Sunday, December 23, 2007

fcc ruling

hey all--
here's my column from saturday. i'm out of town starting xmas day, so it might be a while before i post again. busy with all this christmas shite. does anyone else absolutely HATE shopping? i mean, i hate it in general, let alone when everybody else in the entire fucking world is also shopping.
in fact, i'm stalling right now, avoiding going out into all that.
oh well. read and enjoy, and please scroll down to the end to get the link to sign the protest letter to congress re: the fcc ruling.

Carpe Diem: FCC Threatens Free Speech Again

Kurt Brighton
December 22, 2007

Did you ever wonder why you can turn on a radio in Peoria, Ill., and hear virtually the same classic rock line-up as you hear on a station in Petaluma, Calif.? Or in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.?

Did you ever stop to ask why virtually every television network and chain newspaper not only went along with the run-up to the Iraq invasion, but in some cases actually led the cheerleading—despite the Bush Administration’s demonstrably fact-challenged rationale, which was leaking out even then?

Your answer lies in a bill that was signed into law not by some heartless Republican business tycoon, but by Our Boy from Arkansas, Smilin’ Bill hisself: the Telecommunications Act of 1996. And now the Federal Communications Commission has just ruled in favor of degrading media ownership restrictions even further, voting 3-2 to allow companies that own newspapers in the nation’s top 20 markets to also own television stations in the same market. Some observers say that a close reading of the proposed policy shift would allow this cross-ownership in any market, regardless of size.

The rule change would open the floodgates for conglomerates like Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, Gannett and the Tribune Company to further constrict their chokehold on what news is worth reporting. It’s even more chilling to think that these half-dozen or so CEOs would have even more dominance in defining what constitutes news in the first place.

Hope you’re a big fan of the type of “news” offered up by Nancy Grace, Glenn Beck and John Gibson.

All of this means it’s a good time to assess what has come to be our new media reality as a result of the Telecom Bill of 1996, since the same type of high-minded sounding rhetoric about “deregulation” and “competition” was employed to dampen the public’s fears back then. Since 1996:

• Cable television rates have risen nearly three times the rate of the Consumer Price Index.

• Radio conglomerates like Jacor/Clear Channel have gobbled up stations nationwide, control concert venues, and reap massive billboard advertising revenues, among other holdings.

• Minority ownership of television and radio stations has dropped to 3 percent and 8 percent respectively.

• Finding it easier and cheaper to produce content at a handful of “news factories” scattered across the nation, local content has diminished precipitously on stations and in newspapers owned by these conglomerates.

All told, we the people blew it in 1996 when we allowed the muscle of the conglomerates—aided and abetted by the fealty of congress members to their corporate overlords—to shove this anti-competitive, anti-free speech, anti-American bill down our throats.

We should not stand idly by and let the same interests pull the same trick.

This time around it looks like there is at least more awareness of the inherent problems: at a series of six public hearings staged by FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, 99 percent of public comments were against the rule change. In some cases, the comment period lasted well into the night, as people lined up for hours to have their two-minute say on the matter.

Also, a group of 25 senators has threatened to override the FCC’s recommendations, and prominent House members are voicing similar threats.

But it’s not over. The problem is that without congressional action, the vote-pushed through by Bush-appointee Martin over the objections of, well, nearly everybody—will stand. To make your voice heard, go here
and sign’s letter to congress asking them to overturn the ruling.


Sunday, December 16, 2007

mad about madd

here's my latest column from the paper. if you want more info on MADD and DUI law, i suggest these sites.



Carpe Diem: Drinking Becomes MADDening

Kurt Brighton

4:05 p.m. MT Dec 14, 2007

All right Fort Collins, you’re not trying hard enough.

Men’s Health magazine recently released its list of America’s “most dangerously drunk” cities, which was topped by the No. 1 drunkest city, Denver, with Colorado Springs coming in at a respectable third. Even Aurora made the top 100. But Fort Collins didn’t even make the list.

Excuse me?

I guess the editors have never been out in Old Town on a weekend, when one can witness our flourishing Idiocracy convening for its weekly meetings.
In all seriousness, the criteria with which the editors selected cities for this dubious honor are somewhat dubious themselves.

Some things make sense: They started with each city’s numbers on alcohol-related liver disease, and the Department of Transportation’s statistics on alcohol-related fatal car crashes. Keep in mind that DOT counts any alcohol involved in any way in an accident as “alcohol-related.” In other words, if you are dead-cold sober and you strike a wasted pedestrian attempting to cross Interstate 25 during rush hour, that gets counted as an “alcohol-related accident.” Who was actually drunk in the collision—or if they were even over the legal threshold for DUI—doesn’t matter. But we’ll let that one go.

Here’s where the criteria begin to get even fuzzier. Next up, the editors compared each city’s “number of binge drinkers,” data gathered by the Centers for Disease Control. A binge drinker is defined by the CDC as someone who has five or more drinks in one sitting.

Or as the staff of the Fort Collins Now calls it, lunch.

Seriously, though, how did the CDC come by this information—a telephone survey? Did they send observers into various bars in each city and count the number of drinks each person had on a given night? And what if those five drinks happened on one night, but not for the rest of the month? Is that person still a “binge drinker?”

Another factor in the rankings that employed questionable use of statistics is the number of DUI arrests in each city. The higher the number, the higher a city’s ranking.
Question: If more drunks are being pulled off the streets, doesn’t that make a city safer? If Barney Fife is napping in his squad car in Dustville, Kan., while drunks weave past him on their way to the next bar, isn’t that more dangerous?

Finally, the last factor entered into the data was a Mothers Against Drunk Driving “report card” in which the organization assesses the efforts each city is putting into reducing drunk driving. This organization has been so corrupted by a growing ultra-conservative puritanism and the power and money that flow their way—as long as they keep the nation in a constant state of low-level panic about drunken drivers—that any statistics or studies they produce should be questioned. And then jettisoned immediately.

While MADD may have started out with the best intentions, these are the same people who are pushing to have interlock devices installed on all new vehicles—devices which are used to prevent habitual DUI offenders from starting their cars after blowing into an on-board breathalyzer. If a driver shows any alcohol in their systems, the vehicle won’t start—fine for someone who has racked up DUIs in the double digits. But what if you or I have a glass of wine with dinner? Or, God forbid, even two?

MADD made nearly $4 million in 2005 alone just from its Victim’s Impact Panels, a court-ordered re-education technique used in Colorado and other states for those convicted of DUI. And the nonprofit socked away almost $13 million in taxpayer funds in 2004 alone.

For years now, the organization’s agenda has been sliding down a slippery slope from preventing dangerous drunken drivers from hurting people to preventing anyone from drinking any amount and then operating a vehicle. Or maybe from drinking at all. There’s a difference between being impaired by alcohol and having alcohol in your system, and MADD has successfully blurred that line—and it is reaping the financial benefits.

Understand, this column is not meant to advocate drunken driving, or even drunken stupidity on foot. It’s to suggest that instead of swallowing whole the fear-mongering and incremental suspension of liberties that accompany the DUI issue, we should question any organization that finds its power and funding enhanced as a result of it.

And that includes the police.

been too long...

it's been a week since i posted here, and that is indeed too long. but the reasons for it are good ones, at least.

one, last week i went and saw "A Child's Christmas in Wales" down in Boulder, and did another review for the Denver Post. very exciting stuff. the drive down there itself was exciting enough, in a horrible kind of way: it was one of those nights when it was maybe 10 degrees out, and although they had cleared the snow from the roads, the entrance ramps onto the freeway all had snow - and therefore ice - dragged onto the road. in addition to the patches of ice and snow, there was also low-lying fog in nasty, blinding patches periodically on the way down and back.

now, in colorado there are apparently two schools of thought on dealing with fog on the highway, both of which are quite fun. one involves slamming on your brakes hard, despite the fact that fog is moisture, and when the temperature is so low, that means more ice. not to mention the cars coming up behind you who won't be able to see you until they're right on top of you.

the other school of thought says you should just keep going at exactly the same speed you were traveling at before, vision be damned.

along with everyone else on the road.

somehow i survived. to make matters worse, i was running late, of course. but i made it to the show, and it was a lot of fun. if you've only read dylan thomas, and not heard his works performed aloud, i recommend it. his language is so playful, using words as much for the way the sound and feel coming off the tongue as for their meaning. you can also access some recordings of the poet himself reading his works at this site, and audio interviews from the BBC at this site.

i also had a story published in westword about will hoge, an awesome musician of the blue-eyed soul/southern rock persuasion, an article that may have gotten me in trouble with my tenuous position at the post. they have exclusivity agreements with their writers that i was unaware of, though i should have been. oh well--we'll see what happens.

at any rate i had fun talking with him--one of those easy-going, unpretentious musicians who is easy to talk to. you'd be surprised how many musicians are either completely unequipped to deal with having a conversation with a stranger, or who are so full of themselves that an honest conversation is nigh-impossible. hoge was neither, just a regular guy whose job happens to be playing music.

the other thing i've been working on in my full-length play. i've got a newfound enthusiasm that is bordering on obsession. i've been waking up at these ridiculously early hours, and devoting myself every day to working on it--but not because i'm forcing myself to. rather, i am COMPELLED. which is a nice feeling. i have the story just about where i want it, and i'm heavily into chopping it down to a manageable size. i don't know if it's any good, i don't know if it will ever be produced, or if people will even like it when they read it on the page, but i love it, and that is all that matters to me at this point.

that, and that i will by god finish the bloody thing. i'm on revision #5, if that gives you any idea of the work i've put into it.

three, we've started rehearsals for "the harvey project," a really cool new play that has never been produced. i'm playing the lead, harvey smith a writer (heh heh) who has trouble staying in relationships (heh heh) and who is actually living in a world that is the final project of capricious God, who, it turns out, is a callow student. (!)

i'm having a lot of fun, and the director seems to have made good choices in casting. also, my dear friend nikki is AD-ing the show, and Judi, who directed 'noises off,' the last play i was in is probably going to play god's professor. heh.

well, that's my massive update. c ya.


Saturday, December 8, 2007

led zeppelin reunion

faces of death

here's my latest column from the paper. :P


By the time you read this, the much–anticipated Led Zeppelin reunion show may have already happened. It’s going down on Monday the 10th at London’s O2 Arena, and just by reading this, a deluxe DVD box set has probably already been shipped to your house, and your credit card charged $79.99.

That’s not to say the whole thing is simply crass commercialism. The demand is certainly there for a Zep reunion; in fact, as natural showmen, the three surviving band members have coyly dropped hints about the possibility of more performances coming—by expressly denying that any such arrangements have been made. Another teaser-denial is circulating, with organizers of the Bonnaroo Festival denying that Zep will be playing there. Though the band has left the door open to playing more shows, bass player John Paul Jones for one has said that the band has been offered “hundreds of millions of dollars” to tour North America, but that he wouldn’t even consider it—if he didn’t think it would be fun.

We’ll see how much fun the aging rockers have, come Monday.

Originally the band was asked to play a 40-minute set, but deemed that too short. After all, as Jimmy Page told, even three Zeppelin songs complete with all the solos could easily top an hour. The band has reportedly stretched out its set list to 90-plus minutes, and Page is confident the show will near two hours, although he claims he doesn’t have the energy left to pull off a three-and-a-half hour show anymore.

And why would he? He was born before World War Two ended, and spent a good decade or more living as the prototypical “golden god” of rock, consuming more whiskey and drugs during in that short time than most people would be able to survive – or even afford – over the course of a lifetime. Who can blame the guy for being tired?

Which brings me to my point: is anyone else sick of aging rockers tottering out on stage with their intravenous drips and colostomy bags tucked carefully beneath their costumes, which are hanging over withered, skeletal bodies—or worse, exposing years of soft living draped over the beltline of their too-tight jeans—attempting in vain to pull off what they did so effortlessly 30 years ago?

Don’t get me wrong—I grew up on this stuff, and I still listen to it occasionally. Although I discovered these bands after their heyday had passed, I started out as a classic rock kid, devouring Zep, the Who, the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix—you name it. The bands of this period are undoubtedly some of the greatest examples of not only modern musicianship, but also of the sheer effrontery, innovation and balls that rock is supposed to possess.

And I have nothing against performers re-interpreting their songs from a bygone age. I actually have 1981’s “The Secret Policeman’s Ball” on my turntable right now (yes, I have a turntable) because I wanted to re-examine Pete Townshend’s astounding acoustic performance of “Pinball Wizard” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again.”

But when you start getting Roger Daltrey and Townshend touring as “The Who” even though Keith Moon died nearly three decades ago, and John Entwistle snorted himself out of existence a few years back—while celebrating an upcoming tour—the whole thing becomes sort of depressing. Back to the incredible musicianship of these bands: does anyone believe that Led Zeppelin would ever have achieved the heights – literal and figurative – that it did if John Bonham had never been part of it?

Why, then, is it reasonable to expect that the remaining three members can recreate that magic 30 years later?

It’s almost worse when all or most of the band members are still kicking. A Rolling Stones concert is, simply put, a sad thing. Their albums post-1980 are worse. The Eagles charging a minimum of $100 for a seat at one of their tired, barely-civil, retread shows is downright shameful.

It’s just not the same, folks. It was an enchanted moment when these bands first played, a perfect storm of post-adolescent dissatisfaction, joy and rage all balled up into a crashing symphony bordering on the supernatural, which cannot be recreated no matter how badly you want to return to that time.

Move on. I hear The MySpace has one or two bands on it. Maybe it’s time to check out something new.


Friday, December 7, 2007

areyou an asshole?

would you like to find out?

here's a test - the Asshole Rating Self-Exam, or ARSE for short - that can help you determine if you are or not.

of course, true assholes will probably have no idea that they exhibit the behaviors listed in here, so it might not be that accurate. :)

but a fun friday diversion, anyway.


Thursday, December 6, 2007

dreams, lost and found

images from dark passage, explorations of abandoned buildings

so, i've long been interested in dreams, what they mean, etc. but i don't subscribe to the literal translation of dreams; that is, i don't own a 'dream journal,' or any books that purport to 'interpret' your dreams for you. instead i think that what you feel when you are having them, and the emotions you have as you awaken from them are the most important thing, not, 'you dreamed of an oven--that represents you mother.' or 'an open umbrella is a woman.'

not buying it. it isn't that simple, i don't think. if dreams are your subconscious mind playing around with images, thoughts, and emotions that you experience in your waking life--that is, images, thoughts and emotions that you normally process with your conscious mind--then there is no real way for your conscious mind to logically deal with them. they are pure creations of the subconscious, a place that, by definition, we cannot get to consciously. therefore, any attempt to fence them in with conscious thought is worse than useless--it alters the pictures and feelings by forcing them to fit into categories for which they are simply not meant.

one of my favorite authors, william burroughs wrote an interesting and strange (believe it or not :) book about dreams late in his life, called 'my education.' in it he posits that the dream world we sometimes get to see in our sleep is the real world, and what we are living in from day to day in our waking hours is fake, a construct designed to confuse and hinder us, to prevent us from understanding 'reality.' he refers to something he calls the 'dream-wiper,' who comes along in the morning to wipe away your tiny glimpses of reality, and place you squarely back into your fake, grey, unimaginative world.

i'm not sure i agree with all that, but i think he is onto something with the notion that there is a world in there that is separate from this one, and that it is one we cannot fathom consciously. and, the book is especially interesting in that, as a writer who wrote so eloquently of strange, almost mocking worlds that mirror our own, burroughs has seen some bizarre and powerful images--whether they were in his head, or the result of heroin withdrawal is really immaterial--that have populated his books throughout his career, and which somehow resonate even more than so-called reality.

so, i admit it: i do like to write down dreams, when they are clear and when they seem to be particularly disturbing/resonant/emotional. i use some of the images and feelings in stories; in particular i seem to always have dreams in which i am trying to get somewhere that i really need to be, usually through some large and unpopulated building, perhaps somewhat crumbling, with many twists and turns. (that might be why i like that dark passage site so much; the images almost seem to have come from my dreams.) interestingly, there is almost always a door or passage i go through which is the wrong way to go, and through which i cannot go back, like a one-way door.

analyze that, mr. freud. :)

anyway, here's one from last night. don't ask what me what it means, and please don't try to have me committed:


two very distinct and sharp dreams, the first of which I recall better. There is a conference of some kind, a work retreat, and I am in a strange town with a bunch of people from work, only I don’t know a lot of them. There are some people from coop’s, sandi, specifically, but I don’t recognize most of them.

We are at some large and sprawling complex, many low-lying buildings with almost a military air about them, or at least with that cheap, government feel, like old state universities used to have. At first we are all hanging out in a common area, talking casually about what we are here for and what is going to happen. It seems there is to be a restructuring of the way we do business, whatever business it is (although there are coop’s people here, the workplace we all share in the dream isn’t the restaurant.)

Soon we are called to the meeting, and everyone takes off. For some reason, I have to go elsewhere before I go to the meeting, and I am separated from the group. Naturally, this leads to me being unable to find the room where this big ol’ important meeting is taking place. I search through this desolate and broken-down compound, and often the doors are unavailable to me, so I end up crawling through windows. at one point I see a car that is jammed up against and part-way into a building’s window, so I crawl into the car, and attempt to get through its safety glass which has been replaced with a plastic board of some kind. Every room I get into is desolate, unlit, and dusty, and has no egress into other areas of the building.

At one point I do encounter a sort of reception area, where busy people are running around and there is a front desk type of situation, but I don’t ask anyone for directions. I am walking down a hallway, thinking I am making progress toward my goal, when it suddenly occurs to me that I can use my cell phone. I call Nikki, and as I am asking her directions, the phone cuts out. I try in vain to get her on the phone again, but to no avail. Then I hear her voice on the intercom saying, ‘Kurt? Can you hear me? You want to go down the hall to the left…’ etc.

I follow the instructions as best I can, and end up on a lawn with all the people from before, who were attending this meeting. They are on a break of sorts. I ask sandi what’s going on, and she says that they didn’t want to start without me. Apparently darth vader is leading this meeting, and he just stood at the front of the room shuffling through papers, waiting for me. The other thing sandi informs me of is that it looks like I might have been chosen to lead in the new configuration of the organization that is being announced today, because everyone else attending got only a thin folder with a form paper inside, whereas they held back a crystal orb of some kind that it seemed like darth was waiting to give to me.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

carpe diem 12.1 - black friday

doesn't that look like fun?

here's my column from 12.1, re: black friday. i will never understand this day. i hate shopping so much, even normal, everyday shopping that i won't even go to the grocery store at 5:00, when everyone is getting off work. my ex knows i would rather eat lead paint and chase it with roofing nails rather than go to home depot on a sunday afternoon, and you'd have to sedate me to get me in a walmart pretty much anytime during the day.

i would absolutely freak out and go into a claustrophobia- and stupidity-induced coma if i were in one of the above pictured scenes. but anyway...

thanks to everyone who came and saw noises off--we had a great time doing such a silly show, and i will miss it--eventually. right now i'm still in recovery, although i've already started reading the next play i'm doing, 'the harvey project,' at openstage etc. will write more about that later.

also thanks to everyone who took the time to read my first theatre review in the denver post, on white christmas.

anyway. column from sat. happy shopping, everyone!


CARPE DIEM 12-1-07

The political primary cycle has long been known in certain circles as “the silly season,” and with good reason. We get endless recycling of stories about Barak Obama’s alleged drug use and what that might mean if he were elected. We get stories about Hillary Clinton’s “waitress-gate,” when she was alleged to have not left a tip for an Iowa waitress. And now there’s theories about the meaning of Mitt Romney’s underwear—a set of words that should never, ever have been strung together except in the Romney bedroom, and maybe not even there.

“Silly” hardly seems a strong enough word to cover this endless filling of empty space in print and on 24-hour news cycles.

What, then shall we call this most odd time of year, the period that has expanded to encompass the time between Halloween and December 26, a period when many Americans seem to go completely bat-shit insane?

I think we should call it “the schizophrenic season,” since all the tenets that Christmas is supposed to stand for go out the window entirely. For instance:

Black Friday: ‘Tis the season to witness grown men and women in malls bashing each other to the ground like chubby hockey players who happen to be wielding credit cards instead of sticks in order to get…a television? A vacuum cleaner? A game system?


We’re not talking about people struggling to survive, not fighting for food, or shelter, or to spare their offspring from the path of a speeding train, mind you. We’re talking about saving $50 on an X-Box 360 in order to spare poor Johnny and Susie from…boredom. For a little while anyway.

Welcome to the spirit of “giving.” But of course, when you think about it, this shopping madness isn’t about the giving. It isn’t about the people for whom the presents are being bought—it’s about the bargains the shoppers perceive themselves getting, and their sense of victory in feeling that they have pulled one over on the stores. It’s about buying something for someone else—or yourself—and getting the cheapest possible price. At least until December 26 when all the prices drop anyway.

So, at the heart of it, Black Friday, the kick-off to the so-called “season of giving” is actually about greed on the part of shoppers, and it’s about greed on the part of the stores, which, (shh! don’t tell anyone!) make money anyway.

But back to our collective schizophrenia.

The War on Christmas: This lovely little hateful canard gets thrown into the mix earlier and earlier every year too. This year Fort Collins had the dubious honor of having Bill O’Reilly, in his blinkered and stubbornly uncomprehending way accuse the mayor of killing Christmas by suggesting that holiday lights and decorations that aren’t blatantly Christian might be nice for people of different faiths.

So, let’s get this straight: every year, around the time when supposed Christians celebrate the supposed birth of The Prince of Peace, we get these vicious little trolls coming out of the woodwork screeching about how someone, somewhere is trying to kill Christmas because the lights on College Avenue are white instead of green and red? Or because the clerk in Target said “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas?”

And we are meant to believe that poor, downtrodden Christians—a group which, according to a 2002 Pew poll, are a tiny minority making up 82 percent of Americans—are under siege. We’re told that there’s a chance that the big bad atheists or non-denominational non-believers—or God forbid, Jews and Muslims—might be involved in an insidious plot to wipe Christmas from the face of the earth.

Why must a time of year when we are purportedly celebrating love, peace, hope and renewal be so tarred with hatred, vitriol, anger and greed?

And if it’s going to be that way, we should just call it what it is: The Schizophrenic Season.

Words of wisdom spoken to reporters by the waitress who supposedly got stiffed by the Clinton staff (but who actually got a portion of a $100 tip on a $157 check):

“You people are really nuts.”


Saturday, December 1, 2007

white christmas

very exciting news! got my first theatre review for the denver post! read it here.

i went and saw "irving berlin's white christmas," which, if you know me, is right up my alley. i'm all about the sweet, nostalgic warmth of family and holidays, chestnuts roasting on an open fire, singing christmas carols, freakin' sleigh bells...

okay, that's bullshit. i'm not a terribly sentimental person, to put it mildly. :)
but i have to say that, even walking in the door knowing that i was in for a light holiday romp based on an uber-sentimental bing crosby film from 1954, i was prepared to take in the show based on what people who like that sort of thing might like, if that makes any sense. that is to say, i was trying to watch it through the eyes of someone who is drawn to treacle and nostalgia, and prepared to ignore my own inner groans.

that said, these people put on an awesome show. it doesn't drip with sentimentality, they don't manipulate the audience--too much--and it is quick-moving and has some sharp bits of humor and acting that make the overall message of holiday spirit and falling in love not only tolerable, but actually fun to watch and kinda sweet.

god, i'm not saying this very well. all i mean is that not only did they do a great job with what they had to work with, they also did a great job in general, even for the jaded cynic in the audience.

whew. check out the article. it hopefully makes more sense than i am making here. :)


Monday, November 26, 2007

carpe diem 11-24

here's my column from saturday.
hope everyone had a good thanksgiving!


I’ve been flogging the subject of the writers’ strike in this space for the past couple of weeks, so rather than rant about it yet again, I thought I might take a look at some alternatives that are available for those who are starting to feel deprived as original scripts for their favorite shows dry up.

· read a book. Of course, this is probably pure fantasy, the most unlikely alternative to television in a society where people feel the need to have streaming video with them at all times on their iPhones, but it’s worth a shot. I’ve been re-reading some of my ancient favorites: “Catch-22 by Joseph Heller resonates more than ever in today’s lunatic-led, war-like environment, and I went on a Vonnegut spree recently. Also, a friend introduced me to Terry Pratchett a while back, and I ripped through half a dozen of his books in a few weeks’ time. Pratchett is a hilarious and sharp-witted writer able to skewer human ignorance and hope through casts of fantastical creatures like trolls, dwarves and vampires. Sort of a Douglas Adams (“Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”) of fantasy.

· catch up on movies. Apart from being able to drink beer and hit pause while you’re watching DVDs at home, another advantage is the extras available on most discs. I’ve long been interested in the actor’s process of creating characters, as well as the nuts and bolts of making a film, and many DVDs provide enticing glimpses into that world. Some of my favorite bits are outtakes where actors helplessly crack up: any recent Will Farrell movie is bound to have these; start with “Anchorman.” Judd Apatow, who produced that film, added a hilarious bit to the extras of the recently released “Knocked Up,” which he wrote and directed. In a five-minute pseudo-doc called “Directing the Director,” director Bennet Miller of “Capote” fame is depicted as having been brought in by the studio to earnestly help “shepherd” Apatow along, providing him tips on “his craft.” He offers on-set advice, giving notes to Apatow’s puzzled actress-wife Leslie Mann, and asks her if their marriage is “serious.” Another favorite is the extras on “Inside Man,” which actually has clips of the very first table-read the cast did.

· web videos rule. While the networks and the writers’ union squabble over who gets what portion of the revenue from online video, people are still putting new material out there. Comedy Central is touting the fact that every episode of “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report” are now online at (For a hilarious segment featuring Stephen Colbert simultaneously trying to report, eat a banana, and not crack up, search for “colbert prince charles” on “The Daily Show” site.) Also, the striking writers have a blog at Another site with tons of funny material is, a site started by Will Farrell and Adam McKay, where Farrell’s infamous “Landlord” videos debuted. Check out John C. Reilly’s Satisfaction Guaranteed,” a pseudo-commercial for a chain restaurant named “Pepperbee’s” where the manager really enjoys giving good customer service. No, he really enjoys it.

On a more serious note, Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails has a new video available at called “Apathy Kills,” in which he outlines in gruesome terms just how the media distract from the real and very dangerous problems we face. Backed with a strong beat and understated vocals (for Reznor, anyway) the four-minute clip uses footage of the World Trade Center towers falling, photos of Bush administration cronies cozying up with dictators, statistics and graphic pictures of those wounded and killed in our self-proclaimed war on terror. Juxtaposed with clips of Paris, Britney, and all the other starlet/train wrecks you can imagine, on whom we concentrate so much more attention than we do on fellow Americans who are dying every day, the video is damning indeed.

It’s a stirring call-to-arms, demanding that we arm ourselves not with guns, but with the knowledge that these heinous acts are being perpetrated in our name, yet benefit only a very few. It’s also a reminder that perhaps the only thing scarier than the Bush administration being in charge for the next year is the mess they are going to leave behind.


Sunday, November 25, 2007

abandoned II

'dark passages' is another site that explores the interiors of abandoned buildings. there are lots of factories, old hospitals, tunnels, etc., mostly east coast places.


i've run across some cool sites lately that have extensive photos of abandoned buildings. this site has tons of what photographer Chuck Hutchison calls "american ruins," shots of crumbling buildings, rusted out vehicles and equipment, etc.

shots like these remind me of where my relatives live in Indiana, and the conversations my grandmother and aunts and uncles used to have about the history of the area. there was always someone who had been 'burned up' in a fire, and a crumbling barn would spark endless ruminations on who had lived there and when. the nature of our economy today dictates that many small towns and even the cities of the midwest are dying, with people fleeing for more lucrative environs. and with no one new moving in, lots and lots of houses and factories just sit abandoned.

the shots also serve to remind us how fleeting our time here really is - all of these structures that humans build, the places where we live and work and raise families and die - these places will not last forever. i think sometimes we think they will, that by slapping together concrete and steel we have made something that will last forever.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

a thanksgiving prayer

happy thanksgiving, everybody. i'm planning to hang out with friends, eat lots of food, and maybe have a drink or two and a laugh or three. but sometimes it's good to be reminded of just what has been sacrificed by others so that we can enjoy our largess.

this is william s. burroughs' famous "Thanksgiving Prayer," a stark, moving, verbal slash at what our ancestors have done to make this country what it is.

Monday, November 19, 2007

carpe diem 11-17

here's another carpe diem column, from saturday. more ranting about the writers strike. there are tons of great videos about all of this, starting with this, this, and this.


As the screenwriters’ strike gains momentum, and the public begins to notice that their favorite shows may indeed be in jeopardy without someone to actually create the, you know, words that people say on screen, the battle has thus far gone in favor of the creative class, not the moneyed class. There are dozens of articles published each day in print newspapers as well as online dissecting the real issues surrounding the strike and laying out for television viewers just what is at stake, and the storyline thus far seems to favor the striking writers.

Not only are we approaching a time when “Law & Order” and “CSI” will run out of scripts, as have topical late-night shows like “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report,” we’re also beginning to witness what the networks have in mind to replace these shows: reruns and “reality” programming. After all, can you ever have enough “Dancing With The Stars?”

But as creative people, the writers have not shied away from using their gifts since their days have been reduced to hauling around picket signs and inquiring about the status of their 401k accounts.

In fact, in a delicious bit of irony, the writers and their supporters are using the very medium that has caused so much consternation in negotiations between their union and the studios—the internet—to mercilessly flog their corporate masters over what exactly is wrong with the deal the studios are proposing. There is a new crop of videos out there that not only showcases the picket lines, but also uses humor to illustrate the writers’ side in a way that the studio heads cannot express themselves—at least not without their striking creative teams.

One of the most ingenious and clever videos that have been created in support of the striking writers does little more than let the studio bosses use their very own words to hang themselves. In this short clip, which can be seen here, Fox’s Rupert Murdoch, CBS’ Les Moonves, Viacom’s Sumner Redstone and others are shown in interviews extolling the new revenue streams that broadband distribution of their shows will bring in. Of course, in negotiations with the writers, these same boasters have pled poverty, claiming that there is no more money, that the pie has already been divided and, so sorry, writers just don’t get a slice. In one especially telling bit, CBS’ Les Moonves lists all the people who will benefit from the new media distribution of their shows: “Wherever say, CSI is shown, we as the network, as the studio, as the production company, as the producers—we are going to get paid for it.”

Whoops. Forgot someone, there.

Again, let’s put this in perspective: for each DVD sold of say, “Cold Case,” the writer who put the words in the mouths of those fine actors you love so much gets around three cents. That’s out of a price tag of $20 or so. And studios are suggesting that it is reasonable that writers get exactly zero percent of digital revenue.

And here’s why this issue is so important: not only does the sudden halt in new programming illustrate how important a writer’s job really is, the strike also lays out in stark terms the dichotomy between those who create and those who just have money. While scripts for “Two and A Half Men” may not exactly be Pulitzer Prize-winning material, the studios can’t create it without a writer at the heart of it. Les Moonves can’t sit down at his typewriter and bang out an episode when times get tight. Could you? Could I?

The answer is no. And for networks to say on one hand that they are on the verge of reaping billions of dollars in ad revenue from the internet and other digital media, and on the other, that this redistribution of material that writers created is essentially worthless smacks of greed and dishonesty.



...what's the point of starting a blog if you're never going to update it, you ask? not much point at all. i've been slacking here lately, due to all the usual reasons: busy, drunk, lazy, etc.
but i'm very excited about the audiences we've been getting for 'noises off,' which runs through dec. 1.
yesterday we had a packed house for our first sunday matinee show, which is rare. they loved us, and gave us a standing o. always rewarding, in a cheap, sleazy, 'look-at-me' kind of way.
but what was funny about it was that during act 1, we all noticed a sweet lady in the front row who was completely crashed, chin down on her chest, snoozing away. lol.
no, really, it's a great show--you can sleep right through it. :)
here are some more reviews, along with a nice piece on openstage by lisa parker.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

carpe diem 11-10

scroll down for my latest column.

the writer's strike raises all sorts of thorny issues, what with the hollywood screenwriter not being exactly the most sympathetic character when it comes to siding with a striker. but the issues underlying the strike are fascinating, and also point out just how horribly skewed the entire system is towards those at the top - meaning the studio heads, not well-paid actors; actors' pay is just a drop in the bucket - making ever-higher profits on the backs of the people who created the content.

i hesitate to call it 'art,' as we're talking about television and movies - ALL movies, not just the good ones. but on the other hand, we are talking about creative people pouring themselves into something only to have fat rich men siphon off most of the resulting cash.

anyway, there are some great stories out there about the strike, some funny, some more serious, and some just plain silly.

'blood pizza,' indeed. :)




Like anything that happens in that otherworldly, mythical land we call Hollywood, the screenwriter’s strike that began on November 1 has a certain air of the fanciful about it. There aren't many strikes that feature so many cameras—not to mention cameos, like Tina Fey carrying picket signs and Jay Leno handing out Krispy Kremes.

Even what we call “Hollywood” isn’t in the actual place Hollywood, California, which is a seething freakshow of transvestites, drug dealers and rent boys. The glamorous Hollywood of our quaint heartland dreams mostly takes place hidden away far up in the hills above Hollywood, and in the great rooms of Beverly Hills mansions. That’s where the rich and beautiful ply their real trade—negotiation—safely ensconced behind massive gates.

And the fact that we’re talking about writers—Hollywood screenwriters, no less—lends the strike a certain loopy weirdness. On the face of it, it’s hard to muster a whole lot of sympathy for people who generally start entry-level jobs at $70,000 a year, topping out around $150,000. These are not coal miners or auto workers facing unsafe working conditions. Hell, they’re not even air traffic controllers, whose jobs routinely involve life or death decisions.

No one’s going to perish because a writer for the Ellen Degeneres show didn’t get hazelnut in his half-caf latte.

But, again, this is Hollywood. And when you compare the obscene wages earned by the pretty bobbleheads who speak those writers’ words on camera with the money earned by the scribes without whom even the greatest actor is helpless, it becomes apparent that writers are low man on the totem pole, despite being the creative engine behind the massive Hollywood money machine. And $70,000 in heartland money is a far cry from $70,000 in L.A. money.

But the strike isn’t even about Leo DiCaprio or George Clooney taking an unfair portion of the pie. Hollywood, like pro sports before salary caps, is a nutty nutshell of capitalism at its most absurd, with studios paying seemingly limitless amounts of money for big-name actors and directors in the hopes that their talents will return an even more absurd profit. Indeed, it’s these same studios that, having belatedly discovered the potential for profits waiting for them in the form of digital content, are hoping to seal a deal with the writer’s union that would ensure that the digital wave will wash most future profits into those lavish mansions owned by studio heads, leaving the writers in their seedy bungalows—in literal Hollywood, not mythical Hollywood—where they belong.

At issue are the potential revenue streams from digital downloads of television shows and movies. The technology is there, but the methods by which these formats are marketed and sold are still in their infancy—and both studios and writers can sense the coming flood. The studios are seeking to lock writers into a long-term agreement that would largely shut the writers out of future profits, and the writers are having none of it. The issue of where the media is going is so important that negotiations to alter the agreement by which writers get a share of DVD sales was taken off the table prior to the strike, in order to concentrate on the digital future.

To give you an idea of where a writer stands in the hierarchy of Hollywood, the current deal gives writers four cents per DVD sold. They were fighting to get eight cents.

And according to some prognosticators, the studios have looked at the short-term losses they will undoubtedly incur as shows featuring pundits like Stewart, Colbert, Leno and Letterman—whose content relies on daily writing—go into re-runs, soon to be followed by serial dramas, and then sitcoms. They’ve looked at the numbers, and figured they can still make a whole lot more money down the road, if they hold out and squeeze the writers—who generally don’t have the resources to weather a long strike like the studios can.

So for now, look forward to a whole lot more script-free dreck, brought to you by the makers of “Ow, That Was My Balls,” “Catty Bitches 7,” and “Dude, Watch This!”

Maybe a forced dose of “reality” television is just what America needs to realize how important the words spoken by actual actors really are.


Thursday, November 8, 2007

noises off 2

careful with that axe, eugene.

well, the first review is in on our play 'noises off,' and, i gotta tell you, this one is a relief. john moore of the denver post came and saw us last friday night and gave us three stars and pretty much across the board praise. he's always the reviewer that makes me most nervous, because he is tough, but mostly fair. that, and the fact that his paper is read by many more people than any of the other ones in the area.

i got a bad review from him in my first big show in fort collins, 'angels in america,' and the truth is it rattled me a little. ever since, i pick up the paper with a little apprehension when i know a review is coming out.

it's weird - even if you KNOW, for certain, 100 percent that you killed, that you OWN the role you're playing, that the audience connected with it, and that it was a good show, when it comes time to get reviewed, all the pathetic actor insecurity comes out. you start thinking about all the little fuck-ups, all the things you could have done differently, if only--in other words you get inside your head worse than chuck knoblauch trying to turn a double play.

and if you have an actor's version of 'the yips,' it's impossible to do anything genuine. it means you are up there, trying to play the part you've studied, and rehearsed endlessly, and thought about ad infinitum, and on which you've gotten feedback from your peers, your director, and maybe even an audience or two. but in the back of your head, you're thinking, 'oh, how is it going to look if i do that, or move over there, or say this line that way, or...'

in other words you become one step removed from your character, it is a phony mask you are attempting to wear, but one which fits badly. for me, the key to acting is not thinking.

there, i said it. it doesn't mean that great actors (and i do NOT include myself among them) are all idiots. it just means that the great roles you remember, the ones that really stand out as scary, or hilarious or just plain REAL, are played by actors who are able to shut off much of the clamoring that goes on inside all of our brains all the time. instead, playing their roles, they are able to simply be. maybe that's the draw for some of us who like to perform - it's an opportunity, if everything works out just right, to not only not be yourself for a little while, but also to have at least a chance of simply being there. without all the baggage and doubt, and insecurity - it's a moment when all the choices have been worked out for you, and all you have to do is follow the thread. you don't have to think about where to go, what the right thing to say might be... if it's done right, it's a chance to not only play someone else for a little while, it's a chance to BE someone else.

none of this is original thought on my part - check out a great book for more.

well, at any rate, hopefully that's just the first of many reviews, and i'm sure i'll hate some of them. :) we are definitely having fun, and the audience is too, so that's what really counts.


Monday, November 5, 2007

carpe diem 11-03

here's my column from saturday.


A few years ago, a retired philosophy professor named Harry Frankfurt wrote an essay entitled “On Bullshit.” It quickly spread on the internet and was later published as a book.

It is a short book, only because what it lays out is one of those ideas that is stunningly apparent, but only after the fact: much of what we are surrounded with is bullshit. We know this to be true, but until Frankfurt’s paper came out, it was never defined and dissected so succinctly.

The book is an invaluable tract to anyone who would like to have a better grip on the unreality that has become our reality today. The way Frankfurt defines it, “bullshit” isn’t a synonym for a “lie,” but rather: “It is just this lack of connection to a concern with truth—this indifference to how things really are—that I regard as the essence of bullshit.

In other words, if you are lying, you are at least aware of the truth, if only in terms of saying the opposite of what it is. If you are “bullshitting,” in Frankfurt’s view, you are completely removed from the concept of truth versus lie.

And I would take the idea a step further and say that we have finally gone round the bend, passed a magic threshold, accumulated a critical mass of bullshit to the point where it has in fact become our reality.

Hannah Montana started as a fictional pop star who sells millions of records, and is played by actress Miley Cyrus on the Disney Channel show of the same name. Now, Miley Cyrus playing Miley Cyrus playing Hannah Montana sells millions of records and sells out arenas like the Pepsi Center in a matter of minutes.

Fox News Channel is still called Fox “News” for some reason, despite the company’s lawyers fighting and winning a battle in a Florida courtroom, proving to the satisfaction of a judge that there is “no rule against distorting or falsifying the news in the United States.

And of course there are people like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, doing what they actually call “fake news.” Sadly enough, there is more truth, more slicing away of the layers of bullshit on their comedy shows than there is on the “real” news, where “real” reporters dutifully relay talking points just as they were instructed to.

Which brings us to the poorly-thought out FEMA “news conference” last week in Southern California, wherein FEMA employees were the only attendees—er, “reporters” who asked any questions of FEMA’s spokesman. Actual reporters were notified of the news conference, but only 15 minutes prior to it starting. And as anyone who has ever lived in, visited, or even heard about Southern California knows, 15 minutes isn’t enough time to even get to the freeway, let alone get anywhere on it.

The department’s chicanery was duly exposed—FEMA spokespeople apologized, Department of Homeland Security head Michael Chertoff gave the hoax’s authors a public tongue-lashing. And the whole thing made for great entertainment, and fodder for late-night talk show hosts.

But really, why not stage fake news conferences? In this era where public relations, image, and spin are always going to trump truth anyway, why not indeed? What the hell, we’re not going to hear anything remotely close to the truth from these people—we might as well get a good show out of it.

And if we’re all a little dumber for it, well…you get what you pay for. That’s your government hard at work, twisting and pirouetting and twirling around the truth till you can’t tell what it is anymore. And it’s easier to keep the populace in line when they not only don’t ask questions, but are actually so ignorant they don’t even know what questions to ask.

That's entertainment.


noises off

well, i haven't posted anything here in a while, due to tech week of Noises Off, which opened on Saturday night. it's a brutally exhausting show, with gallons of sweat and lots of panting, frantic running around up and down stairs. but based on what we've heard not only from our friends in OpenStage who were there at the opening night party, but also from our free student night audience on thursday and our corporate night audience on friday, it was all worth it. anytime you have a hot girl (hello, Nikki :) running around in her underwear and, ahem, a hot guy (hello, me lol) dropping his pants on stage, you're bound to get some kind of reaction.

but the laughter seemed genuine, and all the last-minute panic of wondering if i would remember all my entrances and exits, all my sardines and letters and costume changes and pants-droppings evaporated when i heard the house getting into it whole-heartedly. it is truly an amazing cast, and an amazing director, judi allen, who somehow kept her cool during the rehearsal process as she put up with all of us cracking up and forgetting even the simplest shit. "where are we?" indeed.

if i had been in her shoes i would have plucked out my own eyes long ago.

anyway, for a fun, silly night of theatre, you could do worse. it's running friday and saturday nights at the lincoln center through december 1 with some sunday matinees thrown in.

hope to see you there!


Sunday, October 28, 2007

am i weird?

so, this has happened to me a few times over the past several months, and i wanted to see if anyone else has had a similar experience. it only happens on nights when i've been drinking, so i thought some of my lushy friends could help.

it's a little disconcerting, and a little embarrassing, but what happens is i distinctly remember going to bed -- i even attempted to read a few pages, but the book was all wobbly for some reason -- but i wake up in the morning on the couch.

i have no recollection of getting up, i don't think i woke up in the night even to go to the bathroom -- i mean, i was passed the fuck out. but somehow, somewhere in my brain, it seemed like a good idea to get up and go lie down on the couch. the tv wasn't on, so i don't think i was watching, and even if i was, i was unconscious while i was watching it.

also, if it was a sort of sleepwalking decision to go watch tv, i would have gotten dressed (i woke up naked on the couch).


luckily i live alone.

unlike the people in england who work at budget motels and have been seeing an increase in nekkid sleepwalkers.

i don't mean to bring nakidity into it, it's just that that shows that it wasn't like i was awake at some point, made a conscious decision to get up (which would imply getting dressed) and go watch tv, and then just forgot about it by morning, right?

anyway, does anyone else have any sleepwalking -- or 'drunkwalking' -- stories?


no joy in rockville

here's my column from yesterday.
so sad.


There was no joy in Rockville today.

Well, there was joy for a few, but there were a lot more potential Rockies World Series ticket buyers who were joyless. Not only joyless, but disappointed, upset, furious, frustrated, livid, enraged, infuriated and incensed.

For not one but two days, people trying to score a ticket to see the Rocks play in their first World Series sat in front of computers that gave them the message that is burned into thousands of pairs of eyeballs across the state: “Our servers are experiencing extremely heavy loads right now. Do not refresh this page or you will be dropped to the end of the line.” The main difference between Monday’s aborted ticket sale and Tuesday’s was that the countdown timer on that screen was changed from 60 seconds to 120.

And according to tech experts, the message that screen bore was untrue; a University of Denver computer science professor told the Denver Post that the javascript code used on the page is unable to keep track of when an individual computer first attempted to log in. It was a ruse to discourage people from re-attempting to connect with the Rockies’ servers over and over.

Of course, there’s no real good way to sell the 17,000 to 18,000 tickets that were available for each game to a potential pool of millions of buyers. Systems like lotteries, or standing in line for days favor those who live close to the stadium—and don’t have anything better to do for a couple of days. These old-fashioned systems are also easily gamed by scalpers and ticket brokers.

So computers are the answer, right? Not that I or anyone else should really have assumed that it would be easy to get tickets—although news reports are filled with photos of sad-eyed, disappointed fans who seemed to be working under the delusion that just because they wanted tickets they should have been able to get them.

The real problem was in the Rockies’ computer system allowing potential buyers a glimmer of hope, then washing those dreams away in the form of a frozen web page.

I’m one of what sounds like many would-be World Series attendees who somehow, miraculously got past the “sit there and wait, you putz” screen and onto the actual ticket sales server at one point. I actually had four tickets selected for Sunday’s game, right field lower level, and had all my information entered into the system. I imagine myself telling the seeming tall tale in bars as I edge into my senile years, spouting off to anyone who will listen about the day I nearly scored World Series tickets:

“The computer even called me by name! I tell you, it’s true! The screen said, ‘Welcome, Kurt Brighton!’ with a little exclamation point and everything, as if to say, ‘Oh happy day for you! For you are one of the elect—you are one of us, part of Rockies Nation. Welcome!’ Imagine my elation…”

Welcome indeed.

Alas, it wasn’t to be. Once I got past entering my credit card information, a screen—a painfully, brutally slow screen came up asking me to confirm the info—and promptly locked up before it actually finished loading. So, I’m looking at a screen that says to confirm, but the buttons that allow you to confirm never loaded.

Confirm?? How?!? What do I do? Yell at the screen? (I did.) Punch the screen? (I almost did.) And since the computer geniuses who set up the Rockies’ system arranged it so that buyers timed out after five minutes to prevent—what, exactly?—it was all over by then anyway. The Post reported on a Denver attorney who was so angry about a similar situation that he made screen captures of the seats he “had” and faxed them to the Rockies ticket office, claiming they had a legal contract. He may sue the organization.

I do wish him luck. And I understand where he is coming from. To be that close, thinking it was a done deal, and then be denied—well.

I’ll be the weird old guy at the end of the bar if you ever want to hear the story.

The Mighty K has struck out.


Sunday, October 21, 2007

bonsoir, new orleans

here's an excerpt from a story i'm working on.


By Kurt Brighton

The flood came and went. And so did the mercy the country showed New Orleans. Mercy was already in short supply in those days.

It’s even rarer now.

Mercy is not a quality that travels well. It has to be consumed on the spot, no questions asked, or it immediately begins to decay. Like when a stranger offers to buy you a shot: you’d better suck it down quick. There are no rain checks on mercy.

It was an especially tricky tight-wire act, feeling compassion for a place like New Orleans. Within weeks of images of human bodies floating face-down in the murky water being beamed into their homes, people in other parts of the country began to mutter things like, ‘Well, it’s kind of their fault, for living in a bowl ten feet below sea level.’

Which was true, in a monstrous, dimwitted sort of way. But a deeper truth underlying that short-sighted sentiment was a sense of moral superiority, a self-righteous schadenfreude that remained mostly unspoken. In parts of the country, certainly in the fish-belly white, Bible-thumping beer-gut that spread across the middle regions there was a tacit feeling that New Orleans had gotten what she deserved: Old Testament-style retribution for her sinful ways. There was a lascivious smacking of lips at the thought of all those hedonists getting flooded out of their filthy, debauched homes, their sex toys and drug stashes ruined. The nation’s diffident response to the disaster reflected that simmering acrimony.

But no matter where they’re from, no matter who is in trouble, politicians can’t resist a good disaster. They’re drawn to human misery like moths to a flame. Or like flies to shit. They came ready with big talk and teary-eyed sentimentalism, cued up and delivered on-camera for a briefly fascinated nation. They cried out against the injustice of it all, and rolled up their sleeves as if they might actually do some work.

They didn’t, actually. And they didn’t stick around for long, either. In the days that followed the disaster—which was not entirely man-made—after the cameras had recorded their sound bites, after carefully measured doses of garment-rending had been doled out for the focus group-tested masses, the politicians quickly dried their eyes.

Then they reapplied their make-up, rolled their sleeves back down, hopped into air-conditioned limousines and fled.

Some of them stopped for dinner in Baton Rouge before flying back to Washington.

By and large, what they left behind in the restaurants’ toilets would be their final contribution of any tangible kind to the residents of Louisiana.

Most of the politicians were gone before the water even began to recede. The mud it left behind dried into a caked-on gray brick that skittered to dust when subjected to stress. When it was crushed underfoot or broken with shovels it released a sickly, greenish-gray powder that was laden with dried sewage, household cleansers, motor oil, industrial chemicals from downstream plants—gods knew what else. People picked through the sodden remains of their lives, wept, and developed chronic coughs.

The press stayed a little longer than the politicians, but they too trickled away soon enough. There were always a few die-hard weirdoes clutching notebooks, walking the empty battlefield streets of the Ninth Ward trying to look poetic. But the big boys were long gone. Their blow-dryers and wardrobe racks had long since been packed up and shipped off to more arid climes.

After all, there was always some missing 18-year-old white girl with model good looks and a skeevy 28-year-old boyfriend whose story needed to be reported, even when nothing was happening. And when the spotlight turned away, so did the fickle attention of America.

New Orleans had long been the outcast cousin of American cities, perched on a backwater strip of rich black river mud. She was the slightly seedy one who always smelled of trouble—and liquor—but who always got away without having anything serious pinned on her. She was the black sheep of the American family who showed up every other Christmas, or randomly called to see if she could crash on your couch—a call which invariably came in the middle of the night. She was “the fun one” when you were kids, the older cousin who secretly smoked out back at family reunions, the cousin who bought you booze when you were underage, the cousin who always had rolling papers for some reason.

She had a great laugh and endless stories to tell, all of them bawdy and hilarious, all of them pushing just past the edges of what was considered decent, causing the more staid aunts and uncles to get flustered and to try to talk over her before they eventually gave up and left the room. She wasn’t the type who got invited to formal events. You wouldn’t want her to meet your fiancĂ©’s parents, for instance. In fact, it was likely that your new spouse would only tolerate your wild cousin New Orleans while you were still dating, and only just. Grimly smiling and watching her through narrowed eyes, your wife-to-be would allow you to hang out with her occasionally, under strict supervision, but only until the day you heard those wedding bells. Once the honeymoon was over, the campaign would begin in earnest to detach you from cousin New Orleans for good.

At least she was tolerated—barely—back when she was a free-spirited party girl. But as soon as she was struck down by the hurricanes and the floods, as soon as she was helpless, all that changed.

America was not used to seeing her cry. That wasn’t the New Orleans we knew, and we turned our backs on her. She died just as gracefully, just as charmingly as she had lived, but she died alone. All the beauty and favors she had blessed us with over the years were forgotten. We abandoned her when it came time for her to depart.

But, hell, New Orleans had always been dying, even from her earliest days when she was little more than a series of planks set across the muck leading to shacks where travelers could buy liquor and sex. There was a Gallic sense of resignation embedded deep within her spirit:

Of course the sea would come, she shrugged. How could it not?

And of course, even fatalism didn’t help, not really. There was a sense of brutalization, of loss, a sense of betrayal after the flood, a sense that this oddly empty place that had been left behind after the waters had gone was not entirely real. What had been wrenched away could never come back. A certain magic was gone forever, destroyed by short-sighted, greedy men who did not give a good goddamn about magic.

Despite her reputation as a slattern, New Orleans had always had a certain innocence about her. She and her residents had been child-like in a way, in their unabashed desire to play, to feel good always, to be forever young.

That brightness was gone, after the flood. There was a hard edge to the faces that returned to their saturated, moldy homes after the exodus, a sharp-eyed suspicion that hadn’t been there before. They had been robbed of that innocence by a country that, in the final analysis, didn’t want to be bothered.

New Orleans slipped away under the waves, sad-eyed, weary, but smiling, while we watched from the safety of higher ground.

Of course the sea would come, we whispered. You knew that, darling.



Saturday, October 20, 2007

rockies nation

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
what? is there a game going on? is elway playing?

here's my column from today's paper. go to for other stories i've written.


CARPE DIEM 10-20-07

The Rockies are going to the World Series.

Who would have thought that those words could ever come true? With the club’s short, inauspicious history, a history of chewing up great pitchers in the rarified mile-high air before sending them elsewhere to nurse their wounded confidence and multi-million dollar contracts (hello, Mike Hampton) a history of many, many home runs sailing over the wall in Coors Field—not all of them for the right team—this day seemed like a pipe dream to many die-hard fans.

But who would ever have guessed just how many die-hard fans the good ol’ Rocks actually have? As entertaining as it has been to watch these unlikely, nameless heroes of Blake Street shred their way through the Phillies and the Diamondbacks as if their opponents were troops of girl scouts who mistakenly put on baseball uniforms, just as entertaining is watching all of these new fans cheer on their home team.

Er, did I say “new” fans? I meant, all these die-hards who have been way, way into cheering for the Rockies forever, since before they were even born, or at least since 1958 when their grandparents went to see their first Rockies games. The folks I saw cheering on the Rockies at Lucky Joe’s on Sunday night may have been fans since the late 1930s, back when the Black Rocks, as they were formerly known, played at Pike’s Field, that rickety old baseball stadium that was torn down in ’47. They’ve been fans since 1872, the year when Black Rocks organization first started, under the watchful gaze of owner Tiberius Monfort, the venerable old scion of the Monfort family fortune, first built on timber and silver, later moving into newspapers and railroads after the silver crash in 1893.

Okay, none of that happened. But if you watched the game in a bar the other night, you wouldn’t know it. You would have encountered “ancient die-hards,” and perhaps witnessed some proud boasting. Guys in Rockies jerseys that still held the creases of their original packaging and guys wearing Rockies hats so new they still had their “genuine MLB product” stickers on the bill argued about who had been a fan for longer. One screechy girl was so happy—though about what exactly, it was hard to tell—she couldn’t even form words. These folks were clearly die-hard fans, even if they didn’t know a Tulowitski from a garden tool.

But I’m here to help. Just some reminders to all those new—er, really, really old fans—who might not be entirely clear on how the game works. Here’s some helpful pointers to help you retain your die-hard cred:

· it isn’t necessarily going to be a good thing every time the batter makes contact. There are these things called “fly balls” that, when batted into the air, are often caught by the opposing team’s outfielders (those are the guys who stand around way out in the field.) Screaming wildly on a pop-out is a dead giveaway that you’ve never watched baseball before.

· throwing to first base when a runner is there- is a way to prevent him from getting too much of a lead (that’s the distance he stands away from the base). It’s part of the game, as are substitutions. Booing when the opposing team does either of these things makes no sense. In fact, booing a television set really, really makes no sense. I won’t get into how the whole electronics thing works, but suffice it to say they can’t hear you.

· The Rockies’ reputation of the past notwithstanding, high-scoring, multi-home run games are not the norm. Also, some of the greatest games are ones in which the final score is 1-0, or 2-1. Baseball is a battle of wits between managers, as well as a test of individual skills. The game has more in common with chess than with college football, so don’t expect scores like 21-3, and don’t think that home runs are the only exciting thing that ever happens in baseball.

And don’t ever, ever say “But nothing is happening!” or I will beat you with my tattered, forlorn, sweat-stained Braves hat, the one that reeks of shame and broken dreams.