Sometimes it’s Hat Day.

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You wake up and throw off your Goosebumps sheets.

You brush your teeth and take a shower.

You get dressed in a simple t-shirt and jeans.

You drink your chocolate milk and eat your Crunchberry cereal.

You give your creation a once-over:

It’s a tricorner hat made from newspaper,

With curved appendages made from continuous form paper,

With yarn flowing down the back,

And a big horn on the front, spray-painted gold.

It’s a masterpiece.

You can’t quite remember if your idea was to look like a cross between a pirate captain and a unicorn, but you certainly pulled it off anyway.

You strap on your backpack and your mom snaps a picture.

You ride the bus to school, not even registering the odd glances given to you by the other children.

You get to your first-grade classroom and Mrs. Dirk says “Lookin’ good!”  She gives you a thumbs up.  She herself is wearing a top hat that looks like it was eaten by moths long before you were even born.

You sit down at your desk and look around – Michael has on an Orioles cap.  Stephanie is wearing a Redskins cap.  Stephen sports a little league cap.  Linda has a small tiara.  Most kids are wearing nothing at all.  Besides their own hair.

No one else has gone to such lengths as you.

No one else has sired such a winning testament to their artistic identity.

No one else deemed it necessary to share said artistic identity with the class.

No one else stayed up until midnight with their dad spray-painting their horn.

No one else stayed up until midnight with their mom cutting and pasting their yarn onto the back.

No one else had their parents take a picture before they left the house.

No one else is a pirate captain slash unicorn.

But damnit – who cares what the haters say?

It’s Hat Day, Artie.

And you look super fly.

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Sometimes things are never as they seem. Or, why Eureeka’s Castle was actually a Steampunk Horror Nightmare

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Eureeka’s Castle (yes, there are two ‘E’s in Eureeka – more on that later) was a children’s television show that aired on Nickelodeon from 1989 to 1995.  I remember it fondly – the anticipation as I heard the plinking music come out of my family’s wooden console tv set, the joy of watching the Jim Henson puppets sing and dance, the satisfaction of quality Nickelodeon programming.

Looking back on it, however, I realize it was a dangerous, horrifying Steampunk nightmare show.

Let’s take the opening:

We start with a giant.  This giant is walking through the countryside, which in itself is a frightening thought to any sane bucolic denizen.  But the camera pulls back even more to show that this giant has his nose stuck in a book!
What?!  So not only is he traipsing through these rollings fields and hills, but he’s not even watching where he’s going??  How many innocent farmers and shepherds died in the wake of this giant’s carelessness?  How much blood covers the bottom of those ginormous shoes?

Moving on – the giant notices a castle nestled in these hills and puts down his book (I’m not even going to talk about how he apparently just tosses the book aside, no doubt crushing several loyal serfs of the castle into jelly).

The castle has a huge hand-crank on the side.  What kind of castle has a huge hand-crank on the side, you ask??  A Steampunk castle has a huge hand-crank on the side!  As the giant proceeds to engage the device, we are shown flashes of what lurks inside the walls:
With one turn of the crank, we see algae-covered gears rotating, their teeth interlocking with vicious force.  With another, we’re shown various figures that come to life – monsters covered in fur, talking mice, dragons, bats, fish made out of stone, and a couple of humanoids who don’t look quite human enough to me.

Now, if the entire castle is mechanical, and needs to be “turned on” with the turn of a crank, then we can assume that these creatures that spring to life are also subject to the turning of the crank as well.  So these beasts are really not alive at all, but some sort of automaton army with artificial intelligence!  That’s beyond frightening!

Why does this giant have this castle filled with AI automatons?  Well, he was reading a book when we first saw him and he said it was “very interesting reading.”  Might it have been Sun Tzu’s THE ART OF WAR?  Is this giant planning a full-scale war against humanity using his mechanical army of creatures?  Are there other castles strategically placed throughout the world, ready and waiting for him simply to come over and turn the key?  Might this be the end of human-kind, leaving the world to be run by this maniacal giant and his army of mechanical creatures??  This does not bode well…

The creatures themselves are – of course – terrifying:
– There’s the kamikaze bat who could easily be outfitted with a bomb and sent out to a major metropolis.  He’d find a building to crash into in no time, taking hundreds or thousands of lives with him.  He also has a pet spider, who could also be outfitted with a bomb set to blow as soon as he’s scurried into a small space that only a spider can get to.
– There’s the dragon whose tail does not obey him.  Even if you could get the dragon to change sides in the great war against humanity, his tail would still act of its own accord.  Also, the dragon’s sneezes are big enough to shake the entire castle.  All the giant would have to do is to plant the guy in the middle of Grand Central Station, give him a sniff of pepper, and the whole place would come tumbling down!
– The talking fish fountain has to be spitting out acid.  No normal fountain that spits out water could talk and sing in harmony.
– The two monsters who live in the sewers of the castle will forever haunt my dreams.  The giant could set them loose in the water lines and they could enter your homes!  Their crazy long limbs would grab you before you ever knew they were there.
– The guy named Mr. Knack is interesting.  He seems to be a handyman of sorts, and he pushes around the cart filled with seemingly useless junk.  Perhaps this is the automaton programmed for internal repairs.  It’s genius – if the giant has multitudes of castles around the world, he would not be able to service them all in a timely fashion should one of the parts go out of whack.  So what he has done is to install a mechanical repairman to wander around with his little tinker cart, taking care of anything that needs his attention.  Genius.  Super evil genius.
– Finally, Eureeka.  What exactly IS Eureeka?  First off, let’s take her name:  There are two “E”s, creating “reek” in the middle of what was once a normal word used for illumination and creation.  So obviously something has gone awry here.  We know she can’t be exactly human because she has those horns coming out of her head.  Some sort of mechanical troll, then.  And she claims to be a wizard-in-training.  Like Harry Potter?  But who is teaching her?  The giant?
Perhaps we will never fully understand the reasoning behind Eureeka’s presence in the giant’s diabolical Army of Death castle, but let us be wary of her anyway.  I trust nothing that outwardly perky that has horns and is probably an automaton.

The mechanical creatures are terrifying, yes, and their predilection for human bodily harm is evident in the examination above, but I would like to add one more layer of horror on top of the already steaming pile of nightmares:

These automatons are trained in psychological warfare, as well.  They have been programmed by the evil giant to confuse and confound the human race, thereby making it easier for them to attack us.
Just look at the words to their marching death-chant:

You, Me, You, Who?
You we you see you we who?
Who me?
No, you!
Don’t you see?
You!
Me?
Me!
Gee.
Gee what a wonderful place to be
Castle, pastle, hassle, tassle!
You, us, they, we,
You we you me one two three!

If that’s not enough to singe off your brain stem then I don’t know what is.

In conclusion, what may seem at first like an innocent, enjoyable children’s television program is actually a blood-curdling, terrifying, Steampunk nightmare from which you can never awaken, because it will end with the annihilation of all humanity, leaving the world to be run by the evil giant and his army of automatons.
And that’s just the opening…  What other horrors lie in store in Eureeka’s Castle?  And when will Wes Craven make a film version?

Sometimes people act crazy when you give them free things.

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At my theater company’s smaller space, we handle mostly new works by new slash unknown playwrights.  Our first week of previews for every show have what are called “Talk ‘n’ Taste” nights, where we hold a post-show discussion with members of the creative team so they can gauge the audience’s reaction and figure out what works and what doesn’t.  That’s the “Talk” part.  The “Taste” part is free pizza and wine in the lobby for those that participated in the discussion.

The ten most frequent types of Free-Pizza people:

  1. The person who walks up, looks at the offering, makes a face as if to say, ‘That’s it?’ and then walks away without partaking.
  1. The person who may or may not be homeless based on their hoarding of three or four pieces of pizza in their bag, after which they make a quick getaway to seemingly eat on the street.
  1. The person who walks up and talks a lot about the pizza – ‘Where did it come from?’, ‘Do you have a different kind not on display here?’, ‘Have you ever had this other kind of pizza?’, ‘Maybe you should get that kind next time.’
  1. The person who walks up and doesn’t talk about the pizza at all, but still talks a lot – ‘So you work for the theater?’, ‘How long have you worked here?’, ‘Have you seen this show?’, ‘Is this a new building?’, ‘Can I buy a ticket from you for the next show?’, ‘Is it still raining outside?’
  1. The person who makes you decide what they like.  ‘What’s your favorite kind of pizza here?  The zucchini?  Do you think I’ll actually like that?’
  1. The person who tries to return the pizza.  ‘This isn’t what I thought it would be and I don’t want to throw it away.  Do you think anybody else would eat this piece that I took a bite out of?  There’s still a lot of it left.’
  1. The person who stands by the pizza table so they can immediately reach in and get another piece when their current one is gone, crowding the table and making it impossible for anyone else to get in and grab a slice.  Because obviously the second they walk away it will all disappear.
  1. The person who asks for the ingredients.  Or if it’s gluten-free.  It’s free pizza, lady.  I don’t know.
  1. The person who sets up camp on one of the benches in the lobby with their pizza and sits for a half-hour after the event ends.  You put away the table and take out the trash and they’re still there.  Everyone else is gone and they’re still there.  You fade the lobby lights down to half and they’re still there.  So you literally have to go up to the person and tell them that you need to close up the lobby.  It’s at that point they say they have to go to the bathroom first.  So now you have to wait for all that to happen before you can lock up and leave.
  1. Finally, the person who just takes a piece of pizza and a glass of wine and says “Thanks!” and goes off to one side to chat with their friends.  They finish their pizza and leave quietly.  These are my favorite.

Can you name any other types of Free-Pizza People?

 

Sometimes people are the worst.

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Imagine, if you will, a typical night at the theatre.  On the job, I stand at the back of the house, as is my usual position, keeping watch over the flock of theatre-goers who are watching an Off-Broadway musical.  All is well.

A gentleman in the front of the house gets up and leaves through the side aisle.  No problem.  I radio to my co-worker downstairs, informing her that someone has left the house.  She confirms and several minutes pass.  She radios that the gentleman used the restroom and is now on his way back up to me in the elevator.  (Due to the odd configuration of the house, everyone who arrives late or leaves their seat and comes back in has to go through the back of the house – it’s too distracting otherwise.)

I greet the gentleman as he exits the elevator.  He is in his mid-thirties, nicely dressed in a linen shirt and trendy jeans.  He has dark curly hair and is not Caucasian.  I inform him he will not be able to return to his actual seat, he says that’s ok, and I put him in a seat in the second-to-last row.

The performance continues.

About fifteen minutes later, a woman gets up from the front of the house and stands in the side aisle.  She must have to use the restroom, I think to myself, but wants to wait for the current song to end.  Unfortunately, we can’t have anyone standing there – fire hazard.  I radio down to my co-worker and inform her of the problem.  She confirms and retrieves the woman from the side aisle, taking her downstairs and out of sight.

Shortly thereafter, she radios up to say that the woman is coming back up in the elevator to me.  She was apparently concerned when the previous gentleman left his bag.  Ahh, I think.  She was with him and brought his bag.  (Not uncommon when a member of a couple leaves to use the restroom and magically never returns to their actual seat – the other party comes looking for them.)

When she gets off the elevator, I see she is much older than the gentleman.  White-haired, Caucasian, obviously wealthy.  I doubt they are a couple.  She also has no bag with her.  Curious, I think.  I give my speech about how she, unfortunately, won’t be able to return to her actual seat.  She says that’s fine, as long as she can sit somewhere in the back.

Of course, I say.  I direct her to the row in which I had placed the gentleman, still thinking they must still be of the same party.  She balks.  Her eyes go wide and she shakes her head vehemently left and right.  I remind her in whisper that I cannot get her to her actual seat.

“I’m not sitting next to him,” she hisses. 

Confused, I place her in another row and the show concludes.  They were not together.

I found out later the rest of the story to which I was not privy:  The woman left her seat because the “Middle-Eastern-looking man” left his bag in his seat and then disappeared.  When my co-worker downstairs assured her that nothing was amiss, she did not believe her and said that we (the theater) should “do something, like call the police.”

When my co-worker asked if the woman would like to leave, the woman replied, “No I want to see the show I paid for.” 

So the compromise was her sitting far enough away that if it was a bomb, the shrapnel would have definitely cut her up a bit. 

The icing on the cake with all of this is that apparently she left her husband right next to the bag.  He was apparently not convinced anything was wrong and didn’t want to cause a fuss or give up his good seats.

Needless to say, nothing happened with the bag and all three hundred people safely left the house at the end of the performance.

Oh, the people you meet in the theatre…

Sometimes there can only be one.

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But sometimes that’s one too many…

Yesterday, on the Fifth of July, Anno Domini Two Thousand and Thirteen, I watched HIGHLANDER for the first time.  

I’m not sure why I had never seen it before, since it’s one of those movies that’s famous just for being famous.  It’s referenced in movies and television, it’s sparked lines and jokes that I never even knew were from the movie until I actually saw it, and it’s got Sean Connery fighting with an ancient Japanese sword to the music of Queen.  Sounds like a fantastic afternoon on Netflix, no?  

I have to admit something:  I didn’t like it.

I know, I know, it sounds like blasphemy coming from a fan of science fiction, fantasy, and the eighties in general.  But I just couldn’t get on board.

Here are my thoughts (and as I seem to be into lists of late, I will continue in said fashion):

1. So, who exactly ARE these Immortals?  WHY do they exist?  WHY do they need to kill each other off?  Also, the Prize for killing off everyone else who’s exactly the same as you is you get to read mortals’ thoughts and then become mortal yourself?  And everyone is really into this lame prize?  If you say so…

2. Are there really only four left at the beginning of the movie?  (The guy that Connor kills at the wrestling match, Connor’s friend who gives him booze in Central Park, Connor, and Kruger)  We are really starting late in the game here…

3. When did the Immortals stop being born?  Was Connor the last one back in the 1500’s?  Also, why are some of them young guys in their twenties (Connor, Kruger) but other ones are older (Ramirez, the guy Connor beheads in the parking lot)?  How is it determined when they’ll stop aging?  Are there any eighty-year-old looking Immortals out there?  Hmm…

4. So, they’re all pretty old.  You would think that after living for so long, they would have learned more about how better to do their business.  Why do they only try to hack off their opponent’s head?  They should try to cut off some legs or arms, then it would be easy to cut off the head, right?  Or why don’t they use a numbing agent?  Or why don’t they seek each other out when they’re sleeping and take care of it when they’re in bed?  You can’t tell me that Kruger couldn’t have figured out where Connor lived…

5. Ramirez is a Spaniard who’s really Egyptian.  But Sean Connery is really just a white guy. With the most recognizable Scottish accent in the western world.  With intense eye liner.

I dunno.  I guess I was expecting something a little more…… amazing.  

Maybe I just need to watch the sequels.  Or the television series.  
Or something else entirely.

One thing I can give it, though – a ridiculously fantastic tagline.  And sometimes that’s all you need.  🙂

 

 

Sometimes you list all the things that this post isn’t about. Like community theatre, Hershey Park, Frances Ha, hiking on the Hudson River, hating interpersonal communication with strangers, and loving your family to death.

This post is not about any of these things:

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1. I took a trip home to small-town America to watch a community theatre production of THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE that featured several friends and family members.  It was a ridiculously good time and the show was super fun.  Also I learned how to spell “floxinoxinihilipilification.”  For all those times I need to remember how to spell it.

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2. During said trip to small-town America we spent a day in Hershey Park, where I have gone almost every summer of my entire life to ride roller coasters and eat chocolate in the Sweetest Place On Earth.  It rained thrice during the day, but only for about fifteen minutes each time, so by the end of the day everyone had been scared away and we had the run of the place.  I think the best way to experience roller coasters is to walk off them and walk back on three times in a row.

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3. The trip to Hershey Park included admission to ZooAmerica, which only has animals that exist in North America.  (So really – only animals you can already see outside your back door.)  But my brothers are fun.  We were bears.  Which is helpful.  When you need to be bears.

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4. I saw FRANCES HA last night.  It was quite good.  I’m totally on board with this burgeoning genre of showing how awful and terrible and wonderful and frightened and crazy and ridiculous and amazing young people actually are as they haphazardly make their way through their poverty-stricken twenties.  Good on you, Lena Dunham.  Good on you, Greta Gerwig.

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5. My girlfriend and I went on a kick-ass hike today.  North of the city is Mount Taurus in the Hudson Highlands region.  1400 feet elevation, 7.5 miles roundtrip.  Sometimes more rock-climbing than hiking.  Gorgeous views.  Also the ruins of an early twentieth-century estate by a former president of the National Lead Company (which sounds like a super fun job, by the way).  So that was amazing, completely un-ironically.

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6. I learned (or rather, verified) that I hate communicating with other hikers as they walk past me.  No sir, I do not want to discuss the difficulty of the trail.  I do not want to speak about the weather.  I left the city to get away from people.  Let me live in my I’m-living-two-hundred-years-ago-and-there’s-only-deer-and-badgers-and-raccoon-and-slugs-and-birds-and-squirrels-and-newts-hiding-behind-all-that-nature fantasy.  

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7. Apparently my family went hiking today too.  Because they’re awesome and we all think alike.  We were hike buddies from two hundred miles apart.  I love them.

8. Also, this post is 100% NOT about how sometimes you just can’t think of enough about one subject for a weblog post, so you just detail several things that come into your head.  Not at all.

Instead, this post is about Independence Day.
Happy Fourth of July everyone.  🙂