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Thursday, March 10, 2005

When that Shark Bites and Bytes


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Hey, Mac, what's byte-ing you?

Oh, the shark has pretty teeth dear
And he shows them pearly white
Just a jackknife has Macheath dear
And he keeps it out of sight!"

Mac the Knife, The Threepenny Opera.

Publicity Poster Brickhouse
Theatre Company, 2001

Some years ago I had the good fortune to be cast as Tiger Brown in an excellent if oddly focused production of Threepenny. (As sometimes happens in American Theatre there was an attempt to reset the show in 20's Chicago, an inspired idea which mostly works until you get to something like The Army Song where it falls apart because of lines that can't be easily translated into American English like "Let's all go barmy, we're in the Army", guess who was stuck with singing them.

Except for this however, the show was outstanding, all the other directorial choices were outstanding and the cast was magnificent. It made me want to do another show with Prologue Theatre Productions soon. Somehow I never wound up auditioning for them again.

I got several wonderful things out of the experience however:

An introduction to Hyde Park in Chicago and the University of Chicago community which I would later move to,

An appreciation for the works of Bertold Brecht and Kurt Weil whose music are powerful but ultimately very depressing, (and let's not neglect the impact of Mark Blitzstein on the English translation of Brecht's German Lyrics and Libretto).

An opportunity to perform on Court Theater's stage with its 3/4 round seating, intimate audience feeling, and quite nice actor perks backstage,

And the understanding which resuled in the development of "Peter's rule about the impact of a play's character on a cast - the mood of a play can have a powerful impact on the morale of the cast, take that into account when considering whether auditioning for a part no matter how hungry you are." This grim show depressed everyone in it. It got worse and worse as rehearsals dragged on. We were lucky not to lose anyone to suicide. Contrast that to the joy of a cast doing Oklahoma! Or what too often happens to women playing Blanche in A Streetcar Named Desire. Even Ann Margaret said she was not immune. I rest my case.

Threepenny is one of the most depressing shows I have ever had the experience of being a part of, with such cheerful ditties as:
  • Ballad of the Easy Life
  • The World is Mean
  • Barbara Song
  • Tango-Ballad
  • Jealousy Duet
  • How to Survive ("Remember if you wish to stay alive, for once do something bad and you'll survive...")
  • Useless Song
  • Solomon song
  • Call From the Grave
  • Death Message
Sorry, I'd give you more words but I've blocked most of them.

Even Mack the Knife, which opens the show is not the upbeat Jazzy tune that Bobby Darin introduced the world to, it is a dark and somber number, threatening and dangerous. Here, take a look at the 2nd verse with that darker interpretation in mind, thinking of it sung as if the words were sung cuttingly, with an edge to them, as if through a shark's teeth.

"When the shark bites with his teeth dear
Scarlet billows start to spread
Fancy gloves though wears Macheath dear
So there's not a trace of red."

A Shark With Big Pointy Teeth; Not
Unlike Monty Python's Killer Rabbit but
With Neither Fur, Nor the Element of Surprise!

the jazzy interpretation we are used to, but clearly what Brecht intended.
I wonder what Brecht thought/would have thought (was he alive?) of Darin's interpretation and cuts. Did he hate it, or enjoy the fact that it brough in unsuspecting masses to see his haunting existential manifesto of hopelessness for the working man?

[Honesty note: I love to do the Darin verson at Karoke nights when I am feeling up to going out which lately is rare. And I jazz it up to my fullest extent. But, oh how I wish there was an original version out there with complete lyrics, and some of the other songs to, particularly "The Pirate Jenny Song". Do you hear me karaoke disk manufacturers?
Then there was the verse that Darren left out. I'm having trouble checking the exact text, I'll update the text when I find it, but it goes approximately like this:

"There was a rape down by the harbor
Little Jenny caused a stir
Was Macheath there in corner,
Wonder what got into her?"

I don't think we have to wonder why THAT verse was ommitted in the 1950's do we? In fact, if general knowlege of the verse had been around it might have killed the song on decency grounds, or was that why it was such a big hit? Who knows?

At any rate, this is all a very long introduction to my real topic, for today, the bitingly funny Computerworld daily column The Shark Tank or as I like to think of it "The daily how to avoid looking like an idiot in front of the IT people at work column."

The column is written for the people who come to fix your problems when you call the help desk at work. They are the sharks. We are the pilot fish. Da dum, Da dum, Da dum dum dummies. Except that sometimes the pilot fish do something brilliant only to be circumvented by Dilbert like management, or the Sharks do.

At any rate, it doesn't take much knowlege of computers to find the articles really funny. After reading the for awhile though, and going through the archives, you start to get a whole lot more knowlege about computers, computer systems, and WHAT NOT TO DO.

Here's an example of a worst case solution by an innovative but WRONG pilot fish. Too much innovation is almost always a bad thing with computers. Really. Reading the help files, that is a good thing.

Shark Tank
March 04,2005

Hey, if you can't trust IT, who CAN you trust?

CEO decides that his company is getting too much spam, so word comes down to this pilot fish in IT: Find a better spam filter and get it working pronto.

"This I duly do," says fish, "and I get the latest all-singing, all-dancing heuristic-learning spam filter that can constantly adapt to new types of spam as they appear.

"But first it has to be trained. This requires me to read all the e-mails coming into the server and train the spam filter for a period of time."

There are meetings. There are presentations. Finally, top management decides to go ahead. And for the next two months, it's fish's job to read the mail.

And fish takes pains to make sure everyone understands what's going to happen. "Announcements are made throughout the company of what is to take place," fish says. "Our Internet policy is rewritten and agreed to by all employees so I am allowed to perform this necessary service for this period.

"On Day 1 of the start of the learning process, one of the first e-mails I read is from the (married) CEO's lover, very saucy and totally non-unreadable.

"By the end of the first week, I've learned who is gay, who is having affairs, who is running their own business on company time, who is sending out resumes and who hates who.

"I also learned that the CEO is planning to move the company 50 miles away and sell it in six months' time."

At the end of the first week, fish is called into a management meeting for an update on progress of the spam-filter project. He reports that the filter has already reached 96% efficiency.

And he does it with a straight face. "I have to force myself not to grin knowingly at various people I now see in a new light," says fish.

"It's written in our ISO procedure documents that all e-mails, incoming and outgoing, are archived for five years. But I guess people don't read those.

"I look forward to next week's e-mails."


So this kind of stuff is why I like Shark tank. I recommend that you add it to your browser and check it every day, or Subscribe to the Daily Shark e-mail newsletter which you can do by clicking on the link above, or better yet, add the RSS newsfeed which you can get to on the same page. But for your convenience it's:


For more on using RSS technology see the links in my post:

The Peter Files Is RSS Enabled! Headlines on Your Browser!

By the way, I find Computerworld an excellent resource overall and if your job involves purchasing, specifying or recommending IT equipment purchases for your group, department or company you may be eligible for a free print copy which includes many usefull ads for emerging software, equiptment, consultants and other services that you might not be aware of, so, if you are interested in applying for a free subscription , go here:

Computerworld Free Subscription Application

Well, that's it for this post and it's Shark theme.

I hope you'll tell me what you thought of it. Don't worry if you are not a subscriber, just use the "anonymous", or other "option" you can always put a name or contact information in the text of the post. They get emailed to me by the way, so I see them right away!

I hope you enjoyed the post and thought it didn't byte.....

Peter Pun

P.S. The spell Checker went on strike for this one. Note my caveat about ignoring spelling errors. Note the completely ignored comments thingy just below these words. Just click on it. Really easy. Its fun, I promise. Really. A super nice surprise if you click on it and type something. Fame and forture may await you.
A woman from Slobavia clicked on a comments link and soon she was allowed a visa to visit her sister in loser Bronchovia. A man from Steeterville failed to click on the link and was passed by 23 packed rush hour buses on the way to the dentist!
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