March 20, 2009

The Slab and other Stuff

Standpipes Waiting
The calendar says that spring begins today and there is a little bit of spring in the air this week, but it isn’t June yet.

I am trying not to write about the weather, but this time of the year living in New England IS about the weather. Though spring be around the corner it is never too late to snow, and we have had two snowstorms in the last week or so. Two weeks ado Sunday we had an overnight storm that dumped close to a foot of snow on the ground. That shut down the city for a day, by midweek it warmed into the 50’s and melted most of the snow. But come Monday, it was cold again and we got another 2 inches or wet sloppy snow. And then once more we re back to warm weather, currently it is in the low 40’s and rain.

But that isn’t really what I wanted to write about. More it is the secondary phenomenon related to all this snow that I call ‘the slab’. This is when a given car owner is too neglects to sweep the snow off the roof of their car. On the day of a fresh snow, this isn’t really a problem if one goes driving around it generally blows of the roof of the car creating a mini blizzard behind the car as one goes down the road. It is when the vehicle has been sitting for a few days and the weather has been through a couple of freeze / thaw cycles that it really turns into what I call The Slab. The layer of fluffy snow has turned into a solid slab of frozen crystallized snow, and if you are lucky and the thaw cycle was warm enough, there may be a couple of inches of solid iced on the bottom. At this point it can weight hundreds of pounds if it is on a large car or SUV.
A Mini-Slab

The fun part comes when one drives down the road with the Slab on the roof. If the roof of the car is smooth, that mass of snow and ice can let loose at almost any time; favorite points are on curves or at stops. A sudden stop can send the slab sliding down in front of the front windshield, sometimes taking out the wipers as it slides. A sudden start can leave it in a pile on the road forcing the car behind to drive over or around it. More spectacular is for one to take a curve fast and dump the load on into the oncoming lane. Hopefully the mass doesn’t hit another car but merely crashes to the road. He most terrifying version of the slab is found on the roof of semi trailers going 70 miles per hour when it suddenly catches the wind, flies into the air, breaks into chunks and then scatters about the highway. It is kind of the cluster bomb effect if you happen to be following closely.

Ah, life in the fast lane. I am not sure why I went into all of that – it has just been in the back of my min for some time.

Beyond that, life ha been following it’s own rhythm. The day-to-day routine has been the theme. Work for me has been pretty busy with multiple events most every week. There was a brief pause this past week with spring break upon the university where I work. At the same time it is the boy’s spring break as well. I have been able to take a couple days off and work from home, which means emails and telephone calls, but with things slow at work that is pretty easy to do. The trick has been to keep the boy busy, other wise he will spend most of his waking hours at his computer in Second Life, where he has a 2nd and 3rd and possibly 4th life acting out fantasies related to Star Trek, Dr. Who and Stargate. It is fine in moderation, but we know how members of the family can be about certain things. The concern is next week, which he also has off, but I am back to work being busy with multiple events. Mrs. is planning to take a couple of days off to tend to him next week; we will see what they have planned.

Speaking of the boy, we got his mid term grades a few weeks ago, and he was crashing and burning in math and science. About the same time we got an email from his math teacher telling us that he had only gotten a 29 on his most recent test, and she wanted to set up a conference with his advisor and us to see what we needed to do about his falling grades. We knew what to do: no drama next term, it was going to be study hall in the afternoons and we were going to sit over him while he did his home work to make sure that he was doing it all and doing it correctly. He protested mightily saying such things as, ‘I am going to be an actor, what do I need algebra for?’ you can guess how far that argument went. After several arguments over several days, we agreed that we would not restrict him from doing the spring play if he got it together and got his grade back up before the end of the term. He was satisfied with that compromise. A few weeks pass, and his grades arrived the other day. Miracle of miracles, he did manage to get his grades in science and math back up. It was up to a C, but it was passing grade. His teachers in both subjects commented on his sudden turnaround. For now he has earned the right to participate in the spring show, and we are still going to meet with his teachers, and formulate a plan to make sure that he doesn’t backslide.

By the way, my counter argument about actors not needing math went something like this, when I was about his age, I wanted to be an actor too, I went to college and studied theatre and acted, but to make money to go to school I started working in the scene shop at my college. I found out that I was much better at technical theatre that I was at acting, which in turn lead mea to career as a technical director, production manager and theatre manager, and without decent match skill, I never would have accomplished that.

March 9, 2009

Playing Catch-up.

Ok, where was I?

Dear blog it seems that I have been neglecting you lately, It hasn’t been willful I assure you; life has been a little busy lately. Both work and family have been keeping me going most of the waking hours, and when I do have some time I am usually just to tired to actually write. On top of that, I have come down with one of the many colds that are going around, and that succeeded in sapping both my physical and well as intellectual energy, such as it is.

Let me think what has gone on. As I mentioned, work has been pretty busy. Last week there were 3 different events in 2 days, this week wasn’t quite so busy, but I have been having lots of meeting with the various groups who are putting on events. Sometimes I have a little trouble keeping them straight, I have been working with two groups that are producing similar events, one for the Caribbean student population and another for Latin American Student Association. There is a little crossover between the two groups, both of the contact people are young women with an accent, and for the life of me I keep confusing which group I am dealing with. Life is tough!

Beyond the usual student organizations doing their culture and dance shows, there have been a couple of different events that have broken the monotony. The first of the bunch was a puppet show being presented as a fundraiser for the children’s school that is part of the early childhood development program at the university a nursery school. Unfortunately it was an early Saturday morning event, that seems to be the best time to do shows for kids I was out of the house by 9am I arrived the puppeteers were already setting up, being an itinerant company they were well prepared and self-sufficient. I chatted with them while they were setting up. I have always had an appreciation for puppets. In my early career I worked and technical director for what is now a leading children’s theatre company and as a result I fell in with a whole variety of performers and other people who worked to entertain children. In amongst that community were a number of puppet people. I can honestly state that I got that know some of them and their puppets pretty well. More that once I found myself having a conversation with a particular puppet as opposed to the puppeteer behind it. I am a sucker for suspension of disbelief. Anyway, we had a little common ground to chat on. They were doing a piece called the Dragon King based on the Chinese folk tale, and while the dialog was recorded and sounded a little forced, their actually puppetering was quite skill full, and the puppets were particularly beautiful, in fact they left me a little slack jawed when I saw them the first time backstage. The pictures taken with my cell phone don’t really do them justice.

In the same weekend the theatre also hosted a local film festival. There were a few student entries along with some professional contributions as well. The most intriguing of them all was a student production called Honk: No Noise is Illegal. It is a 12-minute short documenting the annual Honkfest that is held in nearby Somerville over Columbus Day weekend. The event itself might be described as a community marching bad festival. But that would be understating the events, which more approaches what would happen if you had an anarchist convention with marching bands. I couldn’t find a copy of the movie online but here is a video that captures some of the energy of the event.

The films followed by a live musical performance by jazz drummer Terri Lyn Carrington who just happens to be a local girl gone famous. She is now teaching at Berklee College of Music. It was nice to have professional musicians on stage.

I wish that those were indicative of the event that have taken place in the theatre, but that is not the case. We did have the University president speak about the financial state of the school. The news while not good didn’t turn out to be as bad as some had expected. The schools endowment has lost 25% of its value like so many other institutions, (some of that to Bernie Madoff) but unlike the big brother school in the neighborhood like Harvard and MIT, thanks to some conservative use of the endowment, the cuts will be minimal. There are no big layoffs planned, and other than some belt tightening no major cuts are planned, at least for the time being.

The big thing that has been keeping me occupied the past two weeks it he boy and the school play. His school mounted a very ambitious production of A Midsummer’s Night Dream, in which he was cast as Oberon. If you don’t know, Oberon is the king of the fairies, and it is a pretty big role, and he managed it quite well. His performance was appropriately regal and he had a good grasp of the language. The latter is sometimes difficult even for adults when dealing with Shakespeare. The boy seems to have some ability, dare I saw talent for acting; he is able to find the ‘moment’ where the text and the character meet, and he seems to have pretty strong stage presence, and he likes being on stage. In everyday life he is a little shy and reserved, and the stage seems to be where he can let lose a bit. That sounds like a familiar scenario. The big issue with this particular character was what to do with his hair. Waist length hair on a 13-year-old boy does create some costuming problems. Fortunately his mother, resourceful as she is every day in dealing the mop, came ups with a solution. She formed two braids at his ears trailing forward and then wrapped them around the front of his head pining them at his hair with about a thousand bobby pins, the addition of some gold bric-a-brac and viola a crown! A boy and his crown

I think I am back on a regular schedule now, between all the events at work and taxing the boy to and from rehearsal, I think I may have some time of my own in for the next few weeks. Spring break begins this weekend at the university where I work, and the boy has that week and the next off from his school for break. Mrs. and I have been scouring our schedules up the days to decide who takes what days off to tend to him and see what days we can take him to work with us. This is always a bit of a trial. In past years we have sent him off to the grand parents for at least part of the time he was off. That really wasn’t an option this time. I foresee lots of museums in the future.

I mentioned a while back that I was thinking about blogging about music, and hat comment brought positive reviews from for a couple of readers. In turn I have been giving it a lot more thought and I am working on an approach and trying to decide just how and whom I should write about. I read a number of music blogs and I am often impressed by the writing and insights that they bring to the topic. I don’t know that I am capable of that, but I will try to bring my own thought, likes and dislikes. May taste in music is varied and leans to the obscure, so we shall see how it goes.

Let me wrap this meander up. And hopefully I will get back on a regular schedule with a little more focus as to topic and subject matter.