Me, Myself, and the Voices in My Head

A place to ramble and maybe make some sense about a thing or two.

Archive for the month “February, 2012”

February 29th – Interesting Facts

Since it’s “Leap Day,” I’m gonna leap out of my chair and not post anything tonight.  I’m tired and I’m going to bed early.  But, just so those of you who read my blog on a regular basis won’t have to go without, I’m reposting this informational article published by BBC News.  I think you’ll like it.

Here are 10 things to consider – for one day only. Until 2016, that is.

1. The leap year’s extra day is necessary because of the “messiness” of our Solar System. One Earth year (a complete orbit around the Sun) does not take an exact number of whole days (one complete spin of the Earth on its axis). In fact, it takes 365.2422 days, give or take.

2. Until Julius Caesar came to power, people observed a 355-day calendar – with an extra 22-day month every two years. But it was a convoluted solution to the problem and feast days began sliding into different seasons. So Caesar ordered his astronomer, Sosigenes, to simplify things. Sosigenes opted for the 365-day year with an extra day every four years to scoop up the extra hours. This is how the 29 February was born. It was then fine-tuned by Pope Gregory XIII (see below).

3. Every fourth year is a leap year, as a rule of thumb. But that’s not the end of the story. A year that is divisible by 100, but not by 400, is not. So 2000 was a leap year, as was 1600. But 1700, 1800 and 1900 are not leap years. “It seems a bit arbitrary,” says Ian Stewart, emeritus professor of mathematics at Warwick University. But there’s a good reason behind it.

“The year is 365 days and a quarter long – but not exactly. If it was exactly, then you could say it was every four years. But it is very slightly less.” The answer arrived at by Pope Gregory XIII and his astronomers when they introduced the Gregorian calendar in 1582, was to lose three leap days every 400 years. The math has hung together ever since. It will need to be rethought in about 10,000 years’ time, Stewart warns. But by then mankind might have come up with a new system.

4. Why is February 29, not February 31, a leap year day? All the other months have 30 or 31 days, but February suffered from the ego of Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus, says Stewart. Under Julius Caesar, February had 30 days, but when Caesar Augustus was emperor he was peeved that his month – August – had only 29 days, whereas the month named after his predecessor Julius – July – had 31. “He pinched a couple of days for August to make it the same as July. And it was poor old February that lost out,” says Prof Stewart.

5. The tradition of a woman proposing on a leap year has been attributed to various historical figures. One, although much disputed, was St Bridget in the 5th Century. She is said to have complained to St Patrick that women had to wait too long for their suitors to propose. St Patrick then supposedly gave women a single day in a leap year to pop the question – the last day of the shortest month. Another popular story is that Queen Margaret of Scotland brought in a law setting fines for men who turned down marriage proposals put by women on a leap year. Sceptics have pointed out that Margaret was five years old at the time and living far away in Norway. The tradition is not thought to have become commonplace until the 19th Century.

It is believed that the right of every woman to propose on this day goes back to the times when the leap year day was not recognised by English law. It was believed that if the day had no legal status, it was acceptable to break with tradition.

6. A prayer has been written by a female cleric for people planning a leap year day marriage proposal. The prayer, for 29 February, asks for blessings on the engaged couple. It reminds them that wedding plans should not overtake preparations for a lifetime together. The prayer has been taken from Pocket Prayers of Blessing by the Venerable Jan McFarlane, Archdeacon of Norwich:

“God of love, please bless N and N as they prepare for the commitment of marriage. May the plans for the wedding not overtake the more important preparation for their lifetime together. Please bless their family and friends as they prepare for this special day and may your blessing be upon them now and always. Amen.”

7. The practice of women proposing in a leap year is different around the world. In Denmark, it is not supposed to be 29 but 24 February, which hails back to the time of Julius Caesar. A refusal to marry by Danish men means they must give the woman 12 pairs of gloves. In Finland, it is not gloves but fabric for a skirt and in Greece, marriage in a leap year is considered unlucky, leading many couples to avoid it.

8. The chance of being born on a leap day is often said to be one in 1,461. Four years is 1,460 days and adding one for the leap year you have 1,461. So, odds of 1/1,461.

But Stewart points out that is very slightly out, owing to the loss of the three leap years every 400 years. In any case, babies are more likely to be born at certain times of the year rather than others, due to a range of other factors, he says. Babies born on 29 February are known as “leapers” or “leaplings”.

9. Other calendars apart from the Gregorian require leap years. The modern Iranian calendar is a solar calendar with eight leap days inserted into a 33-year cycle. The Indian National Calendar and the Revised Bangla Calendar of Bangladesh arrange their leap years so that the leap day is always close to 29 February in the Gregorian calendar.

10. Explorer Christopher Columbus used the lunar eclipse of 29 February 1504 to his advantage during his final trip to the West Indies. After several months of being stranded with his crew on the island of Jamaica, relations with the indigenous population broke down and they refused to continue helping with food and provisions. Columbus, knowing a lunar eclipse was due, consulted his almanac and then gathered the native chiefs on 29 February. He told that God was to punish them by painting the Moon red. During the eclipse, he said that God would withdraw the punishment if they starting co-operating again. The panicked chiefs agreed and the Moon began emerging from its shadow.

Also of a supernatural nature, on 29 February 1692 the first warrants were issued in the Salem witchcraft trials in Massachusetts.

Youngest Son having a busy day?

I don’t remember having to be so busy when I was 13 years old!  Oh, I’m sure back then I thought I was the busiest and most important person on earth, but looking back I certainly don’t remember it that way.  Many people will say that our kids today are busier because there’s so much more technology and that they’re having more and more to do because of school, sports, and civic groups.

If technology was really the reason our kids are busier, then we should have been completely overwhelmed way-back-when!  We had to actually write our term papers out by longhand.  There were no computer programs to put together nice slide shows or do the graphics for us.  If you were artistically challenged, you dreaded any project that required poster board and magic markers.

Most days when Youngest Son comes home from school he doesn’t have any homework.  I remember walking home from school with a full backpack and my arms full of books so I could complete an evening’s assignments.  He brings home his trumpet and maybe a worksheet that he’s completed that day in class.  I’d be really concerned but his grades are high and he’s on the “A” Honor Roll each quarter.

Today, however, he was busy after school because it’s time for the Spring Theatre Auditions at school.  They did the musical “Aladdin Jr.” back in November and Youngest Son portrayed The Sultan.  He did a really good job.  Today he auditioned for a part in “The Borrowers.”  The director is not pleased that the latest Disney film happens to be based on “The Borrowers” and that the kids will try to imitate it instead of actually working on their roles.  Youngest Son paired-up with one of the girls that he’s friends with for their read-throughs.  Both of them auditioned for lead roles and I wish them the best of luck.  I think he only got the nerve to ask her to audition with him because her ex-boyfriend (who’s a good friend of his, too) is out-of-town and had already auditioned.

Tomorrow he’s got band rehearsals after school.  He’s been selected to go to the State Band Conference as a soloist and as part of a sextet.  He practices at home for an hour each day and is really nervous that the rest of his sextet hasn’t been practicing.  I told him that when he’s there tomorrow to play his best and if the other five aren’t as ready as he is, then to keep playing the best he can and show them that they need to step-up and get ready ’cause the contest is in April.

But even with these events and others upcoming in the month (as well as working on the Community Theatre production so that he has some backstage experience), he still has plenty of time to play video games, read lots of books, and surf the Internet (with parental supervision, of course).  People say kids today are too busy.  I just don’t see it.  Then again, I’m glad that he’s got time to do things he likes as well as having time to rest properly.  The typical zombie teenager is not a pleasant sight in the morning — Eldest Son was a prime example of that and I’d like to not have to deal with it again.

It’s worse on the third day….

My oral surgeon left me a note that I should not be surprised if my jaw/cheek/everything else hurts worse on the third day after the surgery than it did on the day of it.  Actually, I wasn’t in any pain the day of the surgery — I just had it done ’cause I knew if I didn’t I would have to sooner-or-later when the pain would be too bad to suffer.  Well, he was right!  It’s the third day and my jaw is screaming at me.  It might not have helped that I had a lot of talking to do during rehearsal tonight.

One of the up sides to community theatre is that you get people who are really interested in making your production work.  People want to be seen doing well onstage and they’re very willing to do what they need to in order for the production to be a success.  Sadly, one of the down sides to community theatre is that there’s basically no budget.  That means that either the technical director (that would be me) has to find/buy/make all of the costumes and props or he/she has to delegate that job to the actors.  I’m a great delegator.  I love delegating things to other people, especially if it’s something I don’t want to do in the first place.  If it’s very important and is critical to making the production work, I have a harder time letting-go of something.  But otherwise, if there’s a prop or costume piece that an actor needs, I find it best for them to go out and find it so that they’re comfortable with it (not too big/heavy/etc.) and because they’ll be using it and I cannot afford to purchase everything.  True, there are theatrical rental houses, but I can’t afford that, either.

Tonight I started our rehearsals by giving everyone a list of the props they’ll need and other set decoration pieces we’d like to have.  Many looked at me as if I were insane, asking me to find something for themselves.  I’d already told them they needed to bring their costume pieces and that they’d be responsible for their own costumes, so I guess asking for props was a little “over-the-top” for some of them.  Then I found out that one of our actors quit, leaving us with a role to fill with just three weeks before the production.  That’s another down side to community theatre — they’re volunteers so they can come-and-go as they please and there’s not much you can do about it.

Fortunately, tonight our director decided to try a few new things with the play and different people took on the parts where the actor that was cast didn’t show up tonight (we were missing quite a few).  We had a great time as everyone started laughing and having fun and it helped those of us there to continue the “theater bonding” we need to make the show look like an enjoyable performance and not a bunch of strangers reciting lines.  Hopefully we’ll have as much fun tomorrow night!

Spring Gun Show: Day Two

Today was also a nice day at the annual Spring Gun Show.  Not too many people asking stupid questions, like “Is that for sale?” when the item is clearly marked with what it is and how much we’re asking for it.  Not too many people wanting to stand around and touch everything we have on the table but not actually interested in buying anything.  We did have a few people try to haggle on prices with us, and we actually encourage that (unless the price tag says “FIRM” which means we’re probably selling it for someone else).  But trying to haggle with us for a lower price, us coming to an agreement on a lower price for the item, and then the customer walking away because they don’t have the money to buy it is just silly.  I lost count how many times that happened today.

But, we returned home with fewer items than we took which is always a success.  We did purchase some .45 ACP pistol parts and a reproduction MP-40 “non-gun” (doesn’t work, never did, never will) that we’d planned to add to our collections and/or resell and ALL of them sold within a half an hour of our purchases.  We were lucky to get an M1 Garand bayonet in excellent condition at a very reasonable price.  We plan to resell it but we bought it so close to the end of the day today that there wasn’t time to resell it there.  That’s okay; that’s why we have the website.

My oral surgeon advised me the other day to be careful with what I ate and drank and to not be surprised if by the end of the second or third day my face began to swell and ache worse than it did when I went to his office.  That would have been any amount because nothing hurt when I went to see him and now I’m in excruciating pain!  I almost wanted to skip posting tonight because earlier I could barely lift my arms or my head long enough to type anything.  But, I sat and watched the Oscars and figured if I’m still up this late I can at least post something.  So, here it is.

I’m looking forward to the next gun show we’ll be able to attend.  Not sure when that will be at the moment but it will be fun as will the search for new items to offer at the next show!

Spring Gun Show: Day One

I’m surprised.  I’m very surprised.  I’m actually on the verge of being stunned.  Today, I didn’t have to yell at anyone in disgust during the gun show.  And that’s a first for me in a long time!

I don’t consider myself a rude person.  I try to be friendly and cordial with everyone I meet, especially if they’re a customer, until they give me a reason not to be.  Then, depending on the amount of stupidity or rudeness received, all bets are off.  My business is there to make money, not to please the entire world.  I’ve spent years of my life studying and researching information so that I am as close to being an expert as I can be with regards to the items I sell.  And since 99% of all of the items are either from the Vietnam War era or earlier (I deal in military surplus, in case you forgot or are new to my writings), a lot of my information has to come from hands-on experience with the items, talking to veterans who owned or were issued the items, and doing a LOT of reading so that I’ll know the little details.  Not every helmet is the same.  Not every weapon is the same.  And just because you watched Band of Brothers or Saving Private Ryan doesn’t make you an expert on WWII militaria!  You might own the entire DVD set of every Tour of Duty season or you have every M*A*S*H and After M*A*S*H episode memorized, but that doesn’t make you an expert on the Vietnam or Korean Wars!

The worst thing to do is to come up to my table (which I have spent a fair amount of money to rent so that I can sell my items) after I’ve traveled a long distance to be at the show (sometimes I’m lucky and the shows are actually at a center across the street from my house!) and made sure that I’ve brought a wide variety of items (because one of the biggest complaints at shows is that “there’s nothing worth buying”) and trying to inform me that the polyester-blend jacket you’re holding was passed-down three generations from your relative that served in the American Revolution and because you’ve seen the latest documentary on History Channel that has one “just like it” that I must purchase it from you for an ungodly amount of money.  Or, you bring an item to me and tell me how you watched a television show where someone had one exactly like it except for the color, size, and rust on it and that you demand that I pay the appraised amount from the show.  I’ll make this simple — do either of those things, and the answer is going to be, “Not gonna happen in this lifetime, buddy!”

Another one of the top items to not do is to bring your item to my table, stand in front of me and give me a very, very long, very, very detailed “history” of the item and how you came to own it and then ask me what it’s worth.  It’s even worse when you start your diatribe with, “Do you know what this is?” not in a manner of “Can you help me?” but with the attitude of “I’m going to teach you something.”  What’s most irritating is when I’ve answered your question that I do or don’t know what the item is and ask if you want to sell the item to me and you respond with a resounding “Of course not!” or “Depends on what you tell me it’s worth!  Why should I give you an appraisal for free?  You don’t get other items appraised for free.  Why should I utilize the many years research and knowledge that I have to tell you something that (1) you think you already knew or (2) had no clue about and not get anything out of it?  I don’t work for Antiques Roadshow so my appraisals aren’t free!

Also, when I give a “value” on an item, it’s going to be one of three things — (1) the current market value of the item based on others I’ve seen sell at retail or auction, (2) an estimated insurance value if it’s something that I’ve already been informed is going to stay within the family (and my appraisal fee is paid), or (3) what I think it’s worth to me or what I’m willing to pay because I am going to resell it and need to be able to make a profit.  I’m not buying your memories or appraising your family’s history — I’m in this game to make money and just because you saw someone else told that their item is worth $30,000 doesn’t mean that your’s is as well!  Not every World War II uniform was worn by Eisenhower or Patton and not every German pistol was carried by Goering or Hitler.  And trust me on this, there are a LOT of faked items out there!  Collectors and reenactors have demanded reproduction items and manufacturers have been more than happy to provide them, especially if they’re Nazi items!  They first started reproducing the uniforms but used actual WWII-era materials and thread which made detecting a fake almost impossible.  Then they reproduced weapons with old parts found in defunct factories.  The parts are “original” but the build of the weapon didn’t happen until the 1980s — so saying it’s “real” is kind of hard to do.  Now, there are companies that not only fake the medals (and not just the high honor ones but even the ones that EVERYONE got) but they even fake the presentation boxes the things came in from the 1940s!!  It’s getting so you can’t trust anything as “authentic” anymore!

Oh, and when I said “real” above, that word drives me insane.  People come up to me when I’m wearing my WWII-era authentic uniform and ask, “Is that real?”  I tell them, “Why, yes, it is — in the sense that it takes up time and space.”  That usually baffles them for a few moments until they decide to ask, “Is it really your uniform?”  I reply, “Yes, it is mine because I bought and paid for it myself and am the only person who wears it.”  Again, I’ll get some blank stares because they’re not sure of what to say.  What they should have asked is, “Is that an authentic WWII uniform?” or “Is that uniform original to the WWII-era?” or “Was that uniform made during WWII and possibly used by a soldier then?”  Then I could answer them whether or not my uniform is “authentic,” “genuine” or “vintage.”  “Real” is a word that has way too many meanings.  And asking if it is “mine” implies that I am the person who wore the uniform during World War II and earned the medals pinned to the dress jacket and actually obtained the rank worn from the United States Government.  I may be starting to look older, but I’m not THAT old yet!!

So today wasn’t filled with as many questions or issues like those.  It was nice to have intelligent and humorous conversations with prospective customers.  And when some would ask me for my “expert” opinion or for clarification with regards to an item or type of items I’ve spent a lot of time researching, I was happy to oblige.  True, there were a number of people who tapped on the helmets to make sure they were really made out of metal and others who tried to “inform” us that we couldn’t own or sell our wares because “it’s illegal to own government property” even though the items are edging 70 years old and no one in the government has been searching for them (especially since they discontinued them and threw away what was left-over ages ago).

Hopefully tomorrow will go well.  And if not, at least I’m still on my painkillers from yesterday and they help mellow me out for short periods of time.

Whee!! Over 1000 views!!!

Yippee!  My blog has over 1000 views on it as of late last night!!  Of course, it’s really easy to get me happy and giggly about something right now.  Had to have some minor oral surgery and the anesthesia has still not totally worn-off.  They asked if I wanted a “local” or “general” and I said “general” would be fine and probably safer for them because if I was awake during it I’d probably have been trying to talk and ask too many questions.  An unconscious patient is an easy patient at times.

Plus, I got my own bottle of prescription pain-killers, too!  Those will be fun once I start needing to take them.  All weekend Husband, Youngest Son, and I are supposed to be working for my online company at the local gun show.  No, not a “gun show” where steroid-riddled guys show off their muscles; a “real” gun show.  I enjoy looking at firearms, using them, and having my Second Amendment rights protected.  We’ll have a few for sale and a bunch of military surplus items as well.  We don’t get rich off of it but it gives me something to do to help make money when my primary employment doesn’t have a huge disaster to which they want me to respond.

But for now, the “voices” and I are going to go curl-up on the couch and let the remote become one with my arm.  It’s going to be a long day tomorrow and I’m pretty sure those pain-killers will be needed soon.  Time to rest, relax, and….um….something witty that fits there.  Yup, the brain is already decided it’s down for the count today!

A brief review/rant of last night’s debate

I have lots and lots to do today, so this one is going to be quick.  I watched the Republican Debate last night and found myself again frustrated by what I heard and saw.  So, since I’m busy, this is going to be a quick synopsis of what I saw and remember from the show.

The four candidates were introduced by CNN in an almost WWE “wrasslin'” style as each was given a nickname and funky background music.  They all came out onstage and stood for the National Anthem.  Politicians need to learn where their heart is — most of them were covering their spleen with their right hand.

Questions were posed and Frothy Mix (Santorum) and Mittens (Romney) sat and argued like small children trying to one-up each other.  Newt (Gingrich) looks as if he’s put on a few pounds and the way he sat in his chair holding his right hand made me wonder if he was constantly checking his pulse or if he was just trying to control himself from smacking Mittens for all of his inane comments.  DocRon (Paul) sat at the other end of the stage and was often ignored but did make sure that when he was asked to give a “quick response” by the moderator that he said, “No, not a quick response.  I get one minute like they do!”

Frothy Mix kept falling into the “John Kerry Trap” of  saying that he “voted for something before he opposed it” which the other candidates, with the exception of DocRon, seemed to not notice.  DocRon, however, did jump on it.  He also made a comment about not believing something that Frothy Mix said was “real.”  Frothy Mix tried to interrupt by showing his hand and arm to DocRon and saying, “Sorry!  I’m definitely real!” to which DocRon simply replied, “Congratulations.”

Mittens kept trying to remind everyone about how he was affiliated with the Olympics but never could get the right words out.  He said he was “in the Olympics,” not that he served on the Olympic Committee.  If he was “in” the Olympics, then in what sport did he compete?  And, in my own opinion, who gives a crap that he worked on the Olympic Committee.  True, he uses it as a way to prove that he’s the most qualified to run the country economically, but that’s with a budget of billions which only people like he and his friends have, not the type of budgets with which we “regular people” are familiar.

Newt made a great statement that everyone is comparing what they’re going to do with what the current government is doing and pointed out that the current government is the problem.  Like, duh!!  If the others didn’t already know that, then they don’t need to be up there.

DocRon was patient as he was mostly ignored throughout the night and did defend himself and his ideas when he could.  However, I do believe that he often got some of the biggest applause and was the only person who, as everyone tried to make sure to mention as many of the Bill of Rights amendments as they could, mentioned the Second Amendment.  And I agree with him that if someone has entered the country illegally and is trespassing on your property, you should be able to call the police and have them arrested (and they can be referred to the proper immigration authorities).  Why not?  If I can report citizens for trespassing, why do illegal immigrants get a free pass?

At the end of the debate, I really got upset when they were asked their final question and only two of them answered it.  Newt and DocRon actually answered the question.  They passed my first rule of having a debate.  When it was Mittens’ turn and he started his campaign speech, the moderator stopped him and asked him to answer the question.  Mittens countered with, “You get to ask the questions you want; I get to give the answers I want.”  Frothy Mix took the same approach and both stayed “on-message” and wouldn’t answer the question directly.

So, if I had to choose someone at this moment, it would be either DocRon or Newt.  Newt actually isn’t “presidential” in my eyes, but he at least can answer a direct question!  Same for DocRon.  You might be stunned at what you hear but he’s not going to mince words or go off on his “message” instead of addressing the issue.

They said last night this could be the last Republican Debate — I seriously doubt it.  Everyone’s in-it-to-win-it and no one is going home until they mathematically can’t win.  And some are trying to get enough delegates so they get a prime-time slot during the Republican National Convention, which worries many in the RNC.

I just hope that the next debate is better than this one was and that questions can actually be answered directly.  And if they don’t, I still think dropping them through the floor or squirting them with water like you do your dog or cat that won’t behave would be fine.

My brain hurts….the continuing story

At least today I’m not staring as much at the computer.  Today I’m looking at books, sending text messages, and making phone calls in order to help get our production underway.  So, since I’m going to be really busy with the show now, I might as well give my faithful readers some information about it.

Our local community theatre group is doing two performances of “Arsenic and Old Lace.”  If you’ve never seen the play or the movie starring Cary Grant, then you need to as soon as you can!  It’s a great story about the Brewster Sisters who perform their “charity” on lonely elderly gentlemen and are assisted by their nephew Teddy (who believes he’s Teddy Roosevelt) in “disposing” of the evidence.  Another nephew, Mortimer, lives with them and is a drama critic for the newspaper and plans to marry Elaine who lives with her father, Reverend Harper, just across the cemetery from the Brewsters.  Mortimer finds out what his aunts have been doing and tries to protect them, but is soon confronted with his long-lost cousin Jonathan (and his associate Dr. Einstein) who has plans on making the old Brewster home his new headquarters of crime.  It’s a hysterical production and all of the actors have been having a blast working on the scenes and getting their lines memorized.  Husband is even in this production.  He’s not as big on the theatre as I am, but I convinced him to audition since he’s seen the movie thousands of times and he will be portraying Dr. Einstein.

I’m the technical director for the production which means I have to help design the set, design the costumes, find the props, manage the technical crews, and act as stage manager during the productions.  Finding a place has been difficult since the only “theatre” (actually built for theatrical productions) in town is (1) incredibly expensive to use and (2) doesn’t want people to build sets on their parquet flooring they’ve installed for the annual Gospel Sing that comes through every August.  They also only allow the person who sold them their lighting and sound system to operate them during any productions and he’s WAY too expensive for us (even though the director and I are perfectly capable of running the equipment).  When they built the theatre they even decided to cut-out the fly loft and counterweight system because they figured an additional 20 feet less to build would help the budget but didn’t realize that theatrical productions need a way to bring scenery in and out and that often the easiest way is to go up.  Plus, our production requires a “practical” (means that they have to be used and built to code) set of stairs for Teddy to imagine as San Juan Hill every time he goes up them and screams “Charge!”  Since they’d have to be fastened to the floor, the theatre is a no-go for this production.

We would use the Junior High’s theatre/auditorium where Youngest Son’s recent production of “Aladdin, Jr.” was held, but (1) they want too much to rent the space, (2) the area is occasionally used by classes and our stuff wouldn’t be as secure as we need it, and (3) we’d still have to build the set with the staircase and that’s going to cost more.  Even though the assistant principal of the Junior High is in the play as the evil Jonathan, we still couldn’t afford to have it there.

We’re currently rehearsing at the church where our director works.  There’s a nice area that was part of the original church that’s been converted into a theatre.  We asked if we could use the space but they turned us down because it’s not a “Christian production.”  I’m still trying to figure out if they’re objecting to the fact that it’s not about a story in the Bible or if they’re objecting to the language, violence, and murder that takes place.  Last time I read the Christian Bible I saw a lot of violence and murder in there, so perhaps that’s not what they’re talking about.

Finally, we’ve found that the local Civic Center will allow us to use their main lobby as a theatrical space.  And, to make things even more fortunate for us, they already have a large staircase right in the middle of it!  We’ll have a thrust stage configuration — that means the audience will be seated on three sides of the stage and it makes them feel as if they’re inside the Brewsters’ living room as well.  Add a couple of doors, a window seat and window, furniture, and use large curtains to stand-in as the walls (cheaper than having to build them) and we’ll have a minimalistic version of the set most people see but it will still work and give focus to the actors and not the background.  Plus, it’s a LOT cheaper!!  That’s a big bonus in community theatre!

So now that we’ve found a place, we’ve had to work on the dates.  On the weekend we wanted there’s a soccer tournament scheduled in the exposition hall — right next to the main lobby area.  That’s not going to work.  There are other events at the schools and in town on other weekends with which many cast members would have conflicts.  We wanted to do three performances but have had to scale it back to just two for the dates that are available for the actors, crew members, and the building.  But at least we now have dates so we can start selling tickets.

Yesterday I spent the day working on costume designs.  I started trying to sketch the costumes for the Brewster Sisters and for Jonathan and Mortimer.  Then, I finally gave-in and started looking on the Internet for photos of the types of clothing that I want them to wear.  Since it’s a community theatre production, each actor will have to create his/her own costume.  This is when we love the local thrift shops, resale stores, and free-stores — especially since this is a period piece (supposed to take place in the 1940s) and a lot of old clothing can be found at those places.  A little accessorizing, a little altering, and a little imagination will make them work and on a reasonable budget.  I made costume plots for each of the characters and handed them out at last night’s rehearsal.  They have until next Monday to start finding parts of their costume and have to bring in what they have that night so we can make sure they’re on the right track.

Next is the prop list.  This one is going to be easy and hard at the same time.  There’s a prop list in the back of our script books — but it’s as if you were staging a Broadway production (actually, it is the list from the Broadway production) and we don’t have that kind of space or money.  Our director is loaning us all of the set pieces since he has a Victorian-style house and a lot of extra furniture that will work perfectly in our “make-do” space.  I’ve been calling people who say they have items we can borrow and trying to come up with ideas on how to “fake” the things we need but can’t get.  Youngest Son wants to major in theatre now and has volunteered to work on the prop crew so he can get some backstage experience.  Little does he know that his experience is going to be cleaning a lot of dirty things I find at junk stores, things that people donate (which usually have been sitting in a basement for years), and building/creating items that we can’t find but are important to the play.  Technical theatre is often a “trial-by-fire” and he’s going to get one.

Our lighting is going to be different since we have to use the lights in the lobby and a few additional “practical” lights and up-lights so that we can have brightness and darkness in the “house” as scripted.  No theatrical lighting here.  I’ve been working with theatrical lighting and lightboards since I was a teenager, so for me it’s going to be different trying to get the mood-lighting I want with very little with which to work.  Somehow, though, we’ll make it happen.

Fortunately I’ve gotten new materials for my professional makeup kit because I have to make the actor playing Jonathan look somewhat like Boris Karloff (that’s one of the running gags in the show).  He’s a great guy and really open to letting me experiment on his head.  You don’t usually get an actor/actress who’s willing to let you paint and glue stuff all over them.  And the other makeup and hair designs for the rest of the actors will have to wait for now.  They’ll be doing their own anyway since no one else has special-effect makeup.  Well, there are ladies playing male roles, but it’s not that hard to get them to look male-ish enough for the theatre.  I’m just going to have to be sure the Brewster Sisters have gray/white hair, that Elaine hides her purple highlights, and that the rest of the cast (well, those who have hair, that is) gets theirs styled correctly for their part.

I know in the end I’ll look back at all of this and think about what a great job everyone has done and how hard we’ve all worked and smile.  Right now, though, my brain won’t shut-up because the “voices” have each taken sections of the play (lights, sound effects, costumes, makeup, etc.) and are arguing about how to get it all done on a budget of about zero dollars.  So, you’ll probably be able to tell when I’m really busy ’cause my posts might not be as eloquent, insightful, or as long as previous posts.  But, the little “voices” nag me every day to make sure my daily post is here — so I don’t think remembering to do this will be a problem.

My brain hurts….

I’ve spent all day in front of the computer working on costume designs, prop lists, poster designs, and script reference “cheat sheets” for our local community theatre’s upcoming production.

Anyone who thinks being onstage is the hardest part doesn’t understand what we technical theatre people have to do to make them look good.  And right now, my pillow is looking better so I’ll write more tomorrow.  It’s going to be a fun production!

Presidents’ Day Sale: Isn’t that every day?

Once again we have another Federal holiday and the newspapers, radio, and television are filled to the brim with advertisements for Presidents’ Day Sales.  Will we ever have a holiday that doesn’t involve unbridled avarice?  Sure, we’re a capitalist society, but we do we have to change our holidays from times of remembrance and honor to just simply buying the crap out of everything?

Of course, I’m also one of the “old fogeys” who remembers back-in-the-day when we used to celebrate George Washington’s birthday on one date (February 22nd) and Abraham Lincoln’s birthday on another (February 12th).  And if you’re reading this and have no idea who either of those people are, then please, in all seriousness, stop reading my blog because you’re just going to embarrass yourself.  Our school classrooms were always decorated with silhouettes of Washington and Lincoln and the red-white-and-blue bulletin board borders were strung around the room and decorated each desk.  Sometimes there would be contests to see who could dress-up most like either of them and some teachers who only wanted to have to decorate once in the month of February would put the silhouettes of our first and sixteenth presidents (facing each other, usually) inside a large pink heart.  That one always confused me.

After the recognition of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Birthday as a Federal holiday, a lot of states stopped celebrating Lincoln’s birthday because they didn’t want to have to give their employees another paid day-off.  Some states still celebrate it, however, as a state holiday (Illinois being one of the biggest).  But if we had a holiday for every president and event in our country’s history, the government would never be open and all Federal employees would spend most of their time off with pay.  Actually, there are some days it seems like they do that anyway.  Technically, there is no “Presidents’ Day” or “President’s Day” or “Presidents Day” (depending on your interpretation of punctuation rules).  The official designation is Washington’s Birthday and no formal bill has ever changed that.  Some have tried — Nixon issued an executive order to celebrate all presidents (including himself, of course) but that didn’t change the holiday.  A bill was even introduced in 2001 but it never made it out of the subcommittee trying to present it.

So, the sales we’re having are actually to celebrate Washington’s birthday.  But let’s look at the phrasing of what’s printed on most of our calendars because the greeting card industry and all the politically-correct rulesmongers won’t have us ignoring the other 43 presidents we’ve had.  Presidents’ Day.  A day for all of the presidents.

Now let’s add the commercialization part.  Presidents’ Day Sale.  A day to sell presidents?  We have that every day, don’t we?  Look at the current campaigns — it’s a battle for who’s got the most money; who can spend the most in a certain area; and who is going to promise the most going back to the citizens just so long as they donate enough to help them get elected.  No one without a huge “war chest” could even dream of becoming president.  If you don’t already have your own large amount of money that’s doing nothing but waiting to be spent, a PAC, a Super-PAC, or a Super-Sized-PAC-with-fries-and-a-drink, you don’t stand a chance.

Technically, we buy-and-sell our presidents every day.  After one election ends and the inauguration occurs, hopefuls for the next one four years down the road start jockeying for position.  And anyone in politics who says they’re not interested in running is probably lying through their teeth.  But behind the scenes, where the lobbyists and special-interest groups lurk while pretending they’re not involved, the money gathering begins.  If you’ve got the money, we’ve got the candidate for you!

It’s been jokingly suggested that we should make all of our politicians wear uniforms with their “sponsors” logos on them, like the NASCAR drivers do.  There’d be some who’d have to change outfits four-or-more times a day just so every donor would get equal “screen time.”  Watching them trying to give a speech or meet-and-greet with the public would be hysterical as they try to ensure shaking enough hands while holding a sponsoring beverage in the other.  Shoot, the State of the Union address would have everyone sitting and listening to the president while an aide did the old “hat dance” (where the winning driver had to briefly wear a hat from each of the race’s sponsors during the post-race interview) as they sat in the gallery.  I’d almost pay to see that!

The current political climate is already bragging and complaining about money raised and spent and who has how much.  Sure, they say we have “free” elections — but don’t take that too literally.  We’ll pay for it, for good or for bad, one way or another.

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