Panic at the Theatre

Ruth Eckerd Hall has a great little auditorium that seats, from what I recall, about 2200. There is only one level of steeply sloped, stadium style seats and there are no seating balconies. The walls are plaster and paint covered concrete block and the lobbies on the east and west sides of the theatre are filled with natural light and unnatural plants. The color scheme is a very Florida-esque teal and eggshell and the plush seats are so perfectly padded that I was surprised that anyone who’d worked an entire day was actually motivated to stand up when Panic at the Disco took the stage last night.

Then I remembered that I was at a Panic at the Disco concert and most of the audience hadn’t worked an entire day because they are all twelve years old. They probably even all took naps before the show – and that’s not meant as an insult, kiddos! I love naps.

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

The show itself was pretty darn good. Phantom Planet‘s show opening performance was, for me, a pleasant surprise. Perhaps not owning any of their albums would get me tossed from some hipster sets but now that yuppie is apparently again hip, I’m fine with this. Actually, I don’t know what I’m talking about when it comes to all this cool-kid stuff but I was pleased with their performance – even though they did play that damn California song. They were fun, sounded good and they made cute jokes. For one, anyone that attends concerts with me with any regularity knows there is one sure way for a band to win my heart. A lot of the shows I see are in St. Pete or, like this night, Clearwater, but we are the Tampa Bay Area and if you want me to love you, you’ll call me Tampa. Alex Greenwald of PP looked at us and asked “do you want to be called Clearwater or Tampa?” and then joked “well, you all definitely said Tampa so, how are you tonight, Tampa?” That won me ten times over. I’ll always remember how he called me by my favorite concert going pet name. The Hush Sound was also very impressive – no fun jokes and they called me Clearwater – but I think Motion City Soundtrack was my favorite act of the night. I guess it helps that, of the three openers, I actually knew most of their songs but Justin Pierre was really on vocally and they crammed as many songs as they could into their 45 minutes of stage time.

Now, from what I’ve found, in every group of peers where musical tastes tend the same way there will be at least one person in said group who will claim that a certain band “sucks live.” In my peer group I will be this person when speaking of Angels and Airwaves (whose recorded music I like) and The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus (whose recorded music, I believe, should not have been). Even though I usually go into every show with an open mind, for some reason I believed the person who said this to me about Panic at the Disco. I’m glad they were wrong. While there’s nothing super-complex, Panic’s songs are filled with constant sung harmonies and every single one of those harmonies was spot on. They are energetic, funny, good looking and they sound better live than on CD. They played some retoolings of their older, more popular songs – toning down the electric and blending in a more natural sound and their new stuff is just as impressive and destined to be just as well-liked. They won my heart, though, when Brendon Urie looked out at the crowd and said, “wow, I feel like we’re in a high school battle of the bands!”

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

I attended this concert alone and while that may seem strange, I find it extremely enjoyable for a change – I’d say, one in every twenty shows. I go to a lot of concerts. On this night, though, my solitary state may have added to the strange feeling I had with me all evening – a feeling that overshadowed all of the great tunes and, for me, lasted well into the next day. The aforementioned small theatre was, without a doubt, the largest contributing factor but the youthful age of many of it’s sheltered and the smell of that cologne … that Brut or High Karate or whatever all the boys starting soaking themselves in once we got to eighth grade … put it over the top. The flood of feelings the olfactory sense forced combined with my surroundings made me feel as if I was spending the evening at a Rock n’ Roll show in the 50′s or 60′s. Perhaps it was even being filmed to be broadcast like the Ed Sullivan show. Like I said, Ruth Eckerd is already small for a full-sized playhouse with a fly system and large proscenium ensconced performance area. In fact, seeing a concert of this type in the setting of a proscenium theatre is rare these days, especially in a big MSA like the Tampa Bay Area. We have two arenas – one of which seats 20,000 – an outdoor football stadium and an indoor baseball field which occasionally hold shows, an outdoor amphitheatre which holds 20,000 guests and several smaller venues like Jannus Landing which, I believe, squeezes in 2,000. Hell, Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center’s larger playhouse seats over 1,000 more than Ruth Eckerd if proscenium is what you’re going for and perhaps that wouldn’t have felt so strange what with multiple seating levels and all. Instead, we were in this tiny box, standing in front of our plush seats and feeling like the Beach Boys should come out next.

And then dude from Panic said it and it all came together for me. I felt like I was in high school. It was weird – but both a little scary and a little fun – and my actually being alone that night made me remember what it felt like to be a teenager and I was suddenly very glad I wasn’t. I was even more glad when I left the venue and had to pass through hundreds of kids waiting for their rides while I got to jump into my very own, very cool, grown-up priced car (coincidentally, a car teenagers tend to pepper me with questions about) and drive myself to my very own home in what I like to call Tampa.

It’s strange how many feeling one silly concert brought forth but, last night, I was glad to be me.

Sights and Sounds

Although I don’t talk about it often, I’m one of those people whose really cool with my learning difference. Also, as you’ve surely just noticed, I’m one of those assholes that calls it a “learning difference.” This isn’t to be PC or anything overly bleeding-heart like that. This is because Dyslexia, as it affects me, is not an out-and-out disability. It’s a pain-in-the-rear sometimes and I’ve cursed it before but I certainly wouldn’t say I have a disability – especially when it comes to my favorite hobby of cramming as much knowledge into my brain as possible.

I’m having a bad day today, though. That’s what I’ve always said to myself on days like this and those close to me may have heard me confess this aloud when I accidentally call a door a window or use an antonym even though it’s obvious I mean the opposite (I’m known to stumble over shorter/taller/longer, even if I’m gesturing it correctly). I don’t know what brings on a bad day – could be stress or perhaps it’s just when I’m trying to process too much information. Either way, today is one of those days.

On a day like today I will often find myself stuck – digging though my thoughts for the appropriate name for an object and anyone that’s around can usually see my figurative gears turning. I’ll stop mid-sentence and sometimes I’ll stare at that … whatever that thing is … I’m trying to assign a word to that I’m thinking of and if it’s a really bad day I’ll talk it out.

Stove, microwave, blender … refrigerator!

I try to only do that bit when I’m alone as I’ve been appropriately trained (through rulers slapped on desks) not to stutter. Even if no one else can tell, though, a bad day can still make me feel pretty stupid.

I went to a private religious school as a young child and in kindergarten we were learning how to read military style. We’d stand next to our desks and look up at the alphabet. First, we’d point at the letter and say it’s name aloud. Next we’d point at our mouths and pronounce it’s sound and then we’d point back up at the letter and say the name of the picture next to it.

“‘A’ – /æ/ apple”

We did the same thing with blends (bl, br, pl, pr), prefixes, suffixes and the way we learned our addition, multiplication and division was very similar. As an adult whose more inclined towards the Montessori way of teaching I’m surprised that any school in the 1980′s was using this method to teach “mainstream” kids – but for the little girl with Dyslexia it worked. It may not have worked in the way it was intended to but I can certainly read and write.

Here’s one thing I always struggle to explain and let me first say, I’m no doctor and I can’t give anyone the answer to “why.” I see words as pictures. I truly think most people do this but when I try to communicate it to them they always ask for examples and tell me how strange or interesting (read: weird) it is. The same way I look at that certain red fruit and know it’s name is apple is the way I look at letters grouped together and know what to say. I guess you could say I’ve memorized the word’s name. I cannot sound out words. Strike that (figuratively, of course, as actual strikeouts look silly and would not further my point). I can if I take what will sometimes amount to a few minutes thanks to my alphabet boot-camp. Now, at this point in my life we’re talking mostly medical and scientific terms – stuff with ten or more letters, I’m not a total barbarian – as I’ve memorized all your everyday stuff. It helps if this is a word that I’ve heard a bunch of times. Even though this becomes more and more rare with every new word I decode, it’s still pretty embarrassing when it comes to reading names that are spelled in a way I’ve never seen (thanks modern American parents!) or, more often, transliterations.

I think having two distinct alphabets in my head actually helps, though, I can’t tell you how. It’s just an idea. No one reads Slavonic anymore, anyway and people here think the Cyrillic alphabet is just a bunch of commie scribbling.

So, at private school, I ended up getting the kind of intense training older Dyslectics get before anyone even figured out I needed it. This was a miracle, in a way, and has saved me years of potential headaches.

I did have a lot of other give-a-ways when I was a kid. I couldn’t figure out how to tie my shoes till I was about nine or ten. I’m not sure exactly what this has to do with Dyslexia but I’m told by smart people in white coats that it’s “classic.” It has to somehow relate to the reason I have a terrible time following written or spoken directions in order. It sucks when you love to cook but your eyes won’t allow you to look at the next step in the recipe instead of darting around the page until, at some point, you’ve read and understand it all, just not in proper order. Same with factory service manuals, board game instructions – pretty much everything that goes this-than-that.

I also had a terrible time with “right” and “left” and on a bad day I still can’t assign these two relative directions names. It certainly doesn’t help that if you turn around you’ve effectively swapped their meaning.

I can’t read an analogue watch/clock. Look, I get the concept but if I have to stare at it for a couple minutes for it to make sense, than it’s not doing it’s job! Anyway, if “3″ were meant to mean “15″ than it would look like “15.” Can we stick to plain old base-10 with no algorithms, please.

Here’s something I’ll never forget. In first grade we started to learn cursive and this new alphabet really threw me for a loop. The first thing we learned to write was our name – and my name became “Dense.” I dropped the “i” and changed the spelling of my name for a good few months. I didn’t realize how unfortunate this new spelling was until I learned what it meant to be considered “dense” and even at five I was mortified. Now I write in some strange cursive/print blend that looks different every day. Some days I can’t even read my own writing.

Writing. Now there’s something that’s a challenge on a bad day. Say I forget a word in a sentence that I’m typing. “I went to store today” – I’ll type and I catch the mistake and go to correct it. I will invariably place the cursor after the word which I want to place the missed word before making my “corrected” sentence: “I went to store the today.” I almost always catch it after I’ve typed it but even though I do it every single time, I’ve been unable to correct this practice.

There are a few ways that Dyslexia has rendered me an absolute terrible person to deal with. The major one is that I have no patience for people who refuse to at least attempt to learn the proper terminology for equipment they come in contact with on a regular basis. I do my absolute best to never refer to any object as a “thingy” even though this can prove to be a difficult task for me some days. If you have a router in your house and it’s something you rely on every day to provide a network connection between multiple appliances in your home than you should know what it’s called! At least try to assign it a name, even if it’s the brand that stamped on it’s case. It’s been pounded into the heads of Dyslectics everywhere that no one will understand us if we use phrases like “the thing connected to the thing that gets me to the place is broken.” We will force ourselves through repetitive and exhausting exercises to memorize appropriate names for everything so that all the mainstreamers will understand what we’re trying to communicate. Dyslectic kids are the most hurt by this as they are still trying to mentally assign names to simple things like TVs and toasters. Even I’m still confused when people use improper terminology and I’m twenty-six years old. And I’m not saying do this for all of those around you that may be learning while having Dyslexia – do it so you don’t look stupid. That’s why we do it. It’s all vanity.

I’m not sure if it’s just me or if it’s all of the crazy memorization exercises that aware Dyslectics are always performing but me and a few others I’ve met share the common trait of excellent long term memory. This serves me extremely well in my line of work and I rarely have to write certain things down, such as complex passwords that I use frequently. I also tend to remember entire conversations, dreams, trivia, silly facts and the exact wording of songs, movie dialogue and emails. Don’t ever tell me or another Dyslectic something you’d wish we’d forget, because we won’t. This is great for remembering friend’s birth dates and favorite colors but when you reveal that you remember someone’s middle name because you had to check their ID once two years ago or you recite facts of a story a coworker or mere acquaintance rambled off to you in passing, people will think you are weird. Even weirder than they think you are when you call a wall a window. You will always look cool, though, when you’re the one that remembers every play of last nights game so it’s a win-lose.

As with any common learning difference there are some common Dyslectic traits – or perhaps they are straight up myths – that don’t affect me. I very rarely swap or reverse letters in a word, though, I do sometimes reverse order of words in a sentence so I suppose there is some sequencing difficulty there. I do not have ADD. I don’t suffer from any motor skills disorders … that I’m aware of. If I’m walking crooked, someone, please tell me.

I am, though (vanity), always afraid that it’s obvious and when I say something incorrectly I’m fast with my correction and apologetic for my apparent stupidity. Then I take a step back and I know that this makes me look meek and ashamed and I become angry with myself for my lack of subtlety. I’m overtly confident in most things that I do and I fear these two sides I exhibit – my Jeckyll and Hyde – will expose my biggest fear as a Dyslectic which is, simply put, looking stupid. I guess there’s an emotional element to Dyslexia just like there is anything else.

So, anyway, like I mentioned, I’m having one of my bad days and when I’m in the middle of something that’s causing me stress, I like to talk (type) it out. I wouldn’t give up my weird way of reading and assigning sounds/names to objects, though, even if it’s worked for Tom Cruise which I would argue that it didn’t. Even though he’s “cured,” he’s way weirder than I am.

Perfectopia

The overview of my NationStates nation surprised me today.

That’s my flag and my country’s motto – that was normal.

OK – that’s fine, too. I’ve been placed in both that category and “Scandinavian Liberal Paradise” since I started keeping a country in 2003 (think of it like fantasy sports with no seasons and no winner – yeah, doesn’t make any sense, does it).

Status quo …

… “good” is fine …

… excessive? Excessive? What is this – who decides when the amount of civil rights a society holds sacrosanct crosses the line to become excessive?

Hmmph.

Just kinda surprised me – that’s all.

Randoms, 041708

  • Prunes are good. Seriously, these things are yummy. Why do people shit talk prunes the way they do Brussels sprouts (and no, that was not an intentional play on words – only now I wish it was)? They are raisin-ey without being gross like raisins. The are sweet and they taste like candy. Yeah, I bought into all the anti-prune propaganda for years. It all started when I was about six and saw my grandmother eating them and I’m gonna be straight up with you – she only had one leg so she wasn’t someone whose life I was looking to emulate. Then, a few days ago, I saw a commercial where people were eating (of course, a certain brand of) prunes and they were surprised at just how tasty they were. So I went to Sweetbay and I bought some prunes – and I like them.

    BTW – I have a digestive disease. I already have more than enough fibre in my diet so I’m not expecting to see a difference.
  • If this HBK getting threatened for having forced Ric Flair’s retirement arc isn’t FINISHED after the next pay-per-view, I’m going to seriously consider pretending to stop watching RAW. WWE, it’s just not interesting! Why is Chris Jericho involved now?

    In other WWE news, I’m falling in love with Randy Orton. He’s extremely technically skilled an in this era of boring story lines, I’m actually watching for the wrestling. That and for silly terms like “Fatal Four-Way.”
  • I want polished concrete flooring in my house. Why is that so hard for some to comprehend and by some I mean flooring companies and by comprehend I mean install in my freakin’ house. I’m not looking for opinions on how concrete floors look and I’m not looking for other people to give me their tired, old reason why I should just do tile. LOOK … number one, it’s my house and number two, it’s my house. My allergies and other immune-health issues shouldn’t matter here and my detest for grout lines is no one else’s business and-and-and, guess what, I think concrete flooring is gorgeous! I have a one story house with a concrete slab so this isn’t such a strange proposition and, as for everyone’s other stupid comment – if it someday hinders my sale of this house, I’ll put carpet over it. Seriously. It’s concrete. That’s easy. Grr.
  • Is it Sunday yet so I can watch The John Adams Show? Wikipedia articles are NOT cutting it anymore and I’m starting to twitch a bit.

“Stop Gawking”

I hope that John Adams was really as intelligent, awkward, stubborn, dedicated and delightfully mad as he is portrayed in The John Adams Show. I hope that if I ever meet him on some other plane that we can discuss and argue American History as well as the way he is remembered.

Did he really take a “bus” (it seemed like a horse-pulled bus) from the White House when he left it to Mr. Jefferson? More to look up.

“Stop gawking! I’m plain John Adams – just an ordinary citizen. Same as yourselves.”

I’ve had watch that scene three times now. I’m completely in love with it.

I got to watch John Adams at it’s original broadcast time tonight – and in HD. Yes, I may be a nerd, but I found this totally exciting.  An upturn to a day that was only so-so.

The Cabinet Cat and the Baby-Mama

Misha

This is Misha.

He’s much prettier in real life – if one ever chances to actually see him. He is a Maine Coon. He is four years old. He lives in a cabinet.

That’s right: a cabinet.

I have child-locks on all of the lower cabinets in my kitchen … except for one. That’s his club house. Perhaps he sits in there all day listening to Dashboard and cutting himself. I could imagine that.

He’s sweet and smart. He has a deep voice and long, soft fur. He really is bright – hell, he opens a cabinet door when he needs a place to hide. He weighs about 23 lbs … at least, he did a few months ago when I coaxed him onto the scale.

Misha used to harbor a slight, unrequited obsession with Laser, who is my favorite cat – no – my favorite thing in the universe. He would whimper and approach her, time and time again, eyes lowered towards his front feet, and proceed to take a minutes long beating from a female cat less than half his size.

He used to do this.

Zelda

This is Zelda.

She weighs about 7lbs even though she is an eating machine.

She showed up at my front door one night crying and peering through the sash window. She camped out there for the next month until I realized that she was pregnant. I suppose extreme determination works for cats as well. She got herself an upgrade to my back screened-porch for the next few weeks.

She was farther along than I thought and one night when I came home from an audition she brought me a kitten. I went in the house to think on this and when I came back she brought me another kitten. This one was dead. She had cleaned it off completely and I could tell she had done all the things that instinct told her to do but this one didn’t make it. I went to the garage to get a shovel and I buried the little tuxedo in my back flower bed. I cried a little and then the I put the shovel away. When I went to the back porch again she brought me another kitten. I walked around the neighborhood with a Mag-Lite for the next two days looking for any extra cat-babies … just in case.

The family moved into my guest bath and then, after 12 weeks, the kittens moved in with a friend. Needless to say, Zelda still lives here.

Misha loves her.

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

These two are my outcast cats. Yes, I have enough cats that two can be considered outcasts. Collecting cats is a well known hobby of infertiles, didn’t you know? Who did you think went on to your crazy cat ladies? Career girls that can’t breed, that’s who!

Well, I think my two outcasts have fallen for each other! Does this happen often in multi-cat households? Zelda is extremely sociable and approaches any sentient being – person, cat, bug, dog, artificially-intelligent vacuum cleaner – with no hesitations. Misha is the opposite, often found hiding from those same bugs. I’m now wondering why she doesn’t annoy him the way she does the others and why he isn’t afraid of her. Do they see the way one another are treated by the other cats? Do they feel a connection based on this? Is it just a feline case of opposites attract? Black for white, big for small, quiet for loud, shy for annoyingly not shy?

Yeah – I sound nutty (admit it, though, cat people, you get it!) but this is what I’m sitting here thinking about. I’m finally sitting alone – no work, no plans, no obligations, no schmooze – on a Saturday night with my cats and my beer and I’m kind of hoping that I’m watching a kitty-cat romance unfold in front of me.

It’s a nice thought for my two sweet loners and quite a nice mental vacation for me.

The John Adams Show

I just finished watching the fifth installment of the HBO miniseries – based on the book by David McCulloughJohn Adams – a weekly event which I’ve come to anticipate with such fervor that my favorite and most eagerly awaited ceremony has become my Monday ritual of the past five weeks of jumping into bed and under my comforter with refreshments on my nightstand and my laptop perched on my thighs with Firefox open to Wikipedia while I fire up HBO On Demand. I’ve even started referring to the miniseries by a pet-name: The John Adams Show.

HBO and HBO Films have been long standing favorites in my heart, going back to the days where Fraggle Rock was the only show featuring puppets which I could tolerate. My favorite television show of all time was Six Feet Under and I, like the rest of the world, loved The Sopranos. Deadwood should still be produced. Big Love is my current favorite drama. Angels in America could not have been more faithfully and beautifully adapted. They’ve also either produced or distributed some of my favorite flicks such as Sometimes in April, The Girl in the Café, Something the Lord Made, Elephant, Longford, Starter For 10, Wit, Maria Full of Grace, Yesterday, 61*, And Staring Pancho Villa as Himself, American Splendor and The Pentagon Wars. Hard Knocks: Training Camp with the Kansas City Chiefs was my favorite show about the Kansas City Chiefs.

All of that was me admitting bias.

And with all of that bias admitted, let me now proclaim, for what it’s worth, that John Adams aka The John Adams Show is the absolute best television event to ever rock the satellite.

We all learned our few paragraphs about the American Revolution and I’m pretty sure most of us come out of it with the same picture. Something like George Washington attending a tea party with some guys in red-coats while crossing a river and signing the Declaration of Independence. If there’s a second picture from the era that pops up it might have Ben Franklin flying a kite with his house keys dangling off. Aside from those very wise folks who care deeply and greatly about all things historic and write books that are only read by each other, most folks have never really taken the time to think of these names – these faces on our currency – as fully fleshed out characters. For me and my lack of complexity, watching a representation of what their day to day lives may have been like is completely fascinating.

The truth is, nerd that I am, I was already a big fan of the life of Mr. Adams – specifically, the relationship that he and his wife Abigail shared. We know of this magnificent relationship not only through their preserved letters, but also through historic popular media where she was often as criticized for her politicking as her husband. Both were also (although, not the most outspoken) abolitionists who never owned slaves which makes them a rare and interesting case.

Now, I’ve already written studies on the characters solely as they have been presented so far in this miniseries. I won’t bore you with those as I did this for my own amusement but I’m announcing it here in hopes that my interest inspires someone else to watch John Adams, aka The John Adams Show (nope, I’m not going to stop calling it that). I’m not looking to shove American History down anyones throat, here, either. I’m in it for the entertainment value as much as anyone else. I just want to share this because it’s really come to mean so much to me.

There are a few moments and a few points that I’d like to highlight here, though, because I feel that they added a depth of understanding either to the characterizations or period setting – and just made the experience much more enjoyable.

The first thing I noticed about this piece is the costuming, in particular, wigs that actually come off of the heads of the wearers. This is something that, I’m ashamed to say, I simply never thought about. In my wallet and on statues and portraits everywhere I see men with curls on the side of their heads and bows tying their hair at the napes of their necks and I know these are wigs – but I never imagined these being removed. This may seem like a small point but it only further highlights how I’d never bothered to attempt envisioning what day to day life must have been like for people during this particular period. Also I’d never seen this era represented in such a way – dirt and dust all over hair and clothing. Common sense or a little bit of research tells us that it was simply not possible to maintain even the lowest level of cleanliness that we now perceive as minimal. It seems silly but I was amazed to be seeing this on television – something that makes so much sense – and seeing it depicted with these larger than life, untouchable men such as John Adams and America’s forefathers as our example. The act of beating the dust out of a wig was placed so perfectly in one scene that I saw it and realized immediately that this was not a big deal to the character. This is just what he did. He came home from work everyday and took off his wig and shook it out.

The unbelievable enormity and complexity of the set was also something that really drew me and helped me better understand the characters and their lives. We’re outside on colonial streets where it’s completely black at night and we’re inside dark and dusty homes and courthouses. We’re at the Adams’ sprawling farm which was just outside of what is now one of the largest cities in the country and from which you could see Boston Harbor. We’re in Philadelphia and then Paris – we’re in the woods and we’re in King George III’s reception chamber. During the busy daytime street scenes there are sheep being herded straight through the city and people hand pumping water from wells and no one bats an eyelash. This, like the dusty wig, is normal day-to-day life. The best usage of set, though, is displaying the drastic differences between life in well established European cities with healthy economies like Paris and London and life across the pond in warring colonial America. This was also achieved with elaborate costuming and makeup but the sets really stole the show. Paris has huge, clean buildings with art on the walls and colorful fabrics, green gardens and fountains whereas Americans not only don’t yet have time for these things – there’s no foreign trade and most must farm full time to live – but they have yet to live in real peace and haven’t established such a developed social culture of their own with their own cohesive style. This is a far cry from the educational videos we watched in high school that took place in one flag-covered room and in which everyone used feathers for pens.

While John Adams is, without a doubt, the most fleshed-out character (hello, it is The John Adams Show after all!) we get to see fascinating personifications of the seemingly meek but forward thinking and scholarly revolutionary Thomas Jefferson, the jovial, wise and somewhat fillandering Benjamin Franklin, the quiet but stern George Washington as well as the father-pleasing John Quincy and the entire Adams family.

A scene that drew me in as much as it grossed me out took place during one of many where Abigail was on her own with the children running the Adams’ farm while John was gathered with the Continental Congress in Philadelphia. She decides to have the family inoculated against smallpox – which seems to have been as scary and as risky of a prospect as actually catching the disease. The doctor pulls up and on the back of his cart is a young boy with sores all over his body clutching a cross. The gentlemen takes a knife and cuts a puss filled blister from the child and puts it on a plate. He then delivers the puss into Abigail and the children one-by-one by cutting a long slice into each of their arms and pushing some of it into this fold with what looked like a wooden stick. This may seem gratuitous – but it made sense to me. It was the perfect device to illustrate what it was like for Abigail to be without John and to show the types of decisions she would be faced with to best protect her family.

One of my favorite scenes so far took place in Paris where Abigail, John and TJ were watching what I assume was the meant to be the first free-flight of the Montgolfier brother’s hot air balloon which would have been piloted by Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier, Jean-Baptiste Réveillon and Giroud de Villette. This scene is used as a very beautifully shot and intriguing plot device to help establish the viewers understanding of the day and age we’re witnessing as well as assist in leading to a realization of the well documented difference in thinking between the two men. We know that these men were friends, united by a cause and that later in life they would be political adversaries and still later the best of confidants – but to see it played out before my eyes like this brought a better understanding into my simple-minded skull. As the balloon lifts slowly into the sky guided by men with ropes, Mr. Adam’s looks up and states “it will never fly” to which Abigail giggles and retorts “it has flown, John! Many times!” John continues looking up and quips about how it’s simply been pulled up and down on a rope. “Let’s see what happens when the rope is released.” Mr. Jefferson looks to his right and says, “Your husband’s admirable caution somehow blinds him to unanticipated possibilities, Mrs. Adams. This is one of them.” I can’t help but drop tears as these three – and the entire crowd around them – watch, jaws agape, as the ropes are dropped and the balloon sores into the sky.

John Adams: (staring into the sky, hand shielding his eyes from the sun) Well … I … stand corrected.

Thomas Jefferson: So, our umbilical cord to mother earth has been severed for the first time in history. Mankind floats upon a limitless plane of air.

John Adams: Hot air.

What an amazing thing to witness. What a thrilling time it must have been to be alive. When new discoveries were something you saw lifting into the air right in front of you instead of something you hear has happened in a laboratory.

This miniseries is full of beautiful scenes like this. Scenes where brilliant and brave, yet flawed and human revolutionaries - who were intellectuals, not brutes – sit around and discuss human nature and the slow and painful formation of a new nation. A nation which they only had an idea of and nothing solid to prove that it would work.

There’s another scene that stands out in my mind as depicting the differences of ideas between JA and TJ and shows how, in two men, we already had a two party system at work with what would become the Federalists and the Republicans. While sitting in Paris discussing the limits (or lack thereof) on powers a new federal government should be granted, Mr. Adams, Mr. Jefferson and Mr. Franklin discuss the nature of humanity and the “contradictions” inherent in all men:

Thomas Jefferson: You have a disconcerting lack of faith in your fellow man, Mr. A, and in yourself, if I may say.

John Adams: Yes, and you display a dangerous excess of faith in your fellow man, Mr. Jefferson.

How daunting – and frightening, at times – it must have been to be these men.

More of my favorite scenes:

- The first private reading and the retooling of the Declaration of Independence.

- Mr. Adams meeting King George III – the man who used to govern the colonies and whose empire John Adams assisted, through his tireless politicking, in tearing apart (and who must have already started to lose his mind a bit at this point) face to face for the first time.

- The Adams family having their first meal together in over five years when Abigail and John return from Europe.

- John Adams finding out by post, while at home at his farm with his wife, that he has been elected the first Vice President of the United States.

- George Washington towering over John Adams – exaggerated by camera angles – every single time it happens. What a simple yet powerful way to depict that relationship. Especially the scenes where GW is about to be sworn in and the one where he congratulates Mr. Adams on his election to the Presidency.

So, I’m in love with The John Adams Show, dba John Adams. Not only are the costuming, sets and dialogue amazing but the acting (or perhaps, more so, the editing) is utterly flawless. I never see Paul Giamatti, Tom Wilkinson, Laura Linney or David Morse even once as themselves and not their characters. I never see a glimpse of 21st century life and every word spoken is in a vernacular that I buy as being completely true to the period – but there is nothing boring about this period piece or the men whose lives it chronicles and while I’ve always known how the story ends I can’t help but devour every second, hang on every word, cringe at every tense moment and amaze at every new discovery. This is the best thing to happen on television, let alone HBO, since the final episode of The Sopranos opened up with the song Denise by Randy and the Rainbows.

Was that more bias?

Manical Rasslin’ in O-Town: The Citrus Bowl Sucks

WrestleMania in Florida

WWE really does know how to put on a live event. This may seem like an understatement of the obvious to you folks in my computer that are fans of the league. There may still be a few folks out there, though, who have never seen a live professional wrestling event.

If you’re a fan of theatrics and spectacle, lights and sound, high tech LED displays and low tech stage combat or even if you just love pyro, you must try to attend a taping of RAW or SmackDown. If you’ve already found yourself taken in by those then it’s time you see WrestleMania live and in person.

The set was perfect. They took a football field in the middle of the absolute worst sports venue in Florida and transformed it into the kind of glorious battlefield befitting the spandex-clad warriors who would engage upon it. A battlefield of neon and folding chairs with a 50 yard long catwalk because, seriously, what kind of fight would it be if you didn’t arrive to your own theme music? Even the smallest regiments in the Civil War had a drum and bugle – you can’t deny tradition that old.

The ring had a tarped dome built over it which also served as light and speaker rigging. Vince said the show would go on rain or shine – and his word was true. The on and off rain didn’t pause the action for a second and as long as the guys kept fighting, we kept sitting and watching and “woooo”-ing our hearts out. The themed-motif incorporated the staple palm trees and orange sunshine and although those drawings of our closest star didn’t truly reflect the weather in Orlando on this particular day, I think actual palm fronds blowing in the wind and rain is as thematic to Florida as you can get without filling the floor with alligators and meteorologists.

The matches were as amazing as they should have been. The weeks leading up to the event were, as always, full of hot air and blab but once at WrestleMania it’s all about the fights and the smack-talking is at an absolute minimum. To start the show off there was an ECW Battle Royal dark-match which saw Kane defeat everyone for his chance at the title. Then some singing, some pyro, some introductions and some more pyro – the event started big and ended big. All the results along with video, reviews and pictures can be found pretty much anywhere and I’ve already done my fair share of cheering, reenacting and complaining with my friends and coworkers. I’ll keep it short and say that I was sad to see fatty JBL win anything, much less against my beloved Finlay and that I was secretly happy when I saw Randy Orton jump in and steal Cena’s pin on Triple H. The Money in the Bank ladder match was probably the most exciting to watch live. Everyone that fought in that match was extremely impressive but, of course, I was saddened to see Jericho lose out in the last few seconds. I’m OK with Punk winning and really making a name for himself in the bigs and I would have been OK with Mr. Kennedy as well – but I’m a Jerichoholic. I wanted to see him win this and really get his storyline and climb to the top back on track. His personality is really needed right now. Ric Flair … well … I’ll admit it – there were tears in my eyes. It was the perfect match with HBK running off as soon as he won. Nature Boy’s tears were natural and beautiful and although we all knew it was his time it was still sad to watch it end.

WWE puts on an amazing event.

The Citrus Bowl, though, is a dump. If we’re using the venue’s name as an indicator of the terminology we should use, then this is a venue gone rancid.

I’ll admit something up front: I’ve always had an aversion to things antique. I’ve been known to be grossed out by aged buildings and old plumbing fixtures make me gag. I couldn’t tell you why this is but there you have it. I’m already biased toward a dislike for the place.

My previous inclinations aside, the place is really terrible. Yeah, it’s a piece of Florida sports history. In a tourist driven economy such as ours where new and luxurious equates to visitors and jobs a building from 1938 may as well be the Colosseum in terms of architectural age. Of course, the ancient Romans probably had a more advanced water supply system in place. Wrigley Field was built in 1914, though, and I’ve been through the inside and outside of the place and, despite being older, it’s apples and oranges when trying to compare the state of these two venues – so we all know an elderly sporting venue can be kept in a better condition.

I try not to compare it to the modern sports venues in which I’ve both worked and sat as a spectator – not that I really have to try hard as there’s not much at all to compare. The first thing you notice is the unfortunate gate setup. Yes, 70,000 of the worlds classiest fans pushing to get into the stadium first is going to cause a cluster but a little preparation on the part of the venue management would have been helpful. Some signage – any signage – on the outside of the venue before the gates would have been nice. Not that there are many signs beyond the chain-link fence dividing inside from outside. Twenty more pieces of bike-rack barrier would have really helped keep queues organized or at least helped create actual queues. The hard stands (built in concession stands) number about ten and the rest of the food is to be had from vendors under pop-up tents. When it’s windy dirt swirls through the first level concourses and I don’t think tents are stopping any of it from landing in the sterno-heated dishes. The restrooms – well – they exist. Remember my aforementioned issue with old fixtures? I think the ones at the Citrus Bowl are original. Since the place was apparently built before electricity was offered in the area, guests must constantly trample over extension cords pulled across the entire concourse. I helped three separate patrons in wheelchairs get over one such mess of cords outside the vom for section 128/129. Oh, and there aren’t seats – seating in the entire place, first level included, is bleachers. Actually, it could be worse upstairs. At first I had wanted to take a look around but I was already sitting in a “VIP” section so I stayed where I was to keep from being further disappointed.

The place is old, the place is gross – but the City of Orlando, who runs the venue, should be ashamed of some things that are under their control. This was a huge event and they were severely understaffed. Either that or the staff they did have on hand was all hiding somewhere. The ushers were unfamiliar with the building and were unwilling to deal with guest issues such as seating issues, guests with mobility problems, housekeeping matters and security checks. I had to ask that my bag be inspected at the gate and during the course of the entire event myself and guests around me had to keep reminding people which section was which and pointing them in the direction of their seats. The usher in my section had two kids hopping from seat to seat and told them to just go ahead and keep moving where ever a place became available because they didn’t want the job of kicking out two other guests who were squatting on their reserved seats. Of course they didn’t. That’s the ushers job. Maybe they were all feeling lazy, maybe they were truly under-trained or maybe the place was just that short staffed – whatever the case, for a massive event such as WrestleMania, the venue should be ready.

Knock down the Citrus Bowl, City of Orlando. The area is around it is impoverished and could use some good news. A sub-standard multipurpose venue is doing nothing for them in the long run. How about a hospital? How about shopping? How about housing that at least looks habitable. Even a state university didn’t want it anymore. The venue is a terrible place to attend an event and it’s doing nothing for the immediate area especially since it’s now empty most of the time. It brings shame to the city – a city that sees more tourism than any other in Florida. Even Amway Arena is a better place and that’s not saying much. I hope the WWE never considers it for another event.

I love Orlando because it’s part of my home – and everyone knows that I love Florida above most things – but we can do better. Let’s stop embarrassing ourselves with venues like this. We want to leave people with an impression of what Florida truly has to offer and the dirty, cramped, unfriendly walls of the Citrus Bowl just don’t do us justice.