My absent-minded journey to Fargo

Did you see me on Fargo last night? Here’s the long path I took to get there.

My first serious acting gig was when I was eight or nine years old. I was to play the absent-minded professor, a major character in one of those end-of-year school productions where every grade had to put on a play.

Usually, school plays were a series of songs and badly arranged set pieces, with the goal of participation, as opposed to individual performances.

Shortly before it opened (a term I use loosely, since it was a one night only affair), I was kicked off the cast. I couldn’t remember my lines.

Ironically, over 30 years later, I still remember one of them, where I say, “And that’s why I always talk like this”.

During one of the dress rehearsals in front of the school, where I sat unceremoniously in the audience, I remember being able to talk along with my understudy enough lines to feel wronged by the teacher’s decision to kick me out.

As time went on, I really enjoyed the acting part, but not the dancing, and definitely not the learning of lines. In sixth grade (which we called Standard Four), my parents contributed a significant percentage of the script for my school play. A series of limericks would form the foundation of our production, with songs stuck in between. It was glorious. Since it was “my” play, I was given the opening limerick:

An intrepid inspector Hall Green
Could catch any man most mean
By ten to nine
He could stand in line
Several peaches and a dollop of cream

This isn’t particularly funny, and if the audience doesn’t know what to expect, it won’t get a big laugh. We used to have, on South African television, a crime watch show called Police File, presented by David Hall Green. It generally followed the 8pm news. Associated with the show was a captain of the South African Police, Fred Peach, whose most quoted line was “keep ’em peeled”.

Like I said, not that funny. I’d look at it now and say it was too clever for a primary school play.

After my opening limerick, Gary Jack, star cricketer even at our young age, would follow with:

And then there’s the epic called Dallas
With J.R., ever so callous
The bulk of his weight
Plus ten percent hate
Could treble the meaning of malice

Now that’s funny. Gary always got a bigger laugh. Even back then I wanted the laugh. I craved that attention.

I switched from theatre to music in high school. I joined the choir and was a tenor. We had some minor success. Then I left boarding school during my second year there and turned my back on performance for 14 years.

In what must have been tenth grade, my English teacher tried to get me to audition for the school production. It was a much bigger affair in high school, and they would bus in some girls from the local schools to perform with us.

I literally laughed in his face when he suggested I should audition.

Sorry, Mr van Niekerk, but I was worried I would get bullied even more, for doing gay stuff like acting and singing.

I finished school at the end of 1994, six months after my father died, and drifted for many years, always attracted to the limelight by that thrill that comes from people laughing at what I said.

One of the boys in my grade twelve class wrote about me in the school yearbook “[But] Potter was weird anyway”, as if this was a good way to be remembered. Weird. Different. Years later I was finally diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, which explained everything.

There was a brief moment in 1996, in the six months I attended Rhodes University, when I thought I might get back into dramatic arts. What I didn’t expect was the suicidal depression I experienced, mostly a delayed reaction to my father’s death, but also because I realized I was queer, which alienated me from a lot of friends. So I left.

I drifted, always attending plays, musicals, concerts, picturing myself up there on stage. Picturing myself on television.

My friend Gereth introduced me to Little Shop of Horrors, which is my second favourite musical behind Chicago. My mother introduced me to Rocky Horror. I discovered Chicago all on my own with the wonderful film adaptation starring Renée Zellweger. All the time that feeling that I could sing Richard Gere’s part. That could be me up there.

In 2005, I was living with Housemate Chris. We had lived for a few years in a commune previously, when I was still living with my first boyfriend, along with Dylan (a friend I met at Rhodes). At one stage I think there were five of us in the house and cottage, and only two were actually sleeping together.

Dylan and Chris were involved in a community theatre called Franklin Players, and I still don’t know why I felt compelled to audition for a show, but I did. Perhaps it was Chris, perhaps it was Dylan, but I ended up auditioning, and of course landed the lead role in a one-act play called Mac The Knife, a spoof of Shakespeare, centred around Act 3 of Macbeth, with bells on.

I say “of course”, not to sound flippant, but to say how unexpected this was. I was hoping for a small piece in one of the sketches, perhaps reading for the narrator, I just wanted to be involved at some level.

It turns out that I was still bad at learning lines. But Shakespeare is equally unforgiving and unforgettable. We changed one line of mine from the original script (yes, William Shakespeare’s script), and I wore leather pants and spoke with a lisp in my most flamboyant role ever. It was beyond words, and the audience laughed every time I made my entrance.

It has been twelve years since I rediscovered my love for theatre. In that time, before leaving for Canada, I stayed with the Franklin Players for four more years, coming back in early 2010 to help Chris co-direct a one act play.

In those four years I won some awards, but more importantly, I made friends, I created art, and I entertained audiences. I loved the work and loved the scene and realized that next to teaching, theatre is my favourite thing to do.

Canada was an interesting move. We ended up first in Lloydminster, and I joined the Vic Juba Community Players. In the first year, I played the Bishop of Lax in See How They Run, and then Ally in Hands Across The Sea.

When we moved to Calgary, I started going by Randolph West professionally, because I hate my legal surname. However, I had to wait to do anything in front of an audience, because I broke my foot just before the summer in 2013, so I missed out on the first year of acting opportunities.

Then in 2014 I auditioned for and got the lead in Move Over, Mrs. Markham, with Morpheus Theatre. Glorious. My co-star in that, Steve Gomori, had been in a few on-camera roles, so I asked him about the industry, agents, and all the rest of it.

In early 2015, I attended a weekend workshop called Audition Hell, with Peter Skagen, on the advice of another Mrs. Markham fellow cast member, Christopher Heatherington. There I met a number of people with whom I am still in contact, including Anna Mae, my associate in a small production company we have founded.

In 2015, through sheer grit and determination, we shot four episodes of a web series. What I didn’t realise then is that someone needs to edit them, and we’ve been busy. You know how you read about development hell? Postproduction is hell too, especially if you don’t have money.

Before the web series, though, before anything, Anna Mae invited me to take part in the Calgary 48-Hour Underground Film Festival. Her friend Shaun Pulsifer was spearheading their entry, and I had my on-camera debut in a supporting role in Unhappy Endings, a short film about a really bad cult.

Still in 2015, a Facebook audition notice caught my eye, and I acted (in a small role) in my first independent feature film, called Imitative Magic.

Before 2015 ended, though, Christopher Heatherington invited me to work with him on what turned into two short films about an Arizona radio station (I acted in the first one and directed the second), which has had some success on YouTube. The first, The Winner, was about a lottery winner, and the second, Sancha’s Cause (Is Coming To Town) was about a Mexican public relations guru who was running Donald Trump’s election campaign.

In between all of this, I had been part of the Calgary Men’s Chorus with my husband. In December 2013, I was invited to join because they were one performer down for a January concert, and I had booked my ticket to go with them and watch anyway. So that’s how two South Africans ended up singing in Carnegie Hall, with over 200 male voices, about the American Civil War.

The Calgary Men’s Chorus had a phenomenal artistic director, JL Bleau, but he stepped down in 2015 (the current artistic director is equally gifted), and I was getting tired and needed a rest from it. I decided to stick it out with them until they went to Denver in 2016 for the big GALA Festival, but left at the end of the season and haven’t returned.

The fact is, there was no way I could do as much theatre and on-camera work if I was also in the choir and doing voice acting.

Voice acting? I’ve been with the Voice Acting Power Squad for almost two years now, doing noises for independent video games. I’ve even been paid for some of them. I love voice acting so much. Growing up I had been a huge fan of the Looney Tunes and other cartoons, and discovered Rob Paulsen‘s podcast in 2010. He made me realise that I could be a voice actor, that I had the experience from my theatre days, and that acting is acting.

2016 was mostly preparation for Denver, though I did shoot a teaser for an independent film, where my character Malley is killed in the opening scene (Day Job), and then in the summer I landed a supporting role in another Morpheus Theatre production, as Detective Troughton in Run For Your Wife.

Despite being a supporting role, I still had 200 lines in that play, so when the creator of Imitative Magic, Blaise Kolodychuk, invited me to work with him again in 2016 on what turned into my second feature film, Night of the Shadow People, I admittedly was reading some of my film lines off cue cards.

If that’s not channelling Marlon Brando, I don’t know what is!

2017 got off to a slow start. I wasn’t in choir, I wasn’t in any theatre productions, so I helped produce a Morpheus play called Skin Flick, directed by Alice Nelson. It was a great little play and I am happy with how it turned out. My co-producer and I got on very well together and we may co-produce in future.

I did have to turn down a directing gig for Morpheus in 2018, because my husband and I are travelling at the same time, which is unfortunate, but those are the breaks.

Then something weird happened. My agent (I have an agent!) kept sending me audition notices and I was travelling a lot, so I couldn’t make them. I went up for a commercial in late 2016, but nothing came of it. There was another commercial early this year that fell through too, but because work has me busy right now, I wasn’t too bothered.

My husband and I were supposed to attend the new Star Trek exhibit in Calgary, where the Enterprise bridge from the original series has been reproduced and you can interact with it. And on the Sunday before the week of this event, my agent texted me and said there was a non-speaking role for Fargo Season 3 (in other words, a dead body), and would I be interested?

I said that I had plans for the Thursday when it was shooting, so I would have to decline. I texted my husband and let him know that I’d turned it down, and that was that. Family first.

On Monday, he texted me back and said I could do the show if it was still available, and after some back and forth, I suggested I might still be able to make the Star Trek event. I texted my agent and asked if she was still prepared to submit me. She said yes, and five minutes later I had sent her my serious-face headshot (I have three headshots that I choose from).

Later that evening, she said it was between me and one other person. Because it was a non-speaking role, I was being auditioned from my headshot. On Tuesday she let me know that I’d been selected. That meant that Wednesday would be the wardrobe fitting, and Thursday was the shoot. All my meetings for work had to be moved around, and off I went.

Working on my little slice of a major television series was an experience that may one day get its own blog post, but for now I’m just letting it all sink in.

On my Twitter account in January, I wrote:

I left South Africa and moved to Canada in 2010. Every day I’m grateful for the opportunities given to me in this great country.

All of that is true. My life leading up to emigrating was valuable. I am who I am today because of the experiences I went through, even though some of them really sucked. I am extremely grateful for where I am now, and I always tell people I’m the luckiest person I know.

Even if my career in the dramatic arts ends after last night’s short scene in Fargo, I have thoroughly enjoyed myself. I’m a queer autistic immigrant who made it on to international television with a million people watching, and how many people can say that?

Office 2016: You’re connected to too many services

You’re connected to too many services. Please remove some connections before adding additional services.

Recently I started seeing the above annoying error message every time I opened up Outlook 2016 on my MacBook, but only after being prompted for my passwords for every single email account I had. This is tedious with two connected accounts. I have five.

A quick search led me to a thread on Microsoft Answers, with a solution by Beigs, who posted this image with their answer:

  1. Open Word or Excel 2016 on the Mac;
  2. Click on your name on the top left (a.k.a. the Welcome Screen);
  3. Log off any duplicate accounts, or accounts that have an Alert next to them;
  4. Close all Office 2016 applications, and re-open Outlook.

This worked for me, and from a technical point of view, it makes sense. Thanks, Beigs.

Begging the Question

After listening to, and reading, a podcast and associated transcript turned blog entry by Stephen Fry, I realised that it is necessary for language to change, to adapt, even though I used to be a vociferous defender of prescriptive grammar.

I use a lot of Emoji in my instant messaging apps these days, and I see the Internet pushing and changing the use of language very quickly. In the last 22 years that I have been online, I have also changed the way I speak in real life.

Which raises the question: where and when is it necessary to draw the line between formal and informal speech?

I maintain that blog posts are formal speech, just like newspaper articles and business letters. A blog post is a way to convey an idea, and the fact that it is electronic as opposed to physical shouldn’t matter.

Language must change and adapt, but not at the cost of clarity. I attended philosophy classes during my brief stint at Rhodes University in 1996, and those six months impressed upon me the need for clarity of thought and expression. If we cannot even assign the same meanings to words and phrases, we cannot communicate clearly.

“Begging the question” is an explicit example of the need for this level of clarity. Notice how I “raised” the question instead?

To beg a question is to create circular reasoning, to say “this is awesome because reasons, but the reasons are awesome because of this”.

The entire point of the term is that the question remains unasked. The trouble is that many people are literally begging the question in their public speaking, including politicians. Logical fallacies are talking points, are sound bites, are what we hear on the news, and I feel like we’re regressing.

A longer example of begging the question, using Batman, because the LEGO Batman Movie just came out and I loved it:

“Here is one reason we cannot use: Batman is great and so his gadgetry must be pro. Of course, this would beg the question, since we are trying to figure out why Batman is so great. If you think about this argument, it would go like this: Batman is great because he has awesome gadgetry, and his awesome gadgetry is great because he’s Batman, and Batman is great. This argument travels in a circle. To avoid begging the question, we need to straighten that circle out. To do this, we need to justify the greatness of Batman independently of how we already feel about Batman.”
(Galen Foresman, “Why Batman Is Better Than Superman.” Batman and Philosophy: The Dark Knight of the Soul, ed. by Mark D. White and Robert Arp. Wiley, 2008)

Does this make your head spin? Good. Philosophy is intended to do exactly that. Logical fallacies appear everywhere, and even I am guilty of them, perhaps even on this very website.

Listen to your favourite politician or celebrity. Actually listen to them. Hear the words, phrases, and sentences (if they actually speak in complete sentences), and see if there’s a logical consistency to them.

Question everything they say. If you can, challenge their assumptions. Critically assess the statements they assume are concrete and unquestionable. Don’t let someone tell you how to think until you’ve processed it yourself.

If you want to raise a question, raise a question, don’t beg it.

However, as Stephen Fry once said, “so fucking what?” Eventually the meaning will change to present usage, and I’ll have to adapt.

Air gaps and secure networks

I am a person with many interests. In one conversation, I’ll introduce myself as a new filmmaker. In another, I’m a seasoned theatre actor. Sometimes I give talks on Microsoft’s data platform products, SQL Server and Azure SQL Database. There’s another strong field of interest I have, which I don’t speak much about, and that’s information security (often shortened to infosec).

By no means am I a security expert. I use 1Password for managing my passwords and secure data between members of my company, and I use Cloak VPN when I connect to public Wi-Fi networks. My MacBook Pro’s hard drive is encrypted using FileVault. We have a guest Wi-Fi network at home to prevent non-residents gaining access to our smart lights and my NAS. I have passwords on my two computers’ screensavers.

I know I don’t do enough to keep everything as secure as possible, but I try.

Recently I’ve been watching the Pluralsight course Ethical Hacking (CEH Prep) (login required).

The very first thing in the course is setting up a secure lab environment, so that any tools used in the course are contained in that secure environment. This is the right way to do it, and I am using Hyper-V on my venerable Asus laptop to host these socially unacceptable virtual machines, away from my home network and away from the Internet.

This is called an “air gap”. Theoretically speaking, the virtual machines (guests) have no network access, and therefore there is air between them and a machine that is online. Practically speaking, this is untrue, because my laptop, which is hosting the guests, is online, but Hyper-V has segmented them on their own private network.

So this raises a question: How do I install applications on these guests if I’m not giving them access to any network? I don’t want to connect the guests to the Internet to download anything, firstly because of automatic updates (the lab environment must be predictable), and secondly because the guests may be compromised already, and it would be improper for me to expose compromised machines to the Internet (and my home network).

The answer, as with any air gap, is to do it the way we used to twenty years ago: burn files to CD-ROM or a USB drive, and then access that device from the guest.

Using Hyper-V (and other modern virtualization technology), it is trivial to connect a CD-ROM, USB drive, or disk image to a virtual machine. My challenge, in this “clean-room” laboratory that I’ve set up, is that I have no software on my host operating system. All I want to do is download the files to the host and then make them available to the guest virtual machines.

In the Pluralsight course, the way the presenter did this was to make a network share available from the host to the virtual machines. I decided against this, because it does not keep the lab environment completely separate.

The only other machine I can use is my MacBook Pro, which means having to copy files over the network to my host, which I want to avoid.

I decided to create a virtual hard drive (VHD), which is natively supported on all modern versions of Windows, as well as Hyper-V.

On the host, I created a VHD using the DISKPART command, which is built into Windows.

From the commandline, type diskpart to open it. At the DISKPART> prompt, type:

DISKPART> create vdisk file="D:\Temp\airgap.vhd" maximum=1024

This creates a 1GB virtual hard drive on my host, which I will use to store files that I want to install on the guest. However, before I can use this container file, I have to partition and format it.

Attach the new virtual disk we have just created:

DISKPART> attach vdisk

Create a primary partition on the virtual disk:

DISKPART> create partition primary

Select the partition:

DISKPART> select partition 1

Assign it a drive letter (I used Z: but you can use any available drive letter):

DISKPART> assign letter=z

At this point, Windows will pop up a dialogue box informing us that an unformatted drive has been detected. We can use this box to format the drive, using the default values.

Once the drive is formatted, we can transfer downloaded files to this new VHD.

The next step is using the VHD on the guest. To do that, once the files have been copied, we can detach the disk from the host using DISKPART again.

DISKPART> detach vdisk

This closes all open handles to the VHD, so that we can access it elsewhere.

In Hyper-V, or whichever virtualization host you’re using, the first thing to note is that VHDs cannot be added to virtual machines while they are running, so I have to make sure the guest is shut down.

We then add the VHD as a second hard drive to the guest’s configuration and start up the virtual machine. The VHD is already formatted, and it will receive a drive letter automatically when the operating system has started, so it will be accessible immediately. We can just run the applications or installation from that new drive as if we had downloaded the files directly to the guest.

To make changes to the VHD, we have to shut down the guest and then use DISKPART to attach to the VHD again. It is good practice to take all necessary precautions when attaching the VHD to your host again, because although the guest is turned off, there’s no guarantee that the VHD hasn’t been infected with something.

If you need to add new files, it would be better to create a new VHD instead. Treat the VHD with the same level of trust as a USB drive you find in a parking lot.

If you’d like to read additional technical posts, check out my blog on Born SQL.

On the Internet of Things

I hate the term “Internet of Things”. I say “Internet of Things” and “IoT” because everyone else does, but I don’t like it.

Not everything needs to be online. There’s a Twitter account called @InternetOfShit which posts regularly on this topic.

The first and most important reason why this is a bad idea is security. The Internet is planet-wide, where everyone with a connection is a potential threat. You really don’t want personal and private devices viewable, and possibly controlled, by just anybody.

The second problem is ownership, which also touches on privacy to an extent. Buying devices that rely on third-party providers (including the “trustworthy” ones like Google) means your private stuff is viewable by employees of those companies.

It also means that you could end up with useless equipment that cost a lot of money if the company shuts down or gets sold, and now a marketing firm who buys the assets has access to pictures of the inside of your house, which they will sell indiscriminately to defray expenses. If that doesn’t terrify you, please stop reading, turn off your computer or mobile device, and never visit my site again.

I won’t even get into how white-label Internet-connected cameras (manufactured inter alia by Sony, famous for being hacked many times) need to be rounded up and set alight, because their passwords are 888888, cannot be changed, and can be easily accessed remotely. The prevailing advice from security experts, in fact, is to toss these devices out.

A lot of crime is opportunistic. A database containing credit card numbers, personal information, nude photos, gamer tags, digital currency, whatever it may be, is attractive to certain people who have the technical skills to exfiltrate that information and sell it on to someone else. Rarely will you find that the people stealing this data are the ones using it. Firstly, that’s liable to get you caught, and secondly, the exfiltrator (or “hacker”, an unfortunate use of a perfectly cromulent word) just needs the money, or to prove his or her skills. The big paydays come from large data dumps. Sony, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Adobe, Yahoo, Yahoo (yes, twice), the list is endless.

So what’s the solution? With the number of devices growing exponentially every year, there’s no getting away from the convenience of having lights that turn on when you get home or a video camera to see if anyone is stealing your FedEx packages.

Ironically, the perception of extra safety and security provided by the devices is thwarted by their inherent lack of security. Manufacturers are racing to get into the market, forgoing testing. “Let the customer be the beta tester” is Google and Facebook’s mantra. Many companies are to blame; I’m not just singling these two out. Legal fees are clearly cheaper than research and development.

Which brings me to the point of this piece: building your own “Thing”. Do you want a camera watching your home while you’re away? Build one. Companies like Raspberry, Adafruit, and Arduino (to name just a few) have brought extremely cost-effective computing to the mass market, and relatively easy-to-use programming guides if you’ve never written a line of code in your life. Some of them even run Microsoft Windows!

Of course, building your own camera means that you can’t rely on Google or Sony to record and store your video, so you need what we call a DVR, or Digital Video Recorder. It didn’t help that cable and Internet-based television companies produced devices they also called DVRs, so there is some confusion when you search online. Fortunately the television kind is now called a PVR.

A DVR in this case is a hardware device with a number of connectors for security cameras to plug into. In the last ten years, this industry has seen impressive advances, where cameras are now wireless, connecting via the network, and DVRs can just be software.

In other words, you can buy a relatively inexpensive network-attached computer for your home (traditionally called a NAS, or network attached storage), run DVR software on it, and connect your Raspberry Pi Zero to that. Then, using a (free!) VPN (virtual private network) connection from your phone over the Internet to the NAS, you can view the images or video from the camera, and it’s all sitting in your home, away from prying eyes.

What you’ve done, then, is made your information harder to find. Security by obscurity. The chance of being hacked is still there, but the payday is much lower for a hacker if you use a good VPN server and follow best practices when it comes to securing your network.

One example is the principle of least privilege. What that means is, your camera that you’ve built will have its own security settings, away from, say, your desktop computer. If someone did happen to break into your VPN, and then break into your camera, they wouldn’t be able to hop onto yet another device on the network without doing a bit more work, because the security settings won’t work on any other device on the network (think of it like having a separate password for each device). Breaking this security is time-consuming, and working on stealing billions of passwords from Yahoo is much more lucrative.

Another example is layering. You don’t want to keep your Things on the same network as your computers. Even if they’re physically connected to the same Ethernet network, or everything is on Wi-Fi, there are inexpensive ways to partition your devices onto separate wireless networks, using the same router (which of course you’ve purchased separately, and sits between your cable company’s router and your network).

Yes, it takes a bit of effort to set up and secure your network. Yes, it costs more money. Yes, it’s inconvenient to trade security with ease of use, but the benefits are numerous, and I would suggest that it’s the minimum price of being part of the modern connected world. The manufacturers are responsible for creating ways to safely secure their devices, but we need to make sure we’re using those tools to keep ourselves safe from 7 billion (and counting) potential hackers.

It’s why in South Africa, to avoid being burgled, we just had to make sure we made our wall higher than the neighbours’ walls. If you’re going to be the family with the pretty little fence, welcome mat, and unlocked front door, don’t be surprised when you find a stranger going through your sex toys.

Microsoft BizSpark is now a one-year programme

As of 1 December 2016, Microsoft’s BizSpark programme is now only for one year, down from the original three years.

Given how useful the free Visual Studio tools are, and what is possible with Azure, I’m not surprised, but this is going to affect a lot of people.

From the BizSpark page:

A one year program, BizSpark puts all Microsoft development and test software at your fingertips, including Azure, Windows, Visual Studio, Office and SQL Server for free. Plus, enjoy access to hundreds of free training classes, technical content, and 4 break-fix phone support incidents to help you on your journey.

Anyone who signed up before 1 December 2016 is not affected by this change. The annual renewal is still in effect, but you still qualify for the full three-year programme.

Link: On Getting Old(er) in Tech

My friend Janie Clayton linked to this article by Don Denoncourt, which has some interesting thoughts and observations.

Something with which I agree:

I’ve seen too many people lock themselves into technologies (like Lotus Notes and Domino) and find themselves unmarketable after spending 10 years in that industry. Even if you have a high-paying salary, don’t let the tech world pass you by. Be sure to be up on the latest technologies. And, if you can’t do that at your current position, maybe it’s time to move on.

The entire article is worth taking your time to read.

My funniest line

In 1993, I was in Grade 11 and a member of the Parktown Boys’ High School Public Speaking team. Our four members were as unlikely to be public speakers as you could find. Two were exceptional athletes in their respective disciplines, and stereotypically assumed to be intellectually dim (they weren’t), one was a class clown.

And then there was me, the autistic anti-athlete. During one physical education lesson at school, the teacher had yelled something about how his grandmother could run faster than me, and I’d shot back, “I’m not your grandmother”.

Our topic for one particular speech, in a competition between several schools, was “The Games People Play”.

It was particularly memorable because both my parents attended (my father died only a few months later).

During our rehearsal, our team had come up with a very similar topic, so our stress levels were low, we were in a good mood, and I believe we came second in the competition.

Just before my summation as the leader of the team, the class clown, André, handed back to me by saying “Randolph is what you’d get if Snow White slept with Dopey.”

Naturally this brought the house down, and I could see my parents laughing too. I remember finishing very lamely, and that was that.

After the event, people had congregated as they tend to do, and I noticed André talking to my parents. I also knew that they’d never met, and it was unlikely they had introduced themselves in the short while they’d been chatting.

I walked over, and the line came to me as I opened my mouth:

“Ah, André, I see you’ve met Snow White and Dopey.”

We Didn’t Start 2016

(With apologies to Billy Joel.)


Carrie Fisher, Leonard Cohen, Arquette, Geordie Howe
George Michael, Nancy Reagan, Phife Dawg, Zydeco

Garry Shandling, Garry Marshall, Rob Ford, Ron Glass
David Bowie, John Glenn, Wilder, Castro

Prince Rogers Nelson, “Freaky” Leon Haywood
Zsa Zsa, Henderson, Ricky Harris, Harper Lee

David Smyrl, Caldwell, “Wizard of Woo” Worrell,
Green and White, Kimbo Slice, the great Muhammad Ali

We didn’t start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world’s been turning
We didn’t start the fire
No we didn’t light it
But we tried to fight it