Home of the Brave: “Wit” Pits Poetry Against Cancer


Mention people and cancer and the adjective “brave” pops up immediately. And in “Wit,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning first play from Margaret Edson, much bravery-of the theatrical kind-is on display. The playwright has decided to focus on a woman dying of cancer, spending the play in a medical center, allowing few supporting characters other than doctors, nurses, and interns. The actor (Allison Coutts-Jordan) portraying the woman Vivian Bearing, a professor in English specializing in John Donne, must achieve a delicate balance between dignity and debasement, between harshness and sentimentality. And because this terminal illness attacks such a stern taskmaster without, as we soon learn, a husband, children, friends, or loving students, the temptation for Edson to use the illness as a sort of punishment-repent, Ebenezer Scrooge!-must be resisted.

This performance, to run until Nov. 8 at SBCC’s Garvin Theater, pulls all the above off perfectly. Director Rick Mokler certainly took a chance with the play, with its many grim scenes likely to repel a number of people. Mr. Mokler also has invested in a play that relegates much of its time to a hospital bed set back in the stage. Fortunately, Ms. Coutts-Jordan handles everything with confidence-she is called on to carry the play and does so because there is no room in the character’s world for anybody else. She relishes the part and the audience is with her all the way.

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Steve Jobs: Black Power Conspiracy?

Spike Lee, man, you were robbed again!
I have yet to hear anyone state the obvious: The whole design of Mac’s new OS X package is a blatant copy of Lee’s 1992 “Malcolm X” poster.
People: “X”?

Is Steve Jobs making a Black Power comparison here? Look at yet another example.

You think those venetian blinds are a coincidence???

Fire on the Mountain

Today was such a particular day, a particular mood. We got up to find, nicely enough, that the clocks had gone back an hour, so that extra lay-in wasn’t as long as we thought. Stepped outside onto the patio and was enveloped by the heat and something else: the smell of smoke. Those two, combined with the golden hazy sunshine took me back in a Proustian moment to Japan 1995. I realised only today that a majority of my time in Japan was under a cloud of perpetual smoke.
Then I felt a bit strange, because while I was off in madeline-biscuit land, I was actually inhaling the remains of somebody’s Rancho Cucamonga/Lake Piru house.
Tonight I took part in a press conference for Michael Moore’s visit to Santa Barbara. The man filled the Arlington to the bursting point. He came late to the pre-show green room conf, but was a gracious guest, though the answers he gave to the questions mostly turned up in his lecture, line for line, joke for joke. The only thing he didn’t use was a little sneak preview of his upcoming 2004 film, “Fahrenheit 911”: I asked him about black box voting, and though he did later tell the audience about Diebold–eliciting a huge gasp from them (I guess this story is not mainstream enough yet)–he told the press that in the upcoming film, he visits the house of Diebold’s CEO.
I’m possibly going to write this up as a news feature for the Voice. We’ll see.
Finally, the air is cool and crisp tonight and is making a refreshing atmosphere for late night typing. I’m in the zone, baby! I’m ready to zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Dennis Miller Interview: Natural Born Miller

Over his decade-plus career, Dennis Miller has tried to make the rant his own. Full of vitriol for targets big and small, the stand-up comedian has played a news anchor in his early days on Saturday Night Live—he pretty much made Weekend Update his own—won an Emmy for his talk show, and made a puzzling diversion as a commentator for Monday Night Football, lacing his appreciation for the games with references so dense and obscure that several Web sites sprang up to gloss his jokes.

But for some, Miller’s most drastic career move was evolving his humor slowly towards the right, with jokes about turning Iraq into glass, and scabrous comments about the French (not the rarest of targets, of course). Just last week, Miller raised the ire of Elton John, who denounced him at a charity gig from behind his piano.

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The Magus – John Fowles

Dell, 1965
Technically this is Fowles’ first novel, and the first that I have read (the first the public knew was The Collector). This was recommended to me by G_____
and I soon moved from the teeny-weeny print of the paperback to our library’s hardback version, the better for reading a 600-page tome while in bed. The Magus tells the story of a young Englishman who travels to a small Greek island called Phraxos to teach English. Instead he gets wrapped up in the psychological games of a mysterious millionaire islander called Conchis, who may or may not have helped the Germans in the war, may or may not be able to summon the dead, bend time, and offer a glimpse into a world beyond reality.
The book was a quick read, though dense and literary, and respectful of the reader (he drops many references to The Tempest long before one character points them out). In plot it’s similar to the reality-bending thrillers on the late-’90s, where every 25 pages some new revelation turns all previous events on their heads. Near the end it begins to sound a lot like David Fincher’s “The Game” from 1998, but with much more at stake than making some business executive learn to laugh and love again.
Fowles evokes not just the Greek Island, but the feeling of traveling abroad after college, the sexy danger of it all. The lead character Nicholas is indeed right in the middle of one of those identity-forming experiences, one that Conchis exploits.
The end doesn’t wrap up the plot, but thematically it closes well, though far off into the abstract. There were a few nights where I wound up going to bed at 4 a.m. because I got so caught up in it.

‘Beyond Therapy’ needs a dose of speed


There’s an attraction for directors to Christopher Durang’s “Beyond Therapy.”

Its lampooning of psychobabbling me-generation members and profundity of rude language give it an edgy surface. It’s like a coarser, more farcical Woody Allen. It’s also incredibly dated.

Mr. Durang packs his dialogue with cultural reference that may have been funny when they were fresh out the oven. Prudence, the female lead in this romantic farce, says at one point that she thinks Shaun Cassidy’s cute, but “he’s too young for me.”

Not even 20 coats of irony can save that line from disappearing into the sinkhole. Plenty of other names and pop culture-isms get dropped, from Peter Schaffer’s “Equus” to Dyan Cannon, and they hit the ground, brick-like.

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Absolutely classic

Much hilarity in the Mills household over this irony.

Bush orders officials to stop the leaks
WASHINGTON – Concerned about the appearance of disarray and feuding within his administration as well as growing resistance to his policies in Iraq, President Bush – living up to his recent declaration that he is in charge – told his top officials to ‘stop the leaks’ to the media, or else.
News of Bush’s order leaked almost immediately.
Bush told his senior aides Tuesday that he “didn’t want to see any stories” quoting unnamed administration officials in the media anymore, and that if he did, there would be consequences, said a senior administration official who asked that his name not be used.

Further Embarrassment

I don’t know if you’ve seen the Bush-authored poem to his wife, but The Missouri Review has it, along with ironic commentary. It’s staggeringly bad, and I wonder if his handlers thought that showing that his writing style is akin to that of a second grader would endear him out of his plummeting support?

Dear Mr. G.W. Bush / Re: Your recent submission
by Scott Kaukonen
Roses are red
Violets are blue
Oh my, lump in the bed
How I’ve missed you.
Roses are redder
Bluer am I
Seeing you kissed by that charming French guy.
The dogs and the cat, they missed you too
Barney’s still mad you dropped him, he ate your shoe
The distance, my dear, has been such a barrier
Next time you want an adventure, just land on a carrier.

Three Steps Forward, One Back: Twyla Tharp Dance Delivers in the End, But Is Cute on the Way

©David Bazemore

A sold-out Campbell Hall crowd on Friday night got a heady dose of Twyla Tharp’s choreography as her recently regrouped (in 1999) Twyla Tharp Dance performed four works that brought Santa Barbara crowds up to date on Tharp’s most recent work, while delving back briefly for a look at Tharp’s beginnings. For relative newcomers it was a night of contrasts; for longtime aficionados, it was a confirmation of the changes Tharp has brought to modern dance.

The company is a talented, well chosen collection of dancers, all very strong by themselves, and the evening’s program introduced them to us two or three at a time, culminating with almost the entire company participating in the rousing finale. But more of that later.

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