain and many places around the earth, Frankie meets so many other musicians – the list is long, passing through time, from Big Band names like Duke Ellington to hard rock musician Paul Stanley and modern day jazz man Wynton Marsalis. Interspersed within the narrative of the Frankie Presto story line, the author has cleverly included separate chapters written in the voice of actual real-life musicians, as if they knew and worked with Frankie. Again, like the voice of music as narrator, this is another clever and effective mechanism used by the author to bring the story to life, to make it as real as possible.

At the core of the story is the theme of music as a power. Music, as the reader meets it as the narrator, explains the effect music can have on the performer and the listener. Music, as the motivator that give Frankie his ups and downs in life, gives us a taste of the reality of the difficulty of learning to play music, of the deep satisfaction of a performance well done – and ultimately, how music is more than the notes on the page.

We are all part of a band at least once in our life, insists the author … and some of us are part of many bands. How many bands he’s been in is Frankie Presto’s story. Though Frankie is a fictional character, there is a great deal of truth and relevance of music in our actual every-day life.

Week 48 – A Christmas Story for 2015

Beanie’s Earliest Christmas Memory

Christmas traditions come in all kinds of families, and in all kinds of ways.  The Herbert family was no different.

 

Any Christmas card found in the Herbert mailbox found itself taped to the woodwork along the ledge of the basement stairs.  The Coca-Cola Santa Claus had to be hanging on the front door every year. Oh, what debates would occur if anyone suggested otherwise.  Certain ornaments had to be in certain locations on the Christmas tree.  The Christmas stockings had to be hanging in the same order every year; oldest to youngest from left to right.

 

This particular year, Uncle Dave and Aunt Meg and their four kids arrived for a Christmas visit.  Once they brought in their Christmas presents and their suitcases, they all attended the afternoon service at church.   Upon their return, a Christmas dinner was in order.  Beanie’s mom and Aunt Meg set the table with the good silverware and dishes, real cloth napkins, and even stemmed glassware, destined to be filled water, milk, or even wine for the adults.  A platter of ham ruled the center of the table, accompanied by bowls of steaming hot mashed potatoes, cream corn, and all the olives and pickles Beanie could sneak on his plate without his mother swatting his fingers with the gravy ladle.  All were called to the table, a table grace was said, everyone ate all they could and then a dessert of either pumpkin or apple pie was served with ice cream.

 

It was the traditional event after dinner, though, that held Beanie’s anticipation and excitement.  It made Beanie feel that Christmas had arrived in full force.  All other family traditions and practices as lavish and fine as the Christmas dinner dwindled in comparison.  Just the thought of the after-dinner activity would make Beanie’s heart race with excitement.

 

Despite his enthusiasm, it seemed to Beanie that it took so very long just to get the dirty dishes cleared, even with everybody helping.  The dishes had to be brought to the kitchen for a good washing, and the cloth napkins and tablecloth stashed in the bins down in the basement laundry room.  Any leftovers had to be wrapped in foil or put in Tupperware and stored appropriately.  All of this took no more than half an hour, but for Beanie, it was a good pile of time wasted.

 

Yet, there was more waiting.  The entire event had to wait for the arrival of even more family members, who had been at their own homes with their own dinner and cleanup routines to attend to before they could come to the Herbert house.  The waiting tore at Beanie’s patience and anticipation of the evening.   His mother made him entertain his cousins in the living room where they sat on the floor playing card games like “Go Fish” or “Old Maid” as they waited.  Christmas music played throughout the house.  By the time the additional family members arrived, Beanie and his cousins had heard Bing Crosby, The Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Ella Fitzgerald, and even a recording by the local high school choir.

 

And then, with little warning, it all began.  Cars pulled up in front of the house, dispensing more people into the Herbert home.  Beanie saw people at the front door, hearing voices of more relatives giving their greetings of “Merry Christmas” and such similar comments.  The new arrivals removed their coats, hanging them in the front closet or giving them to Beanie’s dad who threw them on a bed in the front guest room.  Simultaneously, a coffee pot and a plate of cookies appeared from the kitchen.  Couches and chairs found themselves filled with people.

 

And then . . . oh, and then . . . Beanie heard a knock at the door as a very special voice came from the other side.

 

“Merry Christmas!  Merry Christmas!  Ho Ho Ho!!”  This voice from behind the door resounded with great gusto and seasonal cheer.  Beanie was too excited to notice who opened the door, but once that door was opened, in marched Santa, as real as the entire world could possibly be.  Nobody could tell Beanie otherwise.  The waiting was over; Santa was here in all his glory, dressed head to toe in his red hat, jacket and pants, all trimmed with white fur.  His polished black boots reflected the colorful blue-green-red-white lights from the Christmas tree.  His large beard and his bushy eyebrows were as white as the snow that had fallen that morning.

 

The Herbert home rang with cheers and whoops as Santa unshouldered a large sack that looked as if it was so full of goodies that it would rip apart at the slightest shake.  The minutes flew by as Santa greeted each adult individually with hugs for the women and strong handshakes for the men.  Camera flashes went off over and over again.  His face was all smiles, his voice full of joy and merriment.  His presence in the room amplified the fun of the season.

 

Next, he turned to the kids.  Santa put his hands on his hips and leaned back to stretch out his legs and spine.  “Oh, those reindeer aren’t giving me as smooth a ride as they used to.  They must need new shoes.  My sleigh ride was quite a bit bumpier that I remember.  Maybe it’s my old age.”

 

The kids laughed at the thought, crowding around each other as more cameras flashed.  Some greeted Santa with a shy hello, others just looked up and stared.  The youngest cousin, little Paul, scampered and hid behind Uncle Dave’s knees.  More cameras flashed at the activity.

 

Santa finished stretching and leaned forward to the children.  “Who’s ready for a present or two?”

Great shouts of “ME! ME!” filled the room, along with jumps and waving hands as the kids reacted to his question.

 

“I need all of you to sit down here right in front of me.  Young ones closest to me, old ones in the back.”  With a wink, he added, “That’s because you old ones get your presents last.”  More laughs, more giggles.

 

Santa asked for a chair.  Beanie urged his dad to hurry up for Santa, please, hurry.  Dad headed into the kitchen and returned with a chair and set it down behind Santa, who plopped down on it with a big vocal ‘humph”.  Placing a pair of reading glasses on his nose, he reached for his bag and pulled out a present.    “This one says it’s for Snoozie.  Who’s Snoozie?”  He looked across the children with a perplexed face.

 

“That’s me, Santa.  But I’m Susie, not Snoozie!”  Santa apologized, blaming his fogged-over glasses.  He handed the gift to the young girl in her yellow dress.  “Open it carefully and save the bow,” he instructed her.  With great care, Susie opened the brightly wrapped package. It was a My Little Pony set, just what she had hoped it was.  “Santa, how did you know?”  I only told mom and dad that I wanted this!”  She hurried over to show her parents.  Oohs and aahs rose from the adults as Susie made her way around the room to show everyone her treasure.

 

After that, it was mostly a blur for Beanie.  He heard more wrong names called and saw more packages opened, but most of the time he kept his eye on Santa’s big bag, wondering when his would come out next.  He could hardly breathe because of his excitement.

 

Then Santa called out for someone named Barney.  No one responded.  Santa said, “Barney?  Who’s Barney?”  Aroused by his dad, Beanie perked up.  “Do you mean me, Santa?  I’m Beanie. It’s me!”

 

Santa took his glasses off, rubbed them against his jacket and placed them back on his nose, taking a closer look at the tag on the package.  “Why, yes I do, young man.  Here you go.”

 

Santa handed Beanie a long, tube-shaped package.  A baseball bat?  It seemed too long and too fat for that for that.  A fishing rod?  Same problem – too fat, too long.  Whatever it was, it was heavy and wrapped quite tightly.  For Beanie’s money, too, there was too much tape on it.   He started opening it at one end, clearing just a very small piece paper off the top of one end of the tube.  It was then that he saw what it was.

 

Beanie couldn’t believe it. It appeared to be a cloth-like material.  There was no mistaking what it was. He tried to hide the disappointment in his voice.   “A rug?  A rolled up rug?”  His heart fluttered in confusion.  What would a six-year-old boy do with a rug for a Christmas present?  Beanie kept up what he considered his Christmas face as best he could, but he kept thinking, “A stupid rug!  It’s a stupid rug!”

 

Santa offered to help Beanie with the tape along the length of the rug.  After what seemed like a half an hour, all the paper was off the rug.  It lay on the floor, still rolled up tightly.  Beanie could tell he was about ready to cry, but he knew he just couldn’t do that.  He kept all that  inside as best he could.

 

“A rug.  A lousy, crummy rug.”  That’s all Beanie could think.

 

Then Santa spoke up and suggested that the rug be unrolled.  He pointed out the two plastic straps tied around the rug.  Uncle Dave took out his pocket knife and cut through the straps, allowing the rug to loosen itself out of its coil.

 

Beanie now had no other choice.  The other kids moved out-of-the-way, seeing that Beanie would need room to open the rug all the way.  Beanie grabbed the exposed end of the rug and unrolled it.

 

He was stunned at the image on the rug.  This rug, which he had thought at first was a huge failure as a Christmas present was the most amazing thing Beanie had ever seen in his whole life.

 

There, laying on the floor before him, was a four-foot by six-foot rug, containing full length drawings of each and every single Power Ranger on TV.  The colors shimmered in the light, especially when someone took a picture with a flash on their camera.  They were all there – Blue Ranger, Red, Ranger, Green Ranger, Yellow Ranger – and there, right smack in the middle, stood Beanie’s favorite, the Black Ranger.  They were all standing with their right foot slightly forward, their left hand on their hip, right hand pointing out to Beanie as if to beckon him to join them in the rug.  The words “Power Rangers” appeared above their heads in bright three-dimensional red and yellow lettering.  It couldn’t be any better – Beanie’s favorite superheroes right here in front of him in bright, fresh colors – and it was for him, and only him.

 

His earlier mood of disappointment evaporated quickly.  His face, which he had kept as blank as he could to hide his disappointment erupted into a huge smile as his eyes opened wide.  He knelt down, ran his hand along the rug from left to right and back again, finally stopping on the Black Ranger.  It was superb.  It was a dynamite gift.

 

Beanie finally squeaked out a “Thanks, Santa!” with a voice that sounded just a little bit choked up.  He stuck out his hand to shake with Santa, but his eyes never left the vision that was his new Power Rangers rug.  It was going to be in his bedroom forever.  This was the coolest.  This was the greatest.

 

Eventually the evening’s excitement subsided.  Santa left first, making an excuse that he had to feed his reindeer.  The guests who had come in the cars received their coats, got dressed, and left.  Beanie’s mom, Uncle Dave and Aunt Meg went to a late evening church service.  His dad stayed home to serve as the babysitter, putting all the kids to bed.  Beanie took his Ranger rug up to his room with him, carefully placing it on his floor.  He lined it up squarely with the side of the bed and put on his pajamas.  After brushing his teeth, he returned to his room, took a good long look at the marvelous, wondrous rug.  He wished each of the Rangers one by one a good night and a Merry Christmas.  With a warm feeling in his heart, he slept.

 

 

 

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