Noises Off at Silhouette Stages

 Noises off is a wonderful farce of tax evasion, mistaken identity, theft, trysts and SARDINES!

This latest incarnation staged by Silhouette Stages at Slayton House in Columbia, MD is an amazing undertaking for a community theatre. The set is large and stately. The cast is tight and energetic. (Full Disclosure: My lovely wife, Julie, plays Belinda)

So, what was my involvement?

First of all, I shot all the separate headshots and created the poster you see to the left here. The challenges there probably deserve a blog post on their own.


There were also a couple of cast photos like the one here on the right.





I also spent a number of days helping out on the shop-filling monster of a set.

Then, I went in and got a great preview of the show by shooting production stills. Yes, you’ll see the set isn’t done and only two days before opening. Theatre people will understand, of course, this is not as rare as one would hope. The situation for this show was even worse as access to both stage and shop was limited by Slayton House as they had other commitments. So, the set did not see the stage until the Sunday before opening Friday.

The show is in three acts. The first act takes place on the front of the set, where our actors are in dress rehearsal the night before/morning of opening for their play.

Act two takes place back stage, weeks later. While the show goes on in front, our audience is treated to backstage shenanigans that are mostly silent but not at all quiet.

The final act is played in front on the final stop of the tour. Things have not exactly gone well and one might think the cast is a bit over the show at this point.

It really is a fun show. I’m hardly objective, but you needn’t take my word for it. The reviews have been stellar. 5 Stars from DC Metro Theater Arts! and from the Baltimore Sun. So, go out and support local theatre!

More production stills from the show: Noises Off Production Stills
More information and tickets: Silhouette Stages


Calculating God by Robert J. Sawyer

Calculating GodCalculating God by Robert J. Sawyer
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Mr. Sawyer made it difficult to enjoy this book by “poisoning the well” in his preface. He made it abundantly clear that he hoped to show that people who disregard theology in favor of a reasoned approach to the world based on scientific study were just as biased and closed minded as some theists. The “Science is just another religion” view. This position shows both a lack of understanding of the process of science and, apparently, religion.

He accomplished no such thing, of course. It was about as much a useful parable on the acceptance of theism by critical thinkers as Sherlock Holmes is a textbook of crime scene investigation. Mr. Sawyer thought that by changing what we know, adding new fabricated knowledge and introducing a foreign perspective he could enrich the discussion of the “does god exist” question. He didn’t. He trod old ground and made the same logical mistakes that many have made before. That aspect of the story was so infantile it seems clear that Mr. Sawyer has been lax in his consumption of modern philosophical thought.

It’s a shame, really. The actual narrative is very sweet. Especially with the excellent reading by Jonathan Davis. The very human aspects of the story are well done, if a little more sentimental than absolutely necessary. Still, it is always nice to read a science fiction story that is more interested in people than technology or aliens.

Yes, there are aliens in this story, but they are only alien in their form and origin. They are not advanced or particularly different in any other meaningful way. I’m having a difficult time in deciding whether I respect the novelty of this or not. It is very common to have aliens that do not differ from us in form, but have significantly different culture and thought processes, this is the opposite. A nice twist for creating sympathetic characters, but it is a cumbersome way to play at confirming his premise without actually bringing in any new evidence. Kind of like paying a shill to extol the virtues of your snake-oil.

Not a bad read, but kind of a ham-fisted effort to push a particular agenda. Having characters in the book draw bad conclusions from contrived evidence does not a compelling argument make.

View all my reviews



I recently heard an interview with Brian Dunning on Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe and was very impressed with him, so I pulled down his podcast. I’ve now gone back and listened to all of them.

Skeptoid is a very different skepticism-oriented podcast from the rest I subscribe to. It is not a round table, it is not interview-oriented. It is just one guy, who does his research, and presents one topic per show in a straightforward intelligent manner.

His topics range from Homeopathy, and other medical buffoonery, to 9/11 conspiracies and the war on Terror. Along the way Brian sprinkles in some good education on Critical Thinking and how to spot Logical Fallacies and Fallacious Arguments.

Brian is committed to just getting clear information out. All of his podcasts are available for free, they are also reproduced as essays on his site AND now many of them are collected into his new book, SKEPTOID: Critical Analysis of Pop Phenomena with a foreword by none other than James “The Amazing Randi” Randi.

He doesn’t even accept donations, he only asks that you spread the word. So, in my little way…

“If you have knowledge, let others light their candles at it.” — Margaret Fuller (1810 – 1850), journalist, critic, women’s rights activist


Golden Compass Quick Review

The Golden Compass movie has finally arrived in theaters. This movie, derived from the books by Phillip Pullman, has been highly anticipated in our house. We are all fans of the books and were anxious to see the movie adaptation. Would they screw it up?


While allowance has to be made for the time-compressed format of a theatrical release, the movie adaptation left us all pretty satisfied. One should still read the books, if only to really understand the relationship between a child and their demon. While reading the book, my son was inconsolable when he found out the activities at Bolvangor. In the movie, this has lost some of its impact.

The cumbersome voice-over at the beginning was quickly forgotten as we began our two hour long dash through Lyra’s world. The movie was visually lush and the casting was spot-on. Dakota Blue Richards’ precocious performance manages to draw the attention away from such charismatic screen personalities as Daniel Craig, Nicole Kidman and Sam Elliott. All cast in roles they were meant to play.

Don’t even get me started on the fantastic Ice Bears! The great armored bear, Iorek Byrnison, was neither cartoonish nor arbitrary. He was natural, menacing and regal by turns. The battle between Iorek and Ragnar was dramatic and exciting.

While there remains the shadow of the Magisterium and its mission to control the hearts and minds of the people of Lyra’s world, this is primarily Lyra’s story. It is an adventure story of great scope and wonder with plenty of thrills for everyone.