Monday, January 29, 2007

Dead Man Walking School Theatre Project In My Life

Innocently uttering just four little words, "Okay, I'll do it," a short while ago, I set in motion a path for myself that has drawn me into deep reflection. Performing on stage, film, and clubs, for the better part of my life, this new role was accepted without worry but little background with its significance.

My agreement in reply to a friend's request to play the Mother in a production she was involved in and which she buffered with, "You know, just a few lines here and there --but it's a good play and you'll be helping the kids out . . ." How could I refuse?

What I had agreed to was participation in The Dead Man Walking School Theatre Project, the adaptation by actor and director Tim Robbins of Sr. Helen Prejean's award-winning book, "Dead Man Walking." In addition to the award-winning film, Mr. Robbins has created a powerful drama but -- contrary to most playwrights -- only allows productions through college and high-school theater partnership programs that include community outreach with workshops meant to explore how people feel about the death penalty through examination of their own belief systems. For what one community has done with the project in New Orleans, go here.

Well, the "little bit" I'm doing has grown into three small parts -- Mother of Sr. Prejean, a reporter, and a support group attendee -- along with scene-balancing "landscape" tableaux with the other actors also playing multiple roles. Not impossible; been done, before -- BUT, we are never allowed to leave the stage! It seems that our Director for the February 1-10 Cardinal Gibbons High School production loves this form of theatre and we get to do it, in spades!

Woe is me! I've discovered that age is definitly creeping up. Not as limber as I've been, my feet are screaming by the end of rehearsals. Of course, that's probably because rehearsals seem to take forever. The actual show is over before you know it!

Once you have performed in a Justice Theater Project, you are a member for life! So, I'll be leading a couple of workshops, once the play run is over as part of my outreach service. This is not proselytizing -- no pressure for anyone to change their beliefs, simply a forum to examine them and know why they feel as they do about the death penalty. (This is definitely when I wish I were 18, again. I knew everything, then! and decisions were so much easier.)

We open Thursday, which is just about when I'll have everything memorized!

Get Well, Soon, B.B.King!

B.B. King, (81! and still performing!) had to take a few days off to recuperate from a bout of the flu this past weekend. I know this is going to cost him some concert dates, but, more than that, it's going to cost us the Thrill of seeing him perform as much as possible before he has to leave us and entertain the angels.

What can you say about a man who has been given such a beautiful gift, that hasn't been said, before? I did have the thrill of meeting him, personally, more than 15 years ago, at a music convention in Anaheim. He was gracious and giving to all the young musician hopefuls bombarding him with questions about the "secret" of his success. Secret? That's an easy one -- he loves Lucille (probably, more than anything (one?) else. She's his life, his music, his soul food and she returns the favor by singing, oh, so sweetly, when in his hands.

Last month, he received the Presidential Medal of Honor at the White House. President Bush simply shared what we already know, "America loves the music of B.B. King, and America loves the man, himself."

Hurry up and get better, B.B. The world needs you; America needs you; I need you.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Garden Eyes Too Big for Garden Tummy?

Well, I've done it. The first lasagna gardening has been put in place, in just under two hours, please, and is a respectable 4 x 12 foot. It was just as easy as the book promised.

I'm so excited about this, that I'm going to be putting in two more gardens over the weekend, along the back and side fencing, for my herbs and cut flowers. What was really fun was watching the expression on the faces of the two fellows that helped me clean out the copse of trees in the back. You would have thought I was showing them a parade of blue elephants!

And, lucky me, there were several bales of old straw that were perfect as compost. They were only recognizable as straw on the outside. The slightest movement caused them to fall apart and reveal an almost completely decomposed center, which was perfect for the lower levels of the layering process. Since I'm going to be building each bed up to a height of 24 inches, I'll save the top five layers for real peat moss and soil.

We've been given a respite from cold, harsh, days, so I should be able to finish everything before another blast of cold weather is upon us. I would like to have at least one good rainy, snowy, coverage over each bed to hasten the decomposition of everything before I start planting in February.

During that rush of cold, I'll be getting my planting sheets ready, using newspaper and a very thin flour solution to position the seeds in their final resting place. Although this isn't mentioned in the lasagna gardening book, it's something I have used in other container gardens. By putting at least two seeds together for syzygy, I'm able to cut out the thinning and transplanting step for almost all of my veggies. This is simply a great way to garden in retirement.

Will be picking up a new digital camera over the weekend so that I can post some pictures at my Creative Handz site. A fast Google on lasagna gardening will bring up any number of sites that show the process, so I don't feel too bad about not sharing mine. I do, however, want to chronicle each garden' s progress.

Now, back to my catalogs.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Bathing Suit Fiasco on Apprentice

Okay. The less said about this show, the better. Unless something truly outstanding occurs on this season's Apprentice, I'm just going to do little dribs and drabs. My dribs and drabs for today is the creation of a bathing suit line task. Nice little reality show overview here.

Back to the bathing suit. I don't think a team member from either side should have been involved in modeling during their task. This year's Apprentice is showing less strategizing with real leadership initiative than previous years, and I would have preferred that the teams have others do the modeling, while they focused on creating the best presentation. (Am I wrong or are the teams not getting any budget money for tasks, this year?)

I'm still not sure why Donald fired Carey, whether for lack of business acumen or Carey's incredible body displaying the bathing suit to its best advantage. My biggest problem with Carey is his agenda seemed more self-promotion than teamwork participation. Donald spent so much time attacking the colors of the suit, rather than the cut, that I simply became confused as to just why he was firing him. Even replaying the moment hasn't helped. I just missed it and will have to go to the network for a breakdown.

I'm missing a lot from this year's show. I'm missing the professionalism, the decisions made as a result of solid team discussion, and a general lack of a willingness to take charge. I've spoken to the tent issue, and I simply won't go there, anymore. I miss -- well, I just miss the initial premise of The Apprentice before Trump went Hollywood.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Rosie, The Donald, Fussin' and Feudin'

I don't really want to get into the feud between Donald Trump and Rosie O'Donnell but I can't let it simply pass by without some comment. While the immediate fallout is more publicity for both stars' television shows, it's been interesting to watch each member as they conduct themselves whilst it plays out.

If my chronology is correct, it was Rosie who attacked The Donald, first, passing judgment on his decision to allow one of his own employees (Miss USA Tara Connor) to retain her title after some adverse publicity . Using the broadest sense of the term "employee" of Mr. Trump, if he is the owner of the pageant and all public relations activities that take place, that winner is in the employ of Mr. Trump during the year of her reign.

I don't disagree with Rosie's (or, anyone's) right to comment but she is the one that brought it down to peckish childish behavior by attempting to impersonate and demean Mr. Trump's hair style and manner of speaking. (As an aside, I did notice that Ms. O'Donnell has been making her own hair more attractive since the feud started.) This was somehow supposed to validate her remarks; but, it simply made her look foolish and attention-grabbing, to me.

Any employer has the right to decide whether or not an employee remains within their organization after carefully reviewing what detrimental effect, if any, the employee's behavior would have to the company, should they remain employed. Reigning queens, whether beauty pageant or country leader, are expected to behave in an exemplary way, like it or not, as they represent much more than themselves.

After carefully reviewing Ms. Connor's behavior, Mr. Trump decided she could retain her title and continue representing the USA, as long as she received help for her alleged drug and alcohol abuse, which was made readily available to her. Rosie likened her behavior to Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan's public debacles. Excuse me? -- as if the two were the same situation.

Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan are not representing the United States with their public appearances, they are simply two young women who happen to be the daughters of very wealthy people raised without proper guidelines and scruples. (In contrast, Mr. Trump's children exhibit class, intelligence, and a true regard for what their position in life means, setting a wonderful example for our own children.)

In watching The View since Rosie's arrival, it appears as though she thinks this is her show and the others are her windowdressing. Almost every remark made is self-aggrandizing and meant to generate even more personal publicity. Team participation seems foreign to her and is lacking in most of the discussions. In truth, she is so strident, I'm often compelled to find another channel, just to get away from her noise.

I would suggest that she mind her own business, but that is simply not within her character. Since, with the networks, it's all about the money, it would be fruitless to hope she doesn't get her own television program. I prefer my talk show hosts having some semblence of class and that's a hands-down win for Ellen DeGeneres, any day of the week.

Bottom line, I'm sure that for as long as both of them have shows on television, they will find a way to keep the publicity fires burning. But, for this particular feud, I'm with The Donald.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Planning This Year's Garden

It's my favorite time of year. Time to pull out the old seed catalogs and plan for this year's garden. In addition to the catalogs, I've also discovered a great new source for seeds on eBay at very reasonable prices. And, they're great, but you just can't beat the slow turning of seed catalog pages next to a warm fire in the dead of winter. This will be my first full-scale gardening at the new house.

In addition to the large container garden, I'm going to have two smaller ones and two or three long lasagna gardens for grapes, pole beans and peas, and cucumbers. Have found all kinds of goodies in the copse of trees in the back and will use them for interesting supports. Cool-weather crop planting is just around the corner and seeds have been ordered.

I fell in love with the book by Patricia Lanza. It's easy to read, the instructions are clear, and you're a convert by the middle of the book. Picked up some Lime and Peat Moss, today, and the Good Lord has given me plenty of natural fibers. This is good.

Now, comes the great time of making charts and signs, and getting all my ducks in a row so that everything will run smoothly.

Don't know what was going on, but there were also three large plastic drums I'm going to use as rain catchers, too. Decided to make them art objects, as well, and will start some sketches. These are pretty big drums, so collecting enough water shouldn't be a problem. They're selling around $30.00, so that's a savings of $90, right there. Just to be sure, I'm going to give them a cleaning with bleach and paint a big "NOT POTENT - DO NOT DRINK!" sign on the sides.

Making the final decision of where to place the new gardens will take some time. Maybe a nice cup of tea will help.

Two People to Get Flyer? - The Apprentice 6

Oops! Forgot to post! Last week's Apprentice showed that, once again, this is going to be an interesting year. I've already decided that The Donald and I disagree about some things -- what else is new? -- and I would really like to know his reasoning behind certain choices.

For instance, what is the point of having the contestants spend the night in tents, if they haven't won? That seriously puts the losing team at a far greater disadvantage than if they had simply lost, regrouped, and applied themselves to the next task.

I would imagine that most of them have not spent the night with the elements since childhood. Having to physically and emotionally adjust to such conditions, while attempting to apply for an incredibly prestigious job, creates an unnecessary and offensive handicap. The fact that the teams lose by such small margins makes it a punishment beyond what is right. The difference was $118. Granted, they shouldn't have lost but it certainly isn't something requiring such a harsh remedy.

The winning team not only gets a special treat but is also given a complete night's rest with all the comforts they have been accustomed to (plus, the richness of surroundings) in their own personal lives. There is nothing to indicate that working for Donald Trump will require employees to sleep in pitched tents at any job site. This is obviously a ratings ploy and nothing more.

Watching both teams operating their respective car washes, I was struck by Frank's inability to show true leadership. His resume indicates a self-made man, not necessarily a lot of experience with teamwork. I was stunned when he took off to get flyers and then followed that up with running off to get posters made, after Martin pointed out the problem passing vehicles were having trying to read the 8.5 x 11 flyers he bought. I overlooked his obnoxious, loud, arrogant voice, thinking he may have shown some professional judgment. Right.

The most apparent thing to me, in watching both teams, was too much education overwhelming the need of elbow grease to get the job done. Several men refused to remove their business clothing and get involved in the actual hand work needed. Almost immediately, the decision was made to let the "girls" wash the cars, while the "men" did the selling. Neither team had the brains to hire workers to wash and detail the cars, so they could focus on moving customers through completion faster and increase sales.

Although I look forward to seeing Frank go, Martin really showed that he wasn't a team player and, from the beginning, chose not to participate unless forced to by another member of his team. He kept telling the Donald how good he was and, yet, never backed it up with action when it was called for during the task.

My final disagreement with the Donald has to do with letting a team leader continue on in that same position until a team loses, in addition to letting them sit on his right-hand side in the boardroom. This establishes one person as a leader and takes away from anyone else having an opportunity to show their own skills and leadership which, I thought, was the whole point of The Apprentice.

What appears fair, to him, simply means that one particular team works well together but doesn't necessarily mean that that particular leader is that great. The team is working together because they each, now, rather foolishly, thought they would be given a chance to prove themselves as leaders during one of the tasks.

To have that winningleader sit next to him in the board room is ludicrous. Why not simply say that that person is now the new apprentice? How can you be involved in a hiring process and have the applicant sit on your decision-making board prior to being hired? This is wrong, on so many levels, that it boggles the mind.

I simply can't wait for show number two.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Greasing the Skids to Broadway

Watched NBCs "Grease, You're the One That I Want," auditions and I'm still in shock. I haven't yet fancied up to the idea of America choosing its Broadway Stars ala American Idol, but, obviously, this seems to be the trend. So, I won't belabor that.

What does bother me, however, about the process is the little regard some of those auditioning have for the viewing audience. The prescreening should have eliminated almost any contestant above the age of 25 to play the roles of Sandy and Danny, teenagers, on the live stage. Period.

Although time can appear to stand still visually, the human body and movement rarely retains the free motion of a teenager. I know. I know. Theater is illusion and older people have played younger parts for years. But, audiences aren't stupid, and the search should be for the most talented teenagers America has to offer.

Times have changed. Our young are being schooled in the performing arts, barely out of toddler clothes, and are quite skilled. For this revival production of Grease, I should think we would have more than enough young teenaged performers to choose from, without having to resort to using people too old for the part, as if the theater were in some backwater community putting on a show after the drug store closes.

Of course, this would take away from the joy of watching auditionees make total fools of themselves. Not that they can't dance or sing, (and did it, quite well, in their youth) but even the most casual glance in the mirror should tell them they are just too old for the part. Although, in that regard, I would have to agree that the show would be less entertaining for the viewers. But, come on, if these old fogeys are going to audition for part, the least they could do is look like a teenager.

I'm reminded of a production of Romeo and Juliet at Shakespeare's Avon Theatre, where the actor playing Juliet couldn't have been a day under 62! Try focusing on that story and feeling sorry for a 62-year-old with parent problems.

If they want it to sparkle, let the new Sandy and Danny reflect the blossom of youth. They are out there and we want to see them.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Reality Shows Are About Whose Reality, Again?

Been rewatching my tapes of the So You Think You Can Dance series and have fallen in love, again, with Benji. I hold firmly to my belief that that young man can dance to anything and doesn't have any bones connected to anything! Funny how no one really wanted him in the beginning. Doesn't it make you wonder what planet the judges come from, other than trying to revive old careers? The public invariably picks someone other than the one they declared would be the winner. Hmmmm. What does that say about the judges, about the critics, about Americans? Do we really care less about quality and training and more about looks?

I know these shows are all about entertaining us but aren't they also supposed to be about finding the absolute best performer? With American Idol just around the corner, Ruben Studdard comes to mind. He was all right. A perfect karaoke singer who was capable of following a tune. There was literally nothing special about him -- except, maybe, his girth.

The man would literally just stand there and sing in his sing-along-to-the-radio voice and Simon, Randy, and Paula would fall all over themselves trying to outdo each other in giving him accolades.

Good grief! The American viewers put him in the bottom three to go home at least three times! Yet, the judges kept telling us how dumb we were and how great Ruben was. I recall one session, especially, where they were doing the songs and all three judges attacked Clay Aiken for not moving around enough on stage during his performance. He was followed by Ruben, who barely moved, at all, was sweating like crazy, voice raw and cracking, and they went crazy with their praise and never once mentioned that he should have moved around more on the stage to try to engage his audience. Double standard?

Today, his records aren't doing the bang-up job expected and he's just won a lawsuit against his manager for mishandling of funds. Fantasia Barrino's records are selling in the middle range, and Clay Aiken has already returned to North Carolina. There'll be tours, but nothing like it was in the beginning.

Kelly Clarkson has moved into the stratosphere, to stay. She's the full package. In my opinion, this proves that you can't shove "stars" down the people's throats.

Those in the final top ten get their piece of the pie, as well. The runners-up have managed to carve their own niche in the music world, as well. Carrie Underwood has taken the Country world by storm and you can hear her latest Don't Forget to Remember Me song here. And Diana DeGarmo, from the 2004 American Idol season is now touring the country in Broadway: The Musical after debuting on Broadway in Hairspray.

My point is, the people make the final judgment, once all the hoopla of a TV show is over. It's a great platform for aspiring stars and they should understand that, from the beginning. Those that treat it as a perfectly normal event in the course of their lives are foolish, indeed.

Ask anyone who's been working their whole lives for recognition how easy it really is -- and, 22 years old isn't someone's whole life. Taylor Hicks (another dark horse, according to the judges) is on the far edge of a very young group, all things considered, and has really paid his dues. And, he was my favorite! Although, I will admit it helped in validating that grey hair was perfectly okay; especially, since it knocked about ten years off my life! But, truth be told, I like to see winners who really know what the struggle is all about finally have good things happen to them.

So, the new season starts this month and I'll be watching, along with everyone else. I'll pick my favorites and see how close my pick comes in at the end. And, that will be fun. But, nothing compares to watching the auditions! Nothing. It's the gravy on a great talent audition show.

Of course, I'm also laying in lots of popcorn for the Donald's show, The Apprentice, on Sunday. These are my three favorite reality shows, So You Think You Can Dance, American Idol, and The Apprentice -- because, they actually lead up to a long-term positive change in the applicant's life.

Most of the other shows offer celebrity fame, which means we're going to be forced to watch them for the rest of their lives show up for guest appearances on whatever the current talk/game show might be, not because of anything they did requiring skill, craft, or intelligence, showing they have at least put some of their own effort into the competition, but because they were pretty to look at during their fifteen minutes of fame. Aaarrrggghhhh.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Bringing It All Together

It's been coming for some time. After my server crash, it was time to rethink and break down the big site and create more focused ones for the creative interests. This blog will cover all new things happening, along with observations, and a reprint of older blogs that fit with current news. There'll be news about what's happening at,, and

I'm definitely not one for New Year's resolutions. Too much stress and I still have too much trouble trying to locate my glasses, much less the list. (No, it would be too long to commit to memory!) Besides, I invariably let myself down by the third week and start chopping at the list and, well, it's too personally humiliating to face my failings so soon into the new year.

But, if you've got some really great plans, you've got my congratulations and best wishes for staying committed -- at least, through Valentine's Day!

A Holiday Mix of Joy and Sorrow

The Holidays were definitely a mixed blessing for me, this year. It all started with my Christmas ornaments being stolen from my storage shed. The ONLY thing taken was my box of hand-made ornaments, one for each year of my family's growth, with so many special ones made by my daughters as they grew up.

My favorite thing was to sit in the quiet of the evening, enjoying each ornament and the memories attached to it. Now, that's gone. I almost put up a tree. Really. I almost did. Sadly, I found I couldn't face my tree without my memories -- it was just too open a wound.

We grieve for the loss of our loved ones and, yes, our pets. But, it isn't until we face the loss of those inanimate objects holding so many dear memories that we understand the links of love we have to times, places, people, and tokens of that love. The simple act of decorating one's home for any holiday is to remind us closer to those we love and all that we share.

Those ornaments shared and handed down from generation to generation, though tattered and worn, are the most prized. Mine, like yours, also had irreplaceable photos as part of some of those made by other loving hands. Why would anyone steal someone else's ornaments? It boggles the mind. But, according to the police, it's because they're probably going to be sold by someone else as one of their own handmade ornaments at some roadside stand or flea market.

Well, I didn't go looking for them. The idea of my doing that was just totally unacceptable. So, although I had absolutely wonderful holidays with family and friends, my favorite little tree ceremony has been put off until next year. Will start to work on some new ornaments this year, making new memorials for those I've lost.

There are so many others who have lost so much more than I that it's almost sinful to complain, and, for that, I apologize. But, I did want to wish all of you a great 2007 with lots of opportunities to make happy memories.