Saturday, November 25, 2006

I AM MY OWN ...ELF??


Cover Stories

‘Santaland Diaries' ~ Sure cure for Christmas cranks

By Dale McKinney
Desert Entertainer Magazine


Let's be honest - at some point the holidays' cheer always becomes a bad case of Christmas cranks. The best way to cure the seasonal psychosis is with a good dose of laughter.

Starting Nov. 30, “Santaland Diaries,” playing at the V-Lounge at the Villa Resort (behind Boomers in Cathedral City) will be playing through Dec. 23 - see it when before you snap. East coast actor Scott Wichmann stars in what the “New York Times” dubbed “A delightfully thorny account of working as a yuletide elf at Macy's.”

The author, David Sedaris, who made his fame reading his own works on National Public Radio and is the brother to actress/writer Amy Sedaris (“Strangers With Candy”), wrote about his humiliating experiences during his lean and hungry days working as a elf for Macy's enormous Santaland in New York City in his collected stories “Barrel Fever.”

As you can imagine, the real life of a Macy's elf is not a happy one. There's your demeaning costume, your forced cheerfulness, your corporate torturers, the imperious demands of parents, the unruly kids and, of course, all the crazy co-losers who work with you. On stage, the visual humor plays to the max.

As a struggling actor, Wichmann was no stranger to the world of degrading jobs a performer needs to make ends meet between professional gigs. “I worked at F.A.O. Schwarz as a toy demonstrator,” he recalls over the phone in our interview, “and they had this one toy that just absolutely humbled you. It was called the ‘Butt-head.' I had to put on this huge Velcro head and hand these balls out and have people throw them at me. I had to walk up to people and ask ‘Hey! Wanna play Butthead' with me? I would go home and think ‘There's a kid in my graduating class that's worth six million today and I'm getting balls thrown at my head for a living.'”

Playwright Joe Mantello's stage adaptation of the short story is very faithful to the original, so how hard is it to turn the cynical, dry wit of Sedaris into a comic stage performance? “So many people say comedy is hard,” Wichmann laughs, “but I say comedy is hard - if you're not funny.” For instance, when a pompous parent declares to “Crumpet,” the elf-costumed Sedaris, “I'm going to get you fired,” Sedaris deadpans, “And I'm going to have you killed.” Or when another parent insists that Crumpet tell her son to be good or he'll get coal for Christmas, Sedaris explains that Santa doesn't do coal anymore. “He sneaks into your house and robs you. He'll steal all your appliances and leave you in the dark and cold.”

But Wichmann has no fear of the caustic humor. “I first worked very hard not to sound like Sedaris,” he explains, “and simply be real, be me, and really take off when I play the different characters - like the woman who wants her kid to ask Santa to stop animal testing - I had so much fun playing the contrasting characters to Crumpet.”

And what part of the play does Wichmann find the funniest? “I honestly just love the bit when that jerky Santa demands that Crumpet sing ‘Away in a Manger' for the children and so he responds by singing it like Billie Holliday.” Over the phone, Wichmann whines out a smoky, sexy “Away in a Manger” that had me laughing so hard, we had to stop the interview.

‘Santaland Diaries'
Thursday-Saturday, Nov. 30, Dec. 1, 2, 7, 8, 9, 14, 15, 16, 21, 22, 23
Dinner (6 p.m.) and show, $44 Show only (8 p.m.), $20
V Lounge at The Villa Resort
67-670 Carey Road
Cathedral City, CA
(760) 328-7211

Friday, November 24, 2006

A Bizarre Career Retrospective 'Scott Wichmann 13-33'

This crazy collection of Zany Behavior was compile dby Steven Lowell, a College pal of mine... ENJOY!!

Saturday, November 18, 2006

THE POWER OF ONE.

This is a great video that shows us that we all have the power to effect change. We can change how we take care of one another. We can change how we protect the environment. We can change how we relate to one another. We can heal the divisions between us.

I just love it, and I'd like to share it with you now.

Friday, November 17, 2006

The Torture Question.

This is from www.current.tv -- It shows the 'Coercive Interrogation Technique' of 'waterboarding' and what it actually looks like in a controlled environment. When I saw this, I was appalled. I was also frightened to imagine what it must look like in an 'Uncontrolled' environment. Proponents of this type of interrogation would argue that the terrorists are far less forgiving-- Barbaric to the point of beheadings and other grisly atrocities. I can understand the urge to be vengeful in a proportional way-- That is an entirely human impulse. Yet it is a slippery slope, and we may find ourselves as Amercians giving more and more 'wiggle room' to these kinds of techiniques in the future. We should not become terrorists in out struggle to combat terrorism.

In the words of Senator John McCain, "It's not about who they are-- it's about who WE are."

Watch this and make up your own mind...

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Obama under the microscope: An article from the Chcago Sun-Times

The Obama Chronicles: Waukegan interview transcript. On Rezko, mistakes and being held to a high standard.

After a month long blitz--selling his new book, stumping for Democrats, testing the water for a 2008 presidential run, Sen. Barack Obama on Monday traveled to Waukegan, Ill. to stump for a House candidate. He found himself answering questions about a real estate deal he made with a local shady developer named Tony Rezko. Rezko was recently indicted on corruption charges.

Obama, on the road to the White House, will have to run in the primary of public perception, just like his rivals and the Rezko episode is at the least a learning experience for him.

Obama, in a session with local reporters said "I'm human like everybody else and I'm going to make mistakes."


excerpts from the Waukegan question and answer session. ....

What in the world were you doing in a real estate deal with Tony Rezko?

Look, I bought a house. He bought a piece of property next to the house, and that transaction was entirely separate. But what is true is I purchased a 10-foot strip alongside that property from him, and although I paid more than the appraised value of the house, I think it's fair to say that, given some of the issues that were going on with him, it certainly raised the kinds of appearances that I should have been mindful of.

Why'd you do it then?

For the last 10 years, I think people who have worked with me know that I try to maintain the highest standards in how I deal in my personal and public lives. I don't accept lunches with lobbyists. If I play golf with somebody I reimburse them. In this situation, my focus was more on making sure I was paying a fair market price and not thinking through sort of how it potentially would appear. As I said in the newspaper it was a mistake. Not one of my smarter moves.

Did you recruit Tony becuase you needed him. . . . It sounded like you were only going to get (your house) if you had somebody buying the other lot?

No, no, no. I didn't recruit Tony. What happened was I saw this house. . . . We went through our real estate broker. And We put in a bid on the house the way any other purchaser would. The adjoining lot., there was already a bid on that lot. The sellers were the ones who had separated them, and Mr. Rezko became interested in that other lot, and he bid for that lot separately and negotiated with the seller separately.

Did you pay $300,000 less because of connections or clout, or anything Rezko did?

No. Nothing at all related to the purchase of my house involved Rezko. . . . The adjoining lot had already gotten an offer for the list price, which was 600-something-thousand. So the seller already had that in hand. The problem was they needed to sell the house. They were moving, and, so, this was to some degree a fire sale situation for them. They had gotten a new job. They were moving to Maryland. And so they needed to sell the house. That's the reason, as is true in any real estate market, if somebody needs to sell then you've got a little more leverage over them.

So there was no involvement with Rezko in the purchase of the house. . . .

Q: How did it happen that Tony just so bought the lot next to your home?

What happened was . . . Rezko's been a longtime developer in Kenwood. He's got property all across the Kenwood area. When the house came on the market, I asked a number of people about the house because I've never bought a house. I'd owned a condo. And I called a number of friends -- four or five friends -- who either had homes in Kenwood or were familiar with development in Kenwood. Rezko was one of those people. It turned out that the person who had renovated the house which I was interested in purchasing had worked with Rezko in the past, so that was the connection. He [Rezko] ended up looking at the property and became interested in it. But as I said it was negotiated entirely separately. It wasn't something that we were coordinating in any sort of fashion.

The reason we ended up having the same closing date -- that was actually a requirement of the sellers' because the seller was trying to . . . they had conditioned the sale of one lot on the sale of the house.

What do you say to people that your judgment is faulty?

I'm human like everybody else and I'm going to make mistakes. One of the things that I've prided myself on is when I make a mistake, I own up to it. . . . Although I made a mistake in terms of not being attentive to appearances, in terms of the actual transactions themselves, there was no quid pro quo, there was no clout involved. . . . The problem here was you had somebody who was doing state business, who had been a contributor of mine. While I paid more than the appraised value, it's understandable people . . .

Did you know he was under investigation at that point?

Obviously, things had surfaced. But this is somebody I had known for quite some time. He had never asked me for anything. I'd never done anything for him. We had never discussed government issues. But, look, I think it's fair to hold me to a higher standard. And I understand, at this point, I have been in the public eye quite a bit. I'm somebody who's taken the lead both in Springfield and at the federal level on ethics issues, and I think it's entirely appropriate for folks to expect more. . . .

Was the person you were bidding against for your property the same person Rezko was bidding against?

No. No.

How do you know that?

Well, I don't know it for certain, but I don't think so because my broker did not indicate they were the same party.

So there's no way -- either directly or indirectly -- that you knew how much money Tony was offering for his property?

I had no idea whatsoever.

Did you coordinate your bids?

No.

Why did Tony end up paying full price if it were such a fire sale?

There were two separate lots. [On the first lot], there was already a bid for the full price. They already had a bid on the table for that full price.

What have you learned from this?

One of the things that I've always prided on myself is the fact that I have never had any questions about my integrity and how I conduct myself in public office. . . . This is the first time this has happened, and I don't like the feeling. It's frustrating to me, and I'm kicking myself about it. But, as I said, look, I'm going to make some mistakes every once in a while. These aren't mistakes that involve the public trust. They aren't mistakes that involved my responsibilities in terms of representing my constituents. But, one of the things you purchase when you enter into public life is there are going to be a different set of standards, and I'm going to make sure from this point on I don't even come close to the line.

Will this come back to haunt you?

I'm in politics, so anytime you make an error that's something that somebody will be sure to remind you of in the future. And I don't think that's illegitimate. You have to be held accountable for what you do. . . . What I assume is in any election, people look at you in the whole. . . . Here's one time where it appears that he didn't pay enough attention to what the situation was, but hopefully people will judge me on my entire record. And I'm very confident that when they do that, they'll end up feeling I'm somebody they can trust.

Will your groundsman keep cutting the lawn?

. . . . We don't know exactly who is making decisions on behalf of the various properties that are involved. We've talked to the property manager that we have been communicating with, and we just want to make sure of is everything is as separate as possible.

So you're not going to mow his lawn anymore?

No. Here's the problem: the lawn is right next to our house, so I want to make sure somebody mows it. Originally, their intention, as I understand it, was to develop townhomes. They've got to get some sort of curb cut. . . . Right now, they don't have an entry. . . . I could seal off the fence and have people climb over with the lawnmower, but that's probably not . . .

Are you running for president?


After Tuesday, I will have the opportunity to sit down and think about how I can be most useful. That's a conversation that I, first and foremost, have to have with my family, with my pastor. It's also something that I need to have conversations with key people in Illinois because, after all, I'm an Illinois senator, and I think it's very important for me to make determinations in terms of whatever plans I have doing right by the constituents who put me in office.

Now we're talking!!!

From www.crooksandliars.com-- A first step in the right direction by what some have called 'The Party of No Ideas...'

Washington- Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT), an outspoken opponent of the Military Commission Act of 2006, today introduced legislation which would amend existing law in order to have an effective process for bringing terrorists to justice.

The Effective Terrorists Prosecution Act:

* Restores Habeas Corpus protections to detainees
* Narrows the definition of unlawful enemy combatant to individuals who directly participate in hostilities against the United States who are not lawful combatants
* Bars information gained through coercion from being introduced as evidence in trials
* Empowers military judges to exclude hearsay evidence the deem to be unreliable
* Authorizes the US Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces to review decisions by the Military commissions
* Limits the authority of the President to interpret the meaning and application of the Geneva Conventions and makes that authority subject to congressional and judicial oversight
* Provides for expedited judicial review of the Military Commissions Act of 2006 to determine the constitutionally of its provisions

This is currently not the case under the Military Commission Act, which will be the subject of endless legal challenges. As important, the bill would also seek to ensure that U.S.servicemen and women are afforded the maximum protection of a strong international legal framework guaranteed by respect for such provisions as the Geneva Conventions and other international standards, and to restore America’s moral authority as the leader in the world in advancing the rule of law.

“I take a backseat to no one when it comes to protecting this country from terrorists,” Sen. Dodd said. “But there is a right way to do this
and a wrong way to do this. It’s clear the people who perpetrated these horrendous crimes against our country and our people have no moral compass and deserve to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. But in taking away their legal rights, the rights first codified in our country’s Constitution, we’re taking away our own moral compass, as well.”

Monday, November 13, 2006

'Run, Barack, Run' By David Brooks


Barack Obama should run for president.

He should run first for the good of his party. It would demoralize the Democrats to go through a long primary season with the most exciting figure in the party looming off in the distance like some unapproachable dream. The next Democratic nominee should either be Barack Obama or should have the stature that would come from defeating Barack Obama.

Second, he should run because of his age. Obama’s inexperience is his most obvious shortcoming. Over the next four years, the world could face a genocidal civil war in Iraq, a wave of nuclear proliferation, more Islamic extremism and a demagogues’ revolt against globalization. Do we really want a forty-something in the White House?

And yet in his new book, “The Audacity of Hope,” Obama makes a strong counterargument. He notes that it’s time to move beyond the political style of the baby boom generation. This is a style, he said in an interview late Tuesday, that is highly moralistic and personal, dividing people between who is good and who is bad.

Obama himself has a mentality formed by globalization, not the S.D.S. With his multiethnic family and his globe-spanning childhood, there is a little piece of everything in Obama. He is perpetually engaged in an internal discussion between different pieces of his hybrid self — Kenya with Harvard, Kansas with the South Side of Chicago — and he takes that conversation outward into the world.

“Politics, like science, depends on our ability to persuade each other of common aims based on a common reality,” he writes in his book. He distrusts righteous anger and zeal. He does not demonize his opponents and tells audiences that he does not think George Bush is a bad man.

He has a compulsive tendency to see both sides of any issue. Joe Klein of Time counted 50 instances of extremely judicious on-the-one-hand-on the-other-hand formulations in the book. He seems like the guy who spends his first 15 minutes at a restaurant debating the relative merits of fish versus meat.

And yet this style is surely the antidote to the politics of the past several years. It is surely true that a president who brings a deliberative style to the White House will multiply his knowledge, not divide it.

During our talk, I reminded Obama that at some level politics is about power, not conversation. He pointed out that he’d risen from nothing to national prominence in a few years so he knew something about acquiring power, but he kept returning to his mode, which is conversation, deliberation and reconciliation.

The third reason Obama should run for president is his worldview. At least in the way he conceptualizes the world, he is not an orthodox liberal. In the book, he harks back to a Hamiltonian tradition that calls not for big government, but for limited yet energetic government to enhance social mobility. The contemporary guru he cites most is Warren Buffett.

He has interesting things to say about the way culture and economics intertwine to create urban poverty. He, conceptually, welcomes free trade and thinks the U.S. may have no choice but to improvise and slog it out in Iraq.

The chief problem in his book is that after launching off on some interesting description of a problem, he will settle back, when it comes time to make a policy suggestion, into a familiar and small-bore Democratic proposal. I’d give him an A for conception but a B-minus for policy creativity.

Obama, who is nothing if not honest about himself, is aware of the problem, and has various explanations for it. And what matters at this point is not his platform, but the play of his mind. He is one of those progressives, like Gordon Brown in Britain, who is thinking about the challenges of globalization outside the normal clich├ęs.

Coming from my own perspective, I should note that I disagree with many of Obama’s notions and could well end up agreeing more with one of his opponents. But anyone who’s observed him closely can see that Obama is a new kind of politician. As Klein once observed, he’s that rarest of creatures: a megahyped phenomenon that lives up to the hype.

It may not be personally convenient for him, but the times will never again so completely require the gifts that he possesses. Whether you’re liberal or conservative, you should hope Barack Obama runs for president.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

"We all breathe the same air...."


I'm currently in the middle of the run of The Secret of Madame Bonnard's Bath at the Firehouse Theatre Project, and the audiences are really enjoying it. I love working with Jennifer Massey and Rusty Wilson, as they bring so much depth and nuance to the play night in & night out. The play runs until November 25th-- Don't miss it!! Call 355-2001 for ticket info.

So, onto my next gig. I recently got a call from Reuel Olin, owner/operator of the Villa Resort in Palm Springs, CA-- Seems they want to bring The SantaLand Diaries out to the west coast with yours truly as the Pint-sized, Pointy-shoed, David Sedaris-esque Macy's employee. So, on november 27th, I fly out to Cali-for-ni-a for a four-week run of the one-man play... which, did I neglect to mention, is at a RESORT in PALM SPRINGS???

Wow. Just-- I mean-- WOW. I never thought it would pay off to be a skinny, short gap-toothed geek until now. If you need a west-virginia bat-creature or one of Santa's helpers, I guess I'm your man!! I mean, I can't even believe how lucky I am to land this gig. It's at a gay and lesbian resort, no less, which means everything will be spotless, gorgeous, stylish-- and the food and the people will be FABULOUS, girlfriend... I'm going to try and sell them on bringing I AM MY OWN WIFE out there someday as well.

Meantime, like Andrew Hamm over on his blog-- I've been blogging a lot about politics lately. Sometimes it's just a quick copy of an article I read that moved me, or a deep seeded desire to pop off and vent about the issues of the day.

I'm encouraged by the results of the midterms, and I hope it leads to actual bipartisan problem-solving, chiefly on the war in Iraq, which needs serious attention. I look forward to the dems finding common ground with those across the aisle. That having been said, though, I'm not one of those that think that we shouldn't hold the Administration responsible for their misdeeds for fear that it will look like 'Partisan Bickering.'

There are so many things the GOP never questioned on it's watch, and in giving the President carte blanche, they failed in their duty to provide oversight in the interests of those they represent. Chief among these are their blatant ignoring of the 'Downing Street Memos,' which indicate that during the pre-war period, 'The facts were being fixed around the policy' of pre-emptive warfare; and that the administration was creating justifications for an illegal invasion that, as we have seen, has cost so many lives. That's a very serious and troubling series of documents from UK intelligence, which should be looked into with serious scrutiny. Who knew what, and when? Was intelligence cherry-picked in order to provide suitable reasons to attack Iraq?

I fear, however, that should John Conyers pick up that torch and attempt to get to the bottom of the matter, our ever-objective media will simply paint it with the 'Bush-bashing' brush and ignore the real questions such a probe were meant to answer. And let's be clear, there is a lot the GOP let slide. Halliburton continues to make Billions hand-over-fist with no-bid contracts from Iraq to New Orleans, while Mr Cheney's stock options continually rise in value. That's not a slam, it's a fact. The last hope for oversight in Iraq was snuffed out last week, and, as a nation, we still countenance the use of depleted uranium munitions and cluster bombs in civilian areas.

These things make me ashamed.

These things need to be looked into. Deeply. Without partisan rancor, but with the spirit of truth and a desire for justice.

Yet we can address these things at the same time as we:

Raise the minimum wage; Provide tax-deductability for college tuition; Engage in healthy debate over embryonic stem-cell research; Secure our ports and nuclear power plants; Follow up on the rebuilding of the gulf coast; Cast a critical eye on the Military Commissions act of 2006 and the Patriot Act; Discuss the root causes of illegal immigration by bringing Mexico to the Table; Look into education iniquities in inner city schools; Provide tax incentives for companies to develop hybrid vehicles & accelerate alternative fuel research and development; Eliminate 'Earmarks' on spending bills which dilute the integrity of congressional attempts at fiscal responsibility; Engage in the Kyoto protocols; Clamp down on credit-card companies which prey on the young and the uninformed by doling out credit at crippling interest rates; Hold cities accountable for the upkeep of infrastructure (So we don't have a repeat of the Battery Park flood crisis elsewhere); And begin to make the intertwined problems-- of illiteracy, poverty, and youth gangs-- a focus of making America stronger.

We CAN work together, I feel, and I am excited about the prospect of having some of my views on these subjects represented in the government for once.

Red or Blue, Democrat or Republican, we must really try to see that we all love America equally and we want it to be a real land of opportunity for everyone. Andrew's blog echoes these sentiments, and it really is a great thing to know that we're all not so different. Like Andrew, I too have been reading a lot about Abraham Lincoln lately. I'm writing a touring show for Theatre IV called FREDERICK DOUGLAS & HONEST ABE about the relationship between the two men, and there is a something Abe Lincoln said once which inspires me:

The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present.
The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.


And from President Kennedy:

So let us not be blind to our differences, but let us also direct attention to our common interests and the means by which those differences can be resolved. And if we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity. For in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children's futures. And we are all mortal.


Tuesday, November 07, 2006

An Election Day Thought.

We need to get out of Iraq as soon as possible. Our brave men and women are stuck in a Civil war because the GOP Policymakers had no idea what the consequences were when they invaded Iraq. The dumbest move Rumsfeld and the Bushies made was to disband the Iraqi army. Now we have to reenlist & retrain Iraqi security forces, plus rebuild the Iraqi infrastructure via massive deficit spending. I fear, despite the Gop's cereal-box rhetoric, that there is no hope for stability in a fractured country where a mix of insurgents, Baath-Party Loyalists, Al-Quaeda operatives, and Sunni & Shia tribal leaders are divvying the country up and killing everything that moves. To the contrary, our presence in the region only exacerbates the problem.

It's a sad fact that the Bush Administration has no clue how to stop the bleeding, so in the absence of any real decision making about war policy, they waste valuable time trying to frame the debate and point fingers across the aisle. They label anyone who doesn't share their distorted view of reality as a 'Cut and runner.' The American people aren't buying it.

It's time for anyone with real ideas, Republican and Democrat, to come forward so we can begin to actually solve the problem in the quickest, most efficient manner possible. The GOP thinks blaming Democrats for wanting to correct Republican mistakes equals leadership. Sadly, they cannot seem to realistically acknowledge the carnage they have wrought.