Friday, July 31, 2015

Camille's high-tech baby spa

The system Aunt Allison ordered for Camille was a bit more portable, but it was the same  idea and by the same manufacturer (Thalasso, I think); Water is preheated; no water goes directly from the home's tap onto the baby, as such can be dangerous. Water that makes contact with the baby has been pre-heated and measured both by instrument and by touch.  I have mixed feelings. I got by just fine without it, but it surely seemed to shut Camille up.



One of my Godchildren's aunts is a director of nursing at a hospital in Utah. This particular aunt has been claiming that Camille is cold even though she's swaddled practically like a mummy except for when she's on the jaundice bed, which she still need to do for about two hours a day. (That's down from about six hours, so the parents are finding two hours of steady screaming until the poor tortured baby cries herself to sleep manageable as opposed to six hours. Anyway,  when the grandmother who is a nurse practitioner  was checking the baby's vitaals this afternon, the baby's temp was just a little low. The consensus was that the baby needed to be wrapped in warm blankets aand held close to mom. if mom were a bit warmer, more skin-to-skin contact might be better, but mom isn't warmer.

The aunt who is a director of nursing in Utah talked to the chief of the NICU at her hospital about a bathing system that simulates the baby's experience in the womb, which they use particularly  on preemies who don't yet seem comfortable in their own skin. The aunt ordered one and had it sent here.  She told the baby's mom that she would stop at any point if the mom was uncomfortable with it. The nanny was familiar with the technicques and had used it with preemie twins simultaneously with positive results. 

They warmed the water to the proper temperature (I think it was 98.8, but I'm not certain) and  had the other hold Baby Camilles in the tub of water while the aunt direced the swirling water around the baby. Sounds simulating what the baby hears in utero were played  as the water was channeled over and around the baby's body. The aunt told the mom to talk softly to the baby. Baby Camille sceramed for about fifteen seconds, then gradually settled into it.. She'd already been fed and had already pooped, so she was just waiting to go back to sleep. after about fifteen inutes, the aunt had the mother dry her in soft towels, then diaper the baby and wrap her gently but not quite swaddled in soft warmed baby towels covered by a warm blanket. The mom rocked her for a few minutes before putting hr in her cradle.  They let the baby sleep a bit longer than she's usually allowed to sleep between feeding. When she woke up ninety minutes later, she nursed hungrily for almost twice as long as she typically does, then went right back to sleep after pooping.

The pediatrician is here checking Camille out now. She's two ounces up from yesterday, at 4 lbs., 10 ounces. Tthe pediatrician said the system should only beused once a day because too many baths of any kind will dry out the baby's skin, but to use the system daily  if it works.  And he agrees with the aunt that Camille was probably cold.

Baby Andrew saw all the attention the new baby was getting with the bath. Afterward, he kept saying, 'Adu, Adu' presumably meaning he wanted a turn next. The aunt didn't want to contaminate the system with another baby's germs, plus he's a little big for it, so she just found a larger plastic tub, filled it with warm water, and had the father hold him in it while she poured water on him and swirled it around. She played the womb sounds CD even though it probably had little effect on him after 8 1/2 months out of the womb.  It seemed to leave his nose less out of joint than if he'd been told no because he was too big. I'm glad everyone is being sensitive to Andrew's needs, as it can't be easy to have another kid show up to be the new  baby in your house when you're not even nine months old. Scott says it's better this way. He won't even know what hit him as long as he gets as much attention as he needs.

We'll probably have an easier day with Camilled today than we did yesterday.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Babies bring such peace into the home (cough, cough).

The reading produced by this harmless-looking device determines the level of sanity that will prevail in this house on a given day.


New baby Camille Catherine arrived home yesterday at 11:05 a.m. Between Camille and her eight-and-one-half-month-old Irish twin brother, I'm reasonably sure there hasn't been one solitary second of quiet in this house.  As a rule, the medical establishment has concerns about the health of the lungs of premature babies. These two were both significantly (six weeks and eight weeks repectively) premature, but if the ability to make noise any way other than by wheezing  is any indication of lung capacity, I'd  say both of them are doing just fine in that department.

Camille cries almost anytime she's not eating or sleeping. She doesn't eat or sleep all that much, which leaves an abundance of time for crying.  She eats every hour on the hour, or at least someone tries to get food down her on that schedule.  

They (her grandmothers,  her father, both grandfathers, all the aunts and uncles, and the grand-Godparents) all worry about the amount of milk (mostly the real thing; she's being breastfed, and the supplementary feedings are from stored breast milk) she's consuming, but she must be getting something down, as she's up to 4 lbs. 8 oz., from a birth weight of 3 lbs, 13 oz., and from an all-time low of 3 lbs., 3 oz.  Both grandmothers are also concerned about the quality of nutrients in the breast milk, but what they're failing to ackowledge is that she lost the ten ounces on high-octane preemie formula. It wasn't until she  started getting some of her mother's milk that she began to regain her lost weight.

The nanny (who holds a master's in nursing science), the mother,  and the pediatrician think the baby is doing just great and are only worried [the nanny and the pediatrician; the mother thinks she can do this forever if necesary] about the mother's ability to hold up and to produce milk at the rate of the grand-prize Holstein they're treating her as though she is. The mother has cystic fibrosis and does well to consume enough calories to keep herself from looking like an anemic  Eithopian refugee.  Beyond that, throughout the pregnancy and for as long as she breastfeeds, she's not taking the very best medications to control her own condition. She's compensating by having increased percussive repiratory therapy and alternate medications. She'll continue as long as the baby has to have breast milk, but the original plan was for the baby to be breastfed only for six weeks. 

This morning was the first morning in  several days that baby Camille hasn't put on  at least one ounce.  One would think from the collective response around here that North Korea* had actually produced a weapon of mass destruction that would travel further than its own backyeard and had
already launched it directly at the address of the home we're all currently inhabiting. The pediatrician's trying to put a bit of perspective on it by saying that if everyone gained an ounce every day of his or her life, we're be morbidly obese before we were old enough for preschool.

My job is mostly to keep eight-and-one-half-month-old Andrew happy. It's a relatively easy task. While he's not a quiet child, he is, by nature, happy. 

I actually think his sister is happy, too, strangely enough. I think she cries because she has to do something when she's awake and not eating,  and there's not much else she can do at this point. As soon as she is unwrapped enough  that she can discover her toes or learn to kick the noise-making toys hanging across the lower end of her cradle, she'll do that instead of crying all the time. Her cries for the most part do not sound like cries of distress to me. The nanny agrees with me. I mostly keep my opinions to myself, though, as were I to do otherwise, I would only be told how little I know, and I already know that.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Staring Down One's Demons






I've been obsessed with morbid crimes, particularly involving children or women as victims, since as long as I can remember. My mom agrees that I've always carried an unnatural preoccupation with true crime in general, and in particular with those crimes in which I could in any way relate to the victim.

I was barely two when Jonbenet Ramsey was found strangled and with her head severely damaged in the basement of her family's home. Shortly after the story broke, our immediate family was vacationing with my dad's side of the family at an over-sized cabin somewhere in the mountains of Utah. The cabin would have needed to be very large to accommodate my grandparents, their offspring and the spouses of those who were married, and the children of those who had already started families. The family is much larger now, but even then, there were probably at least thirty people in that cabin.

The cabin had some sort of dish network TV access. The men and several women were watching BYU's football team in a bowl game. (I looked it up: it was the Cotton Bowl, which would have made the date January 1, 1997.) During a commercial, Uncle Mahonri clicked the remote control to a news channel that was covering the Jonbenet Ramsey murder case. I toddled closer to the TV to watch and listen. From the kitchen portion of a huge kitchen that connected with an even larger family room, my  mother, who was spreading ricotta cheese across a layer of lasagna, hollered out loudly, "Change the channel now!" 

Mahonri  answered, "I'm interested in this!" and otherwise ignored my mom. My mother dropped the rubber spatula she had been using  into the container of ricotta cheese and quickly made her way across a family room floor strewn with toys and children. She picked me up, then reached down and turned the TV off  by pressing the "power" button on the TV. It's now a well-kept secret, but TVs can be turned off and channels can be changed not just with the access of a remote control device, but also by pressing buttons directly on a television set or on a cable or network box.

Mahonri, who held the remote device,  blurted out, "What in the Sam Hill did you have to go and do that for?  I was interested in that!"  Another uncle quietly made a joke about Mahonri being concerned about whether or not the feds were onto him yet, after which all the men but Mahonri laughed. Mahonri glared at the others, then started to turn the TV back on with the remote control.  My mother grabbed the remote device from his hand before he could turn the TV on again. "Hey! Who died and made you the TV monitor?" he yelled at my mom.

By this time, my grandmother had left the kitchen to mediate the dispute. My mom handed the remote control to my grandmother. "Mahonri clicked onto  coverage of that little girl in Colorado who was found dead, " my mom whispered to my grandma, but not quietly enough that I couldn't pick up on the gist of what she was saying. "Alexis was watching, and I didn't want her to see it. I don't think it's good for any of these children to see it." 

"We were watching the football game," my Uncle Steve explained to his mother,   "and he [nodding in the direction of Mahonri; he couldn't point because he had nachos  in one hand and an Orange Crush bottle in the other] clicked it off the game. No one else wants to watch that either, Mom." My grandma handed the remote device to my Uncle Steve, who had by then downed the nachos remaining in his hand. Steve turned the TV back on and quickly changed the channel back  to the one carrying the Cotton Bowl.

My mother carried me into the kitchen, telling me that I could help her cook. "What happened to that girl?" I remember asking my mom. "Nothing," she lied to me. "They were just showing a picture of her because she's so pretty." It was probably right after the media had made the connection between Jonbenet and the baby beauty pageant circuit, as I recall the TV screen having been filled with the image of a beautiful blond child in formal attire with a tiara atop her head. 

"Are you going to put blinders and ear plugs on her until she turns 18, Erin?" Mahonri hollered out to my mom. "This is the real world she lives in. You can't shield her from everything."

"She doesn't have to know about everything ugly in the world when she's two," my Aunt Cristelle muttered to my Uncle Mahonri."

"Shut up, Cristelle!" Mahonri muttered back. "You're every bit as stupid as Erin is." For the record, my dad was outside gathering firewood to bring inside. Mahonri would not have spoken of my mother in such a manner had my dad been in the room.

"Mahonri," my grandmother admonished, 'We do not speak that way at family gatherings. Go outside if you cannot control your mouth better than that." 

Mahonri sulked through the remainder of the Cotton Bowl, in which, due to the magic of the Internet, I can tell you BYU went on to defeat Kansas State  19-15, leaving most of those with any interest whatsoever in a good mood. 

That's my earliest memory (and some of the details are sketchy to me; my mom filled in what I couldn't remember) of an encounter with true crime.

The kidnapping of Elizabeth Smart struck me hard. One set of cousins  had grandparents on the other side of their family who lived just around the corner from Elizabeth's grandparents in Salt Lake City. Elizabeth was considerably older than I but, I had played with her younger sister on more than one occasion.

The disappearance of Laci Peterson bothered me deeply though she was much older than I, in particular because it happened not terribly far from where we lived. The killings of Carole Carrington Sund, her daughter Juli, and their foreign exchange student Silvina Pelosso were a source of great anxiety to me because my family had stayed at the hotel where Silvina and Carole were killed and from which Juli was taken. I've since then refused to vacation anywhere near the vicinity. 

Polly Klaas was kidnapped and killed before I was born, but some misguided teen-aged relative babysitter watched a made-for-TV movie on the topic with Matthew and me in the room when we were not quite four years old. We both had nightmares  -- Matthew for weeks and I had them for months, and probably still have an occasional nightmare based on something I saw in the movie.

I didn't have a direct connection to the Martin and Michele MacNeill case, but during summers that I spent with Uncle Scott and Aunt Jillian, the case against Martin MacNeill was being made. One of Scott's brothers lived very near the home where it happened, and his parents were not terribly far from the location, either. The other children were told to mention nothing about the situation to me, but I eventually picked up a newspaper and discovered that I was spending some of my nights within a literal stone's throw from a heinous crime scene.  Having  seen in person a man who drugged then drowned his wife in a bathtub has interrupted my sleep too many times.

In the aftermath of my own personal near-miss in the form of an attack that injured me but in which an all-out rape or sodomy was kept from happening, I received treatment not just for the physical injuries but for psychological ones. One of my counselors suggested that at some point when I have time (and when that might possibly be in the next few years is difficult to pinpoint) I might choose to focus upon perhaps just one of the true crimes from which I was impacted by the fallout to research and write about in depth. 

While it would seem in some ways to be counterproductive to what I would be trying to accomplish, I can also see the logic in it.  I suppose it's a way of facing down one's demons once and for all. I do not yet know which crie upon which I wuld choose to condense my efforts, or even if I might choose to write in great detail about my own experience. the disadvantage to using my own experience is that it is so very close to home that reliving it might be all the more painful. An advantage to using my own story as opposed to someone else's is that I've already been exposed to all the details. There won't be any new details to haunt me.

The particular counselor suggested that on nights when I've been awakened by an especially bothersme nightmares, I should assess my circumstances. if possible, my first course of action should always to be to go ack to sleep, with the assistance of others around me or even with pharaceutical assistance if it's not too soon before I must be awake.

If going back to sleep is not a possibility, I should assess my circumstances. If i'm feeling unsafe, i should do what i need to do to feel safe, whether than means calling someone  to come spend the rest of the night at my house, sleeping in a blanket on my brother's bedroom floor, moving to my parenrs' room, for the remainder of the night if they happen to be around, or something similar.

If I've assessed my sitaion and feelperfectly safe yet cannot sleep, and if I'm unable to concentrate on any other reading or studying project, that is the time at which I should work on the true crime story on which I've chosen to focus. I would be doing that right now except that i've decided it wuld be best for me to choose a subject for my focus in the light of day when I'm a little less spooked by the nightmare that just woke me. 

Tomorrow when Baby Andrew is sleeping, I will make a decision as to which true crime shall receive the benefit of my focus. 

P.S. Tomorrow may be the final semi-quiet day around the home where I'm working for awhile. Baby Camille Catherine, who weighed in at 4 lbs, 7 oz, on Monday morning, is slated to make her very first trip home tomorrow (Wednesday). I'll be up at the crack of dawn helping neighbors and relatives to decorate the house with welcoming signs, ribbons, and balloons,  for the entire family. (Even though he's too young at almost nine months to really know what's happening, we do not want little Andrew to feel slighted in the least.)



Monday, July 27, 2015

Bye Bye, "Bye Bye Birdie"



In addition to Saturday night's performance, which went off without a hitch, I ended up being Kim McAfee one last time in the Sunday matinee performance. If I ever do any show again, whether it's as an actress or a musician, remind me to be sick or otherwise unavailable for the matinee performances. The really old people come to those. They talk loudly to each other while we're supposed to be saying our lines, then complain loudly to each other that we're not speaking loudly enough and they can't hear us. I'd rather deal with a teen or young adult texting or otherwise playing with his phone  than talk over old people's voices. They have no clue just how loud they are.

My mom filled in last night, then helped the regular pianist, who was at about 60% capacity during the matinee. He had to run out twice during songs, and my mom was right there to take over. My mom worked with him on playing Rosie's notes in her most difficult songs without losing any of the accompaniment. He seemed to get it. My mom was happy to help, but she, too, is about as happy as I am to say goodbye to "Bye Bye Birdie."

They're all off tomorrow, as the company does no shows on Mondays.  That will give piano player's gastric system almost forty-eight hours to recover and will give the real "Kim McAfee" time to get over jet lag, grief, or whatever else ails her.

As far as Bye Bye Birdie and I are concerned, I'm essentially entering the witness protection program. My cell phone number may have to be changed anyway, as my cell phone is defunct. I'm getting a new plan with the new phone, and I'm not sure I'll keep the same number. To those of you who need my number, remind me who you are, and I'll let you know if there is a change.  

If I hear that the real Kim McAfee is sick, injured, catatonic, or otherwise impaired,  I'll probably change my appearance dramatically. Perhaps I'll purchase a fat suit and color my hair Lucille-Ball-red. Then again, maybe I'll have a so-black-it's-almost-blue dye job done. I'll cross that bridge if and when I come to it, but one thing is for sure: I'm not going to be on a stage pretending to swoon as Conrad Birdie sings that gawdawful "Honestly Sincere" song again.

My newest Godchild, Camille Catherine, weighed four pounds, six ounces Sunday morning. Her prognosis for discharge on Wednesday is excellent.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Separated at birth???




Has anyone other than I noticed  the at least slight resemblance between Brody Jenner and serial killer Cary Stayner? I'll post a link to Stayner's story below, as there are now  officially too many mass murderers for everyone to keep track of them all. I've had  more than a passing interest in the Stayner case because one of my aunts is marginally acquainted with the Stayner family and because my family  vacationed in Yosemite that year, thoroughly traumatizing me,  and because it all went down not that far from my neck of the woods at the time.

I say this at the risk of  publicly raising my personal morbidity index from marginal to fully gruesome,  but I actually believe Stayner is the better looking of the two men in this specific head-to-head comparison. This is  particularly salient when one considers that Jenner's picture is probably some sort of photo op set-up,   and more likely than not he spent ten to fifteen minutes in a cosmetician's chair  having his mug made maximally attractive,  versus Stayner's  literal mug shot, before which  Stayner, in all likelihood,  was given neither the time  nor a washcloth or a comb with which to tidy himself up prior to the photo op.

When I have a bit more time, I'll share my own saga in relation to true crime  and the killings that caused me to need a night light in order to sleep most nights to this very night.  For now, however, please simply  note the resemblance, real or imagined  on my part,   and wonder, as do I, just how it is that a man who had been living practically under a rock in order to evade law enforcement officials can emerge from beneath said rock, have his picture snapped, and come out of the photography session looking even in the ballpark of  comparability to a Jenner / Kardashian  in terms of overall handsomeness if not in actual physical facial  resemblance.

Don't worry, Mom, Dad, Uncle Steve, Uncle Scott, or Judge Alex: I have not developed a sudden affinity for and/or attraction to "bad boys." I have no intention whatsoever of hooking up (in any sense of the term) with  a gem of a pen pal from one of the state's or nation's many high-quality correctional facilities. Instead, I'm merely noting what I perceive as a rather  unlikely resemblance between an inmate currently housed in San Quentin's famous Death Row Wing and a Kardashian by association.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cary_Stayner


Opening Night: Does it ever go off as planned?

This is how  quintessential nerd Harvey Johnson will always look in my mind, although I would have made his hair a few shades lighter.


I know my few readers are tired of hearing about Bye Bye Birdie, but this is a journal of sorts. Right now I'm up to my neck in diapers by day, and in Bye Bye Birdie by night. Twenty years from now I may wonder just what it was I did in the summer of 2015. This is for me a written record. For you, it's mostly just boring. I apologize.

This evening we were within less than half an hour of curtain opening when the guy who plays piano for the production (the only one out of all of us who gets paid to the best of my knowledge, though that's neither here nor there) developed a colossal case of Montezuma's Revenge. When he took Immodium, he couldn't keep it down.  We could have gotten by without virtually any other musician (we're just using a combo, with a guitarist, bass player, drummer, clarinetist, and pianist; why they chose a clarinet as the sole wind instrument is anyone's guess), which is probably why the pianist is the one who gets paid -- that and the fact that the pianist has to come to most of the rehearsals for the duration of the run, while the others don't come in until the final few rehearsals.

The clarinetist plays piano, but probably not well enough to play an entire score she hasn't really played on piano. I could have easily done it with minimal cuing in regard to cuts and repeats, but I obviously had other responsibilities. The director did consider moving the "Ursula" character to the "Kim" part and putting another of the screechers into "Ursula's" part, and having me play the piano, but just as in a team sport, the more people who are out of position, the greater chance there is for a breakdown somewhere. 

I asked my mom if she would mind filling in as piano accompanist. She would have been capable of playing the score  with her eyes closed even though she's never accompanied for this particular musical. The only possible difficulty for her would have been that everyone's version of any musical has cuts and repeats for various reasons where they're not written in the score  -- a scene change takes longer because the scenery is more complicated than it's supposed to be, a wardrobe change takes more time, a particular part of a song just isn't working, the director doesn't like the particular music written for a given scene change -- all sorts of possibilities can arise. 

Sometimes last-minute glitches come up -- someone's wig has been misplaced or someone else's brain freezes and he or she is nowhere to be find when it's time for him or her to go onstage -- and the "orchestra" has to kill time until it's found. Those things my mom could deal with as well as anyone. It's the cuts and repeats that happen every time that she needed to be told.

We moved the bass player right next to my mom,  as he's the sharpest of the lot and was the most able to cue a new piano player in on alterations to the score. It's "Bye, Bye, Birdie," not a Rachmaninoff piano concerto that my mom was dealing with. She has a doctorate in vocal and piano performance, and is a university piano and voice professor, and is considerably more skilled than is the poor sick guy even using unfamiliar and slightly sub-standard Roland digital equipment with its own idiosyncrasies. my mom says whether she plays tomorrow night or not, she's bring one of our digital pianos for whoever plays to use. we have more than we need, so she'll probably donate one to the theatre, as our worst digital piano is far better than the one owned by the theatre company, and there's a limit to how many digital pianos we need to keep around the house. 

I don't know how the change in piano players impacted anyone else, but for me personally, it was distracting in a good way. i was on auto-pilot mixed with a bit of adrenaline in terms of my own part. My mom picked up on Rosie's musical issues and was able to play most of Rosie's melodies in the accompaniment without leaving accompaniment licks out, as she's a literal professional. The original accompanist had tried substituting Rosie's melody for the treble piano part in several areas, but it left the accompaniment sounding too bare-boned. The accompaniment as written was needed in addition to Rosie's melodies. 

When my mom got home, she used her computer program to play the part the way she played it tonight, so that the real piano player can play it the way she does when he returns. She could have written it out by hand, but it would've taken an hour or two versus the fifteen minutes it took to play it into the computerized keyboard and print it out.

Rosie did well, and I didn't even need to back her up after about two lines of her hardest song. Overall, it was the single greatest discrepancy between a final dress rehearsal and the subsequent opening night performance that I've ever seen, and I've seen a lot of both as an accompanist. I haven't acted that much, but I've played piano for more musicals than I can recall off the top of my head.

The worst thing that went wrong was that someone in props thought it would be a good idea to use actual broken glasses taped together at the bridge for the nerdy "Harvey Johnson" character as opposed to putting tape on any old pair of horn-rimmed glasses and letting the audience assume they were broken. The glasses kept actually falling apart on the poor guy, which was rather distracting as he tried to sing his solos. It was only distracting to him. I think the audience thought it was supposed to happen that way. Now that "Harvey' is used to it, they may leave the broken glasses in.

We don't know yet if the original piano player will have recovered enough to return tomorrow.  I hope nothing is seriously wrong, but I also hope whatever is wrong is not contagious. If half the cast came down with similar symptoms, the production would be in a world of trouble.

Neonate Update: Baby Camille Catherine weighed in this (or technically yesterday) morning at a grand total of 4 lbs, 4 oz. All signs are pointing toward a July 29 discharge date. It's a bit of an old wives' tale that a baby under five pounds will not be released from the hospital. If the baby has made good growth to get to the weight he or she is at, is continuing steady growth,  is otherwise strong and healthy, and has competent caregivers, doctors don't use five pounds as the automatic discharge weight.

I'll try to post the song, "The Telephone Hour," with poor Harvey Johnson's solos. 




For the record, I think  Allie Trimm in the 2009 Broadway revival of Bye Bye Birdie was much more suited to the role of "Kim McAfee" than was Ann-Margaret in the movie version.  Ann-Margaret seemed too sophisticated, like a 28-year-old pretending to be a 15-year-old. Maybe there's something I don't know and that's how young teens really looked and talked in the early 1960's, but I find it hard to believe.

Sleep well.



Friday, July 24, 2015

Lousy dress rehearsal = strong opening night performance?




We had our final dress rehearsal for Bye Bye Birdie tonight. Half the cast doesn't know all their lines, including the young woman playing Rosie, who is considered the female lead. I'm merely the secondary female lead. I'm not usually on the stage when Rosie has her blank-outs, so there's not a whole lot I can do about it. There's some sort of stage superstition that a bad final dress rehearsal equals a strong opening night performance. I'm hoping that there's some merit to this particular superstition.

When I did Annie when I was 13, the cast was good, but on the rare occasion someone forgot a line, it was appropriate enough for me to make up a line or ask the character a question that would prompt the character to remember his or her line. It's not appropriate for the Kim McAfee character to take over scenes in this show in very many places. It mostly falls on the guy who plays Albert or the lady who plays Albert's mother to pick up the slack when Rosie or someone else blanks out. The Albert character in particular has a hard enough job as it is, as he already has more lines than anyone else in the show. 

Conrad Birdie is solid. He knows his lines and sings his asinine songs well. The guy and acts looks so incredibly stupid that I have a hard time believing he's not a major dolt in real life, but perhaps he is a genuinely talented actor as community-in-the-sticks theatre actors go.

The theatre will be more than half full of my friends and relatives tomorrow night. The following night, the rest of my friends and relatives will take up at least half the space. It's a relatively small venue. 

Someone has to stay with Jillian in case there's an issue. Little Andrew now sleeps in a crib at the hospital, but if there were a problem of any sort -- either with Andrew getting sick, something happening to Jillian, or God forbid, the baby having a problem, someone would have  to take Andrew and someone else would have to be at the hospital. Since there are so many of us, it works out. 

I believe my audience is bringing children, so I feel a bit sorry for the rest of the audience. My group will bring well-behaved children, but they're children nonetheless. No one's bringing anyone under three, which is the polite thing to do. Furthermore, many of the children are Mormons; Mormon kids routinely sit through long stretches of things far more boring than musical comedies, plus the children get to eat while they're watching, versus attending church, where they're fortunate if anyone passes them a handful of Cheerios in the middle of Sacrament Meeting. Sitting through live performances of Bye Bye Birdie while eating junk food should be within well their skill set. Still, what's going on in the audience may be more interesting than what's happening on stage a good portion of the time. 

Jared's little brother Bryson, who just turned six and still believes he's going to marry me after his mission, wants to come both nights. His mother said 
"maybe," depending upon how he does the first night.

Regardless, my audience will be bringing in substantial money to the community theatre producing the play, as my people will purchase generously from the cabaret where food is sold, and children pay as much for seats as adults. A packed house on opening night is considered a good thing even if most of them there just to see one person. They'll be an enthusiatic audience for the entire production. All things considered, the theatre company is lucky to have the audience that shows up because I'm filling in for in a couple of nights of the production.

I'm not meaning this in a mean-spirited way at all, as the woman has my sympathy and I'm certainly pulling for her, but I believe they could have done a better job in casting Rosie. It's not just that she isn't Latina, as my mom, who is about a far from Latina as one can get,  played the role and was fantastic. There are a couple of really good songs that give Rosie a chance to stand out, and this Rosie isn't taking advantage of the opportunity. 

One of the songs, i'll admit, is difficult  for anyone who isn't a musician, as there's a part where Rosie is simultaneously singing a different set of words and melody against Albert's part. The whole song is musically polyphonic, but it doesn't matter if she's off or not on the parts where she's not featured, as the techies can just turn her mike down. 

Tonight the director made a last-minute change in the blocking. He positioned me directly behind Rosie for most of that song, as Kim McAfee isn't all that integral to the ensemble cast in that song except at the beginning and end.  On the hardest part, tonight the director  had me sing her part with her where no one could see me because I'm shorter than she is. She came within an inch of nailing the song. I'll back off on the part whenever she has it on her own. I'm crossing my fingers than she does nail it tomorrow night.

I'll look for someone's version of the song. It's a scene where Conrad Birdie, idiotic, amoral rock star that he is, gets caught in public.  An impromptu press conference begins, and he's his usual sub-moronic self. Albert and Rosie walk into it and have to immediately begin spinning for damage control. It's probably the only actually clever song in the entire production.

Update: Baby Camille is up to 4 pounds, 2 ounces. Way to go, Camille!









Thursday, July 23, 2015

Alexis publicly makes a total fool of herself . What else is new?








I can't remember what I've mentioned about this, but I'm filling in as "Kim McAfee" in a community-in-the-sticks theatre's production of Bye Bye Birdie because the original Kim had to travel to Minnesota to say good-bye to her grandmother and then wait for the funeral. While there are things I'd rather be doing than reciting inane lines and singing silly songs on a stage in front of an audience, I have to give the original Kim credit for having her priorities in order and for not letting an insignificant community theatre production interfere with saying goodbye to and honoring someone who was important in her life. I'm not sure she had much say in the matter, so I applaud the entire family's decision.

For the record, I was called into service not because of any reputation I have as a talented performer, but rather because I can memorize very quickly. 

I  had my second (and next-to-last) rehearsal tonight. Tomorrow night is final dress rehearsal.  The role is not optimal for me vocally, as my chest voice extends only from roughly the G below middle C to the C above middle C. Because there's so much difference in the sound of my head and chest voices (no smooth transition whatsoever), I need to sing the entire thing in my little-girl voice, which is not very impressive. It doesn't sound like I'm trying to imitate Shirley Temple or anything  that sickening. I just don't sound very mature. We're miked, so my voice will be strong enough. I'm not really a singer anyway. It's OK, though, as Kim McAfee is only supposed to be fifteen years old. I look the part, and in my little-girl voice I sound about right, too.

Bye Bye Birdie is not exactly one of my favorite musicals. Some of the songs are incredibly stupid. I understand the songs are supposed to be stupid because the character of Conrad Birdie is an idiot, and an important sub-plot of the play is how his handlers constanty struggle to hide from the public just how lacking he is in both morals and intelligence.

Before I share with you the movie version of what is probably the single most vapid song in the entire production and possibly in the entire universe, "Honestly  Sincere,"  I'd like to announce that my God-daughter, Camille, is up to 4 lbs, 1 oz. The little girl is growing like a freaking weed.







Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Are there SPIES strategically posted outside the entrances of the theatres where "The Book of Mormon" is playing?

Were there spies in our midst?

Had I tried to sleep after having departed from the blogosphere on such a very sour note, I surely would have had at least one extreme nightmare.  Instead, I'll make a lame attempt at ending with a more light-hearted entry.

On our return trip following  our viewing  The Book of Mormon, my friend and on-again/off-again semi-significant other, Jared (the guy who had my name tattoed on his arm to make himself ineligible to  serve a mission because he couldn't find any other way to stand up to his father), casually wondered aloud as to whether or not, especially in a location so remote as Fresno, the leadership of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints might have posted spies to see if any of the local congregants were in attendance at the play.  I don't know if the COJCOLDS at the general level has issued a decree of any sort against its members attending the musical, but I do know that leaders at the local level have cautioned (more strongly in some cases than in others) its members against seeing the play. 

Would the COJCOLDS leaders care enough to strategically posistion covert operatives to catch local members  in the act of going against counsel?  It wouldn't be the first time COJCOLDS leaders have appeared, either covertly or openly, at events promoting stances contrary to those supported by the church. In the late-seventies/early eighties Equal Rights Amendments controversy, Mormon leaders were known to have shown up both in open persona and in disguise, clipboard in hand, taking note of members in attendance. The same was the case during California's Proposition 8 (In Defense of Marriage Act) debacle. 

So what about The Book of Mormon?  Would the church care enough to send out spies to document the dissidents among the wards and stakes of Zion?  If so, just how might these covert operatives look?

Perhaps avoid any pretense and send the stake president himself. (R. I. P.,  beloved President Paternoster.)
Or maybe deploy a bishop or one of his counselors from each local ward?
Or maybe send a slightly less authoritative but equally official Relief Society President? Hell, who are we fooling here? This lady is the daughter of the senile Thomas S. Monson, President, Prophet, Seer, and Revelator of COJCOLDS, and for all intents and purposes, she's probably running the organization right now, at least until Daddy's EKG flatlines and the next-in-line for kingship hears about it. According to some, his EEG already has, except that the man can still wiggle his ears at will.
 
   

REALLY throw the errant members off by disguising on of the local leaders as a biker.  .  .






Or give him the appearance an actual LDS prieshood leader disguised as a biker would more realistically have . . .

Trump for president?



POTUS ?


For the most part, I consider it in poor taste to use social media, blogs included,  for the promotion of one's political ideology. *** i shall make an exception tonight.

Donald Trump is a joke wrapped inside a ltruckload of money  inside a moron.  More correctly, he's not a true moron. he's what used to be referred to as an idiot savant.
(I believe the politically correct term for the condition is currently "individual with Savant Syndrome." We must be politically correct. here. Typical savant abilities often include  unexplained musical talent, unusual calendar or other numerical skills, or unnnatural rote memory.  In the case of Donald Trump,  he has the skill to take a large sum of money and turn it into even more money. As far as whether he would have become rich had he started out as a pauper, only God knows.

Trump was, bacause of bad behavior,  kicked out of the prep school of which his father was a trustee. His parents felt they had no choice but to send him to military school. prep school must have provided some degree of reformation, as he earned a Bachelor's degree from Wharton school of business. Then again, it wouldn't be the first time a degree has been bought rather than earned. 

Trump's recent derogatory statements about Mexican illegal imigrants, essentially that Mexico is not sending us its model citizens but instead, rapists and such, outraged many who are not even particularly sympathetic to the plight of Mexican immigrants.
his more recent rant in which he stated that senator john mccain was not a war hero because he allowed himself to be captured   offended  even McCain's  adversaries.

I was hoping Trump would at least be  good for a little comic relief, or at least he used to be, but he's not even  all the funny anymore.  I'd like to have enough faith in the American voting public to think his election, or even nomination, is an impossibility, but where so much money is involved, is anything an impossibility.

The only consolation I can think of at the moment is that the president doesn't really have as much power as many people assume. He still has the code that's inside  the little black box that's never more than a long arm's length from his reach, though.

***My rants against Mitt Romney were personal, not political.


Sunday, July 19, 2015

The Book of Mormon --my take

i tried to find a stock photo with the dancing Starkbucks cups visible but couldn't..

My parents have been  taking my brother and me to musicals since we were toddlers. Some were community theatre or university productions. When the local university or one of the community theatres in the area needed a quick last-minute fill-in my mom was called into service several times because the idea of understudies actually learning lines in both university productions and community theatrehas gone the way of the wooly mammoth. *  My mom had played many of the roles in her pre-mother days, knows all the songs whether or not she played the roles, and memorizes lines with unnatural ease.  I've seen my mother play both Hodel and Golda in Fiddler on the Roof, Rosie in Bye, Bye, Birdie (that was a bit of a stretch; even with a temporary dark rinse in her hair, my mom doesn't exactly look like a Latina, though she somehow managed to pull it off), Fiona in Brigadoon, Rizzo in Grease,  Maggie in A Chorus Line, Rose in Meet Me in St. Louis, Mary Magdalene in Jesus  Christ Superstar, and, of course, Maria in The Sound of Music. There may have been more with the multiple community theatres in the area in which we lived at the time, and the two university musical productions per year. Almost all were one- or two-time fill-in performances, but in a couple she did the complete run. 

I've even filled in at the last minute in two stage roles, in one case against my better judgment and in the other case over my objections, due to one case of a temperamental actress walking off the set two days before opening night and one case of chicken pox, I''ve portrayed Chava from Fiddler on the Roof and the title role in Annie. I'm due to fill in for three nights in a local production of Bye Bye Birdie as Kim McAfee, which is a part I've sort of wanted to play, though I don't have a deep and burning desire to be on stage. I'm better suited to the orchestra pit.

In any even, I've had my fair share of exposure to musical theatre. I've sat through more than my share of musicals, including three (Wicked,  Les Miserrables, and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat) on broadway. I've seen enough to know what I like.

I tend to grade musicals on the singing and the quality of the songs. The acting is incidental to me, and has to stand out in a big way to make much of an impact. The dialogue is secondary. If the actors can sing well and get through the choreography withut tripping over their feet, i consider the performance  as well as the musical itself a success. i'm not hard to please in that regard. 

The Book of Mormon was very different for me in that regard. it was all about the dialogue for me. The dialogue was brilliantly written by South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone.  The songs were catchy, apropos, and, in this case by the touring cast, quite well-performed. i felt that the # 1--billed lead, Elder Price, was outshone in today's touring performance by the actor portraying the geeky Elder Cunningham, especially vocally.  Such was clearly not intended to be the case, and I would surmise that in the Broadway version, the Elder Price character earns his top billing. The female  lead  (I cannot recall the actual character's name, as Elder Cunnigham continually mangled it, eventually calling her Neutrogena)  was a most sympathetic character, played by an actress with powerful yet incredibly dolce voice. 

My favorite parts were "The Scary Mormon Hell Dream,"  **  (the larger-than-life dancing Starbucks cups were a touch of genius, as were the cameos) by actors pretending to be Genghis Kahn, Jeffrey Dahmer, and Adolf Hitler)  and the "I Delieve'" song parodying actual Latter-Day Saint beliefs ("I believe God changed his mind about blacks in 1978") and the awkward moment when Elder Cunnigham read
to the tribal African people from the actual Book of Mormon of how the wicked Lamanites were cursed for their wicked ways by having their skin turned from "white and delightsome" to dark. My single favorite line from the play was, "Salt Lake City isn't an actual place. it's an idea -- a metaphor."

A person watching  could pick out in the audience the actual Mormons-at-one-time by their laughter in anticipation of the punch lines of the jokes, as it was clear to the insiders what was coming. My dad didn't really count in this regard, as I'm pretty sure he started laughing at the onset of  the opening scene and never stopped until well after the final curtain call.  I sat next to my cousin Josh, who served a mission  in Chile but had to return to the U. S. early because of an intestinal ailment that took several feet of his small intestine and very nearly took his life. I was concerned that the plot might be too close to home to be amusing to him to be amusing, but it wasn't; he was among those laughing before the punch lines were delivered.

Half-Mormon that I am, I was among those in on the most inside of the jokes. To me it sometimes seemed as though the play was written for ex-Mormons and half-Mormons such as myself, and wondered if the rest of the audience would get it, but they apparently did. There cannot be that many exmormons and half-Mormons in and around Fresno, and the performance received a standing ovation.

An acquaintance told me that he would take me to see the production on Broadway if we were ever in The Big Apple at the same time.  while i will take him up on the offer if the opportunity  presents itself, I know that if were it to happen, during the baudier scenes, the redness of my face would show even in the darkness of the theatre. (I was extremely grateful to have been seated an entire level away from my father).  The same would be doubly true of the girl who would likely accompany us,  who has led a life even more sheltered than mine has been.

On my way to my seat inside the theatre, i noticed a man wearing a t-shirt bearing the rather non sequitur sentence: "I've got maggots in my scrotum."  The sentence is no longer non sequitur to me.  All things considered, it was the funniest thing I've ever seen in my entire life.


*I would have used the words curelom and cumom in place of wooly mammoth, but only the Mormons, curreny, ex, or half, wuld have had any idea about what I was talking.


**Even my dad, who was dragged into Mormonism at the ager of abiut twelve by his parents' conversion aand was never a total believer though he served a two-year mission to Argentina, tells of having experienced 'The Scary Mormon Hell Dream" more than once.

As a postscript, i would like to add that I think the LDS Church has publicly handled the production of The Book of Mormon in a more or less classy manner. i know that many oracticing latter-day saints as individuals took tremendous offense, but the church itself tried to make the best of what  could have been a bad situation by taking out adds in the program and even by positioning actual Mormon missionaries at the exit doors, offering free copies of the actual Book of Mormon to any who would take them, had the play exposed the temple ceremony, for example, Mormons would have had a right to be affronted. such was not the case, however.  we as members of whatever religions or non-religions we have chosen would do well to be a bit more self-deprecating in regard to our beliefs except perhaps when the most sacred aspects of our beliefs have been profaned.


Saturday, July 18, 2015

Book of Mormon Stories



I'm finally going to see it! My dad thinks I need some Ativan.



Tonight! I'm going! To see the "Book of Mormon" musical. For me, this is like Christmas, my birthday, and the day the professor suddenly becomes too sick to lecture and cannot find a substitute on such short notice, all rolled into one.  Mere words cannot express my level of excitement.

A group of us from med school, plus a few strays several of us are dragging along, will be meeting up before the play  at the private home of a relative of someone's friend, who graciously offered to let us gather at his home to party so we wouldn't spoil the summer fun activities of some poor, unsuspecting family trying to frolic in the pool of the Holiday Inn or the Marriott or whatever hotel upon which we might have chosen to descend.

Cool Guy from my cohort has been in town since yesterday. He asked if he could visit on his way. my parents  said he could sleep last night at our house since i'm not sleeping there. I'm here with my Godchild. I was originally going to ride with my brother and my cousin Josh and Jared, but i'll probably ride with cool guy  unless a generous aunt offers the use of her oversized SUV, in which case we can all travel together. 

Taiwanese-American  girl from San Francisco (the one whose younger sister has fashion sense and dressed me up well enough that I had all male eyes on me during my oral presentation) is taking the train to Fresno and will meet us there. We have to have enough room in whatever vehicles we take to squeeze her in with her luggage as well, She's  coming back to spend a couple of days with me, after which she
will take the train to the LA area to visit with another classmate.  Her family is starting to irritate her, and she needs a break. She doesn't realize it, but about this time next year, she will wish for a break from medical school and want to be back with her family.

I'll tell you about it tomorrow, though I can almost guarantee it  will be fabulous unless it's one gigantic hoax, and at the end they drag everyone out of their theatre seats into some humongus baptismal font they've erected and dunk us in it, and we walk out of the place as official Mormons whether we want to be or not. I seriously doubt such to be the case, though, as Judge Alex would have warned me. He says he's seen it something like three or four times, and, no disrespect intended toward Judge Alex, but he really wouldn't make a very good Mormon.

I'll close with the lyrics of an actual Mormon kiddies' song. It sounds like one of those bad  imitation native American songs in beginning piano books, and the children do politically incorrect actions as they're singing the song.  I'll also try to find a video of some LDS children singing the song with the actions. Both would probably be copyright violations, but what's a copyright violation or two between friends?

Book of Mormon stories like my teacher tells to me
Are about the Lamanites in ancient history.
Long ago their fathers came from far across the sea,
Given this land 
If they lived
Righ --- teous ---  ly!

Lamanites met others who were seeking liberty,
And the land soon welcomed all who wanted to be free.
Book of mormon stories say that we muct brothers be,
Given this land
If we live
Righ --- teous --- ly!

Incidentally, when I was six and staying with relatives  in Utah, I got dragged out of the Primary room and spanked for refusing to do the actions or sing this song because the whole thing was so freakingly politically incorrect.



These kids don't even know the second verse. In my day, it's something you should have known by the time you turrned  two or else that meant there was something seriously wrong either with you or with your parents, but there's something about today's kids . . . They just keep getting lamer and lamer.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Fillmore, Big Love, and the Monkees

the scenic view of Fillmore, California



Today I had the unfortunate experiemce of traveling to the booming metropolis of Fillmore, California.  I won't go into my reason for needing to travel there, as it is so convoluted that I can barely conceptualize it, much less put it into written words.  Fillmore is located on Highway 126. Its total reason for existence as far as I can tell, is to function as one of two major speed traps along 126, which connects I-5 with US-101.

Fillmore is roughly midway between the two major expressways, slightly closer to the 101. Its sole saving grace is that it is only about twenty miles or so from the Pacific Ocean. Something like 14, 000 people supposedly live there. in the entire ninety minute i was there, i only counted sixt people. I'm not sure where the other 13, 940 were hiding.

My initial thought was why anyone would name their city after our nation's least memorable president ever. (Seriously, a study was done in which both college students and random adults were asked to list on paper every president of the U.S.  The president who appeared on the fewest lists was none other than Millard Fillmore.) As it turns out, the place was actually named after another Fillmore -- some guy affiliated with the railroad back in the day.

Wikipedia has entries on most cities, Fillmore included. I looked it up. Wikipedia usually lists the mean household income or some similar statistic. It did no such thing in its Fillmore entry. it's that bad.  nevertheless, there must be someone who pulls in a decent salary, as a relatively new housing subdivision, advertising itself as "The Bridge," boasts on a large sign that its houses start at $400,000. To get into the subdivision, one must drive across a bridge. Under the bridge is absolutely nothing. There's an empty cement pit. Perhaps when the drought ends, the developer plans to fill it with water, which will soon go stagnant, and breed mosquitoes.

The exterior of the houses in which the Paxton family lived is on Sandy Lane in Fillmore. I did manage to convince my traveling companion to make a slight detour off the 126 to see the houses. that, and a Monkees CD that my traveling companion happened to have in his car for some reason unbeknownst to him, salvaged the day for me. Out of respect for the people who inhabit the homes, I didn't snap a picture.

Davy Jones lives on forever.






Thursday, July 16, 2015

Sex with Brody

Brody  Jenner: eye candy for the women out in TV land and elsewhere


E! network has started a new show in recent months called Sex with Brody. Joining Jenner in this debacle of a venture are a comedian, and it is a most liberal and generous use of the word comedian in applying it as a description of this host,  as the defining characteristic of a comedian is stipulate to be that the person be funny, along with a so-called relationship expert.  

As far as the relationship expert, what credentialed are required in order to refer to oneself as such?  I've had a relationship or two.  Neither got past first base, but they were, nonetheless, relationships.  Does that make me a relationship expert? 

My brother, by contrast, has had,  since he turned sixteen and was allowed to declare officially in y parents' presence that any given female was his girlfriend, nearly one hundred relationships.. I actually sat down with a pen and a legal pad and tried to list every girl he's dated "steadily' since he reached the age at which relationships meant more than the mere passing notes back and forth in class inquiring  and providing answers in relation (no pun intended) to who liked whom. I could only come up with eighty-one, but I  know there were more, including those about whom I never even knew when we attended separate universities.  Is my brother a "relationship expert"? God, I hope not. If the relationships of the world are dependent upon Matthew's advice, god help us all. unfortunately, such is probably also the case with Brody Jenner's "relationship expert. the only thing surprising in any of this is that anyone who came of age in the Kardashian/Jenner fiasco considers  the terms sex and relationship not to be mutually exclusive.

Brody Jenner is  a handsome man; I'll give him that. Other than his looks, and the many sexual encounters he's likely had largely as a result of those looks, though, I'm not sure what about his situation qualifies him to host a TV show offering advice concerning  sex. Other than "always wear a condom if the hook-up is casual, and "never believe her when she says she's on birth control," i question the value of any advice he could offer. If it were a XXX cable program called "Brody demonstrates how to please a woman,' perhaps he's be qualified. i don't even know for certain that he's qualified to do that. Perhaps his talent lies in his ability to pick up women. Who knows if he's really good in bed? Actually, a lot of women probably could answer that question for me, but, unfortunately none of them are here right now. Maybe he should author a book with the title 
Chicken Soup for the Horny Soul.

In my perfect world, anyone who is as closely related as step-fourth-cousin-twice removed to any member of the Kardashian-Jenner disaster should therefore immediately be disqualified from providing advice about sex, or anything else, for that matter.

Baby has dropped to 3 lbs.,  3 oz., but is hanging n there like a prize fighter.