cahwyguy: (Default)

denialuserpic=tallitOn Sunday, October 9th, the Men of TAS (in lieu of our usual meeting) are going to see the new movie Denial, based on Dr. Deborah Lipstadt‘s book, “History on Trial” [Note that this particular meeting is open to everyone]. This book is about  Dr. Lipstadt’s trial in the UK when the Holocaust Denier David Irving sued her for libel. I was a student of Dr. Lipstadt’s when I was at UCLA (I was the only one turning in papers printed via nroff(1) off the Diablo 1620 in the CS Department); as such, I feel it is important to see this movie and have a discussion. Note that this discussion is taking place just before the 2nd presidential debate.

As I’ve read the book, I’ve come up with the following discussion questions. I’m curious if you have others:

  • When reading this book, I was struck by a number of parallels between the issues raised in the trial, and this year’s election season. What parallels do you see?
  • Is it ever right to distort facts for a particular purpose?
  • What is the importance of fact checking, and how much room is there for the interpretation of facts? We have seen much of that this election season — from both sides — where the claim is made in the past that they supported some thing or position, and yet evidence is quickly found showing the opposite, to which the candidate provides a spin to justify their original claim. (Trump Example; Clinton Example). How is this fact checking similar to that presented in the Irving trial?
  • Is there a distinction between proving the truth, and proving that someone is lying about the truth?
  • When building your overall assessment of an individual and their viewpoints, which has greater import: isolated past incidents, or continual patterns of behavior?
  • When is it right to speak up, and when is it right to stay silent in the face of denial of history?
  • Is it right to deny history for political reasons? An example of this is the Armenian Genocide in the face of the Turks, where there has been hesitation to publicly acknowledge that genocide because of the relationship with Turkey. Does political expediency ever trump history?
  • What is the relationship between the denial of history, and the denial of science? Does the notion of convergence of the evidence differ between history and science?
  • How might one balance convergence of the evidence and belief? Are there any parallels between those who believe in the literal interpretation of the Bible (such as those who have built the ark museum or fight creationism) and the denial of history?
  • What lesson does this trial teach about fighting conspiracy theories, especially those theories that include the media as part of the conspiracy?
  • When you are part of a team effort, when is it the right thing to do to suppress your desire to do it your way and go along with the remainder of the team?
  • This trial ended over 10 years ago, yet antisemitism remains active? In what ways do you see antisemitism today? How do you battle it?
  • Is there antisemitism present in this year’s election (for example, this or this)? Are any of these claims similar to the claims that Irving attempted while on the stand?
  • In the book, Dr. Lipstadt edited it to ensure that antisemitism was always referred to without the hyphen. Why do you think she did that?
  • Currently, the repeated efforts of the supporters of BDS (Boycott, Divest, Sactions) movement against Israel are in the news? What is the relationship between anti-Zionism and antisemitism? Does the denial of history have any connection to the arguments of the anti-Zionists? There are some paragraphs in the conclusion of the book that note that various Palestinian leaders, over time, have either denied — or have at least publicly doubted — the extent of the Holocaust.
  • Are there other instances you can recall where the reality of significant Jewish history has been denied? How has it been combated?
  • The closing paragraph of the book is: “We must conduct an unrelenting fight against those who encourage — directly or indirectly — others to [deny history]. But, even as we fight, we must not imbue our opponents with a primordial significance. We certainly must never attribute our existence to their attacks on us or let our battle against them because our raison d’etre. And as we fight them, we must dress them — or force them to dress themselves — in the jester’s costume. Ultimately, our victory comes when, even as we defeat them, we demonstrate not only how irrational, but how absolutely pathetic, they are.” Are you aware of any deniers of history today, and are they viewed as statesmen or jesters? What does how we view such individuals say about how society has changed since the Irving trial?

You can learn more details on the meeting by visiting this page, and clicking on the October flyer (or clicking the flyer to the right). Here’s the description of the movie:

Based on the acclaimed book “Denial: Holocaust History on Trial”, DENIAL recounts Dr. Deborah Lipstadt’s (Academy Award ® winner Rachel Weisz) legal battle for historical truth against David Irving (BAFTA nominee Timothy Spall), who accused her of libel when she declared him a Holocaust denier. In the English legal system, in cases of libel, the burden of proof is on the defendant, therefore it was up to Lipstadt and her legal team, led by Richard Rampton (Academy Award® nominee Tom Wilkinson), to prove the essential truth that the Holocaust occurred.

Additionally, here’s a preview of the notion of Holocaust defense in the movie, and how Dr. Lipstadt taught the lead actress to sound like a Jewish woman from Queens. That, of course, leads to the question of whether there is such a thing as the American Jewish accent, but that’s a question for another day.

This entry was originally posted on Observations Along The Road (on cahighways.org) as this entry by cahwyguy. Although you can comment on DW, please make comments on original post at the Wordpress blog using the link below; you can sign in with your LJ, FB, or a myriad of other accounts. There are currently comments on the Wordpress blog. PS: If you see share buttons above, note that they do not work outside of the Wordpress blog.

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denialuserpic=tallitOn Sunday, October 9th, the Men of TAS (in lieu of our usual meeting) are going to see the new movie Denial, based on Dr. Deborah Lipstadt‘s book, “History on Trial” [Note that this particular meeting is open to everyone]. This book is about  Dr. Lipstadt’s trial in the UK when the Holocaust Denier David Irving sued her for libel. I was a student of Dr. Lipstadt’s when I was at UCLA (I was the only one turning in papers printed via nroff(1) off the Diablo 1620 in the CS Department); as such, I feel it is important to see this movie and have a discussion. Note that this discussion is taking place just before the 2nd presidential debate.

As I’ve read the book, I’ve come up with the following discussion questions. I’m curious if you have others:

  • When reading this book, I was struck by a number of parallels between the issues raised in the trial, and this year’s election season. What parallels do you see?
  • Is it ever right to distort historical facts for a particular purpose?
  • What is the importance of fact checking, and how much room is there for the interpretation of facts? We have seen much of that this election season — from both sides — where the claim is made in the past that they supported some thing or position, and yet evidence is quickly found showing the opposite, to which the candidate provides a spin to justify their original claim. (Trump Example; Clinton Example). How is this fact checking similar to that presented in the Irving trial?
  • Is there a distinction between proving the truth, and proving that someone is lying about the truth?
  • When building your overall assessment of an individual and their viewpoints, which has greater import: isolated past incidents, or continual patterns of behavior?
  • When is it right to speak up, and when is it right to stay silent in the face of denial of history?
  • Is it right to deny history for political reasons? An example of this is the Armenian Genocide in the face of the Turks, where there has been hesitation to publicly acknowledge that genocide because of the relationship with Turkey. Does political expediency ever trump history?
  • What is the relationship between the denial of history, and the denial of science? Does the notion of convergence of the evidence differ between history and science?
  • How might one balance convergence of the evidence and belief? Are there any parallels between those who believe in the literal interpretation of the Bible (such as those who have built the ark museum or fight creationism) and the denial of history?
  • What lesson does this trial teach about fighting conspiracy theories, especially those theories that include the media as part of the conspiracy?
  • When you are part of a team effort, when is it the right thing to do to suppress your desire to do it your way and go along with the remainder of the team?
  • This trial ended over 10 years ago, yet antisemitism remains active? In what ways do you see antisemitism today? How do you battle it?
  • Is there antisemitism present in this year’s election (for example, this or this)? Are any of these claims similar to the claims that Irving attempted while on the stand?
  • In the book, Dr. Lipstadt edited it to ensure that antisemitism was always referred to without the hyphen. Why do you think she did that?
  • Currently, the repeated efforts of the supporters of BDS (Boycott, Divest, Sactions) movement against Israel are in the news? What is the relationship between anti-Zionism and antisemitism? Does the denial of history have any connection to the arguments of the anti-Zionists? There are some paragraphs in the conclusion of the book that note that various Palestinian leaders, over time, have either denied — or have at least publicly doubted — the extent of the Holocaust.
  • Are there other instances you can recall where the reality of significant Jewish history has been denied? How has it been combated?
  • The closing paragraph of the book is: “We must conduct an unrelenting fight against those who encourage — directly or indirectly — others to [deny history]. But, even as we fight, we must not imbue our opponents with a primordial significance. We certainly must never attribute our existence to their attacks on us or let our battle against them because our raison d’etre. And as we fight them, we must dress them — or force them to dress themselves — in the jester’s costume. Ultimately, our victory comes when, even as we defeat them, we demonstrate not only how irrational, but how absolutely pathetic, they are.” Are you aware of any deniers of history today, and are they viewed as statesmen or jesters? What does how we view such individuals say about how society has changed since the Irving trial?

You can learn more details on the meeting by visiting this page, and clicking on the October flyer (or clicking the flyer to the right). Here’s the description of the movie:

Based on the acclaimed book “Denial: Holocaust History on Trial”, DENIAL recounts Dr. Deborah Lipstadt’s (Academy Award ® winner Rachel Weisz) legal battle for historical truth against David Irving (BAFTA nominee Timothy Spall), who accused her of libel when she declared him a Holocaust denier. In the English legal system, in cases of libel, the burden of proof is on the defendant, therefore it was up to Lipstadt and her legal team, led by Richard Rampton (Academy Award® nominee Tom Wilkinson), to prove the essential truth that the Holocaust occurred.

Additionally, here’s a preview of the notion of Holocaust defense in the movie, and how Dr. Lipstadt taught the lead actress to sound like a Jewish woman from Queens. That, of course, leads to the question of whether there is such a thing as the American Jewish accent, but that’s a question for another day.

This entry was originally posted on Observations Along The Road (on cahighways.org) as this entry by cahwyguy. Although you can comment on DW, please make comments on original post at the Wordpress blog using the link below; you can sign in with your LJ, FB, or a myriad of other accounts. There are currently comments on the Wordpress blog. PS: If you see share buttons above, note that they do not work outside of the Wordpress blog.

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Apple in Honeyuserpic=tallitRosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, starts Sunday night. Thus, it’s time for my annual New Years message for my family, my real-life, Blog, LiveJournal, Dreamwidth, Google+, Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook friends (including all the new ones I have made this year), and all other readers of my journal:

L’Shana Tovah. Happy New Year 5777. May you be written and inscribed for a very happy, sweet, and healthy new year.

For those curious about Jewish customs at this time: There are a number of things you will see. The first is an abundance of sweet foods. Apples dipped in honey. Honey cakes. The sweet foods remind us of the sweet year to come. Apples in honey, specifically, express our hopes for a sweet and fruitful year. Apples were selected because in ancient times they became a symbol of the Jewish people in relationship to God. In Song of Songs, we read, “As the apple is rare and unique among the trees of the forest, so is my beloved [Israel] amongst the maidens [nations] of the world.” In medieval times, writes Patti Shosteck in A Lexicon of Jewish Cooking, apples were considered so special that individuals would use a sharp utensil or their nails to hand-carve their personal hopes and prayers into the apple skins before they were eaten. And the Zohar, a 13th-century Jewish mystical text, states that beauty – represented by God – “diffuses itself in the world as an apple.” With respect to the honey: honey – whether from dates, figs, or apiaries – was the most prevalent sweetener in the Jewish world and was the most available “sweet” for dipping purposes. And as for the biblical description of Israel as a land flowing with “milk and honey,” the Torah is alluding to a paste made from overripe dates, not honey from beehives. Still, enjoying honey at Rosh HaShanah reminds us of our historic connection with the Holy Land. Although the tradition is not in the Torah or Talmud, even as early as the 7th century, it was customary to wish someone, “Shana Tova Umetukah” (A Good and Sweet Year).
(Source: Reform Judaism Website)

Rosh Hashanah ImagesAnother traditional food is a round challah. Some say they it represents a crown that reflects our coronating God as the Ruler of the world. Others suggest that the circular shape points to the cyclical nature of the year. The Hebrew word for year is “shana,” which comes from the Hebrew word “repeat.” Perhaps the circle illustrates how the years just go round and round. But Rosh Hashana challahs are not really circles; they are spirals… The word “shana” has a double meaning as well. In addition to “repeat,” it also means “change”. As the year goes go round and round, repeating the same seasons and holidays as the year before, we are presented with a choice: Do we want this shana (year) to be a repetition, or do we want to make a change (shinui)? Hopefully, each year we make choices for change that are positive, and each year we will climb higher and higher, creating a spiritual spiral. The shape of the Rosh Hashana challah reminds us that this is the time of year to make those decisions. This is the time to engage in the creative spiritual process that lifts us out of the repetitive cycle, and directs our energies toward a higher end.
(Source: Aish Ha’Torah)

There are also apologies, for during the ten days starting Sunday evening, Jews examine their lives and see how they can do better. On Yom Kippur (starting the evening of October 11th), Jews apologize to G-d for their misdeeds during the past year. However, for an action against another person, one must apologize to that person.

So, in that spirit:

If I have offended any of you, in any way, shape, manner, or form, real or imagined, then I apologize and beg forgiveness. If I have done anything to hurt, demean, or otherwise injure you, I apologize and beg forgiveness. If I have done or said over the past year that has upset, or otherwise bothered you, I sincerely apologize, and will do my best to ensure it won’t happen again.

If you have done something in the above categories, don’t worry. I know it wasn’t intentional, and I would accept any apology you would make.

May all my blog readers and all my friends have a very happy, healthy, and meaningful new year. May you find in this year what you need to find in life.

This entry was originally posted on Observations Along The Road (on cahighways.org) as this entry by cahwyguy. Although you can comment on DW, please make comments on original post at the Wordpress blog using the link below; you can sign in with your LJ, FB, or a myriad of other accounts. There are currently comments on the Wordpress blog. PS: If you see share buttons above, note that they do not work outside of the Wordpress blog.

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userpic=socialmediaOver the weekend, I had the occasion to get into a… discussion… on a post from a Facebook friend. During this… discussion… I was chastised for not being aware of all the context from previous posts by this friend on the subject. Another person commenting on the same post was chastised for intruding on a safe space in a problematic way, and a friend of mine was chastised for chiming in. Thinking back on this, I think the following reminders should be made:

  • Facebook is not a safe space, even if your post is “friends only”. Often, although the post might be friends only, Facebook makes the response visible transitively to friends of friends, meaning your post may inadvertently have a much wider audience than you expect.
  • Facebook does not present all past posts, and not always in sequential order. You cannot assume that anyone commenting on your post has any context at all. Whether they have seen your past posts depends not only on whether they have settings to show “most recent posts”, but how popular your posts are, how often they read your and linger on your posts, and many algorithmic factors.

The upshot to this is that you should not assume anything on Facebook is safe or private, and particularly, you cannot assume that your wall and your posts are safe spaces. Similar warnings apply to venues such as Tumblr and Twitter, where again you can’t always control who sees what you write. Warnings also apply to traditional Blogging, such as WordPress sites, where you can only restrict things through password protected posts.

If you want truly safe spaces, you should go “old school”. I’m not referring to pen and paper, although that can be safer. I’m referring to venues from the last decade, such as Livejournal and Dreamwidth, where you can restrict journals to friends or a subset of friends, where transitive accessibility is limited, and where you can have assurance that all posts are shown in sequential order. Further, on services such as Livejournal/Dreamwidth, you can have sticky warnings and FAQs at the top of your journal, and links to your rules. That’s difficult in Facebook — even if you do a group (where you can have a sticky post at the top), people reading on their wall may not see it.

Remember: the Internet, and especially social media, was not designed with privacy in mind. Especially if you are getting a service for free, you are often the product that is being sold, not the customer. It was also not designed to protect you — especially if you are sensitive to slights (intentional or otherwise), not everyone may know your warnings, and not everyone may be protected from posting. No where is that truer than Facebook or on Google, where everything you write is scanned for advertising potential, and it is easy to not see everything.

This entry was originally posted on Observations Along The Road (on cahighways.org) as this entry by cahwyguy. Although you can comment on DW, please make comments on original post at the Wordpress blog using the link below; you can sign in with your LJ, FB, or a myriad of other accounts. There are currently comments on the Wordpress blog. PS: If you see share buttons above, note that they do not work outside of the Wordpress blog.

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Hunchback of Notre Dame (La Mirada)userpic=theatre_ticketsWhen you attend theatre, there are shows that transcend the good or the great to become exceptional — shows that have elements that leave you astonished at the quality of the theatre arts — that are the perfect melding of acting and creativity and words and music and that special sauce that become indelible in your memory. Last night’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame at the The La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts (FB), based on the Victor Hugo novel and the songs from the Disney Film, was one of those shows. This is a show you must see in this incarnation, for I have no idea if it will be done in this particular way again.

Coming into the show, the first thing I would say is: drop your expectations. This is not exactly the Victor Hugo novel. It is definitely not the Disney film, although it retains the songs by Stephen Schwartz and Alan Menken. It retains some notions of the Disney adapation, although all cutesy humor has been dropped, along with the happy ending (it roughly retains the ending of the original). It is not the 1999 German musical version with a book by James Lapine — there are significant changes in the story there. It is based on the 2014 production at the La Jolla playhouse and the 2015 Paper Mill Playhouse version of the show (with a revised book by Peter Parnell) but even then there are some changes from that version. The seeds of this particular production were sown at the Sacramento Music Circus earlier in August 2016, and many of the cast members from that production are in this production.

Given the complexity of the story, I’m going to refer you to the Wikipedia entry on the Paper Mill Production for the detailed synopsis. The story focuses on the Frollo brothers, Claude and Jehan, and their legacy. Given salvation in the Cathedral of Notre Dame as infants, they are raised in the church. Jehen  rebels and marries a Gypsy woman; Claude continues in the church and rises to Archdeacon, ever resenting the Gypsys for stealing his brother from him. On his deathbed, Jehan summons Claude and presents him with Jehan’s son, a deformed infant. Claude raises the boy, whom he has named Quasimodo, in the church, keeping him away from everyone in the bell tower (where he goes deaf from ringing bells). Quasimodo’s only friends are the stone gargoyles, who come to life and speak to him in his imagination. Once a year, the Gypsies are allowed to dance in the street; Quasimodo goes out that day and is crowned King of the Gypsies, and then taunted for his looks. The palace guards stop the taunting, and a gypsy woman, Esmerelda, comforts Quasimodo. She visits the church to see him, where Claude develops a lustful attraction for her. So does the captain of the guards. You can see the tragedy set in motion from that point, so I’ll leave it there. Suffice it to say that this doesn’t end well for everyone in the end (do Hugo’s novels ever do?).

What makes this production extra special is a conceit from director Glenn Casale (FB). Noting that the description of the story indicates that Quasimodo has gone deaf from ringing the bellw, he cast a deaf actor (John McGinty (FB)) as Quasimodo. Taking a que from the Deaf West Theatre Company (FB), he cast a different actor, Dino Nicandros (FB), as Quasimodo’s singing voice. He then incorporated ASL (American Sign Language) into the production: the gargoyles sign to Quasimodo as they sing with him; and McGinty signs as Nicandros sings. Note that I said that Nicandros is Quasimodo’s singing voice. When Quasimodo speaks to anyone else, it is McGinty (who is clearly deaf from his voice) speaking. This includes dialogue with both Frodo and Esmerelda. Essentially, the songs are a manifestation of Quasimodo’s thoughts, where in his head he can speak and be normal. The addition of the ASL brings that extra oomph, that extra poetry to the production, that extra magic. I truly hope that the Ovation voters see this show — McGinty is clearly deserving for this remarkable performance (and the emotion that Nicandros brings to the singing is truly special).

Also notable is McGinty’s transition. When the adult Quasimodo is introduced in the story, McGinty walks onstage as the handsome, non-deformed young man that he is. His singing voice hands him his outfit, and has he puts it on he transforms his hair, face, and posture to become the deformed Quasimodo. At the end of the show, the opposite transition occurs: McGinty removes his coat, straightens up, and becomes the handsome young man again. This reinforces the central question of this show: What makes a man a monster? Is it their looks, or their behavior? Who is the monster in the Hunchback of Notre Dame? [I’ll note that this is a very similar question to the one raised in Schwartz’s hit musical Wicked — are people born wicked, or do they become that way? Apply that same question here: Whoever you conclude was the monster — were they born that way, or did they become that way?]

But there are other performances that are spot on as well; this is not just a one-hunchback show. Particularly notable is the performance of Mark Jacoby as Dom Claude Frollo. The intensity that this man brings to this role is remarkable, especially in songs such as “Hellfire”. The character itself brought to me echos of Donald Trump in his reactions to immigrants, his anger, and his desire to keep the world safe and simple as he knows it. That echo is not intentional in the story, of course, but does make this story truly relevant to this year when we consider what makes a candidate human or a monster — the question of compassion vs. anger. But I disgress into the political; however, that’s what a great performance and great theatre can do. It can start you thinking, and finding the relevance of the classic stories to life today. By creating that echo in his performance, Jacoby adds to the exceptionalism of this production. He does what great acting does: transforms the act of an actor playing a character to an actor inhabiting and channeling the character, bringing a creation on the page to life on the stage. The leads here do that: McGinty/Nicandros and Jacoby certainly do.

The catalyst in this story, Esmerelda, is portrayed by Cassie Simone (FB). Unlike the other gypsies in the show who tend to be painted with a broad brush, Simone’s Esmerelda is deeper. Of course, she exhibits sexuality but not by the mere exposure of skin (in fact, the costuming of this production tends to keep the female gypsies relatively covered up). Her sexuality comes across in style, in movement, in dance, in attitude and in looks. In particular, what I think makes Simone’s Esmerelda particular attractive is she is not like the other gypsy woman: she has a mind of her own and an attitude of her own and she won’t let anyone tell her or force her to do something that she doesn’t want to do. That’s particularly sexy in a woman, although many woman fail to realize that. Simone has figured a way to bring that to her part through performance, again transcending the words on the page to inhabit a character on the stage. Remarkable singing, remarkable dancing, remarkable performance.

One other named performance is particularly worthy of note: Eric Kunze (FB) as Capt. Phoebus De Martin — the other man who is interested in Esmerelda, the man who is more interested in pleasure than policing, the man who gives up position to protect Esmerelda. Kunze gave a very handsome performance — by that I mean he upheld the tradition of some of his past roles, being the man who does the right thing and wins the girl (although that doesn’t quite happen here — remember, I said this was darker than the Disney musical). Kunze had a great singing voice and brought a good presence to the role.

The remaining named non-ensemble role was Keith A. Bearden (FB) as Clopin Trouillefou, the leader of the gypsies. He brought an interesting evil intensity to the role; there was something deeper in that role that was hinted at but not explored in the story. The other performance roles involved the ensemble, either in smaller named roles or as members of the congregation, as various gypsies, as the gargoyles and statues that talk to Quasimodo, and as townspeople, guards, and such. The talented ensemblists [named roles and positions noted] were Darian Archie (FB); Brandon Burks (FB); Doug Carfrae (FB) [Father Dupin (he is also Western Regional VP of Actors Equity], Cherrie Badajos Cruz (FB); Emily Dauwalder (FB); Rachel Farr (FB); Lance Galgon (FB) [King Louis XI]; Hannah Madeline Goodman (FB); Devon Hadsell (FB) [Florika, Dance Captain]; William Martinez (FB) [Lieutenant Frederic Charlus, ASL Captain]; Kevin McMahon (FB) [Saint Aphrodisus]; Shanon Mari Mills (FB) [Madame]; Dino Nicandros (FB) [Voice of Quasimodo]; Shannon Stoeke (FB) [Jehan Frollo, Fight Captain]; Stephanie Thiessen (FB); and Paul Zelhart/FB.  I was particularly happy to see Devon Hadsell (FB) again — we still remember her performance in Lysistrata Jones; Shanon Mari Mills (FB), who we saw at Cabrillo; Rachel Farr (FB), who we saw in Carrie; and Shannon Stoeke (FB), who we saw at the Pasadena Playhouse.

This production was unusual in that it featured an on-stage non-acting choir — almost a church choir — that amplified the songs both in intensity and sound. The choir was under the management of Sean Gabel (FB), and consisted of Christopher M. Allport (FB), Stephen Amundson/FB, Brandon Banda/FB, Amy Lynne Bandy/FB, Emma Bradley/FB, Jennifer Cannon/FB, Emily Columbier/FB, Eric M. Davis/FB, Kimberly Fedderoff/FB, Nicolette Gamboa (FB), Kevin Gasio (FB), Kelsey Hamann/FB, Wendy Hinkle/FB, Grant Hodges/FB, Claire Marshall, Joey Nestra (FB), Madison Osment, Jessica Ordaz/FB, Laura Peake/FB, Stephanie Phillips/FB, Levi Ray Roldan/FB, Nathan Shube, Mikayla Thrasher, Elder Timbol/FB, Katie Toussaint/FB, Mitchell Turner/FB, Alejandro Andes Very, Ruthanne Walker/FB, Jennifer Wilcove (FB), Brandon Wilks/FB, and Rebecca Wilks/FB.

The 14 piece orchestra, under the direction of Dennis Castellano (FB) [Music Director and Conductor], contracted by Tim Christensen, provided a great sound with a depth that could literally be felt in the mid-balcony. The orchestra consisted of Robert Peterson [Violin 1, Concertmaster], Gerry Hilera (FB) [Violin 2], Sorah Myang [Viola], Mia Barcia-Colombo (FB) [Cello], Jeff Dirskill (FB) [Flute / Piccolo / Clarinet / Baritone Sax], Phil Feather (FB) [Oboe / English Horn / Clarinet / Alto Sax], Bob Carr [Bassoon / Clarinet / Bass Clarinet / Baritone Sax], Michael Stever (FB) [Trumpet / Piccolo Trumpet], Adam Bhatia (FB) [Trumpet / Flugelhorn], Charlie Morillas (FB) [Trombone / Bass Trombone / Euphonium], Stephanie O’Keefe (FB) [French Horn], Brian P. Kennedy [Keyboard 1 / Rehearsal Pianist], Peter Herz [Keyboard 2], and Mark Converse [Percussion].

The movement and choreography was under the control of Dana Solimando (FB) [whose domain listed in the program is empty]. Movement consisted of a vast variety, from gypsy dance to what is best referred to as liturgical movement. All was enjoyable to watch.

Turning to the remaining technical and creative credits. The scenic design by Stephen Gifford (FB) was…. towering. The stage consisted of a two level structure. The lower level served a number of purposes, both low (town square, church floor) and high (bell tower). The upper level housed the choir on each side, and provided an upper portion to the bell tower and an observation point for various characters. There were large bells that were lowered, and a grate that was likely wooden, but lowered with wonderful sound effects to create the illusion of metal (credit to Josh Bessom (FB)’s sound design in this area). There was also creative use of illusion, such as fabric to simulate molten lead, or non-fire fire effects such as torches, a pyre, and candles. The scenic design was supported by the lighting design of Jared A. Sayeg (FB), whose work we have seen before. I particularly noted the use of red mood establishing lighting not only during the fire scenes, but in songs such as “Hellfire”. The sound design of Bessom has been mentioned before; it is worth adding that the sound was relatively clear up in the balcony, although there were a few microphone crackles that could be addressed. The costumes by Marcy Froehlich (FB) were effective in creating the character; particularly good was the simply costume used to transform Quasimode from man to monster. Wigs and Hair and Makeup were by Katie McCoy/FB, and effectively created the characters from the distance of the balcony. Rounding out the credits: Julia Flores (FB) – Casting Director; John W. Calder III (FB) – Production Stage Manager; Jess Manning/FB – Assistant Stage Manager; David Elzer (FB) – Publicity. BT McNicholl (FB) – Producing Artistic Director; McCoy Rigby Entertainment (FB) – Executive Producers.

Before I close this off, I’d like to note that we met a delightful group of students from nearby Biola University, who were there as part of a theatre appreciation assignment. I applaud them for attending live performance — regular attendance at live performance is enhancing and uplifting for the soul in a way a movie just isn’t.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame continues at the The La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts (FB) through October 9th, and you should make every attempt you can to see it. This show will move you. Tickets are available through the La Mirada online box office, or by calling the La Mirada Box Office at 562-944-9801 or 714-994-6310, between 11am – 5:30pm Mon-Fri  and  12 noon – 4pm on Sat. Discount tickets may be available through the LA Stage Alliance or Goldstar (although right now, Goldstar looks sold out).

* * *

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB), the  Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB), and a mini-subscription at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB). We’re thinking of adding yet one more subscription: the Chromolume Theatre (FB) in the West Adams district. Their 2017 season looks great: Zanna Don’t (Tim Acito, January 13 – February 5), Hello Again (Michael John LaChiusa, May 5- May 28), and Pacific Overtures (Stephen Sondheim, September 15 – October 8) — all for only $60). Past subscriptions have included  The Colony Theatre (FB) (which went dormant in 2016), and Repertory East Playhouse (“REP”) (FB) in Newhall (which entered radio silence in 2016). Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals).  I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Upcoming Shows:  The first weekend of October (actually Sept. 30) brings Dear World at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB) and Our Town at Actors Co-op (FB), as well as the start of the High Holy Days. The second weekend has another Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB) event: this time for Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis. The third weekend has yet another VPAC event: An Evening with Kelli O’Hara on Friday, as well as tickets for Evita at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) on Saturday. The following weekend brings Turn of the Screw at Actors Co-op (FB) on October 22 and the new Tumbleweed Festival (FB) on October 23. The last weekend of October brings Linden Waddell’s Hello Again, The Songs of Allen Sherman at Temple Ahavat Shalom (a joint fundraiser for MoTAS and Sisterhood).

Allan Sherman Tribute Show at TASInterrupting this recap for a word from a sponsor: Linden Waddell’s Hello Again, The Songs of Allen Sherman at Temple Ahavat Shalom is open to the community, and is a joint fundraiser for MoTAS and Sisterhood. Please tell your friends about it. I’m Past President of MoTAS, and I really want this to be a success. Click on the flyer to the right for more information. It should be a really funny night.

Oh, and if that wasn’t enough, October is also the North Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), although I doubt if we’ll have time for any shows. November will bring Hedwig and the Angry Inch at  the Hollywood Pantages (FB); a Day Out With Thomas at Orange Empire Railway Museum (FB) [excuse me, “Southern California Railway Museum”]; the Nottingham Festival (FB); and possibly Little Women at the Chance Theatre (FB) in Anaheim. We still have some open weekends in there I may book. We close out the year, in December, with the CSUN Jazz Band at the Annual Computer Security Applications Conference (ACSAC), Amalie at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB), The King and I at the Hollywood Pantages (FB); an unspecified movie on Christmas day; and a return to our New Years Eve Gaming Party.

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, Musicals in LA, @ This Stage, Footlights, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves. Note: Although we can’t make it, I also recommend the 10th Anniversary Production of The Brain from Planet X at LACC. See here for the Indiegogo. Lastly, want to know how to attend lots of live stuff affordably? Take a look at my post on How to attend Live Theatre on a Budget.

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userpic=schmuckOne of my favorite adages is: “Never ascribe to malice what one can to stupidity.” Today, that applied to me.

Perhaps I should explain. Perhaps I shouldn’t — explain that is. Let me tell a story.

We have our lead character, let’s call him Edward J. Littlehazy. Ed is Jewish, caucasian, male, and does his best to be socially aware. He’s hip to terms like microagression. He supports #BlackLivesMatter, because he understands the implicit privilege that exists today in society, and that people like him have benefited from over time. He attempts to be sensitive in all his writings, and strives to listen and understand first, and not to resort to name calling or attacking the individual in discussions.

He is also, being Jewish, sensitized to antisemitism (and writes it as one word, to distinguish it from hatred of Semites in general). He has studied the subject, and is well aware of the terminology often used and abused in discussions. He is politically active on the liberal side of the spectrum (no surprise there), and is also sensitized to the growing desire of segments of the population to reinvent history to support their views. He’s a factual person.

This person made one mistake. He has a friend who is hypersensitized to privilege, agreession, and marginalization issues from a different aspect. That’s not the mistake — although he doesn’t always agree with this friend, he has learned from the discussions this friend has and the posts this friend makes. The mistake, was commenting on one of this friend’s posts, expressing how he interpreted the post slightly differently because of the words used; in fact, he saw the words excluding many dimensions of the issue, and using potential trigger terms.

For this, he was accused of a particularly bad behavior (“splain” is part of the accusation), and was said to be abusing his white privilege in commenting. When he asked to clarify what he had done wrong, more accusations arose related to privilege and belittling the original author.

Here’s where that adage comes in: Never ascribe to malice what one can to stupidity.

The author could have simply responded: “My intent was specifically not to be broad in the way you see it; I intended (describe narrow focus) for particular reason.” That, quite likely, would have ended the discussion by clarifying that the misreading was wrong. No malice. Just a stupid misreading.

But a particular intent was presumed. Again, mishandled by ascribing malice. Instead of saying someone had done some bad behavior and assuming it was obvious that it was intentional, there could have been an attempt to teach and clarify: By the way, were you aware that by wording your comment as xxx, it could come off as bad behavior because it could be interpreted as zzz. After a long back and forth, that particular explanation came out. The back and forth was unnecessary.

What’s the takeaway here? What can I learn from this? (and perhaps you, but I won’t explain how)

First, remember, never ascribe to malice what you can to stupidity.

Second, go into discussions to understand and discuss ideas; don’t attack the person. They may not know better. If someone mispeaks, gently educate them on how to say things better, not just how they were wrong. Remember the only useful thing from TQM: plusses and deltas. Let people know where they did good, and where they can improve.

Third, be aware not only of your own hypersensitivities, but of other’s sensitivities, when you talk to them.

Lastly, think twice before taking your dog for a walk in a minefield.

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userpic=oh-shitAs I sit here eating lunch and reading the headlines on Google News, I see the following:

newsimageCharlotte police shooting victim was armed with a gun, chief says after night of violent protests
Washington Post – ‎6 minutes ago‎
CHARLOTTE – The morning after violent protests erupted over the fatal police shooting of a black man, officials here called for peace while stressing that the man was armed and posing an “imminent deadly threat” when officers shot and killed him …

I’m reading the headline, and I’m thinking, “You know, most people will read this headline, think the killing was justified based on it, and not see what the protests are about.” Similarly, they’ll read about the shooting in Tulsa of the unarmed black man, learn that PCP was found in his trunk, and go “it was justified.”

Here’s why both of these are problems, and why they are illustrative of the divide in society that is captured in #BlackLivesMatter.

In the Charlotte incident, ask yourself: If the man who was shot was Hispanic, would the behavior of the officer have been the same? If he had been a white woman? If he had been a white man in a hoodie? If he had been a white man in a suit and tie? Quite likely — as is in the case of most police departments — the reaction of the officers would have been different. Therein is the problem. Police officers (and society at large) are bringing visible and invisible prejudices into situations, and those are coloring their reactions. As a result, the reaction is no longer based solely on the crime, on innocence or guilt, on clear danger, but on perceived danger, on fear not facts, on clothing and skin color and bias. The upshot of this is that being a person of color or being of lower socioeconomic status can cost you your life in a police situation even before real guilt or innocence is determined. That is something that is no longer acceptable today.

Similarly, whether or not there was PCP in the trunk is immaterial. Officers cannot see in the trunk. If the fellow who was shot was dressed like an investment banker or a lawyer, would the reaction have been the same, or would there have been hesitation. The difference in reaction is the problem; the reaction often comes from the internalized fear of “the other”, those beneath us in society, those for whom we have stereotypical tropes in our head.

Does the reaction happen the other way as well? What about those white officers who have been shot? I opine that in the opposite case, the only color that matters is the color of the uniform, not the skin. Those whom have been downtrodden by the police are having instinctive reactions to the uniform, and fighting back. Many analogies come to me.

So when you read about #BlackLivesMatter — and the opposite side of the issue, be it called #AllLivesMatter or White Racism or something else — think about the issue of hidden bias, and police who fear and overreact based on stereotypes, skin color, and status.

Oh, and by the way, this doesn’t mean that all police officers feel this way. Many — I’d go so far as to venture out on a limb and say a majority — go out of their way to avoid bias, and want to serve and protect everyone in their community. The problem is that a few bad apples have spoiled the entire bunch, and many people are scared to interact with a bushel of apples that may have one bad one in it (and so their reaction is to stomp them all).

When you see headlines such as this, ask yourself if hidden bias could have come into play. If it could, that may explain the reaction you see. Further, if you say that in this case, there may really have been a reason for the response, remember that the reaction of the community has been tainted by years and years and years of misbehavior. Until those policing us have a history of demonstrating color-and-bias blind policing, every action is suspect.

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I Love You Because (GTC - Red Brick Road)userpic=theatre_ticketsShortly after the Hollywood Fringe Festival, I read a review in the LA Post-Examiner about a production of I Love You, Because at the Hudson Theatre. I had heard the music from the show before (I have the CD), and wanted to see it; unfortunately, I just couldn’t fit it into my schedule before it closed. Luckily for me, I learned about a different production being produced by someone I knew from my Temple Beth Torah days that was opening in September. The show’s schedule and my schedule were able to mesh, and so last night we were out in Burbank to see the Red Brick Road Theatre Company† (FB) and Endeavor Theatre Ensemble’s production of the Cunningham and Saltzman musical “I Love You, Because” at the Grove Theatre Center.
[† Red Brick Road does have a website, however it is currently under construction and not yet uploaded. Eventually, you’ll find it here.]

I Love You, Because is a musical about… well, let me start by telling you what everyone says it is about. Everyone says — that is, it seems to be that every review of the show that you will read will say — it is a modern twist of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Now, I haven’t read Pride and Prejudice, but I have read the Wikipedia summary,  and I have difficulty seeing the purported connection. My advice: ignore that claimed aspect of the show, as it appears to be tenuous at best. Beside that, there are no zombies.

So what is I Love You, Because about. To me, it is a comedy squarely in the center of the off-Broadway subgenre of small cast comedies about finding love in New York. You know them: shows like First Date; Brownstone, The Musical; Five Course Love; I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change; I, Sing; Little Shop of Horrors… oh, right, no zombies. In any case, shows about some small number of couples seeing to find love through endless dating, finding Mr. Wrong, and then finding Mr. Right. I don’t know why they are always in New York — perhaps Gothamites are much worse at finding love, or perhaps Gothamites will only go see a show if it is about their city (whereas LA folks care about love in New York, perhaps New York doesn’t care about LA).

In any case, I Love You, Because is squarely in the “looking for love” genre of musicals. In this case, we have two young and beautiful gothamites: Austin and Marcy. Each has just been dumped by their long-term paramores. One, Marcy, would just like to move on, but her best friend Diana convinces her that she absolutely must wait the proper amount of rebound time. The other, Austin, wants to win back the love of his life, but his brother, Jeff, convinces him that he must go out and date again, for only then will the universe restore balance by bringing the woman that dumped him back. If you hadn’t realized it yet, both of the sidekicks are pretty cynical about love itself and neither has any realistic hope or want of finding a relationship. So the two sidekicks happen to set up a date with each other, and happen to bring along their best friends so they can meet and force the universe to do what they want.

The universe is perverse, so you can guess what happens.

That’s right, Austin and Marcy start seeing each other: her to have something to pass the rebound time with; him to have someone help him right the perfect poem to win his girl back. There’s no interest of the two in each other, as they are stereotypical opposes: he a straight-laced Republican; she a free-spirited Liberal. As I said, you can guess what happens; I probably shouldn’t spoil it too much.

As for the sidekicks, you can probably guess what happens there. After all, you’ve see Mike and Molly. That’s right: they become friends with benefits.

By now you can see where this is going, and anticipate where things will end up. There is a crisis at the end of Act I prompted by the profession of actual feelings; Act II serves to resolve those feelings and bring everything to a happen ending, with the help and lubrication of two nameless supporting cast members who serve various roles, including as bartenders and waitresses (something every actor in New York knows how to play well).

Overall, I found the story a bit sitcomish, but enjoyable and funny and cute. That may be because the characters were written a bit broadly. Others in the audience were guffawing and finding it hilarious throughout — I’m not that demonstrative, but there are some very cute bits.  There could be an age factor in this: the humor may hit even more to those who are closer to the modern dating world than I, an engineering type who married another engineering type and never really explored the dating scene (except with other mathematicians, scientists, and engineers).

Part of this could be due to the fact that this was an early work from the authors, Ryan Cunningham (Book and Lyrics) and Joshua Saltzman (Music). The team does not have a lot of musicals under their belt, and often the oeuvre of a team matures over their production span. In many ways, the lyrics and music were a bit stronger than the book itself. Many of the songs were very cute and the audience could relate to them. Good examples of this are “We’re Just Friends”, “Coffee”, and “That’s What’s Gonna Happen”. Of course, there is the very strong “The Actuary Song”, which makes one think of the heist planning in 70 Girls 70. On the other hand, there were some klunky-ish songs such as “…But I Don’t Want to Talk About Her”.

One thing that was notable here was the casting, for which there is no specific credit (so it was likely a combination of the director and the producers). Most productions of this show, judging by the cast pictures, tend to select a uniformly white, good looking, model-proportioned cast. This production was far from that. Of the three female cast members, two were on the fubsy side, the third was a person of color. The male side was a little less diverse, although that is understandable given two of the three characters are brothers. But it was truly a nice thing to see on the stage — especially as -ism based on size has been about the only -ism to remain common.

ETA: Photos from the production have been posted on the production’s Facebook page.

Let’s turn to this cast, under the direction of Carol Becker (FB). In the lead positions were Laura Bevilacqua/FB as Marcy and Nick Echols (FB) as Austin. Let’s start with the basics: I was smitten with Bevilacqua’s performance. She had a remarkable personality, a dazzling smile, wonderful expressions and reactions and an extremely strong singing voice that did not require the amplification that it had. She was just a joy to watch, especially when she wasn’t the center of the action and was just reacting. Echols seems to start out a bit stiffer (this was, after all, the second performance of the show) and to have some amplification problems, but as the show progressed he became a much warmer character and less of the stereotype he began as. (boy, that was a convoluted sentence).  One other thing worth noting was the size difference between the two: even in her heels, Bevilacqua was at least a head shorter than Echols. It was fun to watch them navagate around that.

In the sidekick tier, we had Kristen Bennett/FB as Diana and Matthew Ian Welch (FB) as Jeff. Bennett and Welch just seemed wrong for each other, yet the pairing work. No where else was this clearer than in the “We’re Just Friends” song, where the two are clearly having a load of fun. Bennett had a very strong gospel style voice, and Welch had an amazing baratone that just seemed to come from nowhere.

Rounding out the team in various character roles were Ali Deyer (FB) as the “NYC Women” and Tim Jim Lim/FB as the “NYC Men”.  I really liked Deyer — it was nice to see someone who was zaftig on stage where it wasn’t being played for the funny, but just as a normal character with a normal life. Deyer also had a strong singing voice. I was less crazy about Lim — his characterizations were a bit over the top and at times bordered on the stereotypical; I was also not enamored of his singing voice, which was a bit weaker than the other two men in the cast. Lainie Pahos (FB) was the understudy for Marcy/Diana.

The on-stage musicians were under the musical direction of Stephanie Deprez (FB), who was on stage playing as much as the actors (she was a hoot to watch). The “orchestra” consisted of Betsi Freeman (FB) (Piano), Glenn Ochenkoski (Drums), Mark Corradetti (FB) (Bass), and Jeff Kroeger (Keyboard). Choreography was by Liza Barskaya (FB) and worked pretty well given the space — again, I particularly enjoyed it on the “We’re Just Friends” number.

Turning to the production and creatives side. The set design by Carmi Gallo was reasonable: it didn’t give a strong sense of New York other than the pictures hanging on the wall; additionally, there was this odd red LED shape at the back that would turn on occasionally. It was unclear what that was meant to convey; hence, it served primarily to distract. Properties design was by Rebecca Kahn/FB, and they worked reasonable well — especially all of the fruity drinks and such. The sound design from Jay Lee was problematic: there was bad balance between the actors and the music; in that size space, the music needs to be toned down and the actors — especially these actors — do not require much amplification. As it was, it was a bit overpowering. The lighting design by Robert Davis conveyed the proper sense of mood and time, and thus worked well. The costume designs by Christine Macedo were strong — I particularly enjoyed the costumes on the lead actress (remember, I said I was smitten); all conveyed that sense of New York design that doesn’t work as well in LA :-). Rounding out the production credits were: Becky Murdoch/FB, Assistant Director; Owen Panno (FB), Stage Manager (who didn’t recognize us from the many years ago where we frequented TDWA in Northridge with all the Nobel grads); and Emily Mae Heller (FB) and Betsi Freeman (FB), Producers.

I Love You, Because continues at the Grove Theatre Center (FB) through October 2nd. Tickets are available through Brown Paper Tickets; they do not appear to be up on Goldstar. I found it a fun and cute show — not deep, but fun — and a nice way to pass the evening.

* * *

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB), the  Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB), and a mini-subscription at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB). We’re thinking of adding yet one more subscription: the Chromolume Theatre (FB) in the West Adams district. Their 2017 season looks great: Zanna Don’t (Tim Acito, January 13 – February 5), Hello Again (Michael John LaChiusa, May 5- May 28), and Pacific Overtures (Stephen Sondheim, September 15 – October 8) — all for only $60). Past subscriptions have included  The Colony Theatre (FB) (which went dormant in 2016), and Repertory East Playhouse (“REP”) (FB) in Newhall (which entered radio silence in 2016). Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals).  I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Upcoming Shows:  The last weekend in September brings The Hunchback of Notre Dame at The La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts (FB). October is a bit more booked. The first weekend brings Dear World at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB) and Our Town at Actors Co-op (FB), as well as the start of the High Holy Days. The second weekend has another Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB) event: this time for Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis. The third weekend has yet another VPAC event: An Evening with Kelli O’Hara on Friday, as well as tickets for Evita at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) on Saturday. The following weekend brings Turn of the Screw at Actors Co-op (FB) on October 22 and the new Tumbleweed Festival (FB) on October 23. The last weekend of October brings Linden Waddell’s Hello Again, The Songs of Allen Sherman at Temple Ahavat Shalom (a joint fundraiser for MoTAS and Sisterhood).

Allan Sherman Tribute Show at TASInterrupting this recap for a word from a sponsor: Linden Waddell’s Hello Again, The Songs of Allen Sherman at Temple Ahavat Shalom is open to the community, and is a joint fundraiser for MoTAS and Sisterhood. Please tell your friends about it. I’m Past President of MoTAS, and I really want this to be a success. Click on the flyer to the right for more information. It should be a really funny night.

Oh, and if that wasn’t enough, October is also the North Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), although I doubt if we’ll have time for any shows. November will bring Hedwig and the Angry Inch at  the Hollywood Pantages (FB); a Day Out With Thomas at Orange Empire Railway Museum (FB) [excuse me, “Southern California Railway Museum”]; the Nottingham Festival (FB); and possibly Little Women at the Chance Theatre (FB) in Anaheim. We still have some open weekends in there I may book. We close out the year, in December, with the CSUN Jazz Band at the Annual Computer Security Applications Conference (ACSAC), Amalie at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB), The King and I at the Hollywood Pantages (FB); an unspecified movie on Christmas day; and a return to our New Years Eve Gaming Party.

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, Musicals in LA, @ This Stage, Footlights, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves. Note: Although we can’t make it, I also recommend the 10th Anniversary Production of The Brain from Planet X at LACC. See here for the Indiegogo. Lastly, want to know how to attend lots of live stuff affordably? Take a look at my post on How to attend Live Theatre on a Budget.

 

This entry was originally posted on Observations Along The Road (on cahighways.org) as this entry by cahwyguy. Although you can comment on DW, please make comments on original post at the Wordpress blog using the link below; you can sign in with your LJ, FB, or a myriad of other accounts. There are currently comments on the Wordpress blog. PS: If you see share buttons above, note that they do not work outside of the Wordpress blog.

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userpic=tortuga-heuvosIt’s the weekend. Time to clean out the list of links that never quite jelled into a theme. Let’s see what we’ve got here:

  • Ah, So That’s What It Looks Like. As they say, start with the sex and draw them in. Driving home from a recent vacation, we were listening to the excellent new Gimlet podcast, Science Vs — and this time, it was Science Vs. “The G Spot”. You know you want to listen to it, so I’ll wait. (taps foot) One of the things discussed in the episode is that, unlike the male organ which is (ahem) out in front, the bulk for the female equivalent is hidden, and we only see the tip. Well wonder no more: Here’s a three-dimensional model of the clitoris. (yes, it is SFW) It shows the organ is much more you see, and it explains why this notion of special spots is bunk — there’s all over sensitivity.
  • Lubricants. As we’re talking sex, we should be talking lubricants. Here’s an interesting article that explores the four basic types of lubricants, and what each is good for: oil, grease, penetrating lubricants, and dry lubricants. Hint: Don’t use penetrating lubricants with your partner, no matter what the name implies. On that part of the body, WD-40 is not your friend.
  • Unwrapping Your Present. What do you think the most popular Christmas or Chanukkah present is? I don’t know for sure, but the most popular birthday is September 16. Now, count back 9 months.
  • Knitting and Math. Perhaps you’re not into either sex or lubricants. You would rather knit. Cool. Here are six math concepts explained via knitting and crocheting. You too can knit a hyperbolic plane, a Lorenz manifold, cyclic groups, or a numerical progression.
  • When to get a Flu Shot. Perhaps all this talk of sex and knitting is making you sick. Could be the flu? Did you get your flu shot? They are out now. Here’s the best time to get one. Timing is everything. Some research shows that vaccines grow less effective over the course of one flu season. With the flu sometimes sticking around until spring, it’s then possible that those who get their shots early in the year will be left vulnerable at the end of a late season.
  • Ship Names. Continuing this tenuous theme, we all know what a submarine signifies. Now, what do Harvey Milk, Gabby Giffords, Sojourner Truth, Medgar Evers, Cesar Chavez, and John Lewis have in common. They are all names assigned to Navy ships of late. The choice of names, predictibly, has gotten some small-minded members of congress up in arms. I happen to like them.
  • No Dues. Another tenous link: what’s almost as risky as unprotected sex. How about deciding to go away from a tried and true funding model — such as synagogue dues — and asking people to pay what they want for the community. Yes, this happens; in fact,  a synagogue in Westlake Village has taken the leap to a no-dues model. Will it be successful. I hope so — I think it is the model of the future.
  • Hot Under the Collar. All this talk of sex has probably gotten you hot. You’re not the only one. The earth is heating up as well. Here’s a timeline of how the earth has been heating up.

 

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userpic=van-nuysThis collection of news chum has coalesced around the theme of Los Angeles — in particular, some well-known (or somewhat well-known) Los Angeles landmarks that are either gone or seemingly threatened… or coming back in different incarnations.

 

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userpic=chicken-and-eggHave you ever wondered where our clothing sizes come from? I’m not talking about sizes that are clearly measurements, such as waist size, but the more relative sizes: small, medium, large, extra (excuse me, “xtra”) large, and so on. What about women’s sizes, which aren’t even consistent from store to store? A number of articles this week have made me think about this subject, as well as the connection to a recent podcast on a similar subject.

Let’s talk about the podcast first. On a recent 99% Invisible (which looks at hidden aspects of design), an exploration was made of the history of the notion of the average, and especially the average in terms of sizing. It is well worth a listen (it is one of my favorite short podcasts). It points out how the first notion of average size was from a survey done of Scottish soldiers, which showed that the average chest size of these soldiers was 39 and three-quarters inches.  This was deemed as the ideal size, and shortly thereafter, the notion of being the average became the ideal.  Here’s an interesting quote from the transcript that explains where our notions of Small, Medium, and Large came from (Quetelet was the fellow that did the Scottish study):

Lincoln, after a series of losses to the Confederacy, realized he needed more information about the Union army. He ordered a massive study to assess the soldiers physically and mentally, and, in strict adherence to Quetelet’s science, calculated averages of just about everything. These averages began to inform the distribution of food rations, the design of weapons, even the fit of military uniforms.

Before the Civil War, uniforms were custom-sewn. In this war, however, such a massive number of people had to be outfitted that uniforms needed to be mass produced. But they couldn’t all be one floppy size. Soldiers were put into subtypes: large, medium, and small—classifications that eventually found their way to civilian clothing.

This study found its way to the Army, where in 1926, when the Army designed its first airplane cockpit, they measured the physical dimensions of male pilots and calculated the average measurement of their height, weight, arm-length and other dimensions. The results determined the size and shape of the seat, the distance to the pedals and the stick, and even the shape of the flight helmets. This mean that, in part, pilots were selected based on their ability to fit into the cockpit designed for the average 1920s man. This fell apart in WWII, when suddenly pilots were dying, and the cause eventually turned out to be: the average size aircraft. This led to the ability to adjust seats and wheels (which made its way to cars), into the study of ergometrics, and so forth.

So we now see that S M L XL came from Civil War measurements (to this very day), but what about women’s clothing. This brings us to the articles I saw this week:

  • The Average Sized American Woman. You would think, with the notion of S, M, L, and so forth, the average woman would be in the “regular” size clothes, probably on the order of and 8-10 (given the bottom of the range is 0-2, and by 14 you are into the euphemistic “plus size”). Think again: The average American woman is not a size 14 anymore. Size 14, which would likely be a L, being the average came from an outdated study. A new study published in August in the International Journal of Fashion Design, Technology and Education decided to create a more current report.What the study found was that size 14 is no longer accurate; the average American woman today is actually between a size 16 to 18.The authors of the study looked at recent data from the Center for Disease Control and compared it to the ASTM International body measurements for “misses” and “women’s plus-size” clothing for a sample of more than 5,500 women in the US who are at least 20 years old.The authors found that the average American woman’s waist circumference has increased 2.6″ (from 34.9″ to 37.5″) over the last 21 years, which accounts for the increase in clothing size. While 16-18 was the average size for all women, the study found that Black women in particular currently wear a size 18-20 on average.All this to say that the size-14 average is no longer accurate.  The average size is a plus size.
  • Plus Size Shopping Ain’t Easy. An interesting Vox opinion piece discusses the difficulty of plus size shopping. Its hypothesis is that the whole idea of “plus-size” clothes is outdated and degrading. It notes this weeks Washington Post op-ed by design guru Tim Gunn, where he blasted the fashion industry’s unwillingness to “make clothes to fit American women” — specifically plus-size women. This is because, despite the increase in size of the average American woman, many clothing designers and merchandisers still refuse to produce anything larger than a 12. Larger sizes are shuffled off into separate stores, separate departments (often physically separated from the rest of woman’s clothes). As the opinion author writes: “This is demoralizing for plus-size women — but it’s also one reason why clothes shopping can be so demoralizing for all women. We need women’s clothing sizes that make sense, and they shouldn’t be segregated into normal or plus or petite. Sizes should just be sizes.” I’m familiar with this first hand: for much of my married life, my wife has been plus sized, and I’ve seen this first hand (she’s gotten down to just below my weight, so she’s in the lower end of the range now). I’ve seen the segregation and the dearth of good looking clothes as she hunts to find something. There’s also some segregation for larger men, but it is no where near the shaming that goes on for women.
  • And Speaking of Fat Shaming… The last interesting article asks the question: Is it only acceptable to call out instances of “fat-shaming” when you’re not fat yourself? In other words, if an actress who is not visibly obese is called out for being “fat”, and she rails about the fat shaming nature of fans or the business, she goes viral. But if the same shaming occurs to a visibly obese woman, and she calls out the shaming, how is the obese woman regarded? Is she a hero? The opinion author writes: «So while stopping body-shaming is an admirable goal, we need to think beyond the individual level if we want to actually dismantle fatphobia and stop fat-shaming. And that includes supporting women of every size with the same enthusiasm we use to cheer when a size-6 celebrity charmingly dismisses a hater who calls her fat on Instagram. It means changing our responses from “But she’s not even fat!” to “It’s OK to be fat.”» Related to this, I’ll call your attention to a very interesting episode of the podcast This American Life from back in June, which explored the question of fat. In Act One of the podcast, Lindsey West talks about finding pride in her fat, and dealing with her boss and friend who decided to fat-shame women on his podcast. It is well worth a listen to see the impact of fat shaming and pride.

So how do we perceive the average? Do we assume — despite all the diversity in society in size, weight, shape, color, and everything else — that there is some sort special beauty in being “average”? Some benefit? You might say that there isn’t — after all, this isn’t like racism — but you would be wrong. Listen to Act Two of the This American Life previously mentioned. It demonstrates how people — especially women — are perceived differently when they lose weight. With recent dialogue, we’re well aware of the meaning of “white privilege”, and aware of the hidden discrimination that comes with being a person of color. But privilege and hidden discrimination isn’t just a skin color issue. It can go with nationality, it can go with religion, and yes, it can some with size. The links and stories above (as well as the remaining acts in the This American Life) are clear demonstrations of “average privilege” and size discrimination occurs in our society.

P.S.: After I posted this, a friend happened to post a link that is also relevant about the measurement known as BMI and why it is bullshit. I seem to recall one of the podcasts touching upon a similar notion — in particular, that BMI is as much a fallacy as the notion of an “average” size.

P.P.S.: Here’s another related link posted in the day-after window: 11 Reasons Your ‘Concern’ for Fat People’s Health Isn’t Helping Anyone. The article is about concern trolling – which is the act of a person participating “in a debate posing as an actual or potential ally who simply has concerns they need answered before they will ally themselves with a cause”. Interesting read in relation to the above and the fat shaming already going on in society.

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userpic=stressedIt has oft been said that in order to win an argument with someone, you need to understand where they are coming from. Some recent interactions have prompted some thoughts and insights that I think are applicable in understanding where those who are support Trump — namely, the white male contingent — are coming from.

I have a friend who is strongly into social justice. This friend is hyper-sensitive to privilege issues, to micro-aggression, and all the similar ilk. This friend is also active on the nets, and often writes about these issues. Through these discussions, I’ve become sensitized as well. I don’t always agree 100%, but that’s the nature of human thought; I respect this friend enough not to express any disagreement in their discussions.

Recently, however, I lapsed. I ventured into the dangerous waters and expressed an opinion that I thought was sensitive and in agreement (but slightly broader). I’m still smoking a little around the edges from the response. In thinking about this, I gained some insights.

There are things that we can easily change about ourselves: how we think, how we view society, how we interact with society. There are things about ourselves that can be changed with a little more effort, if we really want: our religion, our gender expression, our eye color, our hair color. Many of the things in this latter category are superficial changes — they may change how society perceives us, but may not change our internal perception. Basically, we’re just making the outside agree with the inside. Then there are things about us that we cannot change, such as our skin color, our ethnicity, our ancestry, the behavior of our ancestors. Attacking or disparaging someone simply because of a characteristic they cannot control is problematic. To put it another way: I happen to have been born a white male to a Jewish family. I can’t change that.

If you are like me — a white male — society has changed around you. You are often being criticized for something you cannot change. You did not create white privilege. You did not create the oppression that your ancestors may have done. You did not create the societal attitudes that were acceptable in the past but are unacceptable now. Although you may have taken advantage of the opportunities that society has provided, you didn’t specifically ask society to provide them to you. You just tried to live your life.

And what has happened to you. Everytime you turn around, you’re being blamed personally for the ills of society. You’re seeing ways that made you comfortable in the past disappear. You’re seeing everything you thought you knew change around you.

I’m not trying to say that the change is wrong. I’m not trying to say that we aren’t moving in the correct direction. I’m not trying to say that the increased sensitivity is a bad thing. I’m not trying to say that how minorities and people of color and other marginalized groups have been treated or viewed in the past was correct. All I’m saying is that this change, which is happening very fast, is making people that were formerly comfortable in their lives uncomfortable. Very uncomfortable.

When you are uncomfortable, what do you want? You want the pain to go away — to be comfortable again. You want things to be they way they once were, when you perceived you were safe and secure and you knew what was going to happen. I emphasize the you there: your concern is making you, personally, feel better; nevermind that it may have been an uncomfortable time for many many others.

Along comes a man who promises to return you to that time. A man who promises to build a wall to keep the change far far away. A man who promises to bring you back to that time when you felt great, when you weren’t being castigated for what you were born into. A man who promises to restore the order, to put the classes and groups that you grew up with being in power back in power again. A man who promises to restore the world you grew up and felt safe in. Note the emphasis on what this brings you ; there is no concern for the impact of this on the other . It is very self-centered.

You now understand many of the supporters of Donald Trump. They are supporting Trump to bring society back to a time when they felt comfortable and safe, irrespective of the impacts on anyone else.

By the way: the supporters of the other leading candidate (the one I support). They are the ones who are concerned less about what the candidate will do for them, and more for what the candidate will do for the others. What the candidate will bring those who have traditionally been marginalized. They understand that there are people who come from the classes with inherent privilege who still work for change, who still work to make the world a better place for all (such as A. Lincoln, F. Roosevelt, L. Johnson, B. Clinton). They understand that although change may make them personally uncomfortable and unsure, in the long term society will be better and stronger for it.  While they may be religious, they have internalized religion’s concern for the other: Remember that you were once a slave. Remember that you were once poor and downtrodden. Help your neighbor. The focus is outside yourself. In Jewish terms, they are working to make the world a better place for everyone.

Think long and hard about this difference and distinction. Now think about how you might need to craft an argument to reach the other side. Got it. Good.

By the way, this should give you a strong insight to the point of political discussion, and of much discussion in general. Your initial objective is not to find a large enough stick to beat up the other side. It is understanding of their view, and perhaps why they feel that way (irrespective of whether you agree or not). Through that understanding, you can learn to talk in such a way that you might actually be able to hear each other. Hearing each other is the first step along the path of changing an opinion.

[And now that I’ve got this musing and this thought out of my head, I can focus on other things…]

 

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Muse/ique Summer/Timeuserpic=theatre_ticketsLast night, we saw the third installment of Muse/ique (FB) on the Beckman Lawn at Caltech.  For those unfamiliar, Muse/ique bills itself as a counter-culture orchestra. I’d say it is more an orchestra with an electic bent on the creative spectrum. It takes a particular subject and makes all sorts of connections to illustrate it well. This summer, the theme for Muse/ique is George Gershwin, hence “Gershwin/Nation” (they like their slashes at Muse/ique). The second installment (which we saw in August), American/Rhapsody, looked at how George Gershwin built bridges between musical styles — in particular, between jazz and classical, with his Rhapsody in Blue and other efforts. Last night’s show was focused on Porgy/Bess, umm, make that Porgy and Bess, and was titled Summer/Time, after the first song in Porgy and Bess.

As usual, the show started with the national anthem (as do most outdoor shows). But after the anthem, the Maestra and Artistic Director of Muse/ique  Rachael Worby (FB) opened the program by noting how the nature of America and the themes of the anthem (in a content, not musical sense) were something that ran through Gershwin’s work. She then talked about how this was reflected in “Porgy and Bess” — an uniquely American story of hardship and triumph that reflected Gershwin’s ability to bring together operatic forms with jazz, gospel, ballads, and other musical forms across the spectrum of American music (and she posited that Gershwin would have used Motown had it existed then). She then introduced the main players for the show, the “Porgy/Sings” — Ellis Hall (FB), the “Porgy/Dances” — Charles “Lil Buck” Riley (FB), Bess — Vanessa Becerra (FB), “The/Temptation” — Kenton Chen (FB), and “The/Voices” — The Spirit Chorale of Los Angeles and Byron J. Smith.

Ms. Worby then intimated that we were going to see Porgy and Bess, but not as we have ever seen it before. Not only were they going to incorporate portions of the Gershwin score (to be precise, George and Ira Gershwin, with a book by DuBose and Dorothy Heyward), but they were going to interpret similar musical strains that Gershwin did or would have drawn from. This included source artists such as traditional spirituals, George Frideric Handel, Laura Nyro, Camille Saint-Saëns, Ashford and Simpson, Thiele and Weiss, and Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie. You probably now expect me to give you a precise playlist from the show. I can’t. Muse/ique does not provide one — not at the show (there’s only the above list of creators), not as you walk out, nor on their website. You are forced to go from memory, which doesn’t help if you don’t know the piece.  So I shall endeavor to do just that.

The journey through the artists listed above was divided into three parts: Alone. Together. A third part that I don’t remember but I think had a “/” in it. It started out not with the traditional “Summertime”, but with some church choral music, which I’m guessing was the Handel. We were then introduced to the characters: Bess (Becerra) with “My Man’s Gone Now”, Sportin’ Life (ummm, excuse me) The/Temptation (Chen) with “It Ain’t Necessarily So”, and Porgy (Hall/Riley) with “I Got Plenty of Nothin'”.

Let’s stop for a moment for a quick aside, for even in those numbers some interesting counter cultural questions are raised. First, is there a requirement to do a show in the book order and with the right characters doing their song. Nominally, it is Serena, not Bess, that sings “My Man’s Gone”, as she’s singing about Robbins. Nominally, we start with “Summertime”, have “Nothin'” later in the first act, and don’t have “Necessarily” until the 2nd act. Those familiar with the Porgy and Bess score would find the rearrangement jarring — I certainly did — until I decided to view this as a concert as opposed to a telling of the story.

Second, there is the question of what “color-blind casting” means. Traditionally, you hear the term when a director casts a show that was traditionally designed for caucasian actors with actors of color. In most cases, it is applauded as a step towards diversity. But what about a show that is traditionally black, with the only white roles being the people of authority — the police and coroner. Here, Bess was white or hispanic; the Temptation was Asian. Was that acceptable to do to this work, or wrong? Is it acceptable in the spirit of a concert, but not acceptable as an instance of the real show? I don’t have the answer, other than to state that while the performances were good, the change was jarring and off, and resulted — especially for the Temptation — in the loss of the South Carolina dialect that Gershwin carefully cultivated. The refrain is “It ain’t necessa, ain’t necessa”, not “It ain’t necessarily, ain’t necessarily”, and — heaven forfend — it is “mammy”, not “mommy” in Summertime.

Back to the music. There was then the traditional spiritual “Motherless Child”, followed by “I Cain’t Sit Down”. The order of the remaining songs in the evening I can’t completely recall, only to note that it included (of course) “Bess, You Is My Woman Now”, “Oh, Lawd I’m On My Way”, and “Summertime” from Porgy and Bess, Ashf0rd and Simpson’s “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”, Nyro’s “Stoned Soul Picnic”,  Thiele and Weiss’ “What a Wonderful World”, and the entire piece ended with Jackson/Ritchie’s “We Are The World” (which, I’m sorry but I must say, has both the sappiest, stupidest, and most self-centered lyrics — “We’re saving our lives” — really now? Not other lives?).

Setting aside the story issue and the casting issues, the performances (modulo dialect issues) were strong. Individual voices had a good character; choral pieces were strong. The dance was stunning, and as always, the Muse/ique orchestra was great. The ultimate point Worby was making — that Porgy and Bess is an American amalgam — was made, and when combined with the prior pieces of summer, cement Gerswhin’s place as a uniquely American artist oft unappreciated for his nuance and variety. In that way, this was a success.

The Muse/ique orchestra, under the direction of Rachael Worby (FB), consisted of (I’m using the style of Muse/ique here): VIOLIN 1 / Roger Wilke, Anna Landauer (FB), Tamara Hatwan (FB), Agnes Gottschewski (FB), Loránd Lokuszta (FB), Marisa Kuney (FB) / VIOLIN 2 / Maia Jasper (FB), Neel Hammond, Lilliana Filipovic, Anna Kostyuchek (FB) / VIOLA / Shawn Mann (FB), Adam Neeley / CELLO / Charlie Tyler (FB), Ginger Murphy (FB), Joo Lee (FB) / BASSES / Mike Valerio (FB), Don Ferrone (FB) / FLUTE / Sarah Weisz, Angela Weigand (FB) / OBOE / Leslie Reed (FB), Michele Forrest (FB) / CLARINET / Stuart Clark (FB),  Damon Zick (FB) / BASSOON / William May (FB), Anthony Parnther (FB) / HORN /  Steve Becknell (FB), Amy Sanchez (FB) / TRUMPET / Dan Rosenboom (FB), Adam Bhatia (FB) / TROMBONE / Steve Suminsky (FB), Brent Anderson (FB) / TUBA / Doug Tornquist (FB)  / TIMPANI / Theresa Dimond / PERCUSSION / Jason Goodman (FB) / DRUMSET / Ted Atkatz (FB) / KEYBOARD / Alan Steinberger (FB). Featured players were Roger Wilke, Alan Steinberger, Charlie Tyler, Mike Valerio, and Ted Atkatz. I was good, and fought the urge to use slashes that time.

One observation about the orchestra: Writing this up, I expected the orchestra would be the same group as in August. After all, this is the “Muse/ique Orchestra”; wouldn’t they be the same across all events for a consistent sound? But I’d guess that perhaps 20-30% were the same; the rest were drawn from orchestras across the city. Is this common in orchestras?

Addressing the elements that could be controlled were Jon Boogz (FB) and Charles “Lil Buck” Riley (FB). Matthew McCray (FB) was the Stage Director. It is unclear if Matthew’s job was on the order of stage management (i.e., logistical) or more directoral (in terms of the cinematography for the screens). There was no credit for video, lighting, or sound — all of which were great. The lighting in particular was quite effective for this show.

Addressing the elements that couldn’t be controlled were — sigh, and they were annoying. We were in the back in Festival seating, and there were some kids in the far back making a lot of noise. It’s fine to bring your kids to these things, but you need to remind them to keep quite during performances. Even more annoying were the police helicopters circling overhead with lights. They were quite disturbing; luckily they went away, and whomever they were searching for wasn’t in the crowd.

As always, I recommend Muse/ique to people. They take quite a novel approach to music, jumping from here to there — and as a result, you never quite know what will happen, making it a treat. They are civilized in terms of food and amenities, and their greatest lack is a program for the evening. There next event is an Uncorked event in October, but it isn’t up on their website yet. I suggest subscribing to their website to learn more; there’s an option to do that at the bottom of the page.

* * *

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB), the  Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB), and I plan to renew my mini-subscription at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB). We’re thinking of adding yet one more subscription: the Chromolume Theatre (FB) in the West Adams district. Their 2017 season looks great: Zanna Don’t (Tim Acito, January 13 – February 5), Hello Again (Michael John LaChiusa, May 5- May 28), and Pacific Overtures (Stephen Sondheim, September 15 – October 8) — all for only $60). Past subscriptions have included  The Colony Theatre (FB) (which went dormant in 2016), and Repertory East Playhouse (“REP”) (FB) in Newhall (which entered radio silence in 2016). Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals).  I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Upcoming Shows:  After a bit of a hiatus, we are back to theatre. Next weekend sees us in Burbank for I Love You Because at the Grove Theatre. The last weekend is The Hunchback of Notre Dame at The La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts (FB). October is a bit more booked. The first weekend brings Dear World at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB) and Our Town at Actors Co-op (FB), as well as the start of the High Holy Days. The second weekend has another Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB) event: this time for Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis. The third weekend has yet another VPAC event: An Evening with Kelli O’Hara on Friday, as well as tickets for Evita at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) on Saturday. The following weekend brings Turn of the Screw at Actors Co-op (FB) on October 22 and the new Tumbleweed Festival (FB) on October 23. The last weekend of October brings Linden Waddell’s Hello Again, The Songs of Allen Sherman at Temple Ahavat Shalom (a joint fundraiser for MoTAS and Sisterhood).

Allan Sherman Tribute Show at TASInterrupting this recap for a word from a sponsor: Linden Waddell’s Hello Again, The Songs of Allen Sherman at Temple Ahavat Shalom is open to the community, and is a joint fundraiser for MoTAS and Sisterhood. Please tell your friends about it. I’m Past President of MoTAS, and I really want this to be a success. Click on the flyer to the right for more information. It should be a really funny night.

Oh, and if that wasn’t enough, October is also the North Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), although I doubt if we’ll have time for any shows. November will bring Hedwig and the Angry Inch at  the Hollywood Pantages (FB); a Day Out With Thomas at Orange Empire Railway Museum (FB) [excuse me, “Southern California Railway Museum”]; the Nottingham Festival (FB); and possibly Little Women at the Chance Theatre (FB) in Anaheim. We still have some open weekends in there I may book. We close out the year, in December, with the CSUN Jazz Band at the Annual Computer Security Applications Conference (ACSAC), Amalie at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB), The King and I at the Hollywood Pantages (FB); an unspecified movie on Christmas day; and a return to our New Years Eve Gaming Party.

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, Musicals in LA, @ This Stage, Footlights, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves. Note: Although we can’t make it, I also recommend the 10th Anniversary Production of The Brain from Planet X at LACC. See here for the Indiegogo. Lastly, want to know how to attend lots of live stuff affordably? Take a look at my post on How to attend Live Theatre on a Budget.

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userpic=star_trekToday is a day of anniversary. Today is a day of remembrance.

This week has been a week of anniversaries. This week has been a week of remembrances.

Let’s explore a few of them:

  • 9/11. Two odd numbers, separated by a slash, that mean so much. Everyone is talking about where they were fifteen years ago. But I view 9/11 like I do highway naming resolutions. If you read my highway pages, you see these all the time. Someone gets their assembly-critter to sponsor a resolution that gives the history of a person, in order to put up a highway sign, that becomes a name no one knows, and a story no one knows. That’s a pointless remembrance. Similarly, to ask “where you were” 15 years ago is pointless; even to remember the people and the specifics of who was attacked is pointless.

    So what is meaningful? To remember what was attacked, and to stand strong. This country was attacked because of our values, because of our defense of freedom, because of our defense of the minorities. We were attacked because we permit religious freedom. We were attacked because we support one of, if not the, lone democracy in the Middle East. We were attacked because we stand up for the rights of women, of minorities, of Jews, of gays.

    So how do we best remember 9/11? By steadfastly continuing those values. By not giving in to hatred. By not giving in to restrictions on speech, on movement, on immigration. By standing strong with our allies, and standing by our word. By helping the downtrodden. By helping and interacting with those we do not like. I’ll note that in the upcoming election we do have a choice between a candidate who wants to continue those values, and one who doesn’t. We have a choice between a leader who wants to govern by listening, and a leader who wants to be a demagogue. We remember 9/11 by standing up for those values that make America America (and going with the candidate who most closely embodies those values).

  • Star Trek. This week is also the 50th anniversary of the start of Star Trek, and again the comparison between values is stark. Star Wars and Star Trek have two distinctly different value sets. Star Wars values are in its title and its outlook: conflict, battles between broad good and evil, a future where evil has triumphed and good is tenuously fighting to come back. Star Trek, on the other hand, was decidedly optimistic and exploratory. To boldly go forward. To build that world of mutual respect, of cooperation, of valuing every one and every thing. The key phrase that came out of Star Trek was IDIC – Infinite diversity in infinite combinations. This about this in terms of the 9/11 dichotomy I discussed above, and which of the values: Star Wars or Star Trek, are the values that would infuriate the 9/11 attackers more. When you do, you’ll see why the real value in Star Trek wasn’t the technology is predicted, but the values it held.
  • iPhone and iPod This month is also the anniversary of the introduction of the iPod Classic, and the introduction of the iPhone 7, and again, we have that dichotomy. The iPod Classic, when it came out, was the pinnacle: it was an advancement of old technology to serve a useful purpose — a purpose that was not necessarily enriching its manufacturer at every opportunity. The iPhone 7, on the other hand? It encourages streaming, it requires purchase of new equipment — which Apple will happily supply, and … it is hardly a technological advancement. Is it a step forward when there is a meme going around that the iPhone 7 is the iPhone 6 with tape over the earphone jack? Which of the devices embodied the forward thinking, and which is stagnation and profit centered.

Today is a day of anniversary. Today is a day of remembrance.

This week has been a week of anniversaries. This week has been a week of remembrances.

We have a choice: Do we look back and stare? Do we go boldly forward?

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Observation StewNow that the highway pages are done, and the water heater is repaired, I can start some stew cooking on the stove. Loads of interesting articles in here. I’ll group them the best I can.

Things Dying and Dead, But Then Again….

  • The iPod Classic. Nine years ago, Apple introduced the iPod Classic. Last week, they introduced the iPhone 7. The iPod Classic had 160GB in a spinning hard disk, for $349. The iPhone 7 can have 256GB for almost $850. Is this the replacement for the Classic, finally? Or, is it still better to get a 7th Gen iPod Classic off eBay, or from that drawer you’ve been hiding it in, and replace the hard disk with a Tarkan board, some solid state memory (I put in 512GB), and keep the classic. Going the Tarkan route is less than $400, and gives you more memory for about the same cost. Oh, and it gives you a 3.5mm headphone jack as well, so you needn’t pay for adapters or lost AirPods. Then again, the headphone companies don’t care. They’ve got product to sell you.
  • The Colony Theatre. Oh, the poor Colony. We thought you would survive. Now you’re having to rent out your space just to stay alive. And your poor subscribers: We’re left holding the tickets for shows that we will never see (literally — there’s no way I’m gonna see Patty Duke in Mrs. Lincoln — both are dead). Will the Colony come back? At this point, I’m highly skeptical. What they need is new artistic direction, a new board, and a new way of thinking about things. Their collapse shows the perils of keeping the same leadership for far too long.
  • The Advertising Jingle. Perhaps you hadn’t noticed, but the advertising jingle is dead. Who killed it? Cover artists and the licensing of modified lyrics, that’s what. Those are more easily recognizable. So, our hats are off to you, “I’d like to teach the world to sing”, “Like a good neighbor”, and “Plop Plop Fizz Fizz”. We’re just left with the Empire Carpeting jingle.

Los Angeles Development

Sensitivity and Culture

  • Tiki Bars. Here’s an interesting question: If you were going to add a third arm to your body, where would you add it? Whoops, wrong question. Try this: Are Tiki Bars offensive to Polynesians? NPR endeavored to figure that out. It is hard to know: Tiki bars are about as close to something really Polynesian as the Chinese Food you got downtown in the 1950s and 1960s was to real Chinese food.
  • Napalm Girl. The furor yesterday was over Facebook and “Napalm Girl” — the famous photo of the napalmed Vietnamese girl. First it was taken down. Facebook banned it. Then they reversed themselves. It makes me think about a debate that occurred many many years ago when that photo was first published: Should photos like this be published? When does news value override sensitivity? These questions are still relevant today.

And the Rest…

 

 

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Labor Day weekend. A traditional time for me to do computer updates, be it writing code while on vacation in Hawaii listening to the Jerry Lewis Telethon when I was in college, or doing updates in the early morning while on vacation (while looking at I-15 in front of me, near one of the most spectacular bridges on that route). Hopefully, these will take less time than the last batch. [Update: They didn’t, which is why I’m finishing things post-vacation at my desk, listening to the music I picked up on vacation.]

Updates were made to the following highways, based on my reading of the papers (which are posted to the roadgeeking category at the “Observations Along The Road” and to the California Highways Facebook group) as well as any backed up email changes. I also reviewed the the AAroads forum. This resulted in changes on the following routes, with credit as indicated [my research(1), contributions of information or leads (via direct mail) from Mike Ballard(2), Coatimundi @ AAroads(3), Concrete Bob @ AAroads(4), DTComposer @ AARoads(5), Jonathan Ledbetter(6), Sparker @ AARoads(7), Scott Presnel (ACSAMapCollector) @ AARoads(8), Quillz @ AARoads(9), Max Rockatansky at AAroads(10), Joe Rouse at AAroads(11), and Joel Windmiller(12): Route 1(7,8,5), Route 2(1,8), Route 4(1), I-5(1,7,11), I-8(6), I-10(1), Route 11(1), Route 14(2,11), I-15(1,7), Route 17(1), Route 29(1), Route 37(1), LRN 43(7), Route 45(7), Route 49(1,11), US 50(11), Route 58(7,11), Route 59(7), Route 65(7,4), Former US 66(1,7), Route 76(1), I-80(1,12), Route 85(1), US 97(6), Former US 99 and current Route 99(1,7), US 101(1,7,9), Route 102(7,11), Route 107(7), Route 116(1), Route 120(1,7), Route 140(7), LRN 161(7), Route 167(7), Route 172(7), Route 180(7), LRN 190(7), I-210(7), Route 262(7), Route 263(1), Route 271(7), Route 276(3), US 299/Route 299(1,10), Route 371(1), US 395(1,2), I-405(1,8), I-580(1), I-710(1), Riverside County Route R2(7,10). I’ll note there were some particular good background information posts on AAroads — I’ve hopefully been able to capture that information so it isn’t lost into the void (with attribution, of course).

Added a link in the FAQ to California’s Postmile Service, an interesting site to map postmiles to geographic locations. Hat tip to Jonathan Ledbetter for the link.

Noted a post by Quillz on AAroads on 7/16/2016 that provided the sign specifications for the 1934 “bear” shield signage. This was put on the pre-Interstate numbering page.

Added some observations on the chronology of LRNs from Sparker at AAroads.

Read the rest of this entry »

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userpic=voteIn this collection of news chum, I’m clearing out some accumulated articles regarding the upcoming election. I’ll note upfront that some of these items relate to elections other than the Presidential one — yes, there will be other things on the ballot:

  • Changing Voting Systems. I’ve always liked LA County’s voting system: You mark a paper ballot with an ink-stamp, which is then optically read for counting (and checked, when you deposit it, for over/under voting). But LA County wants to change the system. An article from back in June notes how LA County envisions the future: instead of being directed to designated polling stations on a single Tuesday, voters will be able to choose from hundreds of voting centers around the county during a 10-day window leading up to election day. Further, instead of marking their selections with pen and paper, they will enter their selections on touch-screen ballot-marking devices, print out a paper ballot to review their selections, and feed the ballot back into the machine to be stored and counted. They have developed prototypes of the new machines. Further, LA officials believe that with voters no longer confined to a single polling place, many of the issues with voter rosters that led to provisional ballots will not occur.  Voters wanting to cast a cross-over ballot could have selected the correct ballot through the system’s user interface. This approach dovetails quite nicely with a measure reported on in August. The measure, SB450, which has been sent to the Governor for signature, would give local officials the power to close thousands of neighborhood polling places. In their place, counties would open temporary elections offices known as “vote centers” sprinkled throughout communities, locations offering a wide variety of elections services including early voting and same-day voter registration as well as a limited number of in-person voting booths. SB 450 would offer each of California’s 58 counties the chance to embrace an alternative to traditional elections. In most of those counties, every registered voter would receive a ballot in the mail and polling places would be scrapped. Voters would be able to turn in ballots either at secure drop boxes placed around the county or at the new “vote center” locations. Some of those vote centers would be open at least 10 days before election day, and would allow last-minute registration, a check of existing registration status and the ability to cast a vote in person even if the voter lives in a different city inside county lines.  Unlike traditional polling places, the vote centers are envisioned as staffed by paid workers with more than the few hours of training normally given to temporary poll workers. My thoughts on the matter: I can see what they are trying to do and the advantages, but there is also something to be said for local voting and knowing the people in the neighborhood.
  • A Gigantic Ballot. The hot air in California in election season will not come from the Presidential candidates (who just visit California for our money), but our propositions.  California’s November ballot is going to be very long. In additional to the Presidential campaign, a Senate race (between two Democrats), House, State Senate, and Assembly races, 17 measures have earned a spot on the Nov. 8 statewide ballot, a bumper crop of voter choices ranging from marijuana legalization to repeal of the death penalty and even new workplace rules for actors in adult movies. Four of the propositions earned a spot on the fall ballot with only hours to spare on Thursday, including two tax proposals and a sweeping prison proposal championed by Gov. Jerry Brown. Six of the 17 propositions seek to amend the state constitution. They include Brown’s effort to revamp the rules on parole from state prison, and a requirement that neither house of the Legislature pass any bill that hasn’t been available for public review for at least three days. Nine measures will ask voters to enact new state laws, with proposals on everything from new background checks for buying ammunition to a $9-billion bond for school construction and modernization projects. Voters will consider, too, the merits of an effort to impose a cap on prescription drug prices paid by state healthcare officials that will be fought with an expensive opposition campaign by the pharmaceutical industry. The ballot also includes a referendum —  voters will choose to accept or reject a law that bans single-use plastic bags statewide. They have just started printing the ballot guide for all those propositions. It is going to be 224 pages, and cost $15 million to print. It describes some of the most complex laws ever proposed, initiatives with details so granular that they could easily confound all but the most expert legal minds. Leading the pack is Proposition 64, the much-talked-about effort to fully legalize marijuana use for California adults. The broad question may be straightforward, but the initiative is not. Even the guide’s overview analysis of Prop 64 is 10 pages long. The actual proposed state law to make pot legal takes another 33 pages of the document, more than 17,000 words in all. My thoughts on the matter: I’m going to have to wade through all of this to come up with my ballot recommendation. How many other people are going to bother?
  • An Expert Negotiator. Donald Trump has emphasized his business skill at negotiating. It appears that skill may create a war — yes, expect a real war — with Mexico when they attempt to take back California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. You see, when the Donald was in Mexico recently, he intimated that he might suspend NAFTA, the free-trade treaty. Mexico’s response? A Mexican senator has filed a bill in their legislature that makes “full use of the foreign policy mandate given to the Mexican Senate by the Constitution,” and if Trump did break NAFTA and start a trade war, it would by law cause our neighbors to reconsider every treaty signed between our two nations. Every treaty. Think about that. Now research the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which ended the Mexican-American War and gave the U.S. ownership of California and land that would eventually become New Mexico, most of Arizona, Nevada, Utah, and parts of Wyoming and Colorado. If that treaty is reconsidered, Mexico could claim ownership of those lands. This is the impact of diplomacy by someone who isn’t a diplomat, or educated on the nuances of the impact of what they say or do.
  • Candidates and Teflon, Bullies and Good Kids. Have you ever wondered why anything outrageous is reported about Clinton and becomes a major scandal, whereas all of the outrageous things about Trump get seemingly swept under the rug. It turns out, there is a reason. The media has been trained to not trust Clinton, and to call to investigate her at the drop of a hat. Why? The reporter’s job is to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable” — a credo that, humorously, was originally written as a smear of the self-righteous nature of journalists. And so the justification for going after a public figure increases in proportion to his or her stature. The bigger the figure, the looser the restraints. After a quarter of a century on the national stage, there’s no more comfortable political figure to afflict than Hillary Clinton. The Clinton rules are driven by reporters’ and editors’ desire to score the ultimate prize in contemporary journalism: the scoop that brings down Hillary Clinton and her family’s political empire. At least in that way, Republicans and the media have a common interest. Of course, never mind that all these scandals are not true, and have been proven to be not true. As for Trump, no one cares about his well-known acts of naked corruption. Why? It comes down to this: The difference between Trump and Clinton is that Clinton bleeds when they hit her. Writing about Trump’s corruption long ago hit the law of diminishing returns, because everyone knows he’s corrupt and his supporters like it. It is news to no-one. Clinton, however, is clean—but her supporters waver at the thought of dirt. In other words: The media beats up on Clinton for the same reason bullies beat up on kids: because they get joy when the kid reacts to their torture. Clinton reacts to the charges (I know, just like a girl 🙂 ). Trump bullies back and ignores the charages. The net result: Yet again, we give our attention to the bully, and not the good kid. Of course, in the end, it is meaningless, because facts don’t matter to Trump supporters. Again, this is like the real world, where the parents always stand by their child who is bullying (sometimes even after they drive someone — or a country — to suicide).
  • The Ultimate Question: Who Is Qualified?. Vox had some interesting analysis of why Trump will never be elected. It isn’t the stupid things he says or does; it isn’t his embrace of Putin; it isn’t his disclosing what happens at intelligence briefings. It will ultimately be because voters don’t believe him to be qualified. Here are the telling paragraphs:

    The problem Trump faces is more fundamental than mere candidate preference. He currently fails to clear the most basic bar of the presidency. A majority of voters simply don’t think he’s qualified to serve as president. And it’s not just qualifications — they don’t think he has the personality or temperament to serve as president (67 to 31 percent), they don’t think he has a solid understanding of world affairs (64 to 33 percent), and they don’t think he’s honest and trustworthy (62 to 34 percent).

    This is how Trump’s candidacy differs from Clinton’s. Observers often note that Clinton, like Trump, is viewed unfavorably by most Americans, and that’s true (though the 50 percent unfavorable rating Clinton posts in this poll is quite a bit better than Trump’s 63 percent unfavorable rating). But while many Americans don’t like Clinton, they do believe in her ability to do the job. Majorities think her qualified to serve as president (60 to 38 percent), that she has the personality and temperament to serve as president (61 to 38 percent), and say she has a solid knowledge of world affairs (72 to 25 percent).

    So this, then, is the election as it stands today: Most Americans don’t like Donald Trump and they don’t think he’s qualified, temperamentally fit, or sufficiently knowledgeable about world affairs to serve as president. Most Americans don’t like Hillary Clinton, but they do believe she’s qualified, temperamentally fit, and sufficiently knowledgeable about world affairs to serve as president.

    As PJ O’Rourke put it, when he endorsed Clinton: “I am endorsing Hillary, and all her lies and all her empty promises. It’s the second-worst thing that can happen to this country, but she’s way behind in second place. She’s wrong about absolutely everything, but she’s wrong within normal parameters.”

    Or, as the Dallas Morning News put it in their endorsement of Clinton: “There is only one serious candidate on the presidential ballot in November. […] We’ve been critical of Clinton’s handling of certain issues in the past. But unlike Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton has experience in actual governance, a record of service and a willingness to delve into real policy. [… Clinton’s shortcomings …] Those are real shortcomings. But they pale in comparison to the litany of evils some opponents accuse her of. Treason? Murder? Her being cleared of crimes by investigation after investigation has no effect on these political hyenas; they refuse to see anything but conspiracies and cover-ups. We reject the politics of personal destruction. Clinton has made mistakes and displayed bad judgment, but her errors are plainly in a different universe than her opponent’s. […] After nearly four decades in the public spotlight, 25 of them on the national stage, Clinton is a known quantity. For all her warts, she is the candidate more likely to keep our nation safe, to protect American ideals and to work across the aisle to uphold the vital domestic institutions that rely on a competent, experienced president.

November is going to be interesting folks, and it is rapidly approaching. Stay educated, stay informed, and learn the truth about your candidates. Don’t just live in the bubble chamber, but explore all sides, and recognize their bias. Remember that it is vital that you vote, and that you vote for the right person, not the bum. Now, I shall finish my lunch…..

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userpic=gluten-freeThis week, a large number of articles related to food and gluten-free diets have come across my RSS and news feeds. These articles are of interest because my wife is celiac and gluten-free, and we know a number of friends and relatives that need to be gluten-free for similar reasons. We’ve often discussed the growing “gluten-free fad” (which has now become the butt of comics), and whether it is good for Celiacs — on the one hand, there may be more places where it is safe to eat; but on the other hand, if they view it as a fad and not a medical necessity, they may not be as clean in their handling and true Celiacs will get poisoned.

Let’s start with the grown of gluten-free. An article came out this week on Vox looking at the growth of the number of Americans who say they are gluten-free vs. the number that are actually Celiac. The article noted:

The number of Americans who say they are gluten-free has more than tripled from 2009 to 2014.

But the number of Americans who have celiac disease, or the inability to digest gluten, has stayed pretty much same.

This means more people are simply choosing not to eat gluten, even when there is no good scientific evidence to support cutting grains from their diets.

New research in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that the percentage of Americans practicing a gluten-free diet rose from 0.52 percent in 2009 to 1.69 percent in 2014. But the percentage of Americans with celiac disease actually declined slightly from 0.70 percent in 2009 to 0.58 percent in 2014 (although the study said this decline wasn’t statistically significant).

USA Today had a similar report, derived from the same research:

About 2.7 million Americans avoid gluten in their diet, but 1.76 million have celiac disease, according to a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine this week.

Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys showed from 2009 to 2014, participants who reported having celiac didn’t exceed 0.77%. During the same period, participants who didn’t have the disease, but avoided gluten more than tripled.

A study released in July, said those without celiac who experience abdominal pain, bloating and fatigue after eating wheat and related products could have a weakened intestinal barrier, another reason they might go gluten-free.

Why could this be? Why are people who don’t have Celiac seemingly feeling better off gluten? Here are two more articles that might bring the pieces together. First, there is a report that birth by Ceasarian section appears to increase obesity risks, seemingly because such newborns are not exposed to bacteria in the vaginal tract. Next, there is a report that a common bacteria is showing promise for treating Celiac disease. Now, add into that mix the info in my previous post about soap — namely, that the FDA is requiring manufactures to pull common anti-bacterial agents out of soap — and you might have the answer.

Our Microbiome, and more specifically, how we are screwing it up.

Consider this: There has already been research showing how the intestinal microbiome can influence our mood and our tendancy to obesity (or our ability to lose weight). We’ve also seen the growing use of antibiotics everywhere — not just as prescribed medicine, but in soaps and animal feed. We’ve seen more and more people trying to correct things with pro-biotics. I think it is conceivable that we’ve mucked up our guts, and created — through damage of the microbiome — guts that do better on a no gluten or low gluten diet.  This would explain why more and more Americans are going gluten-free and feeling better while doing so, while those diagnosed with an actual disease haven’t increased.

How is society reacting to the increased desire for gluten free? Not always in the right way — no big surprise there.

As I said: a collection of GF related articles. Something to certainly chew on (unless you’re sensitive to the subject).

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userpic=foxy🎶 Soap. Soap. Soap. Soap. Soap. Soap. Soap. Soap. 🎶

Sorry. Just trying to sing about 8 bars.

Shall I go out on that joke? No, I’ll do a blog post first. That’ll help. But not much.

Seriously (and with apologies to the Smothers Brothers and Stan Freberg, whose material I just stole), I’d like to share some articles and commentary on some simple things in the news: Soap, Ice, and Orange Juice.

  • Bar Soap. You probably don’t think much about soap. I guarantee you use it every day, but have you pondered about the form it comes in, or what is in it? Probably not, but others do. For example, have you ever wondered which is healthier to use: bar soap or liquid soap? Bar soap is more convenient, but sales are going down, and the soap leaves that wet surface. Bar soap does indeed tend to let bacteria idle on its surface, but that’s not necessarily going to be a problem. In 1988, the Dial corporation subsidized a study [PDF] in which they purposely drowned bar soap in illness-generating ick like E. coli at levels 70 times higher than what would be found with typical household use. After washing with the infected bars, a test group of 16 hand-washers had no detectable levels of the germs on their hands. No one has gotten sick from bar soap, and commercial bar soap is required to have antimicrobal ingredients (even if not explicitly antibacterial).  I’ll also note that most artisan soaps (think Lush and such) are bars, not liquids.
  • Antibacterial Soaps. Most of the soap we use on our hands these days is antibacterial soap (think Dial). Many have railed against this, arguing that use of such soaps creates more resistant bacteria (and here’s an interesting digressive thought that went through my head: do anti-vaxxers use antibacterial soap, which can also harm children? If so, why do they like viruses over microbes?). However, that’s going to change. Within a year, antibacterial soaps as you know them are disappearing from the market. The US Food and Drug Administration just released a new, exhaustive report and ruling that there’s actually no good evidence they perform any better than plain old soap and water when it comes to preventing illness or the spread of bacteria and viruses. Further, the agency is banning companies from using 19 common “antibacterial” chemicals — such as triclosan and triclocarban — in products going forward. (You can see the full list of ingredients here.) Manufacturers have a year to reformulate products or remove ones with these chemicals from the market.
  • Ice. You (at least for most of my readership) probably think little of ice. You use it every day: In iced tea, in iced coffee, in your soda, in your drinks, in your cooler. You exist in air conditioned comfort, in your car, in your room. You want things cold, not lukewarm.  An interesting article opines that the desire for ice is uniquely American. Only in America are you served cold water with ice, do you find iced drinks everywhere, find ice buckets in your hotel room and machines with free ice down the hall. In Europe and other countries, ice is less ubiquitous. Things are served at room temperature — tap water, etc. It’s something I just never thought about it — but I’m American. [And here’s another digressive question: Is the desire for ice not only an American thing, but a white privilege thing? Do cultures of people of color have the same desire for ice, or is the desire for “ice cold stuff” a manifestation of privilege?]
  • Orange Juice. If you’re old enough to remember the 1970s (and weren’t stoned at the time), you likely remember Anita Bryant selling Florida Orange Juice. You probably haven’t thought a lot about orange juice since then, and you’re not alone. Sales of orange juice is dropping — and sales of frozen orange juice concentrate from Florida (think those cylinders of Minute Maid in the freezer section) are dropping significantly. They are dropping so much so that the frozen concentrated orange juice market has seemingly disappeared. Certainly the futures contracts are worthless; people have moved over to futures in those other breakfast staples: pork bellies (bacon) and coffee. Americans drank less orange juice in 2015 than in any year since Nielsen began collecting data in 2002, as more exotic beverages like tropical smoothies and energy drinks take market share and fewer Americans sit down for breakfast. The number of futures contracts held by traders has dropped by more than two-thirds from a 1997 high of 48,921, to 15,410 contracts last week. There were 71 players in the futures market as of last week, compared with 168 in 2004. As for Florida, it is already on track for the smallest harvest in 52 years. So what do you have with breakfast?

 

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Covering Up

Sep. 4th, 2016 10:14 pm
cahwyguy: (Default)

userpic=ipodI spent today recording LPs to my iPod (over 39,000 songs now!). A question came to mind: What do artists like Elvis Presley, Roger Whittaker, Theo Bikel, Chet Atkins, Al Hirt, Herb Alpert, Barbra Streisand, and Frank Sinatra all have in common. They are cover artists, not singer-songwriters performing material that they have written themselves. At one time, the cover artist was the main artist: others did the writing, they did the performing. That changed in the 1960s, thanks to duos like Lennon-McCartney.

So, here’s the question: Other than Broadway vocalists (who have always been cover artists), who are the modern-day cover artists — artists who primarily perform music written by someone else? Further, who of today’s singer-songwriters — not artists from before 2000 or Broadway — are the most covered artists?

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