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        The Official Newsletter of WWW.ARTISTINSANE.COM



Thanks for reading this issue of Mil Mania!  And, remember, this is a work in progress, subject to many and varied changes — all adding up to a new and improved publication...so I hope!  Please drop me a line to let me know what you think, including any and all suggestions.  Thank you!!!

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Welcome To The February Issue of Mil Mania!

 Volume 2, Issue 2, Feb. 2006


                                          Greetings once again, Mil Mania readers —
                                   and thanks once more for subscribing to this bit
                                   of monthly madness.  I hope you continue to
                                   enjoy its eclectic collection of articles and info —
                                   and, if so, that you’ll feel free to encourage your
                                   friends to join us.  Indeed, everyone is welcome
                                   to share in this “insanity”...and I’m truly thrilled
                                   and overwhelmed at how quickly readership is
                                   growing.    Thanks as well for the feedback and
                                   suggestions, including your green light to an
                                   advice column by my dear friend, Molly (which I
                                   hope to begin in the March issue.  I have yet
                                   another Molly-related contribution for this one, as you’ll see when you read on.  )
     On that note, I thought it might be appropriate to let readers know that my little rodent star and her offspring are by no means the first pets in our household — nor the only ones.  In fact, at one time or another we have adopted nearly every domestic animal one can name...horses, dogs, cats, llamas, goats, sheep —  even a hedgehog.  To meet a few members of our current population,
click here. 
     The other big event characterizing February, of course, is Valentine’s Day, which you’ll likewise note is honored in this issue — both with the quotes/poems linked at right, and in the review section where I’ve glowingly covered long-time favorite
Green Card. May it be a beautiful day of celebration for you and your Valentine...whether she/he be human, canine, feline — or rodent! As one website I visited in researching this publication points out, love isn’t only about traditionally “romantic” relationships, and indeed all true bonds are things to be reminded of, and treasured.
     As always, I’ve also included the latest installment in the ongoing  travails of Joshua Gray, music news announcing “much ado” that’s far from “nothing”, and a “nutshell” of light fare to be “savored”. I hope they might make a mid-winter day a bit warmer for you — just as preparing this issue has warmed several winter days for me.



Music Mayhem    

As noted in the December edition of Mil Mania, I will continue to include news in every issue to keep readers up to date on the latest happenings with the three acts most prominently featured on www.artistinsane.com.  In addition,  for each issue I will also choose one additional artist — in some cases a new discovery I’ve recently made, in others an individual or group whose work I’ve long appreciated — to make a one-time appearance here.  And, of course, as with all aspects of Mil Mania, feel free to offer suggestions.


This month’s featured artist: 


Shawn Mullins --

Like much of the 
world, I first dis-
covered Shawn 
Mullins through
his 1998 album
Soul’s Core and
its hit single, “Lullaby”.  Upon learning recently that a new release was soon upcoming (and hence reminded of how much I truly had enjoyed his prior work), I acted on impulse to sign up for his appearance at XPN’s Free at Noon Concert appearance at World Café Live immediately upon receiving the e-mail announcement of this event.  And, let me tell you, this impulse was a “stroke of madness” that indeed proved a “stroke of genius” as well...because, of course, the performance turned out to be truly a gift to everyone in attendance.  Characterized by wonderfully full, powerful and yet beautifully controlled vocals, the backing of a more than competent band on many of the songs, and the passion of a real artist whose humble spirit could be felt almost palpably, this event proved a musical highlight taking place in a year barely begun — but which will surely still be recalled very fondly at its end...and well beyond. 
www.shawnmullins.com or www.myspace.com/shawnmullins for more info and to order the new CD, 9th Ward Pickin’ Parlor (release date 2/14/06). 



Third Eye Blind has recently announced that they will be re-recording their upcoming album as a band (much like they did their smash self-titled debut) as opposed to following the conventional wisdom of constructing a finished product from separate and individual parts.  And, while this must surely represent yet another delay in an already long awaited release, in the meantime you can check out their official page at myspace music (which I only very recently discovered myself), as well as the updates posted in late January to Jen’s Stephan Jenkins.com (including the bio revision by me mentioned in prior issues of Mil Mania)


Brian Fitzpatrick has also taken advantage of his MySpaceMusic page to communicate with fans while he contemplates his own path for creating a new album — and to offer us all something new to listen to...in the form of something old!  More specifically, he’s added to his jukebox two songs from an album he recorded several years ago, but opted to never release...including a wonderful tune called “Faith”, which I had to privilege to hear live at a show in 2004.  Now it’s your turn to enjoy this previously (far too) well-kept secret.  Let’s hope many more such surprises are on the way!


Michael McDermott seems to have arrived at a decision at last regarding his own new album dilemma — and resolved this in what I consider the best possible way.  Building on his unique strength as an acoustic artist, he’s opted to re-record and self-produce (at least parts of) the disc in a Chicago studio  At last, the record-buying public may get a taste of the genius McDermott fans have so long known via Michael’s pure and moving live shows.  And, although, this (like the similar decision by Third Eye Blind noted above) must represent a major setback to the disc’s release date, I have little doubt that with the far more complete vision of his work that will be the end result, truly all of us will at last be reminded again that “good things are worth the wait”….a lesson oft reiterated at Michael’s MySpaceMusic page — via the many older compositions he mixes with brand new ones for his ongoing Monday Morning Madness...which is itself proof that not only is insanity contagious; it’s also quite a joyous and 
beautiful thing!

If you enjoy perusing this issue and are not already a subscriber to Mil Mania, SIGN UP HERE. Everyone is welcome and ALL readers are appreciated!!! 

      Ravings of a   
Mad Woman

This column corresponds with the Mad Ravings On section of www.artist-insane.com, and is dedicated to selected reviews of movies, television and books… most of which are unlikely to represent “the latest” in any of these categories, but rather a  random selection that represents a new and/or noteworthy discovery to me.


And, as always, for additional film recommendations, click here.



     In honor of Valentine’s day this month I thought it appropriate to review one of my all-time favorite romantic films, Green Card.  And while I realize that description of the film may seem incomplete given its technically categorized a romantic comedy, the fact I’ve watched it a truly embarrassing number of times — or rather, a number that would be considered embarrassing for a sane person; I myself feel no shame at all with regard to that matter — and never failed to wipe away tears of bittersweet joy at its conclusion, I categorize it a poignant, and beautifully touching portrait of self-discovery...one that is indeed often amusing, but more importantly one that ultimately rings true...to human nature, its foibles, forgiveness, resilience, and the power of love to prevail when its least expected, and under circumstances in which it seems least likely to succeed.

     Of course, in my own case, the unflattering truth of this film’s unlikelihood of success can best be described by Dickens’ words in Great Expectations, “The fault had never been in him, but had been in me.”   By that I mean, I still remember seeing the television ads for Green Card at the time of its first theatrical release — a film touted as the story of a couple who “got married, met and then fell in love”.  And, I remember as well (all too distinctly) scoffing at the possibility that the..uh, visually less than stunning...“silly French oaf” being shown in all of them could ever be believed as the object of the lovely Andie MacDowell’s affection.  And, because of that one “fault” I passed up seeing the film in the theater, and likewise passed it up again months later when it appeared on my local video store’s shelves. 
     Just as Pip in the aforementioned novel was eventually faced with circumstances that forced him to see the truth, however, so too was I led to an abrupt and much needed comeuppance— when from those same video store shelves I plucked an English-subtitled adaptation of Edmond Rostand’s classic play,
Cyrano de Bergerac — starring Gerard Depardieu — yup, that’s right...the very same “leading man” featured in Green Card. And, if you haven’t seen that film, either, I offer it here as an alternative Valentine’s Day recommendation, given its romance is unmistakable, and in it  Depardieu gives a performance that is deeply moving, eloquent and heartfelt — and in which the character himself wrongly acts on judgments regarding a lack of (his own) physical attractiveness.   Of course, by the end of that film, any lack of outward perfection is long forgotten — the beauty of the individual, by contrast, never will be.

     That said, I’m sure the rest of the story is quite obvious.  After seeing Cyrano I couldn’t run fast enough to the video store in search of Green Card, and upon (purchasing a copy — forget about merely renting this sure-fire hit!) viewing it, it became an instant favorite, and remains one to this day. 

     Lest you need any additional incentive to watch it yourself, however, Green Card also features a fantastic ensemble cast that includes Broadway star Bebe Neuwirth, Steppenwolf Theater Company’s  Lois Smith, the late Jessie Keosian as the comically meddling Mrs. Bird, and — like the oft-acknowledged “fifth lady” of HBO’s Sex and the City (and my own screenplay, Taking the Fall) — the very real and fantastic character that is New York herself.

     But mostly, it features one-time composer Georges and horticulturalist Bronte, a terrific script and a love for which “there must be a reason.  “Oh yes,” Georges finally explains,  “I begin to hear music again”

     And, on that “note” I can only conclude, seldom have I heard a more beautiful tune. 




                                       Another Rat Tale — Or Two!!!   



     Lest you’re a new Mil Mania reader and are yet to meet Molly, Flannery and Noonan, you’ll surely want to go back to the December issue to learn all about these amazing individuals.  And, don’t forget to check out their photo page linked to that prior article.
     For the rest of you, I have a sequel to their story much sooner than I’d actually planned to write at length about these furry friends again.  However, as I’m once more including several photos appropriate to the current month’s holiday, I thought a bit of explanation in order to explain yet another bit of exponential growth.

     One Saturday evening late last month, as Molly stood up to accept a treat before bedtime I noticed a swelling of some type on the left side of her belly.  Immediately concerned, of course, we called the vet first thing Monday morning and secured an appointment with the office’s newly added small animal specialist for Thursday of that week.
     As the boys were already a hit with the receptionist and various assistants, and because we thought it might make Molly a bit less anxious if she had company, we allowed her offspring to accompany her for her exam.  And, of course, everyone including the vet himself got quite a charge out of the fact her “babies”, last seen at five weeks old, had now not merely caught up with Molly, but actually surpassed her “adult” size at least twice over!
     In any case, the swelling was determined to be a mammary tumor, and surgery scheduled for Monday of the following week.  And, although cautionary as to the risk of any such procedure, the vet was quite confident in a positive outcome, given the location of the growth, Molly’s wonderfully fit status (unlike that of her less desirably “weighty” boys — who were, incidentally, prescribed both a diet and exercise...or rather,
more exercise than the considerable amount they already receive from their play-wrestling matches — both with each other and my hand.  No worries to that, I assure you; no biting is involved).  Still, when the day actually arrived, I’ll freely admit I was very nervous about the whole thing —and never happier to see my little friend than when we picked her up around 3:30 that afternoon.
     Of course, as is often the case with larger pets, including cats and dogs many of you reading this are likely to have a bit of home-nursing experience caring for, to prevent the inevitable circumstance of the patient chewing at the incision, Molly had been fitted with that standard cone-shaped piece of vet office equipment known as an Elizabethan collar...which made for an image I must admit would have been indescribably comical — were it not for the fact Molly herself didn’t find it at all funny.
     In fact, this normally happiest of living creatures was so distressed by the contraption and its claustrophobia-inspiring restraint that her dismay could be both seen and felt.  Her hair quite literally stood up as never before and she became hot to the point of positively sweaty to the touch.  What’s more, the gentle tooth-grinding that is normally considered a signal of deep content in rats suddenly manifested itself in a ratcheted up form that couldn’t possibly be mistaken as anything less than a desperate plea for help.  This, clearly, was not going to work.
     Having been told she needn’t keep this dreaded object on while being closely supervised, it quickly became obvious that supervision was going to be required on a 24-hour basis until the threat of self-harm had passed...which meant at least until her first post-surgery checkup in three days.  Of course, that meant sleeping in shifts with either Andre or myself peering constantly into the small, makeshift pen that was serving as Molly’s temporary home.  Highly intelligent individuals that rats are, she very quickly realized that we didn’t want her to touch the affected area as she went about her normal (very thorough) cleaning rituals, and thankfully she made our job pretty simple...but then, I suspect she was well aware of the alternative if she chose not to cooperate!
     As a great reward for this diligence, Thursday evening’s vet visit went very well, and resulted in my being able to go back to bed at night, with Molly’s temporary living quarters now positioned on the floor beside me, close enough to reach down and give her food and water periodically throughout the night (when rats normally are most active — and which couldn’t be left with her all the time, as although this small “house” left lots of room for Molly herself and the infant “snuggly” in which she cuddled up, there wasn’t enough space for her normal “tableware”).  And, after a week of this setup (including periodic visits by both Flannery and Noonan), she was supposed to be ready for a bit more exercise, and we returned her for a morning and afternoon to her old home.
     Alas, by that evening, we noticed a new problem had developed...a sac-like protrusion near the area of her incision.  Naturally, alarmed by this, we headed to the vet’s once more, and were informed it was a seratoma (essentially a blood collection), and that while this would be absorbed by her body in time, it would require yet a further stay in what I could only imagine must be becoming the “dreaded hole” (though, Molly herself, never made any complaints.)
     Thinking of what we might do to make this whole experience more pleasant for her, we got the idea to seek out for Molly a small friend of her own sex.  We’d read a great deal about the social nature of rats, how they supposedly adapt with great ease to new acquaintances of their kind, and that youngsters in particular make for very smooth introductions.  And, we double-checked all that we’d read by searching the internet for more info and inquiring of a rat breeder with 11 years’ experience.  All agreed that our idea should be a good one.

     So, we headed out last Tuesday for a lovely large pet shop about 20 minutes away, and picked out a tiny, six-week old tan-and-white female I dubbed “Maggie”.  We put an old comforter on the bed and let Molly and the boys get to meet her.  Molly and Flannery were both fine -- largely disinterested, though not at all aggressive...but Noonan (who is normally the most docile of them all —evidence of a trust and loyalty that perhaps explains his apparent attempt to protect Molly and/or us from this “stranger”) actually attacked her, leaving her with a bloody lip and damage to one eye. So much for the collective advice of “experts”!!!

     Thus reminded that “the road to hell is” indeed “paved with good intentions”  (and some more vet consultation later) we returned to the pet shop that afternoon to pick up one of Maggie’s sisters so now she wouldn't be alone...since, needless to say, joint living with the boys had become clearly out of the question).  And, although we were horrified at what this poor little creature had been forced to endure as her first moments in our home, late that night I saw her steal over to the food bowl and start munching away.  And, a bit later, she and her re-united sibling (Bridget) got into a normal rat play-wrestling match.  So, at last I was a bit reassured that she was (relatively speaking) okay.  And now, a full week later as I write this, she’s taken to sitting in my shirt (or on my head!) just like her larger counterparts, and is acting like nothing out of the ordinary ever occurred.
     As a concluding note to Maggie’s portion of this story, it should be added that in consulting with one who’s had many rats of her own and herself experienced a similar circumstance, it seems almost certain she will forgive Noonan and it's still most likely everyone will get along fine in the end….another lesson many of us as humans would do well to emulate.
     Molly, on the other hand, may never get back to “normal”.  Finally cleared to return to the spacious home long enjoyed by her and the boys, it seems she longs instead for the personal attention that accompanied the placement of her “cottage”.  Rather than retiring (with a stash of food hoarded from the “family dinner”) to a remote spot within one of the boxes or other assorted pieces serving as dividing walls and furniture, Molly has now taken to balancing precariously on the top edge of the aquarium, essentially begging me to take her back to bed.  And, as soon as I get close enough for her to reach, she takes the matter into her own hands by leaping onto my shoulder to hitch a ride — behavior that has indeed won her a bit of additional playtime before eventually returning her to the “big house”.  Still not happy with this arrangement, however, she then stands on a platform overlooking the precipice in the hopes I might come back to rescue her once again — for so long, in fact, that I’m forced to lie perfectly still to convince her I’m sleeping...at which time she reluctantly moves away and finds a corner in which to tuck in for the night.
     Of course, the funny thing is, everything I’ve read about rats tells me they love their humans and form attachments with them as deep as any pet of any species can.  Still, ultimately, it is their fellow cagemates who are always their best friends. 

     Leave it to me to have the one rat trying her best to make it clear she’s the exception. 

     And, let me tell you, I’m not complaining.

Click here to check out a new Valentine’s Day photo collection!)

                          IT’S BACK!!!   Pet Peeves And Paranoia  










       Newsletter Spotlight 

    Comments from Mil Mania readers   
     on “
The Leap to Limbo” — so far!

“I liked how you got into the heads and thoughts of Josh and Brian and the descriptions of their surroundings.  Somber mood of the chapter comes through nicely in the writing... That's got to be one of the weirdest moments in life, the first few hours/days after a person dies.  You capture it well.”


“I'm enjoying reading your novel - Your description of Josh's agony is so vivid that the reader feels part of it.”


In A Nutshell

Lest you need a brief escape from the “depth” of the Asylum column above, this section is dedicated to a lighter literary side— hmm….a brevity of levity!    
Given the above film review, this seems an appropriate quote for this “nutshell”.


“A large nose is the mark of a witty, courteous, affable, generous and liberal man.”                    

                                Cyrano de Bergerac

                                     Edmond Rostand




        As always, don’t forget to visit
                      my “space” at




 Click on the card to read

Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116...

“There is only one kind of love, but 
   there are a thousand imitations.”

                       Francois de La

As introduced in the first issue of Mil Mania, this column presents the latest chapter in the prose “prequel” to my screenplay, Taking the Fall.  While the script picks up four years after the suicide of the main character (Joshua Gray)’s girlfriend, the novel begins with that act itself, and the portion shared here continues to document events taking place the day after the funeral...

  Writings From The Asylum

                              The Leap to Limbo (tentative title),
                          Chapter 4 Part 2… “A New Day” (cont’d):




     “You want to come in and hang out?” Chris asked as he slid out of the passenger seat.

     “Nah – thanks, though,” Josh replied, without further explanation.  Chris looked puzzled, but hesitant to inadvertently touch any more raw nerves, merely nodded.  Hearing his unspoken questions, Josh volunteered, “I’m gonna head back to the apartment.  I should probably catch up on some things.  I haven’t picked up the mail since I got back – fun stuff like paying the electric bill.”

     “That’s cool.  We’re playing that new place across town tonight, you know, if you want to drop by.  I think we go on around 10…give me a call later if you’re coming.”

     “I will,” Josh answered mechanically, not noticing Chris’s pensive expression as he gave a quick tap on the door and nodded again before turning toward his building, He paused at the entrance to glance back and wave goodbye, but Josh, his mind elsewhere, merely continued to look straight ahead as he pulled away.


     Josh was barely out on the road once more when his cell phone rang from the forgotten depths of a jacket pocket.  Feeling around for several seconds he finally extracted it and squinted at the caller ID before answering.

     “Yeah, Tommy, what’s up?” Josh asked, then after listening a moment, “Okay, slow down,” he said, switching the phone to his other hand while flipping on the signal to change lanes. “You talked to who from the label and he said what?”  Keeping an eye on his mirrors as the beginnings of rush hour traffic swarmed around him, he remained silent, his face becomingly increasingly clouded as he listened to Tommy’s explanation on the other end.

     “What do you mean, they don’t want to record the album here?”

     A period of silence on Josh’s end, followed by,   “Yeah, okay,” in a tone indicating he hoped it might seem he was actually considering a matter on which his mind was already made up.

     More silence followed.  More “yeah, okays”.  Finally, he’d heard enough and scoffed incredulously.

     “Why do they want us to go to New York, for God’s sake?  Suddenly there aren’t enough studios in L.A.?  They had to drag us up to San Francisco for the showcase as it was.”

     Full rant mode taking over, Josh cut off Tommy’s attempts to interrupt. “Don’t these people think we have lives, or what? Well, thanks to them I don’t have one anymore, but – ”.

     Slamming on the breaks, Josh stopped centimeters from the bumper of the car in front of him.  “Look Tommy, I can’t talk about this now.” A beat. “Yeah, I know this isn’t just about me…no I’m not pissed at your pointing that out right now.  You’re right.  We’ve got to get the whole band together and decide – a lot of things.  I’ll call you.”  Another beat.  “Yeah, I will.  Thanks, man.”

     Josh let out a long breath and ran a hand through his hair as traffic started to move again.  Making a quick lane change, he exited at the next right and headed toward another intersection he’d last faced just three days earlier.


     The diner was beginning to serve its first dinner customers as Josh walked in and automatically glanced around for a familiar face.  Mentally chastising himself, he looked embarrassed and confused when a different familiar face greeted him with a curious smile.

     “I didn’t know if I’d be seeing you in here for a while,” Allison offered cautiously, automatically slipping a menu out of the rack near the hostess station by the front door.

     “Your usual spot?” she asked, and at his nod, motioned him to go before her through the corridor.

     “I can find it myself,” Josh said, adding almost apologetically, “If you could just bring me some coffee when you have a chance, that’d be great.”

     “Coming right up.”

     “Thanks, Allison,”

     Josh slid into the mock-leather-upholstered booth in the far corner of the room and stared unseeingly out the window for a few seconds, wondering why indeed he’d come here, of all places.  Absently pulling two sugar packets from their small rectangular wooden holder, an object he suddenly noticed closely resembled a miniature lidless coffin, he pondered anew how many reminders of death swam around him everywhere in previously unnoticed forms.  Or so it seemed to his tired mind. But then, fatigue could distort anything, he was beginning to realize.  It could be merely a plain round bowl his dull senses were converting to something more suited to his mood.  Not that he was feeling awake enough to even discern his mood.  It had come as a hard lesson the past few days that a person could be literally fall-down tired and still unable to sleep.  It was proving an even harder one that a person still had to function on some level when morning came.    Was it irony, he wondered dully, that he’d just now ordered coffee?  Maybe he should have asked for decaf.  “Ah well,” he thought.  If I’m not gonna sleep either way, at least the caffeine might give me a fighting chance of feeling awake for a while.

     The clink of a mug against Formica prompted Josh to look up, where he met another uncertain smile from Allison.  Expertly pouring coffee from an insulated carafe with one hand, she emptied a pocketful of creamers from her apron onto a small saucer with the other.  After asking automatically, “Can I get you anything else,” she hesitated in response to Josh’s polite refusal.

     “We’re not that busy yet,” she said at last.  “I’ve got a few minutes if you want to talk.”

     Josh knew he wasn’t up for much in the way of conversation; he’d had about enough of that earlier in the car with both Chris and Tommy.  But he also knew Allison was hurting, too.  And, he could only imagine how much, given what might prove the comforting normalcy of getting back to work for someone else was for her the nagging reminder of Julie’s absence from working by her side.

     “Sure,” he said, motioning her to take a seat across from him.  “Coffee?” he inquired, nudging his yet untouched cup toward her.  “Something to eat?  That is, if I can find a waiter,” he added, looking around in mock-exasperation.  “Geez, what’s a guy gotta do to get served in this place?”

     Allison couldn’t suppress a giggle.  “You know how it is.  Good help is hard to find.”

     “No wonder if they can’t even feed you.”

     Letting out a full-fledged laugh that caught herself as much off guard as Josh’s sudden turn of wry humor had caught him, she fought for breath to choke out a response.

     “You kidding me?  That’s the only way they keep employees at all.  You screw something up here, they don’t dock your pay, they make you eat the mashed potatoes.”

     It was Josh who laughed at that, using almost forgotten muscles it felt intoxicatingly good to exercise.   They sat in silence for a moment, Allison wiping her eyes and giving Josh a quick, suddenly shy smile.  Noticing that the diner was beginning to fill up, she said, “I really should get back to work,” and slid out of the booth.  “But, you stay as long as you want.   The coffee’s on the house.”

     “You sure that’s okay with the house?” Josh asked with the renewed hint of a grin.

     Allison smiled, pulling out her order pad as she turned away, tossing back one last retort.  “Come on.  You don’t really think I’d risk being forced to eat the meatloaf.”

    And, with that she was gone, leaving Josh alone once more, with the first hints of wakefulness he’d known in many days…and a still, now not even lukewarm, untouched cup of coffee.

     Maybe he did know why he’d come here after all.