Andrew Hamm: the Bipolar Express

Ruminations on theatre, music, and just about anything else that crosses my bipolar brain.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

A journey toward Barack Obama

I like to play devil's advocate. It gets me in trouble sometimes--okay, a lot--and it occasionally gives people the wrong idea about what my beliefs and values are. I'm willing to bear that burden; I'm a teacher at heart and I want to shake up people's entrenched ideas.

It has long been my philosophy that a fully realized human being must be able to look in the mirror every day and honestly say "I may be completely wrong about everything I believe in." I don't just look to change others' minds, I strive to be open to having my perspective changed as well.

This brings me to Barack Obama, my vote to be the next President of the United States.

It isn't so much that my views on the issues have changed, though a few have. What happened instead was that I had an abrupt realization of just how important many social issues were to me: gay marriage, funding for education and the arts, pay equity, healthcare, environmental preservation, alternative fuels and power sources, human rights. I realized that I had been voting a small handful of issues, all traditionally conservative, and that my votes had most assuredly not been resulting in candidates on any level who were terribly good at handling them.

I had known for months that I could not in good conscience vote for John McCain. When I looked at the newly-shuffled deck of what I believed and compared it against Senator Obama's platform, I realized that I could vote for Barack Obama with a clear eye and head held high.

I have many reservations. I'm not choking on this vote the way I did for Bush in '00 and '04, but I have doubts. Obama's inexperience is a factor, and you have to be delusional to deny that. I'm very nervous about the kind of revisionist Justices he could appoint to the Supreme Court. I worry about his healthcare program, primarily about the fact that there doesn't seem to be any kind of plan in place to fund it. I'm worried about how much more of a mess the current incompetents in charge of the House and Senate could make with a Democrat in the White House (I swear Pelosi and Reid make Bush look like a freaking Rhodes scholar). And there are socialist overtones to his economic plans that trouble me quite a bit. (This last bit I'm less worried about, because no one knows what the hell to do about the economic crisis, and I don't think anyone's current plans resemble what's actually going to happen. January 20 is a long way down the road.)

I still believe that Islamic war is the defining issue of our time. I believed this years prior to September 11, I gnashed my teeth as President Clinton disemboweled our international intelligence and military capabilities, and I still don't believe we as a nation know or care enough about the threat we face, particularly from Mahmoud Ahmedinejad. I fear it's going to take a radiological or chemical attack to make us realize, and such plans are in the works in at least two dozen locations as I type this.

What I'm most worried about is Obama's total inability to meet or even approach the expectations his supporters have. The first time he fails in some major way, will we have a national hangover, a depression?


I'm convinced. I'm convinced that Obama is actually the man we see, not a media-manufactured messiah. I'm convinced that he has the ability to be the kind of transcendent figure that Ronald Reagan was. I'm convinced that he can bring some unity and understanding in the face of an increasingly fragmented social discussion. And I'm convinced that he has the kind of swift and subtle mind a President needs to deal with changing circumstances.

I'm convinced that Barack Obama can be a great President.

I pray God I'm not wrong.

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008



I knew this team could do it, I just didn't know if they would, it being a Philadelphia team and all.

First of all: bravo to the Rays. They have much to be proud of and nothing to be ashamed of. I don't see them catching that same kind of lightning in a bottle again in a division containing Boston and New York, but they were a great team from start to finish. Bravo to Joe Maddon, who absolutely must be MLB Manager of the Year.

Cheers to Cole Hamels, Series MVP (he got a new Camaro, and gave it to his wife immediately to celebrate her birthday), and to Brad Lidge, whose perfect season as a closer continued all the way through a series-clinching save. Wow. Record books. And Charlie Manuel: thanks for erasing or justifying years of almost with Tito Francona and Larry Bowa.

This team reminds me a lot of the 2004 Red Sox. Both championships feel less like the result of one season and more like the culmination of a half-decade of drafting, building, struggling, failing and growing. The Phils have been almost there for a decade, broke through last year, and took over tonight. They were no one's World Series favorite at the beginning of the postseason. It doesn't matter.

Boston-Philly next year? We were so close!

The Philles should be a Series contender for years to come. What a feeling!!!! I have had such a terrible week (actually a terrible 2008); it felt good to jump up and down and scream myself hoarse for my boys J Roll, Ryan, Cole, Shane and Lidge.

The only problem is that I left my Cooperstown Collection Mike Schmidt jersey at the Coles'. I may have to make a special trip to Oregon Hill tomorrow just to get it. Not even joking.

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

The craziest week

I've been paralyzed by the weight of all the stuff I've had to write about, and it's just putting me further and further behind. I may expound on some of the events of the past seven days more later, but here's what I've got for now:


had its preview and opening, and it's going very well. We were still tweaking down to the last minute because, you know, it's freaking Hamlet. The cast is all wonderful, and Jeff and Liz in particular have taken some extremely bold choices and molded them into a unique and authentic Hamlet-Ophelia relationship. And how about Katie "Girldenstern" Ford being on the cover of Style Weekly? Stop it, Marcellus!

Great cast; I love them all. Three more weeks of Hamlet coming. [Andrew takes a breath.] Deep and slow, big guy.

New computer

This is the first blog entry I've typed on my new MacBook. I'm enjoying the heck out of it, climbing a steep learning curve, and certainly appreciating the long battery life (as I did in fact leave my charger at home). What stinks is that I had planned to get a sleeker, sexier, more powerful model, but learned to my dismay that it didn't come with a FireWire port. That's effing ridiculous. Mac is the preferred platform for digital audio and video applications, and they release a model without the high-speed port that camcorders and digital mixers all use?! Given a choice between buying up $500 or buying down $300, I descended. So my standard MacBook delights me despite my dissatisfaction with Apple. I'm still getting my Mac feet under me. And she still needs a name.

So is there a connection between switching from conservatives to Obama and PC to Mac? It seems like there should be.

RTCC Awards

What a thrill and a joy it was to be there on Sunday night! A big chunk of the Richmond Shakespeare contingent sat in the back, being the bad kids. It was quite a challenge chatting with the stupendous Sarah Cole to my left and with the lovely Liz in the row in front of me. I'm still a little sore from all the turning and twisting and leaning.

It's very relaxing to go to an awards show when you know you have absolutely no chance of winning. I truly own the experience of "It's an honor to be nominated." Two of the people I was most rooting for, Stephen Ryan and Becky Cairns, did win, and I was happier for them, I think, than I would have been for myself.

When the names were being announced for "Best Direction," Sarah jumped to her feet and screamed, "THAT'S MY DATE!" I win.

Sarah, mother of two, was wearing her prom dress. It was big on her.

Virginia Center for Architecture

I feel bad that I forgot to make a bigger deal with this, but I was a lecturer at the Virginia Center for Architecture's "Fresh" series on Tuesday night. I was asked to talk about creativity for 40 minutes. Jeez, twist my arm.

I have been working on a book about acting called The Five-Tool Player equating the five physical tools baseball players develop with five improvable tools for actors. This seemed like a good opportunity to kick-start that and begin to put a framework together.

It went very well, and was nicely received by a diverse audience of about 30. It was interesting how much they wanted to ask and talk about queer theatre issues, and where the line is between an edgy performance and selling tickets. I'm hardly an expert on these issues, but I'm pretty sure I bloviated convincingly.

What surprised me was how many audience members talked about how much of the material they could take personally, to apply to their own careers and lives. I didn't expect that, and it will definitely shape the writing of the book. You know, when I get all that free time to do that.

Phillies - Rays

If the Phils don't start getting some hits with runners in scoring position, it's going to be over in five.

December surprise?

Uh, I can't talk about that yet. But it's going to be cool.

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Monday, October 20, 2008

Coming Attractions

Big posts are forthcoming on the subjects of the RTCC Awards (which I think should be called the "Lizzies"), the opening of Hamlet (very satisfactory) and the World Series matchup that almost was (GO PHILLIES!). But I have to spend the next couple days finalizing a lecture on creativity for the Virginia Center for Architecture.

I just didn't want my two loyal readers to think I was neglecting important topics.

Friday, October 17, 2008

McCain and Obama at the Alfred E. Smith Dinner

Spend 20 minutes with this, fans of politics and comedy.

You will be glad you did.


Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Phillies are in the World Series!

The rebuilding is over. Next year is this year, finally. No more Braves, no more Mets, no more freaking Marlins. We can stop talking about the team of Carlton and Schmidt, or even Krukie and Wild Thing, and enjoy J-Roll, Hamels, Howard, and Lidge.

After 15 years as NL also-rans, all potential never realized, not quite spending enough money, not quite drafting well enough, not getting quite the right free agents, it has all come together in this chance to win the whole thing.

The Series starts Wednesday, and the Phils will be mightily rested. Now if only the Red Sox can come back from 3-1 (it's not like we haven't seen it before), my ultimate sports dream/nightmare will come true.

ESPN's Jayson Stark on the Phillies.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

R.I.P., P.C.

My computer died a quiet, peaceful death overnight. Attempts to resuscitate it this morning were unsuccessful, and it was pronounced dead at 7:14 PM Eastern.

Seeing as how this is my fourth or possibly fifth computer of the past decade, I'm done. I don't want to be a PC any more. I'm ready to be converted to the church of Mac. So bring on the hallelujahs, Mac devotees and converts. I want to be saved, I want to be healed, I want to be born again!

Explain to me why I should spend $1100+ on a MacBook instead of half that much on the familiar confines of a Windows-based laptop, brothers and sisters.

(Watch: I'll go home and the damn PC will work again, and I'll somehow manage to convince myself I can work with it for another few months.)


Monday, October 13, 2008

On small characters and alternative acting choices

I started to write this post to be published on Richmond Shakespeare's blog, but the content ended up being more focused on my personal process than I had intended, and it just wasn't appropriate for a company website.

As much as Shakespeare was an innovator, he excelled at taking established conventions and mining them for every bit of storytelling he could manage. Compleat Works jokingly refers to him as a formula writer, and there is quite a bit of truth to that statement. In addition to using a few dozen of his era's best story forms, Shakespeare was a master at using character types that his audiences would have recognized: the righteous virgin (Juliet, Desdemona, Miranda, Isabella), the unrepentant villain (Iago, Richard III, Aaron), the hothead (Mercutio, Hotspur) various clowns and heroes, cousins and fathers and brothers (not so many mothers). On paper, a lot of these characters seem interchangeable, which is why it's good that Shakespeare wrote for the stage, for our stage in particular, where personal interpretation is such an integral part of the creation of performance.

The character type that draws my attention today is that of the loyal companion. We see him in the form of Benvolio in Romeo and Juliet, Kent in King Lear, Antonio in Twelfth Night, and to a certain degree in Lear's Edgar, R&J's Nurse, Othello's Cassio, and As You Like It's Adam. The loyal companion is generally male and often a contemporary of the more principal protagonist. In many cases, he seems to have no agenda of his own, existing to support the main character and to serve as a sounding-board for monologues. He is always of a lower status than the friend he follows, establishing a master-servant pattern wherein the servant performs his role out of love and filial obligation to his social superior.

This is probably the detail that we have the hardest time wrapping our heads around in the 21st century. The loyal companion loves, serves and cares for his lord simply because he is his lord. There is no consideration of getting a better gig. It is no exaggeration to say that in the order of the Elizabethan universe Antonio's loving service for the shipwrecked Sebastian is a love that can be described as holy. That can be difficult for modern audiences and theatre practitioners to access.

Which brings me to Hamlet, opening October 17, in which I play the role of Horatio, the prototypical Shakespearean loyal companion. Horatio provides information to Hamlet, tries to protect him from the Ghost, obeys his commands, and basically follows him around like a puppy dog. Only a handful of times does Horatio disagree with Hamlet, notably trying to restrain him from going off with the Ghost and apparently disapproving of the prince's actions regarding Rosencrantz and Guildenstern (spoiler alert: they die). Horatio even goes so far as to attempt to drink poison to follow Hamlet beyond the living world. Hamlet stops him, and Horatio obeys his prince's final command to tell the world his story. All in all, a role that on paper lacks a lot of conflict or contradiction. Actually, it pretty much lacks any contradiction whatsoever.

I was talking with Liz Blake, no stranger to tackling the challenge of a potentially standard role, about the character a few days after we started rehearsal. I shared the thought that a female Horatio would be very interesting, particularly if she had long-standing unrequited affections for Hamlet. This would give an actor a lot of material for both internal and external conflicts, as well as a much richer emotional and strategic palate with which to play.

"You know, Andrew," Liz smiled, "Horatio doesn't have to be a girl to do all those things."

Liz has the uncanny ability to cheerfully make me feel like a blithering idiot at least twice a week.

Well shucks, the thought of Horatio being gay just hadn't crossed my mind. And it should have; there's plenty of textual support for it. Particularly interesting is Hamlet's line, "thou art e'en as just a man as ere my conversation coped withall," in the context that "conversation" and "coped" are common Shakespearean code words for sex. There are multiple references to the two men holding each other in their hearts, and Hamlet signs a letter "He that thou knowest thine, Hamlet." In the text, Hamlet confides with one person only: Horatio, whose affection is such that he can't seem to stop calling Hamlet "my lord," "my good lord," "my dear lord," and once "my sweet lord" slips out. It is only after Hamlet has died that he can speak his own secret name for his love: "sweet prince."

In researching queer Hamlets, I've been surprised to see that this angle, a rich vein for exploration by alternative and university theatres in particular, has not been nearly as frequently explored as I expected. In fact, the Oedipal Hamlet is the much more common interpretation, one I really just can't find a stitch of textual support for.

None of this is to say that this is a "gay Hamlet." There's nothing going on between Hamlet and Horatio; Horatio is simply in love with his prince, and has been for years. It's not even a matter of Horatio having the label "gay" placed on him, it's entirely the personal focus of him being deep in unrequited love. He doesn't love men, he loves Hamlet. There are no overt references to it, it doesn't change the production's theme and staging. It's something for me to play with, and for Jeff (Hamlet) to decide whether or not he knew about. (And how could he not? If Horatio is nearly as emotionally naked as the actor playing him, there's no real hiding it.) But it changes every moment of the play for me, gives me an immediate and accessible goal. It gives me some very powerful substitutions, and juicy double-meanings in my scenes with Hamlet. It provides some unexpected conflict when Ophelia (a perfectly nice girl who obviously makes Hamlet so very happy, damn her eyes) is in the scene. It's a hearty piece of meat for the actor, and it's anything to avoid playing Horatio as what the Washington Blade referred to in a 2007 review as "Hamlet's true and trusted sidekick."

Horatio needs to transcend the loyal follower type for Hamlet to achieve its best success. After all it is Horatio, not any of the larger characters who dominates the play's opening and closing moments, setting up our first and final impressions of the story. (In their defense, all of the principals are dead for the play's denouement.) But that's all just "words, words, words." Really, I just needed an objective to sink my teeth into, something that both transcends and supports the loyal servant role Shakespeare so lovingly wrote.

Horatio is a character who is felt less in the text than in the performance; his often-silent presence in witness to Hamlet's drama speaking louder than lines. It's a lot more interesting to stand silently in the presence of the man you're in love with--who just happens to be your lord.

Hamlet runs from October 17 - November 9. Go to for tickets.

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Wednesday, October 08, 2008

CNN: Experts ponder link between creativity, mood disorders

I've copied the entire piece here, but you can read it at its source here at Thanks to Wayne Conners for bringing it to my attention.

Experts ponder link between creativity, mood disorders
By Elizabeth Landau

(CNN) -- The works of David Foster Wallace, who committed suicide September 12, are famous for their obsessively observed detail and emotional nuance.

Certain characteristics of his prose -- hypersensitivity and constant rumination, or persistent contemplation -- reflect a pattern of temperament that some psychology researchers say connects mental illness, especially bipolar disorder and depression, with creativity.

There have been more than 20 studies that suggest an increased rate of bipolar and depressive illnesses in highly creative people, says Kay Redfield Jamison, professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University and author of the "An Unquiet Mind," a memoir of living with bipolar disorder.

Experts say mental illness does not necessarily cause creativity, nor does creativity necessarily contribute to mental illness, but a certain ruminating personality type may contribute to both mental health issues and art.

"Unquestionably, I think a major link is to the underlying temperaments of both bipolar illness and depression, of reflectiveness and so forth," Jamison said.

This theory could help explain why eminent artists throughout history, from composer Robert Schumann to poet Sylvia Plath to Wallace -- suffered mood disorders.

"It's pretty clear if you read [Wallace's] books that he was a very obsessive, kind of ruminating guy," said Paul Verhaeghen, associate professor of psychology at Georgia Institute of Technology.

"You can see it in his sentences. ... They're breathless and they need to be annotated, and the annotations need to be annotated again."

The research of Verhaeghen and colleagues shows when people are in a reflective mode, they may become more creative, depressed, or both. Previous research shows that when people are in a ruminating mode, they are more likely to be depressed, he said.

"If you think about stuff in your life and you start thinking about it again, and again, and again, and you kind of spiral away in this continuous rumination about what's happening to you and to the world -- people who do that are at risk for depression," he said.

Verhaeghen, who is also a novelist and describes himself as a "somewhat mood disordered person," had a particular interest in the connection between creativity and this ruminating state of mind.

"One of the things I do is think about something over and over and over again, and that's when I start writing," he said.

Sensitivity to one's surroundings is also associated with both creativity and depression, according to some experts.

Creative people in the arts must develop a deep sensitivity to their surroundings -- colors, sounds, and emotions, says Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, professor of psychology and management at Claremont Graduate University in Claremont, California. Such hypersensitivity can lead people to worry about things that other people don't worry about as much, he said, and can lead to depression.

"The arts are more dangerous [than other professions] because they require sensitivity to a large extent," he said. "If you go too far you can pay a price -- you can be too sensitive to live in this world."

Terence Ketter is professor of psychiatry and behavioral science at Stanford University.

Ketter and his colleagues compared a healthy control group with bipolar patients, depression patients, and a control group of graduate students in writing and the arts.

They found that people with bipolar disorder scored better -- up to about 50 percent higher -- on creativity tests than the healthy control group. The creative control group had about the same increase in score relative to the healthy control group.

But more research is needed, says Ketter. The study does not explain the connection or show a causal relationship, he said.

Some have pointed out that being engaged in creative pursuits makes a person more open to experience, while others say the pressure of being engaged in the arts causes negative emotion, according to Ketter.

Still, the temperamental characteristics in question are thought to be somewhat inherent.

"It's a little hard to argue that engaging in creative activity could create the temperament, and it may be a little bit more possible that this temperament gives you a creative advantage," he said.

Verhaeghen's theory that rumination contributes to negative emotions generally sounds plausible and in some ways consistent with his own views, said Ketter.

Many hope that this type of research will be helpful in developing better strategies to manage and detect mental illness. These strategies can sometimes mean the difference between life and death.

"Tragically, mood disorders can still present a sudden death in people who have been undiagnosed and untreated, and die from the illness," says Ketter.

More specifically, Ketter says, just as heart disease sometimes presents itself for the first time as a fatal heart attack, mental illness sometimes presents itself for the first time as a suicide.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Colbert: Shakespearean Candidates

Stop and go

I've been reading about the Redskins' victory over the Eagles this morning, doing my usual scanning of the major sports websites to read reports and commentary. Everybody is now officially impressed.

But there's a big point being missed, one that no one at ESPN, SI, Sportsline, or anywhere else seems to have caught: In reporting that the Redskins have out-gained the Eagles and Cowboys on the ground 364 yards to 102, everyone is focusing on the Redskins' offensive line and Clinton Portis. That's fine, I love Portis (pictured) and have long been a proponent of the idea that any offense is only as good as its offensive line.

What's being missed is the performance of the Redskins' run defense, and that's going to be a factor this year. Yes, the Cowboys inexplicably stopped handing the ball off, and the Eagles' Brian Westbrook came into the game injured and missed a couple series. But Philly was stopped twice on the 2, and Andre Carter is doing a very good impression of a run-stopper for a dedicated edge pass rusher.

So why no picture of the D-line stopping a Dallas or Philly running back? Shhhhhh. Let's keep this a secret for as long as possible.

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Sunday, October 05, 2008

My head asplode

Today is too much sports awesomeness for me to handle..

1:05: Washington Redskins at Philadelphia Eagles.

After last week's upset over the Cowboys, arguably the biggest event of the first quarter of the NFL season, the Redskins unbelievably finish their road division schedule in week five. I was expecting a .500 year from my 'Skins this year, especially after that deuce they dropped at the Giants in week one. But after the way the O-line and D-backs have played the past three weeks, I'm almost believing they are an NFC power. Why almost, when many of America's most knowledgeable NFL pundits are penciling them into the playoffs? Because I'm a Redskins fan, and I'm quite accustomed to the heartbreak of Norv Turner and Steve Spurrier teams, not to mention the perpetual teasing almost of Gibbs II: Electric Boogaloo.

(Gibbs II, at least, made the playoffs twice in four years. And he won a playoff game, something the Redskins have done twice since Dallas last won any. Eat that, Cowboys!)

Everyone's talking about the poise of Jason Campbell (Soup!), the punch of Clinton Portis, and the playmaking of Santana Moss, and rightly so. And don't discount the contributions of O-line coach Joe Bugel, who may have finally forged some new Hogs, and defensive coordinator Greg Blanche, whose scheme made Tony Romo look like Tony Danza last week.

(I do wish the Redskins would stop wearing white-on-white, though. It works for teams who have done it for a long time like the Browns and the Chiefs, but there's championship tradition in the white jerseys and burgundy pants. At least they're not wearing dark-on-dark, a hideous look that makes NFL teams look like AFL teams. I would have liked to see the 'Skins switch to the 70th anniversary retro uniforms full-time, but if they're sticking with the classic look, I wish they would wear it in the classic combination.)

Is this finally the year we stop looking to next year? In Jim Zorn, have we finally found the Next Big Coach instead of the Big Name Who Lets Us Down? It's early, but it sure looks that way. We may have replaced The Last Joe Gibbs with The Next Joe Gibbs.

If we win in Philadelphia, I'm officially going from fan to believer.

Speaking of Philadelphia...

1:07: Philadelphia Phillies at Milwaukee Brewers.

I think the entire City of Brotherly Love's head is asplode today, actually. What do you watch, marquee rivalry football game or series-clinching baseball game?

I was really hoping the Phils would win last night. Any game programmed against the Redskins is going to lose for me. The Phightins are relegated to commercial-break status. It isn't that I don't love the Phillies, it's that I lurve the Redskins. I could give you an allegory from my life, but it would only make sense to about three people. Trust me, those three would say "Ohhhhhh, okay, I get it. Yeah, you have to watch the Redskins game, I understand."

So I'm torn between the desire to see the Phillies win the NLDS and the desire to see the 'Skins win in Philly. What do I do if both games are close in the late innings / fourth quarter? My greatest hope is for either the Phillies or Redskins to have it put away by then so I don't feel bad about the bits I miss. Or I watch a gamecast on my laptop while the other game is on TV. Or I buy another TV and set them up side-by-side, as I did in Albany when I was writing a weekly football column. That was cool.

It still hasn't been announced who's starting for Philadelphia, making sports writers' jobs very hard. All I know is that Jeff Suppan is starting for Milwaukee, and Suppan has a strong postseason record. Jobu wake up bats. Series tied 2-2 is very bad. Is very bad.

I have a feeling about Chase Utley today, and about Pedro Feliz. Hence the picture of Pedro Feliz. Move it on to the NLCS, Phils. Give the home town fans something to cheer them after the Redskins beat the Eagles 27-22.

4:15ish: Andrew Hamm at Elsinore Castle.

This is where Andrew works on his lines hardcore. He also works on music for the show. And apparently he refers to himself in the third person.

7:17: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Boston Red Sox.

Beckett is pitching. At Fenway.



Of course, I have to watch all of this with one eye while the other is studying my lines for Hamlet. It's the Angels - Sox game that's most going to suffer. I promise I'll break away for the final three innings at least.

On a non-sports note, I worked on my lines Friday afternoon in Hollywood Cemetery. I spent a lot of time on 1.1, which features the appearance of Hamlet Sr.'s ghost. While working on that scene, a cat leapt out of the bushes, yowling, startled. Even in mid-day it scared the shit out of me. I responded by silently shouting, "Stay, illusion!" and delivering my speech to the ghost directly at a gravestone. I promised I would remember the name of the man I was addressing, but I can't recall it. It made my heart pound unexpectedly. Cemeteries are scarier to me than I thought they would be.

Working a ghost scene in a graveyard is scary, would basically be the point I'm making here.

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Friday, October 03, 2008

Bailout bacon. Delicious, delicious bacon.

In the middle of rushing through legislature intended to halt the supposed greatest economic collapse in America since the Great Depression, our elected heroes on Capitol Hill are proving that the one thing they do best is more of the same.

One wonderful thing has come from the failure to push the bailout package through the first time: it has given us more time to look at it. It has given us a chance to see that the bill began as a three-page measure and has bloated out to 450. Neither of those numbers is a typo.

Notably, it has given us a chance to see the $1.7 billion in pork--bacon, really, hickory-smoked and honey-crusted--in the form of tax cuts designed to woo fence votes. Among my favorites are $192 million for Puerto Rican rum producers, $128 for auto racing tracks, $33 for corporations in American Samoa, $223 for Alaskan fishermen affected by the Exxon Valdez 19 years ago, $10 for television productions, and my personal favorite, a $6 million cut designated thus:


(a) In General- Paragraph (2) of section 4161(b) is amended by redesignating subparagraph (B) as subparagraph (C) and by inserting after subparagraph (A) the following new subparagraph:

(B) EXEMPTION FOR CERTAIN WOODEN ARROW SHAFTS- Subparagraph (A) shall not apply to any shaft consisting of all natural wood with no laminations or artificial means of enhancing the spine of such shaft (whether sold separately or incorporated as part of a finished or unfinished product) of a type used in the manufacture of any arrow which after its assembly–

(i) measures 5/16 of an inch or less in diameter, and

(ii) is not suitable for use with a bow described in paragraph (1)(A)

(b) Effective Date- The amendments made by this section shall apply to shafts first sold after the date of enactment of this Act.

Thank God. We're saved from certain economic ruin. It was the wooden arrows that pushed Lehman Brothers over the edge. :Roll. Freaking. Eyes.:

Look, I know this crap happens all the time. It's how things work in the Capitol Hill Sausage Factory, and it makes The Jungle look like The Jungle Book. I understand that. But is this a crisis, or is it a grab opportunity? This isn't some obscure little bill that first-term Senators need to use to prove to the people in their district that they're working for them. This affects just about everyone in every district. Everyone is watching this one.

Aren't earmarks one of the big issues of the current presidential campaign? Where are Obiden and McPalin now? I want to know who's going to lead the charge and say, "Look. This one is different, guys. Let's get it right the way it's supposed to be gotten right, because it's the correct thing to do and not because we can get some cash for wool research (yes, wool research)." Maybe we can set a precedent of actually doing what Congress is supposed to do.

I don't know how I stand on this bailout. I'm not an economist, I have no assets to speak of, and I'm so deep in Hamlet that I haven't been able to research it as much as I would like. My fiscal conservative side says no, that failures have to be weeded out of the financial gene pool for it to be healthy. But my social-justice-seeking side sees a lot of people in a lot of trouble because of the worst kind of abuses of capitalism. Both sides are now hungry for Bite-Sized Frosted Mini-Wheats.

I don't know what the right thing to do is. But I'm fairly confident that it involves neither rum, wool, or the diameter of children's wooden arrows.

New York Post link.

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