Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year's Eve, 2010

Well, I guess it wouldn't be right not to acknowledge that twenty-ten is closing and a new year starts tonight. I've never been much for New Year's. Never. Never liked the hoopla. Never felt particularly festive and always had to fake having a good time, sometimes when I was freezing cold and spending more than I had. I never could understand the meaning of the holiday. It's not as if the earth is at any particular spot in its trip around the sun. As I understand it, it's more of an arbitrary decree by a pope. That's kind of pitiful, if you ask me.

But I'm no dummy; I'll take this opportunity to say if I could clone this year, I'd take ten. After two thousand-nine, though, anything would have been better. Two thousand-nine didn't exactly raise the bar very high. But there's no denying it, 2010 is going to be a hard year to beat.

This was the year when I studied for and took the GRE (did most of my studying on the subway), drew a line in the sand and said I was going to stake my life on the theater and writing and applied to Boston University. I was accepted (one of only four people accepted to Boston Playwrights' Theater's prestigious program), was given a scholarship, and just when I was just adjusting to that good fortune, was offered a teaching fellowship. I actually stood on the Park Street T station platform and shed tears. It was a Friday afternoon. After 30 years of being a corporate writer, and summarily being let go at my last job by an ad agency that thinks way too much of itself, it was quite emotional to be picked up for my real writing, the writing that comes from my soul.

That was a Friday. On Monday, Sue, Kathryn, and I left for three weeks in Costa Rica (Kathryn came for one week.) I was traveling and on a high with two people who I love dearly. After Kathryn flew back to the U.S., Sue and I continued on our vagabond ways, ultimately ending up in Panama. Both of us were made for the road, with nothing but backpacks. I could have died right then and there, and gone straight to heaven.

I started school in the summer, at Simmons College, and it was like falling face first into a swimming pool on a hot day. The more the professor gave us the read, the more I asked for. At one point I asked him how I was doing in the class. He said, you don't know? I said, no. He said, you're doing tremendous.

September brought on BU, and it was challenging. That's what all the grad students say when someone asks them how it's going. They sort of smile and say, it's challenging. For the record, it is very challenging. But writing is what I love, and it was all writing. I'm the oldest in the creative writing program by a long ways. Hell, I'm older than many of the professors. But age doesn't mean anything when it comes to writing. It's actually an advantage.

And how did this crazy year end? The day after Christmas, for the first time in ten years both my daughters were sleeping under my roof. I did a very stupid thing and broke my family apart for a very stupid, selfish reason, and it took me ten years to pick myself back up and put myself together, and I didn't give up, on myself or trying to put my family back together. And on December 26 Allison was crashed in the guest room and Kathryn was snuggled under a blanket on the big sofa, the one on which I take my naps, and I turned out the lights, kissed them both on the head, and I went to bed next to the woman I love.

All right, 2011. Beat that.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

How To Save a Drowning Man

I used to feel guilty, and maybe I still should. But I don't know how many years I was working wishing I had more time. I have money, I'd think, from my job. It's time I need. Time to write and time to spend with my family and time to travel and do all the things you can't do when you're sitting in an office or a cubicle (Sue calls them veal-fattening pens) like do your laundry and go grocery shopping.

Then I got laid off, for the third time in my career, and whoo-boy did I have time. As my mother would have said, I had more time than I could shake a stick at. (Who shook sticks at anything, I still wonder.) But then it was money I needed. Man, you can't please anyone, can you?

The guilt came from from not being "a productive member of society." That means an employed member of society. I guess that also means a person who pays taxes, because I can't think of any other way I've ever been a productive member of society. Maybe when I coached my daughter's softball team, but employment had nothing to do with it. As a matter of fact, unemployment, or self-employment, which is what I had at the time, aided that.

But now I have time. I have exactly what I asked for, but in hindsight I wish I had wished for time and money. When they say, be careful what you wish for, they're right. Take my word for it, if you're wishing for something, if you're wishing for something really hard, make sure you have all your bases covered. Don't ask for time without money. I'm just saying.

So I use the time. I write a lot. I take care of the apartment. I grocery shop and wash the dishes and make the bed and wash the clothes and make bread just about every day and try to make good, healthy, cheap meals for us. I do a lot of the things women traditionally do. And when Sue mentions something like she doesn't like the napkins washed with the underwear, I listen and I don't do that, because I want to make her happy. Do I feel any less of a man for doing all this? Not in the least. I don't even understand why I should.

All this reminds me of that joke about a man drowning in the ocean. And he prays to God, asking for help. And then a helicopter comes along and drops a rope, but the man waves it off and says, don't worry, God is going to save me. And the helicopter flies off. And then a boat comes alongside him and drops a life preserver, but the man waves them off, too, saying, thanks, but God is going to save me. Then a dolphin swims along and starts pushing him to shore, but the man get irritated and shoos the dolphin away. And then the man sinks under the water and drowns.

He gets to heaven and the first thing he says to God is, I believed in you and you let me drown. And God said, I sent you a helicopter and a boat and a dolphin, what more do you want?

You got to be able to see when God drops a gift in your lap.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

ENG 202

"I am pleased to inform you that on the recommendation of your department, you have been selected to receive a Teaching Fellowship for the Spring Semester 2011." So starts the letter I received last fall. It was quite a thrill, one of many that happened during 2010. One of my goals when applying at Boston University was to teach upon graduation. As I wrote in my personal statement:
"Another reason I want to teach is because I want to be constantly around intelligent, creative people who value ideas, and work in a place where ideas are generated. I have worked for some incredibly stimulating organizations where creativity and openness were valued—as long as the bottom line was robust. But there is something about the nature of corporations and commerce that when, as soon as hard times come, they become very risk-aversive and ideas and creativity are the first things to be jettisoned. I want to belong to an organization where ideas—and not product or money—are generated and valued and protected."

I knew I wanted to be a writer--that I actually was a writer--when I was quite small. Starting at around second or third grade. It's all I ever really wanted to do, and quite frankly I can't imagine what I'd do if I couldn't write. I am so confident and comfortable in the medium--probably the way fish feel in water; the way we feel in air. But now I'm going to teach people how to swim, and it's a bit daunting. And what's troubling me the most is maybe that student who may not be right for the class, who may not have the talent, but is there anyway. Isn't that funny? The teaching fellows all got a letter from the department telling us to grade hard, to really push and challenge the students (well, it is Boston University, after all) and that the worst thing we could do is give an undeserving B. To encourage someone to continue to beat his or her head against a wall some more.

And I do get that. I don't think children should get trophies for just running out on the soccer field. There are winners and losers, and there is talent and then there are the wannabes. But what I've spent a good amount of time and energy doing is trying to figure out how to set up an environment that is encouraging and nurturing. A place where, if you really want to write, you'll get your chance. I don't want to get touchy feelie about this, because I truly don't see writing being that way. I guess maybe because I've always been able to do it, it doesn't seem that hard to me. It just takes practice. In my case, about forty years of practice, we all had to start somewhere. For me it was sophomore year in high school, where a student teacher named Miss Harbert showed me how to be a writer, then I turned around that craft back on her. On her final, she asked what we had learned, and I answered nothing. That writing in itself was what was needed. Or some such snotty reply. She was devastated. That's the power of words right there.

I still have the letter she sent me, hand-written from her home in Connecticut, telling me all classes weren't like hers, and all schools weren't like the one I was in, a public school in Cincinnati. And if I could find her today I'd tell her students would be lucky to have a class like hers. She got us to write, which is all you have to do. Sit down, and write everyday. If you do it every day for a semester, you'll certainly be better at the end of the semester than you were at the beginning. I'd almost guarantee it. Write every day for ten years, and you'll certainly be better. You might not be published. You might not be famous. But you'll be a better writer. And that's all  you really should strive for. The rest is gravy.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Writer's Work is Never Done

Even when he's not "working", i.e. going to an office or pulling down a W-2 (or more likely a 1099) a writer is working.  I bet my "to-do" list rivals the most industrious and driven office puke. And in some ways I bet it's more important, because my list drives my life, and not some soulless organization that would drop me in a minute despite the emotional and physical energy I'd devote to it.

I have plays to write. Yes, real plays that have to be written for next semester and to send out to theaters. And I have plays to send out to theaters around the world. Just last week I sent three short plays to a theater in Romania. Why? Why not? The theater was looking for plays, advertised for them in the United States, and I would love to see how my work plays in Romania.

I have plays and books to read. Plays for the Boston Theater Marathon, and books to read for my own education. Every time one of my professors mentions a book or a play or a movie that I'm not familiar with, I go to the library and pull it out. The stack of books is impressive, but when people ask me what I do without a television, they should see the stack. And I know most people's eyes would glaze over, but mine do too when I hear about Mad Men. (Just the other day on Hulu I pulled up a clip of Glee, just to see if my opinion had changed, the same way people will try Brussel Sprouts.) Nope.

I have a syllabus to write for the English class I'm teaching next semester. It's almost there, but I don't want any surprises somewhere around week 12, where we're all looking at each other going, now what? More on this in an upcoming blog.

I have to finish the proposal for a fellowship I'm applying for for next fall.

And I have to write a long overdue letter to a cousin whose wife died many months ago, but I just haven't been able to pull the words together. Families are like that. I could sit here and blather on for 2,000 words, but to write 100 meaningful words to a man who lost his wife of 50 years or so absolutely freezes me.

This is my day. And cook and pick up the apartment. And it's all self-induced. I don't have a manager who has to tell me what to do. Or a boss who lets me know when I can take a break. Or a anyone who says I have to do this or that or sit in on this meeting or when I can go to the bathroom or if I can take a vacation. (When I was in the corporate world, I think the one thing I resented the most was having to get permission to do things that were in my life.)

I do what I want, and everything you just read about are things that I want to do. Me. Not someone else. Me.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas All Over Again. And This Time It's a White Christmas.

It's the day after Christmas, and like many days I have that feeling I get when I'm on a plane and the I've just felt the wheels leave the ground: It's all out of my control now. And I love that feeling. If I've left the iron on, well, the apartment and everything I own is just going to burn down. And I ease my seat back (but not too much to upset the passenger sitting behind me) and order a Bloody Mary and enjoy the ride.

It's already snowing like crazy. Today the Christmas festivities continue, or as Baxter calls it, the Christian Shopping Season. The girls (and their doggie companions) are taking the train in, then the subway. I'm making bread dough, the first of many goodies I'll hopefully turn out in the oven today. (We make our own bread. It's cheaper than the good store bought bread, and like gardening, connects you in a small way to the natural world.) A chicken has been marinating in the refrigerator since last night. The Christmas lights burn against the cold. (We hang Christmas lights in the apartment all year 'round. The tree at first seemed startled by this, then comfortably happy about it.)

I have so many things that are calling me--plays to read, a class to flesh out (sorry, folks, still don't know exactly what we'll be doing next semester; my advice is to order a Bloody Mary and sit tight), plays to write, novels to read, and it would be really nice if the Economy would let up on me just a touch and send a little work my way.

But today that's all on hold again. I'm taking off into a snow-filled day that, thanks to a blizzard that's casting its soft blanket over all, is bereft of any of the annoyances of modern life. When nature and family intersect, joined by food and love, it's Christmas all over again.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

All is Calm, All is Bright...Because We Chose it to Be

Christmas night and for us, it's still not over. As a matter of fact, it still hasn't really started. For reasons that aren't really important right now, the big meal will be tomorrow, when my kids turn up with two dogs and a blizzard on the way. Sue's niece may come over, depending on snow boarding conditions. Al lives in Cambridge, but it just might be easier for her to bed down for the night here. She'll have to flip her sister for the couch or the guest room. And yes, as crazy as life and our Christmases can be (with our families, Sue and I don't even attempt a Currier and Ives Christmas; we know, like Santa, world peace, and love at first sight, it's simply a wishful fabrication) we still are having a great Christmas because expectations are fluid and I think happiness in this world is dependent upon intelligence and experience.

All the makings of happiness are right there. It's your choice: Be happy, or stew in your own juices.

The other day Kathryn and I were booking it up the hill back to the apartment. She said, this hill seems to just keep getting steeper. For me, there's a little something in me now that, every time I have to run for the subway or I walk up and down stairs or walk uphills, I say a little thank you, because three months ago I literally couldn't walk. And today my back and leg show no sign of the damage done. So look at it this way: Think of all the opportunities I have in a day to be thankful, simply for being able to walk. All I have to do is walk up some stairs and I get to choose whether or not I'm going to feel happy.

Right now my truck is dead in the water--dead battery and in need of a tune up I can't afford because of a mixup earlier in the fall with BU about my loans. So I found myself walking to the grocery store instead of driving. I could have moaned about it, but instead it was a pretty day, and I thought to myself, I'm walking to the grocery store, for God's sake. I can afford food. And it's not like I'm walking to a hospital where Sue is lying sick. Be happy.

For many years I competed in road races and now because of my back, my running days are over. The doctor said I could do permanent damage if I continue. I guess I could get depressed about that, but instead of seeing it as my running days are over,  I see it as my biking days are beginning. Life is about change, and new opportunities coming while old ways go to the wayside. 

Years ago, whenever I raced, I always would reach a point where it because so painful because of how hard I'd push myself that I'd say, I'm never doing this again. Of course I would, and next race I'd come to that same point again. Until one time I was in a race, only this time my mother was at my apartment dying of cancer. And I thought to myself, what a jerk. You're healthy enough to be out here doing this. Stop your damn complaining. And I always enjoyed racing after that.

These thoughts come into my head because, for reasons that really aren't important right now, this Christmas has been trying. The only things traditional about this year have been the tree and the stockings hung by the chimney with care.  We've had our ups and downs. The economy. Family matters. Life in general, all like some insidious Grinch tried to foil us. But we haven't allowed anything or anyone stop us from enjoying the season and being in the spirit of the season because it was our choice to do that. And tomorrow I have faith that we will continue to enjoy it.

Friday, December 17, 2010

John Prine and Nanci Griffith: The Speed of the Sound of Loneliness

No Depression went from one of the best magazines ever that wrote about Americana music, to being the best site today for the music. I check the site every day, to learn, to listen, and to enjoy.

Today there was this little treasure from 20 years ago. If you've ever been in a spot in your life where you just want to be left alone, you'll instantly catch on to this song. And, if not, Prine's and a young Griffith's voices just meld together, with Prine's voice taking on the characteristics of a footfalls on a gravel road and Griffith's like wind on the trees.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Please read and rate my plays on Gorilla Tango Writers Source

I am absolutely horrible at self-promotion and networking, the two skills that someone in the creative arts should be able to do better than even their actual art.

But, I'm trying.

As many of you know, I've decided in my life to make a go at it. Finally to put down all the chips on the theater and doing some of my own writing. Something I've been wanting to do for a very long time.

And I seem to be doing pretty well at it. I got a scholarship (one of only four) to Boston University's playwriting program at Boston Playwrights' Theater. I had a very good first semester, learned a lot, wrote even more, had another of my ten-minute plays produced by the Provincetown Theater, and I'm pretty much in a good spot for the next semester. I was awarded a teaching fellowship, and in January will also be trying to impart my love of writing onto college sophomores.

But I need your help spreading the word. 

There is a theater in Chicago called Gorilla Tango Theatre that produces a lot of original work. Just like BPT, it is a theater that is making it its business to cultivate new writers like me. Right now three of my plays are listed on their site for producers to look at for production. The more people view them, and rank them favorably, the longer my scripts will stay high on the list and visible.

I'm asking you to read the scripts and score them. Be honest; the only favor I'm asking for is that you read them and rate them. I don't want you to compromise any morals.

So, without explanation of intent or anything, here are the links to the scripts:

A Trip to New York

Norwood, Ohio

Love on the Rocks

Thanks in advance for your help and support.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Littlest Birds: The Be Good Tanyas

A Friday in December. Yesterday was the last day of my first semester at BU. It's all so anticlimactic. (Is that all there is, my friend? Is that all there is?) I woke up this morning, with things to do, loose ends to tie up that I've let go because I was busy with school, but still there's this underlying feeling that I should be doing something else. Wandering.

Well, I feel like an old hobo...

(Sammy Parton/Jolie Holland/Syd Barrett)

Well, I feel like an old hobo
I'm sad, lonesome and blue
I was fair as a summer's day
Now the summer days are through
You pass through places
And places pass through you
But you carry them with you
On the soles of your travelling shoes

Well, I love you so dearly
I love you so clearly
I wake you up in the morning
So early just to tell you
I got the wandering blues
I got the wandering blues
And I'm going to quit
These rambling ways one of these
Days soon

And I sing
The littlest birds sing the prettiest songs
The littlest birds sing the prettiest songs
the littlest birds sing the prettiest songs
And the littlest birds sing the prettiest songs

Well it's times like these I feel so small
And wild like the rambling footsteps
Of a wandering child
And I'm lonesome as a lonesome whippoorwill
Singing these blues with a warble and a trill
But I'm not too blue to fly
No I'm not too blue to fly

'Cause the littlest birds sing the prettiest songs
The littlest birds sing the prettiest songs
The littlest birds sing the prettiest songs
And the littlest birds sing the prettiest songs

But I love you so dearly
I love you so fearlessly
I wake you up in the morning so early
Just to tell you
I've got the wandering blues
I've got the wandering blues
And I don't want to leave you
I love you through and through

Well I left my baby on a pretty blue train
And I sang my songs to the cold and the rain
And I had the wandering blues
And I sang those wandering blues
And I'm gonna quit these rambling ways one of these
Days soon

And I sing
The littlest birds sing the prettiest songs
The littlest birds sing the prettiest songs
The littlest birds sing the prettiest songs
The littlest birds sing the prettiest songs
The littlest birds sing the prettiest songs
And the littlest birds sing the prettiest songs

Well I don't care if the sun don't shine
And I don't care if nothing is mine
And I don't care if I'm nervous with you
I'll do my loving in the wintertime.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

A Band to Watch: Truckstop Darlin'

From Portland, Oregon. Truckstop Darlin' is John Phelan  (vocals/ guitar),  Eric Kotila (drums),  Nick Foltz (bass/vocals), and Michael Winter (pedal steel).

They kind of sound like Lucero, don't they? Or maybe it's Phelan that sounds like Ben Nichols, the lead singer in Lucero,

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

He Broke Burrita: A Lesson in values, anger management, and comedy

Um, I don't know what to say.

Actually, I do know what to say: First, it looks highly staged. Just call me Mr. Skeptic. But everything on the Internet looks staged to me. That's my biggest fear: No more spontaneity.

But...let's just take it on face value, because even if it is a fake, it has a premise.

So, while I don't condone violence in any form, sometimes a person just gets pushed too far and he (or she)...snaps. It happens. And when it does, sometimes the person who gets the brunt of the snap deserves the lesson.

And I don't play golf. I have, and found it all pretty boring. Actually, if a golfer (a person who really likes the game and identifies him or herself as a golfer) strikes up a conversation with me, I know our value systems are likely to be kind of skewed and I tread carefully. The same way I would with someone who likes DisneyWorld, for instance. So, there's a side of me that thinks the kids are kind of funny in kind of an innocent way.

But, I think there's something awfully funny about how the golfer just freaking stands his ground and chases that kid like a fat gopher. 

What do you think?

Let Me Google That For You

The Web (and Google) was made for the likes of me. I'm constantly getting something stuck in my head (or in my old age, something is always just on the tip of my tongue) and I Google it, which leads to a merry skip down the garden path as one link leads to another.

The same with the dictionary. I still use a big old bound dictionary, because when I look up a word, other words catch my eye and I learn new words along the way.

But that doesn't mean I like to do your research. Remember the teacher who told you to look something up because you learn better when you do the leg work yourself.

So, here's a great site to send people when they either a) ask you something they already should know, or b) ask you about something they could easily look up themselves.

Here's Let Me Google That For You.

Fake It

Yes, read the comments. Everything that went through my mind while watching this (and I couldn't stop watching.)

How'd they do that?

Is it fake? Of course it's fake. did they do that?

Why would they do that? What mind came up with the idea of all these Japanese divers jumping into the water in a synchronized way? Does this say something about the Japanese culture that I don't know about (but continues to fascinate me?)

Is this theater? How can I do something like this on a stage? How can I get the same emotion I'm feeling while watching this on a stage? Why would I want to?


Sunday, December 5, 2010

Dublin Blues--Guy Clark

Guy Clark is an old boozer but he sure can write good songs. This is one of them.

 I wish I was in Austin
In the Chili Parlor Bar
Drinkin' Mad Dog Margaritas
And not carin' where you are

But here I sit in Dublin
Just rollin' cigarettes
Holdin' back and chokin' back
The shakes with every breath


Forgive me all my anger
Forgive me all my faults
There's no need to forgive me
For thinkin' what I thought
I loved you from the git go
I'll love you till I die
I loved you on the Spanish steps
The day you said goodbye

I am just a poor boy
Work's my middle name
If money was a reason
I would not be the same

I'll stand up and be counted
I'll face up to the truth
I'll walk away from trouble
But I can't walk away from you

I have been to Fort Worth
I have been to Spain
I have been to proud
To come in out of the rain

I have seen the David
I've seen the Mona Lisa too
I have heard Doc Watson
Play Columbus Stockade Blues


Repeat 1st half of verse 1

Friday, December 3, 2010

Thank Heaven for Pictures of Miley Cyrus's Crotch

Even though I haven't blogged in ages (and the key to keeping a blog fresh is new and stimulating content daily) I still continue to get hits because people continue to search for pictures of Miley Cyrus's crotch.

I blogged all the way back in June about how pictures of her hoo-hoo were a big hit on the Internet. I was blogging for back then--another of a long line of hack writing jobs I've held over the course of my life--and as a news writer I couldn't get hits for my posts (or at least enough to make any kind of decent income) but the entertainment writers were raking them in, and at the time this was a big topic. Bigger than the BP oil spill. Bigger than the economy. And people still seem to be interested in her nether bits.

Broken vase is another search that keeps hitting Action Bob Markle. People are either looking for images of broken vases, or they want to know how to fix them. Back in January, 2009 I wrote about the breakup of my family and my responsibility in it and compared my relationship with my kids to a mended vase. I still think it's a pretty good piece of writing, and hope that people stop to read it even though it's not exactly what they were looking for.

For some crazy Neil Young's ranch is something that people search for a lot. I mean, a lot. Who'da thunk it, huh? And Libra constellation. And The Low Anthem, a group of musicians from Providence, Rhode Island.

And it's always weird to see your name as a search term. Who out there deliberately typed my name into google?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Two of my plays are listed at

Two of my plays, Love on the Rocks and Norwood, Ohio are now listed at Writer Source at

Go to Writer Source and right now you can click on newest and they're right at the top.

Or here is Love and here is Norwood.

Check them out and rate them.

Come on producers. Chicago is the town for playwrights right now. You guys are doing so much cool stuff.  Let's collaborate.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Sayōnara Facebook: How Do I Get Off Facebook?

It's been two full months since I blogged. Yeah, been busy. Not that I'm not busy now, but the main reason I'm back in this space is I quit Facebook, ostensibly for just awhile, taking a breather, but it's been two days and I'm liking it. I'm not sure what it is, what's the big deal about leaving Facebook (what leaving?--it's a Web site, you just don't log on.) It's the decision to turn your back on a digital society and it seemed momentous at the time. It's severing a connection and I'm not sure if it's the severing or the the perceived loneliness that is most scary.

But for me, it's a relief.

I didn't realize how much time I was wasting just surfing the site, lurking in other people's lives. (Wait, I was well-aware how much time I was wasting. I just didn't have exact figures. Exact figures probably would have disgusted and embarrassed me.)

I didn't realize the amount of energy it takes, the amount of emotion that I was feeling. It reminded me of high school, where you'd stand aside and watch all the cools kids doing cool things, and feeling bad because you weren't doing cool things, too. (Well, that's what I did in high school anyway.) So much of the status lines weren't directed at me; most of my 400+ "friends" were people who I was marginally acquainted with, many from the past with whom I've lost touch, and many of them for good reason. Facebook is so good at keeping that top layer of friendship alive, but nothing deeper. I once called it, life-support for friendships in that it keeps friendships alive--barely. It allows for just enough contact to keep a friendship or acquaintance alive, and nothing more.

And I was so tired of scrolling down and seeing posts for things that I simply couldn't have cared less about: Go Pats, Celtics, Red Sox, and Bruins. References to Glee, Mad Men, DWTS, Project Runway or hell, any stupid TV show.

I stayed with it for so long mostly because there were a handful of people who actually posted things that elicit thought or debate. Taught me something. And I especially liked actually "meeting" people who I had a lot in common but never met, although I actually one night in Cambridge did meet two Facebook friends for the first time face to face, and it was a enjoyable and very cool experience.

And I'm going to have to work harder at keeping up with the local theater. It was where all the fringe theaters posted their shows and special deals, and I'm going to have to work to keep up on that. But hey, with the Internet, you can run, but you can't hide.

I think the clincher came though recently when I heard a Very Big Deal go on and on about Facebook, how he just joined because someone signed him up, he didn't understand it, he joked about the idea of friends, but all in all the whole performance was for his benefit, and I thought to myself, yeah, if you're on Facebook, it's passe. Time to move on.

It was fun, and I may log on sometime just out of curiosity. But I've had a two very productive days, and I'm not so sure I want to give them up. Funny, there's a link on my toolbar, and all I have to do is click on it and log back on, but I'm not even tempted. The hard part was making the break. Once you do that, it's easy to stay away.

Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work

I grew up on comedy and comedians. Maybe when you had the kind of life I had you appreciated anyone who could make you smile. When I was little it was Bill Cosby. Bob Bromfield in the Cincinnati Enquirer. You get older in your teens and it was George Carlin and Cheech and Chong. On TV it was Carol Burnett, Tim Conway, Flip Wilson, Jonathon Winters, The Smothers Brothers, and  Laugh-In.

And there was this lady. I can still remember her telling a joke about mini and midi skirts. She said there were midi skirts and she liked them because she didn't have to shave her legs. Then minis came back and she looked like a gorilla in sweatsocks. That's funny.

Joan Rivers.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Marvin Gaye: What's Going On?

For Corey...

In The Dramatic Vision of August Wilson, Sandra G. Shannon writes that, "Wilson praises this song for being among the few popular rhythm and blues recordings that responded to social issues."

Our next assignment for one of my classes, given by Richard Schlotter at Boston University, is to start a ten-minute play about what's going on.  It's not easy, trying to wrap your head entirely around what's going on in this country. Where do you start? How far back? Bush? Clinton? Reagan? Adam and Eve? Do you just pair it down to one thing, or make a kaleidoscope?--and then keep turning the wheel?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Mad Man behind Mad Men

Frankly, I don't get it. Mad Men that is.

I watched a few clips...yawn.

Then this past summer in a Literature of the Counter Culture class we watched an episode for the stereotypical roles of men and women in that time period. After ten minutes I was so bored. It was the episode where Don Draper gets a new secretary. It was also the episode where Don Draper yells at a woman client who also happened to be Jewish and was taking over her father's business. The account was worth something like $2.5 million--that's in U.S. dollars in the early sixties. Trust me, not even Don Draper would have thrown away that much billing just on his principles. Ridiculous. But I'm generally bored with television and pop culture.

Anyway, so when I watched this animation, I still didn't get it. Chalk this up to a long list of things I just don't get. The interest in Miley Cyrus's crotch. Lindsay Lohan. Martinis and cocktails in general. (I hate the word cocktail--it's such a wuss word.) Karaoke. Zombies. Vampires. Lady Gaga. The list goes on...

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Breathe Owl Breathe at Club Passim

Definitely a band you have to see to truly appreciate, Breathe Owl Breathe opened two nights ago for Mark Olson at Club Passim. Funny, quirky--yes, I'm sure that word is used a lot to describe them--their music is beautiful, their melodies catchy, and their lyrics (and stage presence) are quirky--there's that word again.

These three interesting and thought-provoking performers--Micah Middaugh (guitar, vocals), Andréa Moreno-Beals (cello, vocals) and Trevor Hobbs (percussion) from Michigan combine acoustic guitar, cello, drums, and a few non-standard instruments and electronics and theatrics to tell their stories, and it's all a bit mesmerizing and entertaining. There's a funny sort of innocence about their act, which is what it is. It's not just music but rehearsed sounds and some movement, and it is a bit like watching grown-up children at play.

The song they opened with started out with Micah setting the scene, on a boat, out on the ocean with the wind blowing. He rocked and swayed, while he blew into the microphone while Trevor knocked and brushed the rigging on his drums and Andrea set the mood on her mournful cello.

Here's Dog Walkers of the New Age

And here's Lake Light

Breathe Owl Breathe - Lake Light from Miscellany on Vimeo.

Mark Olson: Little Bird of Freedom

Caught Mark Olson at Club Passim two nights ago and wanted to get the word out that if you can see him perform go do it. He left Cambridge Sunday night for Portland, Maine, then he said he was going straight to Germany where he was going to meet up with Ingunn Ringvold who he made his latest album with.

I am fairly familiar with the Jayhawks, but really didn't know a lot about Mark as a solo performer. The great thing about Club Passim is how intimate the setting is. Now most of the time when you call a venue "intimate" it means the tables are all crowded on top of one another. And, yes, that is true about Club Passim, although whoever is sitting next to you is likely to be equally as interested in music as you are, and likely to know even more. After all, it is Cambridge. But intimate, in this case, also means that the artists and the patrons mingle, and while Mark and Mallory, one of Club Passim's crack sound technicians (the club has a wonderful, clear-sounding sound system) set up, I turned in my chair and saw someone who was clearly a musician walk in from backstage (it's really an outdoor patio) clutching a fiddle case, and wearing lime green pants, suspenders, a yellow shirt, and a straw hat that rode over the clearest blue eyes I think I've ever seen. It was Mike "Razz" Russell, longtime cohort of Olson's and a member of The Creekdippers. I still didn't know who he was, but we talked about him going to the movies at the Brattle Street Theater where he fell asleep, and about music and playing and a little bit about how he got together with Mark. He said if Mark hadn't asked him to play he still might be sitting on his front porch. Afterward, Mark stood in the lobby and talked with us far longer than you'd ever expect him to do. He seemed genuinely happy to be talking to us about his music and what he was up to and about the gig he just played.

Mark and Mike are both from Minnesota, and from living in Boston for so long, and always having to deal with both its angry and snooty sides, it was such a breath of fresh air to talk to them and watch them perform. They were joyous and had so much fun together (they had a drummer, whose name I don't know but he was so tight and had such a beautiful voice, like one you'd hear in a choir.) Mark's songs are optimistic and loaded with imagery from the outdoors, again something you'd expect from the Midwest.

Mark played a lot from his newest album, Many Colored Kite. This is the opening track and I love it. It fits in so much with the play I'm writing right now, Highland Center, Indiana.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Problem with Aggregators, or Second-Hand News Sources

I just quit as a blogger there. has high hopes of being a major second-hand news source, and I just wasn't comfortable with what I experienced there, from Gather's emphasis on hits rather than the quality of the content, to what appeared to me as flirting with copyright infringement.

I intended to blog about that here on Action Bob Markle, but am strapped for time at this exact moment. But a Facebook friend posted this article in his page, and I want to take the opportunity to get it out. Of course, what's interesting is this article is a commentary on the initial article that addresses this issue, but that's just the nature of the world, the news, and the Internet.

I'll follow up on this later.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Money Tree

What would happen if money grew on trees? In this intelligent, thoughtful, quirky film, you can see exactly what happens.

As a social experiment, Amy Krouse Rosenthal ( and hung one hundred one dollar bills in a tree on a busy street in Chicago. Now, what would you think would happen? If you really know human beings, this film won't surprise you in the least.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The T on Crutches

I got hold of a pair of crutches and they are a godsend. With them, I still just creep along, just one slow shuffling step at a time. But they take the pressure off my back so now I can actually stand upright with very little pain.

And so, today I negotiated the T today for the first time by myself since my back went out. It was now or never. Sue's been driving me around, taking me to and picking me up at class, but she couldn't keep doing that. Her job is stressful enough without adding more to her day. And I hate depending on anyone, even Sue. She says I'm stubborn but I'm just independent and like doing things on my own.

You're a different person on crutches. First, people are quick to give up their seat. At Wollaston I crept into the car and a young woman right by the door just sprung up and gave me her seat. What's funny is when I hobbled into the car at Park Street at rush hour, one guy just stood right up, while you could see a flurry of people down the car considering. Funny that it's not natural of us to come to the aid of our fellow humans.

While people give up their seats, conversely I become an invisible person. I just shuffle along in my own world, and you can see people consciously ignoring me. But that's kind of a gift, because today in Park Street, as I slowly made my way through the crowd, I was able to really look around and since everyone was ignoring me, I was able to almost stare. It was like when I was living in Sherborn, and everyone ignored me there, too. I think they figured there if they didn't already know me I wasn't worth knowing. Now it's like my own personal play and I'm able to walk slowly among all my actors.

This is Massachusetts though, and the T is as hard to negotiate as the streets. And this time pain is the payment for any miscalculation. I got off at Park, and though I can get up and down stairs, I thought I'd go for the elevator since I've never ridden an elevator in the subway in thirty years. Bad idea. I followed the signs to the elevator, which was way at the end of the platform, only to find that it would take me to the wrong side of the Green Line. I took it anyway. I wasn't going to walk all the way back. The thing about this injury is that the tiniest movement hurts so much, so walking the length of the platform only to find I was in the wrong place was almost overwhelmingly demoralizing. The pain just wears you down.

The one thing that I wasn't prepared for was how vulnerable I felt. I realized that if someone lifted my wallet from my back pocket, I'd just have to watch them run away. If a couple of hoods decided to jump me or pick on me, well, I joked that I'd poke them with my crutch but that honestly wouldn't get me far.  I was imminently aware that I was a weak member of the herd, and that if the lions decided to dine that day, I would be one of the first to be hunted down. I moved my wallet to the inside pocket of my jacket, and hoped that I looked rough enough that I'd be left alone. 

So far none of this has affected my studies, at least too much. Right now it's about 10:30 at night, and normally that would mean I still would be up writing for another two hours or so. But after I put this post to bed, I'm going to bed, too. Like I said, the pain just wears you down.

Dead Zone off Louisiana; Who's to Blame?

Are the farms in the Midwest any different than the BP oil spill in the Gulf? Why do we care about the BP spill, but not the runoff from farms that causes the same damage? And why haven't the southern states, most notably Louisiana, filed lawsuits the way northeastern states have against coal-burning power plants in the Midwest that sent plumes of acid rain over the Northeast?

Because of the runoff from the Mississippi River watershed. all along the Gulf of Mexico there are places in the water called "dead zones," and they are exactly what you might think the name implies. The runoff that drains from the heartland of the United States and the Midwest, from the Missouri and the mighty Ohio, plus a host of other rivers, is filled with what news reports are calling "nutrient-rich" runoff, but what they mean is fertilizer. Single cell animals on a large scale feed on the nutrients, thus depleting the oxygen for larger animals.

A huge "dead zone" has made the news, and what makes this one particularly noticeable is that there are five or six species that have been killed, instead of the normal one or two species for your "typical" dead zone. (I can't believe I just used the word "normal" to describe something called a dead zone.) Experts are wondering if this one doesn't have something to do with the BP oil spill. Read the news story here on Yahoo.

I guess the first thing that comes to my mind is that there have been these dead zones for how long now?--and now we're wondering if it is associated with the oil spill, when in fact, the farms and their toxic runoff have the same effect as a renegade oil well. Where's the logic in that?

We're just slitting our own throats, and with the economy the way it is, environmental issues will continue to take a back seat to the economy. Still, I wish someone would realize that the greening of America, as it's called, could be the one thing that brings back jobs and the country. It would constitute new industries and a new way life, but more importantly it would mean our survival.

Photos via Billy Nungesser/WWL

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Mark Vashro Bikes Against the Wind photographs

If I'm anything it's stubborn and persistent. And the minute you tell me I can't do something, that is the very second I want to do it.

Laid up here when I can barely walk from one end of my apartment to the other, all I can think about are all the places I want to go and all the things I want to do--upright on two legs. I told Sue last night, when I'm all healed I'm going to climb Mt. Rainier. I don't know why I'm fixated on that particular mountain, but I do know I want to keep living for all it's worth.

And the fact that I can barely walk ten feet without pain makes my buddy, Mark Vashro's bike ride seem so amazing. Mark's not the first person to ride across the country. Sometimes it seems when you surf the Web that there are so many people crisscrossing the country on bicycle that they'd be dodging each other out there in the heartland.  I blogged about Mark here on Action Bob and over at

Then yesterday I noticed that Mark posted a link to a photographer's site who had taken some shots of him. When you read Mary Costa's intro to her photographs, you get a good sense of what Mark is like. I met him while acting in a play, and probably had a better time sitting in the dressing room talking to him than I actually had being on stage in that particular production.

Check out the photographs here and here's a link to Mark's site and the projects he's working on. He really an inspiration.

Monday, September 13, 2010

A Dangerous Business: really sweet travel blog

I'm a vagabond by nature, and being ensconced on this couch, mending my sacroiliac, I have to resort to travel blogs and sites while even my plans go on hold.

Lucky me that today I stumbled on Anjel Van Slyke and Connal Hughes' blog about their travels around the world, A Dangerous Business. (Tagline: It's a dangerous business going out your door. You step into the Road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to." --J.R.R. Tolkein.)

I love their tagline. I'm assuming it's The Hobbit. It sounds like something Bilbo might say.

I've always wanted to do exactly what these two have done: travel around the world and write about it at the same time: record and share the experience. I'm a writer, no doubt, and when you are a writer you have this craving to write down and share everything. It's almost an obsession. Kind of sick, actually.

This is still doable in my world. Maybe not a year's worth, but three months maybe. Cross your fingers. I know mine are.

On herniated disks, excruciating pain, and patience....

How did I get to the point where the most comfortable place for me is on my knees on the floor of the shower in the fetal position with hot water cascading down my back? Only like that is there a complete absence of pain. The only discomfort is water running up my nose.

A disk slipped, herniated, did something, pinched a nerve or a bundle of nerves, and now I can walk no more than ten feet without excruciating pain, or worse, paralysis. I didn't realize paralysis could be painful. I thought it was the complete absence of any feeling. But you cannot move your leg and still be in--and I keep hating to use this word, but excruciating is the first word that comes to mind--at the same time. The kind of pain that makes you involuntarily throw back your head and suck in your breath with a shhh...ttt...and you lose all control of your legs so you have to grab on to something or someone to stand and you don't even see; just white light. Or something. I have to be more aware of what I see. Yes, slow things down so I can see through the pain, what's there. And yes, it's a searing burn in my thigh, like a hot knife, or what I'd imagine a hot knife would feel like. Sometimes it's like the worst charlie horse you've ever had--non-stop.

The damage is in my back, but curiously the pain is in my leg. So interesting to live this long and not be aware of that little line of nerves that coursed down my spinal column and exited my backbone at the small of my back. So vital, and it's letting me know it's there now, and its function and how important it has been for all my years. The damage is in my back but the pain is over here. There's an analogy there, for life, isn't there. Something more to explore while I wile away my time on the couch, willing my tissue to heal. The damage can be here but that person over there gets hurt. There are bundles of nerves connecting all of us, and the damage over here can cause pain over there. What do you think?--is too heavy-handed for a premise for a play? Is my medication playing with my mind?

This is pain but wouldn't it be fun to be totally aware of the functioning of our bodies this profoundly. The beating of our hearts would seem like the throbbing the engines of the Titanic. Our breathing roaring like a cyclone. The opening and closing of our eyelids flapping like unleashed window shades. 

Thursday night I was creeping along the wall of the Harvard Square T stop, the pain was so bad. Holding on tight so I wouldn't crumble to the ground. Groups of commuters, caught up in their own world, would be startled to look up suddenly and see me. People stared. People gave me wide berths. I did think it was funny. I was confused, by some, for one of the many drug addicts, homeless people, crazies, that populate the city. You should try it sometime, being a pariah. Maybe the next time you'll be a bit more generous with your spare change.

This is a long time coming. A few weeks ago I was standing in the lobby of Playwright's Platform Theater after seeing New Exhibition Room's Candyland, and suddenly my right leg went numb, and I grabbed at the table that holds all the theater postcards. No one noticed. Sue and Dawn kept talking. And then it went away. And I forgot about it.

This is the result of years and years of running. Pounding the road. I started when I was thirteen, and God willing I'll be fifty-five at the end of this month. You do the math. I have medals from road races to prove I was fast. My PR in the 10K was 46: something, maybe 47: something. I don't remember, but right now I'd take a sixty-minute 10K. I'm going to miss running, but I think a new part of my life is starting.

So, now, until tomorrow morning sometime when I have to be at BU for class and for work on Five Down, One Across, I'm sitting on the couch, trying to be as "patient as a milksnake swallowing an egg."*

*From Highland Center, Indiana

Friday, September 3, 2010

Rhapsody in Blue

One of the greatest songs ever written, and this captures precisely its mood in such a nostalgic and romantic video of the city that it's about...

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Coyote Diary

It’s come right down to the wire.

Right down to the date.     

Right down to the penny.

Tomorrow I start the real work towards an MFA at BU in creative writing/playwriting. I’ve written a play for our first class. The Coyote Diary. I think it’s good. Or, I thought it was good but the more I read it the more I wonder what’s so great about it. In the end it’s faith and courage that keeps you putting things down on paper. And never, never apologize for your art.

Thirty years ago I moved here, to Boston. Almost to the date. Labor Day weekend. Then I moved to the suburbs and lived a life I really wasn't suited for, and now I find myself back, literally, where I started. Let's try this again, and see if we can't do it right this time.

Thirty years ago, almost to the date, I end a thirty-year career to embark on a journey I should have embarked on thirty years ago to write stories. I started out with nothing, a peon in an ad agency, worked my way up to a point on the corporate ladder that was commendable, then dropped down to the bottom again exactly to where I started thirty years ago to the date. The economy knocked me down, yes it did. There's is no denying that. And there were certain people who seemed to enjoy taking a few potshots at me. So be it. I can take it. I've learned to battle adversity though, and just be myself and have confidence that who I am will get me through anything.

Almost ten years to the date my marriage crashed to an end. Columbus Day weekend. Ten years of questioning and searching and failure and success and love and hatred and coming to terms with who I am. Just a human being. A coyote, smart and wary and living on the fringe, not liked by many but those who do like me are golden.

It’s come right down to the penny. I transferred over my last dollars for child support and rent today into my checking account, and tomorrow I start living on borrowed money. Let's see if I can't skirt this economy and come up on the other side.

I’ve given up so much to get here. A life with my kids. Friends and family. In the process of getting here I’ve hurt so many people who I never in my wildest dreams intended on hurting. You know the value of something by what you’ve given up. What it’s cost you in terms of your heart and your soul. But you never give up searching. I don’t, at least. It’s inked into my shoulder: I’m a searcher. Always was; always will be. Always want to see just what is around the corner. Over that rise. Over the horizon. Day one of The Coyote Diary.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Drew Landry's BP Blues now on iTunes; 75% goes to

Drew Landry's oil spill song, BP Blues, is now on iTunes.

Remember Drew Landry, the guy who sang in front of the White House committee investigating the Gulf oil spill? I blogged about him here on Action Bob and also here on

Today on Facebook, Drew posted that he's signed with Warner Brothers, his oil spill song, BP Blues, is on iTunes, and when you buy it on iTunes 75% of the proceeds go to

For a buck twenty-nine ($1.29) you can have a piece of Americana on your iPod or MP3 player of choice and help the people whose lives have been changed forever by the bungling of a multibillion dollar international corporation. They can put a cap on the oil well, but they can't put a cap on the suffering these people continue to endure.

It's a damn good song, categorized as country, and here I'm getting up on my soap box but it's got all the earmarks of a real country song and not some piece of garbage sung by some stud with marbles in his mouth wearing a cowboy hat. Drew is a bone fide singer/songwriter, and he put his God-given talents to work trying to save the place and the people he loves. You got to admire him and all the other people in the Gulf right now who are fighting for their lives, and if you can spend a little spare change and get a good song out of the deal, you'd be doing something pretty good.

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Housing Market Meets the Big Bad Wolf Economy; Housing Market Dips 25.5%

This week we learned that the housing market is built of sticks and straw and not bricks, as the Big Bad Wolf huffed and puffed in the form of the U.S. economy and blew the U.S. housing market down 25.5 percent below the level it was a year ago.

As reported in the New York Times and by the Associated Press via Comcast, the final blow to the housing market was the rest of the story here.

Journalism for the 21st Century; Revitalizing Journalism Education

Walter Cronkite is a thing of the past. He was called "the most trusted man in America", but today's journalists have lost credibility and the respect of viewers. The rise of celebrity reporters, the Web, 24-hour cable and its unrelenting appetite for content, and bloggers are just some of the factors and forces that changed American journalism.

Read the rest of the story here.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Roger Clements was indicted today...

...and I'll ask the same question I asked two years ago when that committee in Congress called him to testify. What does anyone care what Roger Clemens shot in this big butt?

Back in 2008 the country was going to hell in a hand basket. And two years later it's even in worse shape. Doesn't Congress have bigger worries than Roger's butt?--even though I gotta say, that's a pretty big butt.

Read more about what I have to say here.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Manchester, Ct. shooting

There was a shooting today in Manchester, Connecticut that I've been following all day. I've been updating my blog over on Gather. Not getting a lot of hits. Big news today is the solar tsunami--yep, that's what they're calling it--that may set off some Northern Lights tonight. People are writing about that, and it's clear they've never seen them or might not even know what it's about.

And there's this family the Washington Post are featuring that lived on a boat for seven years. Amazing. Amazing is the word a lot of the big hit writers bandy about because they are plagiarizing, er, I mean, writing so many stories they don't have time to pull together a cogent opinion of anything.

Anyway, the shooting. There's a black man who was caught stealing. He was brought in for a meeting. Either quit, or we'll fire you, he was told. We have a video. He was calm. Then he pulls a handgun out of a lunchbox and starts firing. Eight dead, then he kills himself.

There's a backstory that he had complained about racial harassment. No one did anything.

Anyway, I kind of latch on to certain stories and this was one. I can't write about just anything, which is my downfall on a blog that is only interested in numbers. Not quality, but the quantity of hits. So Google News will pick them up then.

Anyway, here's the report I updated throughout today when I should have been reading and working on a paper for my counterculture class.

And here's an opinion I wrote. Leave a comment if you feel like it.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Arcade Fire's The Suburbs

I've been getting kind of bored with the music I've been listening to of late. There are always new artists you can find, but it's the sound of the music that I'm getting bored with. Alt/indie, country, Americana, call it what you want, I still think it's great, I'm just looking for a little bit something more.

And I think I found it. I haven't been all that happy with old lately, with its emphasis on numbers and kowtowing to google news so it can be a a "secondary news source", which is just a fancy way of saying "bad writers plagiarizing for hits", but if you'd like, head over there and see what I'm talking about. Arcade Fire's The Suburbs is really something to listen to.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

To live is to fly

A Sunday. Hot. Humid. Just the way I like it. I think I'm cashing in on my alleged father's Italian genes. I love hot weather. It doesn't bother me the way it seems to bother others. I hate the cold and the wet and the dark. When it gets this hot, all I have to do is think about snow, and I just settle down. I always joke and say I'm solar-powered.

So, sitting on the porch this morning reading the New York Times and trying to figure out what to do with this beautiful day, I finally decided not to go to a play and spend money even though I should--(should!--that awful word rife with guilt)--even though I should stay on top of the local theater scene since I'm going to school and spending so much money and time (did I mention so much money?) to be a part of local theater scene. I always say that an artist has to live life, and then bring what he or she finds in life to the stage or the canvas or to music, so today I decided to to stay at home and live a life and write and read for my class and play guitar. And not spend a dime. I'm reading everywhere about the Great Recession. (I don't know why we keep dancing around this and wonder when we're just going to realize it's probably even worse that the 1930s.) I learned a while back how to enjoy simple and cheap and free. Sue and I have so much in this apartment, and people don't really understand what we do all the time since we don't have a television. (So, what do you do?)

A mockingbird moved into our neighborhood, and is the last bird heard as night falls.

Today in the Times I read how important Facebook and Twitter is to our diplomatic effort. Please, people falling into the trap (again) that technology will save the day. With people, you have to continue to do the human thing.

Yesterday I spent a glorious day on the beach with my oldest, who has seemed to have adopted Rhode Island for her home. It's a beautiful place, all that coastline with such a deep sailing history. We get along, after all these years of being apart. In my counterculture class we read how so many people want to turn back the clock, revisit a time when things were "better." That's a natural human response but it's impossible. And it's a response that I think is ruining this country right now. We have to embark on new paths; learn from the past but the times call for a new way of life.

With my daughter I know I can't turn back the clock, I can only go forward from here, and that's probably the right and true thing to do anyway. I know, if she could, she'd turn back the clock to when she was happier, when there was a regular family with a mom and a dad and a sister and a dog living in a house in the suburbs. She needs me right now, needs my advice to help her move toward the future. I think there are some people in her life who'd she'd be a lot better off without. Not bad people; just nothing great about them--they're the hoi polloi, though I'm sure they think otherwise about themselves; I'm sure they've been told all their lives how great they are, how smart, funny, intelligent, witty, good-looking (on the outside, maybe) by doting parents and superficial friends. And I know I'm prejudiced, but Allison is a catch. She's a terrific person who has a fragile side thanks to her father and there are those who are too damn clumsy, stupid, or just plain uncaring to deserve her company. And I feel it's my responsibility to protect her. I told her yesterday that she deserves to have the kind of friend that she makes for others.

I've turned into a crusty old SOB; someone who doesn't suffer fools. I've wasted too much time (Livin's mostly wastin' time/I waste my share of mine/But it never feels too good/So let's don't take too long). I've always heard the clock tickin' and always tried to live my life knowing that it all could end tomorrow. It's too precious. And I hate wasting anything much less time.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Drew Landry, crawfish fisherman, uses a folk song to urge the oil commission to "do the right damn thing."

I saw this article on Huffington Post yesterday, about this crawfisher from Louisiana who went to Washington to testify in front of the White House oil spill commission. And it was a great story about how this guy pulled out his guitar and sang a song he wrote about the effects of the oil spill, and it was a nice song and he had a nice voice.

He also said a lot of intelligent and soulful and heartfelt things to the commission, and it made me feel so good because I like seeing country people in that light. They're smart and caring and maybe they're not as sophisticated as so many city people, but they're heads are usually screwed on straight.

I've been bumming out more and more about the state of affairs of the world, the oil spill has me sick, with all its ramifications of destruction and greed, and how the economy is just killing people, and again at the root of it all was greed and dishonesty. It is enough to make a person sick.

So today, because I was bumming out, I pulled up the video again just to cheer myself up. I tend to turn to music when I'm feeling low. And I was listening to it, and I notice the guy's name--Drew Landry. And I thought to myself, hold on a minute, I know that name.

And it took me a minute, but he and I are Facebook friends. We've never met, but I even remember he befriended me, and I even wrote him asking who he was, and he said he was a musician and saw that I posted about music occasionally, and that was it. He shows up on my wall from time to time, and I get invited to concerts and such down in Louisiana, which of course I can't make.

But today I'm feeling good about the world, despite everything. Because there are good people in the world, and thanks to the digital space, which if you've read this blog enough I certainly have some bones to pick, but you don't have to look hard to find these people. And music is a good thing that does make the world a better place, so we all got to keep playing music.

Here's the video of him testifying and singing his song. After this one there's another video of him I picked up on Youtube of him playing a song and another of a movie someone is making of him. He's a talented musician, and obviously a real decent human being. Kind of a vanishing breed in the United States, wouldn't you say?

unf--k the gulf...

Unfuck the Gulf. You heard me. And a federal appeals court threw out the FCC's indecency policy, so my headline and anything I say including this video is 100% AOK to post. Hey, if the Wall Street Journal says it's true, who am I to aruge?

You get the message from the title. It's the work of Nate Guidas and Luke Montgomey.

About Nate:
Nate is an environmental activist and educator with a passion for persuasion. He produced the video and designed the charity shirt. Check out more about him on his website:

About Luke:
Luke is an internet, fundraising and media strategist who works as a consultant for non-profits who want to make a bigger impact and change in the world. He directed the video and designed the website. See more of his work at:

Do your part. Check out Buy a t-shirt. Post it on Twitter and Facebook.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Comfortable in my own skin

Well, life is good and it's not and sometimes it's hot and today it's raining.

Happy in my own skin seems to be the order of the day. I used that expression last night in class, and it seemed to resonate with the professor. I guess folksy talk isn't normally heard in a graduate studies classroom, but I was using it to describe Jay Gatsby, or rather how the Great One wasn't. Comfortable in his own skin, that is.

One of the greatest lessons I've learned in my lifetime is how to say no. Or walk away from something or someone. I was a yes-man for years, not in the bootlicker kind of way, but I rarely said no to anyone and eventually you see that you're getting taken advantage more often than not.

Now I'm going to point you over to two posts that I've written most recently over at It's a cute little endeavor over there, but numbers are taking a front seat to quality, and that never sets well with me, especially when it comes to slacking off when it comes to writing. It's all about SEO and Google, and money, of course.

(Maybe, for full disclosure, I should say that the the literature course that is currently occupying my mind is called the literature of the American counter-culture. Never before has the American Dream been on the retreat as it is now in the United States, and big changes are in the wind. Money--or our incessant, 24/7 desire for it--has got to have a cap on that oil well in the Gulf. And I guess capping our desires is going to prove as difficult as the oil well.)

Anyway, check out what I had to say about a viral video, and my response for what gets passed off as a news story on

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Miley Cyrus's crotch picture a big hit on the blogsphere...(PICTURE)

I was talking to my Cousin Jerry yesterday. (Yes, in some parts of the United States, people still call each other cuz, and some even have two names. Would all the stiff necks and blue bloods on the East Coast just please get over it.)

Anyway, he said that he hasn't seen any new postings here on Action Bob lately, and yes, I have to admit, a lot of my writing has been concentrated over on, where I get paid a pittance for enticing people to visit. I won't be getting rich anytime soon over there, but most writers only dream of becoming rich. They rarely realize it.

Anyway, I'm still writing about what I've always written about starting with columns in the newspaper. Basically I guess it can be summed up with I write about whatever pisses me off. Stated more clearly, I write about things that I feel passionately about, one way or another, good or bad, happy or sad.

That actually came to head yesterday during a live chat on Gather with a group of socialwriters (that's Gather parlance for paid writers) and a couple of channel managers. I cover news and politics. If I bust my hump and get lucky, one of my postings might attract a bit over 5,000 unique page views. A lot has to do with Google and search engine optimization (SEO), plus a few other variables.

What is patently obvious is that the writers covering celebrities were getting hits into the tens of thousands. One writer actually got almost 13,000 unique views for blogging about Miley Cyrus's crotch. So I write about health care or the BP oil spill, and maybe a few hundred read it. (I was actually wondering what a post about an oil spill in Miley Cyrus's crotch would attract.)

Hell yes, I'd love to have a huge readership that would convert to more dollars. But not if I have to write about some twerp's private parts. Hell, I did enough of that kind of writing while in the computer industry--writing about stuff I couldn't care less about, I mean. Not private parts. You write about what you care about, and to hell with the money. (See why writers typically aren't rich?--with an attitude like that. But ask Cousin Jerry: I've been like this all my life, rooted to my principles at to hell with the rest of the world.)

Which is the reason why I started a post yesterday like this:

You know, sometimes my job as a writer is simply to nose around and find stuff that I think people should see and know about. And the one thing about this BP oil spill that just scares the life out of me is that, like Katrina, it will simply fade into the shadows. So sometimes it's just my job to just keep barking annoyingly, saying, hey, look at this. You have to believe in the gift you given. And as it says on my guitar case, never apologize for your art.

I linked the post to some pictures and videos that two bloggers in Pensacola Beach, Florida had posted of the oil washing up on the beach there. Their backyard. And I presented a challenge. Check out the post. Check out the pictures and video, and check out my challenge.

And I'd like to hear what you have to say about all this. Do me a favor and comment on Gather. I get paid when you do.

Money or principles? What's it's going to be.

And oh, just so you get the fulfillment from this post's heading, here's the picture of Miley Cyrus's crotch. Tell the truth--was it really worth it?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

I'll be playing and singing on stage this weekend at Club Passim

Okay, we've all heard the stories. Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil at the crossroads at midnight, and about four years ago Baxter came over to my apartment bearing a vintage Burns six-string guitar and told me to play it, even though at the time I only knew C and G7.

Johnson went on to become the world's greatest delta blues player, and me, well, I'm happy just to say I'm still walking the earth.

I fell in love with the guitar, so much so that I've actually said that, if given the chance to barter, I wouldn't give my soul, but would consider exchanging every bit of theater talent I have to be great guitar player. However, I would prefer to meet at a more sane hour--say 10:00 o'clock in the morning. Crossroads are fine, though.

There was someone who actually said I was too old to learn to play--a theater person by trade, no less--who I gently eased out of my life. And I think there were some who felt it might be considered a crime against humanity if I actually sang in public.

So, negative theater person aside, this Saturday I will be performing with the Americana Ensemble class at Club Passim at their annual campfire on the same stage from which the likes of Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Shawn Colvin and even my hero Chris Knight have been seen. I will be singing Guy Clarke's LA Freeway, and for two other songs I'll be playing Lulu, the 1963 Burns electric Baxter handed off to me and told me to cling to like the drowning man I was.

The simple lesson is this: You can do whatever you want. Never, never listen to negativity. Run like hell from it. You don't have to take it, or even bother with it in any way. It's your life you can do what you want. And you don't have to explain yourself either. Just simply live, and things should work out all right.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Historic walking tour of Boston theater; something new and different from New Exhibition Room

I love it when creative minds really click.

If you're looking for something interesting and new and a little different and kinda high-brow (hey, this is Boston, after all) New Exhibition Room is hosting an historic walking tour exploring more than 200 years of theatre in Boston.

Called Theatre in Everything but Name: An historic walking tour of Boston's theatre sites and spaces, all proceeds benefit NXR's summer production of Shh! at the New York International Fringe Festival.

The NXR tour, led by Artistic Director A. Nora Long and a few special guests, will explore Boston's rocky relationship with theatre, from its clandestine beginnings to its explosive present.

Beginning at the Theatre History marker behind the Boylston T-stop, the tour will wind its way through Boston's Theatre District as it was and as it stands now. The tour will conclude at the site where it all began the original New Exhibition Room.

Tours are scheduled for Saturday, June 26th at 12:00 PM and 1:00 PM. The 1:00 PM tour will be followed by a picnic reception in Boston Common. The tours will commence rain or shine. In the case of inclement weather the picnic reception will take place at 88 Tremont St.

Get your tickets here, and more info about NXR here.

Laughing while you sink

I never heard the expression before until I saw this video from ABC--the Australian Broadcasting Company, not the American version. It had to be Australian because only an Aussie could have come up with such biting, stare you right in the eye humor that beautifully explains the European Crisis--which is the name they colloquially use in Europe for this financial shit storm that is wreaking havoc all around the world and that is changing the face of the world as we've known it.

Ah, humor, that wonderful human defense mechanism that kicks in in the direst of circumstances. Have you ever seen another animal deploy it? Can you imagine a seal pup, right in the shadow of the club, bending over in side-splitting laughter at the abject hopelessness of the situation?

Nope, you can't. But we humans can. That's why we're on top in this world. And that's probably also why we're fucking things up so insanely as of late.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Check out these Boston theater productions: Farragut North, Family Stories, Betrayal, and Boston Theatre Marathon XII

Have been seeing some really good theater in the Boston area that I'd like to pass along to you.

Lately I've been sitting in the audience thinking back to my old days in school as a photography major. Back then--and this was just as this weird new technology called video was just on the rise--photography was the hip visual technology, and the people who majored in things like printmaking were sort of the anachronisms of the art world.

As a writer, I'm always curious about the structure of the different pieces I've been watching, and the subject matter, and I'm curious about theater's role in society, and if it currently has a real and important and persistent place.

That all aside, here are a few shows that are still up and running that I suggest you see.

I'll start with Farragut North, produced by Zeitgeist Stage Company, in its final week at the Plaza Black Box theater at the Boston Center for the Arts. At some point I heard someone describe Farragut North as The West Wing on crack. Farragut North is a very approachable show in terms of its topic, and mirroring a lot of characteristics of popular television: very fast pace, in your face drama, broadly defined characters facing extraordinary moral questions. It depicts the descent of a political press secretary during a modern presidential campaign, with hard-hitting Mametesque dialogue, and all the misplaced ambition, paranoia, and gluttony for power that we've all come to expect from our leaders. In short, its something we all can quickly identify. Right up to the end there's a moral battle that entices the audience. Always a good sign, after the production I found myself on the sidewalk talking about the story and the characters as if they were real. For someone in theater, to shuck your theater facade and actually become a participatory audience member is high compliments for a show. This is definitely a must-see.

Second on my list is Family Stories, produced by Whistler in the Dark and running for two more weeks at the Factory Theatre. After seeing the show I said to both director and Whistler artistic director Meg Taintor and actress Mellisa Barker that I have no idea what I had just seen, but I loved it. Set in Belgrade in 1998, the country is wracked by violence, civil war, paranoia, famine, and all the other accoutrements of war and civil strife that would plague the citizenry. Jarring emotions and actions play out on the stage, and Family Stories presents an abstract and fragmented view of what life was like during those times. A magnificent piece of theater that will challenge you, and answered the question I had halfway through the production: What kind of life caused someone to write all this? If you're curious about the world, outside of the safe little box most of us live within, go see this.

Last night Harold Pinter's Betrayal opened at the Calderwood Pavillion at the Boston Center for the Arts last night. I'm house manager for the first week (so if you come this weekend you'll get a cheery greeting from me; be sure to say hi), and last night I was lucky enough to be able to see the entire show from the second row. The kind of opening night that I saw last night, where all the tech comes off smoothly and the actors are connecting in a very deep and real way means that this show has nothing else to do but keep getting better and better. Of course, like the other shows I mentioned, I know a few of the actors and technical people. And sometimes that's a problem because you know the actors on stage as people in the "real world." That didn't happen last night watching Lyralen Kaye and Wayne Fritsche (and I'll also say the same for Victor Shopov in Farragut North and Melissa Barker in Family Stories.) Wayne tears your heart out as Robert, the culkhold husband of Lyralen's Emma. Lyralen is the founder and artistic director of Another Country Productions that espouses and promotes Meisner training. Quoting the promo piece, "It’s not about star power so much as it is about ensemble and connection. Betrayal, with its nuance and levels of emotional complication, could not be better served than by this technique." Good acting is simply about human relationships, that spark that jumps across the synapses that exist between all of us. This production of Betrayal is about that and so much more. Again, go see this one.

Finally, a heads up that Boston Playwrights' Theatre is presenting the Boston Theatre Marathon XII this Sunday, May 23 from 12 noon to 10 pm.

50 ten-minute plays by 50 New England playwrights presented by 50 New England theatre companies in 10 hours.

Plus, like last year the Boston Theater Marathon will include The Warm-Up Laps on May 22 featuring free staged readings. These readings are presented in association with the Boston Center for the Arts and their resident theatres.

All net proceeds benefit the Theatre Community Benevolent Fund, a non-profit organization that provides financial relief for theatre artists and organizations who face dire need and require financial assistance.
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