The Blue Raccoon

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Wall Street Mushroom Cloud
Overshadows other negative advances

Wall Street Rap: From Rob Roberts.

Billion-eyed audience, the present predicament needs to come to a crashing halt. The bailout bill before the stymied and dazzled Congress doesn't address the foreclosure crisis and gives a blank check of almost a trillion to Hank Paulson who has nothing but a list of failures behind him: rescue AIG, save my buddies on Wall Street, on and on.

Do nothing, yes, some banks will fail. But they probably need to. That's why FDIC is there. Right? Excuse my financial ignorance, billion-eyed audience; however, the thing is, just because we can watch the digital numbers of the market plummet like some impossible elevator, and it's dramatic and causes teevee hosts to sound a little frightened, that's not the whole story.

The bond market is the big problem, and that's, as a trader acquaintance of mine described to me, is in the shitter. "It's a mess," he said. "It's going to take...a long time to clean it up." Which means there will be credit crunch; banks are shut up like hurt faces right now around the world. Ireland nationalized its banks almost overnight. Germany has nationalized three of its banks. This means money going to small businesses is on the verge of drying up.

Why you can't restructure the mortgages, and have that part of this enormous plan, I don't know. But just because the arrow points up one day, and down the next, doesn't mean we're OK. No. We're not. Another Great Depression is not likely -- we're a richer society now. But things are going to get tougher -- layoffs will increase, and where those people will get assistance, or for how long, that's going to strain the system even more.

So this cockamamie notion that we won't be able to go tour ATMs next week is a scare tactic. People getting kicked out of their houses is a major problem, because of the real estate taxes needed by municipalities. These go, the cities go, then there'll just be more panic. In fact, what we get for our lousy trillion dollars is a tourniquet on a wound that may staunch the trauma until the next President takes office -- the poor SOB, whoever that is.

And if things are as bad as Congress was saying, why take off for the Jewish holidays? That was an excuse to pull the plug on an overheated situation and to allow deals to get made away from staring news cameras.

Congressman Dennis Kucinich yesterday on Democracy Now!:

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: This is a copy of the bill which will provide for a $700 billion bailout of Wall Street. It has provisions in it where it talks about helping homeowners, but when you read the fine print, you see it has language like “may” instead of “shall” and “encouraging” instead of “mandating” help for the millions of homeowners who are worried right now about whether they’re going to lose their home. There’s no help for them in this.

So what we have here is a rescue plan that essentially gives all the speculators a bailout and puts the bad debts in the custody of the government. The president of the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank has said that this plan could create a fiscal chasm, says that the problem isn’t tight monetary policy, it’s the reckless behavior of some of these investors who have now found themselves in a position where a government bailout is going to help reward their bad behavior.

AMY GOODMAN: Is it any better than when it was first introduced by the Treasury Secretary, by Henry Paulson?

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: Well, you know, that implies that you would accept the underlying premise. I reject the underlying premise that we needed this bill. And as a matter of fact, that we’re putting this up before an adjournment in an election season shows that Congress is being put under extraordinary pressure to bail out Wall Street. We haven’t looked at any alternatives, Amy. This is—you know, it isn’t as though, if you had a liquidity crisis, that—you know, a real one—that you’d start to look at all the alternatives. We haven’t done that. We have a bill here, a bill of more than a hundred pages, that we haven’t had a single hearing on the bill, you know—on the concept, yes, on what Paulson and Bernanke asked for initially. But, you know, we need to have hearings on this. There’s 400 economists and three Nobel Prize-winning economists who have said, “Whoa, wait a minute! What are you doing? Why are you rushing this?” You know, this thing doesn’t smell right, frankly.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you think has to happen right now?

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: Well, you know, Congress better get ready with a plan B. If this thing goes down, we need to find a way to help Wall Street pay for its own problems. You can do that with a 20—.25 percent stock transfer tax, cancellation of dividends. You know, make the shareholders and the investors have to pay for the funny business that was going on on Wall Street. Why make the taxpayers pay? You know, the very underlying idea of this needs to be challenged, and frankly, there hasn’t been enough of that going on.

Well, what we have is a transfer of wealth, actually. It’s a continuation of a transfer of wealth. This whole government has become nothing more than a big machine that transfers the wealth upwards with our tax policies, our energy policies, with this fiscal policies, with the war. All the wealth of the country goes from the pockets of the people into the hands of a few. This is a very dangerous moment. You know, it’s the biggest amount of injection of capital by the government in a single time since the New Deal. And frankly, there is no trickle down here. There’s just rewarding bad behavior.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch...

While we weren't looking, really, Congress passed a massive bailout bill for the automotive industry just a few days ago -- to the tune of $35 billion to Detroit auto makers. The undertaking is bigger than the controversial 1980 Chrysler bailout, undergirds private companies, and further fuses private enterprise with the government. Worse, this isn't an "all the sudden" notion, but has been on the drawing board for 18 months.

This is an excerpt from that noted left-wing pinko newsweekly, US News & World Report:

"Exact details will come later, but the loans would probably amount to at least $5 billion for each of the Detroit 3, plus smaller amounts for suppliers. That would allow them to borrow money at interest rates as low as 4 percent—a steep discount compared with the double-digit rates they're paying now. Over several years, the automakers could save hundreds of millions in financing costs. Plus, they'll have five years before they have to start repaying the loans.

It might seem like a stealth rescue, but the plan has been in the works for at least 18 months. Approval for the loans was first included in last year's Energy Independence Act. Earlier this year, the automakers sought a first installment of loans totaling about $6 billion. But the nationwide credit crunch severely crimped their ability to borrow, and besides, next to bailouts like $200 billion for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, a mere $6 billion started to seem unduly modest. So Detroit raised the ante to $25 billion, the most allowed under current law."

You can read the whole pathetic thing here.

Papers? May I see your papers?

Attorney General Mukasey is behind legislation that makes "usual suspects" of us all.

From Wired:

"U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey on Saturday denied that the Bush administration -- in conjunction with the nation's telecommunication companies -- devised a "dragnet" electronic surveillance program that funneled Americans' communications to the National Security Agency without court warrants.

But the attorney general also insisted that defending his claim in court would harm national security.

"Specific information demonstrating that the alleged dragnet has not occurred cannot be disclosed on the public record without causing exceptional harm to national security," Mukasey wrote in a federal court filing in San Francisco. "However, because there was no such alleged content-dragnet, no provider participated in that alleged activity."

It was the first time Mukasey, as the nation's top law enforcement official, provided an emphatic and wholesale written courthouse denial of allegations contained in lawsuits accusing the Bush administration of widescale domestic spying in the years following the 2001 terror attacks. Keith Alexander, the NSA director, issued a similar courthouse denial in a 2007 court document (.pdf).

Despite Mukasey's denial, contained in a court filing (.pdf) made public Saturday, Mukasey asked a federal judge to grant immunity to the nation's telecommunications companies accused of assisting with the alleged surveillance dragnet. It is the first time the government has invoked the immunity legislation (.pdf) Congress approved July 9, which was signed by President Bush the next day."

Following this, further description from the American Civil Liberties Union, which, I know, members of the billion-eyed audience consider traitorous fifth columnists. Tough.

der new FBI guidelines proposed by Attorney General Michael Mukasey, all the FBI has to do to put anybody they want under prolonged physical surveillance is assert an “authorized purpose” such as detecting or preventing crime or protecting “national security."

These kinds of Bush/Cheney/Gonzales/Mukasey “just trust us” policies have been eroding our rights for the past eight years. After illegal spying and top-level torture policies coming from the White House, this is absurd. Enough is enough!

These new guidelines would allow the FBI to interview you, your friends and family under a false pretext. The FBI could recruit secret informants, and have them infiltrate peaceful protest groups. And the FBI to could initiate investigations based on little more than race, ethnicity or religion.

The FBI could also search commercial databases for personal details about your life with no real reason.

And all of this would be allowed without an ounce of evidence that you or anyone else has done anything wrong.

These guidelines represent one step closer to a police state. And the worst part is that there is good reason to believe the FBI has been violating its internal guidelines all along.

Fortunately, there is something we can do about this before the new regulations are implemented.

Demand that the Inspector General at the Department of Justice launch an investigation to determine if the FBI has been violating its own guidelines. The Inspector General’s office at the Department of Justice has proven to be an unbiased, internal watchdog that has consistently exposed wrongdoing. We need to urge the IG to do it again. Take action now at:

Shiver Me Timbers!

And then there's Sudanese pirates who've hijacked a freighter with 33 Russian tanks aboard. And the thing is, while extreme, this isn't unusual for those waters.

A U.S. destroyer and several other warships have been dispatched to deal with this. French commandos have learned one way to interrupt the pirates is to shoot out the outboard motors of their boats from helicopters.

This'll be a movie, before too long.

You see stuff like this, and start thinking about the availability of fissile material...and..well.

Read about it here. And here.

This Music Is In My Head

I've been hearing this tune, Serious And Purposeful String Mood by Peter Howard Morris on the public service advert "To Our Leaders" where it is used with arresting affect paired with dramatic images of alternative energy and the glum, intense faces of people who ostensibly are saying: get us off the foreign oil.

You can hear the whole song on the De Wolfe site, Track 8, here.

In my fantasy, this music is the featured music bed for the documentary "2008" that covers the span from January to January; we got floods, fires, famines, wars, this Presidential race with the potential for either an historic victory or a crippling loss, economic shudders, the Olympics, all this, and yes, pirates.

This doco would not be narrated but use news and found footage, YouTube, private material, and some damn fast and acute editing to take us through the rollercoaster ride this has been -- this is supposing that the species is going to survive past Janaury 2009.

I was listening to this music while watching the market plummet yesterday and it just seemed appropriate.

Hope all of you are well.

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Monday, September 29, 2008

Bailout Brou-ha-hah
This smells to high heaven.


Like Lazarus when risen from the tomb, this Wall Street bailout "stinketh."

The greater majority of U.S. citizens who are aware of the situation are opposed to this sleight-of-hand; then there's the rest of us who are either narcotized by the corporate media shills and apologists, or who have other things on their mind, like the bank taking their house.

But my big question is this: will either of the two sitting senators who are candidates for President, bother to show up and vote? McCain hasn't made a Congressional vote since April 8, and Obama on July 9 -- to renew FISA (!)

McCain has the dubious distinction of being The Most Absent Congressman of the 110th Congress --not there to participate in Senate functions about 64 percent of the time. Obama is a little better--having missed some 45 percent of the votes. Don't take my word for it, read here.

Sure, they've been busy. But this is only the fate of the nation we're talking about.

If these two who have made so much hay over this thing cannot take time out of their campaigns to do the job their constituents sent them "down to Warshington" to accomplish in the first place, why should we even be considering giving one of them the highest civil office in the land?

Just asking.

For some rational insight to all this, I direct you to Becky, Just A Girl In Shorts Shorts Talking About Whatever, who is always good for some smart observations and plenty of sass, here.

She makes this critical point:

"We are really not in danger of the ATM's running out of money or our credit cards being denied. My cousin is a banker in Seattle. He specializes in small business loans. I was talking with him on Friday, and he had just got home from doing a three million dollar loan to a new customer.

There is much greater panic in the Halls of Washington than on Wall Street or Main Street.

As smart as they are, Ben Bernanke and Hank Paulson are not the repository of all wisdom in the world. One hundred economists, from various universities, are on record opposing this bailout."

Read it all here.

Jim Kunstler at Clusterfuck Nation is, well, at his best when events are at their worst.

He writes:

"What we're seeing in this fiasco, among other things, is a lesson in the diminishing returns of technology. This is a train wreck of investment vehicles so complex that they could only be created with the aid of computers. The result is that hardly anyone -- perhaps even nobody in or out of Wall Street -- really understands what they represent. In fact, this alphabet soup of engineered securities -- CDOs, CDSs, MBSs, SIVs, etc -- was cooked up from a recipe of Ponzi algorithms.
They were designed to be mathematically indecipherable, except by computers, in an alternative universe of model-making that bore only a superficial relation to the real world. That was their dirty secret. And the dirty secret of the Great Bail-out is that, in the real world, we will never be able to discover the actual trading value of these things at any number above zero. This is why they are called "toxic."

Get it all here.

Financial sector contributions to Congress: Opensecrets.

Andrew Cuomo, Fannie & Freddie and the slippery slope into this mess in the Village Voice.

And Bush signing the The American Dream Downpayment Act in 2003.

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Saturday, September 27, 2008

Go see Eurydice, instead.
Instead of maundering about politics and high mis-finance

Laine Satterfield as Eurydice, via Jay Paul, Jay Paul Photgoraphy.

To remind yourself of a world devoid of partisan politics and financial tempests and screaming talking heads, go see the power of metaphor and poetry--and humor-- in action at the Firehouse Theater.

Don't just take my word for it. Here's just one of several reviews praising the production.

"The myth of Orpheus is ancient, the story of how far one will go to reverse the effects of death – and how faith must be strong in order to survive. The story is usually told from the perspective of Orpheus, the world's first musical sensation who uses his fame and abilities to enter the underworld and bargain for the return of his beloved wife. The story is generally about his reaction to his grief, the grief of the living.

In the latest telling of the myth, now playing at the Firehouse Theatre Project, is told from the point of view of Eurydice, the recently deceased maiden. This new version, aptly named Eurydice.

Make no mistake about it, Eurydice is the first great production of the season. Laine Satterfield has the title role and she infuses into it the joys of the young at heart who give their heart away and know that they are loved in return. When she is alive, she is carefree, teasing, the muse to a great musician Orpheus, played by Chris Hester. You might remember Hester from his performance in Reefer Madness, and here he shows his versatility, capturing Orpheus' seriousness towards his music and grief from losing the love of his life.

Joe Inscoe plays Eurydice's father, a part that does not appear in the original myth, but does add an extra layer of depth to the play. The legend becomes a triangular play with Orpheus, Eurydice, and her father each anchoring one point. Now when Eurydice is summoned from the underworld, her father ceremoniously walks her down the aisle as he wanted to do when she got married. Inscoe is a local treasure, one of the few people whose mere presence in a play automatically elevates the production. The scenes were he tries to dance with his daughter and walk her down the aisle are poignant and heart wrenching.

Larry Cook does double duty as the Mysterious Man and the Lord of the Underworld and is particularly creepy in the former and delightfully bizarre in the latter. Other cast members make up the chorus of stones and are played by Andrew Boothby, Jenny Hundley, and Lauren Leinhass-Cook.

Phil Hayes does an amazing job designing a set that is evocative, moody, and serves well as a beach pier and the maze of the underworld. It is one of the best sets I've seen in a while.

Lights were designed my Rich Mason who does a great job giving us the proper mood and keeping the actors in proper light and shadow.
at the Firehouse Theatre Project is magical, poetic, and amazing. It's a very quick play, about an hour and a half without an intermission, and the kind of play you will be glad you experienced."

Twilight of A Cinema God

Paul Newman has died. Here was one of those cultural figures who seemed just to get older and we didn't expect to have him go, like the rest of us, into that final fade out.

Back in 2002, Newman was in a revival production of Thornton Wilder's Our Town, playing the Stage Manager. He made a point of getting listed alphabetically in the cast, and when he made his entrance, he did so backward, and did not begin speaking until he turned around -- to keep wild applause from eclipsing the opening mood, and drowning Wilder's words.

Wish I could've seen him, then, live and in person, and had a made it point with Amie--who loves Newman--we could've. One of those things, never again to occur, like seeing Bobby Short at the Carlyle.

Newman was quoted in the New York Times then, that the moral of Our Town is, "Keep your eyes open."

"It is a reminder that he believes the world could use right about now. ''It's just a classic American play,'' Mr. Newman said. ''And there was something that reflects somehow the best of American values in that play that I thought was appropriate in these times.'' Those times, he later said, have been made more difficult by the recent elections. Mr. Newman, a staunch liberal, was disappointed, not only by the outcome but also by the low turnout. ''The number of voters is appalling,'' he said. ''It doesn't take that much to go out and vote. I'd rather go down knowing at least that I had voted my conscience.''

One of his favorite Stage Manager lines was, "You've got to love life to have life, and you've got to have life to love life.''

From The Terrace is for certain not the best film Newman made with his wife Joanne Woodward, mostly because the censors of the time couldn't allow a faithful adaptation of John O' Hara's fat novel about situational morality among the Very Rich. But my goodness, look at them.

Image via

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Friday, September 26, 2008

Disappointing Debate

Image: Lord of the Rings Movie Shots.

The electorate last night was sent down the river and asked to gawk up at these two candidates who performed in a fashion that wouldn't have persuaded anybody who hasn't already made up their minds. I was disappointed that there weren't greater and wider differences between the two of them. And as a nation, we're preparing to go over the falls with one.

Before any members of the billion-eyed audience want to hurl virtual tomatoes, hear me out.

I was more confused than enlightened by this debate between McCain and Obama in Oxford, Mississippi, hyped by the media like a Ali-Frazier bout, or an Idiocracy scene. The two debaters seemed tone deaf to the tenor of the times.

Jim Lehrer urging them to speak directly to each other was annoying, as was the disconcerting number of times Our Mr. Change agreed with Foxy Grandpa, or the way in which the oldster tried clucking his tongue about how the kid doesn't know the difference between strategy and tactics. (Actually, it was and is a magazine, if you were a war gamer back when).

I was neither impressed nor reassured that the Old One will be overcome. And I almost threw something at the television when he got indignant about his record, recalling that he'd won no "Miss Congeniality" awards in the Senate, and was known as "The Sheriff." Why, why no mention was made of his involvement with the Keating Five (not a R & B group from the 1960s) and the savings and loan debacle, a foreshadowing of the Fun House Hall of Mirrors show we're going through now. Yes, McCain ended up accused of just "poor judgment" and he contributed money he'd earned from the scandal to the U.S. Treasury, but even he's admitted that the affair will probably be on his tombstone. If you care to, you can read a 2000 clarifying piece about the Keating Five here.

A statement Obama made I think two days ago at the Mayflower Hotel was quite true, though. In four months, one of them will be inheriting this mess.

Obama didn't really get to score major points; McCain smirked and crackled like the villain in a 19th century melodrama, and at certain angles gives me a weird impression of resembling the elder Charlie Chaplin. Chaplin, for the record, is funnier. Obama handled himself quite well, though some of his positions, frankly, surprised me.

The basic fundamentals were frightful. Obama thinks sending more troops to Afghanistan will accomplish anything. That section of the world has humbled numerous grand plans. The British and the "Great Game" failed, as did the Soviet Union, as you can read in this prescient 2001 Slate article.

No mention was made of Pakistan, and how they've been firing upon our helicopters, and it's as if the Bush administration is just looking for an excuse to get us into some other international imbroglio. Because in the next few weeks, if, say, Pakistan takes down a U.S. gunship, or, if Russia decides to move against Ukraine just as they did Georgia --what will we do about any of these events? Neo-cons and hawks on this side would love it; meaning our old Cold War nemesis had returned in a different guise, and further buttressing the condition of Permanent War.

So then there's the notion of Iran as a rogue state; but, Obama did make the point that if we'd not smashed Iraq to pieces, we wouldn't have a resurgent Iran, flexing its muscles because--he could've added-- from where they sit, they are getting surrounded. This is why diplomacy, as Obama advocates, is important.

Then the whole Billion Dollar Bailout of the Wall Street banks. McCain is all for it and I think Obama, grudging in a way, is also, though with quibbles about parts of the plan --which isn't even agreed upon yet and far from implementation. One of them should've loudly and without equivocation called bullshit on the whole damn thing.

Obama made me sit up from my debate doze when he mentioned missile defense in a favorable way -- the Strategic Defense Initiative is like never-ending war in itself. There's no end to this; a huge money pit working with technology that does not operate. Talk about billions spent for no result! You can start with the science fantasy of missile defense.

SDI has lerched through backstage of U.S. military planning since the Regan administration like some crazy clumsy robot that having started cannot be stopped. Through perverse bureaucratic logic, money keeps getting spent to prove that the previous money wasn't wasted. Missile defense is the height of folly, though not as stupid as giving Wall Street bankers a trillion dollars.

I'll lift from an April post:

"Dr. Evil's Radar Installation
Though I've written about this many posts ago, in view of this horrific situation in the world, I thought this 2006 piece from Brad DeLong's blog Grasping Reality With Both Hands is as good as any an indication of the warped-beyond-understanding consensus reality that the U.S. operates under in these critical days:

Nuclear Armageddon-Prevention Blogging

His name is Stross. Charles Stross. And he writes about the X-band radar system:

Charlie's Diary: Paging Dr Evil (or, Who designs these things, anyway?): The Strategic Defense Initiative (aka "Star Wars" program) has, since Ronald Reagan announced it more than 20 years ago, cost the US government more than US $100Bn.... There are about ten interceptor missiles available, and the current goal of the project is to pop a cap in the ass of any rogue state that tries to destroy the United States by launching a single 1950s-vintage ICBM with a single warhead and no countermeasure capability.... However, there is one leetle weakness in the BMD program. To hit a missile with a missile requires fairly accurate radar -- it entails accurately tracking a target the size of a dustbin at a range of several thousand kilometres -- and so they've also developed an appropriate radar system. The sea-based X-band radar system... looks as if it sailed in out of a Bond movie: a $900M fifty thousand tonne offshore platform with a 1800 ton radar installation on top of it, it's designed to sit in the ocean near the Aleutian islands and spot incoming sub-orbital trash cans and guide the rocket interceptors into the target.

Unfortunately, there's a problem with it.... [A]ny budding Doctor Evil can ensure the success of his orbital mind control lasers or terrorist ICBMs by... sending... a 1950s vintage Whisky class diesel-electric submarine to poke a pointy stick through the eyes of the ballistic missile defense system. Which is, you will notice, not exactly mounted on a vessel that's capable of fighting off a bunch of Malacca Straits pirates.... I don't know about you, but I'm coming to the conclusion that the Pentagon subcontracted this job to the same guys that James Bond's enemies always hired to design their headquarters -- you know, the one with the prominently labelled SELF DESTRUCT button. (That would be Halliburton and Brown & Root, right?) I mean, what other explanation is there...?

I am told that the vulnerability of the X-band radar to pretty much anything with explosives, and the absence of two rotating carrier battle groups to protect it would be a serious defect in the system--if it worked, and if it couldn't be spoofed.

But I am also told that it doesn't work. And that it can be spoofed. So the vulnerability of the radar problem is only a third-order flaw in the system as it stands."

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Richmond In Ragtime: Cover art

Here, billion-eyed audience, is the cover design for the forthcoming volume, due in finer bookstores (and Amazon and Barnes & Noble) in November. I'll post appearances and events here.

On the front cover is (left) musician Polk Miller, a groups of suffragists (women seeking the right to vote) including artists and life-partners Adéle Clark (lower center) and Nora Houston; behind them is Main Street at around 10th looking west; lower right, crusading black publisher of the fierce and independent Richmond Planet, John Mitchell Jr.

Back cover, top: Richmond Mayor David Crockett Richardson (left) looks uneasy sharing the ride with pilot Ralph Johnstone at the 1910 Virginia State Fair. Crockett was the first city official ever to fly -- and the first to crash.

Below: A one-man dirigible, exhibited and flown at the 1911 Virginia State Fair.

All images via the Valentine Richmond History Center, except for the ladies, from the Virginia Commonwealth University James Branch Cabell Library Archives and Special Collections.

The publisher is the History Press of Charleston, S.C., who also put out True Richmond Stories, around this time in 2007.

This is a narrative, bricolage style, covering just three rambunctious years, 1909-1911. The coil of the story is provided by Adon Allen Yoder, a grassroots Socialist reformer who published a muckraking pamphlet called The Idea.

He wanted to clean up city government, an "awkward cumbersome machine" of 56 white men divided up into a Board of Aldermen and a Common Council who administrated 24 standing committees. He named names -- even printed the gambling winnings of some Councilmen.

Yoder championed women getting the vote, equal treatment of blacks before the bar of justice (though he did not advocate social integration in that Southern progressive-but-not-too-much way), and even the SPCA. What really annoyed him was the city's redlight district, which constituted most of what we now consider Shockoe Bottom around Main Street Station and a nieghborhood now obliterated by g0vernment office buildings and highway construction, Council Chamber Hill, around present 14th Street.

Also in Richmond, working and living during this time, community organizer and banker Maggie Lena Walker; editor and businessman John Mitchell Jr.; sculptor and decorative plaster-maker Ferruccio Legnaioli; reformer and suffragist Lila Meade Valentine, and novelists Ellen Glasgow, Mary Johnston and James Branch Cabell.

This is a world of flying machines and automobile endurance races and summer time excursions in streetcars.

Hope you'll like it.

The foreword is by my fellow scribe, Anne Thomas Soffee, a Richmonder, with a memory and a deft manner with words.

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Post Root Canal/Three Days of Rain Ruminations
Continued from previous post...

New York this past Sunday seemed none the worse for wear, physically, for all the market gyrations. The high rises from the roof of MoMA were all still standing straight. But the worst was yet to come in a matter of days; and overhearing conversations I detected not one syllable about the politics of the day or even the economic crisis. Just the usual round of where we're going and what we're seeing and the names of people and where they were from that fell on my ear in an unfamiliar fashion that was neither urgent nor dismissive.

This was my first extended visit to the "new and improved" MoMA. I have to say, I'm not over fond of the design. I liked the temporary site in the Queens staple factory. There, you ran into Van Gogh and Picasso and even Cindy Sherman like old friends at a party.

I remarked to Amie that the new place already had a grimy look to it as though it'd been there since about 1978, which is how the design strikes me: a monument to modernism that is past.

The one design aspect of the musuem I found most appealing was the wooden or composite wood surface floors in the galleries. They Queens location was like many galleries in Chelsea; hard concrete, that after going through a dozen, cause as much foot discomfort as the aesthetic pain one feels after seeing too much of what some have deemed art.

The apartment buildings across the street have always intrigued me. They are pre-war, and don't have central air, as evidenced by the window units. The two are 25 and 17 W. 54th St. that I like fantasizing myself into are side by side; one has this Secessionist Deco angularity with big square windows and and the second has turret bays. And higher up, balconies and terrace gardens. Gawd, how it would be to live in such an ayrie.

View Larger Map

Gazing across the roof terrace on this wondrous day, I found myself in rapturous love with those buildings, and the place.

But one of the great pleasures of our quick visit to NYC that Sunday was having a glass of red wine in the MoMa sculpture garden, hearing the pleasant falling water of the fountains and the Barnett Newman sculpture of the pyramid conjoined at its tip with the obelisk.

I had a jarring memory though; the wire frame chairs that are more comfortable than they appear in particular after a day of art-hiking -- I recalled this photograph, believe it or not; that's Theresa Duncan in her going-incognito style, here.

Funny how the visual memory works.

So we sat there, and I kept editing, and drinking, and basking in the splendid New Yorkness of the moment, and it was just as good as being rich.

Well. Almost.


Don LaFontaine was known to most people who'd never seen him as "The Movie Trailer Guy." His was the gravelly ominous voice, the one that always started with, "In a world gone mad, one man stands alone..." or some such. He was most recently in a GEICO ad. He died September 1, following a collapsed lung, and was just 68.

This video, "Five Guys In A Limo," is kind of a El Divo of voice over princes. Don is first--he was the King of Voice Over, and how they make fun of themselves is enjoyable.

David Foster Wallace

I have a confession to those in the billion-eyed audience who may have mistaken me for a literary type. My reading is not as wide nor as adventurous as it should be; and that's to my deficit.

I did not know his work well. I encountered him here and there in magazines and perhaps due to my own porousness of mind do not remember anything about what I read.

We were born the same year, a month apart, and out of the general same culture, but he was a genius and I just work at being understood. But the little wheels that have no sister whirred too long and much louder than he could stand them, and he hung himself, and silenced an observer of our time just when we could've used him the most.

I further confess that what little I knew about him, made me...envious. This makes me seem petty, and maybe so.

He was 24 when his first novel came out, hitting in a big way, and while I was still struggling with what I was trying to do with myself and switching majors at VCU and slogging away at an immature first-person fiction and thinking the world would end before I ever finished.

There was also following the 1980s literary brat pack thing, that Gordon Lish crop of writers that annoyed me. They were good looking and high living. They demonstrated that fiction is just about impossible to write and remain authentic and getting anybody to read it even more so. The hype soured me on reading most of what passes for contemporary literature in the U.S.

I can't get through so much of the stuff; it hurts my eyes, clotted with brand names, trying to be television on the radio, or sleek as Norwegian furniture in those New York lofts I lust for. But I'm not sure about the value -- of the fiction, the lofts are quite pricey.

And I don't know enough about David Foster Wallace's writing, but should now refresh and remind myself. The rhythm of his name always sounded famous to me, and it conflated with John Foster Dulles in my ear. And I think of Don DeLillo's observation that our famous assassins are always known by their three names: John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald, James Earl Ray, Mark David Chapman. But Wallace was a creator, not a destroyer...except at the very end. You can read more about this tragedy, here and here.

There's a story..not about him, but perhaps he'd appreciate it.

So a dog walks into a bar. Sits down on a stool, neither expectant nor presumptious, and the barman is bent over cleaning his glass on the scrubber and he looks up, asks the dog if he can help him. "No, not right now," the dog replies.

The barman goes back to his glass washing then glances up and a rabbi has come and sat down.

The barman looks at the dog, and at the rabbi, and says, "What can I do for you?"

"Just water for now, thanks," the rabbi says.

The barman bends over his business when his ears pick up a click clock clump thinking at first: this is is a heavy woman in heels. But no, he sees instead a horse. The animal sits on a stool, nods its muzzle but make no other sound.

The barman goes back to his work, then stands, shoves his rag into his back pokcet and crosses his arms across his chest. He looks up and down the bar and says aloud, "OK. A dog, a rabbi and horse have come into my bar. Is this a joke, or what?"

Economic Collapse

The Federal Reserve, which is no more a government agency than Federal Express, has been turned into a big hedge fund that gambles with public money and protects crooks. Home owners will continue defaulting on their loans; just exiting and leaving the keys in the mailbox.

Cities are getting sapped of their real estate taxes, meaning ballooning regional and local deficits and shortfalls for affording basic services like road repair and streetscape maintenance, to say nothing of public schools.

Years of neglect and deregulation by both political parties, and a public willing to go along for the ride heedless of warnings that, to be fair, weren't made wide and public (who listens to caution at the height of the party?) have arrived us at the threshold of disaster.

Washington Mutual is seized and sold. McCain goes to D.C., causes a sound and fury of pointless ruckus, and will now make his appointment at Ole Miss to debate Obama. Perhaps McCain will come across as a canky grandfather and Obama a cool, collected sharp-witted customer. I hope so. But either way, we're just in some serious kimshie. The leadership of this country is demonstrably, in too many crucial instances, crazy and clueless, cavalier and callous, cynical and cruel.

Is this the best we can do? Treasury Secretary Paulson down on one knee begging Nancy Pelosi not to kill the bill? And he having to admit its the Republicans who are the problem? You can read about it here and here. Have Philip Glass score it and Aaron Sorkin write it, and we've got an opera.

Finally, a colleague directed my attention to a hilarious interpretation of Keith Olbermann's "Special Comment." Wonder if this guy was told he looked and sounded so much like him, he decided to go for it.

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Post-Root Canal Ruminations
China Town bus to NYC; Don Fontaine and David Foster Wallace

Doesn't matter if it's art; it's just plain big. Jeff Koons Up On The Roof: image by Karen Jones via metromix. John Pereault's take on this exhibition in his Artopia says it far better than me, and you can see so here. I confess: I don't like the stuff, and don't care, and

Billion-eyed audience, never fear, I'm still alive just drugged after a root canal procedure, and missing Amie, whom I put on a plane to New Orleans for an arts conference on Monday.

I thought I'd catch up on a few random matters to enliven and entertain your perusal of the blogosphere.

Persistence of Memory

I got to thinking about memory when on WRIR I caught a broadcast of a RadioLab episode from earlier in the year about the ephemeral nature of remembering and forgetting. Fascinating stuff. Upshot is, according to the most recent science, memory is not like some big file cabinet, nor even computer storage, but it's more like painting. Memories are recreated even as they are stored. And we make them over, like a painter, sometimes adding elements that weren't even present when the even occurred. RadioLab is here.

Which flashed me into the Hadron Collider experiements -- the HLC, by the way, which is already experiencing engine difficulty. Before we can glimpse into the potential of other universes, the HLC needs to work in this one, as the Telegraph's Roger Highfield explains here.

But what if we find that the Big Bang turns into the Super Big Gulp, and comes out the other side as yet another Big Bang? The Universe recreates -- but not the same way every time.

This goes back to Chronon Theory that basically stipulates how reality can be broken into distinct and discrete particles of that are strung together like beads on a string, or even images in a motion picture. That like inhaling and exhaling, in each frame the universe comes into being and is "destroyed" in simultaniety. This gets into the Creator-Destroyer of the Hindu god Shiva.

What Chronon Theory suggests then like beads or movie images, there is a gap between them. There might be an "inifinite series of real, solid universes stuck into the probability gaps between quantum gaps of our own," as described by Cliff Pickover in Time: A Traveler's Guide, here.

And I thought of death, and how that experience may resemble going under in an anesthetic coma, and you fade away, and probably nothing -- unless you fall through the cracks into an alternate universe, as another entity somewhere else.

That's a huge amount of theory, and goes a long way to understand why we've devised gods and angels and demons to explain it all through metaphor. "My Father's house hath many mansions," yes, yes indeed it just very well may.

Cosmologist Paul Davies in his The Cosmic Jackpot theorizes that the Universe has engineered its own self-awareness. Mind and Life are fundamental particles in Creation. Life and the Universe that brought it into being are part of a explanatory statement. The Universe is a great cosmic computer, and Thought its software -- didn't we get this with The Hitch-hiker's Guide To The Galaxy?

He also states with great emphasis that you can't travel back in time or send information through. Humph. Near as I know, that's all still a theory. See Paul J. Nahin's Time Machines: Time Travel in Physics, Metaphysics, and Science Fiction, Second Edition.

Davies says Mind and Universe will at some point in the future merge. What we do today, what human beings choose to measure, what gets measured today effects what happens in the distant past -- sounds weird but weird things happen in quantum physics.

Reality is an amalgam of histories of the past, thus, what we study today, affects the past. Mind/Universe is in a constant process self-revelation--computing itself; refining and polishing. Davies isn't partial to the idea that life was imprinted from outside. The Universe generated Mind. It's always thinking about...itself. What happens when Deep Thought reaches a conclusion?

Unique New York

I leave these cosmic considerations for a more urbane excursion; this past Sunday Amie and I took the 1 a.m. China Town bus from Richmond to New York. Her mission was to see the Louise Bourgeois closing that weekend at the Guggenheim, the nocturnal Van Gogh opening at MoMA and works of Girogio Morandi at the Met, which she'd never seen much of person, but in books. There's one at the Virginia Museum.

I carried with me the page proofs for Richmond In Ragtime and on various street corners, and in the hushed and bright courtyards of museums, and upon the splendid roof of MoMA with views spoiled by Jeff Koons, I power read and circled words that needed to be changed, lines to cut, repetitions to reduce. And all this while on vicodin.

How grand it is to enter the city just at dawn, and experience the place waking up to itself. The light and the shadows of exquisite early autumn day in New York. I gawked at architecture, some of the buildings landmarked, others not. The Bayard-Condict halted me like a stunning woman.

This Louis Sullivan building is astonishing; without being fussy, it also like an elegant sculpted confection. I did not know this place and had to cross the street and learn its name. You can share the fascination here.

To cure my early morning grumpiness, we breakfasted at Le Basket, 683 Broadway, got an omelette and an outdoor table--those sleek, chrome cafe kind, easy to clean and durable-- and watched regulars come in and chat up the proprietor as the city stirred and hooted awake, and I had my New York Times and though the headlines were in almost every way dire, the day seemed impervious to disaster. The coffee was a tonic.

I will continue my varied ruminations about NYC, the collapse of the nation, and all that other stuff, later in the day.

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Saturday, September 20, 2008


Don DeLillo explained it all for you

"We want to think about the art of money-making," she said.
She was sitting in the rear seat, his seat, the club chair, and he looked at her and waited.
"The Greeks have a word for it."
He waited.
Chrimatisktiós," she said. "But we have to give the word a little lee way. Adapt it to the current situation. Because money has taken a turn. All wealth has become wealth for its own sake. There's no other kind of enormous wealth. Money has lost its narrative quality the way painting did once upon a time. Money is talking to itself."
She usually wore a beret but was bareheaded today, Vija Kinski, a small woman in a button-down business shirt, an old embroidered vest and a long pleated skirt of a thousand launderings, his chief of theory, late for their weekly meeting.
"And property follows of course. The concept of property is changing by the day, by the hour. The enormous expenditures that people make for land and houses and boats and planes. This has nothing to do with traditional self-assurances, okay. Property is no longer about power, personality and command. It's not about vulgar display or tasteful display. Because it no longer has weight or shape. The only thing that matters is the price you pay. Yourself, Eric, think. What did you buy for your one hundred and four million dollars? Not dozens of rooms, incomparable views, private elevators. Not the rotating bedroom and computerized bed. Not the swimming pool or the shark. Was it air rights? The regulating sensors and software? Not the mirrors that you tell you how you feel when you look at yourself in the morning. You paid the money for the number itself. One hundred and four million. This is what you bought. And it's worth it. The number justifies itself.

Don DeLillo's 2003 Cosmopolis came to mind in the financial fury and panegyrics during the past few days. The narrative is far more relevant today than when DeLillo wrote it. The protagonist lives atop an 89-floor building in a massive penthouse filled with color field art and a giant dead shark in a tank. That's right, the same kind of Damien Hirst that sold for $21 million the same day Lehman brothers went belly up.

Here in his cool, sculpted language, is a New York suffused by the cold blue light of affluence and a Manhattan of smoke grey glass towers that represent power yet seem vacant. The protagonist is a 27-year-old billionaire Eric Packer, an assets manager who thinks he needs to go cross town to get his hair cut.

He rides in a long white limousine, armored, cork-lined, jammed with screens and monitors and gizmos, a floor of Carrara marble: "
He wanted the car because it was not only oversized but aggressively and contemptuously so, metastizingly so, a tremendous mutant thing that stood astride every argument against it" ... “He thought about the partition behind the driver. It had a cedar frame with an inlaid fragment of ornamental Kufic script on parchment, late tenth century, Baghdad, priceless.”

Packer is a grotesque, emotionally stunted, yet by turns charming, erotic and murderous. He is Late Stage Capitalism, and gets a physical every day. He is counterposed with a Unabombereseque lunatic named Benno Levin who describes his condition:
“When I try to suppress my anger, I suffer spells of hwa-byung (Korea). This is cultural panic mainly, which I caught on the Internet.”

A cultural panic transmitted through the, that sounds familiar.

Read more about the novel here and here.

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Friday, September 19, 2008

Eurydice A Cure for the Clangorous Riot of Now
Mystery, poetry, and a philosophy of hats

Camille Corot, Orpheus leading Eurydice from the Underworld, 1861, oil on canvas, now in the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas, via glass-o-water.

Bias admitted right here: as most of the billion-eyed audience by now knows, 16 years ago next month I attended the meeting before the meeting that inaugurated the Firehouse Theatre Project. That said, I want to tell you: go there and see Sarah Ruhl's Eurydice.

Leave it to the Greeks. They asked most of the fundamental questions which we in the West are still endeavoring to answer. The myth of Eurydice, re-interpreted by Ruhl, takes us out of the clangorous riot of now into a world of poetry, beauty, mystery and eternity -- and fatality.

Rusty Wilson's direction and the stage design of Phil Hayes build a reality that straddles the reality of wedding parties of the rich and famous and that of the Underworld that awaits all of them (and us, we in the audience, who are gazing over the lip and into the abyss).

The density of metaphors in the writing requires simultaneous fluidity and groundedness of the performers. Watching Laine Satterfield as Eurydice united in the Underworld with her dead Father, Joe Inscoe, is both sad and joyous, as one teaches the other about death, and life, and the past, as they are suspended in the limbo of their present.

Ruhl here is in surreal and absurd territory, and there's a whiff of Waiting For Godot. [The genius of the evening: Sarah Ruhl, Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times]

There are long periods of silence, in particular as we watch Her Father creating a "room" for his daughter using a cat's cradle arrangement of string. Firehouse audiences accustomed to the rat-tat-tat dialogue of the contemporary plays produced there may be surprised.

Eurydice arrives in the Underworld like a 1930s movie star (Laine here reminds of Carole Lombard and a little of Myrna Loy, too), but having drunk of Lethe, knows almost nothing about who she is or where she's arrived.

A stand-out moment of the show is Her Father recounting street directions to what is probably the house he grew up in, along the Mississippi River, and the sensual pleasure of rolling up his pants and wading into the water. In the hands of a lesser actor, this monologue would've seemed forced, but Inscoe invests his entire performance with a solid reality -- he believes in where he is.

I'm not sure that Ruhl knew what to do with Orpheus. He's not Elvis, but maybe Bono. Chris Hester invests him with earnestness and woolly-minded artistic distraction. He is, after all, the music that makes the young girls cry.

In the myths, the three-headed dog Cerberus guards the entrance to the Underworld. The hideousness of that creature turns mortals into stone. What Ruhl reimagines is a Chorus of Stones. Perhaps less expensive and complicated to create than the ferocious fanged and snake-tentacled beast, and for certain funnier, the Cockney-inflected trio provide us with access to the story, too.

An inspired choice for the Chorus of Stones are actors who are known on Richmond stages for lead parts and directing: Andrew Boothby, Jenny Hundley, and Lauren Leinhaas-Cook. The old adage that there are no small roles, just small actors, is given validation here. Sitting still, keeping a focus in a strange situation, is more of an acting challenge than center stage pyrotechnics. They're funny, ominous and weird.

Larry Cook's portrayal of the a bratty "Lord of the Underworld" takes me back to the sp0iled man-child fribble of Trelane (William Campbell) in an original Star Trek episode, "The Squire of Gothos."

Cook's daemonic Very Interesting Man is that kind of annoying party guest who, in the words of Karl Rove, shows up with the best looking woman and makes disparaging remarks about everybody else. Cook's characterization of the Man also reminded me of that amusing un-suave, faux sophisticate stalker that Christopher Walken played a few times on Saturday Night Live. I half-expected him to offer Eurydice "shahm-pahn-ya."

So this is not a riotous comedy -- though there are comedic elements. Eurydice is a quiet play, but not serene; it is romantic, but in the end, existential. You'll leave in a spell, and there'll be plenty to discuss afterward at some dim Fan restaurant, where we cluster in a booth, our bodies warm and tight side-by-side, relating how we experienced what we each of us interpreted the play to be "about." We're here now and able to so indulge ourselves. We won't be for long. An eternity of oblivion awaits.

Turn off your television. Don't check the Bloomberg ticker. There's nothing you can do about any of that. See this play, instead.

I'm going more than once.

Meanwhile, for amusement:

The Squire of Gothos...

The Continental...

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008


The Firehouse Theatre Project presents Eurydice by Sarah Ruhl. Pictured: Laine Satterfield. Jay Paul photograph.

The play opens FTP's 2008-09 Season on Thursday, September 18, and runs through Saturday, October 11. Directed by Rusty Wilson and featuring Laine Satterfield as the titular character, Joe Inscoe as her Father, Chris Hester as her lover Orpheus, and Andy Boothby, Larry Cook, Lauren Cook, and Jenny Hundley as the chorus.

Eurydice ushers in the most unique and complex technical elements ever seen at The Firehouse, including pools of water and rain, as executed by set/lighting designers Phil Hayes and Rich Mason.

Director Rusty Wilson previously directed last season's Mr. Marmalade by Noah Haidle, featuring Laine Satterfield, Andy Boothby (Richmond Theatre Critics Circle Award Nominee - Best Actor, Play), and Larry Cook. Joe Inscoe was last seen on the Firehouse stage in Curse of the Starving Class by Sam Shepard. Chris Hester (RTCC Award Nominee - Best Supporting Actor, Musical) starred in last summer's hit production of Reefer Madness: The Musical by Dan Studney and Kevin Murphy.

Pictured: Joe Inscoe (left) and Laine Satterfield. Jay Paul photograph.

Tickets: Individual - $25; Seniors - $22; Student - $10 with valid ID. Tickets may be purchased online at, or by calling the 24-hour ticket line at 1-800-595-4TIX (595-4849).

Showtimes: 8:00 p.m. Thursdays - Saturdays; Sunday matinees 9/28 and 10/5 at 4:00 p.m. Doors open a half-hour before showtime.

Cast and Crew

Andrew C. Boothby (Big Stone) was seen last season as Mr. Marmalade in the FTP production of Mr. Marmalade. Since moving to Richmond in 1991, he has appeared on many of the stages around town, including performances in The Constant Wife and the world premieres of Money Matters and Turn of the Screw at Barksdale, ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas (twice!) and A Christmas Carol (thrice!) at Theatre IV, and A Few Good Men and Lend Me a Tenor at Swift Creek Mill. Andrew is a graduate of Shenandoah College and Conservatory of Music in Winchester, Virginia, and is a member of the Screen Actors Guild. He is thrilled to be back at the Firehouse and to be a member of this cast.

Larry Cook (Man, Lord of the Underworld) was last seen at the Firehouse as Larry in Mr. Marmalade. Prior to that, he was a part of the ensemble of the first Firehouse Theatre Cabaret. Some of Larry’s favorite roles include Bernard Kersal in The Constant Wife, Sir Evelyn Oakleigh in Anything Goes, Beverly Carleton in The Man Who Came To Dinner, Johnny Cantone in The 1940’s Radio Hour and Brad Majors in The Rocky Horror Show at the Barksdale Theatre. Audiences may also remember Larry as Bill in Lobby Hero at Theatre Gym, Harold Hill in The Music Man at Theatre IV, Sky Masterson in Guys and Dolls, Smudge in Forever Plaid, and Bill Snibson in Me and My Girl at Swift Creek Mill Theatre. Larry is so excited to “play” with some of his favorite people and to share the stage with his wife Lauren (Loud Stone) again.

Chris Hester (Orpheus) is a local Richmond actor and singer. He hails from North Carolina, where he received his degree in the arts from Duke University. Since coming to Richmond and getting back into theater, Chris has been featured in a number of shows over the past 2 years. Most recently, Chris played Jack/Jesus in Firehouse Theater Project’s production of Reefer Madness, for which he has been nominated by the Richmond Theater Critics Circle for Best Supporting Actor in a Musical. Prior to this, he produced and developed his own one-man show, Stages: The Defining Phases on One Man’s Life, which debuted at the newly renovated Henrico Theater in April. Other local credits include, Donner/Prancer in The Eight: Reindeer Monologues, Richard Loeb in the musical Thrill Me, and Ty Williamson in Sordid Lives – all with the Richmond Triangle Players. He also had the chance to play Billy Bigelow in Carousel, with the Theater Company at Fort Lee. Chris is a veteran of many professional, community, and college productions in his native state of North Carolina. Some of his most memorable roles include the Leading Player in Pippin, King Arthur in Camelot, and Nicely-Nicely Jonson in Guys and Dolls. In his “real life,” Chris is a Senior Information Technology Manager at Capital One Financial Corporation. Thanks to Rusty for an amazing rehearsal experience – a true joy, experiment, and adventure – and the rest of his Eurydice cohorts for being so welcoming. Let the music play.

Joe Inscoe (Father) is celebrating his 30th year as a professional actor. During that span, he has performed roles in most of Richmond’s theaters, as well as some in D.C. and Los Angeles (two world premieres). He has also done many roles in television and film, including work with screen luminaries Jodie Foster, James Earl Jones, Andy Griffith, Gwyneth Paltrow, Christopher Plummer, Colin Farrell, Geena Davis, George C. Scott, Pierce Brosnan, Liam Neeson, James Woods, Sharon Stone, and Martin Lawrence – not to mention Lassie, Johnny Cochran, a Blue Man, two of the Desperate Housewives, and one of their on-screen sons. For two years he was a regular on Showtime’s critically acclaimed series, Lincs. Until now, he’s been able to say, “I’m not a teacher, but I’ve played some on TV.” This fall, however, he will actually be teaching acting at the University of Richmond as Artist in Residence. His last role for Firehouse was as a dreadfully abusive father in Curse of the Starving Class. Now, as Eurydice’s father, his parenting skills should appear considerably more refined.

Jenny Hundley (Little Stone) Jenny is thrilled to be working with such a talented group of folks! She received her BFA (1986) and MFA (2005) from Theatre VCU and has been performing, directing, and teaching locally for over 25 years. Jenny’s previous work at the Firehouse has been as a director for Anton in Show Business, Red, Hot and 10, and The Firehouse Cabaret (2004). Her favorite acting projects include The Kathy and Mo Show, Vagina Monologues, and Five Women Wearing the Same Dress. Love and hugs to Paul, Will, and Lydia for their constant support and to her father, Bill Jones, who is the best daddy in the whole wide world! Cheers to all the “Daddy’s Girls” – Eurydice isn’t the only one!

Lauren Leinhaas-Cook (Loud Stone) made her Richmond theatre debut in 1982 as one of Major General Stanley’s daughters in Barksdale’s The Pirates of Penzance and has since appeared in over 30 productions at Barksdale Theatre, Theatre IV, Swift Creek Mill Theatre, Dogwood Dell and others. Favorite roles include Helen in And A Nightingale Sang…, Mother in Ragtime, Elieri in A Child’s Christmas in Wales, Vera in Stepping Out, The Witch in Into the Woods, Phyllis in Follies, Rosa Bud in The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Kay in The Taffetas, Daughter in Quilters, Lady Angela in Patience, Peep Bo in The Mikado, and Adriana in The Comedy of Errors. Lauren is delighted to make her first appearance on the Firehouse stage with so many dear friends, including her darling husband, Larry. Many thanks to Matt and Sam for letting mom and dad “play” together!

Laine Satterfield (Eurydice) has performed in, taught, choreographed, and created theatre both nationally and internationally. Recent Richmond roles include Lucy in Mr. Marmalade (Firehouse Theatre Project), Ellen in The Little Dog Laughed, Marie-Louise in The Constant Wife (Barksdale), Vagina Monologues (Firehouse), and Lady MacBeth in MacBeth (Richmond Shakespeare). Other favorite roles include Principal in Book of the Dead (The Public Theatre, NYC), Paulina in Death and the Maiden, Elena in Uncle Vanya, Molly Ivors in James Joyces’ the Dead, Ariel in The Tempest, Beth in Dinner with Friends, Shelley in Buried Child (Company of Fools, Idaho), Morgan Le Faye in Morgana (Teatro Proskenion, Italy, Denmark – original solo show), Anna in Peter and the Wolf (Lincoln Center, NYC), Juliet in Romeo and Juliet (A Cry of Players, NYC), Bride/Raven in Where Ravens Rule: a theatrical response to Bosnia (Edinburgh Fringe First award winner), Cordelia in Lear’s Daughters (New York Fringe Festival), Dame Ellen Terry in An Actor’s Nightmare (Women’s Work Festival, NYC), and others. She holds a BFA from Tisch School of the Arts at NYU and has trained at the University of Eurasian Theatre (with Eugenio Barba and Odin Teatret), Yoshi Oida, Stella Adler Conservatory, Carnegie-Mellon University, and the University College of London (dramaturgy - Shakespeare and modern British). She currently teaches acting for SPARC and has taught at New York University, Stella Adler Conservatory, Aquila University in Italy, Virginia Governor’s School for Arts and Humanities, Company of Fools in Idaho, Artspower, and various workshops in the states and abroad. She is a member of Actors’ Equity Association.

Rusty Wilson (Director) has been a working director, teacher, and actor for the past twenty-seven years and currently heads the theatre program at St. Christopher’s School. He also served as the founding artistic director for Company of Fools, Idaho’s leading professional theatre, from 1992-2004. Favorite directing credits during this time include The Tempest, Waiting for Godot, James Joyce’s The Dead, Uncle Vanya, How I Learned To Drive, Death and the Maiden, Eleemosynary, Danny and the Deep Blue Sea, and The Glass Menagerie to name a few. Recent Richmond directing credits include Where’s My Money and Mr. Marmalade for the Firehouse Theatre and Macbeth for Richmond Shakespeare. Rusty is a graduate of the SUNY, College at Purchase Professional Actor Training Program.

Sharon Gregory (Stage Manager) is happy to be returning to the Firehouse after a short stint working professionally in New York City. Favorite NY credits include Feast of 2012 for the NY International Fringe Festival ’07, Dreams of Home for Monarch Theatre Company, Welcome to New Jersey and The Littlest Light on the Christmas Tree for Vital Children’s Theatre, and the KNF Play Reading Festival. Previous Firehouse credits include As Bees in Honey Drown, Bat Boy the Musical, Reckless, Volume of Smoke, Where’s My Money, and Dinner with Friends. Other Richmond credits include The Syringa Tree and Jesus Hopped the A Train at Theatre IV/Barksdale, Long Day’s Journey into Night with Essential Theatre Company; A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Romeo & Juliet, and Macbeth for Richmond Shakespeare, numerous productions with the Carpenter Science Theatre Company, and she just finished serving as Assistant Production Manager for the 2008 Summer Festival of the Arts season at Dogwood Dell. She would like to thank Rusty for this opportunity to work together again as well as the Firehouse staff for hiring her back!

Amy Wight (Producer) is excited to be producing her 13th play for the Firehouse Theatre! Although her truest passion is singing, she has been involved in theatre for many years in a variety of capacities, from acting and singing, to set design and construction, to producing. Although primarily fond of producing, Amy has also appeared on stage, singing for a few Firehouse fundraisers (Hair, Red, Hot, and Ten, Firehouse Cabaret, & Hearts on Fire). Favorite Firehouse producing credits include As Bees in Honey Drown, The Last Five Years, I Am My Own Wife, The Secret of Mme. Bonnard’s Bath, Spinning Into Butter, and The Late Henry Moss. Amy wishes to thank her fiancé John for his constant support and enthusiastic encouragement.

Tad Burrell (Technical Director) Tad’s past Firehouse credits include Sound Engineer for The Heidi Chronicles and The Firehouse Cabaret, Set Designer for Kingdom of Earth and Reckless, Technical Director and Master Set Carpenter for I Am My Own Wife, This is Our Youth, Reckless, Volume of Smoke, The Last Five Years, Where’s My Money?, The Goat, Or Who Is Sylvia?, Birth, Compromise, and Dinner with Friends, as well as Sound Designer for Where’s My Money?, Birth, and This is Our Youth.

Bryan Harris (Sound Designer) has sound design and composition credits that include The Secret of Mme. Bonnard’s Bath, Reckless, and Kingdom of Earth for the Firehouse Theatre Project and Richmond Shakespeare Festival productions of Much Ado About Nothing and The Tempest. Bryan has also served the FTP as musical director of Bat Boy: The Musical, Hair: In Concert, and Hedwig and the Angry Inch. In his regular life, Bryan teaches guitar at James River High School, and would like to thank Jen, Frodo, and Sam for their unwavering support.

Rich Mason (Lighting Designer) is happy to be working with Firehouse Theatre Project for the very first time. Rich is a graduate of Theatre VCU and a veteran scenic and lighting designer in the Richmond area. Rich recently moved back to the area from New York City where he was Head of Design & Production for the Horace Mann School and 2nd Stages Coordinator for Adelphi University. For the past six summers, Rich has traveled to Traverse City, Michigan, working as Faculty Instructor and Scenic Designer for Interlochen Center for the Arts Summer Camp. There he has designed such shows as Guys & Dolls, Jekyll & Hyde, Rags, and The Laramie Project.

Phil Hayes (Scenic Designer) is thrilled to be designing for the Firehouse for the first time and working with Rusty. Currently he finished his Master’s degree in Scene Design/Technical Theatre from VCU last May. He has also been the Assistant Technical Director for the Department of Theatre and Dance at the University of Richmond for the past 5 years. He has had the opportunity to travel to Russia as an Assistant Technical Director to many theatres in the cities of Samara, St. Petersburg, and Saratov. Along with being a Technical Director, Phil has been in numerous movies and television show either as an actor, stuntman, or special effects technician. His latest design was for Barksdale’s production of Doubt: A Parable, which opened in February.

Samantha Kittle (Properties Mistress/Co-Costume Designer) is pleased to be working on another great Firehouse production. She has a degree in Theatre Studies and Women’s Studies from Guilford College and plans to attend VCU’s School of Social Work next year.

Special Events: Thursday, September 18 - Opening Night Reception - provided after the show by Bacchus. Friday, September 19 - Talk Back Night - join the director, cast, and designers after the show for a discussion about the production. Thursday, September 25 - Wine Tasting - Doors open at 7:00 for a special wine tasting provided by Strawberry Street Vineyard. Show starts at 8:00 p.m.


On the day Eurydice is to marry her true love Orpheus, a tragic misstep sends her plummeting to the surreal depths of the Underworld. Memories are forbidden in this world of the dead, but an unexpected reunion with her father vividly awakens Eurydice's mind with the love she felt in Life.

When Orpheus braves the gates of hell to find her, Eurydice must painfully decide
whether to remain with her father or return to her Earthly love. A modern tale of loss and love, Eurydice is the classic myth of Orpheus retold from the heroine's point of view, abounding with surprising plot twists and quirky humor.

"Like all fine poems, songs, and paintings, it's a love letter to the world...a magical play...among the most moving moments I can remember seeing on a may find yourself taken to heights of emotion that theater too rarely achieves..." -The New York Times

"...wild flights of the imagination, some deeply affecting passages, and beautiful imagery provide transporting pleasures." -Variety

"...exhilarating...we enter a surreal world, as lush and limpid as a dream, where both author and audience swim in the magical and thrilling flow of the unconscious." -The New Yorker


Playwright Sarah Ruhl studied under Paula Vogel at Brown University (A.B.,
1997; M.F.A., 2001), did graduate work at Pembroke College, Oxford, and currently lives in New York.

Ruhl gained widespread recognition for her play The Clean House, which won the prestigious Susan Smith Blackburn Prize in 2004. It was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 2005.

recently finished an extended run at New York's Second Stage Theatre. Prior to that it, had seen stagings at Yale Rep, Berkley Rep, and Circle X Theatre Company. Ruhl is also known for her Passion Play cycle that opened at Washington's Arena Stage in 2005.
Her play Dead Man's Cell Phone recently finished an extended run at New York's Playwrights Horizons theater in a production starring Mary-Louise Parker. It premiered at Washington D.C.'s Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company in 2007. Other Plays include Orlando, Late: A Cowboy Song, and Demeter in the City.

In September, 2006, Ruhl won a MacArthur Fellowship. The announcement of that award described her as "a playwright creating vivid and adventurous theatrical works that poignantly juxtapose the mundane aspects of daily life with mythic themes of love and war."


"I'm so thrilled and honored to be part of this festival. I confess that when I started writing plays I never imagined that there would be a festival with my moniker on it. I love the ethos of a theater town in which different companies collaborate on one large project together, and the goal of low ticket prices with great regional actors is dear to my heart. Eurydice and Clean House and Dead Man's Cell Phone are in a way linked as a cycle of plays in which I'm dealing with different versions of the afterlife. Thanks for having my plays to Richmond; I'm thrilled to be done in different theaters and a fire house." - Sarah Ruhl

Eurydice is part of the Sarah Ruhl Festival, a partnership between the Firehouse Theatre and the Barksdale Theatre. The Barksdale will present Ruhl's The Clean House starting September 26, 2008 and running through November 2. This wildly funny play takes a whimsical and poignant look at class, comedy and the true nature of love.

The Firehouse offers Barksdale season subscribers and any individual who sees both shows $5 off its regular $25 ticket price for Eurydice. Likewise, The Barksdale Theatre is offering Firehouse Theatre season suscribers and any individual who sees both shows discounted tickets of $25 ($13 off regular ticket prices) for The Clean House.

Call the Firehouse box office at 804-355-2001 and the Barksdale box office at 804-282-2620 to purchase tickets, and mention the Sarah Ruhl Festival to receive the discount.


Eurydice - a Firehouse Theatre production
September 18 - October 11
at The Firehouse Theatre

The Clean House - a Barksdale Theatre production
September 26 - November 2
at Barksdale Theatre (Willow Lawn)

Post Show Talk-Back
September 19
Open discussion with director and cast members of Eurydice immediately following the 8 pm performance at the Firehouse Theatre

Bifocals Theatre Project
September 26, 11 am
Discussion of Contemporary Women Playwrights: Sara Ruhl, Lynn Nottage, Lisa Kron - moderated by Barksdale Artistic Director Bruce Miller at Barksdale Theatre (Willow Lawn)

Film Offering - Black Orpheus
Sundays, October 5 & 12, 7 pm
A 1959 film based on the Greek legend of Orpheus and Eurydice provided by Yellowhouse Films at the Firehouse Theatre. $3 cover charge

Dead Man's Cell Phone
Monday, October 6, 8 pm
A reading featuring cast members from Eurydice and The Clean House, directed by Jase Smith
Invited guests to include VCU, UR drama students, all theatre artists at Barksdale Theatre (Willow Lawn)

Coffee & Conversations
Tuesday, October 14, 9:30 am
Discussion with cast members/directors from Eurydice and The Clean House - moderator TBA at Barksdale Theatre

ACTING CLASS with actor/director BILL PATTON

Starts October 2008 - Saturday Mornings
Get in on the act through theater training provided by esteemed actor/director Bill Patton. Bill will be directing his 10th Firehouse Theatre production this fall with the opening of Israel Horovitz's The Widow's Blind Date on November 13. Bill starred in two recent Firehouse productions, Fast Hands and The Late Henry Moss, and has been a judge for our Festival of New American Plays since its inception. This year, he takes on a new role as director of the winning scripts. Many students have gone on to feature in Firehouse productions. This will be our 16th session - come join the fun!

Dates: This session begins Saturday, October 4, 2008 and runs through Saturday, November 22, 2008. Classes are held on Saturday mornings from 10 a.m. - noon, upstairs at the Firehouse Theatre. Students will perform a showcase of scenes at 7 p.m. on Sunday, November 23, with a rehearsal the same day from 4-6 p.m.

Instructor: Bill Patton, actor/director.
Cost: New students, $160, returning students, $120 for an eight-week session.
For more information and to enroll: Call 804-355-2001 ext. 4 or register online here!

About The Firehouse Theatre Project
The Firehouse Theatre Project, a non-profit theatre company, was founded in 1993 to present important contemporary American theatre pieces with an emphasis on plays not previously produced in the metropolitan Richmond area. The company, which is under the direction of Carol Piersol, Founding Artistic Director, is housed in the former Richmond Fire Station #10 at 1609 West Broad Street. For more information about the Firehouse Theatre Project or its regular season, please call 804.355.2001 or visit the website.

Firehouse Theatre Project
1609 West Broad Street
Richmond, VA 23220

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