After a Friday spent relaxing at home (no after-Thanksgiving Day sales, unless you count skimming the recommendations at Amazon), we drove up to LA to see the play Equivocation at the Geffen Playhouse. The drive was astonishingly fast (everyone must have been either at home or at the mall!), so we had plenty of time to wander Westwood looking for someplace to eat.

We ended up at Yamato, a Japanese restaurant that I’d definitely eat at again! I did wonder about the original purpose of the building, since it clearly hadn’t been a restaurant to start with. One of us spotted a plaque outside identifying it as The Westwood Building, built in 1929. Among other things, it did include a bank, which was one of my guesses.

After dinner we went looking for places we could get dessert and/or coffee after the show. The two Coffee Beans were both going to close by 9:00, but the Starbucks was open until midnight, and Diddy Riese was open until 1:00. We stopped in at Rocky Mountain Chocolate factory to get some sugar-free chocolate for Katie, and then made our way over to the theater.

The Show

Bill Cain’s play is a political thriller in which William Shakespeare is commissioned to write a play about the Gunpowder Plot to assassinate King James I and blow up Parliament. (Remember the fifth of November?) The problem: the king wants him to write the official version of the plot, which has been somewhat…embellished. Shakespeare has to deal with political pressure from the Crown, conflicts among his actors, estrangement from his daughter Judith…and the question of truth: Can he find it? If so, can he afford to write it?

It’s a compelling story — terrorism and torture are topical, and political intrigue is always in fashion — and manages to give you enough information on the background that if you don’t know much about the Gunpowder Plot, or even about Shakespeare, you can still follow what’s going on.

Some familiarity with Shakespeare helps, though. The Globe is rehearsing King Lear at the beginning, and it quickly becomes clear that The True History of the Gunpowder Plot will eventually become Macbeth. References to Shakespeare’s legacy are scattered throughout the play. There’s also a great comedic moment at one point that is only funny if you know about the Porter scene in MacBeth, but it doesn’t interrupt the flow if you don’t know it.

(Some recognizable faces in this production: Harry Groener, the Mayor of Sunnydale from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Connor Trinneer, Trip from Star Trek: Enterprise. Coincidentally, Groener was also in the last play I saw, Putting it Together at South Coast Repertory.)

After the show we walked down to Diddy Riese, but the line was long enough it looked like it might take an hour just to get ice cream. By which time coffee wouldn’t be an option, unless they had some there. So we ducked over to Starbucks for a half hour or so, then drove home.

This morning I was surprised to hear that Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn had died. In part, it was because I hadn’t realized he was still alive. As the brief story went on, I remembered reading about his return to Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union. Of his work, I’ve only read A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, back in high school.

Last week I was surprised to hear that the FBI was on the verge of indicting a suspect in the 2001 anthrax attacks. I’d pretty much written it off as an unsolved case. Unfortunately, the fact that Ivins committed suicide means the case will never go to trial. Having the attorney general sign off on it doesn’t quite have the same sense of closure — or certainty — that a trial would. Unless the FBI releases seriously solid evidence (and I’m sure a lot of the evidence is probably classified, especially given the current administration’s affair with secrecy), there will always be a bit of doubt: did he kill himself because he’d been caught, or because he didn’t want to go through being scapegoated?

I wasn’t going to post anything about the five-year anniversary of 9/11 because I didn’t feel like I could add anything that hasn’t already been said. But a discussion at Comics Should Be Good reminded me of a mailing list post I made five years ago, on September 17, 2001, on the subject of terrorism in comics. After rereading it, I’ve decided it’s worth reposting: Continue reading

According to Marketplace, critics of President Bush’s flu pandemic preparedness proposal contend that it’s too focused on vaccines and antiviral drugs, and that the money would be more effectively used by monitoring outbreaks and trying to stamp out bird flu in the third world.

In other words, they say we should take the fight to the flu abroad so we don’t have to fight it at home. Why does that sound familiar? 😉

CNN: Lawmakers oppose election delay [].

Among the outcry is a resolution sponsored by Ohio Senator Bob Ney (a Republican, for the record) stating that “the actions of terrorists will never cause the date of any presidential election to be postponed” and “no single individual or agency should be given the authority to postpone the date of a presidential election.” There are about 60 supporters of the resolution, and another 190 representatives have slapped Homeland Security with a clue stick.

Thank you, Senator Ney.

Postponing elections is not something that should be done in a free society. The essence of democracy is that it is government with the explicit consent of the governed. Take away that consent — as in take away the ability to choose different leaders — and you no longer have democracy.