Happy Roswell Day

Just a quick update, Roswell's still around and happy. Her "six week" prognosis seems to have been a little off. We're still spending every day though as if it was her last. Getting in lots of love and lots of time in front of the fireplace snuggling.

That is all.

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First off -- Roswell's still kicking. She seems to have no idea that she has cancer. So that's good. Lots of people have been coming to visit her.

In other news ...

Top Sekrit No Longer! Tomorrow, Mütter Museum, be part of the studio audience for the live taping of our podcast MOVIE vs EXPERT, a podcast where we watch movies with experts and separate fact from fiction. Tomorrow co-host Mikey Mongol & I are subjecting Mütter Museum curator Anna Dhody to the 1997 museum monster film THE RELIC. $20 includes AFTER HOURS ADMISSION TO THE MUSEUM. See the soap lady without all the crowd. Light snacks / cash bar!

Get tickets here

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    Slash & Miles Kennedy - "too far gone"

Happy New Roswell Year!

So, 2018 passed inevitably into 2019 and, for the 19th year in a row, I took a two-second long self portrait that begins in one year and ends in the next. You can find most (or all of them) by just looking for the January 1 entry on this blog for various years.

On the one hand, it's impressive how sedentary we've become in some ways -- it's not that we don't go out to party anywhere for new years as much as we have trouble even staying up until midnight anymore.

However, in our defense, we've done a lot this year. I wrote 44,000 words about the history of the invention of the payphone for an upcoming book, trillian_stars wrote a play about Mary Shelley (which she's performing right now on tour). Trillian also played Medea, one of her dream roles, and went to Norway to research Ibsen, Armed America was exhibited in a museum in Germany, I wrote my column for Videomaker magazine -- I gave a lecture at Tarletan State University and I think they'll have me back this year for a longer engagement.

But we pretty much don't leave the house for parties anymore.

Roswell seems pretty good -- she doesn't know she has cancer. She's had a lot of visitors -- people came from as far away as Seattle and Georgia and even Scotland to visit and bring her treats.

We've started a writers retreat where you can sit in our house and work on your book while we're away and have Roswell sit on your lap and "help". It's been nice seeing novelists and playwrights and the like getting to spend some time with Roswell trying to lay on their notebooks.

All in all, 2018 was a pretty good year for us. I hope yours was too, and I hope 2019 is even better.

2018 becomes 2019, you may clickenzee to embiggen!

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    Car Seat Headrest


So ... I was in the DMV the other day, getting my driver's license renewed. It was packed, and incredibly inefficient. They only took money orders. No checks, no credit cards, no paypal, none of the trappings of the late 20th century had permeated the air of that place. I'd been there about an hour waiting for my number to show up on a screen when an old guy in a wheelchair came in, being pushed by his daughter. They sat next to me. He was wearing a USMC hat and had an eagle globe and anchor tattooed on his forearm and -- since I'm interested in military tattoos, I asked him about it and he started talking about his time in the military. He'd spent most of his time in Okinawa but spent six months in Vietnam towards the end of the 1960's. He was far from the front and felt relatively safe, if not bored. He pulled a lot of guard duty and spent a lot of time standing around. At some point things were getting stolen from the base at an alarming rate -- people were somehow climbing over or the fences and burglarizing storage facilities, taking food, car parts, blankets, anything. They put up signs that said something to the effect of "keep out trespassers will be shot" and eventually they put up guard towers and they put guards in the towers armed with shotguns and he was one of these guards. They told him "if you see anybody, tell them to identify themselves or you'll shoot and if they don't identify themselves, shoot." One night this gentleman was up in the guard tower and he saw a shadow moving between two quonset huts and he said "Identify yourself or I'll shoot" and the shadow didn't identify itself, but started running and he thought "they told me to shoot," so he fired his shotgun and heard a cry -- immediately he wondered if they meant shoot if someone was running away or only shoot if they didn't run away -- all of this while he quickly climbed down the tower and ran over -- there was blood on the ground but no body. Other Marines arrived quickly and searched the area but didn't find anything.

"There's never been a day since then," he said, "sometimes when I'm at home and there's a sudden lull in conversation or maybe I'll be about to get on a bus or I'll look down at the sidewalk ... but there's never a day when I don't think about that person I shot, who he was, and what happened to him."

Trillian's New Play -- Back to Chekhov

Being married to an actress I've become acutely aware of how the theater world is so heavily skewed towards men. A man can spend his entire career just performing Shakespeare and have great parts -- from Hamlet to Lear with Macbeth in between your career can be made without even changing authors. The most you can hope for as a woman in Shakespeare is to be an "and" -- "and Juliet", "and Cleopatra" ... so as trillian_stars' career has grown so much since I've met her I've seen the frustration of "what do I do next?" -- How many times can you play Lady MacBeth? (I think it's three right now). There are roles in classic theater that are every bit as good as Hamlet or Willy Loman, it's just that there are so few of them and they're almost never performed. I've seen Trillian list the roles that she wants to play and, over the years, I've watched her tick them off, Nora Helmer, Hedda Gabler, Medea .... and those that are left become precious few.

I'm so happy that she's found a great group of actors at Hedgerow Theater who have taken it upon themselves to tackle a lot of these plays.

I might not have blogged about it before -- but it's the four main actors from Hedda Gabler who have formed a group they call "The Core Four" and they've agreed to do four plays a year for three years, each play features all of the actors, and everybody gets a chance to do some of the great roles they've always wanted to tackle. So sometimes Trillian's a big of background like in His Girl Friday where she played a dozen people (although I must say, some of them were amazing) and Jessica DalCanton (who played Thea in Hedda Gabler had a chance to shine, and then Trillian's Medea and ... well, anyway, they're doing Checkhov's Three Sisters next. They'd done Uncle Vanya last year and I was surprised how funny it was as well as pathetic (in the sense that it inspired pathos) -- it was so complex and filled with great, sweeping emotional parts. I"m excited about their Three Sisters.

Three Sisters. Clickenzee to Embiggen Them.

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    Fields of the Nephilim: Wail of Sumer

You're Invited To Roswell's Last Party


Roswell has cancer and we don't know how much time she has left.

It may be weeks, or it may be months but we do know that every day from now now until the end is going to be the happiest day of her life, and you're invited to share it with her. This is Roswell's last party. And it's the best party.

Roswell's Last Party doesn't have a specific date, it lasts from right now until her last moment on Earth. She'd love it if you came by to visit, rub her belly, feed her nori, let her sit in your lap, pet her head or just hang out.

Don't be sad. While this is the end, it's the best life a cat could have.

Let me tell you a happy story.

Let me tell you a happy story about a kitten who was never supposed to have anything but who ended up having it all.

Roswell came to us in 2006 when Phil Forrest texted to say that there was a stray kitten on the back porch. She was skittish and he wasn't able to catch her.

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Over the next couple of days, she got a terrible eye infection and was a blind kitten running around in the back yard. It was easy to catch her then. Phil and Stacey and I caught her. She was feral, she hated people. So twice a day, we would chase her into a corner and throw a towel over her and then pet her for 30 minutes.

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She wasn't very happy about it, but we gave her as much love as we could.

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Eventually, she realized that she liked getting her belly rubbed and that people were ok. And we started to try and find a permanent home for her.

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She had a cute sister named n00ton who she loved as much as she loved belly rubs.

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She was a filth thing.

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Then one day while we were playing, Roswell had a seizure. It was terrible. She thrashed around like a fish on a spear. She howled and screamed and I ran out into the street with her and jumped in a taxi and they raced us to the veterinary hospital. When I got in the door someone looked at her and yelled "triage for a cat!" They took her away and I wasn't sure if I'd ever see her again. She looked terrible.

After a few hours a doctor came out to see me and he said "This cat has meningitis, an infection of the brain. It's very bad. It may die soon."

And I asked "what can you do?"

And the doctor said "we can try treating her with antibiotics, but there's no assurance that will work. And it will be expensive."

And I said "well, what should I do?"

And the doctor said "I can't give you advice, only information."

And I pressed, "What would you do if it was your cat?" Up until this point I'd never thought that Roswell was my cat, only that I was holding on to her until we could find her a person.

"Well," the doctor said, "if it were my cat, I'd try the antibiotics, but I get a discount, so I can't tell you what to do."

So I said, "let's try the antibiotics."

And the next day they called me and they said "Your cat may die today."

And the next day they called me and they said "Your cat may die today."

And the next day they called me and they said "Your cat may die today"

And the next day they called me and they said "Your cat may die today"

And the next day they called me and they said "Your cat is 100% better, you can come and get her."

And so I posted about it to the Internet and went to spring her from Intensive Care.

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How joyful! I went in to pick her up that afternoon. I knew it was going to be expensive, which was frightful, five days in the ICU? When I got there, I asked "how much is it?" and they said "her bill has been paid, people have been calling in all day and contributing money for her." You can just take her home.

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We were very happy and we promised then to pay back what people had given her to other people who needed emergency help with vet bills, and we've been doing that ever since and we're going to keep doing it.

When we got home, there were dozens of cards that people from the Internet had sent Roswell.

I read every one of them to her, and she played with each and every card.

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After that day, Roswell followed me around like a puppy. She'd just been a cat before then, but now she wasn't just a cat. She was a cat with a person and she'd chosen me. So I stopped looking for a home for her.

We decided to learn to cook together. And she sampled everything and made suggestions.

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She was a fearsome hunter. Like Godzilla.

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She decided that she needed to be carried around, like a baby, for at least 20 minutes every day. This was non negotiable. And it continues to this day. This is one of the things you can take part in at Roswell's Last Party.

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She was a powerful literary critic.

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Both a lover and a fighter.

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We also kept working on that cookbook.

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Somewhere along the line she got diabetes and became the poster girl for how cats do well with that disease. We got letters from vets saying they showed patients Roswell getting her shot to make them realize how manageable it was.

She loves to eat seaweed. It's her favorite food. You can bring her some if you come over.

She did a series with famous novelists where people could write fanfic about her in the world of a new book and get an autographed copy of the book.

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Seriously, that was a thing.

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People have done some wonderful fan art of Roswell. I love this one of her as Teddy Rosevelt.

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Throughout it all she's just been filled with love and forgiveness. She's been my best buddy and I'm happy to have spent the last twelve years with her. And however much time we have left.

So come visit. Say hello. Say I love you.

We don't need hugs, we don't need sad faces. This is a happy story about a kitten who should have died under a bush a dozen years ago never knowing love but who has had more than a decade of the greatest life any cat could have. We just want you to share in our joy.

She'd love if if you'd come by and make a fuss about her. We know she has a fan club from out of town, if you're thinking of coming to visit from far away, we can probably put you up. Let us know.

And if your want, donate to City Kitties, they're the ones who helped save her in the first place.

If you have favorite Roswell photos or memories, please post them in the comments.

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Marie Antoinette

Did some photos for Marie Antoinette at Curio Theatre which plays until May 10, 2018. I've done a lot of theater photos over the years. It's always a joy working with actors, as opposed to CEO's or whoever else you're photographing who are always looking at their watches and grumbling. Actors are used to taking direction, and they know you're all working on the same thing. The tough thing is never the actors, it's always getting the time that you need set aside by the theater. For some reason a lot of theaters seem to take publicity photos as a necessary annoyance. So if you come in saying "I'd like four hours" you'll usually get shot down. So, being prepared and being mobile become really important. Have a shot list, try and make one that's easy to break down and move because you might not get all the actors in the order you'd expected. So while you're waiting for one, be prepared to do photos of others. Index cards with your shot lists help. Put what actors you'll need for each shot and in what costumes, fold the card in half when you've completed it.

Move fast.
Be decisive.
Be nice.
Be effusive with your praise.
Don't be afraid to let actors act, it's their job.
Make them look good.
Setup and takedown fast.
Don't skimp on people -- treat every actor like they're going to be world famous in 3 years, because some of them will be.

The King and Queen of France. You may clickenzee to embiggen.

You've probably seen this before. It's based on a photo by Regine Mahaux from Getty Images. It seemed the obvious thing to do going in to a play about Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. And from that initial place it seemed logical to follow that path for the rest of the photos, but I only had access to the stage for a brief period of time because it needed to be set for the play, so I'd already set up a studio elsewhere in the theater. This photo, once the actors were ready, only took about 2 minutes. We went over posing, Brian nailed the smile and we were off to the studio so the stage manager could get to work. Doors in 60 minutes.

Here's the kit I used. You may clickenzee to embiggen.

I used a Leica m240 and brought three lenses, a 28, 35, and a 50. I ended up only using the 35 and the 50. I wasn't sure how wide the set was going to be. The 28 vignettes around the edges more than the 35, so I was happy to be able to use the 35 on the first shot. I used the 50 and the 35 for everything else.

Whole cast vertical. You may clickenzee to embiggen.

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I've found it's always good to mix horizontals and verticals, because no matter what they tell you, some magazine is going to have a formatting request you didn't think you'd want.

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    Spectral Sessions: Don't You Forget About Me


Every year since 1999 I've been taking a 2 second long self portrait that begins in the last second of one year and ends in the first second of the new year. 2017 turned into 2018 in the living room of our friends Alon & Arwin. You can find the others by going back through this blog.

I hope everyone has a very merry new year. trillian_stars and I have some things to look forward do and some things we're thankful for.

2017 becomes 2018.
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The Yellow Wallpaper (Nov. 16-18 in Pennsylvania)

"There are things in that paper that nobody knows but me, or ever will."
-- The Yellow Wallpaper

trillian_stars is performing her one-woman show of Charlotte Perkins Gilman's classic The Yellow Wallpaper this time at Anthony Wayne Mansion in Paoli, Pennsylvania) (link to Google map) Nov 16 - 18, 2017 at 7:00pm

She performed this last year at the Physick House in Philadelphia and each show was sold out. (There's a review of that here. Since then, the production has gotten somewhat more complicated with additional lighting effects and surprises. The show lasts about an hour. It's a ghost story and the best way to see it is in an audience of a very few, so you can be close to the action. The House at Historic Waynesboro could have been the house from the story which is what makes it so much better than seeing it in an ordinary theater. It's far out in the country, isolated from everything.

Clickenzee to get this big enough to be your computer wallpaper.

The Yellow Wallpaper is the story of a woman imprisoned by her husband while suffering what at the time was called "hysteria". She's locked away in a horrid room in a beautiful house and kept from books and people and writing. When she begs her husband to end the "treatment" he takes her in her arms and calls her a "blessed little goose". At every corner she is ignored and diminished and stripped of any autonomy.

While this is happening, things begin to manifest themselves in the room in which she's been kept, and strange things unfold.

Time & Location

Nov 16 - 18, 2017 at 7:00pm - 10:00pm EST
Waynesborough Historic House, 2049 Waynesborough Rd, Paoli, PA 19301, USA

About The Event

"There are things in that paper that nobody knows but me." So says the narrator in Charlotte Perkins Gilman's Victorian masterpiece, The Yellow Wallpaper. This tale of psychological terror and feminist awakening comes to life in the Carriage House at Historic Waynesborough, as a woman suffering from "nervous depression" is kept in the country on medical rest by her husband, only to discover that there is something far more insidious lurking within the walls of her prison-like room".

Looked at in one way each breadth stands alone, the bloated curves and flourishes--a kind of "debased Romanesque" with delirium tremens--go waddling up and down in isolated columns of fatuity. -- But, on the other hand, they connect diagonally, and the sprawling outlines run off in great slanting waves of optic horror, like a lot of wallowing seaweeds in full chase. -- The whole thing goes horizontally, too, at least it seems so, and I exhaust myself in trying to distinguish the order of its going in that direction.
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The Yellow Wallpaper was written in 1892, but it's not any less important today. It's one of the early handclaps that lead to women's suffrage. I was happy to see such a glorious production in such a great space. The show opens Thursday November 16 and runs until the 18th. There aren't a lot of seats, so most of the shows will probably sell out so, getting your tickets ($22) in advance is a good idea.

It's possible to get there from Philly on public transportation. There's a bit of a walk at the end, which should leave you good and terrified on the way home wondering if something has escaped from the Wallpaper and is ... somewhere ... behind you.
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