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Midsummer’s Not Over Yet.

The Nashville Shakespeare Festival’s annual Shakespeare In The Park play this year is A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The set looks very impressive and detailed. It’s more than a little surprising to me that palatial doors form such a large part of the set and there’s only a little greenery on the left and right. This is strange because if you know the play you know that most of it takes place in the woods with events in Theseus’s palace only happening at the beginning and end. In the past the NSF’s productions have used more open, minimalist sets, so it’ll be interesting to see if the background changes as the play progresses.

I love the view from the stage.

If there’s a downside it’s that they’ve done A Midsummer Night’s Dream. And done it. And done it. This will be the fourth production in its thirty year history, although I get it. They’ve done some of the darker plays—like a brilliant and haunting production of the Scottish play—but when you’re hanging out in the park, maybe with your kids, you want to watch something light as the sun goes down. And actress Denise Hicks, who’s now the NSF’s director, played Puck in the troupe’s first production back in 1994. It was her idea that the spirits use tai chi moves and at dramatic moments would stomp on the stage, making the unearthly characters menacing, but in a good way. So if I happen to have offended think but this and all is mended: there’s always new life in an old play.

Her Conviction.

Source: Goodreads

Maybe you have, or had, an older family member, an aunt, say, who was nice to you but whom you never thought that much about because you only saw her at family gatherings. She’d take an interest in you, give you a piece of cake and some milk, and ask about what you were up to, what you liked. And you never thought to ask her anything about herself and you only discovered later in your own life that she had a rich history, that she was intelligent and interesting and there were so many things you wish you could have asked her.

If you know that feeling then you’ll understand when I say that’s kind of how I feel when I heard about the passing of Charlotte Rae. Yes, she never took any interest in me personally—we never crossed paths, and I know it’s weird to feel that way about someone I really only knew as a television character, but I was seven when Diff’rent Strokes debuted and once a week lost myself in the goings on of the Drummond family. And even though I thought it was the kids I related to there was something about Rae’s Mrs. Garrett that was warm and familiar; there were women like her in my family, although none of them lived with us.

It’s a surprise to me now that she only spent one season on Diff’rent Strokes. I immersed myself in The Facts Of Life too–yeah, I was a kid who watched too much television–but in my memory it’s as though she lived in both the Drummond house and Eastland School simultaneously. The younger cast members may technically have been the focus of both shows but she was a vital part of both.

And it never occurred to me at the time that she had a rich history and an interesting life outside of those shows. Her memoir, The Facts Of My Life, co-written with her younger son Larry Strauss, traces her history from the pogroms of the early 20th century that drove her family out of Russia and to the United States, through her career in cabaret and television–including a stint on Car 54, Where Are You? as Al Lewis’s wife Sylvia Schnauser. The Facts Of My Life opens, though, in 1971 while Rae was working on Sesame Street as Molly The Mail Lady. Her older son Andy had been put in Bellevue Hospital for psychiatric treatment following a violent outburst just before his sixteenth birthday. It was a tough time for her and she says,

I had to be back on Sesame Street in the morning delivering mail to Oscar The Grouch and Big Bird and those bright-eyed children who would sit on my lap. They were so adorable and precious and I was in such pain. I couldn’t sleep and I didn’t think I could do another scene with those beautiful children. I tried to talk myself into it: Come on, Charlotte. You’re an actress. You can love them and admire them and admire and marvel at them.

That was really only the latest in a series of difficulties and things would get a lot harder for her.

Something else I didn’t even think about until now is that Rae was also a singer, and in an odd coincidence this morning on my way to work I was shuffling through songs on my phone and “My Conviction” from the Hair soundtrack popped up. I’ve listened to that whole album countless times and yet it never occurred to me that it’s Charlotte Rae singing, that, in addition to her talents for acting and comedy, she had some serious pipes too.

Hail and farewell Charlotte Rae.

Up In Smoke.

Sometimes if I know it’s going to be a while before the bus arrives I’ll walk along the route. I like the exercise and it’s better than just standing around in one spot. I used to walk toward downtown, facing traffic, but there have been so many changes and stops that have been discontinued even though the bus still passes by them which makes no sense. If the bus still goes by why can’t it stop there, especially since, according to the MTA, you can flag down a bus at any corner? Anyway now I always walk with the traffic. Sometimes I stop at one corner and there’s a guy who occasionally comes and stands at the same corner and smokes while he’s waiting for the bus.

Now I don’t have anything against smokers. I even was one, briefly, back in college, because I hung around with a lot of theater people and there was a saying among them that all actors smoke because it’s the only way they can deal with the tension. I wonder if that’s changed now that so many places are smoke-free, a change that hasn’t bothered me because I was really only a social smoker. One night a friend and I were out of cigarettes and money and decided to go around asking random people for change but set ourselves the arbitrary rule that we wouldn’t accept more than ten cents from any one person. A couple of hours later as we sat on the steps of the student union puffing away we agreed that collecting the money for a pack of smokes had been more fun than the smoking itself, but that’s another story.

Anyway as I was approaching the corner I saw the guy standing there smoking and realized I was downwind of him. Again, no problem with smokers, although congrats to Grace of Ms. Graceful NOT on quitting, especially after her CO2 experience, but I try to avoid the secondhand miasma. So I decided to keep walking to the next stop. As I waited for a light to change I glanced back and noticed the guy was following me, cigarette dropped somewhere on the pavement behind him. He then joined me at the next bus stop.

“Soon as I saw you go by,” he drawled in a voice so husky it could run the Iditarod, “I knew the bus was gonna be late, so I thought I’d walk to the next stop too.”

I didn’t have the heart to tell him I’d moved on for the benefit of my heart, not to mention my lungs, but since I was now upwind it didn’t matter. Then, for some reason, he moved around to the other side of me and I heard the snap of his lighter.

Don’t Believe Everything You Ink.

An interesting thing about a word used as visual art is how it can prompt new ideas about that word. Even changing the font or highlighting a word on a page or a computer screen in some way can emphasize or even change what it means.

And then there’s China Mieville’s novel Kraken about London’s supernatural criminal underworld, populated with a whole array of weird characters, including an animated talking tattoo, and a plot that revolves around a giant squid. Except it isn’t the squid itself that’s as important as what it contains. Whoever controls the ink controls the world—the ink can rewrite the world.

This isn’t a new idea. The notion that words have power is older than abracadabra, and that the way a word is written can make it even more powerful dates from the Kabbalah, if not earlier. It’s an interesting thing to consider that sometimes the medium is the message.

Time To Leave.

The Vanderbilt University campus is a national arboretum. When my mother was a student at what was then Peabody College—it’s since been incorporated into Vanderbilt—she took a botany class and had to collect the leaves of one hundred different trees. The professor directed the class to Vanderbilt and said, “Trust me. You won’t have any trouble.” And just a few years ago a friend of mine was visiting Nashville and I gave him a tour of the campus, which I really enjoy doing. He kept looking at all the trees and green spaces and saying, “This is what a college campus should look like!” He works for another university that shall remain nameless, but that’s another story.

Among Vanderbilt’s many trees are several gingko trees, including at least one that’s over a hundred years old, so here’s my final entry in the Black & White Photo Challenge, which I call, Gingko? Why Don’t You Go?

Thanks to Tom Being Tom for nominating me and now it’s time to go out on a song.

Buttoned.

The other day the power went out in my office. Everything went dark and I yelled “Yay!” which made several people laugh. Then someone said, “I’ll call the building manager,” someone else said, “I’ll get a flashlight”, and I said, “Nick! Heath! Jared! There’s a fire in the barn!” and several people laughed again and my boss yelled “Quit encouraging him!” but that’s another story. Everything came back on a few minutes later—well, almost everything. The elevators were shut down for about an hour. By a very lucky coincidence no one was in any of the elevators at the time. Whenever there’s a power outage or even just a problem with the elevators it reminds me that in movies or TV shows whenever people are trapped in an elevator they always climb out through the escape hatch in the roof and yet I’ve never been in an elevator that had an escape hatch I could see, and even if I could I’m too short to reach the ceiling, let alone climb out through it. So if I’m ever trapped in an elevator I’ll probably just sit around jabbing buttons which inspired my penultimate entry in the Black & White Photo Challenge, one I like to call Getting Pushy.

And if you’re taking part in the Black & White Photo Challenge feel free to plug your own blog below.

Source: gfycat

 

Advertising Is The Pits.

The Wakino Ad Company drew attention Tuesday for renting ad space to clients on the armpits of female models. The company is owned by Liberta, a cosmetic line that sells products for the underarm in Japan.

The ads are only visible once the model raises her arm.

International Business Times

Scene: The conference room of Acme Advertising. KEVIN, company CEO, sits at the head of the table. Other characters will be named as they speak.
Kevin: Good morning. I’m sure you’re all wondering why I’ve called you here.
David: This is our regular Monday pitch meeting.
Kevin: Lately I’ve been in a bit of a creative rut. I just haven’t come up with any new ideas. You may have noticed.
Lucy: Yes, we’ve gotten a lot of work done.
Kevin: Then I remembered something my father said to me when he left me this company. He took me aside and said, ‘Dolores, never lose touch with the common man.’ I thought he meant the stablehands, but he added, ‘If you’re ever at a loss for ideas go down to the streets. Ride the buses and the subway. See how normal people live.’ So I got on my chartered jet and went to London, the closest city I could think of with a subway.
David: We’re in New York.
Kevin: The weather’s been unusually warm there lately and one afternoon while I was riding a particularly packed train I stood next to a woman in a sundress who was holding onto the overhead rail and I became mesmerized, transfixed, and very interested in her armpit.
Michael: Why–?
Lucy: You don’t want to know.
Kevin: It was broad and flat and I thought, there’s something about that space. Where do you normally see armpits?
Sheila: Deodorant commercials.
Kevin: Exactly! Public transportation! You know, we’ve put a lot of advertising in subway stations, in subways themselves, on buses. Where else can we put them?
Denise: Well, you had that idea to put ads on the seats last year.
Kevin: Exactly! Armpits! Now we need to move quickly on this because this is strictly a summer campaign. I can’t think of anyone crazy enough to go around in a tank top in the winter.
Lucy: I can.
David: Well, you know the old saying: opinions are like armpits. Everybody’s got a couple ad some of them stink.
Kevin: Let’s look at our clients: deodorants, body washes, razors, soaps, yogurt…
Michael: Why–?
Lucy: Just let him go with it.
Kevin: Lucy, you seem especially on board with this.
Lucy: Like it’s the Titanic.
Kevin: That’s the spirit! You’ve all got some hard work ahead but if this goes as well as I think it will there’ll be some big bonuses in everyone’s future. And if it doesn’t go that well there’ll be some big bonuses in everyone’s future.
Lucy: That’s why we stick with you, Kevin.

Source: Giphy

There’s A Way Out.

My Scout troop once went spelunking in a wild cave. I’d been to Mammoth Cave and Cumberland Caverns and thought caves were really cool–although after seeing the movie The Descent I may not ever go in a cave ever again, but that’s another story—but those hadn’t prepared me for the darkness and strangeness of a cave that could only be entered through a narrow crevice that swallowed the beams of our flashlights. We had a guide leading us, by the way—the cave was wild but had been thoroughly explored by professionals. Amateur spelunking is a bad idea which we were reminded of when we came into a large room. At its center was a stalagmite that had been built to about four feet high by the slow drip of mineral-rich water from the ceiling. Then, at some point, the water’s composition changed and began to wear away the stone so the top of the stalagmite was now a shallow basin.

“We call this Injun Joe’s Altar,” the guide told us. I had just read The Adventures Of Tom Sawyer so this was very eerie.

Anyway here’s today’s entry in the Black & White Photo Challenge, a little number I call Overarching Concerns.

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