Bartleby Productions

Filled with the profound conviction that the easiest way of life is the best.

Three three three holidays in one!

by joegio

Boy, is today ever a big day!  We got psychotropics, we got the Dutch, we got Benjamin Disraeli and his favorite flower.  It is literally all here.  Those actually aren’t even all the holidays for today, but these three are all so good we can not choose.  So we won’t.

1) Happy Primrose Day!

Let us celebrate the dainty tastes of Benjamin Disraeli!

Benjamin Disraeli was a Prime Minister.  He was an architect of Britain’s contemporary Conservative Party.  He also suuuuuuper loved primroses.  I MEAN LOOK AT THEM.  They are like half flower/half fireworks made out of flowers!  They are tasteful and delicate and appropriate for basically any occasion, whether it is a state dinner for the new Empress of India (Queen Victoria) or like, just for your bathroom or whatever.  Disraeli loved primroses so much (as do we all, Benjamin!) that when the U.K. celebrates his life and work (technically his death), they celebrate primroses.  It is Primrose Day, not Benjamin Disraeli Day, not Prime Minister Day.  Primrose Day.  Queen Victoria sent a wreath of primroses to his funeral, and to this day his statue in Parliament Square will get decorated with them today, as will his grave at Hughenden, Buckinghamshire.  So happy Primrose Day!

2) Merry Bicycle Day!

Stay with me: today is not about bicycles.  Today is about LSD.


LSD was first synthesized in Switzerland in November 1938 by chemist Albert Hoffman.  He was trying to come up with a stimulant for respiratory symptoms or something like that.  SO I guess that went pretty well.  On April 16, 1943, Hoffman accidentally absorbed some of the substance through his fingertips and he noticed an extreme restlessness and a pretty active imagination.  Interested, Hoffman decided to ingest the substance on April 19, 1943.

After the drug began to take its effect, Hoffman, to put it kindly, freaked.  He became paranoid, specifically that his neighbor was a witch, and demanded that one of his lab assistants take him home.  Since there were motor vehicle restricti0ns (there was a war, remember?), Hoffman and his assistant were forced to ride bicycles home.

Once they reached Hoffman’s home, a doctor was called who detected no physical symptoms of sickness except for some extremely dilated pupils.  Of course by this point, Hoffman’s anxiety had given way to feelings of intense well-being and what Hoffman later described as “the unprecedented colors and plays of shapes that persisted behind my closed eyes.”

Bicycle Day was first celebrated in the 80s (duh) in DeKalb, IL at Northern Illinois University.

3) Gelukkig Nederlandse American Vriendschap Dag!

That is Dutch for “Happy Dutch-American Friendship Day!”  Which is what today is!!

“Gelukkig Nederlandse American Vriendschap Dag!!”

On April 19, 1782, John Adams was recognized in the Hague as the Minister Plenipotentiary of the United States of America!

WHAT IS THAT, IS IT SOME KIND OF WIZARD?  OR A CHURCH MINISTER? you may be asking yourself.  You are half right (not really).  Minister Plenipotentiary is apparently a diplomat of the “second class,” ranking between an Ambassador and a Minister Resident, and their title is “His/Her Excellency.”  Because one thing that is true about democracy is that it throws titles right out the window (j/k).

OK, so not only was John Adams recognized as Minister Plenipotentiary on April 19, he also closed the sale of a house at Fluwelen Burgwal 18 which became the first American Embassy EVER.  So that is pretty cool.

Yes, today is a big day for minor holidays.  There are a lot of ways you could celebrate.  You could read Disraeli’s seminal An Inquiry into the Plans, Progress, and Policy of the American Mining Companiesdrop some acid, and eat a stroopwafel.  You could make a list of the relative merits of primroses as compared to tulips while you synthesize a designer drug.  The sky is literally the limit today.

QUESTION OF THE DAY: If you had to pick just one, which April 19th holiday would YOU make a national holiday?


The Regulars are coming out! The Regulars are coming out!

by joegio

That is more than likely the thing that Paul Revere shouted lo these 238 years ago, as he rode Middlesex County.  It made sense at the time, given that the people he was warning considered themselves British.  As did he.  Also, he probably didn’t shout, being as he was on a secret mission.  Generally one tries to keep quiet during those.

Handsome devil.

Handsome devil.

Now, there are definitely some true things in Longfellow’s poem.  For one: Revere really did have a “muffled oar.”  He managed to row all the way across the Charles River right past an anchored British warship.

Some things just aren’t true though.  Like at one a.m.?  Longfellow has Revere gazing at the meeting house windows, “black and bare.”  In fact, at this point Revere was likely making the acquaintance of fellow patriot Dr. Samuel Prescott, who was returning from the home of his “lady friend.”  Longfellow and the historical account are both mute on this subject, though one can imagine some fist pounding and a “you the man” or something like that.

Also, incidentally, the point of all this was to save Samuel Adams and John Hancock.  Which means that the most important thing we can say about Paul Revere is that because of him, some of our beers and all of our signatures have fun names.  Thank you, Paul!

Incidentally, the fantasy of patriotic, midnight foot traffic is also probably responsible for things like this:, but Paul could never have seen that coming.


Today is World Hemophilia Day!

by joegio

Today's the day!

Today’s the day!

Some days have a lot of holidays or observances that involve snacks and hanging out with your family.  Pretty much every day has at least six or seven Christian Feast Days.  But some days, you find yourself choosing between Flag Day in the American Samoa and World Hemophilia Day.  Today is such a day.

Now, I am not an expert in blood clotting disorders, but there are lots of those.  Today is a day where we should seek them out and learn just a little bit more about what “platelets” are and what happens when someone’s are messed up.  Right?  Right.


1) The most common blood clotting disease is called von Willebrand disease and the symptoms are fairly mild.  Most people with VWD don’t even know they have it.  Some of these people may also be Doberman Pinschers, the other group most likely to develop VWD.  Are you one of these?

2) Hemophilia is condition wherein people lack enough of clotting factor VIII or IX in their blood.  Together, these form the tenase complex.  That is followed by clotting factor X, the Stuart-Prower factor.  It’s all part of the coagulation cascade.  I don’t know what any of that means, I’m sorry.

3) For a long time, it was believed that only men could develop hemophilia symptoms and that women acted as symptomless “carriers” of the disease.  But it’s not true!  Women can totally have symptoms…they also might not, and they could carry the disease and pass it on to their (male) children without ever knowing they have it.  So good luck, ladies!

4) Some very rare blood disorders affect other clotting factors (like, say, XIII or V) but these are so rare that little is known about most of them.  We do know that some of them have to be treated with “fresh frozen plasma” which sounds a little to me like when McDonald’s calls their chicken “fresh.”

5) This year marks the World Federation of Hemophilia’s 50th anniversary!  Check out their website for more info on clotting disorders:

QUESTION OF THE DAY: Do you want to ride the Coagulation Cascade at Six Flags with me?


Sechseläuten: Spring Break Foreverrrr

by joegio


Sure, it’s Tax Day and Patriot’s Day.  I understand that it is also Titanic Remembrance Day, Rubber Eraser Day, Leonardo Da Vinci’s Birthday, and the date that Ray Kroc opened the first (franchised) McDonald’s restaurant in Des Plaines, Illinois.  But there is one holiday which sums up the fear of tax day, the national pride of Patriot’s Day, the destruction of Titanic Remembrance Day, the cutesy insignificance of Rubber Eraser Day, the ingenuity of Leonardo Da Vinci, and the cholestorol build-up of McDonald’s…day.  It is also kind of like Groundhog Day if Groundhog Day were AMAZING.  That holiday is Sechseläuten.

Sechseläuten gets its name from the 14th century ringing of the Grossmünster bell, which marked the end of the working day and, on the third Monday in April, the symbolic beginning of spring.   I am not sure how this gives the day its name, but the internet told me so it is true. In order to commemorate this day in a way that the working dudes of Switzerland could get behind, there is a fancy parade for the 26 guilds (formerly labor guilds, now kind of like private clubs.  For men only.) and then they rig a giant snowman effigy (named Böögg, pronounced like “Bogey” or, if you want to be a jerk to your Swiss friends, “Beeroororogorggg”) with EXPLOSIVES, and BLOW!  IT!  UP!

Kind of like how the summer DESTROYS the winter with spring.  Or something.

Tradition holds that if Böögg’s head explodes very quickly after the pyre is lit, then we will have a warm and sunny summer.  If his head just takes too long to explode (bro!) then we’ll have a cool and rainy summer.  Which sounds weird, but then imagine yourself with a beer in your hand watching a giant snowman burn without coming up with rules about head explosion.  It would probably be impossible.

Incidentally, the record is around 5 minutes.

Sechseläuten also includes a children’s event on the Sunday night before, where the children and the Böögg parade through the streets.  And where the cool Swiss parents more than likely call out to their children something like “We’re trying to decide which one of you to burn up tomorrow!  How fast do you think Sven’s head will explode?” and then “Oh no, sweetie, Daddy’s just kidding.  We’re only going to explode the snowman ragdoll, don’t worry!”

Now Sechseläuten is not all fun and games for everyone.  For one, women basically can’t participate in any of the parades (since they aren’t children or men) except for on an “honorary” basis.  Maybe this made sense when the guilds were actually labor guilds and the only laborers were men, but now that the weavers guild is run by a pharmacist, it seems especially arbitrary.   Let’s all hope that someday the women can join the parade for real, and not have to have one an hour before just to get in on the fun.

But if you ask me, this Vin Diesel movie of holidays (explosions, men only) sounds pretty fun.  If nothing else, you can bet that it never starts late.

I think it’s gonna be a warm summer.

QUESTION OF THE DAY: What are you going to explode today to portend the coming summer?

Buon Cerealia!

by joegio

That is Italian for “Happy Cerealia!”


It is highly recommended that some of your activity today be set aside to honor Ceres, the Roman goddess of grain.  Here are some ideas:

1) You could tie lit torches to the tails of foxes* and set them loose in your Circus Maximus.

2) You could hold a short theatre festival** in your amphitheater.

3) Start following @Cerealiafest on Twitter. The 2013 event is being held in Greece and in June, but wikipedia assures us that TODAY is in fact the real ancient Cerealia***.

4) Issue your own commemorative denarius****; use this to claim that you invented Cerealia, even though you clearly did not*****.

Thanks for reading!  (You could also just eat some cereal and be done with it.)

*Ovid explains this tradition by recounting the tale of Carleoli, a farm boy who caught a fox trying to steal some chickens.  He decided to punish the fox by setting it on fire (like you do), and the fox escaped, trailing fire through the fields and burning them up.  So obviously, the Romans wanted to do that again every year, since it is basically the same thing as fireworks.

**This is a major part of most Roman festivals.  In fact, it would probably run from April 12 – 19, but it’s really hard to find enough content for an eight day theatre festival unless you really don’t care about quality.



******Somebody did this before, a guy named Gaius Memmius.  This is exactly the kind of crap you’d expect a plebian aedile and theatre director to pull.  Incidentally, I invented Administrative Assistant’s Day, so I know how Gaius feels.  #Norespect.

Without Ceres, no cornflakes.

QUESTION OF THE DAY: What is YOUR favorite cereal?

Happy Feast Day, William of Ockham!

by joegio


Today has a couple of Feast Days (there are so so so so many), but probably the best one is for William of Ockham.

A few things: first of all, this guy is not a saint. Actually, he was a heretic. He was also Catholic, a Franciscan to be precise. He is also more or less one of the Western fathers of the scientific method. WHICH IS INCREDIBLE, RIGHT?

Without William, we might still be arguing like this:

A: I believe that the sky is the same color as a tangerine.

B: You are wrong!

A: I am right!

B: You are wrong, a space alien told me!

A: No, I am right, I dreamt it!

B: No, you are wrong!

A: No I am not wrong, you are an asshole!

B: You hardly know me, how do you know if I’m an asshole?

A: It is self-evident!

B: No it’s not!


Without deductive reasoning of the kind that Ockham wrote about, we would have taken a lot longer to get to scientists and engineers (instead of alchemists and sorcerers) which very well could mean that today, there would be no CSIs nor any Laws and Orders. Do you really want to live in that world?

You probably know him for Occam’s Razor (I do not know why we spell them differently, except this all happened during the Middle Ages and Ockham invented logic, not spelling) which is generally bastardized as “The simplest solution is usually the best.”


Now, Ockham would probably take some issue with this. Maybe not the idea of living simply, because despite his extremely unsimple titles of “Doctor Invincibilis” and “Venerabilis Inceptor,” he was just a teacher (not even a full professor, poor guy), not a superhero. He also argued that Christ meant for Fransiscans and Christians in general to live in poverty. Which was kind of an issue at the time, given all that money the Pope was sitting on. In fact, Ockham was brought to trial before the Pope (for three years!) and though Ockham was condemned as a heretic, nobody could actually point specifically to any of his teachings as “heretical.” But so it goes.

Anyways, back to Occam’s Razor. So, you have maybe had a conversation like this, maybe at work:


YOU: Well, there are a couple options…


It is a very useful rule for scientists and for your office’s workflow for keeping the group inbox clean, but it really only refers to the second half of what Ockham actually wrote in his bedside table classic, Summa totius Logicae: “What can be explained by the assumption of fewer things is vainly explained by the assumption of more things.”

Or, in other words, “When you are explaining yourself, do not use 30 facts when 10 will do.” It is not quite the same as “Keep It Simple Stupid” but it pretty much is. BUT WAIT. What kind of facts, Ahckhum?

“Nothing must be affirmed without a reason being assigned for it, except it be something known by itself, known by experience, or it be something proved by the authority of Holy Scripture.”


So let’s say CSI’s Dr. Gil Grissom was interrogating a perp about a murder. The perp says “I didn’t kill that guy, it was a space alien.”

Now, Dr. Grissom was not there and can not PROVE that an alien did not do the murder. After all, aliens probably murder people all the time. In an Awkum-less world, we would be at an impasse. But thanks to Doctor Invinciblis, Gil can now say: “Well, that is possible. But we found a gun right next to the body and your fingerprints are on that gun.”

Okay, so was it aliens or was it the perp? Probably, the perp, right? That explanation is simpler (involves no warp-speed) and is also based on observable evidence. Also, the ever-terse Gil kept it pretty clean. He could also have mentioned that the perp hated the deceased and that he was named in the deceased’s life insurance policy, but let’s just save that for the trial. Right now, we’re just looking for a confession. Thanks to William of Ockham, Dr. Grissom wins. Again!

Or something like that. I’m not an “expert” on “logic,” but I am the inventor of “Ockham Sock ‘Em Robots!” the fun new deductive reasoning game for children. Look out for the Kickstarter.

Question of the Day: How do YOU spell Hahchumm? With a silent “H”like me?

Is it Finnish Language Day again already?!

by joegio

Yes!  It is!

I know exactly one Finnish word: “sisu.”  I’m not sure of the exact translation, but it basically means “the grim determination and stoutness of heart necessary to dig in for a long winter war with the Soviet Union in one of the coldest places on the planet.”  I do not have much sisu.  When it’s really cold outside, sometimes I close my eyes and pretend I am inside a toaster to try and warm up.

But it turns out there is a lot more to the Finnish language than a single word!

Finland started out as a Swedish territory around the time of the Crusades (12th Century) and remained that way for a while.  Swedish settlers made up a lot of the population, and Swedish was used as the primary language for administrative matters and for education, where it was used alongside Latin.  This was fine and everything, except for the fact that a lot of the people in Finland were, in fact, Finnish, and had a spoken language all their own.

All that changed because of a guy named Mikael Agricola:


Not a lot is known about Mikael’s early life, but it is presumed he was born to a wealthy peasant family (whatever that means) in a predominantly Swedish-speaking town in Finland.  His family was well-off enough to afford an education for young Mikael, so he became fluent in Swedish and Latin and also, somewhere along the line, in his native Finnish.  After his initial schooling, Mikael was sent to Wittenberg to study nailing things to doors.  Or something.  There, Mikael began work on his defining achievement: a translation of the New Testament into written Finnish.

This was not exactly simple, given that Finnish at the time did not have a written language.  Ever the innovator, Mikael just made it up as he went along, incorporating German, Latin, and Swedish syntax, grammar, and spellings as he saw fit to make ends meet.

Mikael went on to become the first Lutheran bishop of Finland and, under that guise, joined a delegation to Russia in 1557 to negotiate a peace treaty (Sweden and Russia were fighting in Finland, their mutual backyard.  Or like, side yard where you might park a car).  He died on the way back on April 9, 1557.

Okay, so a couple hundred years passed, there was some famine, there was a plague, and then in the early 19th century, the Finnish War which was fought between Sweden and Russia over the place where they park their car.  Russia won and Finland was established as an autonomous Grand Duchy of Russia.  At this point, the Finnish language assumed the role as a centralizing national identity-type thing for the Finns who at this point had been using all their best sisu to tolerate being someone else’s territory for hundreds and hundreds of years.

In the 1835, the Kalevala was published, and would go on to become the national epic of Finland.  Wikipedia tells me that the Kalevala is basically what you’d expect from a national epic: the world was created from the shards of a duck egg, people are carried by eagles, and there is a mysterious and powerful talisman called a Sampo.  It is all pretty exciting.

This codified a national identity for the Finns and Finnish nationalism grew through the 19th century.  By 1892, Finnish (the language) achieved equal legal status with Swedish.  The Finns staged a few revolutions in the early 20th century, and then declared independence from an increasingly radically communist Russia in December 1917.

But that’s not what we’re celebrating today.  Today, we celebrate the guy who made it all possible.


Today’s question: if you were going to make up a language, what existing languages would YOU borrow spare parts from?

Happy Birthday, Buddha!

by bartlebytheater

In addition to International Roma Day, DABDay (follow @EnjoyBartleby for all the hot DABDay Action), and the feast days for some oddly named saints (Julie Billiart of Namur?), today is also Buddha’s Birthday!

Happy Birthday, Buddha!

Well, wait.  So, in some places (like Japan!) it is just Buddha’s Birthday, and you celebrate by bringing lots of fresh spring flowers to your local temple and by bathing the baby Buddha.  With tea.  That’s a statue though, not a literal baby Buddha reincarnated or anything like that, because bathing infants with tea is dangerous.  But not statues!


That’s the statue.  Legend has it that upon his birth, Baby Buddha spoke, (!) took seven steps (!!), then pointed up with one hand and down with the other (?!).  The seven steps represent the seven directions (north, south, east, west, up, down, here) and the hands pointing in opposite direction represent Buddha’s mission on earth: the unification of heaven and earth.

In Nepal though, Buddha’s birthday is kind of just a general Buddha-day.  In addition to celebrating his birth and death, Nepalese Buddhists also celebrate his Enlightenment by eating milk porridge.  In what has to be the best Enlightenment moment of the past couple centuries, Buddha was sitting by a tree waiting for Enlightenment in the traditional way: by refusing food and water.  A local girl named Sujata saw that he was becoming extremely thin and malnourished, so she brought him a bowl of milk.  Buddha (well, at this time he was Siddhartha Gautama) drank and something pretty enlightening occurred to him: you can’t do anything without proper nourishment, even Enlightenment.

Nice one, Siddhartha Guatama!  I couldn’t agree more.  That is why I always eat a big breakfast before blogging.

So Happy Buddha’s Birthday!  Question of the day: How many steps and symbolic pointings did YOU do immediately upon your birth?  Answer in the comments section!

Reason #1 Why You Should Come See Better

by joegio

About six months ago or so, I started a blog on an overheated whim. I should back up. I’m generally kind of afraid of digital media of all kinds. I had a blog in college, but I let that go pretty quickly. I have had a facebook since I could have a facebook (late 2005, the end of my freshman year of college), but I don’t really trust it. So anyway, about six months ago, I started a blog with the stated purpose of fully immersing myself in all that the world wide web had to offer. You can see the blog, and you’ll note that it ends in dismal failure. I managed to join a few networks (including Pinterest, which should have novels, anthropological studies, and Single White Female-style made-for-TV-movies made about it, but that’s for another time) but kind of lost track of them. Updates dwindled. I became listless and missionless. Turns out that the anxiety I feel about a digital shell of me, with my face and my interests but none of my ability to make small talk or eat snacks, only intensified with immersion. But even more importantly, I lost track of them because I was busy in rehearsals. I should back up again.

Hi, hello, my name is Joe and if you know me, I’m probably going to invite you to a play sometimes. This is a good kind of banner statement to have if you’ve ever been in a play. You might recognize this reason to introduce yourself, support group style, and you’ve probably felt before (as I do now) that you need to spend your time as apologist in support of your art. And that probably goes for a lot of things, like inviting people to watch you show your dog or your vintage Mustang or garden or dog or bike or really good grilled steak or coin collection or your band play or your wine or the room you set aside in your house just to work on clocks. I don’t know, I’m just trying to come up with stuff.
Okay, but I do theater. And I really love it. I love making it, seeing it, talking about it…I will go on at length about exactly why I hate to see blue fabric as water on stage with the slimmest provocation. Seriously, don’t get me started because if you do, I really will go on (at length) even though you don’t care. And if you don’t care, I really want you to. Here is one good reason why:

Live Performance is one of only a few art thigns I can think of that can not be mediated. If you put Music online, it’s Music. A Movie on your computer is still a Movie. Whether you read it on paper or on your kindle, it’s a Novel. Sculptures and Paints are kind of a gray area here, but you can get a good idea from google image search if you really want to know. But a Play? No can do.  Put a play online it becomes  movie.  If you can even put it online.  I mean, nobody records them, because any commercial release of a filmed play has proven that nobody wants to watch them because they are excruciatingly painful to watch. Embarrassing, really. All those people talking so loud and making weird faces and sweating like crazy and occasionally singing and putting up a barn. It’s just miserable.

But of course it’s hard to watch on video. You just kind of had to be there. If you want to see a play, you have to take your body up and go somewhere, and submit yourself strenuously to the idea that your friend or friend of a friend of a facebook friend is someone else right now and is really going to say that, or really going to do that, in that particular way, with hair that color and in those clothes. You have to submit some money (sorry) and a whole evening and seriously risk watching a barn get put up by singing dudes and petite girls in several different colored shirts (sweating like crazy) and maybe have to go get drinks with these people afterward.  Of course, sometimes there is no barn raising, just some good jokes and pretty lights and maybe you have a pretty nice time as a person, in a room full of other people.

And (see above, re: my fear of social media) I think that’s a good thing. I think people should get their bodies up and go hear a story that is not Breaking Bad, the presidential election, their neighbor’s noise issues, Robert Downey, Jr. flying, their bills, a video of some kid getting seriously hurt, or even some dude dancing all over the world, etc and etc. I think it’s good for brains, and will probably make you unexpectedly smile a lot more than you otherwise would have. Plus you can get drinks before or afterwards and it’s way less taxing than like, going dancing. I don’t know people who go dancing. Do I?

And because I think that’s a good thing (builds the empathetic muscles, right?), I’m excited to be in Better. It’s funny and fun, and believes that people are good and want to be good. It contains warmth and humor and faith in best intentions that I find lacking from a lot of the stories I hear. I’m biased, but I think it’s pretty great. And I’m excited that people have to get up and come see it (with all their arms and legs and kunckles and uvulas, etc. that make them bizarrely, tragically, and delightfully human) and maybe stay and have a drink after. Because you can’t get it any other way.

So you should come see Better. We’ll see you there!

Joe Giovannetti is a founding member of Bartleby Productions and appears in BETTER as Josh.

Thanks everybody

by waynegjr

Just a quick thanks to everyone who joined us last Wednesday. You made our first event a resounding success.

Also a special thanks to all our performers: Aaron Stephenston, Stephen FosterDime Store FilmsThe Naked RoomatesEmily Dickenson, Mike Rhodes, Truman Capote, Stephanie Webber.

You all rock.