Boston Vacation Day Three

On Monday I started my day with breakfast at Caffè Nero. This became my routine and I almost always ordered the same thing; after grabbing a yogurt parfait I also got a croissant and a medium cup of café au lait. I won’t bother mentioning that again. I did fill up one loyalty card and got one free cup of coffee.

The first thing I did was to go downtown and photograph more theaters. I tried to photograph every theater in Boston’s small theater district but some construction prevented me from getting a good shot of a few theaters. I did notice that a talk by the intellectual Jordan B. Peterson was being advertised so I waited until the sign had cycled back to that ad before taking a photo. Jordan B. Peterson is a Jungian psychologist. I discovered his videos on YouTube before he became embroiled in controversy. I came across the Edgar Allan Poe Statue on Boylston Street which I almost forgot to seek out. I also took a few photos of the Central Burying Ground.

Edgar Allan Poe Statue

Edgar Allan Poe Statue

I reached the Brattle Book Shop just after it opened and bought Druids, Dudes and Beauty Queens: The Changing Face of Irish Theatre edited by Dermot Bolger. I took more photos of the Irish Famine Memorial and Commonwealth Books. Next I found the Old State House and walked to City Hall. I went across Congress Street to Faneuil Hall and walked though the Quincy Market. I located Newbury Comics but I had to wait until 10:00 a.m. when they opened.  I bought a graphic novel Doctor Strange: What Is It That Disturbs You, Stephen? which was kind of expensive at $31.86. I’m not into comic books but the Marvel movies are fantastic and Doctor Strange is their most mystical character.

I walked to Government Center T Station and took the Green Line to Park Street where I transferred to the Red Line. I took the Red Line to South Station and then the Silver Line to Courthouse Station. I left purchases at my hotel room because I hate carrying things around all day.

My major goal this day was to visit the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. It did not open until 11:00 a.m. To get there I just repeated my trip on the Green Line from yesterday. I have read a lot about the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. I even read a book about its famous art heist, The Gardner Heist: The True Story of the World’s Largest Unsolved Art Theft by Ulrich Boser. This museum reminded me of the Fonthill Castle in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. The museum architecture was based on a Venetian palace although this was only really evident in the garden courtyard. Gothic Venetian windows looked out on a lush courtyard filled with palm trees and classical statues. I took photos from every side of the courtyard since it was quite lovely. I  explored the first floor, then the second floor, and finally the third floor. Each room had its walls filled with paintings and there were tables and other furniture covered with various types of art objects and artifacts. It was like going on a tour of a grand but ancient mansion filled with musty relics. Some items were blackened with age so the overall effect was a bit shabby for all of the splendor.

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

There was only one art gallery not in the palace. I saw the Fra Angelico: Heaven on Earth special exhibit in the Hostetter Gallery. Fra Angelico was an Early Italian Renaissance painter. There would have been a wait to have lunch at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum so I skipped it. I also did not find anything interesting the the museum book shop.

I took the Green Line up to Government Center. I had lunch at the bar of the Union Oyster House. I ordered a rum drink, a fish sandwich, and Hot Indian Pudding for $38.92 including tip. Next I walked around Faneuil Hall again and found the Black Rose, an Irish bar, where I ordered a drink, an Irish Apple. Then I came across the Old State House again which I decided to visit. It cost $10.00 for the museum admission and I sat through a short lecture on the Boston Massacre.

The Black Rose

The Black Rose

I walked through the Quincy Market again and discovered that Faneuil Hall was closed until June. I walked over the Seaport District Bridge to return to the hotel since it was less bother than using the subway.

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Boston Vacation Day One

Today was the first day of my vacation in Boston. I drove down to Philadelphia to catch a flight to Boston since Harrisburg does not offer any direct flights. It was raining most of the day and it was even raining in Boston when I got there. Philadelphia International Airport has changed a bit since I’ve last gone through it. There was some kind of grab-and-go gourmet market which was completely devoid of any staff. You just grabbed an item and paid for it using a self-checkout kiosk which was basically just a large tablet. The passenger waiting areas had also changed with some kind of tablet arcade where passengers could entertain themselves while waiting to board. It was kind of weird since there were customer facing iPads everywhere.

Only water was served on the flight since it was a very short flight. There was no in-flight entertainment unless you downloaded an America Airlines application for your device to stream media. I just read a little bit of a book on my Kindle. When we arrived at Logan International Airport I found my bag in baggage claim right away. It was almost freakish how quickly I found my bag because it was going around the conveyor belt just as I got there. But finding a taxi was not as easy. I had to cross the street and walk along the underpass until I found were the taxi stand was located. It was not exactly curbside and clearly caused a lot of confusion. The cab went through a tunnel, probably the Callahan Tunnel, and brought us into Boston near Haymarket Square. The cab driver crossed the Fort Point Channel over the Congress Street Bridge and seemed to be taking me behind the hotel but eventually he turned right onto Seaport Boulevard and deposited me in front of YOTEL, the pod hotel where I would be staying.

I needed some assistance using the YOTEL kiosk for self check-in. My room was on the tenth floor. It is a very cramped room but it has everything I should need and I won’t be spending much time in it.

Due to the rain in Boston, there wasn’t much I could do on my first day. I checked into my hotel around 3:00 p.m. so there wasn’t many hours left until evening. I did manage to visit a restaurant, the Barking Crab, which was a short walk from my hotel. It was very crowded. I had a traditional lobster roll and some New England Cider which came to $40.00!

Barking Crab

Barking Crab

I entered the Courthouse MBTA Staton and bought a 7-Day Link pass CharlieTicket. The ticket machine would not work with my credit cards or debit card. I had to use cash. You do not need to use your ticket to board the bus since the turnstiles serve as fare control. I  rode a Silver Line bus to South Station.  The bus drove through a tunnel to reach South Station. At South Station I took the Red Line to Downtown Crossing. I found an exit that brought me out on Washington Street where Primark and Roche Bros. is located.

I took some photos of the theaters on Washington Street and found a Bank of America ATM where I withdrew $200. Then I located the Irish Famine Memorial and found Spring Lane where Commonwealth Books is located. I found their shelf of theater books and bought Albert’s Bridge and Other Plays by Tom Stoppard for $25.00. When I left it was raining hard so I found the State Street Station in the Old Massachusetts State House and took the Orange Line to Downtown Crossing where I transferred to the Red Line to South Station and finally the Silver Line SL3 to Courthouse Station.

Irish Famine Memorial

Irish Famine Memorial

I had wanted to do a lot more on my first day in Boston but the rain put a damper on my plans. Still I managed to get around using public transportation and saw some of the landmark sights. Tomorrow I plan to visit some major art museums which should take most of the day.


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Irish Repertory Theatre New York City Trip

Yesterday I made my first bus trip to New York City for 2018. The main goal on this trip was to see The Seafarer at the Irish Repertory Theatre. But I also visited some minor museums and did some shopping.

The Susquehanna Trailways bus was plastered with vehicle wrap advertising for Lycoming College. I wish I had taken a photo of the bus but there wasn’t a good opportunity to do so. During the fast food stop at McDonald’s I was the last person to get on the bus and the escort had to come find me because it took so long to get my order and to finish eating. I didn’t even quite finish my coffee.

We arrived in New York City around 10:00 a.m. and were left off on 8th Avenue between West 50th Street and West 51st Street. My first objective was to visit the International Center of Photography Museum which is way downtown on the Lower East Side, on the Bowery. So I walked to Bryant Park and took an F train heading downtown to Second Avenue. I used an entrance in front of the Bank of America Tower instead of crossing the street to use the entrance right beside Bryant Park. Once I reached Second Avenue I quickly located the International Center of Photography Museum on the Bowery.

The International Center of Photography Museum was quite a disappointment. The interior looked nothing like the online photos suggested it would look like, so maybe they were photos of the old space. There were only two floors of exhibits at the International Center of Photography Museum and both of the exhibits were strictly political in nature; Then They Came For Us: Incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II and Edmund Clark: The Day The Music Died, which documented America’s war on terror and incarceration of terrorists. This museum does not appear to have a permanent collection on exhibit so if you are not interested in the special exhibits you should not go. I only went to this museum because I have already seen all the major museums in New York City. Before leaving the area I went back to the Blondie mural and took some more photos of that since I used to be a huge Blondie fan.

International Center of Photography Museum

International Center of Photography Museum

I returned to the Second Avenue F line station and took a train uptown to 23rd Street near Madison Square Park. My second goal on this trip was to visit the National Museum of Mathematics. I’m not a big math geek but I did spend a considerable amount of time improving my math skills in order to explore artificial intelligence. The National Museum of Mathematics was also a very disappointing minor museum. It is mostly geared towards kids so the place was crawling with children and all the exhibits were meant to be educational and participatory. This meant that every exhibit required you to figure out what you were supposed to do. It became quite frustrating since almost half  of the exhibits did not even appear to be functional. Quite a few were out of order or didn’t seem to work as intended. There were only two floors of exhibits. There did seem to be a good selection of books and games in the gift shop but I was too irritated by this crap museum to buy anything.

National Museum of Mathematics

National Museum of Mathematics

I located the Rizzoli Bookstore which had moved to Broadway near Madison Square Park. It took me quite a while to locate the Performing Arts shelves of books and the selection of plays wasn’t very good but I did find Hangman by Martin McDonagh. Martin McDonagh is one of my favorite playwrights. I appreciate his black comedy and this new play has received a lot of praise. I still had a lot of time before the play at the Irish Repertory Theatre started so I walked down to 14th Street and found the Namaste Bookshop. Namaste Bookshop is a New Age book store with a wide selection of books on spirituality. I found their section on shamanism which had a large number of books on the topic. It was hard for me to decide on which one to buy but eventually I settled for The Cosmic Serpent by Jeremy Narby since it seemed like the most scholarly book on shamanism. This store also had a massive display of crystals and statuettes making it a good source for New Age merchandise and supplies.

I had plenty of time to walk back up Sixth Avenue to West 22nd Street but I didn’t see much of interest along the way except for some cast-iron buildings which may be architecturally significant. I will have to do some research later on to identify those buildings. I walked to the Irish Repertory Theatre and took some photos of their sidewalk sign and the exterior. They were also advertising Woman and Scarecrow by Marina Carr. Now that is a show I would definitely like to see because I am a big fan of Marina Carr’s dark plays. Unfortunately I don’t think I can make it to New York City to see this play unless they extend it. Since I still had over an hour before the play began I found a nearby restaurant where I could have lunch. I chose Essen because this seemed to be more of a cafeteria style place than a sit down restaurant where you have to wait to be served. At Essen I just picked up a chicken and pasta cold salad, a large cookie, and a bottle of Starbucks iced coffee. I also considered going to a small pizza parlor but the large cookie made me feel pretty full.

The Seafarer at Irish Repertory Theatre

The Seafarer at Irish Repertory Theatre

I went back to the Irish Repertory Theatre, got my ticket which was held at the box office, and sat in the lobby for over a half hour. I noticed that one gentleman there to see the play was wearing an ABC News jacket which suggests to me that some media company employees are supporters of Irish theater. As I was taking my seat I noticed that the Irish Repertory Theatre has a balcony section of seats. My seat was in the orchestra. It occurred to me that I didn’t really know the difference between balcony and orchestra seats but it is really quite simple. Balcony seats will put you in a balcony overlooking the stage from above while orchestra seats will be on the level of the stage, like where an orchestra would be. It is surprising that I did not know this but I guess I never really gave it much thought until that moment. The stage set was very elaborate and depicted a very messy Irish home with old prints and Catholic religious paintings on the walls. The piles of boxes and the big mess actually looks a lot like my living room which is a disaster. So the stage set looked extremely realistic to me and I always appreciate the illusion this creates. They were playing a nature tape of ocean sounds over the sound system and this practically put me right to sleep since it was like listening to a relaxation tape. I get up at 5:30 a.m. to make a bus trip to New York City and when I finally enter a quiet, darkened, air-conditioned theater after running around a bit, all I want to do is sleep. I really need to find someplace to get a cup of coffee before the play begins. As it was, I could barely keep awake for this play even though I wanted to drink in every minute of it.

The big draw for this play was the appearance of Matthew Broderick in a role. I probably would have gone to see this play anyway, since the Irish Repertory Theatre is now my favorite theater in New York City, but it was an extra thrill seeing Matthew Broderick on stage, in the flesh, only a few feet away from where I was sitting. Matthew Broderick played Mr. Lockhart, the sinister character who may be the devil. At times he displayed the proper menace, but at other times he seemed on his guard, as if the other rough characters were making him a little nervous. But I suppose that could be appropriate for a successful gentleman playing cards with a bunch of rowdy working people. He was a bit out of his element. Sharky was portrayed by the actor Andy Murray who had considerable stage presence himself. Although you might imagine a complete loser while reading the play, Sharky came across as somebody tough enough to face the devil.

The playwright Conor McPherson is one of the most successful Irish playwrights of the day. He does seem to have a gimmick in writing plays with a supernatural element, but his work still manages to have some literary qualities. However, I thought the literary value of  The Seafarer was very slight, resting on the redemption of a man who doesn’t have much to live for or any direction in life. Otherwise the play would come perilously close to be purely of entertainment value as a tale of weird fiction. This brings up a point I was trying to make in a previous blog post. I expect a play to have some literary value. There is not much point in writing a play except as a stab at literary glory. And there is not much point in going to the theater to see a play unless it has some literary merit.

Once the play was over, I didn’t really have anything else planned but I now know my way around New York City well enough to kill some time in a productive fashion. I took an F line train back uptown and got off at 42nd Street, Bryant Park Station. After taking a few photos around Bryant Park I walked all the way to the Drama Book Shop where I bought three books; The Cherry Orchid by Anton Checkhov, translated by Stephen Karam, Speech & Debate by Stephen Karam, and Smart People by Lydia R. Diamond. I only got one stamp on my Acting Edition Club card because only the Samuel French playscript was an acting edition. After making that purchase I went to the Last Rites Gallery which is only a few blocks away. That was when I discovered that I forgot to put an extra camera battery in my pocket. I left all my extra camera batteries in my shoulder bag which I left on the bus. Fortunately I only took 97 photos on this trip so I did not need to replace the battery. At the Last Rites Gallery I saw the crochet artwork of Caitlin McCormack. But since this was the ever ghastly Last Rites Gallery, the crochet work was ghastly in nature too. This artist crocheted bat skeletons, snake skeletons, and human skeletons. It was a very clever concept executed quite well. I’ve made it a habit to visit Last Rites Gallery because you are guaranteed to discover something weird and morbid on its walls. Next I went to Shake Shack on 8th Avenue for a bite to eat before the long bus ride home. Going to Shake Shack proved to be a thoroughly miserable experience. The restaurant was super crowded. Although there was not a long line to get in, things were pretty crowded in the restaurant and there was no place for you to sit down to eat. I got into a line to pay with cash and ordered a single Shakeshack burger and a coffee shake. I was given a restaurant pager, those little electronic devices that buzz and flash lights when your order is ready. The pick up counter was so crowded that you needed one of these devices to alert you that your food was ready. After I got my to go order I walked all the way to the One Worldwide Plaza which is a public plaza with tables and chairs. It is the perfect place to bring food you bought else where but it did prove to be further from Shake Shack than I thought.

My arthritic knee did not bother me much on this trip because I can dull the pain with just an aspirin. In two weeks I will be going to Boston for a two week vacation and that may prove to be more problematic for my bad knee.

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The Gaspipe One Act Play Fest 2018 Review

On Sunday April 22, 2018 I drive down to Lewisburg to see the Gaspipe One Act Play Festival for 2018. I chose this date to avoid driving home in the dark and to give myself a little time in Lewisburg. Although the shows did not begin until 2:30 p.m. I left at 1:00 p.m. It takes a half hour to drive to Lewisburg so that left with an hour in town before I went to the theater. I parked on a side street to be nearer to the theater and thereby avoided a parking meter. First I went to the Barnes & Noble at Bucknell University Bookstore where I bought a paperback book of The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin. I was tempted to buy a book of poetry after finding they had an entire shelf devoted to poetry, but I decided to go with a smaller book. After doing that bit of obligatory shopping I went to Vennari’s Pizza on Market Street where I ordered a slice of pizza and a Pepsi. This cost me only $2.50 or so and has become sort of my routine when in Lewisburg to see a play. I took a few photos while I was in town just to make the trip worth my while but I have already documented Lewisburg pretty thoroughly.

Vennari's Pizza

Vennari’s Pizza

The Gaspipe One Act Play Festival is supposed to feature the work of local playwrights and I even submitted a play to them this year but my play was not accepted. This really disappointed me because I thought it would be a shoe in and serve as the introduction of my work to the local theater community. But I channeled my emotions into more writing. In fact, I spent most of Saturday writing another 15 minute play for a more important playwriting competition. This competition was for a New York City theater company which does plays as audio podcasts. They offer three prizes which are actually a decent amount of money. Wining first prize would probably be a big deal since they are based in New York City and utilize top Broadway talent as voice actors. The play I submitted represents my new effort to charm the audience with whimsy and fantasy and a great metaphor. I wrote it exactly as I conceived it, meaning it turned out just as poetic as I imagined. I am always pleased when I give form to my imagination that faithfully. In many respects I just happened to write something that fit the requirements of the playwriting competition so I think it has a good shot.

There were seven short plays performed for the Gaspipe One Act Play Festival. I was tempted to skip it in a huff but I was curious to see what sort of work they did select. The first play was “Will Work For Food” which featured two homeless men debating the kindness of the public. I thought it was slightly predictable but generally well done. The next play was “The Lesser of Two Evils”. Amusingly, part of the set fell over before the play could begin and the actors had to put things right. It was a large bureau which fell over scattering things on the floor. Naturally the audience found this pretty funny. Unfortunately, the two actresses in this play did not speak loudly enough so I could barely make out what the play was about.

The third play was “Isn’t That Just Like Us?” by Allan Bates. This play was infuriatingly tedious since the concept seemed to be nothing more than the amusing miscommunication between a doddering old couple on what to get out of the refrigerator. This involved frequent trips across the stage, back and forth, back and forth, in a shuffling gait that kept you waiting for the next line of dialogue. The next play was “The King-Anning” which was probably the best play of the lot. It was a charming scene of the King of Saxony flirting with the proprietress of some sort of archeological curio shop.  Then there was “Where’s This Train Going” which was another predictable subject, the New York City subway play. Since I visit New York City often and have gotten pretty used to the subway, this play benefited from my pleasant associations with riding the subway. This play had a surprise ending which was effective because the actress was totally believable as an innocent tourist.

The sixth play was “The One” by Laurie Knitter. The scene was a dinner date with a man who disputed basic math, insisting that 2 plus 2 equals 5. I thought this was a good subject since people are getting more and more dogmatic to the point where we can’t even agree on the basic facts of reality. However, this play could have been based on a more serious example than simple addition.

The final play featured the largest cast and seemed to be the major effort of the festival. “The Court of the Chaos Queen” was written and directed by Ben Hartman who also introduced every one of the plays that evening. So this was definitely a local playwright. I couldn’t quite follow the action of the play, but it seemed to be about a group of villains plotting to assist the Chaos Queen in stealing a man away from his girlfriend. I liked the Chaos Queen who was dressed in a cape and what might have been intended as a super hero outfit.

Over all the plays were mostly comedies which seems to be the case in most one act play festivals. This may be due to the fact that it is hard to establish a tragedy in only fifteen pages, while a short comedic scene is certainly possible as a skit. But there did not seem to be any point to any of the plays which I imagine were written to flesh out a good idea. The writers did not seem to have anything to say. I try to always have something important to say because there is nothing worse than producing something which you grow cool to. Once you become indifferent you no longer care what happens to what you have written. The danger in writing something that does has something to say is that you will be more disappointed when it is rejected.

Soldiers and Sailors Monument

Soldiers and Sailors Monument

Before I left Lewisburg I located a Civil War obelisk and took a few photos of it. This was the last landmark in Lewisburg which I had yet to see. It wasn’t much to look at but I did spend a lot of time looking at Civil War monuments in Gettysburg so it reminded me of that. Before going home I stopped in at Burger King and ordered a Whopper and a milk shake as a reward for doing my cultural duty.

This Saturday I will be going on a bus trip to New York City to see Matthew Broderick in The Seafarer by Conor McPherson, at the Irish Repertory Theatre. Now that is what I am really excited about.

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Vanya and Sonia and Marsha and Spike Review

On Friday evening, April 20, I saw Vanya and Sonia and Marsha and Spike by Christopher Durang at the Community Theatre League’s Moyer Studio. I have read this play so I already knew the story. Christopher Durang is a famous playwright who teaches playwriting at the Juilliard School. He is best know for his spoofs of classic plays like For Whom The Southern Belle Tolls, one of my favorites. Vanya and Sonia and Marsha and Spike is an imaginative and more elaborate spoof of the plays of Anton Chekhov. I have written my own spoof of a Chekhov play, Three Sisters, which I mashed up with Macbeth to produce Three Weird Sisters. It is only a 15 minute play but I think I was pretty clever in how I merged those two plays. I submitted it to a playwriting contest but it may seem too derivative.

Vanya and Sonia and Marsha and Spike is also interesting for being set in Pennsylvania, in Bucks County. The Bucks County Playhouse is located in Bucks County, obviously, and they did produce this play in 2014. The play is probably set there because Bucks County is a popular area for Broadway performers to retire to when they have become successful enough for a country estate. I think Moss Hart, playwright George S. Kaufman and lyricist Oscar Hammerstein lived in Bucks County, back when they were alive of course, and Dorothy Parker’s house is mentioned in the play as the location of the costume party. I have visited Doylestown and New Hope in Bucks County.

The stage design for this play was the most elaborate set I’ve seen at the Moyer Studio and the play also required more costumes. It starred Susan Guinter as Sonia, an actress I have seen many times over the years. She is probably the most active actress in Williamsport.

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Studying Artificial Intelligence

Since at least April 2017 I have been studying artificial intelligence. So far this has been an idle line of research since I have not found any practical use of artificial intelligence software, but it remains a fascinating subject. I’ve read a few books on the dangers of artificial intelligence but I have also explored it on a less theoretical level. You can play around with neural networks because there is a wealth of open source software available and plenty of tutorials.

Artificial intelligence is incredibly difficult to learn. You will need to understand the advanced math of linear algebra and vector calculus. I don’t even know what those branches of mathematics entail. But my approach has been to learn what I can in the process. So far I have advanced my knowledge of Python, mathematics, statistics, computer vision, and Natural Language Processing. Currently I am reading Doing Math with Python: Use Programming to Explore Algebra, Statistics, Calculus, and More! by Amit Saha. This book is helping me to bridge the gap between programming and basic mathematics. But the book doesn’t really get into advanced math, so much of the material does not pertain to artificial intelligence. In fact, artificial intelligence is not mentioned anywhere in the book. Still, it can’t hurt for a computer programmer to improve his math skills and my math skills were extremely weak.

Messing around with artificial intelligence can really strain your computer resources. So far I have had to add another 4 GB of memory to my system to improve my processing times. I’m using a 32 bit system at work which often proves to be a limitation. You really need a 64 bit system to use some libraries. Fortunately new hardware is becoming available for artificial intelligence hobbyists and researchers. I bought a Movidius Neural Compute Stick which is a USB stick that contains a Vision Processing Unit (VPU). Unfortunately this requires you to be running Ubuntu 16.04 and you need an USB 3.0 port for the stick. I have recently bought a new laptop to meet these requirements. I have also ordered the AWS DeepLens from Amazon which is a camera designed for experimenting with deep learning frameworks. I also have my eye on a Parallella single-board computer but that is designed more for massively parallel computing and not artificial intelligence. I am reluctant to invest too much money in artificial intelligence without some clear upside to my professional development.

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New Plays – Why Theaters Produce New Plays

If you are an aspiring playwright, it is important to analyze, as objectively and dispassionately as possible, why any theater company should want to produce a new play. After all, producing a new play carries considerable risk. It takes a lot of time, money, and effort to prepare a new play for the stage. You are not entitled to all that just because you have a dream. And there is no guarantee that a new play will please the audience. It is a lot safer for a theater company to just produce well known plays which are sure to satisfy their audience.

To understand why a theater company would take such a huge risk, it is important to consider the nature of the creative spirit. In many ways, the theater is a poor environment in which to satisfy the creative spirit. Theater artists tend to interpret existing work instead of creating new work. For example, a production of any play by Shakespeare is not going to be seen as contributing anything other than yet another interpretation of the great play. True, the theater company may try to be very innovative in their production. They could do the play in modern dress or use non-traditional casting. But even that has been done many times before and doing it yet again is unlikely to draw any special notice from the world.

Doing your interpretation of the classic plays may be very satisfying, but eventually it is going to seem like a hollow accomplishment. The theater company that only does the classics is like a cover band in the rock music world. No musician would like to perform in a cover band for their entire career. Any musician with real ambition would prefer to do his or her own songs or the songs of the band. You just can’t replace the prestige of creating new music with the technical perfection of doing cover songs perfectly. A musician would feel like a failure if he never moved on from playing in cover bands.

So too, the theater artist should not be satisfied with mere interpretation. Every creative artist wants to bring something new into world. Every creative artist wants to feel responsible for bringing something new into world. Every creative artist wants to get the credit for bringing something new into world. Every creative artist wants to feel some degree of ownership for something great that was brought into existence.

The theater offers limited opportunities for the creative artist. For example, the actor has to be given a role. He cannot create a character out of thin air. Actually, he can, and this is called the one-person show, or solo performance. But for the most part, the actor is only required to provide his interpretation of a character. This requires some creativity and provides some scope for originality but not much. The director is also constrained in his creativity. He can arrive at a very original interpretation of the play but he cannot change a word in the script. The director produces a complete work of art from a script, which was essentially just a sketch. But this won’t be a wholly original work of art unless it uses a wholly original script.

A new play offers the actors and the director the chance to establish the original interpretation of a play which has never been seen before. This gives them the opportunity to be even more creative and to get credit for it. The credit they receive for this is often enshrined in the contract made with the playwright in that the publication of the script may require notes on the original production. This can often be seen in published plays. And when a play moves to Broadway there is often a requirement that the original producing theater company be given formal acknowledgment in the program and all the advertising. You can judge how important this credit is by noticing the uproar that occurs when credit is not given where credit is due.

The actors and director will always feel a sense of ownership for any new play which they introduced to the theater. It will not matter if the show only plays for a few nights and leaves behind nothing that endures. They will forever be associated with the appearance of this new work and its author. And if the play does become a classic this ensures immortality to the original cast and production team. This small measure of immortality is important in the ephemeral world of the theater where a great performance will only be seen by handful of people, doomed to fade into nothingness with their failing memories.

The theater is a collaborative art form and every theater artist is required to be something of a talent scout. I’m not sure that this is properly understood. But if you are struggling to establish yourself in the theater community it is certainly something you should strive to understand. The aspiring playwright is often shut out of the established theaters. And the new theater company will also not be considered by established playwrights. David Mamet will not be submitting his new play to your student theater company which does plays in a church basement. A new theater company must find the up and coming playwright whose work will rise in the world and carry their theater company with him or her by association. And the aspiring playwright must find the new theater company which will take a chance on his new play. Both parties are required to recognize the potential in each other. The aspiring theater company must recognize the talent and potential of the aspiring playwright. The playwright must recognize the talent and potential of the aspiring theater company. Unfortunately, neither party does a very good job of this in practice. Playwrights send their scripts to theater companies without doing any research, regardless of the reputation or artistic statement of the theater company. And theater companies fail to establish relationships with rising playwrights because they aren’t looking to do that. But in a collaborative art form like theater your associations are vitally important. A theater company which does not have any relationships with great writers will never be in a position to introduce new work. Its contribution to theater will never get beyond the level of interpreter of existing works. And of course, the playwright who never establishes a relationship with a great theater will never get anywhere since his work will simply never be produced.

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Chicago Vacation – Day Seven – Friday

My final day in Chicago was mostly spent at the Museum of Science and Industry. This museum is far south of the downtown Loop so I had to use the Metra system to get there, the trains for suburban commuting. I began my day with breakfast at the hotel; omelet and sausage patties, Yogurt, orange juice, banana, and coffee. I tried to eat as much as possible to reduce expenses. On this day I took my umbrella with me because the sky was overcast but in the end I didn’t really need to have it on me.

I walked to the Millennium Station and asked a ticket agent for a ticket to the Museum of Science and Industry, which is in fare zone B. The ticket cost me $4.00. It was easy to find the right track and I was able to just walk right onto the train and find a seat. The conductor came through the train later to punch tickets. I rode the Metra train to the 55th/56th/57th Street Station. From there it was a short walk to the Museum of Science and Industry which had an entrance on the street, far from the imposing building entrance. I went down a spiral staircase to get to the entry hall. Adult admission was $42.00 for the Explorer 2: Museum Entry and two ticketed experiences. This is certainly an expensive museum! I choose the U-505 submarine tour and the Robot Revolution special exhibit. It also cost me $3.00 for a coat check but a least they did not charge me extra for my umbrella. I bought my ticket at 9:50 a.m.

I spent a lot of time in this museum to get my money’s worth. I’ve become slightly more interested in science now that I’m playing around with artificial intelligence, but only the Robot Revolution exhibit ties into that. I had to watch the time to make the U-505 submarine tour and the Robot Revolution exhibit because my ticket was a timed ticket. The U-505 submarine tour was pretty much the first thing I did. This may be the forth submarine I have been in.  I can’t remember if I ever did the submarine in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. Somebody jokingly asked if I had clearance to photograph the Enigma machine on display and I was tempted to cite my credentials as a computer scientist since Alan Turing, a hero in the computer science field, was responsible for the crypt-analysis that decoded the Enigma machine’s messages. Other exhibits at the museum focused on space exploration, transportation, and the laws of physics. I saw a huge Boeing 727 jumbo jet hanging from the ceiling, a steam locomotive, and a train layout for model trains featuring a huge model of Chicago and its skyscrapers.

U-505 Submarine

U-505 Submarine

The Fairy Castle dollhouse of the silent-film star Colleen Moore was quite whimsical and noteworthy. I don’t think I had ever heard of her before. This museum was really geared towards school children just like most natural history museums. There were many interactive exhibits which were usually monopolized by children. For example, the “Science Storms” had a water vapor tornado, a tsunami tank, and a Tesla coil. There was also a tube where you could experience high wind and I tried that out.

Boeing 727 Jumbo Jet

Boeing 727 Jumbo Jet

I bought a panini ham and Swiss sandwich and frappuccino at the Museum Cafe at 12:42 p.m. Later on I also bought a Turtle Sundae at Finnigan’s Ice Cream Parlor at 2:08 p.m.

Robot Revolution

Robot Revolution

The Robot Revolution exhibit mostly featured drones and toy robots but there was also some drag and drop computer programming to try which I found amusing. I also saw lots of bikes with innovative designs and model ships. There were a few old cars but not many. I finally left the museum around 3:00 p.m. I searched the museum store for something to buy but it was mostly just toys with only a few books on science that might interest me. In the end I walked out without buying anything.

I bought the return Metra ticket One-Way Zone B-A at 3:10 p.m. and was able to board the train immediately. I barely had enough time to even take a photo. I returned to my hotel but found my room had not been cleaned yet so I went back out for a long walk. First I went to a Pret A Manger store and bought a tuna baguette, a Honey Banana Bowl, and a can of coke. Then I walked along the Chicago River and  up the Magnificent Mile shopping corridor, then back down Rush Street. This was a very long walk since this was my farewell to Chicago, the last I would see of the city. I did come across some very high end stores selling luxury goods. I must say that Chicago has an impressive amount of retail in its downtown. There was a lot of places to shop around my hotel and the Magnificent Mile was like a vast shopping mall. I took lots of photos of the Chicago River with the skyscrapers lit for the evening and I took some final photos of the iconic Chicago Theater.

In conclusion my vacation in Chicago was a great cultural experience. I learned a lot more about one of the nation’s great cities which I was surprisingly ignorant about. I’ve heard a lot about Chicago but I never really pictured it or had any idea what was to be found there. It seems a little surprising to me that there can be such a huge city far from the West and East Coasts.

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Chicago Vacation – Day Six – Thursday

I spent almost an entire day at the Field Museum of Natural History. The Field Museum is one of Chicago’s most famous museums and it is huge. I was planning on also visiting the Adler Planetarium and the Shedd Aquarium but I did not have time for that. I took the Red Line from the Monroe Station down to the Roosevelt Station. From there I walked to the Field Museum of Natural History which is at the lower end of Grant Park. There are many high-rise residential towers overlooking the museum including The Grant. I had to walk around the Christopher Columbus statue in Grant Park to find the underground passage to the Museum Campus.

At the Field Museum I exchanged my computer printout for a real ticket. The first thing I saw was the skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus rex, named Sue. This is one of the most famous fossils in the world. I’d even read a book about it, Tyrannosaurus Sue by Steve Fiffer. I then went through the permanent exhibition, Inside Ancient Egypt, where I saw mummies and walked though an ancient Egyptian tomb. Seeing Egyptian statues always reminds me of various occult appropriations of their culture like tarot cards and the magic symbols; ankh, scarab beetles, and my favorite the winged sun.

Tyrannosaurus Sue

Tyrannosaurus Sue

The next permanent exhibition I went through was the Underground Adventure which pretends to shrink you down to the size of a bug so you can go through a burrow in the soil and see giant animatronic insects, spiders, and grubs. I think I had to have my ticket scanned to enter this exhibition. After that I saw endless display cases of stuffed animals and birds. A few of the display cases were elaborate dioramas showing the animals in their natural habitat. I saw the two Tsavo Man-Eaters, lions which were infamous for killing and eating many humans in Kenya.

Field Museum Monkeys

Field Museum Monkeys

At 11:25 a.m. I ate lunch at the Bistro Cafe. I had an oven grinder, a bag of locally made chips, and an orange juice.

After lunch I saw the Evolving Planet exhibit which included more dinosaur fossils and the Cyrus Tang Hall of China which included a puppet show “Monkey King vs. Mountain of Fire” and a topographical map that light up as video from the area surrounds you on immersive screens. I also saw a special exhibit on specimens. The exhibit on North American Indians included a dancing shaman which I found particularly interesting.

I left the museum around 4:00 p.m. and returned to my hotel. My room had been cleaned but no towels had been left for me. I went to Walgreens at 4:37 p.m. to withdraw an additional $80.00 and then to the Revival Food Hall where I ordered a grilled cheese sandwich at Danke and a biscuit at The Budlong. I also bought a bottle of coke and a can of local root beer.

That evening was the second play I was to see in Chicago. I took the Red Line from Monroe Station towards Howard to the Clark/Division Station. I went off in the wrong direction on Division Street at first. But I still made it early to the theater, A Red Orchid Theatre, which is sort of down at the end of an enclosed alley. I saw Beau O’Reilly, founder of Curious Theatre Branch and local playwright, among the audience. It is an indication of how thorough my research on Chicago theater was when I’m able to recognize somebody in the audience, much less on the stage. The theater itself was squeezed into a very narrow space with the stage crammed to one side. You had to walk across the stage to get to some seats. Every so often there was a rumbling sound and the house lights would dim a little. At first I thought this was part of the show but it happened so randomly in relation to the plot that I suspect it was the L even though there should not have been a station nearby.

A Red Orchid Theatre

A Red Orchid Theatre

Evening At The Talkhouse by Wallace Shawn was a curious play about thespians living in some dystopian world where people are paid to target other people for money and anyone may be murdered for socially unacceptable behavior. Like a Pinter play, it relied upon implied threat and quiet menace. One of the characters, Nellie, dies at the end. I did not stay for the talk back.

Once back at my hotel I bought a bottle of Brisk Tea from the hotel vending machine but had to pay twice because the first bottle got stuck. This little detail was enough to sour my mood a little.

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Chicago Vacation – Day Five – Wednesday

I began the fifth day of my vacation with a complimentary breakfast at my hotel. Today they served omelets, French toast sticks, and Canadian bacon. I then went to the Walgreens on State Street but their ATM was not working so I went to Walgreens on Monroe Street and withdrew $80.00 at 9:58 a.m. I did not use my credit card much on this trip. I paid cash everywhere and wound up with a lot of change.

My main goal this day was to visit the Museum of Contemporary Art. I took the Red Line subway in the direction of Howards to the Chicago Station. I then walked four blocks east on Chicago Avenue to reach the museum. Along the way I saw the Chicago Water Tower and the Water Works Pumping Station. The first thing you notice upon entering the Museum of Contemporary Art is a huge skeleton of a cat, Felix by Maurizio Cattelan. It looks like a dinosaur skeleton at the Field Museum, serving as a witty homage to a Chicago icon. I had planned on spending hours at this museum but it was a small museum so it only took me an hour and a half to see all the exhibits and artwork. I saw artwork by Jasper Johns, Andy Warhol, Cindy Sherman, Cindy (1988) by Chuck Close, and Study for a Portrait (1949) by Francis Bacon. The special exhibit taking place at the time was Backstroke of the West by Iraqi-American artist Michael Rakowitz which included The Ballad of Special Ops Cody, a specially commissioned animated short film that features a version of a doll that was used in a 2005 fake hostage image. One of the more famous paintings I saw was The Wonders of Nature (1953) by Rene Magritte.

Museum of Contemporary Art

Museum of Contemporary Art

At the museum store I bought the book 33 Artists In 3 Acts by Sarah Thornton. This a book about how various artists pursue their careers in the art world. I thought it might offer an interesting glimpse into that world. Every profession does seem to create its own world around itself and your world tends to narrow to that. For example, programmers live in the Information Technology world which has its own forms of creativity and celebrity entrepreneurs. The theater community is also its own world which rarely manages to produce any plays that offer a window unto other professions and their world. Personally I like to explore other professions if only to escape the narrow confines of my career for awhile. Having a career is like being in college, stuck in the same course for the rest of your life. Actors probably have the best job for work variety because they get to pretend to be detectives and various characters which requires research into unfamiliar professions.

My plan was to do the 360° Chicago attraction at the John Hancock Center after the Museum of Contemporary Art but my timed ticket for the TILT platform was for 5:00 p.m. so I had to return to this area later in the day. I decided to visit the Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art instead. First I returned to my hotel to drop off the book and found the room had been cleaned before noon. I took the Blue Line from Monroe Station to the Chicago Station. There I photographed the Chicago Dramatists building again and visited the Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art where I was welcomed as soon as I got through the door. The greeter asked if I was familiar with outsider art. I am quite familiar with outsider art and the work of Henry Darger, the original outsider artist known for his illustrated story of the Vivian Girls.

According to Wikipedia;

Outsider art is art by self-taught or naïve art makers. Typically, those labeled as outsider artists have little or no contact with the mainstream art world or art institutions. In many cases, their work is discovered only after their deaths. Often, outsider art illustrates extreme mental states, unconventional ideas, or elaborate fantasy worlds.

Personally I consider this categorization to be very elitist. The impulse to create art is universal and cannot be considered the special privilege of those trained to be artists working within the established art world. I don’t think there is anything unusual about creating art as a hobby or producing representations of your elaborate fantasy world. I find outsider art fascinating precisely because its motivation is so understandable.

Intuit The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art

Intuit The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art

The Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art is a very small museum which did not take much time to visit. I was only allowed to take photos in the Henry Darger Room, a dingy recreation of his messy living and working space. However I saw other visitors taking photos of whatever they wanted using their smartphones. I feel a little more conspicuous using my digital camera. I dropped a $5 bill in the donations box to cover the suggested admission. I was pleased that I managed to squeeze in a visit to this museum during my trip because it was a little out of the way.

I took the Blue Line subway back downtown and got off at Washington Station to find Block 37 but you don’t actually need to go out to the street. You can go into Block 37 directly from the subway. I ordered a Classic Grilled Cheese at Gayle’s Grilled Cheese and a Filberts Soda, Cola flavored, but there was no place to sit and eat so I used the escalators to go up several levels looking for an available table. Eventually I had to sit on a bench to eat my lunch without the benefit of a table. This mall didn’t really seem to have a food court as advertised.

I had noticed a temporary used book store on the lower level so I went back there. At the Carpe Librum used book store I bought Bob Miller’s Calc for the Clueless because I’m learning some basic calculus for deep learning. Although I have always disdained to get too heavily into math, I’m willing to study it when there is a legitimate need for higher math. I was still a little hungry so I went to a Pret A Manger store at 1:48 p.m. and bought a tuna baguette, a Honey Banana Bowl, and a can of coke. I think the food is a little too expensive at Pret A Manger but I like the cafeteria style of casual dining.

John Hancock Center View

John Hancock Center View

After returning to my hotel room I waited until early in the afternoon to return to the Museum of Contemporary Art area. The subway to Chicago Station was extremely crowded because it was the rush hour. Also, an incident involving the police caused a few minutes of delay. It was raining when I went to the John Hancock Center. There were no lines to get in and it was practically deserted on the observation deck. I was able to do the Tilt Experience by myself. The visibility was not great with some mist and fog but you could still see the city below you in all directions. I was tempted to wait until later in the evening when the lights would come on in all the skyscrapers but there wasn’t anything to do on the observation deck. I did buy a Robin Ruth Chicago Beanie Hat with Pom Pom at 4:57 p.m. I think this may have been a woman’s hat but it was the only winter hat they had for sale. I did wear it one the trip back to the hotel because it was still raining and I didn’t have my umbrella. I didn’t take any more photos that evening because I did not want to get my camera wet.

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Chicago Vacation – Day Four – Tuesday

Tuesday marked the point in my vacation where I had definite plans which eliminated the need to find something to do. For breakfast, we were offered turkey sausage and scrambled eggs. I spent most of day at the Art Institute of Chicago. I was there from 10:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Five and a half hours may seem like a lot of time to spend in a museum, but it was a huge museum and I managed to see almost everything there was to see.

I took many photos of the artwork just so I would have a record of what I saw that interested me. I don’t use audio guides and often don’t have any knowledge about what I am looking at. Instead I let the artwork speak for itself and make whatever impression it can upon me. This isn’t a bad strategy when you are making an once-in-a-lifetime visit to a famous art museum. If I lived in Chicago I would probably become a member of the museum and spend more time getting to know the art. Visiting art museums always makes me regret not spending more time exploring the art world. I have not even read the few books on modern art and artists which I have bought.

So based on my photos I can say I saw these highlights. First I found the Modern Art wing where I saw a Cindy Sherman photo. I’ve seen one of her photos in virtually every modern art collection. I also saw a painting by Giorgio de Chirico, one of my favorite artists. I found the Asian Art wing with endless statues of the Buddha. But I was especially pleased to come across some Noh masks from Japanese theater. It is a shame that there isn’t a theater museum anywhere in the world but I guess that is due to the nature of the performing arts which cannot be reduced to its artifacts. I also saw some Roman statues which reminded me of my trip to Rome and some Greek pottery including kraters and amphora. I saw a few society portraits by John Singer Sargent and three of the most famous paintings at the Art Institute of Chicago; Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks, Grant Wood’s American Gothic, and Mary Cassatt’s The Child’s Bath. There was one painting, The Captive Slave by John Philip Simpson, which I recognized because it was used by the Lantern Theater Company in Philadelphia to promote their play Red Velvet.

Art Institute of Chicago

Art Institute of Chicago

I had lunch at the Museum Cafe where I grabbed a metal bottle of Coke and a wrap.

I saw the special exhibit Soviet Art Put to the Test which was mostly printed materials like posters and magazines. Another special exhibit was Tarsila do Amaral: Inventing Modern Art in Brazil. And I saw two art films although I did not sit through the entire film. One of the films was by British artist Elizabeth Price and featured CGI animation of an assembly line.

Gustave Moreau - Hercules and the Lernaean Hydra

Gustave Moreau – Hercules and the Lernaean Hydra

At the museum store I had a hard time finding an interesting book which would not be too large or heavy to take home in my luggage. Eventually I settled for Art Since 1989 by Kelly Grovier, one of the titles in the Thames & Hudson World of Art series which you often find in art museum stores. I will probably never read this book or investigate the artists it covers.

After leaving the museum and returning to my hotel room to drop off my book, I went back to the Revival Food Hall. This time I tried the Budlong stall and ordered spicy chicken and a bottle of coke. The chicken was a bit dry and got caught in my esophagus so badly that I had to go to the restroom and throw up.

That evening was the first play I was to see in Chicago. Although the main focus of my trip was to explore the Chicago theater scene, I only bought tickets to see two plays based on what was playing and the problem of finding my way to the theaters. Two plays in one week seemed plenty. At around 6:15 p.m. that evening I took the Red Line subway in the direction of Howards to the North/Clybourn Station. There is an Apple store near that station which helped me to orient myself. I was pretty early so I walked far up North Halsted Street to a Subway restaurant where I had a cookie. I walked past many other restaurants but none that seemed casual enough to get a quick bite to eat.

That evening I saw the play The Rembrandt by Jessica Dickey. This play was about art and art museums so it fit in with my previous visit to the Art Institute of Chicago. The play was performed at the Steppenwolf Theatre Company, one of the most famous theaters in Chicago. The stage was on the third floor which I reached through an elevator. I was quick to hang up my coat in the coat rack because I was getting quite tired of wearing my coat all day. I also used the restroom just to make sure my bladder was empty for the entire duration of the play which did not have an intermission.

Steppenwolf Theatre Company

Steppenwolf Theatre Company

The set design was very elaborate which is something I always appreciate because I like the illusion of another place created on the stage. In this instance it was a museum gallery which wasn’t too exotic since I had been going through galleries all day. The play itself went back in time to the art studio of Rembrandt, the era of Homer which was not represented by its own stage set, and the modern apartment of a dying poet. I stayed for the discussion afterwards which was very insightful. The audience was well educated and understood that the play was about how art made connections between people across time. I also liked the idea that art should not be seen as so lofty that it is something we are not worthy to touch.

This day fulfilled my expectations that a trip to a big city like Chicago should offer better cultural experiences than you are afforded living in a small city out in the middle of nowhere.

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Chicago Vacation – Day Three – Monday

On the first weekday of my vacation I still didn’t have anything major planned so I decided to explore the Wicker Park neighborhood. For breakfast I had an omelet and a cheesy muffin. I went to Walgreens at 8:41 a.m. and used their ATM to withdraw $100.00. There was no fee because it was a Cardtronics ATM. I then walked to the Washington Station and took a Blue Line train to the Damen Station. I quickly found the Big Star restaurant and then Wicker Park. Myopic Books opens early in the morning so I was able to go there. I could not find a shelf of books on the theater. The Science Fiction and Biography books were in the basement. I tripped over a mop bucket while browsing the shelves. Eventually I settled for The Cricket Sings by Federico Garcia Lorca because this poet is the focus of the book The Demon and the Angel: Searching for the Source of Artistic Inspiration by Edward Hirsch which I received just before leaving for my vacation. I did not get a bag but I was carrying a plastic bag with me in my coat pocket.

Myopic Books

Myopic Books

After leaving Myopic Books I continued to walk down North Milwaukee Avenue to check out other establishments. I saw another book store, Volumes Bookcafe, which I entered but their selection was poor so I did not buy anything. Next I came across the Restless Records store which I tried to enter but the door was locked. Restless Records did not open until 10:00 a.m. and I was a little early. I found the Den Theatre and walked all the way to Division Station where I saw the Polonia Triangle, Chopin Theatre, and the Occult Book Store.

I then walked all the way back to Reckless Records and bought a Grey Gardens DVD starring Drew Barrymore and Jessica Lange. Note: this is not the original documentary. I also bought a Bauhaus CD Go Away White. I think that was their last album and the only one I never bought.

I noticed a branch of the Al’s Beef restaurant along North Milwaukee Avenue so that is where I had lunch at 10:45 a.m. I ordered a Polish Chicago style hot dog with fries and a Mountain Dew which I poured myself.

After eating I walked back to the Division Station and took the Blue Line to the Chicago Station. I saw the Chicago Dramatists building and the Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art museum which is closed on Mondays. The existence of the Chicago Dramatists organization is a testament to the size of the Chicago theater scene. I read a book of their plays which they published.

Chicago Dramatists

Chicago Dramatists

I took the Blue Line in the direction of Forest Park and got off at the Monroe Station. I took even more photos of the Four Seasons mosaic by Marc Chagall because it is very close to my hotel. I dropped off my purchases at the hotel and noted the room had not been cleaned by noon. I always wonder when I should return to my hotel to ensure that the room is cleaned.

There were not many other options for things to do on a Monday. A few museums I planned to visit were open but I had bought tickets online for other days of the week. I decided to visit the Poetry Foundation instead. I wasn’t sure if there was anything to do there but they do have a library open to the public. I took the Red Line subway in the direction of Howards to the Chicago Station. Before going to the poetry library, I photographed the Alliance Française de Chicago which was nearby. At the Poetry Foundation I saw a sign on the door asking visitors to wipe their feet because there was street construction going on in the area.  I signed in and took two brochures. I saw a small exhibit of political buttons. In the library I found the book The Living Fire: New and Selected Poems 1972–2010 by Edward Hirsch and read his poem “Isis Unveiled”. I returned the book to the shelf but you are not supposed to do that. I like to think that this was a significant symbolic act. One of the full length plays I have written is about a computer programmer who has forgotten all about poetry until an ex-girlfriend shows up to goad him into reading the work of Edna St. Vincent Millay. My play is a shameless claim to a frustrated literary destiny. But reading Edward Hirsch’s books have given me new hope since he seems to share my understanding of the poet as being an inspired visionary trying to capture the ineffable and the profound in eloquent language. I ordered a copy of The Living Fire on Amazon while I was in Chicago and it was delivered just before I wrote this blog post. “Isis Unveiled” is an interesting poem since it reveals an interest in the occult. As an explorer of the depths of the soul, the poet is an occultist. Edward Hirsch seems to have been following in the footsteps of William Butler Yeats when he wrote this poem.

Poetry Foundation

Poetry Foundation

At around 12:50 p.m. I found Portillo’s Hot Dogs on West Ontario Street again and ordered a strawberry shake. They did not have sundaes. From there I walked to the Chicago River and took photos of the bridges, skyscrapers, and architecture. I even walked along the Riverwalk and came across a giant deer sculpture. I then thought I would go to another book store and try to buy a copy of Poetry magazine. But first I came across the James R. Thompson Center which I entered because it has a fantastic interior. I went  looking for Books-A-Million but the store had closed permanently some time after I had added it to my notes. I did came across the Berghoff restaurant and Russian Tea Time.

Giant Deer Sculpture

Giant Deer Sculpture

Next I went to the Chicago Cultural Center where I saw many exhibits on architecture. This was way more extensive than I expected. There were at least three floors of exhibits which included photos, models, and installations. I walked back to the hotel room and then went back out for supper. I went to the Rivival Food Hall. The Rivival Food Hall is a dining marketplace on the ground floor of The National building. It  offers a selection of stalls featuring many of Chicago’s favorite neighborhood restaurants in a casual dining setting. It was also very close to my hotel so it made for an excellent place to grab a bite to eat without a lot of hassle.  I choose the Danke restaurant. I ordered a grilled cheese but she thought I said goat cheese. I also got a can of local root beer. There is also an independent book store in the Rivival Food Hall but it was a little hard to find. At Curbside Books & Records I bought a copy of Poetry magazine for October 2017. I used to subscribe to this magazine from 1986 to 1988 but eventually I lost interest in poetry. I still like to read biographies of poets as tales of literary success but I often don’t read their poetry itself. I should probably resume my efforts to write and publish some poetry. It is a sorry writer who cannot accomplish even that given today’s vast publishing options. I’m sure there are thousands of online literary magazines publishing poetry which nobody ever reads.

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Chicago Vacation – Day Two – Sunday

The second day of my vacation began with breakfast at the hotel. Then I went to the Walgreens on State Street at 8:56 a.m. and bought a little notebook, a set of scissors, and blister band-aids. I needed a little notebook to write directions on scraps of paper because I forgot to print out my directions. I didn’t want to rely on my smartphone having power to view my directions. I forgot that I needed scissors to cut the extra shoe inserts I brought. And I needed blister band-aids because I thought I was developing a blister on my left foot, but fortunately it didn’t develop into a problem.

My goal for Sunday was to visit the Navy Pier since I bought tickets for various museums later in the week and not much was open on a Sunday. To get to the Navy Pier I took the Red Line subway north towards Howard and got off at Grand Station. From there I walked east to the Navy Pier. I saw the Lake Point Tower which is a distinctive residential tower visible to the west from the Navy Pier. Upon arriving at the pier, I proceeded to walk all the way around the pier to see where everything was located. Of particular interest was the Chicago Shakespeare Theater which is located on the Navy Pier. Unfortunately they were not doing any interesting shows during my stay in Chicago. I rode the Centennial Wheel at 10:39 a.m. for $15.00. This attraction is like a Ferris Wheel or the London Wheel and gives you great views of the Chicago skyline from Lake Michigan. I think it made three complete turns before I had to get off. After the ride was over, I walked through the Crystal Gardens which is basically just a palm house. I had lunch at Billy Goat Tavern & Grill at 11:03 a.m. I ordered a grilled cheese, fries, and a coke. This restaurant was made famous by the Saturday Night Live sketch with the line “Cheezborger, Cheezborger, Cheezborger. No Pepsi. Coke.” but the original tavern is on North Michigan Avenue.

Navy Pier

Navy Pier

At noon I went on the  Shoreline Sightseeing Classic Lake Tour for $25.76. The boat took us out into Lake Michigan where we got closer to the iconic Chicago Harbor Lighthouse. Chicago is sometimes called a Third Coast city because it is built on the shoreline of a great body of water. Lake Michigan does look a bit like the ocean with water stretching past the horizon. It was a bright, sunny day so I took lots of photos.

Although the Navy Pier took care of my morning, I still had to find things to do that afternoon. I decided to visit the Museum of Contemporary Photography next since it would be open. I walked back west to the Grand Station and took the Red Line subway towards Dan Ryan to the Harrison Station. I forgot to mention that this was my first use of the subway since I didn’t want to face too many challenges on my first day. I already had a Ventra Card which I ordered online. I had a 7-day pass on my Ventra Card. This was a contactless card that did not need to be swiped at a turnstile. You only had to wave it over the card reader. I liked this system better than NYC’s MTA cards.

The Museum of Contemporary Photography had three floors of galleries. There was no charge for admission. I saw a few nude photos by Alexandre Haefeli. And I saw photos from Barbara Davatz’s series “As Time Goes By” which were black and white full body photos of various people over the years including their punk phase. There was a room elaborately decorated as some sort of art installation or environment. The second floor mostly had photos of transgender people by Lorenzo Triburgo. The top floor had a very few photos by Laurence Rasti taken in Iran. That is the best I can do to identify what I saw there. Here is the description of the exhibition:

Disruptive Perspectives is an exhibition that explores gender, sexuality, and identity. The artists included use photography to articulate an expansive range of identities that cannot be sufficiently characterized using simplistic binaries. Rather than rendering identity as fixed, the works on view consider gender and sexuality as negotiations that are shaped by the human psyche, the passage of time, and the complex relationship between self and other.



After leaving the photography museum I took some photos of sculptures in Grant Park because I could see them across the street. In particular I was drawn to the Daphne sculpture. Daphne was a Greek mythological figure who was transformed into a plant or tree so that she wouldn’t be captured. After braving the traffic to get close enough to take a good photo of Daphne, I went back to the Harrison Station and took the Red Line subway up to the Monroe Station which was closest to my hotel. I went to Macy’s to find Barbara’s Bookstore on the lower level where I bought the book, The Dollhouse by Fiona Davis. This book is about the Barbizon Hotel in New York City where Sylvia Plath stayed during her Mademoiselle editorship. The food court was right next to the book store so I ordered a Chicago Dog, fries, and a coke from Signature Kitchen. I was impressed by how many stores were located in the Loop and along the Magnificent Mile. These were major shopping strips with many high-end stores selling luxury goods. There were huge department stores, malls, and exclusive clothing stores everywhere.

Barbara's Bookstore

Barbara’s Bookstore

I still had some time to kill that evening so I went to the Willis Tower Skydeck. It took over an hour to get to the 103rd floor. I had not planned on seeing this attraction so I did not buy a ticket online at home like I did for most other attractions. Security required all electronics to be placed in your coat to go through the scanner. There was the  usual photo shoot to sell you overpriced photos later. I always try to avoid that and I never buy the photos. They really packed us into the elevators. I did feel the pressure change as the elevator went up. The Skydeck was super crowded and I couldn’t even get to the Ledge. The entire experience was rather miserable but I had nothing better to do.

Willis Tower Entrance

Willis Tower Entrance

I accidentally crossed the south branch of the Chicago River on my mission to find the  Civic Opera Building. I did find Union Station though. Eventually I located the Civic Opera Building which I wanted to see because opera is one of the performing arts, not that I’m into opera. I then took more photos of the Chicago River and skyscrapers in the evening because the buildings are fantastic when lit up at night. I took some photos of the Goodman Theater at night with its sign lit. And I took some photos of Marc Chagall’s Four Seasons at night because it looked kind of eerie and deserted.

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Chicago Vacation – Day One – Saturday

I decided to visit Chicago for my vacation this year because it is the third largest city in the United States. Chicago is also a very important city in the country’s theater community with hundreds of storefront theaters and production companies. One of my goals on this trip was to learn more about Chicago theater.

I was able to get a direct flight from Harrisburg International Airport to O’Hare International Airport. I only spent about an hour and a half in the air so I only got a cookie and a small cup of orange juice during the flight. I was practically the last person to board the plane because I was held up checking in my bag. When we arrived at O’Hare International Airport I did not immediately go to baggage claim. First I took a few photos of the 72-foot-long Brachiosaurus skeleton in Concourse B. I also took a photo of Barbara’s Bookstore at the airport. I took a taxi into the city but we were held up by an accident so it took longer than it should. The taxi’s credit card machine was not working so I had to pay with cash.

I stayed at the Hampton Inn Majestic Chicago Theatre District hotel on West Monroe Street. This hotel is right next to a theater which keeps changing its name. It was the PrivateBank Theatre, then the Bank of America Theatre, and finally CIBC Theatre when I was in Chicago. The musical Hamilton was playing at this theater and I often saw excited theatergoers lined up outside waiting to get in. But I have good taste so I chose two serious plays to see while I was in Chicago. I was able to check into my room right away and even got to eat a complimentary breakfast after leaving my luggage in my room. However the dining area was very small and crowded. The selection of breakfast items was not very good but it did change a little every day.

CIBC Theatre

CIBC Theatre

The first thing I did when I finally ventured out was to wander around the theater district and take photos of the downtown theaters; the Oriental Theatre, The PrivateBank Theatre, Cadillac Palace Theatre, Chicago Theatre, and the Goodman Theatre. Most of these theaters run Broadway style shows and major musicals. I would have seen a play at the Goodman Theatre but they weren’t doing anything interesting at the time. Eventually I walked to the Chicago River and began taking photos of the skyscrapers that line the river. The architecture is really impressive along the stretch of the Chicago River which runs to Lake Michigan. They were drawing up the bridges to let some sailboats through so I got to see that.

Chicago River Bridge Raised

Chicago River Bridge Raised

At 10:53 a.m I visited the American Writers Museum. This museum only recently opened in May 2017. It cost me $12.00 for admission. For a museum devoted to writers, most of the exhibits tried too hard to be interactive, but there were a few books on display. I saw the famous 120-foot scroll on which Jack Kerouac wrote out “On the Road”. I bought a book, The Best American Poetry 2016 by guest editor Edward Hirsch. Just before I left on this trip I had been reading his book How to Read a Poem: And Fall in Love with Poetry. It is the best book I have ever read on why one should read poetry. I’ve become intrigued by Edward Hirsch because he seems very interested in the visionary nature of the poet, the poet as the profoundly inspired soul. I also picked up an Eugene O’Neill bookmark. My receipt has the time 11:33 a.m. so I only spent a half hour at this small museum.

American Writers Museum Entrance

American Writers Museum Entrance

After that I walked to the Millennium Park and saw the Cloud Gate, the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, the Harris Theater, the Lurie Garden, the Chicago Stock Exchange Arch, and the statue Abraham Lincoln: The Head of State. I also walked far enough down Grant Park to find the Buckingham Fountain. The fountain was not filled with water. From there I walked west to the Harold Washington Library Center and then north on State Street. My camera battery died then so I was unable to take any more photos until I returned to my hotel.

Cloud Gate

Cloud Gate

At around 1:00 p.m. went to Pizano’s for lunch. I ordered a coke and individual pizza with cheese and sausage. This turned out to be a deep dish pizza and took 35 minutes to prepare. I followed the server’s suggestion to order garlic bread as an appetizer. The garlic bread was enough for an entire meal so I only ate three. I didn’t particularly care for the deep dish pizza which was too much like a meat pie. Now that is what they call a pizza pie!

I went to a Reckless Records store across the street and bought a CD of Depeche Mode Remixes, Remixes 81–04. Depeche Mode is one of my favorite bands and I like to listen to remixes of their songs. They were playing Mother Russia by Sisters of Mercy in the store which was kind of cool. According to my receipt I made this purchase at 2:05 p.m. At 2:14 p.m. I went to Walgreen’s and bought an umbrella and a portable battery for recharging my smart phone on the go. As it turned out, I did not need either of these items although I should have taken my umbrella with me on my last errand.

I returned to my hotel to relieve myself of these purchases and went back out to take photos of public art. By 3:25 p.m. I had walked all the way to Barnes & Noble at DePaul Center on Jackson Blvd. and bought Everyman Library Pocket Poets edition of Dickinson: Poems. I was not given a bag for this purchase but fortunately it was a small book. Apparently Chicago has passed a law for a bag tax so you don’t get a bag unless you ask for one. It is really annoying. I put a plastic bag in my coat pocket to ensure that I always had a bag on me. The Emily Dickinson book was a good pick because she was mentioned later on in my trip during a night at the theater.

I walked up Michigan Avenue past the Art Institute of Chicago and found the Crown Fountain which I had overlooked earlier. I also checked out the Cloud Gate again. I walked past the Chicago Cultural Center and took a few photos of that. After leaving the book at the hotel I went right back out and took photos of the Chicago Theater lit up in the evening. Then I walked along the Chicago River taking photos of the skyscrapers as they began to light up for the evening. I walked all the way up North Michigan Avenue, aka the Magnificent Mile  and then west to find the Poetry Foundation. I even came across Portillo’s Hot Dogs and McDonald’s on West Ontario Street and then the Blue Chicago night club. Finally I took a lot of nighttime photos of the skyscrapers along the Chicago River.

This was a lot to accomplish on my first day in the city. I didn’t actually have anything planned for this day because I thought the flight and getting checked into the hotel would take all day. I walked 5.4 miles this day according to my pedometer.

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New York City Trip In September 2017

Yesterday I made yet another trip to New York City. The first thing I did on this trip was take a tour of Radio City Music Hall. But since I arrived in the city an hour before the tour started I was able to spend some time in the Rockefeller Center area. I basically repeated everything I did on my trip last month while waiting for the  Tour at NBC Studio. I used the restroom in the Rockefeller Center basement concourse just like last time. But I did take some photos of the NBC Store which I walked past while leaving. Rockefeller Center’s sunken plaza was being converted to its skating rink. The Cara Delevingne advertising for A|X Armani Exchange was still up so I took more photos of that. And I went into St. Patrick’s Cathedral again to take even more photos of the various side chapels. I did see a Slingshot SLR autocycle on West 50th Street so I took a photo of that too.

I had to go through security for the tour of Radio City Music Hall but they only looked through bags and made you go through one of those less sensitive metal detectors. I only had to remove my digital camera and smartphone. The tour group I was in was pretty small with just me, a family of four, and two Russian tourists. The tour began in the grand Art Deco lobby and then proceeded into the enormous performance hall. I took plenty of photos of the empty stage with its industrial looking back wall. A small banner on the back wall read “Entertainment Sponsor – Madison Square Garden – Local One 125th Anniversary”.  I went on this tour to get some back stage views of a performing arts facility so I even liked the industrial looking back wall. We also got to see a concession area were the rest rooms and phone booths are located. I appreciated some murals on the walls which featured a Pierrot, a harlequin, a showgirl, a dancer, a black minstrel, and a Shakespearean actor. This was in the old illustration style you might find in an antique book on the theater, like maybe a drama textbook from the 1930s. There was also a large aluminum stature of a naked woman. Aluminum is a strange metal for a statue but apparently it was a new form of metal back then. A quick use of Google has revealed the name of this sculpture, the Spirit of the Dance. Next we took an elevator to go up several floors and eventually went through the mirrored rehearsal hall where auditions are held and dances rehearsed. I love seeing workplaces where art is made. These are sacred places to me. I feel the same way when seeing a drawing classroom or an art studio. Unfortunately I rarely see art workplaces and it sometimes it makes me very sad to encounter them and realize that I’m not a part of that world. As a writer, my creativity occurs at my computer where I do all my other work. We also got to see the Roxy Suite, a secret apartment in the Radio City Music Hall in the same opulent Art Deco interior design. I should mention that I really love the Art Deco style which manages to seem both modern and retro at the same time. Towards the end of the tour we got to get our picture taken with a Rockette. I didn’t really want to get my picture taken and I did not buy a print. It only served to remind me that I was seeing a performing arts facility as a tourist attraction. I’ve never seen a show at the  Radio City Music Hall. I did mention to the tour guide that I was going to see a play later on that day.

Radio City Music Hall Tour

Radio City Music Hall Tour

After the tour ended my next goal was to have lunch. I walked to the One Worldwide Plaza on West 50th Street because I was planning on taking a C train to 14th Street. Unfortunately weekend maintenance caused big changes to the C train schedule and I had to take a F train leaving from the E train platform which was a bit confusing. But it did stop at 14th Street so I was able to walk to Tea and Sympathy in the West Village. The only reason I picked this place for lunch was because I was unable to find the place on my previous trip. So I was just making up for a spot of frustration. Tea and Sympathy is part of a very small number of establishments which make up Little Britain in the West Village. In fact, I think there are just three establishments which make up Little Britain so it is a little ridiculous to call it that. I ordered the scones with jam and clotted cream and a cup of coffee. The scones turned out to be plain, dry biscuits like something an amateur baker would make.  Really, the only reason to visit Tea and Sympathy is to hear the waitstaff talking in the English accent. The food there is incredibly bland and nowhere near the quality required for a public restaurant. I also took a photo of Myer’s of Keswick, one of the other establishments which make up Little Britain, but I was too discouraged to actually enter and had no intention of buying anything. But just to make it worthwhile to have gone so far downtown, I made me way to Chelsea Markets and found Posman Books way in the back. I bought The Collected Poems of Philip Larkin because I’ve been thinking of reviving my interest in poetry. I had just finished reading Beautiful & Pointless: A Guide to Modern Poetry by David Orr which quotes from Philip Larkin. I think David Orr made a poor case for reading modern poetry but it did get me to thinking of some better reasons. One consideration that is swaying me is that poets value inspiration far more than other types of writers. Many poets feel that poetry is just inspiration put into words. But then again other poets consider the words to be the only important thing. Another consideration that may persuade me to give more attention to poetry is the fact that the poetry world has a better concept of the visionary than the performing arts world. By visionary, I don’t just mean a trail blazing artist, but rather an artist whose imagination is visionary. Poetry has a long history of self-professed visionaries, oracles, shamans, and mystics while the theater can scarcely claim even one playwright as a visionary.

I had a little trouble getting from 14th Street to 23rd Street in Chelsea due to the changes to the C train schedule. I took an A train going uptown but it was an express train and skipped the 23rd Street Station. So I got off at the 34th Street Station and got on another A train going downtown. This train also skipped the 23rd Street Station so I got off at the 14th Street Station and finally boarded a C train going uptown like I was supposed to. I was finally able to get off at West 23rd Street in Chelsea. The play I  was going to see did not start until 3:00 p.m. so I had time to walk to one establishment in the Chelsea neighborhood. I walked to West 27th Street between 10th Avenue and 11th Avenue just to photograph the entrance of McKittrick Hotel where the  site-specific work of theater Sleep No More is performed. It was kind of stupid to walk so far just to take a photo of a place I was not planning to visit, but there are no decent photos of McKittrick Hotel online and that bugged me. I actually left a broken image in my notes because I knew I would need to use my own photo for this topic.

McKittrick Hotel

McKittrick Hotel

McKittrick Hotel was far west of the Irish Repertory Theatre so I had to hustle to make it there in time. Seeing the play The Home Place by Brian Friel was the highlight of my trip. At this point I should mention that I seemed to be surrounded by theater folk on the bus. I overheard another passenger mention that he was going to see this very same play. And the passenger seated next to me was studying his script of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? This probably means he is going to play George in The Community Theatre League production of the play on October 13th, 14th, and 15th. I’m going to see that play this month.

The Home Place by Brian Friel is basically The Cherry Orchard set in Ireland. The set design was very fancy and even had a small grove of trees. The period costumes were also quite impressive. I sat in the front row so I had an excellent view of the actors but it often feels a little too initiate to be that close to them. I was close enough to see the spittle fly during some of the more forceful speeches. The spittle is quite visible in the bright lights. A few of the actors used Irish accents and I guess the actors playing the English used English accents but they were upper class so it wasn’t very noticeable. They spoke in a more former and proper manner. I read the play before this trip just to make sure I would understand everything even if I could not quite hear the dialogue. Some of the symbolism was overly obvious like the falcon threatening the chickens and Christopher Gore being tagged with the paint used to mark one of the doomed trees. He was supposed to get the white paint on him by accident but the actor playing his son did this very clumsily and made it look deliberate. And he did not get any white paint on the book the way it should have to support the later cursing over ruining the old records. No, I think that bit of stage business did not go well. Overall, The Home Place was very clearly based on the work of Anton Chekhov and only used enough innovations to apply Chekovian themes to the Irish. I thought it was a great play and the production was extremely professional but it also seemed quite unoriginal. And this has got me to thinking that far too many of the plays being written and produced are blatant rip offs of Anton Chekhov. All of the best playwrights are faux translating Chekhov; David Mamet and Stephen Kaplan to name two. Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike by Christopher Durang sets Chekovian characters in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. And many other playwrights write very muted dramas about middle class failure in the Chekhov style. Samuel D. Hunter could be accused of this as well as Annie Baker. The decline of the middle class provides the perfect opportunity to fill our theater seasons with pastiches of The Cherry Orchard.

This is an indication how self-absorbed and constrained playwrighting has become as a result of all the MFA in Playwriting programs. The theater has become a monoculture of plays in the style of Chekhov. Writers for the stage don’t try to show us new ways of seeing the world. It is always going to be the way Anton Chekhov looked at the world. Maybe I should create a computer program to skew my unique writer’s voice more in the style of Chekhov to please the theater. No fucking way! Chekhov is a bit boring, to tell the truth. So a season of plays in the style of Chekhov is going to be a long winter. It is high time that theater broadened its range of culture referents. No more seagulls! The visionary knows how to transcend even the tired, worn out patterns of his own thoughts. The visionary sees the world in an entirely different way and is the creator of new worlds. There are no visionaries in Chekhov’s world except for maybe the symbolist playwright Konstantin Tréplev.

Chelsea Television Studios

Chelsea Television Studios

When the play was over I walked to Chelsea Television Studios just three blocks north. This is a set of television studios where some minor daytime talk shows are filmed. The Rachael Ray Show and the Wendy Williams Show are taped before a studio audience here. I don’t watch television so I’ve never seen these shows but I’m slightly interested in the television industry since it is based in New York City. I took several photos of the exterior of the Chelsea Television Studios because I couldn’t find any online. The Fashion Institute of Technology was nearby but I’m not into fashion.

At this point I had no other plans. I have a long list of establishments to photograph all over Manhattan but I didn’t want to run all over the city just to take photos. I walked north along 8th Avenue to the 34th Street Station at Penn Station and took a C train to the 42nd Street Station, Port Authority Bus Terminal. I tried to find an exit on West 40th Street but I exited directly across from the New Victory Theater. From there I walked to the Drama Book Shop on West 40th Street. This book store is celebrating their 100th Anniversary and they have been tweeting about their many events to celebrate the occasion. This served to remind me to pay them a visit. I bought two more scripts on my shopping list; Proof  by David Auburn and The Pillowman by Martin McDonagh. Proof is about a mathematician who developed mathematical proofs and this interests me because I’m getting into some pretty heavy math while studying artificial intelligence.  I saw The Pillowman in San Francisco but never read the play.

From the Drama Book Shop I walked south another two blocks to visit my favorite art gallery, Last Rites Gallery. Last Rites Gallery is pretty much the only art gallery I have ever been to in New York City. I was surprised to notice that the gallery is located down the street from the distinctive building I photographed on a previous trip. This provides a handy visual landmark for finding the gallery on future trips. The artwork at the Last Rites Gallery frequently changes so it is worthwhile to visit the gallery often. I thought the work on display at this time was quite striking and really inspirational. I saw “Anomalies: Lines, Forms, Textures” a solo exhibition of new works by Eric Lacombe. But according to the postcard I took, this work was being shown at the Booth Gallery at the very same address as the Last Rites Gallery. Obviously two galleries are operating out of the same space. However  Eric Lacombe’s work seemed very much to the taste’s of Last Rites Gallery since his work is quite macabre. This artist has a very dark vision. His artwork was the stuff of nightmares that I could  only describe as detailed documentation of decay and rotting flesh on faces. A few pieces looked more like macabre morgue diagrams, disturbing but not as dark. Some of the paintings were in the style of Francis Bacon’s Screaming Popes. Still I liked this artwork. It was really visionary stuff and perfectly illustrates what I mean by showing us a new way of seeing the world. Mind you, vision does not have to be this dark but it often is strange.

I did not spend too much time at the Gallery. I took some postcards and signed their guest book to be put on the mailing list. For dinner I went to the Dafni Greek Taverna across from the Port Authority Bus Terminal. I had to sit at the bar because I did not have a reservation. This restaurant is in a very undesirable location so I did not expect to need a reservation, but it was a prime time for dinner. I ordered the Moussaka, a Greek dish I had first tried at Molyvos. I liked it so much that I wanted to try it at a more affordable restaurant and Dafni fits the bill. My meal only came to around $26.00 including tip, which is half of what I paid at Molyvos. The Moussaka at Dafni was also far larger and made for a satisfying meal. There was something like baked beans only with chickpeas slopped next to the Moussaka but I did not eat that. Before the Moussaka came I enjoyed a tasty Greek salad which was much better than a regular salad. It had chives and a lot more feta cheese than a regular salad would have. I had a lemonade with this which probably wasn’t the best drink option.

For the final few hours of my trip I just wandered around the Theater District and Times Square as it got dark and took photos. I must mention that we stopped at McDonalds in Lake Harmony on the way home. I ordered a Quarter Pounder and a cup of coffee but it took them a long time to fill my order. There have been no rest stops on the last few trips so I’m glad the bus driver insisted on a break this trip.

I keep going back to New York City because every trip is very inspirational. This always causes me to ponder inspiration on the long bus ride home. I often despair over ever making use of all my inspiration but really I should be thankful that my world is a world of transcendent inspiration. It is obvious that other artists struggle for inspiration and don’t even seem to be very familiar with exceptional states of inspiration.




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Artistic Destiny

The concept of a personal destiny is unpopular in our culture. We like to think that people forge their own destiny, that you can be a self-made man. We also like to think that everyone has an equal chance of success based entirely on their best efforts. But psychology suggests that our conscious actions are over-determined by by our unconscious. Our fate is not entirely in our hands. In ancient cultures it was widely accepted that mysterious factors played a part in your destiny. These mysterious factors where personified as the gods. There are also mysterious factors at work within ourselves, in our mind, the unconscious forces.

I would argue that artistic destiny, the fate of the artist, is not determined by conscious effort and skill alone. Talent plays a huge role in artistic destiny. There has not been much intellectual study of talent because nobody wants to seem so presumptuous as to claim any special insight on the subject. Nobody wants to be so egotistical as to boldly proclaim their talent. But surely people with talent must have some awareness of its essential nature. For similar reasons, there is little discussion of inspiration or genius.

I think we can put egotism to rest by realizing that ego is not a factor in artistic destiny. If your actions are not entirely dictated by conscious decisions then it is not your ego which sets your course. I suspect that most artists are governed by their imagination. It is your imagination which enchants you with dreams of what you might accomplish. It is your imagination which motivates you to attempt great things.

The essential goal of the artist as a creator is to bring something into being which does not exist. This is the very definition of a creator, somebody who creates something new. But what motivates a creator to create something new? Obviously it is only the vision of something which has never existed which prompts the artist to attempt its creation.

Aesthetic appreciation is an underappreciated aspect of the creative process but I think it is absolutely vital. It is  precisely your capacity to appreciate beauty and excellence which determines your steadfastness in its pursuit. Only people who value art highly and feel that it enriches life will make the intense effort to create art. And only the artist with the vision to imagine a greater beauty will make an effort to create highly original art. The enchantment of a mirage of greater beauty, a vision, is probably the most important factor which drives the true artist. The true artist is haunted by what he imagines he could create. This is what we mean when we talk of making our dreams come true. While an egotist may write a novel for the sake of acquiring literary fame, any lack of genuine appreciation for story will doom his efforts.

While it is easy to understand the pursuit of beauty, some consideration must be given to excellence as well. The serious artist will always be driven to pursue excellence in the arts. Although artistic excellence is highly subjective, it appears to depend on critical judgement. The serious artist will be impatient with frivolous works. But what makes something frivolous? Here is where we encounter a tendency to favor the profound and the ponderous. Often it is only dark or grim subject matter which demands to be taken seriously. But work which is too bleak can also cease be be enjoyable or beautiful. So there is some tension between beauty and excellence.

It is also worthwhile to consider how the artist’s actions factor into his artistic destiny. Besides the act of creation, I think there is one other major action which plays a big part in how things play out. The other important matter is what an artist chooses to seek out and ingest.  It has been noted that artists tend to seek novelty. Part of the creative spirit is a desire to seek out new work. The artist is on a perpetual quest to find new work. Not only new work, but highly original work, like something that has never been seen before. This is a process of discovery. The true artist loves to discover new work. Even the idle artist will perform the action of seeking out highly unusual artwork. Although this may appear to be the idle past-time of an aesthete, seeking new artwork for inspiration actually reveals the creative process at work. Somebody who is too modest to call himself an artist, yet who always seeks out strange new artwork, is performing the actions dictated by his nature and is therefore an artist according to the actions he performs regardless of whether he self-identifies as an artist. In other words, I would argue that unconscious actions are more indicative of the creative spirit than self-identity. In creative writing, it is said that a writer is somebody who writes. The action performed is more important than the official title of the individual. This suggests that the true artist pursues a course dictated by unconscious actions regardless of his conscious intentions.

Everyone in the arts is concerned with the matter of their artistic destiny. People working in art institutions want to associate themselves with someone who clearly has a bright artistic destiny. They want to have been seen as somebody who was in the company of the best. This isn’t entirely a matter of egotism. They simply crave excellence and want to be seen as having met that standard based on the level of the talent they were able to associate with. Of course, this depends upon being able to recognize talent, preferably at an early stage, so you can hitch your wagon to a rising star. For this reason, the ability to recognize talent in others is vital to your own artistic destiny. Refusing to be discriminating in your tastes will not serve you well since it indicates that you cannot discern excellence. A lack of artistic judgment will not only be reflected in your poor work, it will also be reflected in the artwork you choose to give your attention to and the artists you choose to associate with.

Let’s consider how bad taste plays itself out in your artistic destiny. Let’s take poetry as an example. A lot of bad poetry is written. Most people feel no appreciation for poetry at all so they entirely avoid the art form. Obviously this completely eliminates poetry from their world. They don’t read poetry. They know nothing of poetry. They don’t write poetry. Poetry cannot be a factor in their artistic destiny. But now let’s say you have some appreciation for poetry as literature but no ability to discern its quality. Now you might occasionally do your cultural duty and read modern poetry even when you do not understand a word of it. But without a discriminating taste you will randomly encounter poetry, much of it incomprehensible, and probably won’t seek it out with any enthusiasm. Only a genuine appreciation for poetry as expressive language would lead you to read much poetry and guide you to reading the best poetry. And it is only this that would lead you to perform actions like attending poetry readings given by great poets where you might meet great poets. Everything follows from your capacity for aesthetic appreciation. It over-determines the process of discovery and the potential for participation. And it can even do so with little conscious thought or direction. It is all a matter of performing the actions which you are inclined to perform. If you can be moved by expressive language you will be inclined to value it and seek it out. If you are unaffected by expressive language then obviously it will not affect your actions and nothing will come of the nothing which you feel.

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NYC Trip – NBC, Koreatown, Blondie, Dear Jane

Yesterday was my monthly New York City day trip. Ever since April I have been going to New York City once a month this year. I’m going back next month too in September. The fact is that I’m still finding exciting and interesting things to see and do in New York City so there is always a good reason to keep coming back. Every trip is kind of amazing in its own way.

My first goal on this trip was to go on the tour of NBC Studios which is located in the Rockefeller Center. I often forget that New York City is still the home of television production in the United States. ABC has studios overlooking Times Square. Fox News is located in the News Corporation Building on the Avenue of the Americas (aka 6th Avenue). HBO is located near Bryant Park. I took notice of this on this trip because I walked past it. The only network I’m not sure about is CBS but I think they have a more low key presence in their own office building.

The bus left us off at West 42nd Street across from Bryant Park because there was a street fair on 8th Avenue where they usually like to drop us off. This required a change in my plans. I walked up 6th Avenue to the Rockefeller Center instead of taking the subway. It wasn’t that far to walk so this made a lot of sense. Since the tour did not start until 11:00 a.m. I had an hour to kill in the Rockefeller Center vicinity.

First I decided to use the restroom in the Rockefeller Center basement concourse of the GE Building. Unfortunately the usual bathrooms were closed for renovations but I did manage to find an alternative set of restrooms on the opposite side of the dining concourse. This may seem like a minor detail but finding a public restroom in New York City after a long bus ride is a pretty big deal. There is a lot to see around the Rockefeller Center but I’ve been in that area many times so all I did was try to take some better photos. For example, I took photos of the Rockefeller Center’s sunken plaza but it was taken up by the Rock Center Cafe and not the skating rink. I actually went inside St. Patrick’s Cathedral, something I’ve neglected to do before. The interior is quite grand of course and reminded me of the Catholic cathedrals I saw in Rome. On Fifth Avenue across from the church I saw some large photos of supermodel and actress Cara Delevingne. These were glamour shots of Cara Delevingne for A|X Armani Exchange. I took a few photos of this advertising because it was such a striking example of the glamour of New York City. But unfortunately a cement mixer truck got stuck in the street waiting for a traffic light to change. I debated with myself on how long I was going wait for this damn truck to move out of the way, because I did not want an ugly cement mixer truck in my photo of this glamour advertising. Eventually I made the command decision to take the photo anyway because there is contrast between an ugly cement mixer truck and these photos of Cara Delevingne. It almost serves as unintentional social commentary. So even though I am not a professional photographer, I still have a good eye for a great photo opportunity. This is an expression of my creativity which I should not discount.

Cara Delevingne and the Cement Mixer

Cara Delevingne and the Cement Mixer

At a quarter to 11:00 a.m. I entered 30 Rockefeller Plaza (aka 30 Rock) for the The Tour at NBC Studio. I got the right entrance, off 6th Avenue where you see the marquee for The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and not the marquee on West 5oth Street which reads; Rainbow Room / Observation Deck / NBC Studios. Maybe that was the old site for the Studio Tours. But even after using the right entrance it is still a little confusing to figure out where the tour is leaving from. It is actually straight ahead in The Shop at NBC Studios. Just go to the checkout counter towards the back and have them scan your ticket if you bought one online as I did. Then you have to wait around the store and check out the merchandise before your tour begins, leaving from the area left of the checkout counter. We were given metal badges which attach to your shirt using a magnet. I got to keep this badge. We had to fill out a form on a tablet. I’ve never seen tablets used this way but I suppose it saves time to collect some data electronically. We only had to provide our name and email address so we could be identified for the interactive part of the tour and sent the video of the show as I will describe in a bit. First we watched a short film starring Al Roker about the history of NBC Studios, like an orientation film for new hires. This took place in a very small home theater space with maybe seats for only 10 people. There must be a limit to the number of people in a tour group.

We then took the elevators to various floors to see various television studios. The decor of the public spaces was really impressive with a lot of Art Deco shiny chrome and gleaming marble. The security was pretty tight with turnstiles and elevators that required keycards. I noticed that one page always trailed the tour group to make sure there were no stragglers. I forgot to mention that you have to go through a metal detector at the start of the tour. No photos or video were allowed so I have no photos from this part of my trip. We saw three television studio; the news studio where Lester Holt does the nightly news, the studio were they film Saturday Night Live, and the studio for the Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. It was thrilling to see the Saturday Night Live set. We actually got to be on the same floor as the stage set and get a good look at it. I recognized the small area of the set were bands play because it has not changed in years. It looked exactly as it did during a Deborah Harry performance of “Come Back Jonee” on SNL in 1981. This came to mind because I was to see the new Blondie mural later in the day. The studio for the Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon was surprisingly small. It was only about a third of the size you might imagine from watching the show on TV. For example, you might imagine there are three wings for audience seating, a center set of seats directly before the stage and a left and right wing of seats like you see on some shows. But this studio actually only has a single tier of audience seating. It was almost as small as a storefront theater. The stage was also very small with the band playing on a cramped set only a few feet across from the host’s desk and the couch for the celebrities. In addition to the television studios we saw a few control rooms for post production and broadcasting which where filled with LCD flat screen monitors and complicated control consoles. The tour ended with everyone invited to play a role in a fake taping of a talk show. I selected to be in the control room and sat in front of a control console which was lit but entirely deactivated so nothing you did on it would have any effect. There was a couple of French tourists with me in the control room. It may have been their girlfriends who played the host and the celebrity because they spoke with thick accents. However they still managed to read the cues and gave a surprisingly good performance. Hosting a television talk show is clearly a job that anybody could do well.

After the tour was over I walked to the 49 Street Station on 7th Avenue and took a Downtown R train to the 34th Street – Herald Square station. I think I left one R train go by before catching the next one because I wanted a N or Q train. This reminds me to figure out what the difference is between these lines because you can often take either one to get where you are going. Once I reached Herald Square I took photos of the Macy’s department store and the statues in Greeley Square and Herald Square. There is a statue of Horace Greeley in Greeley Square. But my goal was to explore Koreatown which is nearby on West 32nd Street. I walked along West 32nd Street, aka Korea Way, and took photos of the various Korean establishments I learned about during my research. In particular I made sure to get photos of Wonjo, BCD Tofu House, and Koryo Books. Then I went to Seoul Garden for lunch because I’d heard this place was never crowded so there is seldom a wait for a table. This proved to be the case. It is located on the second floor and the elevator opens directly upon the restaurant. I ordered the Ganjang Gaejang, blue crab preserved in soy sauce. Ordering this was little awkward because I also had to select tofu soup to go with the meal. I had no idea what I was ordering except for the blue crab. Before that came out, I was given several small plates of vegetable-based dishes including kimchi. This is known as banchan. I was only given chopsticks and a spoon to eat with. The Ganjang Gaejang blue crab proved to be impossible to eat with chopsticks. There didn’t seem to be any meat to dig out of the crab shells and it was impossible to get it out with chopsticks. I spent several minutes digging into these crab shells with a chopstick trying to find some tiny morsel of food to eat. Fortunately the bowl of soft tofu soup was more substantial and quite tasty. It was served boiling hot in a cooking vessel.  It was literally boiling away for several minutes so I did not dare eat it until that stopped. I think I was supposed to add a raw egg to the soup while it was boiling because there was a raw egg included in the banchan. Obviously I should have spent more time learning about Korean cuisine because the entire experience was baffling and very frustrating. But at least it wasn’t terribly expensive since I only spent $27.00 including a tip. After leaving Seoul Garden I went to the Korean bookstore Koryo Books but all their books are in Korean so I did not buy anything.



I had a ticket to see a play but that did not start until 3:00 p.m. so I had time to go downtown to see the new Blondie mural on the corner of Bleecker Street and the Bowery. I took the Downtown F train to the Second Avenue station. While on the train I discovered that my smartphone would not boot up. Every time I tried to get it to boot up it would just die before getting to the main screen. It turned out that the battery had drained. I really need to remember to turn on Airplane Mode on my smartphone while in New York City. Continuous sensing for WiFi connections or GPS location sensing appears to cause rapid battery draining in urban environments. This is something I will need to research. It was not a big deal on this trip because I had my route all planned out with written directions, but I usually rely totally on my smartphone for help in navigating the city. I don’t actually need a WiFi connection for my offline, custom travel guide. Anyway, the new Blondie mural replaces the Ramones mural which I had photographed on a previous trip.

Blondie Mural

Blondie Mural

I had planned on seeing the Blondie mural after the play I was going to see, but I had time to squeeze it in before 3:00 p.m. The only other things I photographed in the area where the Anthology Film Archives, the John Varvatos designer clothing retailer store which occupies the site of CBGB, and the Joey Ramone Place street sign. The Blondie mural was a cool reminder of the mystique that New York City had for me long before I ever actually went there.

I didn’t want to be late for the play so I went back to the Second Avenue station and took an Uptown F train to the 42nd Street – Bryant Park station. I think I exited this station at the HBO headquarters exit. There is a HBO Store in the HBO Building on 6th Avenue. I will have to put that in my notes because I did not realize there was a store. Anyway I walked over to West 40th Street and eventually reached the Drama Book Shop where I decided to do a little shopping before heading to the theater. I was a little rushed so I did not have time to browse much. I bought a copy of Jitney, the only August Wilson play that was remaining on my wish list, and a copy of The Dramatist magazine, the July / August 2017 issue. This magazine is published by the Dramatists Guild. I still have not rejoined the Dramatists Guild but I intend to after I have written enough decent plays. I need to have enough literary property to justify the expense. Several people were ahead of me in line and it crossed my mind to whip out my ticket and beg to cut in line so I could make it to the theater in time. But I didn’t and I had plenty of time to get to the theater.

The play I saw on this trip was Dear Jane by Joan Beber at the Clurman Theatre. The Clurman Theatre is one of the five small theaters housed in the same brick building on West 42nd Street between 9th Avenue and 10th Avenue, aka Theatre Row. These theaters mostly do Off Broadway shows. This was a new play by a minor playwright and I only took a chance on it because it is about an artist looking back over her life. I was particularly intrigued by this line in the advertisements for the play, “She strives for something beyond our boundaries, reaching for art as the ultimate expression of meaning”. Unfortunately the play didn’t really fulfill that promise. The protagonist had very little to say about art or the meaning of life. I tried to find out as much as I could about the people behind this production but I was mystified by it all. Joan Beber is a grandmother who appears to have gotten into playwriting very late in life. Nevertheless she seems to have enjoyed remarkable success with at least two full productions of her plays on a New York stage, both on Theatre Row. This strikes me as odd because generally you can’t reinvent yourself that late in life and actually get anywhere. The play was directed by Katrin Hilbe, a Swiss director, writer, and producer who appears to be involved in many obscure theater projects in New York City like Theaterlab. She may be more involved with the European connected theater community. I was unable to discover any theater company responsible for this production.

I enjoyed Dear Jane even though it seemed like a self-indulgent celebration of an unremarkable life. The play was a series of vignettes which were announced by the year in which the events depicted took place. But it was very difficult to follow the course of the protagonist’s life as it was a non-linear memory play. The protagonist, Julie, did not appear to have ever done anything particularly remarkable so her life history would be unknown to the audience. Looking back over a life like this only served to depress me, but to be fair even the mundane life deserves to be celebrated and this play did a good job of that. The actors were very attractive and showed a lot of talent in performing the vignettes which included scenes of interpretative dance, singing, and the occasional emotional moment that occurred with little context. Overall this play struck me as an inexplicably professional production of a random elderly woman’s private ruminations over her life. I cannot figure out how this play came to be produced. It is as if the god’s had decided to smile on somebody who is not exceptional. Still, it does seem a little moving to make a Broadway production out of a life for no apparent reason. The actress playing Julie, Jenny Piersol, was really beautiful and her beauty made everything seem tragic and beautiful.

When the show was over around 5:00 p.m. I had no other plans for this trip so I decided to head down to Greenwich Village and take photos of Tea and Sympathy and Myer’s of Keswick, two British establishments which I found were poorly documented in my notes. However, since my smartphone was inoperative I was unable to locate anything in Greenwich Village. So what I actually did was wander around in all directions taking as many photos I could of interesting establishments or landmarks to use in my custom travel guide. I did stumble across some interesting things like a statue of Fiorello H. La Guardia and a bookstore on Carmine Street, Unoppressive Non-imperialist Bargain Books, which looked like an anarchist book store. I checked it out but the selection of books was too poor for me to find anything to buy. The stock did reflect peculiar tastes though. It was one of those rare used book stores that show a lot of character. I won’t be able to identify everything I took a photo of in Greenwich Village until I’m ready to tag my photos on Flickr. But I did eventually wander to Washington Square Park where the arch was well lit by the setting sun. Washington Square Park was extremely crowded with buskers and entertainers and tourists. From Washington Square Park I must have walked up Fifth Avenue to come across the new building for the New School. Even without my travel guide I knew the Strand Bookstore was not far from that.

Unoppressive Non-imperialist Bargain Books

Unoppressive Non-imperialist Bargain Books

At the Strand Bookstore I returned to the Drama shelves which I had located on previous trips and searched for some plays to buy. I did not have access to my shopping list so I had to rely on chance to find something worthwhile. For example, my Moyer Studio Season Tickets includes the play Proof so I looked for that play. This play was by David Auburn but for some reason I had him confused with Tom Stoppard so I bought The Hard Problem by Tom Stoppard instead. I also found Translations by the Irish playwright Brian Friel. And finally I bought Three Tall Women by Edward Albee because I’ve never actually read that play.

I was feeling a little hungry and very thirsty after that so I went across the street to a Pret a Manger and bought a Cup of Goodness and a Wonderful Watermelon according to my receipt. Say what? Obviously that is not what I bought. The Cup of Goodness must have been the parfait, smooth Greek yogurt layered with freshly sliced apples and topped with brown sugar, granola and warming cinnamon, and the Wonderful Watermelon must have been the pink lemonade. I like Pret a Manger because it is like a cafeteria where you just grab a few items and pay for them without the fuss of waiting to be served. However just these two items cost me $10.87 which is outrageous.

I walked up to the 14th Street – Union Square station where I used an entrance outside Whole Foods rather than walk across the street. I got off at the 42nd Street station near NyGard SLIMS and went into Times Square briefly to take some photos but didn’t really stay long enough to even feel the vibe. I walked west to Bryant Park where the bus was going to pick us up. I was a little early so I went to Kinokuniya Bookstore hoping to buy a Japanese movie DVD. I didn’t find any movies that looked promising so I left the store without buying anything.

On the long bus ride home I was unusually stoked by this trip. I’m not sure how to account for this but maybe everything added up create a more exciting impression of New York City.


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Online Hate Speech Suppression Technology

There has been a lot of debate on how to handle hate speech online. Some people want hate speech removed wherever it appears while others want to protect free speech at all costs. Major technology companies like Google plan to use technology to identify and remove hate speech from its platforms. As tempting as it is to silence these people, I think automating the process of suppressing hate speech is a very bad idea.

Online hate speech suppression technology will seek to apply subjective, human judgment to online speech. Software is currently incapable of emulating human judgment. So how this will probably work is that online speech will be parsed and then evaluated for political correctness. Various factors will be considered and then a prediction will be made; Model’s predicted likelihood that the comment is politically correct: 0.093407306%.

Naturally Google will seek to fully automate this process. It is quite possible that the algorithms will flag content which has not received any complaints from an actual human. Content found in violation of Google’s terms of use will be automatically flagged and removed. You won’t be told how your content violated their terms of use because that information could be used by an adversarial system to counter the content filters. It is also quite possible that Google will be unable to back trace the calculations that were used to make this prediction about your content. As has already been demonstrated, technology companies don’t bother with niceties like a repeal process or arbitration. They have no intention of giving you any recourse against a decision made by software!

Now consider just how ridiculous this abuse of power could become. Lets suppose that artificial intelligence agents were created to serve as racist recognition software. AI is being used for voice recognition, image recognition, and face recognition so why not racist recognition? A deep neural network could evaluate your online profile and your online history to predict the likelihood that you are a racist. We won’t know why the system identified you as a racist. All we know is that you are a racist. The software told us so!

The problem with this technology is that it is not sufficiently nuanced. It will not be able to distinguish sarcasm from  legitimately held positions. For example, I was being intentionally a little absurd in the previous paragraph. Artificial intelligence will be unable to detect that. My wit is just too subtle. There is also a problem with policing online speech for political correctness because it disadvantages contrarians, people who like to entertain contrary ideas for the sake of intellectual dexterity. Often the best way to raise an important issue is to push your ideas to their limits. This has certainly gotten me in a little trouble in the past. For example, I pushed the notion of preying upon the mentally ill to explore the idea that some segments of society see them as a useful resource, a pool of credulous fools to be exploited. This is a very noxious idea, preying on the mentally ill because they are a pool of individuals with very poor judgment. But there just may be a key insight there. Anyway, I found out that psychiatrists don’t like to be accused of being predators.

Liberals have become very intolerant of dissent. You cannot disagree with them in the slightest without triggering them. They then begin to loudly call for a shutdown of the debate. Well I suppose it is good strategy to suppress the speech of your opponent when you can’t think of a counterargument. Silencing your opponent is good strategy because it allows you to win arguments that you would otherwise lose. If a liberal were to create an artificial intelligence that “thinks differently” I bet he would pull the plug on it. That is just how they roll now. I remember when liberals were better than this.

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Weekend In Gettysburg – Sunday

I wasn’t sure I had enough activities planned for the second day of my weekend trip to Gettysburg, but I managed to make a full day of it. I did leave Gettysburg a little earlier than necessary. I had a complimentary breakfast at the hotel around 7:00 a.m. My first goal was the Lincoln Train Museum but it did not open until 9:00 a.m. Nevertheless I left my hotel room at 8:00 a.m. and walked down Baltimore Pike to Cemetery Hill and took photos of the monuments there. Then I crossed the street to the Evergreen Cemetery and took photos of the Jennie Wade Grave again. After that I walked back up Baltimore Street and went up Steinwehr Avenue as far as the Battle Theatre, aka General Pickett’s Buffet. Beyond that were the open fields of Pickett’s Charge. I did see one monument there.

The Lincoln Train Museum appeared to open early but I waited until just before 9:00 a.m. to enter. You are immediately in the gift shop when you enter the museum. I bought a ticket for the museum but was given a brass token to insert in the turnstile. I walked down a corridor led by video of Abraham Lincoln running on a series of LCD screens. Then I watched a short film about the Lincoln Funereal Train as a model train ran around a track. The train seemed to always make a complete loop before stopping at the next stop. After that I entered a railroad passenger car for a simulated train journey narrated by a video of an actor portraying Abraham Lincoln. Surprisingly there was some motion special effects using hydraulic jacks and the scenery outside the windows was video of the passing countryside. When that was over I was left to explore the rest of the exhibits. I ran the toy trains by pressing a button although that only worked for one button and one toy train. I had to exit through the gift shop. They had some nice merchandise but I wasn’t tempted to buy anything because I was almost done with Gettysburg.

Lincoln Train Museum

Lincoln Train Museum

I walked back to my hotel and checked out. I then drove my car to the Soldier’s National Cemetery which provides free parking if you don’t mind walking.

Next I went to the Gettysburg Diorama. I had not researched this establishment and did not plan to visit it, but I didn’t have much else left to do. I bought a ticket for the diorama in the gift shop but they did not direct me to anything. So I wound up going down a long corridor downstairs only to find another gift shop. The corridor did have display cases of rifles and other Civil War artifacts but it did not strike me as being what my ticket was for. It turns out the diorama is located through a door towards the back of the gift shop. There is a light show and narration of the battle, so while the show is going on the door is roped off. It took me awhile to notice the digital clock showing how many minutes were left to the next presentation. I had to wander around the gift shop several times examining all the merchandise before I finally got to see the diorama. The diorama itself was pretty cool and showed the entire battlefield and the town of Gettysburg. It was like a toy train layout without the train. There were lots of toy soldiers of course. I knew the landmarks of the battlefield pretty well by then so I could follow the narration and see where I had been. The light show covered all three days of the battle and including night scenes of campfires and cannon muzzle flashes. There were also some Civil War artifacts on exhibit, some Civil War paintings, and smaller dioramas behind glass. I exited back through the gift shop without buying anything. I think I was also given a ticket for the Gettysburg Heritage Center but I did not want to see that again.

Gettysburg Diorama

Gettysburg Diorama

My final goal was the David Wills House. This is located on Lincoln Square so I had to walk all the way to the downtown area. The David Wills House has seven galleries with mostly just panels with information. I really don’t like these kinds of info panels. The Gettysburg Lincoln Railroad Station was also nothing but display panels. But I did see the original bed where Abraham Lincoln slept on the night before he gave his Gettysburg Address. But overall this attraction was very slight and a little dull. On the way back down Baltimore Street I did stop in at the Sweets Candy store on the intersection of Baltimore Street and Middle Street. I bought a chocolate bar, Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey – Swiss Chocolate Liquor. I could not resist buying some candy which contains whiskey.

David Wills House

David Wills House

I left Gettysburg around 12:35 p.m. I could have spent a little more time in town but I had run out of things to do and it was Sunday so things were pretty quiet. There were also a few stops I wanted to make on the long drive home. For example, I stopped in at the Cupboard Maker Books on Route 15 near Harrisburg. I bought two science fiction books; The Hydrogen Sonata by Iain M. Banks and Orsinian Tales by Ursula K. Le Guin. I also stopped at Sheetz near Duncannon to fill up on gas and to use their restroom.

Once I reached Selinsgrove I had the bright idea to stop in at the Susquehanna Valley Mall instead of going to the Lycoming Mall which might have closed by the time I got there. I went to the f.y.e store in the mall and bought two DVDs; Her 2013 and Colossal 2016. Her is an interesting film about a man’s relationship with his artificial intelligence operating system. When I finally got around to watching this film I found it unbearably sappy. The AI develops feelings with no explanation as to how this was possible. Then it got really weird with chat sex and a surrogate body. Finally the AI leaves him when a technological singularity occurs. It was a classic example of the tendency to anthropomorphize artificial intelligence, total wish fulfillment, humanizing the technology for the sake of the dramatic story. Anyway, my real reason for stopping in Selinsgrove was Texas Roadhouse. My older brother is a big fan of this chain restaurant and he gave me a Texas Roadhouse gift card for my birthday. At Texas Roadhouse I ordered the Half Slab Fall-Off-The-Bone Ribs with two sides; mashed potatoes with gravy and apple sauce. It was really good. I now have a gift card balance of $12.31.

Texas Roadhouse

Texas Roadhouse

I am now satisfied that I have seen almost everything there is to see in Gettysburg. I probably won’t be going back to Gettysburg until it has faded from my memory enough for another visit to bring back fond memories. I should probably visit Lancaster next since it has been years since I’ve been there. I only spent one day exploring Lancaster.

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Weekend In Gettysburg – Saturday

I spent the weekend in Gettysburg in order to give myself enough time to see everything. I left Williamsport very early at 5:30 a.m. and arrived in Gettysburg around 8:30 a.m. I used the Taneytown exit to avoid driving through the town since my first goal was to explore the battlefield. Fortunately it was a beautiful sunny morning, perfect for taking photos. First I found my way back to Hancock Avenue where I saw the Pennsylvania State Memorial and The Angle, the target of Pickett’s Charge. Once again I saw the Armistead marker placed where Armistead was mortally wounded. At this point my camera battery was depleted which surprised me because I had only taken a few photos. I’m pretty sure I charged both of my camera batteries before I left. Fortunately I had another camera battery in my charger but I did forget to bring my third spare battery. My second camera battery lasted for the rest of the day even though I was taking hundreds of photos, but I was worried that it would be depleted before I checked into the hotel. I resumed taking photos after changing my battery. The equestrian statue along Hancock Avenue on Cemetery Ridge was of Major General George Meade, the commander of the Union Army.

Armistead Marker

Armistead Marker

The next photo I took was of the Alabama State Monument on South Confederate Avenue. My goal was to locate Little Round Top but I encountered this monument first because it was Evander M. Law’s Alabama Brigade which attacked Little Round Top. I also saw the Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument and the Major William Wells Statue along South Confederate Avenue. Eventually I found my way to Little Round Top where I spent a lot of time enjoying the view. Although I had been there before on the Battlefield Tour we were not given much time there and it was raining a little. Now I had plenty of time to go exploring so I climbed up the castle monument to its observation deck. Technically this is the monument to the 12th and 44th New York Volunteers.

Little Round Top

Little Round Top

My next goal was to visit Devil’s Den which I could see from Little Round Top. However I had a devil of a time getting there and had to drive down South Confederate Avenue two or three times before I figured out how to get onto Crawford Avenue which leads you to Devil’s Den. Before I got there I came across yet another equestrian statue which I believe was Major General John Sedgwick on Sedgwick Avenue. So I had gone north from Little Round Top and had difficulty heading west to Devil’s Den. Based on the evidence of my photos I even wound up back on Hancock Avenue before finally making it to Devil’s Den. I definitely wanted to see Devil’s Den because it is one of the major landmarks of the Gettysburg National Military Park. So I persisted until I found my way to Devil’s Den. From Devil’s Den you get an excellent view of Little Round Top and its monuments up in the hills. The boulders of Devil’s Den are quite similar to the boulders I see hiking on the mountain trails of Pennsylvania. I walked up a hill behind Devil’s Den where I found a hiking trail that went down the hill’s meadow. I followed this trail because the countryside was beautiful in that direction. The trail led me into the woods where I was surprised to find many more roads and monuments. By the way, you should definitely circle around Devil’s Den in order to find the Confederate sharpshooter’s position which is not within the crevices of the main boulders as I expected.

Devil's Den

Devil’s Den

After that I followed Sickles Avenue to the Wheatfield which was not on my list of places to visit. But there are several impressive monuments in the Wheatfield and I had plenty of time to explore the battlefield at my leisure. In my imagination I pictured General Robert E. Lee issuing me orders to bravely soldier on in this expedition to visit all the major sites of the Gettysburg Battlefield. Continuing along Sickles Avenue I must have found The Loop on Ayres Avenue. There are many monuments along The Loop but the most striking one was a Celtic cross with an Irish wolfhound lying at its base. This was the Irish Brigade Monument on Sickles Avenue just inside the Rose Woods. It was definitely one of the finest monuments I saw and I’m glad I stumbled upon it because I did not know to look for it. The Irish Brigade Monument must be very popular because I saw photos of it for sale in the Gettysburg gift shops later in the day.

Once I reached Wheatfield Road I must have headed west back to Emmitsburg Road which I followed north to Baltimore Street. Once I reached Middle Street I turned left to get onto West Confederate Street which I followed south to reach my next target, the Virginia Monument of Robert E. Lee on his horse Traveler. Although I had seen it before on the Battlefield Tour, that was a cloudy day. I was able to take much better photos of this monument in the bright sunshine. I walked out into the field in front of the Virginia Monument to see some Civil War Cannons. This is the depression through which the Emmitsburg road passes. The objective of Pickett’s Charge was to go through this area to attack Cemetery Ridge. I could clearly see that this was a ridiculously long way for an army to charge a defensive position. It would be a long walk through open country to get from the Virginia Monument to Cemetery Ridge. Continuing along West Confederate Avenue I saw the State of Louisiana Monument (aka Spirit Triumphant) and then the Monument to the State of Mississippi. Then I came upon the Confederate Avenue Observation Tower which required a long climb up multiple sets of stairs for a view of the countryside.

Spangler's Spring

Spangler’s Spring

My final goal was to see Culp’s Hill. As I recall, to reach Culp’s Hill you need to go south on the Baltimore Pike and turn left onto Colgrove Avenue which has signs for Culp’s Hill. But before you reach Culp’s Hill you might encounter Spangler’s Spring, a natural spring that was used by Union and Confederate soldiers for drinking water during the battle for Culp’s Hill. This spring is now surrounded by a stone arch, a half circle handrail, and some steps down to a trickle of water along a stone floor.  There were a few Civil War re-enactors camped in the area and I had to wait for some other tourists to move away. They had a dog with them which may have drunk from the spring. Further along Slocum Avenue I saw many other monuments so I parked my car and took several photos of the larger and more interesting monuments. I must have seen hundreds of Civil War monuments that day and certainly had my fill of them! Eventually I came to Culp’s Hill which has its own observation tower and a parking area. It was easier to climb this observation tower but there wasn’t much to see except for the woods. I took some photos of the George Sears Greene Monument and found a trail down the hill through the woods which led to other small monuments. The very last monument I saw was the General Slocum Equestrian Statue on Slocum Avenue which I encountered on the road back to Baltimore Pike.

Culp's Hill

Culp’s Hill

Once back on Baltimore Pike which becomes Baltimore Street it was easy to drive north to my hotel, the 1863 Inn Of Gettysburg. I arrived there around 2:00 p.m. but check in was at 3:00 p.m. So after parking behind the hotel I went to the Jennie Wade House which is right next to the hotel. I discovered that to take the tour you need to enter the gift shop. You don’t try the front door or the side door to the kitchen. This may explain why I failed to find the place open on my previous trip. I was able to take the 2:15 p.m. tour but I had to spend 15 minutes in the gift shop. I didn’t see anything I particularly wanted to buy. The tour through the Jennie Wade House was led by a young woman in period costume. There were only two rooms downstairs including the kitchen and four bedrooms upstairs. The rooms upstairs all had low ceilings due to the pitched roof. I think there were two other rooms downstairs but they were on the other side of the house as it was a duplex. The tour ended in the basement where Georgia Anna Wade McClellan hid during the fighting. Apparently Jennie Wade’s corpse was kept there too for awhile.

After the Jennie Wade House tour it was 3:00 p.m. so I was able to check into my hotel. I was given two key cards for Room 250 which was on the second floor facing the back of the hotel. This was perfect considering where I parked. I was also given a parking pass to place on my dashboard so my car would not be towed away. There was a swimming pool at the back of the hotel which I had to pass on my way to my car. The first thing I did was lug my baggage into my room, one at a time since it wasn’t far. Then I used the bathroom and plugged in my camera battery charger to start charging my spare battery. But I didn’t stop to rest because I had a list of things to do in town.

First I went to the Sunset Ice Cream Parlor on Steinwehr Avenue because I was feeling a little hungry but did not want a full meal. I ordered three scoops of Rum Raisin ice cream which wasn’t wise since ice cream has a tendency to cause me gastric distress after a short while. After eating all that ice cream I went to The Crystal Wand, a New Age gift shop which I had neglected to visit on previous trips. New Age gift shops seem to be a thing in tourist towns like Jim Thorpe, New Hope, and Gettysburg but you don’t find them in other Pennsyltucky towns. I bought the book By Oak, Ash, and Thorn: Modern Celtic Shamanism by D.J. Conway because I’m very interested in shamanism. Celtic shamanism is probably entirely imaginary since I’m not sure that much is known about the Druids.

Since The Crystal Wand was almost right across the street from the 1863 Inn Of Gettysburg, it was easy to return to my hotel room to drop off the book. My next bit of shopping was even closer since the Irish Brigade Gift Shop is right next to the hotel. I bought the book Kelley’s Heroes: The Irish Brigade at Gettysburg by T.L. Murphy and a DVD, The Magical Legend of the Leprechauns. This is the gift shop were I saw photos of the Irish Brigade Monument for sale.

After leaving those purchases at the hotel I went out again and visited the Rupp House History Center which has free admission. There wasn’t much to see in this historic house except for two or three rooms which had a few exhibits. What was being shown was so slight that they probably can’t justify charging admission. I stuffed a dollar in the donation box anyway. I then walked all the way along Baltimore Street to Lincoln Square and then turned left onto Chambersburg Street to enter the Garryowen Irish Pub. I ordered a Magners Irish Cider which was $5.00 with a $1.00 tip. This is the same drink I had at O’Lunney’s Times Square Pub in New York City. It is not bad since it does not taste as bitter as beer. I just showed the bartender a photo of Magners Irish Cider on my smartphone to avoid having to pronounce “Magners”. I drank that as fast as possible and went to Gallery 30 on York Street where I bought the book Cain at Gettysburg by Ralph Peters. This is a novel to rival The Killer Angels. I’ve been reading The Killer Angels for the past few weeks while I researched my trip. Before going to Gallery 30 I checked out Nerd Herd Gifts and Games, also on York Street. I was a bit tempted by some of the Do It Yourself robot kits but they were expensive and I figured I would be kept busy experimenting with the Movidius Neural Compute Stick I had just received.

When I finally got back to my hotel room I did take a break and rested before the final activity of that busy day. At 7:15 p.m. I had a reservation at the Dobbin House Tavern for dinner in one of their dining rooms. I arrived there a little early at 7:00 p.m. so I went to the Soldier’s National Cemetery for a little while. I did take some excellent photos of the Friend to Friend Masonic Memorial which was lit in the strong light of the dying rays of the setting sun. At the Dobbin House Tavern I was led upstairs to dine by candlelight. All of the wait staff were dressed in period costumes. I ordered the Imperial Crab with baked potato which was very tasty and not too much to eat. Before that came I enjoyed some bread and a small salad. It was a slightly expensive meal and cost me over $40.00. That concluded the first day of my weekend trip. I think I accomplished quite a lot. I had run all over the battlefield to see countless monuments and I had entered various additional establishments in town.


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