Monday, December 27, 2004

MSC: Sean Kendrick in town

Sean and Sara Kendrick stopped by today, along with Sara's dad Billy Carter. Nice long chat. Sean and Sara have just moved to Encino where he'll be working/cowboying for the King Ranch. Says he got in a little playing last week at Scott Rotge's Nautilus Beach Bar in Kerrville. Also reports he's put together a batch of new songs. Will let everyone know what i think when he sends me a copy. Hint, hint.

ENV: Quake commentary

The extensive graphics on the earthquake/tsunami are located on my website here:

Update, March 26, 2005: Three months later the death toll is being listed as 283,100, with 14,100 still listed as missing, and 1,126,900 listed as homeless post-quake/tsunami.

Thursday, early a.m. Dec. 30 -- 86 shocks now associated with this swarm, many have been added to the data from Dec. 26 and a couple of days before. The biggest aftershock has been downgraded to mag7.1, which was the original pronouncement.The death toll is up to 80,000 and probably will break 100,000. Reports say there are still areas that have not been looked at in Sumatra, and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Included are a dozen islands which have five paleolithic hunter/gatherer/fishing tribes numbering 300 or less, any of which might have been completely wiped out in the tsunamis. The continuing heavy shocks must seem like the end of the world to survivors.

Onge = 95 people
Great Andamanese = 44 people
Jarawa = 300 people
Sentinelese = 100 people
Shompen = 300 people
Nicobarese = ca. 26,000 people

* * * * *

Friday, early a.m. Dec 31 -- death toll just upped to 134,000 after Tamil rebels weighed in. Another mag6.3 shock just hit the region (graphs below from Kilima Mbogo, Kenya (l) and Taipei (r)-- interestingly a number of the Pacific Rim stations have been down for several days).

There are now 107 shocks recorded from the swarm. The second largest aftershock has been upgraded to mag6.6.

The largest of the group -- 9.0, 7.1, 6.6, 6.3, 6.3, 6.2, 6.2, 6.2, 6.1, 6.1, 6.1, 6.1, 6.0, 6.0
Travel time for the shockwave to reach New Mexico was ca. 16.4 minutes, and 19.6 minutes to Brownsville.

* * * * *

Saturday, early a.m., Jan 1 -- There were nine more shocks yesterday and so far today, including another mag6.5 and a 6.1.

The death toll is now listed at 150,000. It's long passed being hard to comprehend.

* * * * *

Sunday, early p.m., Jan 2 -- 125 total shocks now listed, another on at mag6.2. Most searches for survivors now called off.

As many as 4000 Sweish tourists may be lost. Death toll in Indonesia now at 100,000.

* * * * *

Monday, December 27, 2004
Quake update

The region is now up to 40 large quakes, death toll 23,000 at this point and will undoubtedly get larger. The second largest quake has been upgraded again to mag7.5.

Still searching for the elusive "good" seismographic snapshot.

Update, evening of Dec. 28th

I assume that the big quake occupied seismologists for quite some time. That's the explanation i'd give for the fact that a series of new quake digests are now being posted, some of them from quakes that actually occurred as precursors to the big quake -- 9 of them so far. The total of moderate to large quakes associated with this swarm is now up to 57 (with five new ones over mag6.0). In addition, more post-quakes from the mag8.1 Macquarie quake have also been posted. Lost in the shuffle and just now posted from the last couple of days are a moderate California quake, a moderate Chiapas quake and a small (mag3.0) quake in Tennessee.
On the ugly side are the ever-increasing numbers of dead -- 56,000 confirmed at this point, and i've seen a new estimate of 100,000. Ghastly and maddeningly sad.

posted by tony g at 11:54:25 PM
Quake bad, not this bad
Okay, this quote was on CNN two hours ago.

"Some of the tsunamis reached as far as 1,600 kilometers (91,000 miles) from the epicenter of the 9.0 magnitude quake, which was located about 160 kilometers (100 miles) off the coast of Indonesia's Sumatra Island at a depth of about 10 kilometers (6.2 miles)."

I notified them about the math error -- the one where the tsunamis race around the earth almost four times -- but who knows if they got the message. In any case, there is an updated story with the same error repeated. The correct assessment of course, is more like 960 miles.
As an afterhtought i guess the tsunami didn't necessarily have to go around the earth but might have been launched instead towards the moon, which means it would arrive there in another day and a half at that rate. Moon look out!

Update: I got an email from CNN thanking me for correcting the error. I imagine the article was long gone by then anyway, but interesting that i should get an acknowledgment.

"Thank you for taking time to bring this error to our attention. We will forward it to the Webmaster so it can be checked into and resolved. Thanks again for your interest. Sincerely, CNN Public Information"

posted by tony g at 3:01:36 AM
Earthquake graphics
These are all now posted above.

posted by tony g at 1:02:45 AM

* * * * *
Sunday, December 26, 2004

Sometimes i wonder if it would be Christmas without some huge disaster or sadness (see Bam Earthquake 2003).

I have this particular fascination with natural disasters. We won't go into explanations now. Let's just say that i am particularly fascinated by earthquakes, and because of that have developed a connection or two, and am linked to the USGS earthquake info center. I get alerts when any sizable quake occurs around the world, and within minutes. By sizable that usually means a mag5 or greater. Last week there was an 8.1 between Australia and Antarctica, and i immediately knew that it would be the largest in the world this year (i stay up to date see). Anyway, it's remoteness meant there would be little noticeable effect and so it turned out.
I work nights right now, editing film. Last night i was working when the flash came across about the Sumatra quake. By my calculations, i knew within 5 minutes of its being recorded on US seismographs, which would have been some little while after the actual quake. I suspect the warning system works a bit faster on really big quakes because it needs to stir certain people to action. Because of that, the original warning post listed this one at 8.5, since revised upwards twice -- to 8.9 and then 9.0 (as everyone knows by now, the biggest since the Alaskan mag9.2 in 1964 -- the one that got me interested via National Geographic coverage).

My immediate thought was that this was a huge quake, even at 8.5, and knowing the rough location i also knew that developing tsunamis oculd be trouble. My first move was to hit the EIS site to look at details and to follow links to the tsunami warning system. On doing that i found that the two major systems, both Pacific, declared no danger, and no warnings were put into effect. There are no Indian Ocean systems. Of course, the Pacific system was right, because of the location of the quake, there was no danger to Pacific beaches, even though the site is part of the Pacific "ring of fire". The warnings did mention the possibility of tsunamis near the epicenter.

From there i started looking for SE Asian news reports. It took an hour for one to be posted, and that from Aceh, where the first report had nine killed. For a couple of hours that was the fatality total. I had a gut feeling that huge devastation was on the way, and here i am in podunk Texas with no way to warn anyone. It was as helpless a feeling as i've had since 9/11, watching the first tower in flames, then watching plane two approach, and then watching as people and then the buildings came crashing down. These are the only two such times in my life i've felt quite like this. That may be an artifact of the instant information age. I wonder how many will feel the sadness of this event in the same way, since it's both a natural disaster, and unattached to the red, white and blue.

I watched as over the hours the earthquake notices piled up in my email. One after another (and there's been almost zero mention of this in the news, though you hear talk of aftershocks), the tremors are pounding the area. At this writing i count 29 (updated) different quakes over 5.4mag. Any of those would kill and do damage in a populated area. In fact there was another quake (mag7.1; update, this one later upgraded to 7.3) in this swarm larger than the Bam, Iran quake of Christmas 2003 which killed 30,000 (none from tsunamis by the way; and which, at mag6.6, was far from the strongest quake of the year which was a mag8.3 in Hokkaido Japan with no recorded fatalities, and which place has been hammered by quakes in 2004 as well). In addition there have been quakes (aftershocks) measuring 6.5, 6.3, 6.2, 6.2, 6.1, 6.1, 6.0, 6.0, and 6.0, with the rest (in warning reports) measuring between 5.4 and 5.9. There are, of course, hundreds perhaps thousands more smaller shocks going on across the region.

Without tying this in to religion or anything like that, the period from Dec 24 to Dec 28 seems to me a very active period for quakes. Besides today's and the Bam quake it includes a 1939 Turkey quake that killed 32,000 (mag7.8) and a 1908 Italy quake that killed 70,000 (mag7.2). Off the top of my head i wonder if has to do with day length and extreme planet tilt, and perhaps lunar gravitation. While it's the period of the shortest day of the year for us, it is the longest in the Indian Ocean. Perhaps there is another swarm date around late June. Maybe i'll check it out. Perhaps i'm just blinded by current events and there is no tendency for particular dates. Someone need a graduate Geophysics project?

Anyway, very sad day. Besides the lives lost, many thousands of people are starting lives all over again today.

I will be sending an interesting graphic in a minute that shows the fault line, nearly 1000km in length; and some graphics from seismometers that i monitor.

Here is a link to a fascinating animated gif showing the tsunami progress from the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology in Japan (you'll need a high-speed connection for this i think; and it is hard to reach i imagine because of interest in it -- i will try to download and post it as soon as i can on my webpage).
posted by tony g at 11:12:45 PM

Saturday, December 25, 2004

MSC: Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 24, 2004

MSC: Holiday notes

Well, if you're one of our followers following at some distance here's the weather report. The low last night only got to 25, but it feels REAL cold. The wind has picked up this morning and it's dreary and overcast. Kinda like our version of a white Christmas.

Anyway, hope all's well with everyone -- have a great holiday! Hope to see everyone soon somehow someway.

all my best

Okay, so i checked the 24 hour table from a Weather Underground station closer to home (as opposed to the city station which seems to be sticking) and find out that last night there was a reason it felt REAL cold. It actually got to 21 with a windchill of 6!

D&D: Updating the schedule again

Here's the upcoming Diogenes/Dionysus schedule:

Sunday, Jan. 2nd (i'll be in contact)
2:00 p.m. 12yos at playground and dam, meet at Guadalupe Park, by UGRA Dam, Kerrville -- Taylor F., Nolan B., Connor B., Wyndham B., Jacob L.; 8yos at playground and dam -- Faith D., Martha D., Derek B., Chris B.

Still Scheduling Dates
3:30 p.m. Colt's call at the dam, plus scenics -- Graham D., Peter N.

5:30 p.m. for 6:00 p.m. shoot, Cop scene at Kerrville Police Department -- Peter N., Leaman V., Chris V., crew

6:00 p.m. at The Point dancing -- Lillian B., Whitney W., Graham D., Peter N.

6:00 p.m. Dusty's conversation (reshoot of scene 33), at Rio Vista -- Aaron H.6:00 p.m. Melissa's call from Colt, at an unknown house -- Lillian B.

9:00 a.m. for 10:00 a.m. shoot, Katy's call in the store at Alexa's Boutique, Kerrville -- Whitney W., Lauren H., Lauren B., crew

All Day - Four scenes in a high school hallway -- Peter N., Graham D., Lauren B., all support and extras, Holly R., Roy B., Marie C.

Various scenics, one-shots, and nightmare sequences

Thursday, December 23, 2004

MSC: Just today's news

Got an email from Scott Davis today (i've posted his blog in the column on the left). Great hearing from him. His blog led me to Wil Oakes' film site (also posted yonder) and Brian Hall's blog which led me to a webpage for the infamous Boy Scout Cookies. They'll be playing the White Rabbit on Dec. 28th at 6:30 sharp. If you know the White Rabbit, you know you better be on time, things move fast there. Wish i could go but i'll be rehearsing elsewhere that night. Check out the milk river website on the music calendar page (newly updated) for more info.

Meanwhile, the sun was out today and it wasn't miserable, but i'm glad we cancelled filming as i badly needed to catch up on sleep. Right now the temp's at 32, but it's supposed to fall to about 14 here tonight, with possible snow (judging by radar we're about to get hammered), and wind chill around 5! Oh boy, frostbite!

Stay warm.

D&D: Scheduling off for weather

Well, later today looks like it might be brutal with windchills in the low teens and the possibility of ice and snow, so i'm calling off Diogenes filming for the day. Zerosum plans are also in the basket because of weather. There'll likely be a hiatus from now until after Christmas time before anything resumes -- mostly for the holidays, but aso because the weather looks miserable for several days upcoming.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

EON: IMDb page

There is now an IMDb page for Everything or Nothing at:

TDB: More info on shows

The Drawer Boy written by Michael Healey
S.T.A.G.E. - Spotlight Theatre Arts Group Etc./Krause House
[A 20-year-old company located in the Texas Hill Country committed to the development of public interest in theatre. In addition to a regular season, S.T.A.G.E., Inc. offers unique touring productions. 1300 Bulverde Road, Bulverde, Texas 78163. The theatre is located on Bulverde Road, about 2.1 miles south of the junction with Texas 46 between New Braunfels and Boerne. Bulverde Road is just west of US281 (about 4 miles).]

This beautifully written play moves from toughness and hilarity to something devastating and tender. "THE DRAWER BOY touches the heart and mind in equal measure."
Cast/Crew: Art Peden as Morgan; Tony G as Angus; Philip Kazen as Miles.
Director: Catherine Babbitt, Assistant Director: Catherine Hayes.

Run Dates: February 03, 2005 thru February 20, 2005
Times: Thursday through Saturday at 8:00 p.m. (Dinner available). Sunday 2:30 p.m. (Lunch available)
Tickets: $14.00 for Adult and $12.00 for Senior and Student seats
Phone: (830) 438-2339
For Information Only please: E-mail:

Monday, December 20, 2004

D&D: Schedule updates

THIS SCHEDULE IS NOW OUT OF DATE! (check for newer info posted above)

UPDATED MONDAY, 20th, 8 p.m.

Here's the tentative upcoming Diogenes/Dionysus schedule:

Thursday, Dec. 23rd
p.m. Colt's call at the dam, plus scenics -- Graham D., Peter N.

Sunday, Jan. 2nd
2:00 p.m. 12yos at playground and dam, meet at Guadalupe Park, by UGRA Dam, Kerrville -- Taylor F., Nolan B., Connor B., Wyndham B., Jacob L.; 8yos at playground and dam -- Faith D., Martha D., Derek B., Chris B.

6:00 p.m. at The Point dancing -- Lillian B., Whitney W., Graham D., Peter N.

Scheduling Dates
5:30 p.m. for 6:00 p.m. shoot, Cop scene at Kerrville Police Department -- Peter N., Leaman V., Chris V., crew

6:00 p.m. Dusty's conversation (reshoot of scene 33), at Rio Vista -- Aaron H.

6:00 p.m. Melissa's call from Colt, at an unknown house -- Lillian B.

9:00 a.m. for 10:00 a.m. shoot, Katy's call in the store at Alexa's Boutique, Kerrville -- Whitney W., Lauren H., Lauren B., crew

All Day - Four scenes in a high school hallway -- Peter N., Graham D., Lauren B., all support and extras, Holly R., Roy B., Marie C.

MSC: Cirque du Soleil

Tickets for the Austin performances of Varekai are on sale here:

Houston tickets are available here:

D&D: Today's shoot and rescheduling

Well, today's store shoot didn't happen because of unforeseen things, so we'll rescehdule that. We were able to do Peter and Graham's scenics at the dam, but are rescheduling Graham's phone call shoot until later in the week and hope the weather cooperates.

Great stuff from the dam though -- i'll be posting some production stills from today. I did some more of yesterday's pics last night. These are all on the production stills page at:

Main site:

Production stills page direct link:

Sunday, December 19, 2004

D&D: Sunday shoot

Just a note that we had an excellent day of shooting today. Peter was in several scenics, the sky was brilliant blue, the sun bright, and everything went according to plan for the afternoon. Tonight's shoot with KPD fell through, we're still looking for the right cops, however, we played the scene out elsewhere to lay down the soundtrack and get the closeups, and once again Peter was just fantastic. Things are looking great right now! Chris and Leaman Valentine did a superb job tonight also on the cop voiceovers, so now we just have to pick up the actual cop scene and that part will be wrapped.

Monday we begin filming Colt's phone scenes. We start with Whitney doing the receiving end of the second call at Alexa's Boutique in Kerrville, which has graciously allowed us to shoot there. Then we move to Ingram Dam where Graham will do both of his phone scenes. In the afternoon Peter and Graham will do pickups on some scenics.

REV: Ocean's Twelve

Review, Ocean's Twelve, at the Plaza Theatre, Kerrville, 18 December 2004

12 Deus ex Machinas

Not a full review, not worth the effort.

Okay, i saw it Saturday. It's a decent film, with some cool CGI, a host of newish camera angles, some actors in roles a little out of the ordinary (unless you saw Ocean's Eleven: The Rehash), and some odd plot twists; HOWEVER, the finale depends so much on so many contrivances that it probably should have been named Ocean's Twelve Deus ex Machinas. Just a huge letdown at the end when you realize that all of what you were watching was to set up a silly fist and switch itself only seen in brief flashback and voiceover. It all felt very cheap and dissatisfying (how about the private conversation to set up the sting, that of course was only a setup for something that's already happened that they were already a part of -- it's kind of like eating a spaghetti dinner, and then discussing with yourself later how you're going to eat a hamburger for the meal you've already eaten -- okay then, you watch it and tell me it's not -- of course, what it was was a device meant purely to set up the audience, and is, perhaps the worst non-parody break of fourth wall i've ever seen). And the penultimate denouement, Tellour's capoeira through the "random" laser field in the museum, is especially disgusting for it's total improbability (of course with CGI lasers added after the dance, how could he possibly be zapped?), and the idea that it's being shown as it's being told in flashback (the explanation might take 20 seconds, the flashback is like five minutes -- i.e., ridiculous). As i said, hardly worth the effort to write about. I'm not recommending it to anyone.

P.s. the Julia Roberts as Tess faking Julia Roberts is neither original nor particularly satisfying, though it might qualify as cute.

D&D: Pictures posted

I have now posted a few production stills, and all the individual cast pictures i have on the MRM&F website. Bios coming soon, as well as more film info.

Here's the main website:

Here's a direct link to the D&D page:

MSC: Scott Rotge & Myles Smith

As i said, i spoke to Myles last night and he let me know that Scott Rotge had opened a new bar in the old Hill Country Opryhouse. The name of the place is "Nautilus Beach Bar" and it, of course, has a nautical theme (with a great looking saltwater aquarium awaiting fish), and an actual Nautilus shell nestled amongst the shelved liquor.

This is great news -- just check down the left column for my review of the last time i saw these two together and you'll see that my wish was for the chance to see them together more often. It looks like that's going to be happening. I went tonight to see Myles, and ended up with another night's worth of both of them swapping tunes. If anything, both sounded better, though when someone's as good as these guys, it's not a fair proposition to try to judge performances against each other.

Anyway, a nice evening, the bar filled up, and i heard at least one great new song i hadn't heard before. Be sure to check these guys out when you're in town. It's on Sidney Baker (Texas 16) in Kerrville, just a couple of blocks west of I-10.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

D&D: Website updates tonight

Tonight i hope to work on putting up some of the production pictures and PR photos on the website. Will also start filling in what bio information i have and can find on the individual actor and crew pages, so check it out when you have a chance. If, after tonight, there's a big blank on your page, or there's more you could pass on, please email it to me, or get me your bio form.


Friday, December 17, 2004

D&D: Some great news

I was able to talk to Myles Smith tonight. I'd emailed him earlier, but his reply got mangled somewhere. Anyway, he's agreed to do some music for the film, though not the song i wanted (because i was mistaken in thinking he had written it). Anyway, he's on the project with us and i think he'll add a great dimension.


D&D: Schedule update for Friday

THIS SCHEDULE IS NOW OUT OF DATE! (check for newer info posted above)

Hey Folks,

Here's how the weekend filming schedule for Diogenes/Dionysus is shaping up.

UPDATED SATURDAY, 18th, 3 p.m.

These are the things that are confirmed:
Sunday, 19th
2:00 p.m. Filming of visual scenes in Ingram and Hunt -- Peter N.
5:30 p.m. for 6:00 p.m. shoot, Cop scene at Kerrville Police Department -- Peter N., Leaman V., Chris V., crew

Monday, 20th
9:00 a.m. for 10:00 a.m. shoot, Katy's call in the store at Alexa's Boutique, Kerrville -- Whitney W., Lauren H., Lauren B., crew
1:00 p.m. Colt's call at the dam, plus scenics -- Graham D., Peter N. (if available)

These scenes are not yet confirmed:
Monday, 20th
6:00 p.m. Dusty's conversation (reshoot of scene 33), at Rio Vista -- Aaron H.

Sunday, Jan. 2nd
2:00 p.m. 12yos at playground and dam, meet at Guadalupe Park, by UGRA Dam, Kerrville -- Taylor F., Nolan B., Connor B., Wyndham B., Jacob L.; 8yos at playground and dam, meet at Guadalupe Park, by UGRA Dam, Kerrville -- Faith D., Martha D., Derek B., Chris B.
6:00 p.m. at The Point dancing -- Lillian B., Whitney W., Graham D., Peter N.

Open Date
6:00 p.m. Melissa's call from Colt, at an unknown house -- Lillian B.

Four scenes in a high school hallway -- Peter N., Graham D., Lauren B., all support and extras, Holly R., Roy B., Marie C.


ZSM: Ongoing shooting

Tomorrow will wrap up three days of filming on Ryan Batley and Leaman Valentine's dramatic project Zerosum. The film stars Alex Dunbar, late of the home-turf, but now ensconced in LA via NY. Today we filmed denouement shots at the Klein Crossing Bridge at dawn. Very cool. Yesterday we filmed some exteriors and interiors, and tomorrow we'll do the same. The film, on miniDV looks great and the script is a great read. Looking forward to seeing this finished product! Brooke Batley has been doing some of the first camera work with technical help from various locals, including Chris Valentine, Cheryl Adams and Lorene. Also in the film are Leaman himself, Isaac Dingler, Jessica and Dan Groat.

TDB: Show schedule

The Drawer Boy, directed by Catherine Babbitt and Catherine Hayes, will be playing at The Krause House, home of the Spotlight Theatre Arts Group, Etc. The show dates are February 3-20, 2005. The theatre is located on Bulverde Road, about 2.1 miles south of the junction with Texas 46 between New Braunfels and Boerne. Bulverde Road is just west of US281 (about 4 miles).

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

D&D: John Spencer's Cabriolet

John Spencer's 1939 Ford Cabriolet, named the "Most Beautiful Car in America" and featured in a scene in Diogenes/Dionysus.


TEM: New Subjects

Hi folks,

After interviews this past weekend, i have added two new subjects to the documentary project The Extra Mile.

They are both extremely talented Austin-area ladies --
Emma McNairy -- opera and musical theater
Brittany Parks -- modern dance

Congratulations to both. As i receive bios and info from them i will post it on The Extra Mile webpage at Milk River Music & Film.


D&D: Scheduling new shoot dates

THIS SCHEDULE IS NOW OUT OF DATE! (check for newer info posted above)

Here are the shoots i'm working on arranging for Diogenes/Dionysus. Of course, actor availability and weather will play a part. Stay tuned:

As yet unscheduled shoots
reshoot scene 33 Dusty at clique -- Aaron H.
School hall scenes (four separate scenes, hopefully at ITM) -- Graham D., Peter N., Lauren B., Holly R., all extras, all crew

Saturday, Dec. 18
5 p.m. Ingram VFD wreck filming -- Peter N.
7 p.m. Melissa takes Colt's phone call (at a house) -- Lillian B., crew

Sunday, Dec. 19
Noon Katy takes Colt's phone call (Alexa's Boutique, Kerrville) -- Whitney W., Lauren H., Lauren B.
2 p.m. 8 yos at the playground (Guadalupe Park at UGRA dam) -- Faith D., Martha D., Derek B., Chris B., (8yo Will), crew
8 yos at dam backdrop -- Derek B. (8yo Will)
15 yos at dam backdrop -- Graham D., Peter N.
4:30 p.m. Colt calls Melissa and Katy (Ingram Dam) -- Graham D.
discussion at the dam -- Graham D., Peter N.
7 p.m. Will gets stopped by cops (Kerrville PD) -- Peter N., crew

Sunday, Jan. 2
2 p.m. 12 yos at the playground (Guadalupe Park at UGRA dam) -- Nolan B., Taylor F., Jacob L., Connor B., Wyndham B.
12 yos at dam backdrop -- Nolan B., Taylor F.
7 p.m. Dance at The Point (Point Theatre parking lot) -- Whitney W., Lillian B., Graham D., Peter N.

I will be distributing costume instructions and scripts soon.


Sunday, December 12, 2004

REV: Santaland Diaries, Austin

Review, Santaland Diaries, Zach Scott Theatre, Austin, Texas, 11 December 2004

This Grinch is stealing Christmas
(read no further if you want to keep yours safe)

Okay, i try not to give bad reviews. If i think something is that bad i simply don't recommend it or leave it off my favored lists, and waste no time spewing about garbage. There are occasional exceptions - this is one. And the fact that this is a scorching review has less to do with the actual performance than with the situation.

For years i have been watching the abundant reviews and ads for Santaland Diaries at Zach Scott Theatre in Austin. I have often been tempted to drive down just for the show - the reviews are that salivating. But i never managed to make it - the season being what it is. Then one of my favorite Austin actors Martin Burke, the star of SD, bowed out this year to another favorite Austinite of mine, Rob Williams, to even more wildly loving reviews.

I was in Austin for a tight series of interviews and auditions and, while eating across the street from the theatre a couple of hours pre-show, realized i had enough of a gap to catch the show. I quickly sketched out an itinerary, and then headed across Lamar to get a ticket to assure i could get in.

Brief interlude - i am big on privacy, rebelling more and more lately against the onslaught of information prying that goes on daily around us, to us. Why does everyone need so much information? Greed. Now back to our regularly scheduled review.

I approach the Zach box office and say i'd like a ticket for the 5:00 show. Before i could reach into my pocket i was asked for my name. I gave it, but as i was spelling it realized that i really didn't want to be doing so. I know now i shouldn't have. Then i was asked for my phone number. I was silent a moment and then said, "i don't have a phone," which is the truth, but which answer i would have given even were it a lie. A lady sitting in the box office then turned to me and said, across the room, "Sir, we have to have your phone number," thereby accusing me of lying (which was okay since i gladly would've lied anyway, but somewhat unsettling nonetheless). "Why would you need my phone number?" i said. "So we can get hold of you in case there is a problem with the show," she said, lying again. My willing dispersal of my phone number is a license for them to sell me something - probably season tickets. I said, "You know, i drove 2 ½ hours to get here, i'm in town for other reasons and just thought i'd see a show. I just want a ticket. . . (thinking pause) . . . The show is a little over two hours off, and you'll call me if there's a problem?" "Well, sir, if there is a problem we need to get hold of you." "Well, i don't have a phone, which i told you a second ago, no home phone, no cell phone. I do have a work number, but i don't feel it's right to give you that because it's not mine." "Well, we'll need an email address then." "An email address? You know what, i'm not going to drive home, 2 ½ hours away, to check my email, and then drive back here, another 2 ½ hours, and be here in time for a show that's about 2 hours away."

I think she must have sensed that i was about to grab my money back (which i had handed over in the course of the inquisition) and they would lose out on my cash - they are after all a mercenary operation, and she said, knowing they (like all modernly greedy theaters) have a no-refund policy if something should go wrong and they had to cancel the show and i failed to make it home to check my email - she said, "Okay, we'll sell you a ticket, but you have to understand where we're coming from."

Well, no i don't, and sorry it was such a painful moment for you. What it is, is just plain stupid. What a good little obedient theatre should do is realize they are in the entertainment business, that they are trying to show people a good time. More than any advertising or word of mouth or unsolicited email or season-ticket-panhandling phone calls, what makes people come to the theatre is the enjoyment they have had before.

And mine was ruined for the day.

I spent the next two hours getting more and more incensed over what had transpired. So much so that i already knew that if either of those people were around, if i saw either of them point me out to someone else, as in "That's the guy," if there were even the tiniest provocation i would make a scene in that theatre they would never forget. I don't know if i'm a good actor, but i make a good scene. Ask me about it some time.

Luckily, i simply fumed through the show, looking for things to gripe about (and there was plenty).

So, you see my review is more about the theatre. Here's the first of the constructive notes that should always accompany a "professional" review. If the theatre insists on asking for people's names so they can bombard them with solicitations, then fine, do so, do it politely and nicely. Most people these days are oblivious to where all their names show up. Indeed, some people would die to be on Zach Scott's list. But not me. So, if someone says politely and nicely back "no thank you" then there should be no more talk, the cashier hits a nice little default key, hands over the tickets, and everyone is happy. The current homeland security style makes for a bitter patron.

So let's move on. This is a professional theatre. That means people are paid for their performances, and that costs money. Crew costs money. Everything costs money. So expect to pay. I can't say i was overwhelmed by buying a $40 ticket. I had noted in the ads that tickets were $28-40, so i assumed that only good front-area tickets remained. I did the old internal math thing about "How does someone with a family do this kind of Christmas merriment?" But it was not my worry.

Then i got seated. Back row, next to the aisle (maybe that was the premium, just in case i had to upchuck?). I now realized the $28 tickets were for children under 3 and the deaf-blind.
This is theatre in the round too, so i should be treated to it from different angles, at least a fourth of the time directed at me, which ought to make at least $10 of my $40 good for something.

Now, here's where things can get tangled in the review process, and i want to be sure i cover the angles so that i'm fair, and you can judge for yourself. The "show" lasted about an hour and a half. A little on the slim side timewise for a mainstage production, a $40 mainstage production, but i've been entertained for that long and felt fulfilled.

Except that, and some people may not beef at this, the real "show" - that is Santaland Diaries by Dave Sedaris - the show i came to see was 42 minutes long. How, you may ask, do i know this? Well, because when the "show" had been going on for 30+ minutes and there was still no sign of Santaland Diaries i pulled out my watch specifically to time the show (see, i had read in the Chronicle that it was an hour and a half show, and i started to wondering . . .). So i timed it - 42 minutes. The "show" therefore missed qualifying by two minutes for a UIL high school One-act Play. For $40.

Oh yeah, there was another 38 minutes of "show" but this is what it was: Meredith McCall singing a few Christmas carol parodies, followed by Rob Williams doing his world-famous making-a-bologna-sandwich-with-my-feet routine (eat that . . .), followed by the prelude to the "show," a song about masturbation by McCall (who sings beautifully about the wonderful things she can do by hand, while Jason Connor tickles her ivories) that apparently had absolutely nothing to do with Christmas (and was, in fact, pretty much a ripoff of the slam piece "I Am Stalking Myself"). All of this takes place with the actors' backs to me - in fact, the bologna piece i had to watch via overhead projector, which is just as well -- lucky the aisle seat for me. Oh yeah, as you can tell, i was getting in the Christmas mood by then.

So the show starts, i'm quite fully ticked off by now, and in comes Rob Williams, again actually, but sans bologna and pickles this time. Perhaps with a more pleasantly set up experience i might have enjoyed his performance more. He is quite the manic little elf, his delivery is choice, and he plays the yucks well, ad-libbing as necessary. My complaint is that the set is little more than the radio piece as originally done by author Sedaris. That it's delivered in its entirety to the audience, with Williams assuming his own persona in place of Sedaris, rather punctuates this. Is it funny? Yes. Is it Christmasy? Yes. Is it redemptive? Well, not that it has to be, but yes it is. But outside of the singular joy of watching Williams flitter about there is no overriding reason for it to be performed on a stage. More enjoyable? Yes. But more enjoyable for 42 minutes at nearly $1 a minute, no.

Did i mention that McCall at one point comes out the door next to me in the aisle, and the follow spot includes me, and that it is so bright i can't quite gather what's going on, don't know for a moment that she's there next to me, that i'm suddenly lost in that glaring spot with the entire, packed place looking at . . . me? or at least me too? That i feel silly looking at her, so i just sit there staring out. That i wanted to jump up and say, "Hey did any of you other folks hand over your name and phone number to these blokes, and still give them $40 -- or did you guys get a $12 discount for the personal info?" But i didn't. I just took that humiliation the way i'd taken everything else that day . . . and vowed i'd never return.

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Friday, December 10, 2004

MSC: New websites

Most everyone knows by now that my huge website (and the other 20 i own/manage) were devoured by a computer meltdown of biblical proportions. I'm still trying to figure out why i can't access the server. Dang whippersnapper technology.

In the meantime i have created two separate sites to keep enough necessary info flowing to keep everyone updated. That's also the impetus for creating this blog, which i may or may not be able to keep up with. We'll see. So, welcome anyway.

Here's the access URLs:

milkriverblog --

milk river music & film --

personal site --