Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween from The Muppets!

Less than a month before THE MUPPETS is in theatres! It's the movie I've been looking forward to seeing the most all year.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Cardinals Win!

Last night the St. Louis Cardinals became the 2011 World Series Champions. At the start of September, they were 10 1/2 games out and just about everyone had written them off by that point. I was at what turned out to be pivotal game for the Cards on September 9, 2011. It was the start of a three game match-up with the Braves. The Braves had a very comfortable lead against the Cards for the NL Wild Card spot. However, the Braves ended up losing that game 4-3 in the bottom of the 10th. That was the game that things went downhill for the Braves and uphill for the Cards. Over the next 7 weeks, the Cardinals went on to have one of the biggest comebacks and turnarounds in baseball history.

Even if you're not a Cardinals fan, you have to admit that this World Series was a great series. There was some bad baseball, but there was also a lot of great baseball. Games 3 (all of those runs) and 6 (extra innings and there were two times the Cardinals were one strike away from loosing) were particularly memorable.

In post-season, all the talk is going to be about Pujols. He's a great player and if he sticks in St. Louis, he'll have a career even after he retires. They'll put him in the office, maybe even hire him as manager if he wants. He'll get a statue in front of Busch Stadium and will probably be even more adored in St. Louis than Stan Musial. His agent want a 10-year $300 million contract. Had the Cardinals not be idiots and signed Matt Holliday for such an extensive and expensive contract (7 years for $120 million) in 2009, they would have the money they needed to keep Pujols around. Holliday isn't a consistent player. He has moments of greatness, but they aren't reliable. Pujols is and has been. In the next 10 years, Pujols probably will be reliable for that time, but it's difficult to say. Ten years is a long time, particularly when a baseball player is reaching the twilight of his career. I'm not sure what I would do if I was in Pujols place. He'll make a great deal of money either way and his family should never have to worry about finances ever for at least three generations. He'll make a lot more money in the short term if he goes to New York (about the only team in baseball with a bottomless bank account). However, if I was in Pujols's shoes, I think I would stay. St. Louis has been his home his whole career and no matter where he goes, he'll never have "fans" who like him as much as they do in St. Louis. If he stays in St. Louis and he gets injured or his career ends abruptly, he'll still be adored. If he leaves, he'll be seen as a traitor who betrayed his hometown for more money; in the St. Louis area he'll be the Benedict Arnold of baseball. The true Cardinal fans'll resent him for awhile, but then welcome him back with open arms whenever he does come back to visit, but most of Cardinal Nation isn't composed of true baseball and Cardinal fans. There are only about 15% of "Cardinal Nation" that are true baseball and Cardinal fans. The rest of "Cardinal Nation" is composed of fairweather fans who care more about the spectacle than they do the game. In fact, most Cardinal fans don't even consider themselves to be a part of "Cardinal Nation" (I don't, for instance). That's a neat little marketing tool creating by the Cardinal advertisers to get people to come to the games and sell merchandise to people who normally couldn't care less about baseball.

I'm relatively young, but I'm pretty much and old foagie, fuddy-duddy in the way I view the world and see things. Pujols is a great player, but he's only a part of the Cardinals. For me, the players I've enjoyed watching the most this season have been guys like this:Lance Berkman

David Freese

Berkman is a classic old-school ball player. He's not really skinning or overtly muscular. He's built they way Babe Ruth and Joe Jackson and Ty Cobb were. He looks the way a baseball player (except for pitchers) is supposed to look in my mind. Not only that, but he plays with a pure love for the game. You can see it in his eyes every time he's up to bat and with every play that he makes (see picture above). He loves the game of baseball. This season he's had a comeback, too. The Braves and Yankees all wrote the guy off before the Cardinals signed him this year. Even though he wants to coach college baseball in Texas after he retires from the majors, I think he'd like to stick around St. Louis until then. I know I'd love watching him.

Then there's David Freese. David Freese is a St. Louis native. When you think about it, it's pretty amazing that a local boy goes into the majors and eventually becomes the hero and MVP of a World Series playing for his hometown team in the ballpark not far from where he grew up. Freese has had a good season, but it's one that got better in the post season. Freese saved the Cardinals several times not with just hits and homeruns, but with stellar plays. Other players did, too, but the other players aren't local boys like Freese. That's what makes his story that much more special.

Congratulations, St. Louis Cardinals on a job well done. 11 in 2011. I didn't think it was possible, but it's happened. My Dad and Grandpa always said the "Cardinals can never do things the easy way." I guess this season has shown that. But, even though they didn't do it the easy way, they ended up doing it the right way.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


YELLOW ROSE OF TEXAS is a graphic novel that tells a variation of the story of Emily Morgan (aka Emily West). Not much is known about Emily Morgan, except that she was born in the East, was either a slave or indentured servant to a family that moved to Texas, and that she spent some time as a prostitute. Legend has it that Gen. Santa Anna was sleeping with Morgan when Gen. Sam Houston and the Texas army swept into the Mexican camp at the Battle of San Jacinto, catching Santa Anna and his army with their pants down. Emily Morgan is supposedly the woman whom the song “The Yellow Rose of Texas” was written about. This graphic novel weaves together some of the legends and facts about Morgan into a coherent whole that is a joy to read.

In YELLOW ROSE OF TEXAS, Emily Morgan is a slave to Ranse Morgan and his daughters Rosalie and Clementine. The book begins with the family being chased by outlaws as they attempt to cross the Guadalupe River. The Morgan’s are rescued by Erastus “Deaf” Smith. Smith and his friends escort the family to Gonzales, but before they arrive they are met by Santa Anna’s army and brought to his camp. What enfolds is part of the story of the Texas revolution interlaced and tied together by a love story between “Deaf” Smith and Emily Morgan.

Orsak’s artwork is well done. It’s not the computer-perfect imagery typical of comics today. Instead, it is reminiscent of old school comics. Some people like flashy computer generated art in their comics, but I prefer a more classical approach.

Overall, YELLOW ROSE OF TEXAS is a great graphic novel that tells a good story while teaching some Texas history. The story has appeal to both men and women. I also think it would make a solid basis for a movie. It was a wonderful read. It's another great book from McFarland Publishing ( 800-253-2187).

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Why Books Aren't Dead.

There's a lot of talk about the death of books. Though the popularity of ebooks rises, that doesn't mean that traditional books are dead. Here's an interesting post from a couple weeks ago that examines the subject in more detail.

Tony theTiger, the Jolly Green Giant, Cap'n Crunch Could Be Criminals?!

Earlier this year there was a rumor floating around that Captain Crunch was being retired by the Quaker Oats Company. It was suggested that the Obama's administration campaign against childhood obesity was the cause (Quaker Oats is owned by Pepsi and the execs at Pepsi were major contributors to Obama and his cronies). A few days later, after cyberspace was being swamped by commentary and complaints about the matter, Quaker Oats issued a statement that in short said they weren't retiring the good ol' Cap'n.

However, that rumor might not have been just a rumor after all. It turns out that a couple of years ago the federal government (a few months after the 2008 election) set up a new agency (do we really need any more federal agencies?) to look into "Food Marketed To Children". Part of the mandate of the new agency was to write standards for the food industry in marketing towards children. A year behind schedule, the group has released a preview of their "voluntary" recommendations. Basically, any food advertisements with cartoons or drawings are recommended to be banned. That means not only no more Tony the Tiger or Snap, Crackle, or Pop or Cap'n Crunch; but it also means no more Jolly Green Giant and Charlie Tuna. Illustrations of cows on milk cartoons (Prairie Farms, this means you) and drawings of personified carrots would be banned, too. The recommendation don't stop with fictional creations either. Celebrity endorsements and likenesses would be banned, too, which would mean good bye to famous sports stars on the front of Wheaties.

You can read a short article about this whole thing here.

Personally, I know there is a place for government involvement in society. However, the government is too involved in our lives right now. This is just another example of that. We the people don't need nannies. We need people who will actually lead. Things like this aren't an example of leadership. They are an example of government gone amuck.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Striking the Set: TEN LITTLE INDIANS Blog 10

It'll be two weeks ago this Sunday that we struck the set of Ten Little Indians. It takes so long to build and paint a set; the number of manhours involved is enough time to be working a full-time 40+ hours job for a couple of weeks. Then, when the show is all over in a matter of a few hours everything is gone and the stage is left bare.

I like set strikes more than set builds. However, it's because I feel more helpful at tearing a set down than I do building it. At the same time, set strikes are usually bittersweet moments. For several weeks, sometimes a few months you have been working with a group of people on a production. You've all been working toward the same goal of putting on a great show (outside of the plot for The Producers, I've never heard of anyone trying to put on a bad show; even those places that do really bad theatre consistently try to put on the best possible performances they can give). When strike arrives, you know that the little company you've been a part of, that has been a family away from your family, is breaking up for good. You know things are over when the final curtain falls, but it's not until when the set is struck that things can really sink in. The fellowship is broken forever by that point and even if you were all to meet again and do the same production at the same place, it wouldn't be the same.

The sweetness part of a set strike is the realization that you're actually going to have a little free time now, that you can spend some time with your family and friends, and catching up on the things you've been neglecting the past couple weeks (or in the director's case months). It's nice to not have to be in an anxious and frenetic state of apprehension and excitement. But, sooner or later you hear the siren's lull again and the process starts anew. It's a different cast and crew; faces old and new; new memories to be made and old skills to use and strengthen.

Ten Little Indians was a fine little show. I was privileged to have a great cast. Some of my cast were theatre veterans and a couple had never acted in a production before. Each of them had to stretch and grow and reach new boundaries. They did a wonderful job and I'm proud of all of them. I know that some of them I will probably work with again while there are others I might never see again except perhaps in passing. That saddens me a little because though I'm an introverted extrovert, I really do enjoy people and it saddens me when I meet someone and get to know them and become friends with them, but then have to say farewell. No matter how big I try to make my tent, I can't keep up with everyone (not even with Facebook).

The stage is dark now, the seats are empty, and the theatre is cold. The experience was a good one for me. I was incredibly stressed at times (partially because of the show, but mainly because of things happening outside the production) and I had to not be as sociable after rehearsals as I would have liked (when you have to get up at 6:00am every morning and drive at least 45 minutes to work by yourself, staying up to 1,2, or sometimes 3 in the morning is just not an option). I probably made everyone mad at some point. However, I think overall everyone had a good time and the final product turned out great. I don't know when or where, but someday I'll direct again.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

There Are No Ordinary People; You Have Never Talked to a Mere Mortal

Check out this passage from my favorite author, C.S. Lewis posted by Justin Taylor:
There Are No Ordinary People; You Have Never Talked to a Mere Mortal

Sunday, October 16, 2011


When I was growing up, one of my favorite edible treats in the summer was a tomato grown from my Grandpa’s garden. His tomatoes were always huge, juicy, and bursting with flavor. There were many times when I would just eat a couple of them for lunch. I think it’s because of my Grandpa’s tomatoes that I came to love the fruit. However, despite the mass production of this tasty little delicacy not all tomatoes are alike. From my fondness for the fruit, I read Barry Estabrook’s book, TOMATOLAND.

Before I began reading, I had assumed that TOMATOLAND was going to be the definitive history of tomatoes interlaced with an expose of the evil practices of the large corporations responsible for growing many of the tomatoes consumed in America. I was only slightly correct in my assumption because though there are a few historical tomato anecdotes, the book is mostly an expose of the how large agribusinesses are destroying this flavorful fruit.

The majority of the book examines how tomatoes are grown by large agribusinesses and how those businesses mistreat the mostly migrant workers that work in the tomato fields. The factual piece of information that I found most fascinating while reading TOMATOLAND is that most of the tomatoes in the United States are grown in Florida. Having been raised in the Midwest, I was shocked by that fact. Though the climate in Florida is prime for tomato growth, the soil is terrible for the plants. I would have thought that maybe Texas or California were the largest tomato growing states, but I was wrong. Since most tomatoes are grown in Florida, the companies that grow them have to go to extreme measures to keep growing the crops year round. So, besides using illegal migrant workers, these companies further their unethical practices by exposing those workers to dangerous, carcinogenic, and sometimes lethal working conditions. TOMATOLAND examines these practices.

However, the book isn’t completely negative. It also examines an alternative look at tomato-growing by telling the stories of some tomato growers besides the big agribusinesses that practice ethical business operations and humane working conditions.

There are a lot of statistics in TOMATOLAND and there are points where the first half of the book drowns in the names of chemicals and the statistics of particular court cases. The book is saved in the personal stories it tells, particularly in the last half. It was these stories (and the occasional tomato fact) that kept me reading until the end.

TOMATOLAND is not the definite book about tomatoes. It is, however, an informative, albeit often dry, examination of the large agribusiness practices that are destroying tomatoes and eradicating tomato taste. It also contains some wonderful stories about people around the country who are trying, sometimes inadvertently, to bring about a better tomato growing business. The book has appeal to those who like tomatoes and those who are interested in how large agribusinesses operate.

This Would Have Been a Better Movie

Here's another comic I found amusing. I saw this movie and read the book just prior to when this strip was published. The movie is ok, but the book is superior.

"Pop Culture Shock Therapy" Sept. 1, 2011

Saturday, October 15, 2011


Here's a comic from awhile back that I found particularly amusing. I love the book The Giving Tree.
--"Pop Culture Shock Therapy" August 15, 2011.

Final THE MUPPETS trailer

Here's the final THE MUPPETS trailer. This is a movie I've been waiting over a decade to see. Anyone want to see it with me on my birthday?

Director's Notes: TEN LITTLE INDIANS Blog 9

For those of you who weren't able to see the show, below are my director's notes that appeared in the program.
“Good evening.” That’s such a pleasant greeting. Yet, that greeting is forever attached in my mind to a rather large and rotund British man: Alfred Hitchcock. Hitchcock used that phrase regularly at the beginning of his tv series to greet the audience. It’s such a pleasant phrase, yet when spoken by Hitchcock that greeting took on an eerie and almost supernatural aura of suspense. That’s why it’s the perfect phrase to welcome you to Hard Road Theatre’s production of Ten Little Indians.

Though we’ve updated the setting, Ten Little Indians is a play written by another Brit: Agatha Christie. Christie adapted the play from her novel of the same name. Originally published under a very un-politically correct title, the novel is one of Christie’s best known novels and the play is one her most performed plays. Both works are now usually published under the title of And Then There Were None.

Though murder mysteries have become fairly common, as far as I know Christie’s novel is the first of its kind. It’s the first story where a group of unrelated people who have never met are invited to spend a weekend together in a somewhat exotic locale by a mysterious host none of them have met, but the host turns out to be a killer who murders each of them off one by one and in a twist, the host…well, I don’t want to give too much away now, do I.

I hope you thoroughly enjoy tonight’s performance. The cast is a great mix. Some have never acted on stage before while others are hardcore theatre veterans. They’ve been lots of fun to work with and almost every night I reveled in seeing them discover and reveal different nuances of their characters. I’ve enjoyed working with each and every one of them and thank them for all their work and for making this experience such a positive one. I would enjoy working with all of them again.

It takes a tremendous amount of time and effort to put together a show. It takes more than just actors and directors to make a show work. A theatre production needs people to design and help build sets, gather props, find and create costumes, set-up and run the sound and lights, stage help to set and remove props, businesses and individuals to donate money, etc. If you have any interest at all in being involved in a future Hard Road production in any way, please let us know. We would love to meet you and help get you involved! Talk to one of us after the show, sign the registration book, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

So, sit back, but don’t get too comfy. This is a murder mystery, after all. But, do have a “good evening."

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch Culls the Comics

On Monday morning I was reading The St. Louis Post-Dispatch had dropped six comics from its pages and replaced them with six other comics. The comics dropped were:

"Get Fuzzy", "Frazz", "Lola", "Rose is Rose", "Mallard Fillmore", and "9 Chickweed Lane." I'm not sure why these comics were chosen to "die" because in the small blurb in the paper (on the back of the front page completely away from the comics) it doesn't really say. There was no poll or survey; just an editorial decision. I know "Mallard Fillmore" got a lot of complaints, but so does "Doonesbury" and The Post-Dispatch would never drop that "comic". The paper tried dropping "9 Chickweed Lane" a couple years ago, but there was such an outrage they kept it. I like "9 Chickweed Lane", but it's the only one of the six dropped that doesn't have a large fan base.

Of the new comics chosen to replace the "dead" ones, one is a hugely unpopular one that The Post-Dispatch dropped years ago: "Bizarro". "Bizarro" was a comic that always polled at the bottom of every reader survey and poll the paper had. Yet, the editors kept it for many years before finally dropping it. Now, they've brought it back. Unbelievable.

For a newspaper that is struggling in an industry that is on the verge of collapse, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch sure enjoys edging itself further into decline.