I, unlike nature, do not abhor a vacuum

What have I been up to this week? Well, I bought a vacuum - a vacuum that has both the Inteli-clean system (little lights that tell you how dirty your carpet is) and surprisingly stringent standards of cleanliness. The first day I had it, I became entranced by how dirty our apartment was; I swear to you that this vacuum cleaner was as engrossing as a video game. I was also, somehow, desperate to impress this Victorian schoolmarm of a household appliance - to convince it that I was willing to put in the many hours of elbow grease it demanded to upgrade me from the filthy wasteland of a red light to the civilized dustlessness of a green light. And when I realized the level of satisfaction, self-affirmation, and indeed entertainment I was gleaning from housework, I felt terribly, terribly old.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, was my week. The long, boring slog through the basketballess limbo between the Elite Eight and the Final Four. (Go Heels!)


Ever since reading Manjula Padmanabhan's wonderful play Harvest, about a dystopian near future in which citizens of developing countries are paid by aging first-world moneybags to keep their organs and body parts in good condition for future "harvesting" and transplant, I have wondered why there wasn't more science fiction in the theatre. Now Andrew Haydon, blogging at the Guardian, asks the same question.

There is plenty of science in the theatre; plays like Copenhagen and Arcadia are productively obsessed with finding ways to get theatrical forms (like blocking, plot structure, games with theatrical time and space, etc.) to echo scientific content (chaos theory, entropy, the Uncertainty Principle). So why aren't there more utopias, dystopias, alternate histories, artificial intelligences, etc. in contemporary plays? Is it a prudish fear of being invaded by the pop forms of cinema, TV, and mass market fiction? That fear is surely absurd, as the eagerness of mainstream publishers to pick up works that "transcend genre" attests. Or is it rather a limitation of resources, the difficulty of constructing a world of futuristic effects in the limited spaces and financially strapped budgets of most theatres? This is a pressure that film and literature don't have to worry about, but that sci-fi TV often shows the burden of in cheesy parades of low-budget special effects. But, no - there is nothing that the theatre cannot represent, given a sufficiently loose relationship to realism, and realism is in fact one of the most expensive addictions of the theatre, much less financially viable than the fantastical.


The first excavation at Stonehenge since 1964 is about to start. Sounds like a setting ripe for a Dan Brown/Elizabeth Peters hybrid thriller-mystery.


Shakespeare's 444th birthday's a-comin' (on April 23, or thereabouts - we aren't actually that sure of Willy the Shake's exactly birthday, but we are sure that he died on that date many years later), and theatre groups around the world will celebrate by performing his plays simultaneously.


In the continuing saga of operatic oddities, a conductor for the Pittsburgh Opera had to sing the male lead in Aida after the tenor lost his voice as a result of illness. Even odder: the conductor/understudy never left the orchestra pit, "dubbing" (in a sense) the singing while the tenor continuing to act the part.


A little more than a year ago, UNC endured a tragic loss when our mascot, Jason Ray, was struck by a car as he walked by the side of the road in New Jersey, where he had accompanied the team on their trip to the Sweet Sixteen. The tributes to Ray by the other teams in the tournament games that followed (cheerleaders wore mourning bands, fellow mascots wrote messages to Jason on their costumes) made me feel hopeful that sports was a connective, fraternal pastime rather than a sublimation of our divisive, violent, warlike social instincts. I felt this way again when the teams of the ACC came together to support the Wake Forest community after the death of Skip Prosser, their basketball coach, and the Carolina community after the murder of student body president Eve Carson (both in the last year).

I have been watching the lead-up material to the Final Four in the background of my chores all day, and CBS just aired a long piece on Jason Ray, his decision to become an organ donor, and the people who now live every day with a part of Jason inside of them. I bawled uncontrollably throughout the entire piece.

I can't find a copy of the segment I saw, so here is another, older piece about Jason and those he donated his organs to (a text version of the story, which goes into more detail about a reunion Jason's parents held with some of the organ recipients, can be found here):

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