Jocelyn's Other Desk

The writings of Jocelyn Smith, aspiring author, soon-to-be lawyer, once and future politician, all-around opinionated twentysomething.

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Location: Orlando, Florida, United States

I'm a lawyer in Florida, working on three novels, a screenplay, and half a dozen pieces of fanfiction at any given moment.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Serenity: A Review

Joss Whedon and Universal Pictures have harnessed the power of the Blogs. I had the good fortune to attend a press screening of Serenity last night on condition that I and my fellow bloggers blog about the event. I fulfill my part of the bargain.

Short Review: See this movie. Sell your firstborn and/or your parents if you must, but see this movie. At least twice.

Long Review:
I am a huge fan of Joss Whedon's work. I loved Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel: The Series for years, and fell in love with Firefly last year. The man's wit and storytelling skill and ability to create nail-gnawing tension, fist-to-the-gut shock, and awww-inspiring moments knows no bounds.

So when I tell you that with Serenity, Mr. Whedon has outdone himself in a BIG way, I want you to comprehend my full meaning.

I also love movies. I love the moviegoing experience. Sci-fi is my favorite genre. I was raised on Star Wars and Star Trek. I fell in love with The Matrix and The Chronicles of Riddick. I love a good adventure, compelling characters, the theatrical epic. Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Spider Man, X-Men. I love them all. Give me a good story--not just special effects. Any good story is enhanced on the big screen. Give me characters whose fates I am compelled to care about. Give me drama, give me angst, give me armrest-gripping tension. Plot twists--give me plot twists! I love movies.

So when I tell you that Serenity is the best movie I have ever seen, I want you to comprehend my full meaning.

Drama-fans will eat it up. Adventure-lovers will be in for the ride of their lives. Sci-fi/fantasy buffs will be swept into a world of futuristic excitement and exploration--with that ever-present human nature to add intrigue and mystery. Comedy connoisseurs will laugh their heads off.

Serenity is a human story, an exploration of human nature and all the glory it inspires and the damage that it wreaks. It is a timely movie that warns of the hideous toll that power and corruption takes. Minor-and-vague spoiler here: Highlight to Read... There is intense tragedy, and yet it is still a feel-good movie. The characters are four-dimensional. The heroes are big damn heroes. The villains are...big damn villains. All are human.

No, there are no aliens in Serenity. Strange thing for a sci-fi flick, you say? Not at all. This universe does not need aliens. The humans in this story are more than weird enough to make up for it.

WARNING: There is violence. The movie is rated PG-13, but in my humble opinion, it should have been rated R. This in no way diminishes the power of the story--nor is the violence gratuitous in any way. There is just enough necessary to tell the story. It's realistic in the kind of violence you'd expect in a rough-cut colony universe and among power-hungry operatives, but leaves the really nasty stuff to the imagination.

That said, I have no criticism to offer this movie. It's that good.

Summary For Those Who Haven't Seen Firefly: Serenity is the "wagon-train to the stars" that Gene Roddenberry would have been proud of. It is the continuation of Joss Whedon's short-lived Firefly television series. The background is thus: Earth was used up by human overpopulation, and the human race discovered another solar system full of planets and moons. Terraforming ensued, and human population moved. There's no light speed here. The innermost planets formed the Alliance, and the outerlying planets were the Independents. Civil War ensued; the Alliance won, and brought the system under a parliamentary rule. Joss Whedon reportedly got his inspiration for the story from the Civil War novel, The Killer Angels.

The decisive battle in the war was the Battle of Serenity Valley. The heroes of this battle were Sargeant Malcolm "Mal" Reynolds and his subordinate, Zoey...something. The Independents lost in this battle, and Mal lost his faith in pretty much everything. Six years later, the Firefly series begins, where Mal and Zoey and their crew of miscreants and adventurers are living a life of outlaws/mercenaries, getting semi-legal and mostly dishonest work from other seedy folk.

Characters: The pilot episode begins with our crew picking up some passengers to make themselves look legit, and of course, their job goes south. Our resulting character line-up is as follows:
  • Captain Malcolm "Mal" Reynolds: Poster boy for the phrase "scoundrel with a heart of gold," everything a sci-fi lead character ought to be. A flawed hero. A funny hero. Looks good with his shirt off. Looks better with his pants off. Played by Nathan Fillion.
  • First Mate Zoey...something (Washburn?): Played by the well-rounded Gina Torres. Not as sarcastic as our Han Solo-esque captain, but has her hysterically funny moments. Fiercely loyal to Mal. Has a wonderful, amusing relationship with her husband (see below.) Warrior woman. Strong woman. Every little girl's heroine.
  • Pilot...something Washburn "Wash": Comic relief. Damn good pilot. Played by Alan Tudyk. Funny-sexy. Xander-esque. Cute. A pilot genius. Married to Zoey. Less violent than many of his comrades, but has his brave-heroic moments. Like a "leaf in the wind."
  • Engineer/Mechanic Kaylee: The "kid" of the crew. Mechanical genius. Pretty/funny/sexy. Played by Jewel Staite. Not as innocent as she appears. Least violent of the crew, but not afraid to be outside the law. Very dear to them all. (No, not a Mary-Sue. Trust me.) Adventurous.
  • Jayne Cobb: The baddest of the bad. Badboy sexy. Funny as hell. Played by Adam Baldwin. Most violent of the crew, but has his "heart-of-gold" moments...sometimes. Has a soft spot for Kaylee. Not the brightest crayon in the box, but no slouch. Fun character.
  • Inara Sera: A "registered companion." (Open-minded: think geisha. Close-minded: think whore. Joss-minded: think SPACE HOOKER!) The group's "ambassador." Played by Morena Baccarin. She gives them legitimacy, ironically enough, grants them entry to areas that a seedy-looking ship wouldn't otherwise get to land. Mal's love/hate interest. Sexy sexy. Beautiful. Funny.
  • Shepherd Book: A futuristic Christian monk/missionary with a mysterious past. One of the passengers picked up in the pilot episode. Played by Ron Glass. Good taste in food. Gets on well with everyone in the crew, even Mal--most of the time. Weird hair. Obviously, has difficulties with the crew's work, especially when it gets violent.
  • Doctor Simon Tam: Another passenger who comes aboard in the pilot episode. Played by Sean Maher. Stud-muffin extraordinaire, in Kaylee's opinion. Rich-kid-gone-fugitive to rescue his little sister from an Alliance guinea-pig laboratory. Highly unprepared for the outlaw life, but risks everything to protect his sister. Much comic relief, usually in the form of Simon getting acquainted with the outlaw life. Pompous. Cute. Was a trauma surgeon in Alliance Capitol City, (very rich), very smart.
  • River Tam: everything. Nutty as a fruitcake, thanks to the Alliance Lab. Psychic. Played by Summer Glau. Whether she was psychic before the Alliance got into her head is anyone's guess. The Alliance wants her back. Walking weapon. Crazy funny. Crazy sexy. Good dancer. Better fighter. Weird. So crazy she nearly gets herself burned as a witch on a colony world. Life's never dull when River's around.

The Firefly/Serenity Universe: As said before, a solar system with multiple planets, dozens of moons, all terraformed. Innermost planets/moons Alliance capital worlds. Outermost planets are your western-style colonies. Full-blown wild wild West types. Some inhabited by religious characters not unlike Puritans.

Civilization is a blend of American/Chinese (two old Earth superpowers.) Characters cuss in Chinese. Christianity/Buddhism two primary religions.

No aliens, but there is much to fear from "Reavers"--humans gone savage/cannibal on the edges of the system who prey on colonies and ships. Alliance cruisers are city-ships. Serenity, our heroes' ship, is a Firefly-class freighter--a junker whose worth was discovered by Mal (think: Millenium Falcoln only more pointy.)

Do I need to watch Firefly before seeing Serenity?
No. The movie easily takes care of all the exposition you need,'ll enjoy the nuances of the plot/setting/characters much more. The series is available on DVD--there are only thirteen episodes. And it's a must-see for any sci-fi/fantasy/Western/adventure fans.

Monday, September 26, 2005

I'm Too Sexy For Long Hair...

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Yet another post for my Maryland Renaissance Festival annals: got my hair braided. The style you see in the picture is a Classic 5-strand with 4 twists. It took almost an hour, during which my fellow customers and I people-watched (a singularly fun amusement at Faire) and my friend Julie-Anne took photographs.

There's something about Renaissance Faire that makes one's vanity come to the surface. You want to feel beautiful all the time--and you're willing to spend the money!

Friday, September 23, 2005


I found out this morning that one of the first friends I made on the Internet has passed away.

Kelly, or "Kielle" as she was known to most people online, was a "Big Name Fan": someone that everybody in fandom knows. I didn't get into fandom online until my late teens, and Kielle's comicbook fanfiction group, Subreality, was the first that I discovered.

I was just one of many fandom newbies that she encouraged. She archived my first fanfiction piece, a silly little X-Men Movieverse short story, and took the ones that followed always with a dose of encouragement and praise. She was also a very talented writer herself, and wrote some of the most popular and well-known pieces of fanfic in several fandoms. She founded multiple story archives, and some of the biggest fandom websites on the Internet.

As is often the case, I lost touch with her personally when I moved on to different fandoms, and I had not heard that she was sick. I found out from a mutual friend that she died yesterday of cancer, the onset of which was very fast. I've visited her LJ, where her husband had been posting messages from her, and finally messages of his own to keep her friends and readers updated on her condition, and there are hundreds of messages from members of the fan community.

That I never met her in person and only knew her through my fanwriting hobby doesn't matter much. Kielle was a friend, as much as any friend we make in the Real World, and losing her hurts. I've been thinking about her all morning. She showed me so many of the ropes of online communities, and those little conversations and messages that I hadn't thought about in a long time are now very vivid in my mind. She was a very funny person, in her messages and in her stories. I haven't cried yet, but I suspect I will.

I have heard about deaths in the fanfiction community before, but Kielle is the first who I knew closely. There is sorrow in multiple fandoms today. We will miss her terribly.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Vitamin D...Or Whatever...

An interesting line in one of my favorite Harry Potter fanfiction pieces goes as follows:

There were times in Azkaban when I thought I'd go mad, or already was. Not from the Dementors, but just from the lack of sun and the warmth of it on my

It just occurred to me today, sitting in my law school dorm room with the window open, listening to the noise of 395 and myriad construction projects they're always doing in downtown DC. That story has always been one of my favorites, one of the best written, and I think I know why: the author has a way of making the readers relate.

I'm nocturnal by nature--I do my best writing, my best studying at night. I seem to think better at night. But consequentially, I tend to do most of my sleeping during the day (getting up and dragging my groggy self to class notwithstanding). Sometimes it seems to take its toll.

These past few weekends at Faire and white-water rafting with my friends, I've felt incredibly alive. You always hear about how people need to spend time in the sun, but it doesn't quite sink in until you find yourself craving it--like Sirius Black in the quote above. I crave chocolate on a regular basis, sometimes I crave swimming or the feel of water on my skin...right now I'm craving sunlight.

Class isn't for three hours. I think it's time for a walk on the Mall.

ETA: After two hours walking from Georgetown Law Center to the White House in 85 degree weather, I think I've safely satisfied my craving. Possibly with a side of sunburn. Whew!

Monday, September 19, 2005


Happy Talk Like A Pirate Day, ye scurvy dogs! All hands on deck! Set the topsails! We sail for booty in waters unknown!

In the spirit of the day, I shall take the opportunity to invite ye sea-dogs to pillage the music of The Pyrates Royale, me new favorite music group. First heard their dulcet strains at the Maryland Renaissance Festival. They specialize in sea chanties and other funny old tunes, perform in costume, and are the band of choice at the Maryland Faire's notorious "Pub Sing." They're pictured above, at the Globe Stage on my first visit to the Ren Faire.

From the left, ye see the notorious Molly Stubbs (aka Chelle Fulk) violinist and vocalist maid whose naivete leads sailors to prey upon her, Kat Fairbanks (aka Darcy Nair) vocalist and player of several instruments whose names I can't even spell and whose solos brought a pub full of rowdy drunks to near-total silence (that lady is GOOD), Skivvy (aka Craig Williams) vocalist and guitarist with a penchant for preying on the local ladies and getting the Pyrates banned from certain ports, Captain Fletcher Moone (aka Brad Howard) lead vocalist and self-proclaimed "principal bastard," and Drake Mallard (aka Paul DiBlasi) self-proclaimed guitarist and hug-monger.

Even if ye can't make the Renaissance Faire, but enjoy old sea chanties and rowdy, non-pop music, give this motley crew yer ear! Bloody brilliant, they are!

Friday, September 16, 2005

Missing My Job...

People always say going from the academic world into the Real World workforce is difficult, but I didn't find it so. On the contrary: it was a breath of fresh air.

It's going from the Real World back into school that's killing me.

I loved my job at my firm this summer (as most of you know.) I learned more at my firm than from two years of law school about the actual practice of law. On top of that, at least at my office, people cut to the chase. Lawyers are famous for rambling on and on about nothing--second only to professors.

I'm still in touch with some of the lawyers at my firm, keeping up on the gossip and all. I miss it.

My seminar is currently spending roughly 10 hours (three-plus class sessions) on ridiculously detailed discussion of presentation skills. Oh, come on! We know this already! Or as second and third-year law students, we certainly should.

Let's just WORK, already!

I never liked law school itself that much. I'm just relieved to know I'm going to like being a lawyer.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

In The Words Of That Guy On FireFly

I simply cannot abide useless people.

Or, come to think of it, useless expenditure of time/money/air/skin.

As my father puts it, I do not suffer fools gladly.

If you're stupid and/or don't know what the hell you're talking about, shut up and talk to me again when you do know what you're talking about. Otherwise, you're a waste of time and energy to deal with.

Stupid people are useless and should not be allowed to breed.

Thus endeth my rant for today.

Monday, September 12, 2005

I Feel Unclean

Crossposted to my LiveJournal as I try to rid myself of the heebie-jeebies.

I got treated to 30 minutes of Rush Limbaugh on the taxi ride home.

So there was some problem at the Dupont Circle Metro Station (what else is new, right?) not the least of which being that the temperature down there was about 800 degrees. So, I figure I'll blow the ten bucks and hop a cab home. Into first reasonably air-conditioned cab I hop, tell nice elderly cabbie where I want to go, he even turns the a/c up a little for me as we struggle through DC afternoon traffic. Nice.

Until I become aware of this ranting voice on the radio, trashing the liberals for "false media scandals" about New Orleans, how Republicans need to buck up and prove the differences between "media reality and real reality" (yes, his words exactly), and how all the failures to rebuild are taking place in "liberal neighborhoods" because "liberals can't run things," and then it hits me...

I'm listening to the revered dulcet tones of none other than the Legendary Rush Limbaugh!

And my skin begins to crawl. So this is The Man Himself, whose name we all know, but whose voice I have seldom actually heard. (Not since that nightmare-inducing "Womb To Da Tomb" rap he did during The Great Healthcare Debate in 1994.) So, unable to bring myself to flee the cab into downtown DC in full sunlight and high temps, I listen and discover what all the fuss is about.

The following is a near-verbatim paraphrase of some of my favorite statements in this 30-minute hell voyage.

"And people are yelling racism about the response in New Orleans, and that's just the liberal media making up stories! How much of the millions of dollars donated to charities for the disaster response was earmarked 'whites only'--NOT ONE! How many white rescuers refused to rescue people off rooftops because they were black--NOT ONE!"
(Gasp!) Such proof! Yep, proof positive of absence of racism. Sure, Rush, sure.

"And those media projection reporting--you can't even really call it reporting--of 10,000 deaths and 25,000 body bags...the death toll hasn't even hit 200 yet!"
The operative word being YET, Rush-my-lad. And has it ever occurred to you what immersion in water in 90+ degree temperatures for over a week does to a dead body? Wake up and smell the decayed corpses. Many of those people will never be found, let alone identified. Many had no one to report them missing. Such is the way of poverty.

"In the French Quarter and other areas run by entrepreneurs and Republicans, the sewage system is up and running and businesses are coming back--Mardi Gras will be held next February! But in the neighborhoods run by liberals, there's very low rebuild--think about it! In areas run by liberals, rebuild is slow, if at all! Look at New York--where the World Trade Center stood, there's a pit, while liberals fight over what 'memorial' to put up--just rebuild the buildings a foot higher! A very simple solution, yet self-hating liberals are incapable of managing even that!"
Yep, "simple solution." You conservatives take care of your own, don't you? Yep, you know what's important. Businesses. Not human life, not homes.

"There's the media reality, and then there's the real reality. The media reality isn't real. Real reality is what's in America, and Americans need to realize that real reality is more real than the media reality and stop believing that the media reality is real."
Dang, Rush, what would we do if we didn't have you around to help clear THAT up?

I nearly asked the driver to change the channel, but he could barely understand me when I gave him the address. (So I'm hoping he didn't understand what that loudmouth was talking about on the radio--Rush really does do nothing but yell. The guy needs to learn to vary his tone. It's almost as bad as monotone, in a way. Instead of "Bueller?....Bueller?..." it's "BUELLER! BUELLER, DAMN IT!" nonstop.)

Anyway, I finally escaped when we returned to Gewirz. Thus ended my 30 minute visit to Rushland.

Excuse me, friends, I feel the need for a shower.
And perhaps a very stiff drink. With a side of Tums.

Conclusion: Rushie, my boy--you are SO full of shit.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

More Renaissance Faire...

My friend Julie Anne and I travelled to the Maryland Renaissance Faire today (yes, "again," that Faire is big enough for fans to traverse it every weekend for the entire two months of its run and always fine new things to do.)

Today, I was on a quest--to find Faire garb of my very own so I could stop bumming bodices, blouses, and skirts from my girlfriends. As you see from the picture, I was most successful.

On the right, Julie Anne peeks over my shoulder as we take a break in the White Hart Tavern (that's her beer. I swear it is. What?!) for some rest and shade and the delightful sounds of our favorite Renaissance Faire band, the Pyrates Royale (that's them in the background).

Today I dined upon beef stew in a bread bowl (luscious, even in the heat), macaroni and cheese on a stick (deep-fried. Apply directly to your arteries--but die happy. That stuff was GOOD!) and a cone of mini-cookies and ice cold milk. Also filched an obscene number of thick chipped fried potatoes from Julie Anne (but I paid her back with two slabs of my fried mac'n'cheese.)

The Pyrates Royale are always a terrific show, but today, my favorite act was Wolgemoot (the pic on the left), a group of pipers, string-players (no idea what you call that instrument second from the left), and drummers whose performance is as funny as their music is heart-racing. Wish I could describe it. You can't help but clap or get up and dance.

I said it last week and I'll say it again this week--and probably next Sunday and the weekend after that...and the next...and the next...

If you happen to be within driving distance of Annapolis, Maryland between now and the end of October, pay the Renaissance Faire a visit. You will find yourself in another world where men kiss your hand, merchants say "g'day," and you find yourself dropping a curtsey as Henry VIII and Jane Seymour pass by. (Well, okay, there are stupid teenagers who prance around with bare midriffs and fairy wings, but that can't be avoided.)

Everything is beautiful; it's an exercise in decadence. You'll love every minute of it.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

I Wonder: Is Patience A Virtue Or Not?

Either way, I don't have it.

Just been reflecting: I am NOT a patient person. At all. For better or worse, I want it all NOW, be it answers to question, knowledge of the future, money, or candy. I hate waiting. I hate being kept waiting.

On one hand, I'm about to start rehearsals for Cabaret, and continue my weekend trips to Renaissance Faire, but on the other hand...I'm looking at apartments in Orlando online. I haven't had a place of my own in over five years--I want to move NOW!

To hell with law school, I'm tired of being a student, I want to start my job NOW!

I want to find that perfect Renaissance bodice and start putting my own Faire costume together--NOW!

Just call me Veruca Salt (preferably not the Tim Burton version, thank you.)

Well, no, maybe not Veruca anymore. I can keep my mouth shut about wanting most things, but inside, I'm a mass of stress and turmoil. I want my desire, I want my answers, I want whateverthehell I want...NOW.

Nothing frustrates me more than not being able to get answers as soon as I want them. Even if there's nothing I can really do about it--or if diplomacy, tact, and just plain common sense demand that I hold my peace.

I want to know how Harry Potter book seven ends--NOW!
I want to know if he's interested in me--NOW!
I want to know what my grade on my summer paper is--NOW!
I want to know how the story ends--NOW!
I want to know who, what, where, why, and how--RIGHT BLOODY NOW!

Guess I'm just an "instant gratification" kind of girl.

Can't be a good thing for a lawyer, being this impatient. Writing helps me bide time when I'm waiting for something--anything--so that's good. Usually I can handle waiting for material things; it's the answers to questions that drive me the most crazy. I thought I was going to go bonkers waiting to find out if I'd landed a job offer.

This concludes my self-exploratory ramble. I think I need to go to bed.

In The Wake of Katrina...

Below are links to some especially good articles, columns, and op-eds that I think are worth reading about what people are learning from the Katrina crisis. I'm doing my best to include material that I don't necessarily agree with, but that is well-thought-out. I'll be adding to it as more good stuff comes up.

The Nagin Interview: A transcript of an interview with New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, September 2nd.

The "Stuff Happens" Presidency: Washington Post columnist Harold Meyerson discusses the failings of the Bush administration's philosophies, organization, and execution in the context of Katrina. (Requires free registration with the Post Online, but well worth it.)

Partisan Squabble or Dereliction of Duty?: Another Post column on whether the reaction to Katrina is about politics or accountability.

Homeowner Associations Say Evacuee Families Not Welcome: And in my hometown newspaper, no less.

The Much-Circulated "Guardian" Article: About the failures of preparation efforts.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Methinks Thou Art Quite Two-Faced, Master Goldberg.

M'dear old friend Lee Goldberg began a post that I quite agree with--about the familial inclination toward ignorance of American poverty and suffering that runs rampant among the stinking rich and sleazy Bushes.

Naturally, as political discussions are wont to do, the conversation takes a turn for the heated. But well-meaning people can believe different things very strongly and disagree, right?

So Lee decides to moderate:

I've deleted some nasty messages between individual commentators. I know it's a heated issue, but please, let's keep it civil.

Funny, fanfiction is a heated issue too--moreso on Lee's blog--but Lee never once deleted nasty messages between individual commentators, even when there were four-letter words being delivered and extremely creative epithets being used to describe fanwriters.

Oh, the irony.

I wouldn't be irked if Lee allowed unmoderated mudslinging in all discussions, and I certainly don't dispute his "right" to do whatever the hell he wants on his own blog...just doesn't reflect particularly well upon him.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

On A Happier Note...

I took some time off this weekend to attend the Maryland Renaissance Faire. Anyone who enjoys Societies for Creative Anachronism or historical festivals of any kind should definitely make it to this one. In Annapolis, Maryland, it is a marvelous experience out in the wooded countryside (no sunburn, despite the heat), to peruse dozens of shops containing every period craft and ware you could desire, games such as axe-throwing and knife-throwing competitions or Jacob's Ladder (real women do it in skirts!), enough food to break both your diet and your budget in a single weekend (I particularly recommend the pork chop on a stick--or "pig on a twig" as they called it--and the chocolate-covered cheesecake), and the opportunity to play a sophisticated version of dress-up with adults and kids alike. The music was also superb; my favorite was a group called The Pyrates Royale who specialized in sea chanties.

(That's me in green in front of Henry VIII, and my friend Julie Anne, a many-time Faire-goer, escorting me through the place on her first run. That's Jane Seymour behind her. I gather that Anne Boleyn was Queen of the Faire last year, but she "wasn't available" this year. Ouch.)

Being the sibling of a costume designer, I have always loved period clothing. My costume today is entirely hand-made, loaned to me from Julie Anne and my friend Jen, who isn't in the picture but also introduced me to Faire. Both of those talented costumers are on the Georgetown Gilbert & Sullivan Society with me. Since I can't sew to save my life, I plan to buy a period bodice of my own in the near future.

Nothing like an artifice-narrowed waist, a full skirt, and flowers in your hair to make a gal feel beautiful. (Being kissed on the hand multiple times in one day by men in tights and/or kilts doesn't hurt either.)

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Blog For Relief Day.

Go here, register your blog, and pick a charity to advertise.

My pick:

America's Second Harvest
They are a food bank, one of the largest, oldest, and finest in the country.


Tonight, the Georgetown Gilbert & Sullivan Society is holding our fall semester Cabarette variety show, to recruit new members and promote the group for our upcoming auditions.

Our tip jar will raise money for Katrina relief.