Sunday, September 28, 2008


Or Dudes, I should say, as in, "What is the cast of the Washington D.C. Shakespeare Theatre's production of Romeo and Juliet made up of?" Dudes. All dudes. No women. An all-male cast, ala Elizabethan England. Now look, I understand that this is how they did it in Shakespeare's day - women weren't allowed on the stage. Elizabethan audiences were used to this, it was expected. But we've progressed a bit since then. Women have been playing Juliet, and the Nurse, and the rest of the female roles in Romeo and Juliet for hundreds of years now. And that's what we in the twenty-first century expect. So give it to me. Give me women. An all-male cast in this day and age is a little creepy. Especially when Juliet is played by some six-foot-something guy flapping his arms about like a chicken in order to convey deep emotion. Combine her (him?) with a manic Romeo, racing across the stage in a panic for nearly three hours, and a revisionist production that conveys the first half of the play as near slapstick, and what you've got on your hands is a failure, a flop, and a dud.

Look, there is natural comedy in Romeo and Juliet - the humor of the two over-wrought teenagers in love is written right there on the page and it's an integral part of the play. Romeo's friends, Juliet's nurse, and others make great fun of them. They may seem foolish to us when the play opens but they cannot seem like fools. The two are serious about their love and their love changes them - they find their better selves once they meet, they grow as people. We see it not only in the change in their personalities, but in their language. They begin the play meek, in Juliet's case, and in love with the idea of himself as a lover, in Romeo's case. They are still children and their language reflects that. After they meet, both their personalities and their language change. They grow up right before our eyes. They begin to talk in some of the deepest, most beautifully written language we know. And their love is real. That's part of the tragedy. But the producers of this version of Romeo and Juliet miss all that. They have the idea they can play the two lovers for fools the entire way through the play and still get the payoff of the tragedy at the end, which of course, they can't. They miss the growing up, they pay no attention to the change in the lover's language and personalities. They don't understand the play, or they do and decided that a straight reading of Shakespeare wasn't good enough for them.

More about the all-male cast in this day and age. When I see Juliet, I want her to be young, fresh, and beautiful. I want to fall in love with her. I want to feel about her the way Romeo does the first time her lays eyes on her - "O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright! It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night / Like a rich jewel in an Ethiope's ear / Beauty too rich for use / For earth too dear!" I suspect most men feel that way and I suspect most women want to feel the same about Romeo as Juliet does, or want to feel as loved as Juliet is. That's part of the attraction of the play. Put a man in the role of Juliet and that disappears for a lot of us, men and women. The greatest love story ever penned just makes us uncomfortable.

The slappy-happy production also misses out on another vital aspect of the play, its sexual passion and its sheer eroticism. These two kids are hot for each other. The double-entendres and sexual innuendo abound in Romeo and Juliet and we need them to be understood for the play to have its full effect. This production misses it all, or turns eroticism into dirty jokes, like a TV sitcom. When Juliet, in anticipation of making love to Romeo for the first time, says "Give me my Romeo, and when he shall die / Take him and cut him out in little stars / And he will make the face of heaven so fine / That all the world will be in love with night / And pay no worship to the garish sun", it should be clear at once that she is not simply signalling Romeo's impending death, but also talking about their sexual coupling. The phrase "to die" in Elizabethan English, meant sexual orgasm. When Juliet says, as she is about to drive the dagger home, "O happy dagger! / This is thy sheath; there rust, and let me die", again, she is talking a double language. She is killing herself in grief over Romeo's death, but she is also giving herself to Romeo sexually for eternity - she is the sheath for Romeo's dagger. These should be no need to spell this out in any production of Romeo and Juliet - it should be clear to all, even novices to the play. But in the Shakespeare Theatre's wrong-headed approach to the play, none of this comes through. When the two lovers lay dead on stage at the end, we feel nothing. This is inevitable in a production that plays the two for fools, but the real fools, of course, are the people who produced this travesty.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Weekday Postings!

I'm off work this week - hurray! I hadn't taken any time off at all this year so I have a bunch of vacation days left to use before the year is out: this week, a week in October, a week at Thanksgiving, and the two weeks surrounding Christmas. Plus I have four extra days to play with, which I plan to use in October during the major league baseball playoffs. I am normally up at 4:10 in the morning during the week and the playoff games start late and end very late, sometimes midnight or later. I can get away with four hours of sleep or less on occasion but doing it for many days in a row is simply too much. So I'll use those fours days in order to miss as little of the playoffs as possible.

And who do I root for? Well, I haven't mentioned it yet on this blog but I am a Red Sox fan and have been, like most people in New England, since birth. You grow up with the Red Sox in New England; they're part of the fabric of life. From the time you start to become aware of events around you, the Red Sox are there. It's a little hard to explain to people not from the region and who haven't gone through it. They're like a part of the family, or an old and beloved friend. Someone who is always around, always discussed, always cared for. The contrast between New England and here in the Washington D.C. area is dramatic. There, a day at work will never go by without a discussion of the Sox, how they did the night before, what's looking good for them, where they need improvement, etc. Here, I can go to work for months on end without anyone ever mentioning the Nationals or the Orioles. People around here are not baseball fans.

Anyhow, I am your normal passionate Red Sox fan. I watch them nearly every night via the major league baseball cable package. That said, I'm not a Yankee-hater. In fact, once the Sox are out of it I will normally root for the Yankees. This has to do with a few things. First, as anyone who has read this blog knows, I love New York City. I'm pro most things New York. Also, my dad was not a Yankee-hater either - he respected them. He was for the Red Sox first, then for whatever team represented the American League. When Rudy Giuliani, as rabid a Yankee fan as there is, said last year during his presidential campaign that he would root for the Red Sox once the Yankees were out of it because they were an American League East team, he was criticized and disbelieved but I knew exactly what he was talking about because I'd heard it from my dad growing up. He was an American League guy. That kind of thinking was pretty much a given back in the day when their was much more of a rivalry between the American and National Leagues than there is now, way back before this whole ESPN-fueled Yankee-Red Sox rivalry got out of control. Also, if you simply love the game of baseball, as I do, those Yankee teams of the late-1990s and early 2000s played the game the way it was meant to be played. It was hard not to admire them.

Anyhow, I haven't discussed the Sox on this blog yet but the playoffs are coming and they are now almost surely in so you'll probably be hearing more. The Sox may even overtake Tampa Bay for first place. As of this morning they are 1 1/2 behind the Rays, two in the loss column, and Tampa is in for a three game set at Fenway starting tonight. If they can take two out of three and pull within half a game I think they'll be in good shape to take the division. Winning the division means (I believe) they'll face either the White Sox or the Twins in the first round of the playoffs instead of the Angels. I want no part of the Angels. They've hammered the Sox all year long.

The dream World Series, of course, would be the Red Sox vs. the Cubs. A matchup of these two teams would electrify the nation for they are probably the two most beloved teams in baseball. The Sox had been history's most endearing losers until their recent success and the Cubs have now taken over that distinction. A seven game series, finishing up at Fenway (with, of course, the Sox winning it in the bottom of the ninth on a David Ortiz home run) is what I'm rooting for.

Anyhow, this was meant as an "I'm on vacation post" not a Red Sox post but there you go. There will be some postings during the week this week and certain weeks throughout the rest of the year. I just wanted to let you know since I know how much you all wait in eager anticipation for my next posting, clicking on refresh again and again throughout the day.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

A McCain Reevalution

The Republican Party has to be happy about their convention. I think it was a success on a number of levels. Ms. Palin's extraordinary speech was, of course, the highlight. But Rudy Giuliani's speech was also wonderful. He (and Palin, who immediately followed him) skewered Obama and the Democrats, but with a wink and smile, the best way to go after your opponents in this type of platform.

Fred Thompson's speech was also wonderful and many people commented on it. It concentrated on John McCain's time as a POW in Vietnam. My wife, who knew McCain's story only at a superficial level, had never heard the details of his captivity. I expect relatively few Americans had. The Thompson speech moved her and she came away from it seeing McCain in a completely different light. She still wanted to know afterwards about my and most conservatives disagreements with McCain on policy but she views him now with a new level of respect. She knows now that John McCain is a man of tremendous personal courage, one who puts country first. Due to Fred Thompson's speech and the convention as a whole I think a lot of people came away knowing the same thing. This is good and it should help McCain when he presses his reform message.

Now if he would only change his mind on campaign-finance, immigration, and global warming...

A Step Back

It was quite a week, wasn't it? Ten days ago relatively few Americans had heard of Sarah Palin. Now she is one of the most famous people in the world. She is a phenomenon, a political natural like we haven't seen in a long, long time. A few times during the week I thought my Tiger Woods thought - I'm glad I'm alive to see it. And while I hadn't thought of it until just this moment, she has much in common with Tiger, don't you think? She is utterly fearless, totally in control of her emotions, eager for the challenge, supremely confident in her own abilities, a bit disdainful of her competitors. And her competitors right now must be a little shaken, like Tiger's are when he moves up the leaderboard.

Earlier in the week I was so excited about Ms. Palin that I was a little ashamed of myself. Anyone who has read this blog knows my opinion on politicians - and it's not good. The vast majority of them are ego-driven charlatans interested only in their own careers. And those are the good ones. Furthermore, I'm a conservative, which means I always attempt to evaluate anything new under the sun with a large does of skepticism. So while getting so enamored with Ms. Palin and the possibilities she represents, I knew I was ignoring experience and core convictions. That little uncomfortable voice in the back of my head telling me to hold back was awfully faint. I could ignore it for awhile but the voice is getting louder now and it's impossible to ignore. And the Palin euphoria is wearing off. That's a good thing.

When I see the spirit of liberty in action, I see a strong principle at work; and this, for a while, is all I can possibly know of it. The wild gas, the fixed air is plainly broke loose: but we ought to suspend our judgments until the first effervescence is a little subsided, till the liquor is cleared, and until we see something deeper than the agitation of the troubled and frothy surface. I must be tolerably sure, before I venture publicly to congratulate men on a blessing, that they have really received one. Flattery corrupts both the receiver and the giver; and adulation is not of more service to the people than to kings - Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France

This quote from Burke is one of my favorites. It is also wise counsel in both life and political matters. I badly want Ms. Palin to succeed. But I will watch her actions and listen to her words with that air of skepticism I mentioned before. She has already demonstrated her character, talent and charm to the nation. Now I want to know some other things. Is she a true conservative? Or does she believe in an activist government like George W. Bush? What does she really think of limited government, low taxes, immigration reform, how to proceed against our enemies, the proper judicial philosophy, and a whole host of other other things. These questions need to be answered and, if the McCain-Palin ticket is elected, will be in time. To get too excited about her now is to proceed like the man about to embark upon his fourth marriage - he is relying on hope rather than experience.

Don't get me wrong. I admire her immensely, and I am convinced she can be a game-changer. But I want to know in which direction she takes the game.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

A Real and Present Danger

The savage treatment of Sarah Palin by the mainstream media is indicative of what a threat she is to the left. I told my own first babe last night the Ms. Palin has a chance to become the most influential politician in America since Ronald Reagan. My wife was skeptical, not because she doesn't see the magic that is Sarah Palin, but simply because it's her nature. A true conservative I married - conservative to the core.

But another great babe agrees with me. Peggy Noonan, in her column today, says:

Because she jumbles up so many cultural categories, because she is a feminist not in the Yale Gender Studies sense but the How Do I Reload This Thang way, because she is a woman who in style, history, moxie and femininity is exactly like a normal American feminist and not an Abstract Theory feminist; because she wears makeup and heels and eats mooseburgers and is Alaska Tough, as Time magazine put it; because she is conservative, and pro-2nd Amendment and pro-life; and because conservatives can smell this sort of thing — who is really one of them and who is not — and will fight to the death for one of their beleaguered own; because of all of this she is a real and present danger to the American left, and to a future Obama candidacy.

She could become a transformative political presence.

So they are going to have to kill her, and kill her quick.

"A transformative political presence." That's what I was trying to say to my wife last night but I don't have Peggy's vocabulary. If Sarah Palin gives a terrific speech tonight (as I expect), is a hit on the campaign trail (as I also expect), clearly beats the bumbler Biden in their debate (ditto), then it will be Sarah Palin's Republican Party for the foreseeable future. Even without a McCain win in November, she'll immediately become the face and the future of the party. Of course, if she's as big a hit as many of us hope, McCain will win in November and then Ms. Palin will be next in line for the presidency, in four years or eight. In the meantime she can begin the long, hard work of rebuilding the Republican Party as the party of normal Americans, most Americans. But she'll have lots of help - people love her. She has the ability to hold onto the conservatives while grabbing a huge chunk of the middle, and even many Democrats who may be looking at her as liking what they see, and who are as disgusted at the media's revolting behavior towards her as I am.

Not to put any pressure on you Sarah, but tonight is step one. Give 'em hell.