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Muse/ique American/RhapsodyWith all my political posts of late, you probably thought I had abandoned the real theatre for the political theatre that is Decision 2016. You would be wrong. We suffered a bit of burnout with the Hollywood Fringe Festival and July’s shows, so we decided not to book any additional shows during August. Rest assured, theatre readers, that live performances will start up again after Labor Day.

That said, last night saw us at one of our traditional summer shows: 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. At a program we saw in February called String/Awakening, the program ran from a focus on stringed instruments with bridges, to percussive sound, to knitting, to dancers hanging by strings, to a short talk on string theory.

This summer, the theme for Muse/ique is George Gershwin, hence “Gershwin/Nation” (they like their slashes at Muse/ique). We missed the first summer show; last nights show was titled “American/Rhapsody”. As expected one of the first numbers was Rhapsody in Blue, performed by HyeJin Kim on keyboard with the Muse/ique Orchestra. But then the uniqueness that is Muse/ique took hold. Maestra Rachael Worby talked about the opening riff of Rhapsody, and how it could have gone many directions, from blues to jazz to european classical, and how Gershwin specifically designed his music to bridge between the blues and the classical. We then started on a wild ride, that explored other artists that created similar bridges, from Duke Ellington to Paul Simon to Harold Arlen to Kurt Weill, to Carole King to Jerome Kern to Leonard Bernstein. So, for a Gershwin concert, there were only about four true Gershwin numbers — and those numbers often exhibited interesting takes, such as Fazil Say’s interpretation of Porgy and Bess’ Summertime.

This also just wasn’t music being played. Two of the numbers were performed acapella with the Street Corner Renaissance group — they did “Bridge over Troubled Water” by Paul Simon (first recipient of the Gershwin Prize) and “Up on the Roof” by Carole King (fifth recipient of the Gershwin Prize). There was dance by the group Bodytraffic, who performed to the orchestrated versions of Gershwin’s Three Preludes and Kurt Weil’s (arrangement by the Oscar Peterson Trio + 1) classic Mack the Knife. There was a neat film by Dan Goods, Visual Strategist of JPL, on bridges.

Unfortunately, I’m having to do the program from memory. Although something is handed out that identifies the composers, arrangers, choreographers, and artists, there is no formal program of the music performed. This is a continuing problem with Muse/ique — one that I wish they would fix.

Modulo that quibble, this was one of the best Muse/ique shows we’ve seen. We’ll be back at Caltech in September for Summer/Time, a tribute to Porgy and Bess.

The Muse/ique orchestra, under the direction of Rachael Worby (FB), consisted of (I’m using the style of Muse/ique here): VIOLIN 1 / Marisa Sorajja, Hana Won Kim, Radu Pieptea, Rafi Rishik (FB), Joel Pargman (FB), Carrie Kennedy (FB) / VIOLIN 2 / Maia Jasper, Neel Hammond, Shelly Shi / VIOLA / Erik Rynearson, Rodney Wirtz, Adam Neeley / CELLO / Charlie Tyler, Ginger Murphy, Joo Lee (FB) / BASSES / Mike Valerio (FB), Don Ferrone (FB) / FLUTE / Sarah Weisz, Angela Weigand (FB) / OBOE / Michele Forrest, Catherine Del Russo / CLARINET / Don Foster, Damon Zick (FB) / BASSOON / William May, Bill Wood / HORN /  Steve Becknell (FB), Nathan Campbell / TRUMPET / Ryan Darke, Rob Schaer / TROMBONE / Nick Daley (FB), Brent Anderson (FB) / TUBA / Scott Sutherland / TIMPANI / Theresa Dimond / PERCUSSION / Jason Goodman (FB) / DRUMSET / Ted Atkatz / KEYBOARD / Alan Steinberger (FB).

* * *

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). 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:  September returns to conventional theatre. The second weekend sees us back at Muse/ique (FB) for Summer/Time, a reimagined retelling of Porgy and Bess. The third weekend brings I Love You Because at the Grove Theatre in Burbank. The last weekend is The Hunchback of Notre Dame at The La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts (FB).

Continuing the look ahead: 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). Oh, and if that wasn’t enough, October is also the North Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), and it looks like a theatre in Pasadena will be presenting the musical Funny Girl. November is still in the planning stages, but we know it will include 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. As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, and Musicals in LA, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves.

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Observation StewLast night, we had a Shabbabaque at Temple (“Shabbat” + “Barbeque”). There was a bunch of food leftover, and so I brought some home — the sliced tomatoes and roasted zucchini — and threw it into a crockpot. That’s a great thing to do with leftovers: make a stew (and I intend to suggest formalizing that next year*). Just like at the Shabbabaque, I’ve got loads of leftovers — onsies and twosies of news articles — that don’t make a coherent dish. Perhaps they’ll make a good stew. What do you think?

Jewish Summer Camp

Food and Eating

Local Returns and Departures

The Body

History

What’s Left

 

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userpic=political-buttonsBefore I write my long omnibus news chum (because things have been accumulating), a political thought of the day.

I’ve just had a long political discussion over on Facebook after a Conservative friend posted the meme that is going around about how Obama attacked Bush for flying over the flooding in Louisiana, and now he is staying on vacation instead of being on-site. I’m sure you’ve seen it. I, rightfully,  pointed out that the Governor of Louisiana had specifically requested that the President stay away until things had calmed down, and that the President had been directing broad scale aid while on vacation. They responded that at least Donald Trump had gone on-site with a full trailor-tractor of supplies and personally handed them out (‡ – See ETA below); to which I responded that this was specifically against the Governor’s request that Trump not come on site and disrupt relief efforts. I equated Trump’s effort to Eva Peron in “Evita”, with a relief fund that just helped a few, instead of broad based relief. This drove me to investigate Hillary Clinton’s response, which was to not visit the area, but to request her supporters to make donations to relief efforts. To complete the picture, both Stein and Johnson just used the situation to criticize Obama. [ETA: Here’s a good summary of why there is no comparison.]

Two important qualities in a President are leadership and compassion, and I give all of our major candidates a C rating, and our third-party candidates a D rating. I give Obama an A-/B+ rating.

Leadership, in this situation, is getting broad effective relief to the people who need it, in a timely fashion. It is also recognizing that this is just one of many disasters in our nation; in particular, the West is being hit with a bunch of significant wildfires that are also affecting people’s lives. Leadership is setting an example, and that example is not running headfirst into a disaster area to do what you think is right against the wishes of those in charge of relief efforts. How did our candidates do:

  • Trump rushed headlong into the disaster area against the wishes of officials, did not serve as a leadership example through a sizable personal donation or coordinate significant relief, did not (to my knowledge) encourage donations, and only focused on one disaster. He did handout some relief supplies. Rating: C. [‡: ETA: Then again, reports are now coming out that Trump didn’t actually donate anything.]
  • Clinton did not go to the disaster area, following the recommendations of officials. She encouraged donations, but didn’t serve as a leadership example by making a donation or coordinating significant relief. She only focused on one disaster. Rating: C
  • Stein and Johnson only criticized the President. Rating: D.
  • Obama coordinated significant relief efforts, and did not plan to visit the area until the Governor said it was prudent. As President, he doesn’t have access to personal funds to make a personal donation. He did sign a declaration that provides significant long-term help. He hasn’t discussed the wildfires or relief there. Rating: A-/B+

Compassion, in this situation, is demonstrating you care. It is showing, in a public way, that you are concerned about their problems.

  • Trump showed compassion by visiting people, although there was an offsetting lack of compassion by interfering with relief efforts and putting his potential photo-op ahead of relief.
  • Clinton showed compassion by calling for donations and staying away, but she didn’t visibly do more.
  • Stein and Johnson did nothing.
  • Obama showed compassion through statements, but created a discompassionate image by remaining on vacation. At minimum, he could have returned to the White House to coordinate relief efforts for the day. Of course, the reality is that he could coordinate those relief efforts equally well from vacation, but in this case the image is more powerful than the reality, and the President must be aware of the image that is being conveyed.

So, we’ve seen that no one is perfect in terms of leadership. Except, perhaps, you. How are you going to be a leadership example?

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userpic=anniversaryThirty-one years ago today Karen and I got married (in Woodland Hills, by Rabbi John Sherwood Z”L). Here’s looking forward to at least thirty-one more years…

(to the tune of the “William Tell Overture”)
Happy Anniversary, Happy Anniversary
Happy Anniversary, Haaappy Anniversary

Pour a cheerful toast and fill it, Happy Anniversary
But be careful you don’t spill it, Happy Anniversary

Ooooo Happy Anniversary, Happy Anniversary
Happy Anniversary, Haaappy Anniversary
Ooooo Happy Anniversary, Happy Anniversary
Happy Anniversary, Haaappy Anniversary

Happy she and happy he, They’re both as happy as can be
Celebrating merrily, their happy anniversary

Ooooo Happy Anniversary, Happy Anniversary
Happy Anniversary, Haaappy Anniversary
Ooooo Happy Anniversary, Happy Anniversary
Happy Anniversary, Haaappy Anniversary

We now state emphatically, it’s happy anniversary
Not another day could be, a happy anniversary

Ooooo Happy Anniversary, Happy Anniversary
Happy Anniversary
Happy (slow)
Happy (slow)
Happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy (fast) Anniversary!!!

(Gioacchino Rossini; arr. William Hanna / Joseph Barbera)

Many years ago I saw a post on LJ that suggested an interesting tradition for anniversaries: For each year that you are married, post one thing that you love about your spouse. This year marks year № 31:

  1. I love that she keeps her head in a crisis.
  2. I love that she knows how to calm me down when I start panicking.
  3. I love that she helps me think logically when dealing with big ticket items or expenses.
  4. I love that she knows how to think through situations logically.
  5. I love that she is a very loyal friend, going out of her way to help others.
  6. I love that she is able to express herself very well, and convey information the information to others in ways they can understand.
  7. I love that she is a very good cook, coming up with creative gluten-free dishes.
  8. I love that she is willing to put away the laundry.
  9. I love that she pulls off very nice parties.
  10. I love that she has a good decorating sense.
  11. I love that she cleans up nicely 🙂
  12. I love that she puts up with my disappearing off to Boardgame days and my working on the highway pages.
  13. I love the needlecrafting and fabric arts that she does (that is, the results–I’m less enthralled with the stash).
  14. I love that she knows how to deal with our daughter when I’m getting frustrated.
  15. I love that she was active in our daughter’s school life.
  16. I love that she is willing to deal with family situations I don’t want to deal with.
  17. I love that she is willing to deal with contractors and repair critters.
  18. I love that she doesn’t spend too much on quilting and fabric supplies :-).
  19. I love that she has similar tastes in friends to me.
  20. I love that she enjoys going to the theatre with me.
  21. I love that she understands that I’m not romantically inclined.
  22. I love that she puts up me when I’m dealing with my headaches.
  23. I love her compatible music tastes.
  24. I love that she’ll take my car in to get serviced, as opposed to saying “It’s your problem. Deal.”
  25. I love that she and I can have wonderfully intelligent conversations.
  26. I love her creativity.
  27. I love how she has helped raise our daughter into a bright, capable young woman.
  28. I love that she enjoys doing the “Berkeley Run” with our daughter.
  29. I love that she reminds me when it’s time to do the Anniversary Post.
  30. I love that she helps me take care of my health.
  31. I love that we can argue, get into our respective huffmobiles™, and still be able to talk and resolve issues calmly.

Of course, this list doesn’t include the things I love about her that I can’t post publicly :-). Maybe next year. You’ll just have to wait and see.

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userpic=charactureRight now, I’m in the doghouse for interrupting my wife. Out of a speaking habit I acquired growing up*, I started talking over my wife while we were having a discussion over something I saw on Facebook. She took it as yet another example of my disrespecting her opinion (as she had asked me not to do it in the past), and although I’ve apologized, she is still upset with me. From my site, there was no disrespect intended, but that doesn’t mean that cannot see how the behavior was interpreted and how it hurt her.

Thinking about the incident this morning, I realized that it is a lot like our problems with hidden privilege in this world. People do things out of habit — out of custom — without thinking. But can be reacting to feminine hygene items left on a counter , to assuming a particular economic advantage, to making assumptions based on gender or color, to interrupting and devaluing comments, to … . Often the person in the habit does not consciously intend to disrespect or take advantage of privilege or power, but that doesn’t prevent it any less from harming the other party. Habit does not make something right, does not excuse a behavior. Habit is often something that needs to be broken, but perhaps is the hardest thing to break.

I intend to break my habit of interrupting, for I do not intend or mean to disrespect my wife. It will be hard, and I need those who interact with me to chide or remind me when I fall back into that habit. A way of behavior acquired over many years does not mean it is proper.

Similarly, we should all think whether we have habits that disrespect other people and potentially take advantage of privilege. Do we automatically assume everyone was raised with the same advantages we had? Do we have behaviors that are, in the words of Avenue Q, just a little bit racist? Do we tell ethnic jokes or imply ethnic stereotypes without thinking?

I am going to make a conscious effort to break my habit. Are you going to join me (and help me), in my fight — either at a personal level, or even in larger society?

[*: A long time ago, a friend commented on the correspondence between speaking styles and network protocols. He noted that everyone’s household grows up with a particular protocol: jump in anytime, wait for any pause, wait for a significant pause. When you get into a discussion with someone from a different protocol, the behavior can be seen as interrupting, to disrespectful, to dominating. There’s not a conscious intent to create that feeling, mind you, but it comes across just the same.]

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userpic=tombstonesSome passings (or soon to be passings) from the last week that are worthy of note:

  • Pete Fountain. I’ve come to an appreciation of New Orleans Jazz late in life. My dad always loved it, and in a number of ways our tastes have aligned as I’ve gotten older (except for Jolson — I’m not as big of a Jolson fan as he was).  I’ve grown to love Firehouse Five + Two, the Dukes of Dixieland, numerous small Dixieland groups (anyone know a good podcast for these), and cover artists like Al Hirt. And, of course, Pete Fountain. Fountain was a legend, and worked with a number of the folks I just mentioned: Fountain started playing professionally on Bourbon Street in his teens. He once called the street of strip clubs, music joints and bars his “conservatory.” In his early years he toured nationally with the Dukes of Dixieland and the late trumpeter Al Hirt.
  • Glenn Yarbrough. Another love of mine is folk music, going to my first love, Peter, Paul, and Mary. That love lead to many groups, including the Kingston Trio, Tom Paxton, and of course, the Limeliters (which never disbanded, despite what the NYT says). The first, and probably most famous, tenor in the group was Yarbrough (although Red Grammer was a close second), and he helped create that famous Limeliter sound and repartee. Yet another loss to dementia and mental deterioration, similar to what is happening to another famous Glenn, Glen Campbell.
  • Kenny Baker. I’ll ignore the jokes about short subjects, and say this is the man that made R2D2 who it was (was R2D2 a he?). But he was more than just a droid, he was a noted vaudevillian, and a major character in Time Bandits.
  • Gladstones 4 Fish.  At one time, Robert J. Morris owned a bunch of wonderful restaurants: RJ’s for Ribs in Beverly Hills, Gladstones 4 Fish in Pacific Palisades, and his brother owned Adam’s Ribs in Encino (at least, so it appears). Morris sold them a long time ago, the the only remaining one, Gladstones (now owned by former LA Mayor Richard Riorden), has gone downhill (Morris still owns the Paradise Cove Beach Cafe). Reports have come out that the county would like to see Gladstones out (reported closing is October 2017). The County Supes would like to see the lease on the property extended to a full 40 years (currently it’s only allowed to run for 20 years), which they believe would lure in a new restaurant that would build from scratch on the site. The long-term lease would hopefully make such a build more stable and viable for whichever company steps up to the challenge.
  • Social Media Infrastructure. Times have changed. Over the last 10 years, we’ve seen social media — such as blogs and journals — moved from an open infrastructure with loads of supports (everyone and their brother having a blog on their own website), and loads of journaling sites (such as Livejournal and its clones) to a closed infrastructure of Tumblr, Facebook, and other short-attention-span media. Let us bow our heads in remembrance.

 

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userpic=obama-hillary-california,politicsLast night, while answering the same questions on Hillary Clinton’s character, I realized that I’m tired of this shit. So, for one last time, here are the answers:

  • Does Hillary Clinton lie? Yes. She’s a human being and a diplomat and a politician. By definition, there are times that she lies. I don’t think you can find a human being that doesn’t lie. But that’s not the question you should ask. We can’t just vote for anyone for President — so finding perfection is out — we have to vote for a candidate on the ballot. And, of the major party candidates, Hillary lies the least. Politifact, an independent organization, did a survey and said so. In fact, they compared all the major party candidates running for office in the last few years, and the only one who lied less than Hillary was Obama. The truth is that Hillary Clinton is fundamentally honest. No, she’s not perfect, but she’s honest within normal human parameters. As for Donald Trump, it appears he has no problem lying when he is the one doing it.
  • But what about Bengazhi and the Email Server? What about them? Let’s start with Bengazhi. Politicians take actions all the time that indirectly result in deaths. Be they sending our soldiers into war, be they withholding medical funds, be they determining where a budget goes and doesn’t go. That doesn’t make the politician legally liable for the death. There has to be a direct connection between the politicians actions and the death, such as German officials during WWII that directly ordered deaths. Further, in the case of funding of embassies, funding is determined by Congress, not the Department of State, who put the funds in various budget categories. If they cut the overall budget for embassy funding, there is little that the Secretary of State can do. There is no court in law that would find the Secretary of State legally liable for those deaths. As for the email server and classified information, there are some fundamental facts that people who handle classified information understand. First, having an email that is classified after the fact is not an infraction. You delete it when the determination is made and move on. Sending a classified email involves two parties: the sender and the recipient. The sender would get an infraction for sending after the recipient reports it. No one reported Clinton for sending classified emails, and Clinton never reported anyone for sending her a classified email. That’s pretty indicative of whether there was a problem. There wasn’t. The FBI, in fact, has said the emails weren’t classified after all. These were low level scheduling emails, improperly marked. Further, her use of a personal email server wasn’t illegal under the rules in effect at the time. Now, contrast the level of this violation with the other candidates. Mr. Trump has called for a foreign country to interfere in US elections, and has called for people to assassinate government officers — but then shrugged it off as a joke. He has vowed to take retaliatory actions against those who oppose him. He has vowed to violate treaties which the US has signed. Which level of violation is within normal parameters, and which isn’t? Hillary has shown some poor judgement, but is extremely unlikely to repeat that poor judgement if elected. Can you say that about Trump?  Perhaps that is why prominent cybersecurity experts have endorsed Clinton.
  • She’s a criminal, right? Let’s start with the key aspect: to be a criminal, you must commit a crime and be found guilty by a court of law — not the court of public opinion. Our system of jurisprudence presumes that an accused is considered to be innocent until they are proven, beyond a reasonable doubt, to have violated the letter of the law. Not what we think the law says. Not heresay or innuendo. Facts beyond a reasonable doubt against the letter of the law. For all of the investigations that have been done, there has not been a prosecutor that has found sufficient evidence to convene a jury, conduct a trial, and get a guilty verdict. This is why Comey said what he said at the hearings: there is insufficient evidence to prosecute and win. Therefore, under the law, she is innocent.
  • So I’ll vote for a third-party candidate to bring change. Voting for third party candidates is fine at anything below the Presidential election, where majority voting rules. Senator, Congresscritter, state office, local office — I’ll say go for it. That’s where the real change begins. But for President, the system defined in the Constitution and by the states makes voting for a third-party problematic, unless you have a chance of getting a majority in a state. Most states are winner take all, and thus voting for a third-party risks taking votes away from the bum you could tolerate, and giving your state’s electoral votes to the bum you don’t like. Can you afford to risk that? If you are not in a swing state where the election is close, probably. In a swing state like FL, OH, PA, or others? Think very carefully. Oh, and by the way, both Johnson (L) and Stein (G) are equally batshit crazy. Yes, that’s a technical term.

Face the facts: There are a large number of people that like Hillary Clinton, and don’t believe all the stories against her.  They realize that the stories were manufactured because of two things about Hillary: She’s a woman, and she’s married to Bill Clinton. For many of the people that do not, no recitation of the facts will change their minds. Still others have realized that all the candidates are flawed, but Hillary is the only candidate that is flawed within normal parameters. They know that the best option for the country is to elect Hillary, and to elect a congress to make sure she does the right thing. Even folks who disagree with Hillary on social issues — such as abortion — are realizing she is the best suited temperamentally to be President.

Now, that I’ve said all that, I want you to look back over all the political news you have been reading. Look at your Facebook feeds. Look at your RSS feeds and your blog posts. Look at your newspapers and opinion pieces. Do you notice that something is missing? Everything you read is about the candidate’s character and their flaws. Maybe because we have a candidate that is “Full Monty”-ing his lack of character, and exposing his real shortcomings, not the imagined ones related to his hands. What’s missing, however, is any discussion of the candidate’s positions.

I challenge you. Go beyond the fact the other candidates don’t have the temperament or decorum to be President, and look at their positions (link is to a great summary chart, with only one error — Hillary’s position regarding student debt). I think when you actually look into the positions, you’ll see that Clinton’s are quite good — and paid for without deficit spending. Trump’s, on the other hand, would diminish the US economy. Clinton has realistic proposals with details; Trump’s are vague and unfunded. I have looked at Clinton’s positions on the issues, and I like what I see.

So, here’s my challenge. Let’s make the discussion about issues. Let’s demonstrate why Hillary’s proposals are stronger, and the other candidates’ proposals are economically disastrous for the country, and will create more insecurity. This political battle is about more than just character (although that is a big part) — Hillary is not only the better candidate, but has the better positions — positions that derive from her experience, her listening, and yes, the input from all the folks that “Felt the Bern”. Let’s talk about them.

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userpic=obama-supermanNote: I have updated my post from Saturday, “Should Jews Fear The Conservative Victory?“, to include the link to a scan of the Spring 1995 article from Reform Judaism (magazine). This article — particularly the “Yes” side by Arthur Hertzberg, was very prescient about this year’s election as well.

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userpic=don-martinAlthough you’re probably still wondering why an article written in Spring 1995 seems so eerily accurate about Donald Trump today, I’d like to give you some more things that you probably haven’t thought about:

  • Gases and the Body. You’ve probably become more and more aware of the microbiome in our bodies. You probably haven’t given a lot of thought to the gasses in our bodies, except when they escape from ends of the digestive track. However, a new study shows how the gases swirling inside our bodies can power our brains and affect the way we act. Some gaseous neurotransmitters (or gasotransmitters) are produced by your organs and tissues. Others—such as nitric oxide (NO), carbon monoxide (CO), hydrogen sulfide (H2S), methane (CH4), hydrogen (H2), and ammonia (NH3)—are the products of fermentation in your gut by microscopic organisms like bacteria. These tiny molecules feed and help regulate your cells and those of the microbes living inside you—complex relationships that can have much larger consequences. An interesting addendum: biological processes can also be harnessed to turn Carbon Dioxide into a fuel.
  • Drywall. It know, it sounds like something out of Surprisingly Awesome: The exciting history of drywall (gypsum board). Gypsum is noncombustible, and compared to other wall materials, like solid wood and plaster, gypsum boards are much lighter and cheaper. As a result, drywall is popular in homes across the U.S.: According to the Gypsum Association, more than 20 billion square feet of drywall is manufactured each year in North America. It’s the staple of a billion-dollar construction industry that depends on quick demolition and building. It can also be deadly.
  • Architectural Security. Have you ever closely looked at the architectural characteristics when you are out and about. It turns out that many of them exist to enhance security. “The inside of a building in it of itself can be a security tool,” says Geoff Manaugh, an architecture writer and blogger of BLDGBLOG. “If you don’t think about buildings in terms of security and you don’t think of architecture in terms of burglary, you can really easily overlook these things.”
  • The Most Cost Effective Pizza. Due to the nature of geometric math, the larger pizza is almost always the most cost effective pizza. Just remember to refrigerate the leftovers. The math of why bigger pizzas are such a good deal is simple: A pizza is a circle, and the area of a circle increases with the square of the radius.
  • Embedded Links. Much as you try not to do it, a determined hacker can design a link such that almost anyone will likely click on it. Human traits like curiosity “cannot be patched” against these kinds of vulnerabilities, says one leading computer science researcher. And so, you can be the smartest security buff in the world, yet researchers could probably still trick you into clicking on a dangerous link.

 

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userpic=obama-superman

This evening we were cleaning a cabinet, and found a copy of Reform Judaism (magazine) (ReformJudaism.org) from Spring 1995, with the cover article: “Should Jews Fear the Conservative Victory(ETA: Link added) by Marshall Breger (“no”) and Arthur Hertzberg (‘yes”). Hertzberg’s article talked about how a leading neo-conservative said “Jews once again displayed their inclination to be as well off as the Episcopalians and to vote like the Puerto Ricans”. Hertzberg noted that:

“Neo-Conservatives have been telling Jews for years that their self-interest dictates that they vote with their pocketbooks, just as other Americans of their economic class do. The vast majority of Jews has rejected this argument, understanding that the basic interest of Jews is bound up with peace in society. Jews have known for many centuries that they are the most vulnerable of the haves, and that Jew-hatred is most marked among the have-nots who fear the future.”

Spring 1995. How prescient for this year’s campaign as well.

Here’s a particularly telling pull quote:

“If the social safety net is removed, a violent reaction will follow. It will no longer be enough to blame the liberals; Jews will become the prime scapegoat.”. Here’s another quote: “We are now living a moment in American history when high-tech jobs are more available, but less secure, a time when opportunity for blue-collar workers is shrinking irreversibly. Not so very subtly, right-wing ideologues are already deflecting these angers at scapegoats — the black and the poor — suggesting that the chronic unemployed, recent immigrants, and welfare mothers are destroying the moral fabric of society and, because of their supposed innate intellectual inferiority, are undermining our nation’s economic future.”

Here is another quote, again, very prescient:

“The conservatives have thrown an attack on multiculturalism into the mix to position themselves as defenders of traditional European civilization against the liberal commitment to multiculturalism. This makes most Jews uncomfortable, and even nervous. The conservative vision of American culture says to us that our Jewish heritage is outside a canon dominated by the writings of ancient Greeks and medieval and modern Christians. The rich will get richer through lowered taxes in revival of “trickle down” economics, and the sinking middle class will be told that punishing unwed mothers will satisfy their hungers. The move from crying out that liberalism and not injustice, is the enemy to shouting that the Jew, the outsider, is responsible for that injustice is a possibility that now seems nearer to the horizon.”

Alas, the issue is not online. I’ll have to scan it next week, and I’ll link it here. [ETA: Here’s a link to the issue, with Breger’s “No” first, followed by Hertzberg’s “Yes” and the RAC response.] But when others stress that Jews must vote with Trump because of his position on Israel, we must remember that as Jewish Americans — as American Jews — our vote is based more on one issue. We have seen the slips into antisemitism from the Trump campaign. We have also seen the campaign make its attacks on social justice. Progressive Judaism’s position is based on the social justice values that form one of the cores of our faith — the remembrance that, as Hertzberg put it, “Jews remember when they were poor and have sympathy for Americans who still are.” It is one of the many reasons why #ImWithHer and supporting Hillary.

*: This was originally a Facebook update, which was expanded. It was edited again on Mon 8/8 to add a link to the PDF of the article.

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Note: This is an update of a post from a few years ago… Many of you who read this blog regularly probably wonder how we can afford to go to so many shows. You have probably been schooled in the theory that “Theatre Is Expensive”. So how do I score good seats. Here are some approaches. Even if you aren’t in LA, many will apply to the cities were you live:

  1. Look for half-price ticket or discount ticket programs. Many cities have them. I particularly recommend Goldstar Events (use this link and I can ear a little credit). Plays411 will also send out mailings for discount tickets. Sometimes, you can even score free tickets. If you are in LA, LA Stage Alliance also has a half-price program. PS: A good hint for Goldstar is to star your favorite theatres and shows: This lets you know when new shows are added there, or additional seats for a show.
  2. Know when particular theatres have special programs. Alas, the Center Theatre Group has discontinued their Hottix program: “In honor of our 50th season, we’ve simplified our pricing structure and expanded the number of $25 tickets available at every performance. While we will no longer have a formal Hot Tix program, we’ve improved the seating locations of $25 tickets in all three theatres and are making them available as soon as single tickets go on sale.” The trick is to buy them early and at the beginning of the season. For CTG, this can be cheaper than season tickets, for season tickets add a $10 per ticket fee, whereas the $25 tickets only have a $5 fee. See here for the 2016-2017 season.
  3. Know how to get the cheapest seats. For the Pantages, this means (a) buy early (when the show goes on sale to the public), and (b) buy at the box office. This avoids the Ticketmaster $7/ticket service fee. You can often get $25 or $35 tickets off to the side (seating area D or E) this way. The Pantages does demand pricing, so later in the run of a popular show, prices go up. [Yes, this means that sometimes the cheapest tickets are season tickets at the Pantages — you buy them early, and can get great prices for the package.]
  4. If you can, take advantages of “day of” programs. Many theatres, including the Pantages, have day-of rush tickets or student rush tickets. They may have ticket lotteries. TodayTix can also provide discounted day-of theatre tickets.
  5. Subscribe. If you like what a particular theatre is doing, subscribe. This supports the theatre year round, and may introduce you to shows you wouldn’t think of going to. I like to have a mixture of subscription seats and shows I particularly pick. We currently subscribe at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB), the  Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB), and the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB). 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).
  6. Look for Audience Filling Programs. Theatres do not like to have empty rooms. Actors don’t like to act to an empty room. There are services that help fill theatres. These include SoldOutCrowd and TheatreExtras. I haven’t used these, but I know folks that do. They are worth looking into.
  7. Get on Mailing Lists. If you get your names on the mailing lists of your favorite theatres, you will often get announcements of discounts, previews, and special performances. This includes, by the way, being Facebook friends with your favorite theatres.

If you do things right, going out to the theatre can be no more expensive than going to a movie on a Saturday night (with concessions). Wait until the movie comes out on DVD — trust me, you’ll see the same acting. Go support the live theatre — you’ll never know what you’ll see, and each show will be a little different. Further, help the theatre by writing about what you see, and telling your friends about the show.

 

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userpic=san-fernando-valleyMoving away from politics for a moment, lets have a moment of silence for some once great malls in the valley:

 

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Trump'd (OperaWorks)userpic=theatre_ticketsDid you hear about how Donald Trump, two Sunday’s ago, took pictures of his private parts and sent them to his gay lover while at a campaign rally? I know, I was there. Evidence, yet again, that Trump had actually sold his soul to the Devil.

(waits for a pause)

OK, it wasn’t really Donald Trump. It was Donald Trump as seen through the eyes of opera singers. Perhaps I should explain.

One of our treats every summer is attending the performance component of the Advanced Artists Program of Operaworks (FB). The Advanced Artist Program is for operatic performers in graduate school or beyond, who want to work in-depth on their repertoire – dramatically, musically, and physically. It’s goal is to teach the performers the “other” side of opera beyond singing. In particular, the not only learn how to address the business and marketing side, but they learn how to act and move on stage as actors and actresses — how to relate to other characters as characters, not just stand in front of a piano and sing. The program culminates with two performance shows of improvised opera. The show consists of three acts, not necessarily related. For each act, the students pick a location and come up with one paragraph bios of their characters and their relationship to the other characters in their act. They then pick arias, from both operas and other musical theatre, for each character to relate to another character. Improvising dialogue, they now put these characters and arias into a show. Here’s an example bio or two from this year’s program:

  • Ivanka Trump (Zeledón) is an American businesswoman, who is dedicated to making America great again, one shoe at a time. She is a staunch supporter of her father, whenever iti s most convenient to her.
  • A dental hygienist, Stephanie Hollenberg has been working for Daughters & Sons Dentistry for six years, where she instigated the increasingly popular “Tooth Fairy Tuesdays.” In her free time, she enjoys frequenting wine bars and shopping at the Container Store.

This year, the three locations chosen were a Subway Station in New York at 4am, an Art Museum, and a Trump Rally at said art museum. There was a connected story line. In Act I, they were getting the area ready for a Trump rally, when some Trump workers indicated they had something on the Donald. Act II focused on how the Devil was controlling the art in the art museum. Act III was the aforementioned Trump rally, where the aforementioned sexting occurred.

It is hard to relate the full details of the story, but here’s a summary of the singers, characters, and arias, in order:

Act One: An Abandoned NYC Subway Station at 4 A.M.

Singer / Character Aria Opera | Composer
Amy Selby (FB), an enthusiastic, youthful hipster, a techie, interested in jamming at NYCRavers events. Je veux vivre Roméo Et Juliette | Charles-François Gounod
/ Emerald Lessley (FB), a domestic engineer with an Etsy business. Come scoglio Cosí Fan Tutte | W. A. Mozart
Colin Campbell (FB), a TMZ sound engineering in a troubled marriage to Emerald. En fermant les yeux Manon | Jules Massenet
/ Glenn Fernandez (FB), a promising accountant at Trump Towers, recently let go during a cost cutting attempt. Si, ritrovarla io giuro La Cenerentola | Gioacchino Rossini
\ Jessine Johnson (FB), a resident of the Columbus Circle subway station. Regnava nel silenzio Lucia Di Lammermoor | Gaetano Donizetti
Maggie Finnegan (FB), part of Trump’s Secret Service detail, into folk music. I never travel without one Postcard From Morocco | Dominick Argento
Stephanie Hollenberg (FB), a dental hygienist dressed as a tooth fairy. Piangerò la sorte mia Giulio Cesare | George Frideric Händel
/ Jon Ellis (FB), an Exec VP of Corporate Finance for Trump Towers Inc. Ch’ella mì creda La Fanciulla Del West | Giacomo Puccini
\ Morgan Harrington (FB), Ellis’ executive assistant and secret lover. Mi tradì quell’alma ingrata Don Giovanni | W. A. Mozart
Margaret Izard, one of the cities finest janitors. Chacun à son goût Die Fledermaus | Johann Strauss

Act Two: An Art Museum above the Subway Station at 4 A.M.

Singer / Character Aria Opera | Composer
Shannon McAleb (FB), who studied art at Columbia University, but is now working restoring the great works of art in NYC. Chi il bel sogno di Doretta? La Rondine | Giacomo Puccini
Aphrodite of Arles (Catherine Leech (FB)), full of love, passion, and desires intimacy with the Devil. Non so più Le Nozze Di Figaro | W. A. Mozart
Sophie (Yoo Ri Clark (FB)), a socialite admired for her timeless beauty and elegance. Glitter & Be Gay Candide | Leonard Bernstein
Bacchus (Adam Cromer (FB)), the God of Feats, of Wine, and of Pleasure. Giunto sul passo estremo Mefistofele | Arrigo Boito
The Devil (Vanja Schoch (FB)), the oldest enemy of humanity. Endless Pleasure Semele | George Frideric Händel
/ Rick (Wes Hunter (FB)), a homeless man who has lost everything. Un’aura amorosa Così Fan Tutte| W. A. Mozart
\ The Degas Ballerina (Hillary Esqueda (FB)), who left the loves of her life to be here. Who Is There to Love Me? A Hand of Bridge | Samuel Barber
Camila (Erin Moran/FB), the Spanish Dancer in El Jaleo. Près des ramparts de Séville Carmen | Georges Bizet
Katya (Ashley Biehl (FB)), the soul trapped in El Lissitzky’s “Beat the Whites with the Red Wedge” Volta la terrea Un Ballo in Maschera | Giuseppe Verdi
Lady with a Helmet of Hair (Claire Choquette (FB)), from Picasso’s Blue Period Illustratevi o cieli Il Ritorno D’ulisse In Patria | Claudio Monteverdi
ALL Chi il bel sogno di Doretta? La Rondine | Giacomo Puccini

Act Three: The Next Morning at the Art Museum

Singer / Character Aria Opera | Composer
Jen (Zen Wu (FB)), representing CNN and the newest member of the Trump Press Pool, looking for a story amidst the gossip Ah, fors ‘è lui La Traviata | Giuseppe Verdi
Aimee Bobbins (Mackenzie Rogers (FB)), an avid NRA enthusiast and conservative voter. Nobles seigneur, salut! Les Hugoneuots | Giacomo Meyerbeer
Kat Smith (Katrina Deininger (FB)), an advocate for peace in the US and worldwide, who wants to give hugs to everyone. Du gai soleil Werther | Jules Massenet
Kevin Werther (Kimberly Hann/FB), a loyal member of the Trump security detail, faithful to the Trump family. Hence, Iris hence away Semele | George Frideric Händel
/ Julio Ramirez (José Mongelós (FB)), Trump’s official hair masseur, Gertlestein’s assistant. Dies Bildnis ist bezaubern schön Die Zauberflöte | W. A. Mozart
\ Lauren (Lauren James (FB)), a well-known TMZ reporter. Il est doux, il est bon Hérodiade | Jules Massenet
/ Sarah Coulter (Jessie Shulman (FB)), manager of the Trump campaign since April 2016 Svegliatevi nel core Giulio Cesare | George Frideric Händel
\ Rhonda Gertlestein (Kelly Ferguson (FB)), Trump’s celebrity hairstylist. Io son l’umile ancella Adriana Lecouvveur | Francesco Ciléa
Ashley Phelps (Ashley McKinstry/FB), great-granddaughter of Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church. I Want Magic A Streetcar Named Desire | André Previn
Ivanka Trump (Isabella Zeledón), Trump’s daughter. Ci’io mai vi possa Siroe Re Di Persia | George Frideric Händel
Donald Trump (Marcy McKee (FB)), a wonderful, amazing entrepreneur Dich theure Halle Trannhäuser | Richard Wagner
ALL Libiamo ne’lieti calici La Traviata | Giuseppe Verdi

Overall, the event was very entertaining, and the singers not only performed well, but they interacted with other players well. This was especially true in the first act.

Technical Credits: Stage Direction: Zeffin Quinn Hollis (FB). Movement Coach: Dr. Paula Thomson. Improvisation Coach: Laura Parker. Artistic Director: Ann Baltz (FB). Additional faculty and Operaworks staff is listed on the Operaworks site.

* * *

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). 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:  August is a bit more open in terms of theatre. The first weekend just has a Jethawks game on Sunday; the second weekend has a Bar Mitzvah.  The third weekend brings another event from the wonderful counter-cultural orchestra, Muse/ique (FB) — American/Rhapsody — a celebration of George Gershwin. Late August sees us looking at shows down San Diego/Escondido for one weekend. The best of the shows available — or at least the most interesting — is Titanic from Moonlight Stages. September returns to conventional theatre. The first weekend has a HOLD for Calendar Girls at The Group Rep (FB). The second weekend may be another Muse/ique (FB) event — Summer/Time, a reimagined retelling of Porgy and Bess. The third weekend has a HOLD for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom at the Mark Taper Forum (FB). The last weekend is The Hunchback of Notre Dame at The La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts (FB).

Continuing the look ahead: 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). Oh, and if that wasn’t enough, October is also the North Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), and it looks like a theatre in Pasadena will be presenting the musical Funny Girl. November is still in the planning stages, but we know it will include 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. As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, and Musicals in LA, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves.

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userpic=political-flakesThis political summer, there are two big problems that I’ve seen. No, I’m not talking about the candidates themselves. I happen to be a strong Clinton supporter, but for those who aren’t, well, please heed the words of PJ O’Roarke.

No, the problems that I see are (a) the Trump supporters; and (b) a failure at the DNC.

The problem with the Trump supporters is that they have been so convinced by the Republican media-machine of the guilt of Hillary Clinton that they can no longer think critically and reason for themselves. They can’t see the flaws in their candidate. They are so angry at the political establishment that they would rather blow it up. They are, essentially, political terrorists, playing into the hands of terrorist leaders and demagogues. It is not good for our country, but they have been wound up so tightly with hate that they don’t care. This is the same thing that ISIS does with hatred for the west, and it may very well produce the same level of carnage in this country if it succeeds. More significantly, their minds are so closed they can’t see the bill of goods they have been sold. Not only is their candidate much much worse than he has been portrayed, but the Democratic candidate does not have the level of corruption and deceit that the Trump-supporting media has been stating. Independent assessors have actually pointed out that she is the most honest candidate, and all of the “corruption” investigations — including the email message — are more smoke than substance.

On the other side, the DNC failed to address the above. Oh, they addressed the problems with Trump. What they needed, however, was to have Clinton come out and straightforwardly address all the lies that have been circulated about her, demonstrating that there is nothing there. Bengazi — nothing. Email scandal — nothing. Clinton Foundation — nothing. Cronyism — nothing. But by not directly addressing the issues, they permit the rumors to live. No, they won’t be able to convince the Trump stalwarts. But they might be able to convince the Sanders supporters and the third-party supporters that Clinton isn’t the corrupt politician she’s been made out to be. They might be able to reach the folks that would vote for her, “if she wasn’t so corrupt.”

This election is one where much of our problems can be placed squarely on the media and its obsession for eyeballs. Trump may be a horrible candidate, one of the worst presidential candidates ever — but he is entertaining and draws the eyeballs to the media. This improves ratings, and helps the media companies. Clinton? She’s never been an exciting candidate or a moving speaker, and is very cautious — and so doesn’t make the mistakes and gaffes that get into the news. Why cover her strengths?

We need to figure out a way for people to think critically. To look at what Trump is doing and his history critically. What is in his tax returns? Why have all his businesses failed? What does his notion of having Ben Carson and Sarah Palin as his foreign policy advisors say about his judgement?

On the other side, for those so upset at Clinton’s emails, ask yourself this: If she was sending classified information against State Dept policy, then why didn’t the recipient’s report receiving the mails? That’s a requirement as well. The answer is that it wasn’t a problem — it was normal practice at the State Department, which does things differently than the DOD. If there was something clearly at the level of prosecution, it would have been prosecuted by now. The evidence of anything other than occasional poor judgement is just not there.

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Hollywood Bowl (Weird Al / Copland)userpic=theatre_ticketsI’ve been remiss in writing up live performances of late — vacation and other issues have gotten in the way. Further, they have been less traditional theatre and more in the category of concerts or other oddities. But that’s no excuse, so let’s catch up a bit…

In the past two weeks, I’ve been out to the Hollywood Bowl (FB) twice: once for the Weird Al Yankovic Mandatory World Tour on Saturday, July 23, and for the LA Philharmonic “Copland and Marsalis” program on Thursday, July 28th.

The Weird Al show was not “Weird Al: A Man and his Accordion”. Instead, it was a collection of costume numbers interspersed with  video presentations either related to the songs, or showing Weird Al mentions in various media.

The setlist (taken from setlist.fm) was:

  1. Tacky
  2. Now That’s What I Call Polka!
  3. Foil
  4. Perform This Way
  5. Dare to Be Stupid
  6. Fat
  7. Smells Like Nirvana
  8. Eat It / I Lost on Jeopardy / I Love Rocky Road / Like a Surgeon
  9. White and Nerdy
  10. Word Crimes
  11. Amish Paradise

Encores:

  1. We All Have Cell Phones
  2. The Saga Begins
  3. Yoda (with Yoda Chant)

In general, the show was a mix of songs the old-timers (like me) would recognize, and new stuff that was parodies of things we had never heard of. But it was all fun, and the audience was into it.

The Thursday show was completely different. It was far from a sellout, and the crowd was much more of a classical audience. The “setlist” consisted of:

  1. Copland: An Outdoor Overture
  2. Marsalis: Violin Concerto (LA Phil co-commission, West Coast premiere)
  3. Copland: Symphony No. 3

This was a relaxed show: an evening for listening to beautiful music and watching the environment around us (of course, that was impacted a bit when a women near us got quite sick and required medical attention, including a bit of worshiping at the porcelain goddess, without the goddess).

I’ll get a writeup of the Sunday, July 24 show (Operaworks (FB) Opera Re-Constructed at CSUN) up in a bit.

* * *

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). 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:  August is a bit more open in terms of theatre. The first weekend just has a Jethawks game on Sunday; the second weekend has a Bar Mitzvah.  The third weekend brings another event from the wonderful counter-cultural orchestra, Muse/ique (FB) — American/Rhapsody — a celebration of George Gershwin. Late August sees us looking at shows down San Diego/Escondido for one weekend. The best of the shows available — or at least the most interesting — is Titanic from Moonlight Stages. September returns to conventional theatre. The first weekend has a HOLD for Calendar Girls at The Group Rep (FB). The second weekend may be another Muse/ique (FB) event — Summer/Time, a reimagined retelling of Porgy and Bess. The third weekend has a HOLD for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom at the Mark Taper Forum (FB). The last weekend is The Hunchback of Notre Dame at The La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts (FB).

Continuing the look ahead: 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). Oh, and if that wasn’t enough, October is also the North Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), and it looks like a theatre in Pasadena will be presenting the musical Funny Girl. November is still in the planning stages, but we know it will include 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. As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, and Musicals in LA, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves.

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userpic=roadgeekingJuly. The hot summer. While you are hopefully staying cool, here are some headlines related to California Highways that I noticed:

  • Getting the roundabout from the state. Sometime next year or a little bit later, the intersection of Valley Center Road & Hwy 76 will get be converted into a roundabout. The total cost of the project will be $17.5 million, which includes approximately $9 million in construction capital and $3.5 million in right-of-way capital. According to the Cal Trans website the goal of the project is “Reduce the number and severity of accidents at SR-76 and Valley Center Road and realign the curves just east of the intersection.” Design of the preferred alternative is tentatively scheduled for completion in 2016, with construction to be done in 2017.
  • VTA scales back toll lane plans. A controversial plan to construct toll lanes in the Highway 85 median could be abandoned, after city leaders made clear that the undeveloped strip of land dividing the congested highway ought to be reserved for transit rather than solo drivers in the increasingly crowded Santa Clara Valley. In June, the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) board of directors agreed to put a half-cent sales tax measure on the November ballot. If passed, the tax would generate $6.5 billion over 30 years, and would help to pay for myriad transportation projects throughout the region.
  • Supervisors approve land exchange with Caltrans for 76 widening . The widening of State Route 76 from two lanes to four between South Mission Road and Interstate 15 requires the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) to acquire land from the County of San Diego, but the county was willing to sell land and grant easements to Caltrans in exchange for cash and Caltrans remnant parcels. The San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted 4-0 June 22, with Greg Cox in Sacramento, to approve the sale of 6.94 acres of county-owned land and the granting of 2.98 acres of easements in exchange for $143,599 in cash and three Caltrans remnant parcels valued at $155,800. The Caltrans remnant parcels total 112,415 square feet, or 2.58 acres.

Read the rest of this entry »

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userpic=bushbabyWhile my wife takes a nap, a few thoughts that have been bubbling through my head whilst reading Facebook….

A big problem today is the echo chamber we tend to live in. Facebook, understandably, wants us to spend more time on the site reading things. They do this by serving us more of the things we like, and we tend to like what our friends have to say, and perhaps what their friends say, and perhaps what they like. This has the side effect of making us see only a narrow view of the world, usually from those who tend to agree with us. We also tend to share news that we like, and that makes us read only from sources that tend to agree with our worldview.

Now, add to that the problem that it is difficult to know more and more what is true news media, what is blogs, what is opinion, and what is satire. We read from biased news sources — on both sides — without realizing they are biased. We read opinion as fact. We read satire as fact. We believe everything we read — especially the hyperbole — as true. More so when we read it on the Internet.

Further, the more we see statements from different sources, the more we believe it is true. It could be a complete biased falsehood, but repeated enough and with enough authority, it becomes truth. Or truthy. Or something like that.

What does that mean? We don’t see the real world. Those of us who are Clinton supporters don’t see what the other side is seeing about Trump in the positive, and Clinton in the negative. Those who are Trump supporters don’t see his negatives and Clinton’s positives. We don’t talk to each other, we talk across each other. This isn’t good. It can lead to complacency, especially when what you are seeing are only biased polls — that can lead you to fail to keep up the effort so that the right candidate wins.

I urge you: break out of that echo chamber. Occasionally see what your friends on the other side are seeing. Learn what are neutral news sources, and what is biased, and work to filter out that biased. Don’t discuss to convince, but to educate. Most importantly, have an open mind. You don’t need to agree with all you read, but you need to hear it.

[And, for the political aside on this: This is a clear difference between the candidates. Clinton extensively listens and learns. Trump appears to listen and react negatively when what he hears disagrees with him or his world view. Candidates, too, can live in an echo chamber. For some, that’s the only place they want to live, and that can be dangerous.]

[And, as a PS: It is also important to understand who may be reading your post. Unless you specifically restrict a post, block a user, or restrict your writing venue properly, you must assume that it is public, and that anyone may be reading it (whether you like it or not). I see that with political posts all the time: if you share an opinion on a candidate, and you are smart to have a diverse set of friends with diverse opinions, you’ll get a good dialogue going. Different venues have different ways of restricting visibility, and some are quite public. Twitter, in particular, is out there in the open for everyone to see stupidity, or profound responses, on display.]

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userpic=levysI know my last few posts have been political — it is just that my concerns over the Republican nominee have incited a passion in me that makes me want to ensure his defeat. So a last political note, and then we’ll move on to something different to chew: some news chum about food, medicine, and science.

But first

… to those of you who cannot bring yourself to vote for Hillary because of her character and the character flaws you think you see, please read this article. You’ll learn how you’ve been fed a diet of genetically modified truth, something empty of nutrition and value, and that has spoiled your appetite for something that is actually healthy. Then read this article, and learn why the Clinton that you see in the news is very different than the Clinton those that work with her see, and why those who do work with her are fiercely loyal to her.

… to those who are Republican who still can’t bring themselves to vote for Clinton after seeing the truth — those who deny the truth about Clinton just as you deny climate science and the value of vaccines — then read this post. Learn how, as the DNC and Trump’s behavior has shown, he spits in the face of traditional Republican values, and has in fact ceded the Republican values of patriotism, love of country, belief in the people of this country, belief in the quality of the American military and support for Veterans to the Democratic party. The man is clearly not a Democrat, and does not reflect Republican values, and is not deserving of your support. If you can’t vote for Clinton, then vote for Gary Johnson or abstain for voting for President. Don’t vote for a man that clearly does not deserve to be the leader of your Republican party. (I note I say this as a Democrat, but a Democrat who believes we need a sane and valid Republican party, because it is the diversity of sane political views that leads to the compromises that makes this country strong).

And now, on to something different to chew upon:

Hmmm, I guess I do have politics on my mind after all.

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userpic=nixonTo My Republican Friends: Yesterday, in a post regarding the upcoming presidential election, I wrote:

This is no longer about personality. It is about positions.

I also implied that if your beliefs and positions were congruent with the Republican Platform and the statements of your nominee, you should vote for your nominee.

I humbly admit that I was wrong. The statements above do not apply when your candidate is batshit crazy.

Perhaps I should clarify this a bit with what I mean by “batshit crazy”. After all, it is a technical term.

Your candidate is batshit crazy if:

  • They invite a foreign power to interfere in our Presidential election. This is true for any foreign power. Just as other countries are rightly upset if America tries to interfere in their elections, other than monitoring that they are fair, it is wrong for a foreign power to interfere in an election in a way that may change the outcome. However, that is just what the Republican Nominee, Donald Trump, has done when he said: “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” Mr. Trump said, staring directly into the cameras. “I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”
  • They establish a fund to influence an election against a candidate simply because they refused to endorse them. Donald Trump confirmed his plans during an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press” broadcast on Sunday, saying “I’ll probably do a super-PAC, you know, when they run – against Kasich for $10 million, to $20 million against Ted Cruz.”
  • They encourage violating the constitutional separation between church and state by indicating they want to permit selected churches to influence government policy. At the RNC, Trump said, “At this moment, I would like to thank the evangelical community because, I will tell you what, the support they have given me — and I’m not sure I totally deserve it — has been so amazing. And has been such a big reason I’m here tonight. They have much to contribute to our policies.” (emphasis added)

As I said, I was wrong. There are some candidate actions that cross the line, and the above actions have. I am not going to ask you to vote for the Democratic Candidate, Hillary Clinton. I know that, independent of whether you trust her, you just cannot support the Democratic Platform. I get that.

Here’s what I would like you to do: Abstain from voting for the office of President.  Vote for down office candidates (i.e., Senate, Congress, State and Local) who agree with your positions, but DO NOT vote for the Trump/Pence ticket. Let the world see, by the vote total differential, that you do not approve of this choice of your party, and that you feel the party has lost its reason. Feel free to investigate the third party candidates such as Gary Johnson, and vote for them if there is sufficient congruence (note that Stein, however, is also batshit crazy).  But, Republican friends, please — if you believe that America should be the country that determines its destiny — do not vote for a man that encourages foreign countries to interfere in our elections.

P.S.: Think about this: There is already evidence that the DNC emails that were released had their contents altered. How can you trust the integrity of any email discovered by the Russians, when it is in their interest to skew the election in the direction of a candidate that will have a soft foreign policy towards them.

P2.S.: Of course, I would love it if you voted for Clinton, but I understand.

ETA P3.S.: From the pot calling the kettle department: PC World notes: IT security consultant Kevin Mitnick tweeted: “Donald Trump invites Russia to hack Clinton’s emails. Isn’t that aiding and abetting” under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act? [I’ll note that I actually went to camp with Kevin’s brother, Steve, who set loads of swimming records]

***

To my friends that are Bernie or Busters: I know you really wanted your candidate to be the Democratic Nominee. I know you believe the system was rigged, and the DNC emails prove it. I know you think that Clinton demonstrated that by giving Wasserman Schultz a cushy campaign job. You need to be aware of these facts:

Here’s what I would like you to do: If you can, follow the advice of your candidate, Bernie Sanders, and support Hillary Clinton. She is your best chance of getting progressives on the Supreme Court, which will ensure your agenda will be met. Vote and organize for progressive down ticket candidates, because they are where you can have the most influence. Legislation starts in Congress, not with the President. Congress will push your agenda.

If you absolutely cannot vote for Hillary, I understand. Do not vote for Trump as an alternative — he’s batshit crazy. Abstain for voting for the office of President, and to vote for down-ballot candidates that reflect your views.  However, you need to be aware that in our system of winner-take-all in most states for electoral votes, your abstention (or voting for Jill Stein, who is unlikely to get a majority and is also batshit crazy) — while sending a message — may throw the election to the bat-shit crazy Trump, and doom the possibility of a progressive leaning Supreme Court for decades. If you want that on your conscience, feel free to abstain. After all, it is better to be idologically pure and not vote for an imperfect candidate than to make progress towards a progressive future.

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userpic=political-signsLast night, I watched the first night of the Democratic National Convention. I was very impressed with the prime time speakers: Cory Booker, Michelle Obama, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders. About the only weak point was Paul Simon; his voice has deteriorated greatly. After the speech, I did a post on Facebook, where I was asked the question: If Hillary Clinton was convicted of a crime, would I still vote for her. After my first response, where I indicated that, were that to happen, I was sure she would resign as a candidate and the party would pick someone else, I thought about it some more. Here’s the realization I came to:

This is no longer about personality. It is about positions.

Personality was significant when we were in the primaries, and we had multiple personalities with mostly congruent positions in each party. By the end of this week, each party will have a formal nominee, whether we think that person is perfect or not.

Here’s the second realization I came to:

I am congruent with the positions of the Democratic Party. I will support whatever candidate supports those positions. I disagree with the stated positions of the Republican party. I will not vote for a candidate that holds those positions. I have no agreement with the third party candidates, nor do I believe that under the current electoral system that they have candidacies that have a chance of winning a majority of electoral votes.

Irrespective of who the Republican candidate is, I cannot support the positions of the party as embodied in their platform planks. I disagree with their outlook regarding where this country is now. I disagree with their statements regarding social issues. I disagree with their plans regarding the economy and social and economic justice. I particularly disagree with the policy positions that their nominee has espoused. I do not feel they are the right direction for the country, and I could not vote for them whether it is Donald Trump saying them, or John McCain, or Marco Rubio, or even the Governor of Ohio whose name I can never spell.

I agree with the positions of the Democratic Party as embodied in their platform planks, and as supported by their nominee.  I would support any Democratic nominee that supported those positions, be they Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, or even Eric Garcetti or Antonio Villaraigosa. The identified “problems” regarding the nominee will not dissuade me in this position, for the Democratic nominee is the only candidate for President that will advance the Democratic platform. This is the same way that Republicans are overlooking their nominee’s equivalently problematic issues, because they feel strongly for their platform.

Third party candidates? I’ve supported them in the past: in my first Presidential primary, I supported John Anderson. But now? I disagree with both the Libertarian and Green positions, and cannot support their candidates. In either case, however, neither have a snowball’s chance in Northridge in the summer — to win, they need a majority vote in a large number of states to win the electoral college, and their support just isn’t that strong. Want to get a viable third-party? Read the second link below on how to do it right.

If you want some more specific arguments, I suggest you read Ferrett’s posts on the subject: Oh, For Fuck’s Sake: A Gentle Talk With My Republican, Democrat, And Undecided Friends and Oh, For Fuck’s Sake: Why Your Presidential Protest Vote Is A Wretched Idea.

A parting thought. Cory Booker’s speech last night quoted Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address:  “With malice toward none, with charity for all…”. What would Lincoln say today? His statement reflects Democratic ideals now: With malice toward none, with charity for all. The Republicans? They are the opposite: With malice toward all, with charity for none. Who is the true party of Lincoln today? Where do you stand: on the side of “With malice toward none, with charity for all”, or on the side of “With malice toward all, with charity toward none.”

My ethics and values align me with the former, with Abraham Lincoln’s statement, and with the values, planks, and positions of the Democratic party. I am standing with their candidates at all levels of elected office.

Note: This post is a lunchtime distillation of some Facebook status updates.

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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