7 things that we all agree should exist but still don't. Unless you're four years old.

Seven things that we all agree should exist and are within our power to bring into existence but still don't.

  1. A vacation from a vacation
  2. The four day work week
  3. The elimination of all dress codes
  4. Cellular telephone jamming technology in every movie theater
  5. Decent rest areas along the Saw Mill and Taconic Parkway
  6. Five more seasons of The Office
  7. A national holiday on the Monday following the Super Bowl

We all yearn for these things that seem within our reach and are yet so far away. 

Except for my son.

This was the start of his vacation after a vacation. 
He also has a zero day work week, and he doesn't work on the Monday following the Super Bowl.

Being four years-old is amazing. 

I found someone who thinks EXACTLY like I do. Almost as if I put the words right into her heart and mind.

The strangest thing happened. 

I attended a rehearsal for Caught in the Middle, the musical that I wrote more than a year ago for a summer camp. It's being produced by a local theater company and makes it's world premiere on Friday night. 

You should come.

As I'm watching a scene, one of the characters stands, moves to center stage, and begins talking about the nature of teaching. "There are two kinds of teachers..." she begins. Then, after a series of jokes, she speaks lines I don't exactly remember writing, but I can hear myself onstage, I hear someone other than me saying things that I believe with all my heart.

It was like watching a different version of me. Someone with all of my beliefs in a decidedly younger, more female body than mine. 

It makes sense, of course. It's only natural for a musical that I wrote to contain lines that have come from me, but it was surreal to see a person standing in for me onstage, spouting my philosophy. Filling my role. Professing my beliefs with the same conviction - albeit faked - as me. 

Ever since I wrote my first musical - a rock opera entitled The Clowns - a few years ago, there have been few things as thrilling as watching actors speak my words. Even if you've never wanted to write a play or musical before - and I never did and often still don't - I can't recommend it enough. 

Hearing the words that you write in your head is one thing. 

Hearing a professionally trained actor - or in the case of Caught in the Middle - a talented teen actor speak your words is remarkable. 

And if that's not enough to get you excited about writing a play, you can look forward to the day when you can bring your seven year-old daughter to a rehearsal and watch her stare in wonder as your show unfolds before her eyes.

Wait for the moment when she asks you to write a show just for her, so that she can take the stage and sing and act someday like these big boys and big girls in front of her.

Wait for the moment when she tells you that she loved what she saw and can't wait to see it for real this weekend.  

Wait for the moment when she kisses you and says, "You write good stuff, Daddy. Funny, too."

It's a pain in the ass to write a play. Even more so when you're writing a musical. 

It's an even bigger pain in the ass to get someone to produce it.  

These singular moments make it all worth it.

I think. 

Caught in the Middle: Our world premier!

Caught in the Middle is a contemporary musical that journeys through a day in the life of middle school children. Touching on their, teachers, home work, lunch, "going out", bullying, friendship, and resolution. Don't miss the world premier of this wonderful show. Tickets will be available at the door. Or email vculligan@att.net to reserve at will call. Payment will be accepted at the door.

"Caught in the Middle"
March 18 & 19 at 7:00pm
March 20 at 4:00pm
Tickets: $12.00 adults, $6.00 students
Saint James Episcopal Church
19 Walden Street, West Hartford

The best use of cell phone jamming technology is not being utilized, and I don’t understand why.

In an attempt to ensure safe driving conditions during his commute to work, a Florida man used a cell phone jammer in his car to keep nearby motorists off their phones. 

After two years, Metro PCS reported to the FCC that every day for two years their cell towers had experienced unexplained interference near a stretch of I-4 between Seffner and Tampa during the morning and evening commutes.

The FCC investigated and detected wideband emissions coming from a blue Toyota Highlander SUV belonging to cellphone vigilante Jason R. Humphreys. Humphreys admitted that he was using the jammer, and this week the feds slapped him with a $48,000 fine.

I understand why motorists should not be allowed to use a cell phone jammers. Not only can these jammers interfere with 911 and law enforcement communications, but passengers are free to use cell phones in automobile, and some motorists use their cell phones as GPS devices.

What I don’t understand is why we aren’t deploying jamming technology in movie theaters. Why can’t each individual theater include a cell phone jammer to keep the idiots off their phones during the film? I know many people who no longer go to the movies because of the idiots who text and sometimes even place phone calls during movies. Eliminating the ability to use these devices inside the theater seems like the best use of a cell phone jammer ever.

If you need the phone, go to the lobby. Go to the restroom. There was a time, not so long ago, when going to the movies meant disconnecting from our friends, family and babysitters completely during the duration of the film.

Is it unreasonable to ask that we maintain this same level of disconnection within the actual theater?

Would any rationale person object to the jamming of cell phones inside the theater?

Can someone please make this happen? Or at least create an app that identifies movie theaters where cell service is spotty or nonexistent?

Stop the madness. Allow cell phone jamming technology inside movie theaters.

Software company Toluna QuickSurveys polled 2,000 adults from across the United States, asking them in an online questionnaire about less than savory behaviors. Included in the results was this:

Nearly 60% leave their cell phone on at the movie theater. Females were more likely than men to neglect the off button, at 75% compared to less than 40% for men.

I’m not surprised.

Cell phones have become a scourge of movie theaters. Idiots who can’t stay off their phones for two hours have ruined the movie going experience for many. 

People suck when it comes to their phones.


There is a solution:

Legalize the use of cell phone jamming technology in movie theaters in order to stop these morons from their infantile behavior.

Other than a few lunatics who would claim that they need their cell phones available at all times in case of an emergency (what did these people do 15 years ago when they didn’t own a cell phone?), is there any downside to jamming cellular signals while inside a movie theater?

I don’t think so.

The technology exists. It’s simple to deploy. Why not use it?


Why would anyone ever oppose this idea?

I know of at least one movie theater that has no reception inside one of its theaters simply because of where it’s located within the building, but people continue to fill those seats without complaint (and probably rejoice the freedom from these morons on their phones).

Many auditoriums in my school district possess a similar lack of reception.

What’s the difference between a theater with no cellular service because of unintended construction specifications and a theater that jams cellular service for the enjoyment of those who want to attend the movie?

With some easy-to-purchase equipment, movie theaters could disable cellular technology completely, preventing idiots from texting, making phone calls, accessing social media platforms and more.

Seriously, why hasn’t this happened already?

Ninjas to the rescue. Seriously.

I enjoy the movies a lot, but I have begun to enter movie theaters with great trepidation, knowing that it takes just one moron to ruin the experience.

The idiots who text during the movie are bad enough, and the people who actually make and receive calls on their cell phones make the experience untenable.

Then there are the extreme, albeit seemingly common, cases:

On Valentines Day this year, I found myself sitting next to a couple and their infant. The baby was noisy, cried at least twice, and at one point the couple changed the baby’s diaper while still sitting in their seats.

I don’t care what anyone says. Infants do not belong in movie theaters.

Then there was the toddler sitting in the front row for Cloverfield until the parents finally decided to act responsibly and remove their terrified child from the theater. 

There was the roving band of teenagers who I had to threaten in order to convince them to leave and the time I rallied an entire theater of moviegoers against two women who would not shut up.

All I ask is to watch a movie in peace and quiet, but people seem so willing and capable of screwing this up.

Unfortunately, movie theaters do little to prevent these distractions even as they watch their ticket sales decrease year after year. They have no policy against bringing a baby into a theater and they rarely monitor the behavior of their patrons as they are watching the film. And even if a person wants to complain, it means missing a significant portion of the movie to do so.

I’m happy to report that someone is finally doing something about this problem, and the solution is almost too good to be true:

Ninjas defending your right to a quiet, distraction-free theater.


The Prince Charles Cinema in Leicester Square has joined forces with Morphsuits — a manufacturer of skin-tight zentai suits — to launch an army of volunteer "cinema ninjas" who get to watch the movie for free in exchange for donning a black body suit and pouncing on misbehaving moviegoers from behind the cinema's shadows.

The "ninja taskforce" stunt has been met with critical acclaim, and was recently picked up by two other British movie theaters.

While I would prefer that the ninjas be professionals, capable of actually removing unwanted patrons from the theater (and inflicting a modicum of  pain in the process), this is at least a step in the right direction.  

It’s also the only step I’ve ever seen any movie theater to ensure that their customers enjoy a disturbance-free experience.

I have a few suggestions as well:

  1. Install cellphone jamming devices in a designated number of theaters in the establishment and declare them phone-free zones. Even though people went to movies, plays, concerts, sporting events and monster truck shows for decades without the benefit of immediate access to the outside world, I understand that some people feel the need to be connected to babysitters and other outside entities at all times in the event of an emergency. I think it’s a little crazy, but I’m willing to accommodate their need. Place jamming devices in half of the theaters and make the rest jammer-free.

  2. Prohibit infants from all movie theaters except for those showing rated G films.

  3. Prohibit all children 5 years old and younger from all movie theaters after 6:00 PM except for those showing rate G films.     

I think these three suggestions are reasonable in scope and would be fairly simple to enact and would be greeted with near-universal appreciation.

Most important, these three steps (in addition to heavily armed ninjas) would go a long way in providing movie theater patrons the kind of experience that the high cost of a movie ticket should guarantee. 

Tickets prices and fatherhood are not the reasons that I see fewer movies today

TIME reports that “Last summer’s blockbuster movie season was considered a bust, with the fewest movie tickets sold at theaters since 1997. Despite recent hits such as “The Avengers” and “The Dark Knight Rises,” by the time Labor Day rolls around, the summer of 2012 will fare even worse.”

TIME attributes this loss to the rising cost of tickets. While ticket prices may play a role, the average ticket price in the US in 2012 is $8.12. In 1995 it was $4.35.

Has $4 really created a barrier to keep audiences out of the theaters?


I haven’t seen as many movies this year as in previous years, but there is one primary reason why my attendance is down:

A decline in the quality of the movie-going experience

Patrons using cell phones during the film and bringing babies into the theater have created an untenable movie experience for me. While I am still willing to risk these two potential distractors in order to see a movie that I am excited about, I am far less likely to risk two hours of my life on on a less appealing movie if I’m concerned about being confronted by a person texting or talking  in the middle of the movie or a baby sitting next to me.

It’s that simple. These inconsiderate idiots have ruined the movie-going experience for me.

I’ll also add that the lack of television viewing, combined with the fact that everything I watch is time-shifted, has also resulted in my complete lack of awareness over what is playing at the movie theater. There was a day when I would see a movie trailer on television and potentially become excited about the film. Today I only see movie trailers while watching sports, which is the only television program I watch that is not time shifted.

For me, the issue has less to do with cost and much more with the inconsiderate morons who I find myself sitting beside at an alarming rate. When movie theaters are ready to get serious about the actual movie-going experience by eliminating infants from the theater and finding ways to reduce cell phone use (I would not be opposed to the use of a cell phone jammer inside every movie theater), then I will return to the movies with the frequency that I once enjoyed.

I questioned why there were young children at the Aurora theater, and there was nothing wrong with me doing so.

In a piece entitled Stop Wondering Why There Were Young Children At The Aurora Theater, author Lisa Belkin asks “What is it that led so many people to dwell on a question of parenting when so many more sweeping questions loomed?”

I would like to answer Lisa Belkin’s question.

We dwell on the question of parenting when so many more sweeping questions loom because human beings are capable of thinking about more than one thing at a time.

We can grieve for the dead and for those who lost loved ones in this tragedy.

We can send positive thoughts to the survivors and hope that they find peace in this time of tragedy. 

We can question our nation’s gun laws.

We can demand change.

And yes, we can also worry about infants and small children who are brought to a midnight showing of a Batman movie, because as parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts and teachers, it is our natural instinct to worry about children, and this can include worrying about the wisdom behind exposing small children to a violent film in the wee hours of the morning.

As avid movie goers who want to watch a film undisturbed, we can even find the mental capacity to protest the presence of these children in our theaters simply on the grounds that it is inconsiderate to our fellow patrons.  

Like most human beings, I am not a single minded organism. My thoughts need not occupy only one stream of consciousness. I am capable of thinking and feeling and even acting upon more than one thing at a time.

It’s true. As the parent of a three year old and a two month old, and as an elementary school teacher with fifteen years on the job, my thoughts eventually drifted to the presence of children in that theater and the wisdom of parents who made the decision to bring them, not because they might be exposing their children to a potential gunman, but because it’s at minimum a questionable parenting decision. I did not contact these parents directly or wish any more suffering upon them than they have already endured, but as a human being who cares deeply about kids, this is one of the many aspects of this tragedy where my thoughts settled in the wake of the tragedy.

Perhaps the fact that this is a subject that I wrote about earlier this year influenced the direction that my thoughts took. This was not a new issue for me. 

I even took the time earlier this year to investigate the problem and write about it.


So do me a favor, Lisa Belkin. Don’t tell me what I should and should not wonder about, because I am perfectly capable of wondering about many, many things at the same time, including why you might think otherwise.