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I ended my last post with: I began this post because I came across something called the Voynich Manuscript. This thing has captivated me…

But before I get to it here, I need to post a little moment that surprised even me, when you take into account my love for books.

I once asked a student teacher to go photocopy some pages from a new translation of The Odyssey. It was during my AP Lit and Comp class. She said, “How do I do that without pressing it flat and breaking the binding?”

Okay, for full disclosure here, she was perhaps the most difficult student teacher I had over twelve years. She really wasn’t cut out to teach and the kids terrified her, so I was a little raw with our coddling interactions. But I also took the moment to teach a lesson…I think.

I took the book and slammed the binding three or four times against my desk until the spine split perpendicularly—remember this is The Odyssey, so the thing is huge. She, naturally, jumped back in terrified horror. I had also gotten my students’ attention. I then turned to the first leaf that I wanted copied. I put the spine along the desk and bent it over until it popped. Then I pressed the crease between each leaf that I wanted photocopied, closed it back up and held it out to her trembling hand.

“It’s not a Fabergé egg,” I said. “The cover means nothing. The spine, the pages. It’s only the words that count, and even those mean nothing unless you read them and think about them. If I could understand books from eating every page with hot sauce I would do it.”

Then I turned to the class. “Sometimes we have to destroy part or all of something to truly understand it. We have to, in effect, deconstruct it.”

They were all pretty wide-eyed. I turned back to the student teacher. She looked as though she were holding her dead long-beloved cat. She looked up at me.

I said, nonchalantly, “Do you need the copy code?”

She shook her head.

“Cool,” I said.” Thirty two copies, please.” I turned back and began my class lecture.

Thank god nobody did such a reckless thing to the Folios or the Lindisfarne, or the Voynich.

I still don’t know if it was a good impression or a bad impression. It seemed a bit self-indulgent and dramatic. But it got my point across to her. She was gone within a week.

I love old books. By old, I don’t mean Catcher in the Rye. By old I mean that if they were printed on paper that it’s probably too new. That’s not entirely true, but you get the meaning. I’m talking leather and vellum.

I remember almost the exact moment it happened. I was in my first day of Medieval Art: the lecture. I was excited, but I thought it was going to all be Brueghel and buttresses. No Brueghel, it turned out: he was just a smidge later. [I was disappointed because I was hoping for some butt-sniffing demons. Oh well.] There were a lot of buttresses, to be sure, but there were a ton of more interesting things.

Illuminated manuscripts. My god, they absolutely seduced me. And there was so much more to it than just beautiful, strange, intricate illustrations. It could have taken ten years to produce…just this single book. A team of scribes spending untold hours bent over benches, their ink freezing in the winter. The unbelievable focus it must have taken. The idea of taking over from a dead or dying scribe, or worse an illustrator. And 1000 sheep or calves to make the paper. It’s just beyond my comprehension, especially in the world of on-demand printing.

Anyway, Lindisfarne sealed my undergraduate fate. I ended up with an English degree with a concentration in Medieval Literature. That’s marketable.

I remember when I was gearing up to direct Macbeth. I had heard that the University of Iowa held a second edition of the First Folio, the book that put together most of Shakespeare’s plays. I went to see it. I had been in the special collections room untold times for other research, but I never knew they had this thing. Probably a good thing too. It was spellbinding. The history that this thing held—history that I didn’t know, surely, but still, this book had been held, read, words underlined, pages removed, turned by saliva-slicked fingers. Somebody who lived in 1632 London had held this and read this and, perhaps, loved Shakespeare more than I. Captivating.

I began this post because I came across something called the Voynich Manuscript. This thing has captivated me and, if I had more time, I would totally dive into it. Alas, I have reached my word quota.

On to another day.


If you know me, you know how much I love learning stuff. I would probably be a full-time-for-life student if I could afford it.

A dear friend of mine hooked me onto Zite, a personalized web-article aggregate, and I am addicted. I certainly don’t read everything —who has the time— and I mostly read the headlines, first paragraph then move on.

But it has taught me that, relative to the possible knowledge of the world, I am dumb enough to be considered ignorant.

Now, I am intelli-vain enough that if someone were to call me ignorant to my face I would have a difficult time not executing Monkey Steals the Peach, if you know what I mean (and if you don’t, click here). I consider myself relatively knowledgeable, at least knowledgeable enough to know when to shut up at a cocktail party. And with today’s American attitudes I feel that sets me apart from your average Kardashianite.

None-the-less, Zite makes me feel utterly stupid. There is so much I simply do not know, so much I want to know, and no time to merge those two.

This morning I read an article on the brain science involved in understanding how to write compelling narrative. Then there was a brief history of the mystery of curry and what it really means. Then how about the bizarre mosaic lines in the desert of Gansu Sheng, China? They appeared in 2004, can be seen from space, and no one knows what they are. Or how about a simple change in Arabic typeface as a way to promote literacy in the Middle East?

And that’s just the stuff I don’t know about in a ten minute reading jag over coffee.

Perhaps ignorance is bliss. The old cliché, “the more you know, the more you know you don’t know,” is true. And lately, that knowledge has been mocking me, belittling me.

Sometimes I think it would be awesome to spend a week in a monastery with a stack of books. It’s the prayer and gruel that would get old.

I guess I should be happy just getting to know myself better, which is certainly something having children does for you. Self-reflection is a kind of knowledge, and I have that in almost debilitating volume. And I guess that’s more important than knowing the history of curry anyway. It just doesn’t seem as exciting.

So, the time has come for me to really begin my next major project, Theatre Cedar Rapids’ production of Karel Čapek’s RUR: Rossum’s Universal Robots.

“Never heard of it,” you might say. You would be one of the masses that might be saying that. And it’s really a shame. RUR is one of the major plays to come out of the surprisingly vibrant Czech literary tradition. But, unless you’re a multiculturalist, that isn’t reason enough to embrace it.

For me, it’s about the once-grand, now-quaint, beginnings of the tech-dystopia genre. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep —and, consequently, Bladerunner— can trace their line directly to RUR.

Today the play reads as a bit of a 1950’s B-movie techno-parable. But this thing was produced in 1920. Nineteen-twenty! It is the text that coined our contemporary usage of the word “robot.” And, as a reaction to World War I, the warnings of our fascination with technology and machines parallel it squarely with Tolkien’s warnings in The Lord of the Rings. The first audience must have had their minds blown.

TANGENT! There are a few first performances I would have liked to have witnessed: The Rite of Spring (which caused a riot), Aida (in Cairo), Hamlet, Beethoven’s Ninth, A Streetcar Named Desire, and RUR. Of course there are others, but these are the top. Each one, in its way, was groundbreaking enough to create an audience-wide numinosum: a spiritual reaction caused by the power of the piece or the performance.

I didn’t even know that RUR existed until TCR’s artistic director asked if I was interested in directing it. Honestly, I wasn’t, especially after I read it the first time. It seemed so dated. But after rereading and researching, I started falling in love with it and, specifically, with the challenges that it creates.

I have had the great luck of directing some remarkably challenging theatre: Streetcar, Macbeth, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Gross Indecency, Six Characters. With the exception of Six Characters, which had overwhelming and multiple daunting challenges, the directing was very much about the logistics. Certainly the acting was a huge part of them—it always is—but there are specific logistical nightmares brought on by episodic texts (LWW, Gross), large casts and multiple roles (LWW, Gross, Mac), and re-envisioning well-known and beloved texts (Streetcar, LWW), that make certain plays formidable.

RUR is challenging in a much different way. The fact that it is not a well-known play automatically counts against it in our city. People here mostly want to see shows they know. I get it. I want that too. And ticket prices are such that most people want a known commodity, which I also understand. But that kind of issue is out of my hands. I just get to create the best product possible and hope that people come see it.

The main challenge for me is the text itself, not the logistics of the thing. It is a philosophical text filled with exposition and, to a certain extent, inner monologue. It is clichéd, in that all plays, texts, and films that followed use RUR’s structure and themes, so we’ve seen it in various guises, usually with explosions. Explosions are always a plus.

Well, we are not going to have pyrotechnics for this show. It will be actors working to make old ideas feel fresh and spontaneous, working to turn long passages into interesting windows opening upon a specific human’s thoughts and fears and motivations.

This show will be acting at its most stripped and basic level. I can’t think of anything more exciting that that.

I can barely wait to bite into this thing!


The Ether Scented Table

When I first taught “Prufrock”
In my early thirties,
Grand ambitions,
I still could feel the foggy cat
Curling ‘round my feet,
Smell the ether,
See the sawdust,
Perceive the pin poised
To fix me wriggling to the wall.

But now a son is three.
And though I see myself
Still fight the against the
Mermaids’ whispers,
Songs that pull me to the depths of age,
To some drowning despair of lost potential,
There is hope for him.

He knows the Jabberwock
That old men fear,
That young men wish to tame.
I taught him that from crib to now,
No longer fear his younger years,
The early tests or trials.

I fear the years I will not see,
When his minutes become hours,
When nostalgia fights regret
And I’m not here to hold him fast
And smooth his hair
And rub his back
And tell him it will pass.

My father’s burden
Now is mine.
Perhaps my son’s ahead.
I do not fear he will not feel
The young man’s joy
Or live life full and long.

But a time will come
When I shall sing the song
Of love and loss.
A lesson that I hope he hears,
Embraces, inhales like shaman smoke,
To do what’s right,
To eat the peach,
To leave the pants unrolled.
To be the artist spoken of
And stroke the downy arms
And gaze into the eyes
And kiss the open lips
And sing the ocean songs
That mermaids hear
And pull them to the shore.

So dare, my son.
Dare to do the things you’ll do.
Dare to leave regrets behind.
Dare to love and dare to lose.
Dare to fall and rise again.
And rise again.
And rise again.

It’s Prufrock’s broken spirit
That I dread.


First of all, say the title out loud. It is an absolute joy to have spilling from your mouth. Debunk the Bunk. It’s just fun to say.

Okay, that’s out of the way.

I read an article from Reuters Online that the British royal family has a new website with a page that is wholly used to debunk various swirling and titillating myths about Prince Charles. Apparently the Prince of Wales does not consume seven eggs for breakfast every day. Tragic.

It got me wondering what it must be like to feel the need to produce a document that is solely meant to debunk fallacious beliefs about one’s self, beliefs held by a body of humans you have never and probably will never meet. I find that utterly fascinating.

It brought to mind a quotation from Jake Tapper’s devastating book The Outpost. This is a paraphrase, but he wrote that it was disheartening to the troops in Afghanistan that the American public was more interested in the daily life of Britney Spears than in the life and death struggles of the young American warriors so far from home.

I don’t understand the fascination with famous people. Especially if that fascination is showered on semi-despicable and seemingly shallow publicity gigolos (I used the term “gigolos” here because I didn’t want you to think that I lumped Britney into that milieu. Her music is transcendent. Call me.)

I think I might put up a new page on my website that is totally devoted to debunking myths about me.

I don’t really know of any myths about me.

The five of you who read this blog may have heard something. I doubt it, but the world is a strange and magical place where nearly anything can happen. See the Britney Spears comment above (call me).

I think my first debunked myth might be this: It is categorically untrue that JASON ALBERTY has ever taken peyote within the continental United States.

Or: While Mr. Alberty (I like that better) has performed the roles of women on stage for multiple productions it is untrue that he performed those roles wearing thongs. Mr. Alberty eschews all forms of undergarments.

Or: It is true that Mr. Alberty freezes over-ripe bananas. However they are used almost exclusively for the Yonana.

Hmm…yes, this web page might have legs. And no, Frank, I don’t shave mine any more.

Perhaps a web page like this might fuel the public interest in the mysterious and fascinating personality that is Jason Tiberius Alberty. Perhaps if the right person reads such a web page they might want to contact J-Tib about a lucrative writing contact. Or a reality show—Gettin’ Glib with the J-Tib on VH2.

Tasty. The possibilities this world holds within the mind of a single man… I feel my fifteen minutes formulating in the ether right now. I need to call a publicist…any publicist.

And, look people, my middle name is not Tiberius. I wish you would stop spreading such scurrilous and ridiculous rumors. Do a little research before you interview me, would you.

I have been gifted a role that is one of my top three dream characters. This summer for the Classics at Brucemore I will be playing Cyrano. Yup, the dude with the nose.

This is a huge deal for me. Cyrano is one of those general bucket roles, like Hamlet and Stanley Kowalski. Except it’s really the role for those actors who are too homely or morphologically challenged to play Hamlet or Stanley. Perfect.

I’ve been directing and acting in the Classics now for, I think, seventeen years. This will be my first lead. In fact this will only be my third leading role in all my years of serious acting, and I don’t really consider the other two as counting, though they were great experiences.

Cyrano has been called one of the greatest roles ever written, and I tend to agree. He has such a tragic and real human depth to him that he feels real. It’s not difficult to place one’s self in his skin. He is a man who clearly dislikes certain parts of himself, and because of that hesitates to commit to the one he loves because he fears what most of us fear: rejection. And so he pours himself into an almost obsessive passion for swordplay and acts with near disregard for his life. After all, who would suffer if he were to lose it? No one, or so he thinks. And thus his bravado, his easy wit, his panache all become a compensated extension of self-conscious weakness.

Boy-howdy: pretty close to home.

I don’t think that, emotionally or spiritually, I have a long way to go to formulate my version of Cyrano. He reminds me of my middle-school self. His nose was my fat. His bravado was my performing. His Roxanne was a pretty and nice blonde girl named Sheila. Ahh, Sheila, when she moved away it broke my heart. Oh, well.

Anyway, I will periodically update “Nosing Around” with thoughts and issues that I discover while digging into Cyrano. I have three Writers’ Room shows and I am directing RUR for Theatre Cedar Rapids before Cyrano hits, so there are other things cooking.

However, I have decided to begin working the set-piece speeches now. Nothing better than getting to rehearsal having the lines down.

I have also started sword work with my trusty friend and rapier companion Marty, under the tutelage of our fight master Jason Tipsword—I shit you not, that is his given name. And I have taken to purchasing and working our elliptical for two miles or more a day.

The show Cyrano de Bergerac has been my Roxanne for a while. But this one I am preparing myself for and I am not planning on letting it get away.

Boys, I am going to give you the most ridiculously easy and flexible recipe I know. It is definitely one of my top five favorite things to eat, and one of favorite things to make.

Chili is one of those things can cause fights during family gatherings. There is probably a different type of chili for each state in the Union. There are probably as many recipes as there are chili cooks. And each one is spirited and sure of their recipe’s superiority. I too am that way, though I love the absolute flexibility of the dish. Its original name, Chili con carne, means chili with meat.

There are people who think that the chili is only meat. Others like to add beans. Others even add stuff like corn or quash or chicken.

Here is my point, sons: take this base —protein, chili powder, tomatoes— and make it your own.

I love my chili, but I play with it. And I will show you how below.

Alberty’s Chili


- 1 lb. of ground chuck (or more if you want it meatier, or you can use whatever meat or protein you want…seriously, sometimes I use steamed lentils in place of the meat)
- 2 yellow onions, diced medium
- 4 cloves of garlic (or more), minced

- 1 28oz can of Muir Glen Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes (but I’m just being particular about my canned tomatoes)
- 1 15oz can Muir Glen Tomato Sauce

- 5 cans of beans (I love beans in my chili. LOVE beans. I use a mix of black, pinto, kidney, great northerns, and cannellini), drained

- Chili powder, tons, but to taste (Here again, I use a variety. I use what is probably two tablespoons of generic chili powder over the whole of the dish. I augment that with about a tablespoon of Ancho chili powder as well as a couple of shakes of Allepo pepper.
- Ground cumin, a tablespoon or so
- Salt and Pepper
- Cholula Pepper Sauce (my favorite)

- 4 tbs white vinegar (this is my secret ingredient)


Use a crockpot. Take time to let the flavors meld, six hours or so.

Pour all the canned goods in the crockpot and set it on high.

Heat some olive oil in a skillet. Sauté the onions until they begin to soften and get translucent. Toss in the garlic and add some chili powder, cumin and salt. Sauté for about four minutes. Dump into crockpot.

Brown the meat in the same skillet. Add some chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper. When browned sufficiently add to crockpot.

Add a ton of chili powder, some cumin and the vinegar. Turn the crock pot down to low and cook for six hours. Taste it often to adjust seasonings.


You can do anything to this that you can dream up. I usually like to add chorizo, but your mother doesn’t like chorizo, so I don’t. I also like to add jalapenos and dried ancho chiles, but you guys don’t like spicy food yet, so I don’t.

Sometimes I like to add cubed sweet potatoes or maybe go with all black beans. You can even add some cinnamon for that Cincinnati flair.

I could honestly probably enjoy a week of chili. Here are some ways to do that very thing.

Chili + melted American cheese slices + chips

Chili + spaghetti noodles + cheese (called Threeway, and you can add a little extra vinegar)

Chili + macaroni + cottage cheese

Chili + rice + broccoli

Chili + potatoes

Seriously, if you can make chili, you have one of the greatest basic meals in your back pocket. What you do with it is only bound by your imagination.

Christmas has come but not yet gone. It tends to linger with me for a couple of days after the event.

I begin listening —almost exclusively— to Christmas music on my drive back home after Thanksgiving with my parents and in-laws. Each year I purchase a new Christmas album, which is often a risky move. Last year I busted totally with Celtic Thunder Christmas.

I know, I know. You’re wondering, “How could something called Celtic Thunder Christmas be bad?” I’m sure that’s your question. Well, it’s essentially an Up with People Christmas on a vat of testosterone. You can tell they are singing through beefy bearded smiles.

Perhaps the most telling moment was the bizarrely saccharine yet maudlin “Christmas 1915,” which really could be a good song despite the line —sung sweetly and tenderly— “…and I killed the boy that sang in no man’s land.” Nice. Merry Christmas, everyone!

I’m pretty sure that the entirety of Celtic Thunder sings on this song, like some steroidal over-duplicated Three Tenors, each one overreaching the drama of the previous soloist. Oy ve!

But this year I purchased Colbie Caillat’s Christmas in the Sand. It was a nice album. Not anything that created that numinous floating that makes for a transcendent Christmas song, but there was nothing aesthetically offensive, which is really the only mark of a pleasant Christmas album these days, isn’t it?

My favorite Christmas album purchase of the last few years —and for this I give full credit to my wife— is the Pink Martini album, Joy to the World. It is, holistically, a good album. Some songs, like “Little Drummer Boy” and “Schedryk” really do send me into that numinous hypnotic nostalgia that I love about good Christmas music. I know the idea of “Little Drummer Boy” being transcendent is probably difficult to grasp. I honestly think that song is one of the least appealing of the vast Christmas canon. However, Pink Martini turns it into some hooka-smoke Moroccan jazzy thing á la “Scheherazade.”

They have two other songs that I quite like, one, “Congratulations (Happy New Year)” in Chinese, the other “Ocho Kandelikas” which is, I think, a Portuguese Chanukah song. Go figure. But awesome.

I guess music, although not the root of my Christmas aesthetic, is certainly the trunk. And while watching my boys’ joy and wonder are the greatest moments of the holiday, it’s music that presses the button on those memories.

I live in a city that has a fair amount of good local restaurants, at least for our size. We have some awesome BBQ joints. Several great burger and hot dog shacks. And a handful of “family” restaurants. And not one, not one, can give me a good fry. Not one. It boggles my mind.

We have two awesome hot dog—great, plump, salty, juicy dogs. One place serves a killer Chicago dog, the other, a little more creative, but has a delicious chili-dog. Both places are tied for the worst fries on the planet. I could tie those bad boys in knots. Probably frozen, fried once, barely salted, blech.

Every other place is the same. I just want the fries done right: crispy outside, steamy fluffy inside. I want it to snap when I bend it in half.

I rarely say that there is a right way and a wrong way to do much. But, let me tell you, I have come to believe there is a right way to make fries, and it’s relatively simple.

First let me tell you, don’t use frozen fries. Get yourself some Russets. If you’re a restaurant, get a commercial fry cutter. You can get one for $100 from Amazon. If you’re serious about your food, you can get a really good one for $200. It’s not that much more work, and the outcome is considerably better. I’d also keep the skin on.

Next, you have to soak these bad boys in water for at least an hour. This gets rid of a bunch of starch which is one of the things that help get the fries crispy. The starch creates sugar. Too much sugar keeps the fries limp. You have to get those fries dry also. Otherwise, it’s going to spurt the oil at you.

The oil is also important. You need one that has a high smoke point, like peanut.

Here is the main thing. You have to fry them twice. That’s right. Twice. I think that’s one of the main problems. Most people don’t do that.

Why fry twice? Honestly, I’m sure there is some funky scientific answer to this. All I know is, if you fry it once, you get soggy fries.

The first fry is done at 325° for about four or five minutes. This basically gets the thing cooked. I think it’s for the middle, but I’m not sure. Drain them on some paper towels.

The second fry occurs at 375°, or 400° if you’re a kitchen samurai. This one makes it golden brown and delicious. Again, I’m not sure how, I just know that second fry is the magical part.

Take them out, drain on paper towels and salt. Or, if you are particularly interested in the best of the fry world, salt and pepper the ketchup or mayo you are dipping them in. That way the salt doesn’t get the chance to fall off the fry.

Now I just wish my favorite joints read my blog.


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