Friday, October 30, 2009

how to help us

Conflict of Interest theater company is a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization. Contributions in behalf of Conflict of Interest theater company may be made payable to Fractured Atlas and are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law.

Go here to donate.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

no surprises

Michael Bloomberg and William Thompson will go head-to-head for the Mayor's office here in New York on Tuesday. It will be a contest decided by thin sliver of New Yorkers, as many of us do not bother to vote in off-year elections. Not at all shockingly, the primary runoffs here in New York City were not well attended, either:

According to preliminary returns, in fact, no votes were recorded in scores of the city’s 6,100 election districts. In hundreds more, where the number of enrolled Democrats ranged from 1 to nearly 1,100, fewer than 10 voters turned out to choose the city’s official watchdog and its chief fiscal steward.

For a week, New Yorkers have known that the runoff was a feeble exercise in participatory democracy of historic proportions. Fewer than 8 percent of the city’s roughly three million enrolled Democrats voted in an election that cost the city $15 million and the four candidates millions more.

It is the ultimate sign of cynicism and contempt when citizens don't bother. The lines in last November's presidential election ran around the block at many election sites, and people have since become enraged that change did not rain down instantaneously from the heavens.

Well, folks, that's because there happen to be other elective offices below the President, and an active engagement on the part of the citizenry is essential. Democracy is a long boring slog, and every election matters. What if you paid your mortgage only once a year, and ignored the other eleven notices? Would it be outrageous when your house got foreclosed?

Why do people cherry pick elections, only engaging with the ones they don't find uninteresting, and then get cynical when they discover that the other 95% of the process (which they've ignored) is broken?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

not sure I'm a fan

Sailing en route to New York City right now for commissioning next month is the USS New York, a Navy warship made with parts of the World Trade Center:
The amphibious assault vessel was built with 7.5 tons of steel salvaged from the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center. The ship, which can carry up to 800 Marines, is on its way to New York where it will be formally commissioned in early November.
The article in the CS Monitor finds opinions ranging from the poignant to the profane. I'm not sure myself how I feel about turning plowshares into swords.

It seems in many ways a continuation of the idea promulgated in the days and months following September 2001 that the nation was on a permanent war footing. That's never been part of our character (even in our genocidal, slaveholding heyday). We're the land of rebirth and plenty, not Mother Courage's scorched earth:
They say the war will stop soon. How would it? I ask. And no one can answer me. The King and the Pope are mortal enemies, their Faith is different. They must go for each other till one of them drops dead, neither of them can relax till then. Even so they can't get on with it. Why not? The Emperor is in the way, and they both have something against him. They're not going to fight each other till they're half dead so he can fall on both of 'em! No, they're banding together against the Emperor so he'll drop dead first and they can go for each other. Someone once offered me five hundred guilders for the wagon. I didn't take it. My Eilif, wherever he may be, thought I had taken it and cried all night.
Mother Courage's only question about the WTC steel being hammered into the ship might be what price did it go for?

Monday, October 26, 2009

the argument for openness

As a dirty non-white foreigner fascinated by Britain I'm inordinately interested in what the ethnocentric British National Party has to say about dirty non-white foreigners fascinated by Britain.

With their election to the European Parliament this summer, much of the political class has become distraught with the elevation of what many deem a fascist party in Western Europe.

BNP leader nick Griffin's appearance as a panelist on the BBC's Question Time program(me) became the sensation of last week, with protests and hand-wringing among the chattering classes, all over a rather dignified debate (this ain't Geraldo, here).

In America, I don't think we're quite sure what the hoopla is all about; after all Lou Dobbs has a show all to himself five nights a week.

Which is the point. People who argue that Lou Dobbs (and Glenn Beck, and Bill O'Reilly -- although "Papa Bear" [pace Colbert] looks positively sane by comparison) should be dropped from their respective networks miss the point. They absolutely should not be dropped simply because their views are repugnant (or incoherent, since television is not the realm of coherence).

They should, instead, be forced to engage in real political debate, and not the repeated erection of straw men in the safety of their studios or hour-long monologues (also looking at you, Olbermann).

They should be required to let their views see the light of day and the fresh air of discussion. Why? Simply this:
The leader of the BNP, Nick Griffin, found himself the victim of an extraordinary attack from his own supporters last night following his controversial appearance on the BBC's Question Time.

As a public postmortem into one of the most divisive broadcasts in the corporation's history attempted to gauge its impact on the party's fortunes, Lee Barnes, the BNP's legal officer, accused Griffin of "failing to press the attack" during the televised debate, which was watched by a record 8 million people. Others sympathetic to the BNP's views expressed dismay at Griffin's flustered attempts to appeal to the mainstream.
The logic of the lunatic fringe only works so long as they stay on the fringe. When they try to appear reasonable, when they try to appeal to the vast majority that live somewhere in the middle, they look ridiculous, and they know it.

Now, BNP members sound like Rambo decrying our loss in Vietnam as a loss of will -- that Griffin somehow didn't press the fight enough; as though burning a few more peasant villages or offending some more Southeast Asians would have done the trick.

Keep Dobbs talking; just make sure he has to look his targets in the eye while he does it.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Latest Film Work (Part II), 11/8

So if you're ready to have a love-fest with my work right after seeing my short play "Missed" at the Bleecker Street Theater on 11/7, come on out to see me in socially awkward porn.

Yeah ... it's exactly what it sounds like.


Indecent Exposure Productions presents

A Shlong Awkward Pause

Millenium Film Theater
Sunday November 8th, 2009
3:30pm -4:30pm
66 e. 4th Street
Suggestion Donation - $10

30 minutes of Sex Farces...what more could you want?


For $10? Yeah, 30 minutes sounds about right.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Latest Film Work (Part I), 10/31 and 11/1

Missed me as the Devil in Timor Mortis this past February? You're in luck -- I play a devilish character again in Jessica McVea's THE PROCEDURE, screening as part of the SINISTER SIX MUST BE DESTROYED film series on October 31 and November 1. It's on, y'all. Details below.

SINISTER SIX MUST BE DESTROYED is the fourth and final installment in the annual horror anthology film series, THE SINISTER SIX, created and curated by Bryan Enk of Third Lows Productions. In celebration of the final year of the series, SINISTER SIX MUST BE DESTROYED pulls out all the stops as a "double-feature" horror anthology film, featuring TWELVE short horror films by TWELVE directors! Come celebrate Halloween with The Sinister Six... times two!

Saturday, October 31, 2009 at 8:15PM
Sunday, November 1, 2009 at 5:15PM

Millennium Film Workshop
66 E. 4th St.
New York, NY 10003
Running Time: Approx. 2 hours

WARNING: Films contain strong horror violence and gore, disturbing images, graphic sexual content, nudity and strong language.


When Egyptologists Max and Lily reunite to uncover the secrets of the ancient Book of Thoth, it could lead to ultimate power. Or possibly death.

MONDAY | Danny Bowes
A young woman is pursued by a vicious killer... from inside her own mind.

HOUSE GUESTS | Rebecca Comtois
Four friends take advantage of a cousin's summer house. They better remember to lock the front door.

CONTACT | Jeremiah Kipp
If there is doubt, then there is no love - and Koreen tests her fear of love's deep scars.

ARACATTACK! | Douglas MacKrell
Ace exterminator Deuce Johnson has been hired to take care of a spider infestation at a residential laboratory, only to discover a deadly truth so terrifying, only screams can describe it! Presented in EMERGE-O-VISION!

When an innocent girl signs up for a clinical trial sponsored by the sinister Lucigenics Pharmaceuticals Corporation, can she escape the horrific effects that befall her fellow participants?

AVENUE A | Mateo Moreno
"Join us tonight as we take you inside the East Village bar that was the site of the grisly 'Avenue A Murders.' And for the first time, see the footage that was found there, documenting the entire event..."

LEVITICUS 26 | Roger Nasser
Leviticus Daniels was a good boy... until his mother Ruth showed him the path to Righteousness.

evermore | Patrick Shearer
How much is too much?

BLUEBERRY | Art Wallace
The director of "The Haunted Ghost" and "When Darkness Comes" returns with another tale of existential dread as a psychotic birthday party goes bad, very bad...

And some sinister surprises!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Reading of My New Short Play 11/7/09

Newground Theater Collective will be presenting my short play "Missed" as part of their CORNERSTONES series at the Off-Broadway Bleecker Street Theater (45 Bleecker Street, right? their mass email didn't say). So, if you're inclined, info below...

TWO DAYS, NINE PLAYS, TEN BUCKS. **Industry Comped**

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 7th, 1:00 -3:00 PM
Missed by Sergei Burbank
Gangster of Love, by Nandita Shanoy
Lipstick and Wrenches, by Gus Schulenberg
Directed by Erin Smiley
Lying Naked, by Alex Goldberg
Directed by Amber Gallery

And definitely don't miss our brother-in-arms Felipe Ossa's work presenting in the same series the next day:

SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 8th, 3pm-5pm
Dark Night of The Russet Rascal, by Duncan Pflaster
Love's First Sight, by Andrew Rothkin
Directed by Rosebud Baker
Don't Hold The Doors While the Train Is In The Station, by Bronwyn Clark
Directed by Amber Gallery
UFO Weather, by Jonathan Wallace
Liberal White Female, by Felipe Ossa
Directed by Rachel Klein

A propos
of nothing (but as a reward for reading down this far), here's a behind-the-scenes look at where some of the podcasts will be recorded:

Related: I will see a ghost child in that small cabinet before the season is through.

Friday, October 16, 2009

truly magnificent racism

Dave Chappelle has the line about confronting racism that is of a gourmand's level; truly finger-kissing good -- at such a higher level that you can only find it truly delectable.

Now, as a multi-racial person, I usually have to cast my lot with other brown-skinned groups that roughly approximate my experience, even though it's like wearing a pair of shoes a couple sizes off: I can read deeply into African-American studies all I want, but after a few rhetorical paces I end up tripping over myself. Well, I can slip into something a bit more comfortable for the weekend. Finally -- oppression for my people!

A Justice of the Peace refuses to marry interracial couples in Louisiana because they create traumatized children. Oooh ooh ooh! Wait, let me get some popcorn before you start talking, time-traveler-from-the-fifties-Man:
[Keith] Bardwell [of Tangipahoa Parish in Louisiana] who has worked in the role for 34 years, said that in his experience most interracial marriages did not last very long and estimated that he had refused applications to four couples in the past two-and-a-half years.

He said he had "piles and piles of black friends" but just did not believe in "mixing the races".
Okay, one demerit for the I have black friends gambit, (but he MORE than makes up for it later). And he does have a point: the divorce rate is roughly 50% -- so most marriages don't last that long.

But wait, I'm pretty convinced you're just a run-of-the-mill segregationist. What sets you apart?
"They come to my home, I marry them, they use my bathroom. I treat them just like everyone else," he said.
That's ... that's some good racism. [That's his trump card? Really?! It's kind of, well, sad. And gross. Mostly gross.]

But there you have it, America! Times have changed. Some of my best shitters are black.

I stand corrected. You, sir, are the paragon of equanimity. Apparently it matters not that what issues from the anuses of Negroes and Whites commingles in the septic tanks of Tangipahoa Parish (where is Faulkner when you need him?) -- but the wombs -- what about the wombs?
"There is a problem with both groups accepting a child from such a marriage," he said "I think those children suffer and I won't help put them through it."
Now I can't deny he's right about the lack of acceptance part. Buuuuuut...I'm not sure that a lack of a wedding ring works as an effective form of birth control there, champ. That couple'll probably end up with a mocha baby anyway. And as a a mocha bastard, I can tell you, it's SO MUCH BETTER being born out of wedlock AND being rejected by both racial camps. A sub-nation of illegitimate racial nonentities rise in gratitude.

What a turd. Why is he so obsessed with black people shitting, anyway? (The really beautiful thing, of course, is that this is being reported on the BBC's site. Not here in the states. Because there is no living in between the races, as far as Americans are concerned. Sigh...)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

what if there's no one left in the pen?

A Banyan column in The Economist from a couple weeks ago mourned the demise of the Far East Economic Review. Banyan argued that FEER's cause of death was the simultaneous disappearance of its subject and audience.

Rather than being able to sell advertising space to some nebulous elite pan-Asian consumer, the market fragmented with the ascendancy of the middle class across the region, whose tastes were far more varied than the top five percent who merely tried to ape the West. Advertisers looked for more efficient niche markets beyond (below?) FEER's reach.
Now advertisers—Western and home-grown—want to take aim at buyers more carefully, shaping campaigns for individual markets. For that, they seek out publications in the national (and sometimes regional) markets of China, Malaysia, Indonesia or Japan. Local publications are the beneficiaries, and financial success has helped some develop strong reporting instincts, even taking up the crusading role the Review once had. The Review is a victim because, from an advertiser’s point of view, Asia has ceased to exist.
And that's the larger point: the concept itself ("East" of what, after all?) was steeped in a reductive, outdated (read: colonial), centralized view of "Asia" which didn't bear much scrutiny when viewed against reality.
What if Asia as an idea no longer exists not just for advertisers but for most of those who live within its supposed boundaries? It is a nagging thought that occasionally wakes this correspondent in the early hours, for it could do him out of a job. Certainly, with hindsight there is hubris in the Review’s full title. Its purview is only “Far Eastern” from the perspective of somebody from outside, and even then seems to ignore the indisputably Asian Indian subcontinent. The term, too, was a colonial enterprise. As for Asia, a broader region beyond China’s shadow that the Review more and more came to report on, nobody there can agree on what it is, other than that it is not the West.
There's a blip of an argument making the rounds of far better-traveled blogs about the state of "black theater." It reflects the Far East Economic Review's crisis in the two huge questions it puts on the table: what are you writing, and for whom are you writing it?

Diverse voices are better, and a wider variety of topics is always preferable. But what if the focus of the argument is on the wrong side of the issue? Theater appeals to such a narrow segment of the population to begin with: who cares if the performers and playwrights aren't representative, if the audience isn't? And if you struggle to make sure the performers are diverse while the audience isn't, what's the difference between that and minstrelsy?

The FEER analysis reminded me vividly of our own company's struggles with its discussion of audience segmentation. Off-off-off audiences do not resemble society at large, and while COItc's sample is admittedly small, the crowds (when there are crowds) definitely consist of two mutually exclusive niches: mature and passionate drama hounds and well-meaning but tepid friends, family, and colleagues. Even curious colleagues from the day job tend to drop out of the pool -- I haven't seen mine in two years.

Forget trying to create a single advertiser's profile of that group. And forget for a moment who's experience we're talking about; ask instead who are we talking to, and to what purpose? FEER's dilemma is our own.

(And if you think theater isn't an elitist, neo-colonial institution, well, where have you been?)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

COItc's 2010 season, part 3 of 3

The final piece of our upcoming projects is one that is very close to my heart: our upcoming podcast series.

We've already begun rehearsals and hopefully will start recording soon. Here's the basic idea: we'll be pairing up our performers with short fiction authors to create recorded performances of their work.

The marriage of drama and recorded audio is so old it's new again. And there are people who are tackling this from all sides: making the literary dramatic, recording plays, and whatever the hell kind of performance art this is.

I guess the goal of our series will be the bridge the gap between these forms. I don't think we'll necessarily do it better (I cut my teeth on Prairie Home Companion and Selected Shorts on public radio; their performers are my gods), but I think we can do it differently. We're not authors who believe in the supremacy of language, nor are we performers who believe that the voice is all. The most important thing is the verb, storytelling.

We're a theater company; our work lies in telling stories, and usually these stories begin in script form -- but after weeks (months, years) of rehearsal, the text is gone, the technique is gone, and all you have left is a performer and an audience. All the performer has at their disposal is the ability to tell a tale, and to try to convince that audience to listen. Not necessarily to believe, or to participate, or to take action. Simply to hear.

The act of storytelling is one of the most compelling and intimate acts of performance, because it's performance in its purest form, and as a performer it's a terribly naked, revealing thing -- to be stripped of technology's toys, or the safety of theatrical conventions.

In reciting a written story, a performer must fall back on their most basic ability, to convey a series of actions with their voice, and keep an audience engaged.

As a producer it's been incredibly liberating preparing these scripts, because it means letting go of the thousand and one distractions that a stage play generates -- all the nattering details of programs, tickets, rentals, and fees. All of your concerns and efforts are focused on answering a single question: Is it interesting or not?

I guess you'll be letting us know.

[If you know any authors who would like to have their work read, submit it to]

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

COItc's 2010 season, part 2 of 3

The second part of our 2010 magical mystery tour is our upcoming collaboration with playwright Felipe Ossa. Leah will direct and I'm working on the program notes. The production has submitted a proposal to the Brooklyn Arts Council for grants, and hopefully we'll have a few different venues to tell you about once it all comes together.

This is a bit trickier than yesterday's news, since I can't tell you the name, the cast, the plot, the setting, or pretty much anything else. Like All's Fair (Six Western), we're building as we go. What I can tell you is that Felipe and Leah Bonvissuto are a fierce creative pair. They've already teamed up on this past summer's huge hit Monetizing Emma [seriously, take a minute to check out that website] at the Planet Connections Festivity, and they walked away with pretty much every major award afterwards. It ran to packed houses every night, and was a runaway smash. I can say all this because I know it firsthand: I got to do an uncredited voice-over role backstage, and from top to bottom that was one of the most mutually supportive, happy, good-vibe casts I've ever gotten to watch.

Monetizing Emma imagined a time in the not-too-distant future when hedge funds pair high school students with private investors who underwrite the students' education in return for a future investment on their earnings. The play follows on Jane-Austen-obsessed, socially shy teenager as she becomes the belle of the ball ... right up until the clock strikes midnight.

They staged that play in June of 2007. That's right: just as the shit was hitting the fan about derivatives, gold-plated wastebaskets and all the rest of it, they had a play ready to go about the next logical step. That's killer marketing, my friends.

They attract good people and make good work, that Felipe and Leah. So I'm happy to tag along for the ride.

I wish I could tell you more about his next play, but every time we sit down and have a discussion about it, about a thousand different avenues open themselves up. Having read a few, and worked in depth on two, I think I can tell you a bit about his plays: they are painfully funny, sharp, authentic, and timely.

It's really quite remarkable to think, when you consider how long it takes to write, revise, and stage a play, that his topics tend to be spot-on with contemporary issues. There's only one of two ways to read it: he's either really lucky, or really good.

Leah and I can both vouch that it's the latter.

More news as it comes...

Monday, October 12, 2009

COItc's 2010 season, part 1 of 3

We announced to our subscribers some of the projects on tap for the coming season. After a flurry of projects in 2008-2009, the plan so far is to stick with developing just a couple of projects this year, to help focus our energies (and budget dollars).

The first piece of good news is that we'll be developing my new play, All's Fair (Six Western) over the next 13 months, culminating in a five-day workshop in November 2010 out at Centrum in Port Washington, Washington State, thanks in part to a generous space grant.

Some details on Centrum
Located in Port Townsend, Washington, Fort Worden—a turn-of-the-century army base--offers an unmatched combination of natural beauty and historic interest. Acres of saltwater beaches, wooded hills, and open fields are framed by stunning vistas of the Olympic and Cascade ranges and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. It’s a place where the land stops, the sea begins, and the mind keeps going.
And here's a brief synopsis of the play:
Neil Patterson is a journalist being held captive by Islamic militants in Palestine. Prior to the trip during which he was kidnapped, Emily—his wife—learns that he is possibly having an affair with Cherien, his newspaper editor. During his captivity, Emily begins to have dreams of her husband that turn out to be no dreams at all: they are somehow actually communicating. After a folk-singer-turned-prophet camps out in Emily’s living room claiming to know a way to bring Neil home, and Neil himself seems to return out of thin air, she turns to her husband’s girlfriend to help her discern truth from fiction, as her wildest hopes become a nightmare.
What makes the piece a little more interesting is that it is, in fact, two plays. The combined text is divided into four segments, which are intended to be presented over the course of successive weeks.

The ultimate effect is that an audience takes a similar journey similar to that the characters themselves take, rather than an isolated, singular event that passes for commonly accepted theater; we envision creating a shifting terrain of evolving events.

It is a method that we believe fully embraces the immediacy and potential anarchy of live performance, allowing an audience to foster an ongoing investment in the story, one that develops over the course of multiple performances rather than just one.

I'll begin documenting the entire process in these parts in the coming months, but as we get started on the fund raising and casting efforts, we need ... pretty much everything. There's time before we head west, but in the meantime there are actors to hire, rehearsal studios to reserve, and tickets to book. Fun fun chaos time...

Friday, October 9, 2009


Not that I don't have high opinions of the man, but what is this nonsense?
President Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday.

In a stunning surprise, the Nobel Committee announced in Oslo that it has awarded the annual prize to the president “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.” The award cited in particular Mr. Obama’s effort to reduce the world’s nuclear arsenal.
That finally answers the question of what you get the man who already has everything.

While this is clearly a repudiation of Bush's eight years, it's also Exhibit A in the case for increased rewards from diminished expectations: the President doesn't drop trou and poop on the planet, and gets an award. That's like rewarding a thug for not committing murder.

I guess the Nobel Committee channeled my late great-uncle: that was for nothing, wait 'til you do something...

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

random branding thought

I've been thinking about branding for a project that we'll be announcing shortly, and I was reminded of Michigan J. Frog -- remember him? The mascot for the now-defunct WB Network? Hello my Baby, Hello my Darling...?

I'm wondering why no one saw that for the terrible idea that it was. His primary cartoon (from 1955), One Froggy Evening, depicts a construction worker who finds a frog buried in a box with a special talent for vaudeville dancing and singing. You know the one. This one:

I spent many Saturdays watching this.

Why associate a television network with a frog that was only entertaining when no one watched? All I'm asking. No, actually, I'm also asking this: why set up an entertainment portal whose founding mythology confirms every slimy thing we think about producers?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


Granted, for most of the planet, civilian control of the military is not a given; it is a luxury that for Americans the constitutional rule of law is an iron-clad tradition that has (as far as we know), never been threatened with a military takeover.

Now, with that caveat -- with the understanding that for most of the rest of the world this would not even qualify as news -- this is quite remarkable stuff. Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates:
“And speaking for the Department of Defense,” Mr. Gates said, “once the commander in chief makes his decisions, we will salute and execute those decisions faithfully and to the best of our ability.”
On the pro side: that's a lifelong Republican, a servant of both Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush who, without reservation, swears allegiance to a President of the opposite party. It is the clearest indication yet that perhaps there is a whiff of fresh air, of bi-partisanship and new purpose in our government.

On the con side: why does he even have to say it? Clearly, we have entered a new era of lawlessness: we are seeing a level of personal disloyalty to the office of the presidency not seen in this country since 1861. (Or 1963?)

Monday, October 5, 2009

not getting it

Baseball playoffs start (unofficially) tomorrow, with a 163rd game between the Twins and Tigers.

For the first time in years I don't have to miss them because of a show. (Heck, it's good to find the silver lining in theatrical unemployment, right?)

There are more baseball freaks in theater than it appears, but still, you inevitably run up against someone who makes two mistakes:

(1) they assume that baseball is just another sport;
(2) they think that baseball is boring.

To the first point: is baseball corporate, out of touch with its best qualities, and soulless on its highest and most profitable level? Sure. But so's theater.

To the second...sigh. Just sigh. Baseball is ridiculous. If you know how to watch the game -- if you're not just waiting for the pitch but watching all the players in the field -- it becomes clear that there is something happening every second. Exhibit one, this annotated sequence:

Take the time to watch this five minute clip as Kubel at bat and Mauer on second conspire to manufacture a run.

If you're not looking for it, you see Verlander and his catcher unable to agree on signs, a lot of stepping off, stalling, and an eventual sacrifice fly to center field. But in reality there's a cat-and-mouse game going on between two opposing catchers, a pitcher eager to throw caught between them. And what seems leisurely is suddenly revealed to be unfolding at a frenetic pace.

Still don't believe me? Fine. Whatever. Just lemme alone until after the World Series.

Friday, October 2, 2009

litmus test

This is my current desktop:

I'm not enamored with all that the President has done, but I like pictures of adults acting silly with children. And this President has some really cute pictures with kids.

But that's not the point. The point is that I had to have my laptop worked on today, and every time a window was closed, this picture kept coming back front and center. Now, honestly, what is your reaction to the President of the United States blowing on a toddler's outstretched dandelion? Aw? Shucks? Something, right?

The dude who was working on my computer? Nothing. Nada. Zip. It could only mean one thing: he thought Barack Obama is a soulless tyrant, or the Antichrist, intent on eating that child.

Which makes me think this picture is the perfect litmus test: do you have anyone in your life who falls mysteriously silent when you espouse the benefits of healthcare reform? Or someone who goes lukewarm when you mention what a great family the Obamas seem to be? Who quickly covers up their "I'm With Joe Wilson" t-shirt when you enter the room?

You might have a town hall silent screamer on your hands. Someone who doesn't necessarily attend, but agrees with 9/12 teabaggers; this someone might think people who go on potential martyrdom missions by parading pistols in front to the Secret Service are making rational choices.

But lunacy aside, you'll have someone without a sense of joy. And that's far more disconcerting than whether they advocate the assassination, overthrow, or deportation of the President of the United States.

But if you show them this picture and they don't react, they probably want all of the those things, too.