Monday, October 30, 2006

Wisdom from Atticus Finch

I read a lot. One of my goals in life is to read 100 books within a year. I've never reached that, yet. The closest I've ever gotten is just under 70. I don't know if I'll make it this year either--I just finished my 50th book last week. One of the books I read (well, re-read) last week was TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD by Harper Lee. I first read this when I was a freshman in high school. I almost had to teach it last fall as part of my student teaching, but was assigned LORD OF THE FLIES instead. TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD is an American classic. It takes place in Alabama during the height of the Great Depression. There are some great characters in the book and the character of Atticus Finch is what Superman (after one of the major DC updates in the 1960s) is said to pattern the way he wanted to live as a human being. Anyway, I was reading TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD last week and I came across a passage that is thought-provoking and intriguing.

I'm an English teacher and am currently substitute teaching all over the place. When I first went back to get my certificate, I had a few of the same ideals about education as most beginning teachers do. I didn't have as many because I was getting started a bit later in the game. Anyway, after doing some of my initial observations and experiences, I became aware of how screwed up the educational system (particularly at the secondary level) in the U.S. is. I was once told by Howard Dean (yeah, the guy who leads the Democratic Party) that though there are problems with our system, we shouldn't be discouraged because we try to do something in the U.S. that no other country in the world does--we try to make sure that everyone has at least a basic, fundamental education. No other country in the world does that--in most places in the world after you reach a certain age, if you don't want to continue your schooling, you don't have to. It seems really nice when you first hear it and it does seem like a good ideal, but (and this comes after much experience) it's not practical and instead of doing what its supposed to be doing, its doing the exact opposite. By trying to educate those who do not wish to be educated, we are penalizing and punishing all of those who wish to learn. Here's what Atticus Finch had to say about that:

"Thomas Jefferson once said that all men are created equal, a phrase that the Yankees and the distaff side of the Executive branch in Washington are fond at hurling at us. There is a tendency in this year of grace, 1935, for certain people to use this phrase out of context, to satisfy all conditions. The most ridiculous example I can think of is that the people who run public education promote the stupid along with the industrious--because all men are created equal, educators will gravely tell you, the children left behind suffer terrible feelings of inferiority. We know all men are not created equal in the sense some people would have us believe--...--some people are born gifted beyond the normal scope of most men." p. 233, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, Harper Lee

I agree with Atticus. What do you think?

Saturday, October 28, 2006

World Series Champs

My team won!
Way to go, Cards!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Someone has a job interview Friday.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


Save the cheerleader. Save the world.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Pitching With Pine Tar.

So, how about Tigers' pitcher Kenny Rogers blatantly pitching with pine tar during a World Series game? Don't know what I'm talking about? Look at this picture. Rogers claims it was dirt and that he rubbed it off. Yeah, right. I've seen a lot of baseball and played quite a bit when I was younger and even during rainy, muddy games I don't ever recall seeing dirt like that. It would be easier to believe if Rogers hadn't been under suspicion for using other substances to pitch before. I wish LaRussa would have made a bigger deal about it earlier on in the game. Hopefully, it won't happen again.

But, that was Detroit. Now it's back to St. Louis. Go Cards!

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Program Bio.

Biography from Noises Off program.

Tom Varner (Tim Allgood)--Tom has performed in about 30 different plays. Noises Off is his 7th production with Hard Road Theatre. He was last seen on stage as Ken Gorman in last year’s HRT production of Rumors. Part of this past summer Tom was an animal wrangler for the On the Lake with Orlin and Arlen nature series. He also co-produced, co-wrote, and co-starred (as Ace McGregor) in the short horror parody film, Tremors 9. Currently, Tom is working on a screenplay (title to be announced later) that is scheduled to be filmed in 2009. Tom works as a substitute teacher and spends his free time looking for a full-time teaching job so he no longer has to refer to himself as “an unemployed English teacher.” His favorite song is “Stand By Me”. Tom likes vanilla ice cream and would like everyone to know that black footed ferrets are an endangered species.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

The Curtain Falls.

Last night Noises Off, the play I was in, closed. This afternoon I helped strike the set. I’m finding myself struggling through some mixed emotions right now.

The end of a play is almost always a bitter-sweet experience. There’s a lot of time, hard work, effort, and often money that each person gives to a production. It’s a commitment. Practices don’t always end when they should and sometimes after a long day of work rehearsing for a play is the last thing you want to do. Part of the payoff comes from the performances. I have yet to find something in my life that fills me with the joy, exultation, and excitement that performing does. As much as I enjoy it, it is nice to have some free time in the evenings again.

Yet, even now as I sit and write this, I miss the show. I miss the show because of the people with whom I worked, played, and performed with for the past two months. Old friendships were strengthened and new ones were formed. A small community was built. Now, the farewells have been made, the fellowship has been broken, and the community has been disbanded. Many of us will probably work together again. Some of us might not, but even if we were to all come together again, it would not be the same.

This show was really special to me. I’ve wanted to perform in Noises Off for a long time. I don’t remember when I first heard about the show. I made decisions in my life that would keep me in the area just so I would be close enough to do the show. For example, I really didn’t apply to too many schools that were outside of a 150 mile radius of the town where the play was going to be performed. Some people called me crazy. I couldn’t explain it to them. I just knew it was something I wanted to do and something I was supposed to do. For the past two months, the play has been a lifeline for me and it was actually something I looked forward to doing each night. Now, it is finished. The last set pieces have been taken away and the stage floor is swept and mopped.

There’s a line in the play that goes, “This is such a lovely company to work with.” It truly is. It truly is.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Some More Tidbits from Tom

The following will appear in a local newspaper tomorrow. I'm still trying to decide what to call my column, so please if you have any suggestions for a new name, let me know. Also, if you're in my area (anywhere near 45 miles NE of St. Louis, MO) I'll expect to see you after the show this weekend or next. ;)


Tidbits from Tom By: Tom Varner

This weekend and next Hard Road Theatre will be performing the hilarious and hysterical production of Noises Off. Noises Off provides audiences with a rare glimpse of some of the backstage antics that often happen between cast and crew during the production of a play. The show revolves around a second-rate theatre company producing a touring show entitled Nothing On. The audience gets a glimpse of the first act of Nothing On at the dress rehearsal, then sees the same act a month later from behind stage, and finally sees how the entire production completely unravels a month later. Watching the play one truly sees how the action, drama, and comedy in front of the curtain is nothing like what happens behind the scenes.

The show is being sponsored by Bradford National Bank. Performance dates are on Oct. 6,7,13, and 14th at 7:30p.m. and on Oct. 8th at 2p.m. at the Upper Elementary Auditorium in Highland, Illinois. Ticket prices are $8 for adults, $7 for senior citizens, and $6 for kids under thirteen. Ticket reservations can be made by phone at (618) 654-7748 and by email at

I was able to see Noises Off a few years when it was performed by another organization. It is one of the funniest shows I have ever seen. The people at Hard Road have gained a reputation for putting on high-quality productions. It will be worth your time to check this show out. Besides, the top-notch cast includes none other than yours truly, Tom Varner as Tim Allgood, the hapless stage-manager who attempts to keep the production running.

After seeing the show, rent the movie based upon the play. Many times when plays are made into movies, they don’t succeed. However, the film version is an excellent adaptation of the play. The movie stars the late Christopher Reeve, John Ritter, and Denholm Elliott as well as Michael Caine, Carol Burnett, Marilu Henner, Nicolette Sheridan, Julie Hagerty, and Mark Linn-Baker. Like all movies based on existing works, the film has been altered slightly, especially the third act, but overall the movie does a superb job of bringing the play to the silver screen.