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Driving home from picking up the vanpool van this evening, I decided to listen to a short podcast: the Ensemblist Unedited episode on BroadwayCon.*  Listening to it, I realized that I’m not a fanboy.
*: No, I can’t link to it directly. They are theatre people; they don’t know how to make their webpage such that one can link to a specific episode.

Perhaps I should clarify. I know many folks that love (or should I say, luuv) their fandoms. They obsess. They know every word, every lyric, every character, the smallest minutae. They cosplay. They go to conventions for their fandoms. This could be science fiction, comics, theatre, TV, you name it.

I understand their obsession. I just don’t get obsession. It is the same way that I view myself as a professional audience. Just as I can’t inhabit characters, I can’t obsession about things. That doesn’t mean I don’t know them well (although I typically don’t read or see shows multiple times with the same cast). I just don’t fall as deeply for them. I think that goes for the rest of my life as well: I’m not strongly outwardly emotional — I’m quietly emotional.

To those of you that get so into fandoms. Enjoy. I’ll just be over here on the side. Watching.

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userpic=trumpToday, President Trump put a new “tougher” immigration policy in place, and our country became a less safe place for citizens and non-citizens alike. The reason why is best captured in the subtitle of a Vox post on the policy: “Almost everyone in the US without papers is now a priority for deportation.”

As you read about the new policies, I want you to ask yourself, if you are a legal US citizen, either naturalized or by birth, whether you carry papers with you at all times proving your citizenship? A drivers license is not sufficient — drivers licenses can be forged, and some states issue licenses to non-citizens. Drivers licenses are also issued to legal residents.

So, if under the new rules, an ICE officer thinks you look like an illegal immigrant, for whatever reasons, and you have anything on your record — a parking ticket — they can depart you first and ask questions later. They will not give you access to a judge or a way to prove your citizenship (even though that amendment has been ruled by the Supreme Court as applicable to anyone in the US, citizen or not).

Another problem is the tactics that ICE uses. Did you know that they can impersonate local law enforcement to entice people in — they do not have to identify as ICE until after they have taken people into custody?

Not that I’m not arguing that people should be permitted to be in this country illegally. Employers should be following immigration laws and only hiring legal immigrants, and those who don’t should be penalized (and that includes picking up undocumented laborers at Home Depot). But the Government must respect the constitution, and must respect the rights of citizens. It must not profile based on religion or skin color. It must be humane in how it treats people, and respect people as people. It must also use a risk management approach: recognizing it is impossible to identify and deport everyone, prioritize the efforts on those committing crimes, and prioritize that effort on those committing violent crimes.

This is not an easy issue — if it was, we would have resolved it by now. But the approach being taken here is just wrong and needs to be rethought.

 

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Password. The security mechanism we love to hate. Or hate to love. Or grudgingly tolerate. In any case, if you use passwords, you know you are encourage to (a) enable dual factor authentication whenever and where ever possible; (b) use the strongest passwords possible; and (c) use a unique password on every site. For (b) and (c), the easiest way to do this is to use a password manager (I use Lastpass), and have it generate strong passwords for sites (I have it generate long pronounceable passwords, and then modify them with digits and special characters). That still, of course, means you need a strong password for the password manager.

Many years ago, in the days of Dockmaster, there was a generator that would generate strong, prounceable passwords. For a few years I used those, then I went to grabbing words from various places and combining them to create master passwords. Yesterday, I found another solution. Here is a site that generates nonsense words based on a frequency list of phonemes as they occur in legitimate English words.  You should be able to get strong master passwords by combining words and making permutations to add special characters, digits, capitalization, etc.

Here is an example of some generated words: minating ocrates exishering hophish diuraggramely tilized middly apissong moratierencess antinumeted fances vaultanewns gunfins ineake snaphypong misplake quarout hightfulus ansprubblet midweir objecta steton lishep ratinessy mententes.

Hopefully, you’ll find this useful.

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I’ve been sitting around this afternoon wondering what I might post. I didn’t have enough random news chum, and I wrote up the show from yesterday. Then I saw a headline and a rant welled up that touches on a number of things from this weekend. The headline?

Vandals target historic Jewish cemetery in University City

University City, MO, is a suburb of St. Louis. It is actually where my mother grew up; we have relatives buried in a different Jewish cemetery in the city. This is on a day when we’ve yet another round of threatened (at least, we hope they are only threats) bombings of Jewish Community Centers around the country.

Presidents are supposed to lead; to represent American values. One value is the right to practice your religion. This, after all, is why homophobic Christian bakers insist they can’t bake a cake for a homosexual, right? Trump wants to defend that right. This, after all, is why Christian-owned Hobby Lobby wants to deny insurance coverage for contraceptives, even for workers whose religion permits them to use contraception? Trump wants to defend that right.

So where is Trump on this issue? Where is he insisting that antisemitism is un-American?

Anyone?

He gets questions at a press conference asking for a statement on increased antisemitism in America, and he responds that he has Jews in his family — how can he be antisemitic? Remember the days of “But I have a black friend?”

Further, he wants to ban people from entering this country — excuse me, be suspicious of them — just because of their religion, Muslim. But he wants to permit extra Christians to come in from those countries. His Secretary of Education wants Federal Tax Dollars — my Federal Tax Dollars — to flow to Christian religious schools and out of the public school system.

We all know you set an example and send messages by what you say. President Trump has demonstrated that aptly, by trusting opinion pieces on Fox News over fact from government agencies, by claiming that science is an opinion, and that independent journalism is un-American. We know these messages are bullshit, but they have been said over and over and over and have become a conspiracy theory. We all know that Conspiracy Theories can’t be disproved, and a large segment of the country now believes the conspiracy and will not be convinced otherwise. (And why should they: we’ve lost the ability to teach critical thinking)

But you also set an example by what you don’t say, and what you do without saying it? President Trump, by not condemning attacks on individuals and institutions based on religion, is condoning it. President Trump, by instituting a Muslim ban — excuse me, extreme Muslim vetting — is condoning religious discrimination. He is letting fear rule the country, just as fear kept Jews from safety during World War II, just as fear put Japanese in internment camps at the same time. By not saying anything, he is demonstrating the worst of America.

Further, those in rural areas are eating it up. Remember, much of rural America is heavily Christian. They may never have met a Jew or Muslim in person, and their only knowledge is from TV shows, movies, and the news. Jews tend to live in larger cities, because of the nature of Jewish worship and practice. Muslims are often the same — in areas with sufficient population to support a mosque. How likely is that in a city under 25,000. So these people believe what they are told: if TV says they are bad, then they must be bad. Ask yourself: how does our media portray minority religions? Now think about what we must do to battle that impression, and why it is even more important for our President to stand up and be Presidential, to say: This is not America. America respects all religions: all religions are welcome here, and no religion, including “no religion”, is favored by the Government.

Mr. Trump: Again, you are failing to lead. If you can’t do the job, resign and let someone who can do it.

[ETA: Finally, on 2/21, he condemned the threats against the JCCs and antisemitism.]

P.S.: Presidents are also supposed to work to support all states and all the people in the country, even those that may oppose him. That’s part of the job; no President is universally loved (not even Reagan). So what has Mr. Trump done to California? He cut the allocated funding for Caltrain to electrify. This makes it more expensive to run the trains, increases operating costs, retains older equipment decreasing ridership, and keeps us tied to polluting fuel. All because he doesn’t like a state. Watch out, other urban areas. You might be next (while he lines his personal pockets every time he goes down to Mar-a-Lago).

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Allegiance Musical BroadcastAs you may recall, I’ve been trying to predict shows that will be going on tour. One show I’ve really been interested in is Allegiance (FB), the Broadway musical that George Takei (FB) has been involved with about the Japanese Internment during WWII. The trade papers said a tour would materialize; but the show’s website doesn’t indicate one. I’ve always expected that a tour, if it materialized, would show up at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) — or that the Ahmanson, recognizing the Japanese community in Los Angeles, might mount a local production. But the Ahmanson hasn’t announced their season yet, and the good folks behind the Broadway show felt the message was important enough to rebroadcast the musical. You see, these producers did something very intelligent. They recorded the musical about a month after it opened, and arranged to have it broadcast around the country, one time, a number of months after it closed. Through my various Broadway RSS and other feeds, I learned that they were arranging a rebroadcast this weekend — and so to hedge my bets in case it didn’t materialize on the stage, I got tickets.

What I didn’t realize, of course, was the significance of the day of the rebroadcast. Today is the 75th anniversary of the signing of the order that sent Japanese Americans to the internment camps. It is also in a time where there is an intense fear that a segment of our current population is dangerous just because of their religion, even when that segment are longtime American citizens. That makes the message of this show even more timely. Franklin Roosevelt, who was the President who signed the order, said the only thing we had to fear was fear itself. Then he gave into the fear, put US citizens into internment camps, tore away their livelihoods and homes, and regarded them as suspicious just because of their looks or their origins. It was wrong. It was unconstitutional. It was unthinkable. It must never never never happen again. And yet…. we have a large segment of our population living in fear of people because of their looks, their religion or their origin.

I’m an Engineer, but I have a confession to make. A good, compelling story does make my eyes water. Many deep Broadway shows do that — I love theatre because of its ability to tell a story and draw out the emotion. By the end of Allegiance, my jaw was quivering and I was find it hard to hold it together. That is a measure of how powerful this story is; how important it is to tell it. I can’t say to go see the show at your local theatre — alas Allegiance closed after a very short run on Broadway for whatever reason (well, the critics hated it, but what do they know). I can say to friend Allegiance‘s Facebook page so that you can find out if they ever broadcast it again. I can say you must encourage local theatres to do it, but I’m not sure it is licensed yet. We can clamor for a small tour, or push the Ahmanson or East/West to mount it. But I personally feel that this is something that must be seen, and that the critics often have problems with dark, different, and difficult material, only to appreciate it later. Remember: they hate Carrie when it first came out; now it is a great parable about bullying.

I left Allegiance appreciating the power of theatre. That is a good thing.

I guess I should tell you the story of Allegiance, which has a book by Marc Acito (FB),  Jay Kuo (FB), and Lorenzo Thione (FB), and music and lyrics by Jay Kuo (FB). According to Wikipedia, the genesis of the show was a chance meeting in the fall of 2008 of George Takei and his husband, Brad, who were seated next to Jay Kuo and Lorenzo Thione. They met again at another show, had some conversations, and this led to the notion of a musical based roughly on George’s experiences as a child in the internment camps.  I’ll also note you can find a more detailed version on the show webpage or wikipedia. In short, the show tells the story of the Kimura family from Salinas: the grandfather (Ojii-chan), the father (Tatsuo Kimura), and the two children: Sam and Kei. It starts with Sam, who is a WWII veteran, learning that his sister Kei has died. This opens us into the story and how the rift between them was created. We see the family running a farm and having an American life, and then the Japanese bombing Pearl Harbor. In short order, based on an agreement between the government and the Japanese American Citizens League, led by Mike Masaoka, internment orders go out, and Japanese on the Pacific coast are ordered to camps. The Kimura family has to sell all but what they can carry, and they are taken by force to a camp, Heart Mountain, in the wilds of Wyoming. We learn of life in the camp through a series of scenes, and get to meet two characters in particular: Lt. Hannah Campbell, a nurse at the camp, and Frankie Suzuki, another internee at the camp. Campbell is drawn to Sammy; Frankie to Kei. As time passes, the JACL convinces the government to let Japanese Americans serve in the armed force, in a segregated unit, for suicide missions. A questionnaire goes out that includes loyalty questions so that only loyal Japanese Americans can serve. Tatsuo refuses to answer yes to those questions, and gets hauled away to Tule Mountain. Sammy volunteers to serve (against his father’s wishes), and goes on to be one of the few survivors from that batallion. Frankie, on the other hand, resists; when drafted, he organizes resistance in the camp and is arrested. The creates the wedge that drives the story to its conclusion. I’ll let you read the synopsis for more, but you get the drift.

Given we’re in the era of identifying “fake news”, I’ll note that Wikipedia relates that the show does conflate experiences across different camps for dramatic effect, and adds a bit more military oversight than existed at Heart Mountain.

At this point in a writeup, I’d normally move into a discussion of the direction and performance. But this was a broadcast of a Broadway show, and I’d like to digress to explore that for a graph or two. Going in, I was torn. Recording a Broadway show can have some distinct advantages: it can preserve a performance for posterity; it can also make a show available in many places where this level of theater does not occur — and thus can spread the word about the power of theatre. On the other hand, it could supplant the live production, result in the undercompensation of the actors performing in the recording, and deny work to actors who might work in the local versions of the show. Coming out, I had a different view: the recording allowed on to see the performances up close and personal, in a way that wouldn’t be possible even from the orchestra seats. But it also disconnected the audience from the “big picture”; you never got the scope of the breadth of the stage or the grandeur of the choreography and movement.  The audience feedback was also very different, due to the awareness that there were no actors on stage. Unlike a show, where there is constant applause and feedback, this audience was silent, even at the end. Audience reaction is vital not only for the show but for other audience members, and I felt the different. I also felt the difference with the lack of an intermission and a playbill. In the end, I think seeing the broadcast only made me want to see it live even more.

Next: The Theatre. We saw this at the AMC Promenade theatre in Woodland Hills, which is one of the few survivors in a dying mall. The original auditorium had significant projection problems (double images) that they couldn’t correct before the show. They moved us to a different auditorium (same size, but different arrangement), which created some seating confusion but fixed most projection problems. There was still the problem of bleed-over bass from the auditorium next to us, and there was a sound synchronization problem during much of the first act. Some of this was beyond the theatre’s control, and despite the problems, they managed it well (plus they gave us passes as compensation for the problems). I think we’ll try them again. I’ll note that our show was sold out (130-some-odd seats).

Now, on to the performances, under the direction of Stafford Arima (FB). As you can tell, I was moved and astounded by all the lead performers — the projection allowed us to see things up close that we might never see from the audience. As it is hard to single them out (especially without a Playbill — if you want the Broadway experience, Fathom Events (FB) you should provide that!), let me just start by listing the leads:  George Takei (FB) [Sam Kimura (older), Ojii-chan]; Telly Leung (FB) [Sammy Kimura]; Lea Salonga (FB) [Kei Kimura]; Katie Rose Clarke  [Hannah Campbell]; Michael K. Lee  (FB) [Frankie Suzuki]; Christòpheren Nomura (FB) [Tatsuo Kimura]; and Greg Watanabe (FB) [Mike Masaoka]. With respect to their performances, I was particularly taken with the facial expressions of both Clarke and Salonga, who were just spectacular. I’d only seen Takei perform where everyone else has seen him before, and his performance here just blew me away. He was wasted at the navagation console :-). I’m always impressed by Salonga’s voice, but both Leung and Lee did great jobs as well. All and all, spectacular performances.

In small roles and ensemble parts were: Aaron J. Albano (FB) [Tom Maruyama, Ensemble]; Marcus Choi (FB) [Johnny Goto, Ensemble]; Janelle Toyomi Dote (FB) [Mrs. Maruyama, Executor, Ensemble]; Dan Horn (FB) [Recruiting Officer, Private Evans, Big Band Singer, The Victory Trio, Ensemble]; Darren Lee (FB) [Dr. Tanaka, Ben Masaoka, Ensemble]; Kevin Munhall [Federal Agent, Private Knight, Tule Lake Guard, The Victory Trio, Ensemble]; Rumi Oyama (FB) [Mrs. Tanaka; Ensemble]; Shea Renne [Betsy Tanaka, Ensemble]; Momoko Sugai (FB) [Peggy Maruyama, Ensemble]; Autumn Ogawa [Ensemble]; Elena Wang (FB) [Nan Goto, Ensemble]; Scott Watanabe (FB) [Mr. Maruyama, Ensemble]; Cary Tedder [Ensemble]; and Scott Wise (FB) [Grocer, Director Dillon, Photographer, The Victory Trio, Ensemble].  With the way this was filmed, it was harder to single out particular ensemble members and smaller characters, but I enjoyed the characters overall. Particularly notable was the actress playing the older Japanese woman — I’m guessing it was Rumi Oyama, but it could have been Janelle Dote.

I am not listing the standbys, understudies, and swings as I normally do, because the show has closed and we had the cast on the film. You can find the full list here, together with the list of musicians.

The choreography was by Andrew Palermo (FB), who did an excellent job. I particularly enjoyed not only the large dance numbers but the Japanese movement as well. The movement during the Hiroshima scene was particularly chilling. The Playbill page does not give credit for the musical direction or the conducting. Orchestrations were by Lynne Shankel. Check the Playbill page for information on the dance captains, assistant dance captains, and all the associate and assistant choreographers and directors.

One disadvantage of the theatrical projection is that one cannot get the full impact of the scenic design and other production aspects. Yet another reason to go see it live. In general, the scenic design and projections worked well to establish a sense of place; given the broadcast aspects, it was hard to get a sense of sound and lights. Costumes, makeup, and hair was excellent. Here are the production credits: Donyale Werle [Scenic Design]; Alejo Vietti (FB) [Costume Design]; Howell Binkley (FB) [Lighting Design]; Darrel Maloney [Projection Design]; Kai Harada [Sound Designer]; Charles G. LaPointe [Wig and Hair Design]; Joe Dulude II [Make-up Design];  Peter Wolf  [Production Stage Manager]; and Brian Bogin [Stage Manager].

One last closing note: The production was also notable for the attention to casting asians in asian roles. I’ve commented on this before with shows like Waterfall and The King and I. I still bemoan the fact that there were sufficient Japanese actors to be able to cast closer to role-appropriate (a common problem), and I also bemoan the fact that many asian actors can only find roles in things like this, or onsie-twosie in shows. We need to remember that unless the story requires a particular ethnicity, cast color and race blind.

For the theatrical credits, I must turn to IMDB, so look here for all the cinematography credits and such.

We can only hope that Fathom Events (FB) broadcasts this again.

🎩 🎩 🎩

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music 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), the Chromolume Theatre (FB) in the West Adams district, and a mini-subscription at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB). 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 February brings Finding Neverland at the Hollywood Pantages (FB). March quiets down a bit — at least as currently scheduled — with the MRJ Man of the Year dinner,  Fun Home at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) at the beginning of the month, Martha, a one-woman play on the life of Martha Graham (a good preparation for our May VPAC show of her dance group), at the Whitefire Theatre (FB) in the middle, and An American in Paris at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) at the end of the month. April starts with Cats Paw at Actors Co-op (FB) and a concert with Tom Paxton and the DonJuans at McCabes Guitar Shop (FB) (shifting Cats Paws to an afternoon matinee that day). The next day brings the Colburn Orchestra at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB). The next weekend is currently open (and will likely stay that way). Mid-April brings Doc Severinsen and his Big Band at Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB) on April 13, followed by Animaniacs Live at the La Mirada Performing Arts Center (FB) over the weekend. That will be followed on the penultimate weekend of April with Sister Act at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB). Lastly, looking to May, the schedule shows that it starts with My Bodyguard at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) the first weekend. It continues with Martha Graham Dance and American Music at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB). The third weekend brings the last show of the Actors Co-op (FB) season, Lucky Stiff, at Actors Co-op (FB). May concludes with Hello Again at the Chromolume Theatre (FB). As for June? Three words: Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB). That, barring something spectacular cropping up, should be the first half of 2017.

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-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: 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.

P.S.: Mostly so I can find it later, here’s my predictions of what will go on tour and where they will end up. The Hollywood Pantages (FB) announced their 2017-2018 season (which was the rest of 2018, after Hamilton took over the last 5 months of 2017) on February 7th. You can find my reaction to it here. Now we just need to see what the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) will do.

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I know, we’re all sick of Trump and news about Trump. So let’s take a breather. Here’s a collection of news chum that shows some other interesting ways that the times are a changin’:

  • Social Media Addiction. The New York Times is reporting that Generation X is more addicted to social media than Millenials. Again, read that headline: the younger kids (Millenials) are LESS addicated than the generation before them (GEN X, Adults 39-49). That, perhaps, explains the greying of Facebook. A Neilsen study found that adults 35 to 49 spend an average of 6 hours 58 minutes a week on social media networks, compared with 6 hours 19 minutes for the younger group. More predictably, adults 50 and over spent significantly less time on the networks: an average of 4 hours 9 minutes a week (and I’m part of this latter group). The report is based on smartphone and tablet use, and it found that in the United States, 97 percent of people 18 to 34, and 94 percent of people 35 to 49, had access to smartphones. Seventy-seven percent of those 50 and older used smartphones, the report found. The 29-page report was based on data from 9,000 smartphone users and 1,300 tablet users across the country from July through September. It also found that Facebook still dominated on mobile, with about 178.2 million unique users in September. It was followed by Instagram, with 91.5 million unique users; Twitter, with 82.2 million unique users; and Pinterest, with 69.6 million users.Snapchat, a favorite of younger users, was sixth on the list, behind the professional networking site LinkedIn.  This raises the next question: if Millenials are using their smartphones so much, and they aren’t on social media, what precisely are they doing? They aren’t making phone calls.
  • Screens on Airplanes. Another New York Times article has an interesting finding regarding screens: we are using our personal screens so much that airlines are phasing out seat-back screens (which saves them a hella-lot of money). With built-in screens, airliners provide passengers with a set menu of content through boxes that power the in-flight entertainment system. The screens appeared in their most primitive form in the late 1980s with a few movies played on a loop. By the early 2000s, they had advanced to allow passengers to make choices on demand. By streaming content over wireless systems, passengers will have a wider array of content and the carriers will not have to maintain screens because passengers will bring their own portable devices on board. For carriers that discontinue the screens, the savings can be significant. By one estimate, in-flight entertainment systems are the biggest expense in outfitting a new plane and can make up 10 percent of the entire cost of an aircraft. The screens and their wiring add weight to the plane, and when fuel prices are high, every pound makes a difference. Another financial incentive: Without the screens, carriers can install slimmer seats, which means they can accommodate more passengers and earn more money. The article makes one other very important comment regarding personal screens: Experts said that if airliners are going to rely on consumer electronics for in-flight entertainment, the carriers should be prepared to offer another amenity: outlets for passengers to charge their devices. Mr. Hoppe said it was “imperative” to have them available in all rows and seats, and “essential” to ensure that each one works.
  • Fashion Rules for Plus Size. Let’s break up the New York Times articles with a change of fashion. A bunch of editors at Buzzfeed decided to break the “fashion rules” for Plus Size women. You know what? They looked great.  This goes to show yet another change that is happening in society: people deciding not to follow arbitrary rules from someone else, and wearing and being what is right for them. More power to them!
  • Intel Dropping Out of Science Fairs. One last New York Times article: it appears that Intel is dropping its sponsorship of Science Fairs. As someone who judges at the California State Science Fair, this is bad news. I see the remarkable things kids do, and it restores my faith in our youth. I originally thought the reason might have to do with Trump — after all, Intel had been meeting with Trump and Trump hates science.  But the reason is due to a more fundamental change: [The traditional science fair’s] regimented routines can seem stodgy at a time when young people are flocking to more freewheeling forums for scientific creativity, like software hackathons and hardware engineering Maker Faires. That is apparently the thinking at Intel, the giant computer chip maker, which is retreating from its longtime sponsorship of science fairs for high school students. It has dropped its support of the National Science Talent Search, and is dropping support of the International Science and Engineering Fair. The article noted that this leads to broader questions about how a top technology company should handle the corporate sponsorship of science, and what is the best way to promote the education of the tech work force of the future. Intel’s move also raises the issue of the role of science fairs in education in the so-called STEM fields — science, technology, engineering and mathematics. All I know, as a judge, is that these fairs have encouraged some remarkable research by Middle and High School Students.
  • The Cost of Solar. As we keep debating the real costs of hydro-carbon based power, the costs of solar on an industrial scale continue to drop. Eventually, it may be that clean power is so much cheaper that we’ll be able to reserve hydro-carbons for the real thing we need them for: plastics. [And, believe me: if you think about a society without gas for your car is bad, just imagine a world with no plastics — not only no plastic bags and storage containers, but circuit boards, enclosures, insulation for wires, sterile medical devices — we need to save our oil for plastic]. Quoting from the article: Solar has seen remarkable cost declines and is competing in more circumstances with every passing year. But it is not the world’s cheapest source of electricity. Yhe main reason is that there is, at least currently, no such thing as “the world’s cheapest source of electricity,” if that’s taken to mean cheapest, all costs considered, in all places, at all times. No such fairy dust exists; different sources perform differently in different economies and different electricity systems. What can be said about solar is that it is rapidly increasing the range of circumstances under which it can compete on costs, without subsidies. This is a good thing. Together, wind and utility-scale solar are now the cheapest available energy sources in the places that are building the most of them. Utility-scale solar now has a lower total cost of power than natural gas.

 

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userpic=divided-nationOne of my absolute favorite plays — primarily for the lesson that it teaches — is Sex and Education by Lissa Levin. We saw it back in 2014 at the Colony Theatre. Sex and Education tells the story of an English teacher (Miss Edwards) who is tired of teaching; a teacher who is quitting the profession to go sell real estate. It also tells the story of a horny high-school basketball playing senior, Joe, who has accepted a scholarship to North Carolina to play college basketball. It is three days before graduation, and Miss Edwards is administering the final exam in her English class (which includes Joe). She’s looking forward to getting out of the school, and intends just to pass everyone. But then she catches Joe passing a note to Hannah, a cheerleader who is also Joe’s girlfriend. The note is confused mix of topics including insulting the teacher, the test, and asking Hannah to have sex with him under the bleachers, given that she has given him a blowjob before. It is riddled with obscenity, bad grammar, poor sentence construction, and much more. Miss Edwards she asks Joe to stay after the test.  What happens next is every English teacher’s dream. She works with Joe to write a proper persuasive essay to get Hannah to overcome her reluctance and sleep with him. The point of the play — and the reason I love it so — is that it teaches that a proper persuasive essay does not convince by presenting the reasons why you think the other person should do something, but presenting to the other person why it is in their interest to do something. In other words: you need to understand their point of view before you can convince them to anything.

With relation to Donald Trump, we Democrats just don’t understand. We are like a bunch of jocks surrounding the football player, convincing him that anyone would want to sleep with him because he is strong and sexy and the captain of the football team, without realizing that the cheerleader doesn’t care about any of that — she will only sleep with someone if it serves her needs, and the football player is uncouth and coarse and doesn’t bother to shower after the game, plus he tells everyone about who he slept with.

I was talking about his before last night’s concert with my wife, pointing out that the Democrats aren’t speaking a language that will convince Republicans that Donald Trump has to go. All the things we think they would care about — justice, American values, consistency with what they complained about with Obama — really have no meaning to the Republicans. They have other concerns, other things that Trump is speaking to. Until we can learn to speak in a way that they will listen, there will not be reconciliation (or even impeachment). Further, the divide is just getting greater, as the separation in our media views (in a database sense of a view) just increases the odds that anything we say will be written off.

And hence, this essay. My goal is to bring together a number of podcasts and articles that I have read that, just perhaps, might increase your awareness of what the other side is thinking and believing. Perhaps then we might be able to craft a way to talk such that we can convince them. All I know right now is that all the crap and memes and articles flowing across the “Blue” Facebook won’t do it.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Peter Yarrow and Noel Paul Stookey (TO Civic Arts Plaza)If you haven’t figured it out by now, we don’t only go to theatre. We go to concerts — folk, jazz, classical, eclectic. But my first musical taste — the first artists that I truly said were my favorite — were Peter, Paul, and Mary (FB). I still have fond memories of going to see them at the Hollywood Bowl in the 1980s and the Universal Amphetheatre in the 1990s. We last saw them in Los Angeles shortly before Mary got sick, in the early 2000s. After Mary’s passing, we saw them mostly as solos: a solo concert by Peter at UJ (AJU) back in 2009, and Noel Paul’s regular appearances at McCabes Guitar Shop (FB) (first in 2011, and most recently in 2015). Our understanding of the folk community has broadened to all the artists from the era that begat PP&M, and we’ve seen and grown to understand the traditions and the music better. But at the heart of it all — the seed that started it — was Peter, Paul, and Mary.

So when I saw that this year’s appearance of Noel Paul Stookey (FB) in Southern California was a much larger concert that he typically does, and it was together with Peter Yarrow (FB), I naturally had to get tickets — without even waiting for Goldstar. It is for a group such as this and artists such as this that we braved the storm that some groups named “Lucifer” to get out to the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza (FB) [where we normally go for Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB)] for the first concert in a tour of Peter and Paul. I was looking forward to seeing Noel Paul again, possibly seeing if Peter had actually released a new album, and getting some good commentary on the election.

I’m pleased to say that I wasn’t disappointed. The show, on the whole, was wonderful. The music was something that wrapped you in a warm embrace; the PP&M audience is a family that loves each other through shared music and shared values. There were just a few off notes, but on the whole it was worth braving the storm.

Before I go further, here’s the all important song list. Unless indicated by links, all songs are either from PP&M albums or Paul’s solo albums; I have links for some new ones.

Act I:

  1. Weave Me The Sunshine
  2. Inch by Inch (The Garden Song)
  3. Puff the Magic Dragon
  4. Deportee (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos)
  5. Medley:  This Little Light of Mine ⫽ Down By The Riverside ⫽ I Woke Up This Mornin’ With My Mind Set On Freedom ⫽ Oh, Freedom
  6. Don’t Laugh at Me
  7. Where Have All The Flowers Gone?
  8. Have You Been to Jail for Justice?
  9. Light One Candle

Act II:

  1. America the Beautiful (Noel Paul)
  2. Impeachable (Noel Paul)
  3. One and Many (Noel Paul)
  4. The Children Are Listening (Peter)
  5. Lift Us Up (Peter)
  6. The Kid
  7. Leaving on a Jet Plane
  8. If I Had a Hammer
  9. Blowin’ in the Wind
  10. This Land is Your Land
  11. Goodnight Irene

Now, some impressions of the show:

  • It pains me to say it, but I think Peter is starting to lose it at little. The passion is still there 120%. The heart and soul and spirit are strong. The voice is just slightly diminished. However, the recall is a bit worse than when we last saw him in 2009. There were points where he had trouble with lyrics, and there was much more verbal hesitation in his patter. It is an unfortunately common situation as we get older; still, it is a bit of sadness to see.
  • Tom Paxton likes to say that it is OK to look back, as long as you don’t stare. There were times during this concert that the nostalgic aspects overwhelmed. Perhaps I’ve gotten used to Tom’s concerts and Noel Paul’s concerts where there is always new material. All the joint material was older material; one got the feeling that they were playing for the nostalgia (and the audience was there for that). This got better in the solo songs in the second act that touched on more topical material.
  • As both noted from the stage, Mary’s voice was there even though the body wasn’t. For me, it was loudest during “Have You Been to Jail for Justice?”, but I’m sure others heard them in her head at various points. It is a voice that is missed, especially with our current administration. You know Mary would be out there being in 45’s face.
  • One could easily see how each artist came to their political stridency from different places. Peter is clearly from the Jewish Wobbly tradition. Noel Paul comes from the true Christian side: love for one’s fellow man, doing right for those who are unable to speak for themselves. I’m not Christian, but Noel’s Christian passion is “walking the walk”, and is what I view as admirable Christianity. The important message is that we can all come with our passion to improve the world from different places — the important thing is to have and nurture that passion, and to do something based on that passion, even if it is just sitting and singing to power.
  • The most powerful portion of the show was the top of Act II: the solo sections. It made the clear impression that our children are learning from what is going on in Washington that bullying and other forms of idiocy are acceptable. We need to combine together as multiple candles creating a large flame to speak to power — to say that this is not OK, that this is not America. It is our responsibility to speak up, to fight unjust leaders and those that abuse power. This is why folk music is still relevant today.
  • Of course, it was great to hear Noel Paul do his extra verses of America The Beautiful. It was even nicer to hear the rarely done 4th verse of This Land is Your Land.
  • The PP&M audience is definitely getting older. Getting in and out of the parking lot was dealing with a bunch of moss-backed old-farts. We normally don’t have that traffic backup at the Kavli when we go to Cabrillo shows.

All in all, however, it was a great show. I look forward to the next time Noel Paul is in town, and to Tom Paxton’s upcoming show at McCabes.

 🎸 🎸 🎸

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music 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), the Chromolume Theatre (FB) in the West Adams district, and a mini-subscription at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB). 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: Sunday brings the in-theatre broadcast of the Broadway musical Allegiance – A New Musical (recorded on Broadway) at the AMC Promenade. The last weekend in February brings Finding Neverland at the Hollywood Pantages (FB). March quiets down a bit — at least as currently scheduled — with the MRJ Man of the Year dinner,  Fun Home at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) at the beginning of the month, Martha, a one-woman play on the life of Martha Graham (a good preparation for our May VPAC show of her dance group), at the Whitefire Theatre (FB) in the middle, and An American in Paris at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) at the end of the month. April starts with Cats Paw at Actors Co-op (FB) and a concert with Tom Paxton and the DonJuans at McCabes Guitar Shop (FB) (shifting Cats Paws to an afternoon matinee that day). The next day brings the Colburn Orchestra at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB). The next weekend is currently open (and will likely stay that way). Mid-April brings Doc Severinsen and his Big Band at Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB) on April 13, followed by Animaniacs Live at the La Mirada Performing Arts Center (FB) over the weekend. That will be followed on the penultimate weekend of April with Sister Act at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB). Lastly, looking to May, the schedule shows that it starts with My Bodyguard at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) the first weekend. It continues with Martha Graham Dance and American Music at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB). The third weekend brings the last show of the Actors Co-op (FB) season, Lucky Stiff, at Actors Co-op (FB). May concludes with Hello Again at the Chromolume Theatre (FB). As for June? Three words: Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB). That, barring something spectacular cropping up, should be the first half of 2017.

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-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: 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.

P.S.: Mostly so I can find it later, here’s my predictions of what will go on tour and where they will end up. The Hollywood Pantages (FB) announced their 2017-2018 season (which was the rest of 2018, after Hamilton took over the last 5 months of 2017) on February 7th. You can find my reaction to it here. Now we just need to see what the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) will do.

 

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While Trump in Trumplandia attempts to go back in time to the campaign, and while I await Google Maps to show my back yard as a lake on its next update, let’s move on to some more interesting history. Anything, anything but Trump.

  • Fingernail Clipping. As we enter into the Trump-free Twilight Zone, here’s proof that anything is really more intellectually interesting than 9 x 5: the history of fingernail clipping, especially before we had clippers. Consider: the modern nail clipper is a fairly recent phenomenon, roughly as old as the Swiss Army Knife. Which means that for most of human history, clipping one’s nails was a little harder than digging your rusty clipper out of the medicine cabinet.  There were also superstitions: “It is unlucky to cut the finger nails on Friday, Saturday or Sunday.  If you cut the on Friday you are playing into the devil’s hand; on Saturday, you are inviting disappointment, and on Sunday, you will have bad luck all week. There are people who suffer all sorts of gloomy forebodings if they absentmindedly trim away a bit of nail on any of these days and who will suffer all the inconvenience of overgrown fingernails sooner than cut them after Thursday.”
  • There Their. Did you ever wonder how English ended up with There, They’re, and Their. Wonder no longer. They actually started as very different words.
  • Maiden Names. Here’s an interesting essay on the practice of women taking their husband’s names (which is something my wife never did). It is a surprisingly controversial subject, even in 2017. All research on English-speaking women’s marital naming choices since the 1970s shows that the introduction of choice has not produced a wholesale shift away from tradition. Both in the US and the UK, the great majority of married women have continued to take their husbands’ names. The size of the majority has fluctuated over time. The percentage of name-keepers increased sharply in the 1970s, rose to a peak in the 1980s, and then held steady for several years before declining noticeably in the 1990s. By 2010 one US study reported that 94% of native-born married women used their husband’s names. Further, name-keeping is a mark of privilege: Married women who keep their original names are not just a minority, they’re a minority of a minority–they are heavily concentrated in the elite professional class. Name-keeping is strongly correlated with having at least one degree, and you’re most likely to be a keeper if both you and your husband have more than one.
  • Futuristic Gas Stations. If you’ve ever driven “Little Santa Monica” in Beverly Hills, you’ve passed it. A really cool Union 76 station near what used to be the headquarters of Litton Industires. But did you ever wonder the history of the station? Wonder no more. Evidently, it was originally planned to be near LAX, but the airport decided they didn’t want it.
  • Card Catalog Handwriting. Here’s something only oldsters like me will remember: card catalogs in libraries. Further, they were once handwritten, not typed. When they were handwritten, it turned out that librarians used a special style of writing. Cool. Thanks to Melvil Dewey and a group of librarians, we have “library hand,” a penmanship style developed over the ensuing year or so for the purpose of keeping catalogs standardized and legible.

 

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Let’s start clearing out some of the non-Trumponia news. In this collection of links, we look at things from the past that may be getting new leases on life:

  • The Triforium. Those outside of Los Angeles probably have no idea what I mean when I say “the Triforium”; hell, most younger Angelinos have no idea either. The Triforium is a art installation that goes back to when I was in high school, a “space-age-looking pointy edifice that stands six stories tall and is covered with 1,494 colorful lights that once blinked in time to music blasted from its four gigantic speakers”. It never quite worked as intended, and for most of its life has been a barely or non-operative artwork in a below-ground mall only frequented by those nearby on jury duty when they go to lunch. But that may be changing. The Triforium Project, co-founded by musician Claire Evans, Tom Carroll, host of the popular local web show “Tom Explores Los Angeles,” urban planner Tanner Blackman and Jona Bechtolt, Evans’ bandmate in the pop-dance group YACHT,  has a plan to “replace the computer system entirely with something that is network simple, easy to update, open-sourced and remotely accessible so that we can turn the instrument into something genuinely interactive for residents of the 21st century”. The improvements are now in the approval process.
  • Downtown Las Vegas Lights. Derek Stevens in Las Vegas is a man with a mission. He’s purchased one of the original blocks in downtown LV, and is tearing down and revamping the buildings, including Fremont Street’s Las Vegas Club casino and several neighboring properties, including Mermaids and Topless Girls of Glitter Gulch. All told, it adds up one entire city block that the Stevens brothers intend to demolish and build up anew. The problem? This block is home to a number of vintage neon signs that feel pretty essential to the character of the street, including Vegas Vickie, the kicky neon cowgirl that debuted with Bob Stupak’s Glitter Gulch casino in 1980; the sign for Herb Pastor’s Golden Goose casino, circa 1974; and the giant “Las Vegas Club” letters themselves, which have been part of the streetscape for more than 60 years. However, unlike many casino owners, Stevens cares about LV history — and is preserving the signs and planning to operate them — in some way — going forward.  According to Stevens, “The signs are going to be part of the design. Whether they’ll be internal or external, I’m not quite sure yet. … I’m a pretty big fan of Vegas history. I don’t see anything getting the wrecking ball.”
  • Nokia Candy Bars. For the youngsters out there, I’m not referring to the candy bars that are more expensive than the street drugs, at least according to our President. Rather, the candy bar phone — the Nokia 3310 — which the new owners of the cell phone name plan to bring back, at least in Europe. This was an extremely reliable, long-battery-life pre-iPhone cell phone, where you only had a numeric keypad (but you had a great version of the game “snake”). The phone, originally released in 2000 and in many ways beginning the modern age of mobiles, will be sold as a way of getting lots of battery life in a nearly indestructible body. The new incarnation of the old 3310 will be sold for just €59, and so likely be pitched as a reliable second phone to people who fondly remember it the first time around. It will be revealed at Mobile World Congress later this month. For those who want to know where this fits historically, here’s a chart of all the Nokia dumpphones released from the first one in the early 1980s until 2006.
  • LP Records. We all know by now that LP records have made a comeback (it seems everything old is new again, especially analog stuff). So what type of record collector are you? This article attempts to find out, defining 7 types of record collectors. As for me, depending on the genre and artist, I’m either a lifer, a completest, or a casual.
  • iPod Classics. For some, the iPod Classic is seeing a resurgence; for some, it has never left. For those of us using them, something that periodically resurfaces is the article on how to replace the hard drive with SSD devices. It just resurfaced again. The only problem with the article is that Tarkan moved his site with the boards to http://www.iflash.xyz. These are for iPod Classics 5G and later, and he has boards that can accomodate a wide variety of SSD, including SD cards and micro-SD cards. I’ve been using the iFlash Dual in two of my Classics for over a year now (each is at 512GB) with no problems. We plan to upgrade at least one more iPod Classic (a 7.5G). We also have a 80GB 6G, but we can only take that to 128GB. PS: If you are in the Southern California area and need someone to do the mods, I may have a contact for you.

 

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userpic=trumpLast week, Peter Sagal on Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me expressed a wish to Donald Trump that he stop giving him so much material to work with. I feel the same way. Here’s a small smattering of stuff that caught my eye (that didn’t fit into my earlier post on Trump and Religion):

  • Ah, C’mon. Sometimes, you wonder what reality you live in when you see the headline: “Trump skirts Russia issue in a freewheeling news conference: ‘I’m not ranting and raving’” In the article, it was noted that he said Thursday that “nobody that I know of” from his campaign contacted Russian agents or government officials before his election. He also said that Michael Flynn acted appropriately in discussing sanctions with Russia during the transition period (never mind the Logan Act). He said Flynn was asked to resign only because he misled Vice President Mike Pence about those discussions. In fact, he said “it certainly would have been ok with me” if Flynn discussed sanctions with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak when President Obama was still in office. He also said his travel ban worked without a hitch. Lastly, he said about the press conference: “Tomorrow, they will say, ‘Donald Trump rants and raves about the press,'” he said. “I’m not ranting and raving.”  It must be an interesting Einsteinian Frame of Reference in which he lives.
  • Before and After. Before his election, Trump was constantly praising Wikileaks for their good work, declaring at a rally in Pennsylvania, “I love WikiLeaks!” To the cheering throngs that night, Mr. Trump marveled that “nothing is secret today when you talk about the internet.” The leakers, he said, had performed a public service by revealing what he called a scandal with no rival in United States history. But now that the shoe is on the other foot? Trump is condemning leaks about his administration, calling them a “criminal action” and “Un-American”. Remember what I’ve been saying about consistency, boys and girls. There are lots more “Before and After”s. Before: He condemned Hillary for using a private email server; After: He uses his private Android phone to tweet. Before: He condemned Hillary for potentially discussing classified information on a non-government server; After: He publicly discusses classified information in a Mar-a-Lago dining room. Before: He complained about all the vacations that Obama took and the cost to the country, and vowed he wouldn’t take a vacation while in the White House; After: he has spent every weekend golfing at his resort in Florida, while his wife stays in NYC, and his kids fly around the world on Trump business, all with Secret Service protection that is costing millions more than Obama ever spent. Before: He complained about Obama’s inexperience; After: He appoints people with no experience. You get my drift.
  • What You Read. Yesterday, I read an article about how Conservatives and Liberals get completely different views of the news. No place can that be seen better than in Las Vegas. The Las Vegas Sun is the product of muck-raking reporter Hank Greenspun, independent since 1950, and very liberal. The Las Vegas Review Journal is owned by Sheldon Adelson, a major Republican powerbroker. Today, the Sun has headlines like: “Trump bashes news media, defends start of administration” and “Trump White House wrestles with a crush of crises” and “White House taps billionaire to head intelligence review”. The LVRJ? The political headlines are: “House’s Obamacare replacement coming after recess, Paul Ryan says”; and … and … . The only headline that mentions Trump at the LVRJ is common to both: the name of the nominee for Labor Secretary. So, if you wonder why the other side isn’t talking about what you think they should be talking about, perhaps they aren’t seeing it.
  • What You Don’t Read. Perhaps, this should be “What He Doesn’t Read”. There’s a new hotbed of political activity, according to the New York Times. Your neighborhood bookstore. According to the Times: «In the diffuse and suddenly fierce protest movement that has sprung up on the left since President Trump took office, bookstores have entered the fray, taking on roles ranging from meeting place to political war room. Many stores have distributed information for customers who are mobilizing against Mr. Trump’s actions: his cabinet choices, his threat to cut off funding for sanctuary cities and his immigration bans on refugees and many Muslims. At City Stacks, a bookstore in Denver, employees printed out forms with elected officials’ contact information in a gentle nudge to customers. On Inauguration Day, Broadway Books in Portland, Ore., handed out free copies of “We Should All Be Feminists,” a book-length call to arms by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the novelist. All over the country, independent bookstores have filled their windows and displays with “1984,” by George Orwell; “It Can’t Happen Here,” by Sinclair Lewis; and other books on politics, fascism, totalitarianism and social justice. Booksellers have begun calling the front table devoted to those titles the #Resist table.» Would Trump know about this? Unclear. From everything I’ve read, he prefers TV to reading books and going into bookstores. (Although my fingers want to make a generalization about his followers, I shall refrain from doing so. I do not know if you will show such restraint.)

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userpic=trumpYesterday, President Trump met with Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel, and with a simple question related to antisemitism, it again brought the issue of Trump and Religion again to the fore. Here are a few topics related to the subject that have caught my eye over the last few days:

  • Trump and Antisemitism. Yesterday, Donald Trump was asked, by an Israeli reporter, a straightforward question about “a sharp rise in anti-Semitic incidents across the United States” since his election. His response? A rambling response about the extent of his electoral victory, that included the following: “As far as people, Jewish people, so many friends; a daughter who happens to be here right now; a son-in-law, and three beautiful grandchildren. I think that you’re going to see a lot different United States of America over the next three, four or eight years. I think a lot of good things are happening.” Reading this, two things struck me. First, just like right after the election when there were a number of antisemitic incidents by his followers, he did not take the opportunity to strongly condemn antisemitism — and indeed, religion-based hate crimes. It was similar to his tone-deaf response on the International Holocaust Remembrance Day where he failed to acknowledge the major target of the Holocaust. Second, the “As far as people, Jewish people, so many friends…” struck me as a “Some of my best friends are…” line. Many remember when “Some of my best friends are black” was an excuse for racism — if I had a black friend, how could I be racist. Having a Jewish son-in-law does not make Trump not antisemitic: he can still hate the group while still liking a few individuals. After all, how many Conservatives have a few liberal friends but hate “libtards” (and vice-versa)? [ETA: It should also be noted that Trump tends to shout down reporters who ask him about antisemitism]
  • Trump and a Christian Resurgence. The Jewish Journal has an interesting article on Trump that strikes a few chords similar to my article last week on Trump and Apocalyptic Visions. The article notes that the anti-Muslim sentiments of the new administration are one head of a two-headed beast. The other head is a political agenda forged by a coalition of conservative Christians that is closer than ever to achieving its vision of a “Christian nation.” This linkage between anti-Muslim and “pro-Christian” policies is revealed in the executive order, which couples a thinly veiled ban on Muslims with a thinly veiled preference for Christians from predominantly Muslim countries seeking refuge in the United States. It is a sentiment I’ve seen from a few Conservative friends, who are spreading the word that the most prosecuted minority in Muslim countries are… Christians. That notion is lifted directly from the Christian right, which has long promoted the idea that Christians are a — indeed, the most — persecuted minority. It dovetails with the belief that Christians are being subjected to religious persecution in America by intolerant secularists, which has joined the claim that liberals turn a blind eye to the persecution of Christians by Muslims. Both are staples of the worldview that drives Stephen Bannon, the president’s chief strategist and architect of his immigration policies. This is all part of a plan forged between Trump, Bannon, and the Christian Right to bring the US “back to” being a Christian Nation (something the White Nationalists love).
  • Muslims and Jews – A Surprise Alliance. With all this hatred for Muslims, and the fights between Arabs and Jews over Israel, you think Jews and Muslims would hate it other. You would be wrong. There are alliances between Muslims and Jews in a number of areas. One I particularly support is the alliance of HIAS, which just supported the National Day of Jewish Action for Refugees. This was last Sunday; I participated in the meeting we had at Temple Ahavat Shalom. There was a large rally held in parallel in New York; Jews have also been fighting for Muslim refugees right after the executive order. The underlying notion here is that Jews have often been refugees because of their religion, and that is the case with many of the Muslims coming to the US. Whereas the Christian Right portrays Muslims as a unified group, and thus how could these be refugees when they are all Muslims, they forget why the Puritans came to America — because they were hated by other Christians. That’s the same reason Quakers and Catholics and many Christian groups came to the US: because other Christians kicked them out. It is why there is religious freedom in America. In this case, there are two main divisions within the Islamic world: Shia and Sunni, and the more militant and violent group is kicking out and conducting genocide against the other group. Jews recognize this, and that is why they are saving lifes, going back to the commandment from the Torah to “Welcome the stranger”. There are additional coalitions forming, going back to 2015 when the American Jewish Committee began work with the Islamic Society of North America, when presented with FBI data showing a stunning 67 percent rise in hate crimes against Muslims.  This spurred the formation of the Muslim-Jewish Advisory Council, or MJAC, a group of 38 high-profile business leaders, government officials and others. The nonpartisan council aims to combat discrimination with engagement at the highest levels of government. The desire to bridge Muslim and Jewish communities has intensified since the election, as both religious minorities express concerns over a White House in which presidential advisers like Stephen Bannon and Stephen Miller have been accused of having white supremacist ties. Another group, called MuJew Antifa, protested Wednesday in response to Trump’s meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. This group is opposed to what they view as facist occupation and actions by Israel against Palestinians (one report connects them to the Antifa group who incited violence at the recent protest against a Breitbart editor at UC Berkeley, although other accounts attribute that to a different Antifa group). MuJew Antifa says its goals are “to strengthen ties between our communities, to support each other in a time of hate and to forge a united front against fascism, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism.”

 

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Today was a day for a number of season announcements. I thought I would share my thoughts on them with you.

The Hollywood Bowl

I’m not going to go through the entire list of the Bowl season. But I am going to mention the shows of possible interest to me:

Segerstrom Center, Costa Mesa

This theatre is a bit far for us to travel to and subscribe, but for those in Orange County, it looks like a great season:

Broadway Series

  • Something Rotten!” Nov. 7-19, 2017. Set in the late 1500s, two brother playwrights are trying to write a hit play but their rival, the rock star writer Shakespeare, keeps getting all the attention. Thus, the concept of a musical was born.
    🎩 This hasn’t been in LA yet; given the Pantages has announced their season, I expect this at the Ahmanson.
  • Rodgers and Hammerstein’sThe King and I,” Feb. 27-March 11, 2018: The Tony Award-winning musical presents some of Broadway’s greatest numbers, including “Getting to Know You,” “I Whistle a Happy Tune,” and “Something Wonderful.”
    🎩 This played the Pantages in December 2016
  • Love Never Dies,” April 24 – May 5, 2018: Andrew Lloyd Webber’s sequel to the iconic “The Phantom of the Opera” tells the story of the Phantom and his new life in New York City.
    🎩 This is in the Pantages’ 2017-2018 Season, playing April 3-22, 2018
  • Hamilton,” May 8 – 27, 2018: Based on Ron Chernow’s biography of founding father Alexander Hamilton, the musical provides insight into the life of the West Indies immigrant who became George Washington’s right-hand man during the Revolutionary War. The hip-hop, jazz, and R&B score gives the musical a modern twist.
    🎩  This plays the Pantages from August 11 – December 30, 2017
  • School of Rock,” July 24 – Aug. 5, 2018: Featuring 14 songs by Andrew Lloyd Webber, the rock-and-roll musical tells the story of a wannabe rock star who poses as a substitute teacher and creates a band of his own with the music prodigies in his class.
    🎩 This is in the Pantages 2017-2018 Season, playing May 3 – 27, 2018
  • On Your Feet,” Aug. 21 – Sept. 2, 2018: From Cuba to America, Gloria and Emilio Estefan broke through barriers in the pop music world with hits songs like “Rhythm is Gonna Get You,” “Conga” and “Don’t Wanna Lose You Now.” The musical tells the story of the groundbreaking couple’s musical sensation journey.
    🎩 This is in the Pantages 2017-2018 Season, playing July 6 – 29, 2018

Curtain Call Series

  • Motown,” Dec. 19 – 24, 2017: The true American story about Motown founder Berry Gordy and his journey in the music world as he launched the careers of music sensations Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Smokey Robinson and more. The pop musical features hits like “My Girl,” “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and “Dancing in the Street.”
    🎩 This played the Pantages January 31 – February 12, 2017
  • Kinky Boots,” Feb. 6 – 11, 2018: The multi-Tony Award-winning musical tells the story of Charlie Price, the owner of a small shoe factory, who meets Lola, an extraordinary performer who introduces him to new, creative ideas in the world of fashion and shoes.
    🎩 This played the Pantages April 13 – 24, 2016
  • The Color Purple,” June 19 – 24, 2018: The Tony Award-winning musical presents a soul, jazz, ragtime and blues score to the story of a young woman’s journey in love and triumph in the American South.
    🎩 This is in the Pantages 2017-2018 Season, playing May 29 – June 17, 2018

Bonus events

  • Jersey Boys,” Jan. 19-21, 2018: The Tony, Grammy and Olivier Award-winning musical about rock and roll hall of famers The Four Seasons and their rise in pop music history. The show presents hits like “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Rag Doll,” “Oh What a Night” and “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You.”
    🎩 This plays the Ahmanson May 16 – June 24, 2017
  • The Book of Mormon,” March 20-25, 2018: South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker’s Tony Award-winning musical comedy tells the story about two mismatched missionaries sent across the seas to share their scriptures with a Ugandan village.
    🎩 This plays the Pantages May 30 – July 9, 2017

All in all, a very good season. More information is on the Segerstrom website.

Palo Alto/Mountain View TheatreWorks

For those up in the Bay Area, I just received the TheatreWorks Season Announcement:

  • The Four Immigrants: An American Musical Manga. Jul 12–Aug 6, 2017, Lucie Stern Theatre, Palo Alto. Book, Music, & Lyrics by Min Kahng. Based on Manga Yonin Shosei by Henry Yoshitaka Kiyama. Translated as The Four Immigrants by Frederik L. Schodt. Directed by Leslie Martinson. WORLD PREMIERE. From a tumultuous earthquake to an exhilarating world’s fair, this broadly comic new musical chronicles the adventures of four endearing Japanese immigrants in a world of possibility and prejudice: turn-of-the-twentieth-century San Francisco. Driven by an infectious vaudeville and ragtime score, the quartet pursues their American Dream despite limited options in the land of opportunity. Don’t miss this runaway hit of our 2016 New Works Festival.
    🎩 This sounds potentially interesting — if I was up there, I’d go see it.
  • Constellations. Aug 23–Sept 17, 2017, Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts. By Nick Payne. Directed by Robert Kelley. London Evening Standard Award Best Play 2012. REGIONAL PREMIERE. A time-bending romantic drama spun out of string theory, this unconventional Broadway and West End sensation explores the infinite possibilities of “boy meets girl” with intelligence, heart, and humor. A charming beekeeper and a Cambridge cosmologist are nerds in love, for better and for worse, their relationship an ever-changing mystery of “what ifs.” Who knew that honey and higher physics could be so touching—or so sexy?
    🎩 C’mon, string theory in a play. Sounds good.
  • The Prince of Egypt. Oct 6–Nov 5, 2017, Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts. Music and Lyrics by Stephen Schwartz. Book by Philip LaZebnik. Directed by Scott Schwartz. WORLD PREMIERE in collaboration with Fredericia Teater, Denmark. A soaring celebration of the human spirit, The Prince of Egypt features a dazzling, multi-ethnic cast in one of the greatest stories ever told: the saga of Moses and Ramses, his Pharaoh brother, and the indomitable people who changed them both forever. Inspired by the beloved DreamWorks Animation film and featuring a score that includes the Academy Award-winning “When You Believe” by the composer and lyricist of Wicked, this breathtaking journey of faith and family is the must-see event of the season.
    🎩 A new Stephen Schwartz musical — could be good, although I’d be curious how he expanded the score.
  • Around the World in 80 Days. Nov 29–Dec 23, 2017, Lucie Stern Theatre, Palo Alto. Adapted by Mark Brown. From the novel by Jules Verne. Directed by Robert Kelley. Stampeding elephants! Raging typhoons! Runaway trains! Join fearless adventurer Phileas Fogg and his faithful valet in the original “Great Race,” circling the globe in an 1870s alive with danger, romance, and comic surprises at every turn. In the hilariously theatrical style of The 39 Steps, five actors portray dozens of characters in a thrilling race against time and treachery. Grab your family, and your passport, for an ingenious, imaginative expedition around the world!
    🎩 This is an oldie, but should be good.
  • Our Great Tchaikovsky. Jan 10–Feb 4, 2018, Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts. Music by Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Written and Performed by Hershey Felder. Directed by Trevor Hay. REGIONAL PREMIERE. Brilliant composer Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky springs to life through the hands and insight of piano virtuoso Hershey Felder, whose time-bending tale of culture and repression explores the mystery surrounding some of the greatest music ever written. From the unforgettable ballets Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, and The Nutcracker, to the outrageous 1812 Overture and the brilliant symphonic works, this powerful musical tribute travels to Czarist times to ponder the inevitable enigma of genius. From the creator and performer of Hershey Felder as Irving Berlin and Beethoven.
    🎩 Others might like this; I haven’t gotten into all the Hershey Felder shows.
  • Skeleton Crew. Mar 7–Apr 1, 2018, Lucie Stern Theatre, Palo Alto. By Dominique Morisseau. Directed by Giovanna Sardelli. A Coproduction with Marin Theatre Company. CALIFORNIA PREMIERE. A makeshift family of autoworkers navigates the recession in this funny, tough, and tender American drama. Will their Detroit plant survive? Ambitious dreams and corporate deception interweave, pushing friendships to the limit. When the line between blue collar and white begins to blur, how far over the lines is each of them willing to step?
    🎩 Sounds somewhat interesting.
  • The Bridges of Madison County. Apr 4–29, 2018, Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts. Book by Marsha Norman. Music and Lyrics by Jason Robert Brown. Based on the novel by Robert James Waller. Directed by Robert Kelley. 2014 Tony Award Best Score. REGIONAL PREMIERE. This sweeping musical romance about the roads we travel and the bridges we dare to cross recalls the unexpected affair of a devoted Italian-born housewife and a roving National Geographic photographer—four sensual, heart-stirring days that would never be forgotten. Set amidst the cornfields of Iowa in 1965, it is an intimate remembrance of love both lost and found, brilliantly adapted by a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and Tony Award-winning composer from one of America’s favorite novels.
    🎩 I saw the tour of this when it was at the Ahmanson, and I was very surprised at how much I liked it. TheatreWorks should do a good job with it.
  • FINKS. Jun 6–Jul 1, 2018, Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts. By Joe Gilford. Directed by Giovanna Sardelli. Drama Desk Award Best Play Nominee. CALIFORNIA PREMIERE. With the 1950s Red Scare in full swing, the House Un-American Activities Committee attacks “subversion” in the arts. When a romance blossoms between a rising comic and a firebrand actress, they face being blacklisted along with their friends and fellow artists. Will they lose their careers or betray each other and be branded forever as “finks”? Based on the true story of comedian/actor Jack Gilford, this stunning comic drama is written by his son.
    🎩 The story of Jack Gilford — should be interesting.

The season sounds interesting enough that if I was in the area, I might subscribe. Subscription information is on the TheatreWorks website.

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33 Variations (Actors Co-Op)Almost exactly six years ago, we saw Jane Fonda (FB) in the Los Angeles premier of Moisés Kaufman’s  33 Variations. Last night, we saw the play again, this time in a much smaller venue than the cavernous Ahmanson Theatre (FB) — the intimate Actors Co-op (FB) theatre in Hollywood. In the six years between the productions, changes in our life have caused the play to resonate in a different way.

Back in February 2011, I wrote the following description of the play (actor names have been updated to reference the current production):

33 Variations” is, at its heart, a story of obsession, deterioration, and family. On its surface, this is the story of Dr. Katherine Brandt (Nan McNamara (FB)) and her obsession to figure out why Ludwig van Beethoven (Bruce Ladd (FB)) wrote 33 variations of an inconsequential waltz written by Anton Diabelli (Stephen Rockwell (FB)). This wouldn’t be a problem if Dr. Brandt was healthy; however, she is suffering from ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). Dr. Brandt wants to go to Bonn, Germany, to study Beethoven’s folios in the Beethoven Archives, but her daughter, Clara Brandt (Greyson Chadwick (FB)), wants her to stay, afraid that her condition will deteriorate. Katherine, being headstrong, goes, and becomes immersed in the world of Beethoven, Diabelli, and Beethoven’s friend and assitant, Anton Schindler (John Allee (FB)). She’s aided in this research by Dr. Gertrude Ladenburger (Treva Tegtmeier (FB)). As the play progresses, we see Dr. Brandt’s condition worsen, as she moves from a cane to a walker to a wheelchair. Her daughter, together with the Mike Clark (Brandon Parrish (FB)), a nurse who once treated her mother and has fallen in love with Clara, travel to Bonn to take care of her mother. As the story progresses, we keep flashing back and forth between the present day—where Dr. Brandt’s condition is deteriorating—and the past—where Beethoven is steadily going deaf. This brings forward a number of themes: the effects of a need to be more dependent on others, how the progression of a disease can can bring focus, Ultimately, the theme of the play moves from the surface obsession to the power of transformation: how a study of the littlest pieces can bring out beauty, and how we need to treasure each of those little pieces.

That’s what I wrote then, and it truly is the surface emphasis of the play: noticing the little things, the things that are often expressed in the shadows. For example, Diabelli’s Waltz is originally believed to be inconsequential because it was in the style of popular music of the time — a “beer hall” waltz. The play makes the point that Beethoven was able to see majestic music even in the common popular music of the day, sending the message that there is beauty in everything if one takes the time to look.

Yet something struck me different about the play in this viewing. Since 2011, we’ve had the experience of dealing with a relative (my wife’s mother) who is undergoing another type of deterioration — not neuromuscular as one sees with ALS, but the mental impairment that comes with old age. As such, the relationship portrayed in the show between Clara and her mother (which is paralleled in the relationship between Schindler and Beethoven) touched a different nerve. At the beginning of the play, the relationship was built on old patterns and old expectations. Incidents and expectations colored everything. But by the end of the show the focus had changed to seeing each other for what they really were: for seeing the little things and treasuring the little moments. It also provided insight to the frustrations of the person deteriorating: there is so much they still want to do, so much that time is taking away from them.

Viewing a play is a process of developing variations. The first time you see it, you pick up the surface meaning — the basic enjoyment and message that the playwright wanted you to pick up. You are, in essence, picking up the beer hall waltz. But as you revisit a play, and see it again and again, and study the moments and scenes within the play, you discover the deeper beauty within. You discover hidden meanings and hidden melodies — sometimes, even melodies that the author might not have intended to have in there. The play and its words (which are a form of music) find multiple resonances with us.

Resonances. Multiple messages, multiple voices. A fugue. Near the end of the play, especially as Beethoven is composing a fugue variation, I recalled that there had been a discussion of this play as a fugue. The play takes multiple voices and multiple messages and stories: the relationships between the various characters — Schindler and Beethoven, Schindler and Diabelli, Diabelli and Beethoven, Clara and Katherine, Clara and Mike, Mike and Katherine, Katherine and Gertie, Clara and Gertie, etc. — and harmonizes them together into a fugue of messages, of seeing things in the others. It makes the point of how our lives are a fugue of voices that shape our experiences, and sometimes the deepest message can come from the smallest four notes.

And that’s just the story side. I noticed things on the performance side this time that I hadn’t noticed (or don’t recall noticing) from the Ahmanson days. Partly, this may be due to the size of the venue. Many people believe the best way to see is show is in a gigantic Broadway-size venue, but often that is the worst way — even for those in the Orchestra. Larger venues require large staging and performance, and while that might be good for a large cast musical, it is often poor for a small cast play. As an example of this, I note that the Ahmanson staging included a 4-person non-speaking ensemble. That wasn’t there in this production, which allowed a greater focus on the actors.

Under the direction of Thomas James O’Leary (FB), the performances were top notch. I particularly recall a scene in the first act with Clara (Greyson Chadwick (FB) and Mike (Brandon Parrish (FB)), attending a concert. Their voices were provided by recorded voiceovers, presenting their inner thoughts on a first date. All the meaning was conveyed by the movement and facial expressions of the actors, which were remarkable for their ability to convey the emotion and meaning. There was a similar emoting via facial expression in the scene where Katherine (Nan McNamara (FB)) undergoes some form of scan. There are a series of flashes, each with a different facial expression truly showing the impact of the disease.

I also noticed one other difference from the Ahmanson: sexuality. In my writeup of the Ahmanson production, I noted: “The bravery is also on stage—both in a 74-year old actress having the confidence to do partial nudity onstage, and having the confidence to take on the acting challenge of portrying the deterioration that ALS can do to a body.” Reading that brought the scene back to me: some of the exam scenes had Fonda topless. For whatever reason — the fact that Actors Co-op is a church-based group, the size of the theatre, the desires of the actors — that level of physical exposure was not done. There were certainly points where it could have been done, but the choice was made not to do it. Guess what: It didn’t hurt the play one bit, raising the question of whether Fonda’s partial nudity was truly necessary in that production, or was just gratuitous titillation to bring in an audience. We are conditioned to expect gratuitous sex and violence in movies and TV; has it reached the level of the Broadway stage? Much as I enjoy the display of flesh, it should serve the story and not be there just to be there. I applaud the director for finding a way to tell the story in a more sensitive but equally moving fashion.

The performances from the entire cast were excellent. McNamara did a great job of portraying her relationship with her daughter, and even better portraying the deterioration that came with ALS. Ladd did similarly with Beethoven’s deterioration with his hearing. As one who suffers from Tinnitus, I could well appreciate Beethoven’s frustration at the bouts of the same. The chemistry between Clara and Mike was good, and you could see an equal chemistry form between Beethoven and his friend Schinder, and between Katherine and the archivist Gertrude. Great performances all around.

Music was provided by the on-stage pianist Dylan Price (FB). Understudies for the production are Christian Edsall (FB) [u/s Anton Schindler] and Tannis Hanson (FB) [u/s Clara]. It looks like the understudies will be on the first weekend in March.

33 Variations SetThe production was elegantly adapted for the small stage. Of the Ahmanson production, I wrote: “The primary motif was that of an archival room with shelves and shelves of archive boxes, together with movable screens made up of pages of music. Upon these were occasionally projected movements, scenery, and movements.” This production was unable to do that; instead they used the design of the set you see to the right: four windowed panels with doors between them. These panels could be translucent; the could show archival books. The doors could house projections. On the side were brick walls that slid open to expose archival books; there was also a Murphy bed for one scene behind the books. Credit for this design goes to Nicholas Acciani (FB), who did both the scenic design and the projection design. It was supported by the lighting design of Andrew Schmedake (FB), who used fixtures above to create medical devices and specialized archival lighting. Lori Berg (FB) was the property designer; I particularly noted the actual walkers and powered wheelchairs, as well as all the hand-sewn books. David B. Marling‘s sound design was less focused on amplification and more focused on effects — this was particularly noteworthy during the medical scenes where the illusion of the scanning machinery was created entirely by sound. Vicki Conrad (FB)’s costume design seemed period appropriate to this novice, and (when appropriate) were suitably revealing without being too revealing. Michelle Parrish (FB)’s choreography worked well in the few dance scenes. E. K. Dagenfield (FB)’s efforts as dialect coach were primarily notable in the Tegtmeier’s portrayal of Dr. Gerturde Ladenburger and her clipped accent. Rounding out the credits are: Josie Austin/FB – Assistant Stage Manager, Heather Chesley (FB) – Artistic Chairwoman; David Elzer/Demand PR (FB) – Publicity; Selah Victor (FB) – Production Manager; and Shawna Voragen (FB) – Production Stage Manager. 33 Variations was produced by Thomas Chavira (FB).

33 Variations continues at Actors Co-op (FB) theatre in Hollywood until March 19. Tickets are available through the Actors Co-op Website; discount tickets may be available on Goldstar.

🎩 🎩 🎩

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music 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), the Chromolume Theatre (FB) in the West Adams district, and a mini-subscription at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB). 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 third weekend of February brings Peter Yarrow and Noel Paul Stookey at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza (FB) on Friday, February 17, with seeing Allegiance – A New Musical (recorded on Broadway) at the AMC Promenade on Sun 2/19. The last weekend in February brings Finding Neverland at the Hollywood Pantages (FB). March quiets down a bit — at least as currently scheduled — with the MRJ Man of the Year dinner,  Fun Home at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) at the beginning of the month, and An American in Paris at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) at the end of the month. We may go see Martha, a one-woman play on the life of Martha Graham (a good preparation for our May VPAC show of her dance group), at the Whitefire Theatre (FB) on March 18 — we’re still planning that. April starts with Cats Paw at Actors Co-op (FB) and a concert with Tom Paxton and the DonJuans at McCabes Guitar Shop (FB) (shifting Cats Paws to an afternoon matinee that day). The next day brings the Colburn Orchestra at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB). The next weekend is currently open (and will likely stay that way). Mid-April bringsDoc Severinsen and his Big Band at Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB) on April 13, followed by Animaniacs Live at the La Mirada Performing Arts Center (FB) over the weekend. That will be followed on the penultimate weekend of April with Sister Act at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB). Lastly, looking to May, the schedule shows that it starts with My Bodyguard at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) the first weekend. It continues with Martha Graham Dance and American Music at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB). The third weekend brings the last show of the Actors Co-op (FB) season, Lucky Stiff, at Actors Co-op (FB). May concludes with Hello Again at the Chromolume Theatre (FB). As for June? Three words: Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB). That, barring something spectacular cropping up, should be the first half of 2017.

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-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: 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.

P.S.: Mostly so I can find it later, here’s my predictions of what will go on tour and where they will end up. The Hollywood Pantages (FB) announced their 2017-2018 season (which was the rest of 2018, after Hamilton took over the last 5 months of 2017) on February 7th. You can find my reaction to it here. Now we just need to see what the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) will do.

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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It’s hard to believe, but here in Los Angeles we are less than a month away from an election. Alas, we can’t vote Trump out yet (oh, that we could), but we do have some significant issues on the ballot. As I do with every ballot, I try to present my recommendations for you to refute and argue with, and to let me know WWTD — What Would Trump Do (so I can vote the other way). Note that I’m not doing these in ballot order; I’m moving the country measure with the city measures for pedagogical purposes.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Let’s take a breather from TrumpNews (oh, that we could). Allan Sherman once sang, “Good advice, good advice. Good advice costs nothing, and it’s worth the price. It’s fruitful as can be, And it’s absolutely free. My good advice.” As I’ve been going through the news, I’ve found some items that fall into the category of Good Advice. Further, they’re absolutely free because they’re from the Internet.

  • News Fatigue. The New York Times has a number of suggestions for dealing with News Fatigue, or as they put it, “It feels as if we are living in a Superconducting Super Collider of news, with information bombarding us at a head-spinning velocity. The result is a fatigue about the headlines — lately about politics — that has prompted some people to withdraw from the news, or curb their consumption of it.” Their suggestions? (1) Focus on positive news; (2) don’t read or watch any just before bedtime because thoughts of how to respond to it can disrupt sleep — watch the sports or weather instead; (3) read a physical paper instead of the Internet; (4) watch cute animals on Twitter.
  • Painting. From the Jewish Journal (because we all love Jews with Tools), some advice on pain free painting. No, it isn’t “go out and hire someone”. Rather, it actually is good advice on colors, supplies, and the process.
  • Your Parent’s Stuff. Here’s an interesting article from NextAvenue on what happens when Boomers inherit their parent’s stuff. This is something we’re dealing with right now — I’m still getting rid of my dad’s stuff from 2004, and we’re working on my mother-in-laws place. There’s all this stuff that they thought had value, or you would think had value (first day covers and framed maxim cards — I’m looking at you)…. but probably don’t, and yet you can’t just throw them away.
  • Computer DVD Drives. DId you know if that if you owned a computer with a DVD drive, you might be able to get $10? There’s a class action lawsuit that is taking names.
  • Home Device Hijacking. Here is some good advice from the NY Times on how to prevent your home devices from being hijacked. The TL;DR (especially as they have a paywall) is: (1) Research the devices before you buy to know whether it has objectionable behavior or known vulnerabilities; (2) strengthen your wi-fi security (and consider having a separate wi-fi network for just IOT things); (3) beef up your passwords (and use a good password manager and generator – I use Lastpass) : (4) Regularly update the firmware, if you can; (5) when in doubt, hit “mute” or tape over that camera.
  • Passwords. Lastly, here’s some updated password requirements promulgated by the Trump administration. Related to that, always remember to check your sources for authenticity, and remember that free advice is often worth every penny you paid for it.

 

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userpic=trumpA few articles in the political news today caught my eye, and appear to demonstrate a disturbing pattern:

  • A Pattern of “Yes” Men in his Administration. This news item from the NY Times describes how Pres. Trump overruled his newly minted secretary of state, Rex W. Tillerson, and rejected the secretary’s choice for his deputy at the department, Elliott Abrams, a conservative who had served under President Ronald Reagan and President George W. Bush. This leaves Tillerson without a trained assisted to help guide the first-time government official around the State Department headquarters. But what is really interesting is why Trump rejected him. According to the article, the rejection came after Trump learned of Mr. Abrams’s pointed criticisms of the president when he was running for president, the administration official said. Among those criticisms was a column headlined “When You Can’t Stand Your Candidate,” which appeared in May 2016 in The Weekly Standard. You don’t back Trump, you don’t get the job. Never a good sign when the President surrounds himself with “yes” men.
  • A Pattern of Nepotism for Advantage. In the same article was a discussion about how the leading candidate for Solicitor General, Charles J. Cooper, said he was withdrawing as a possible nominee for solicitor general of the United States “after witnessing the treatment of my friend Jeff Sessions,” who was approved as attorney general Wednesday evening after bruising attacks by Senate Democrats over his civil rights record. What’s interesting here is not the criticism issue from the Senate, but who is left. According to the article, “His withdrawal appears to leave George T. Conway, a New York lawyer who is married to Kellyanne Conway, a top White House aide, as the leading contender for solicitor general.” Let’s see, his Secretary of Transportation is married to Mitch McConnell. His Solicitor General would be marred to Conway. No problem there.
  • A Pattern with Judges. Also in the NY Times was an interesting op-ed from Sen. Chuck Schumer on Judge Neil Gorsuch. The article noted how the Judge refused to answer questions regarding his positions on various past cases, or even how the Constitution would be interpreted. From this, Schumer had a very interesting observation: “As I sat with Judge Gorsuch, a disconcerting feeling came over me that I had been through this before — and I soon realized I had, with Judge John G. Roberts Jr. He was similarly charming, polished and erudite. Like Neil Gorsuch, he played the part of a model jurist. And just like Neil Gorsuch, he asserted his independence, claiming to be a judge who simply called “balls and strikes,” unbiased by both ideology and politics. When Judge Roberts became Justice Roberts, we learned that we had been duped by an activist judge. The Roberts court systematically and almost immediately shifted to the right, violating longstanding precedent with its rulings in Citizens United and in Shelby v. Holder, which gutted the Voting Rights Act.”
  • A Pattern of Racism. An article on Vox explored why Pres. Trump keeps referring to Sen. Elizabeth Warren as “Pocahontas”. It is a reference to her run for Senate and a claim that she had been told she had Native American relatives in her past, but insufficient to claim membership in the appropriate tribe. Although Warren told the story, there is no record she ever tried to use that status to her advantage. The pattern here? According to Vox: “Trump’s use of this particular nickname combines several of his worst habits: his inability to let perceived insults slide, his bullying mockery of opponents — and most of all, his general cluelessness on race issues. Trump has decades of racist statements and behavior under his belt. He has a particularly bad habit of essentializing people based on their heritage or ethnicity. Just look at his repeated comments alleging that federal judge Gonzalo Curiel, who presided over two class action suits against Trump University, is biased against Trump because of his Mexican heritage. (Curiel is American, born in Indiana to Mexican immigrants.) Conflating all Native Americans with “Pocahontas” is another example of Trump’s racist habits.”Trump’s inability to discern the difference between Sen. Warren and Pocahontas is no accident,” Cherokee Nation citizen Mary Kathryn Nagle told MSNBC’s Adam Howard. “Instead, his attack on her native identity reflects a dominant American culture that has made every effort to diminish native women to nothing other than a fantastical, oversexualized, Disney character.”

Some of Trump’s patterns appear to be biting him in his orange tush:

  • Violations of the Logan Act. Federal law prohibits private citizens from conducting diplomacy with foreign nations. But, according to the NY Times, that is exactly what current National Security Advisor Michael Flynn did. Specifically, he discussed lifting of Russian Sanctions with Russia before his confirmation, while still a private citizen. Even more significantly, he lied about doing so to Congress, and apparently, so did VP Mike Pence.  From the article: “Federal officials who have read the transcript of the call were surprised by Mr. Flynn’s comments, since he would have known that American eavesdroppers closely monitor such calls. They were even more surprised that Mr. Trump’s team publicly denied that the topics of conversation included sanctions. The call is the latest example of how Mr. Trump’s advisers have come under scrutiny from American counterintelligence officials. The F.B.I. is also investigating Mr. Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort; Carter Page, a businessman and former foreign policy adviser to the campaign; and Roger Stone, a longtime Republican operative.” Pence’s inclusion is interesting — it could provide the opportunity to impeach and remove Pence, get an acceptable replacement VP, and then get Trump removed or resigned. Worked for Richard Nixon.
  • Violation of Federal Ethics Law. Federal law prohibits administration officials from promoting or endorsing a private business. Yet that is exactly what Kellyanne Conway did when she told people to go buy Ivanka Trump’s products. She has supposedly been “counseled” about this. Related to this is the President’s behavior itself. The Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act, or STOCK Act, was intended to close a loophole to prevent legislators from using nonpublic information for private profit or engaging in insider trading. But a lesser known section, 18 U.S. Code § 227, also restricts the president and vice president from using their office to influence or make threats about an employment practice of any private company, especially if it’s solely driven by partisan political feelings. The section of the law that applies is sufficiently broad, says Markovic, who has written on the Trump conflicts issues, to extend to other employment decisions such as vendors or independent contractors like Ivanka Trump.

It is interesting how the Obama administration was relatively scandal-free; certainly after months and months of investigations, nothing was proved. Here, there is loads of evidence of scandal — in just three weeks — but nary a single investigation. I guess it isn’t wrong if it is done by a member of your own party.

Yeah. Right.

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The Summet - Take 6 and the Manhattan Transfer (VPAC)One of the advantages of concert reviews is that they are much easier to write. There’s no plot; no story. Nothing to analyze or compare and contrast. No incredibly large ensemble to write up (usually). There’s not even a requirement to write up a set list, especially if I am less familiar with the group’s repertoire to know the names of every song. I can just sit back and enjoy the music.

That’s what I did last night at “The Summit: Take 6 and the Manhattan Transfer” at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB) at CSUN. Sit back and listen to the rhythms and the harmonies. It was a delight.

I’ve known about The Manhattan Transfer (FB) for years, going back to when I was a subscriber at KCRW and Tim Hauser was programing one of their “becomes Eclectic” shows (I want to say “Morning Becomes Eclectic”). Hauser founded the group, and I think I became aware of them in their post-1970s version with Tim Hauser, Alan Paul, Janis Siegel and Laurel Massé (later replaced with Cheryl Bentyne). After Hauser’s death, Trist Curless replaced him. The Paul / Siegel / Bentyne / Curless configuration was the configuration we saw last night.

On the other hand, I was unfamiliar with Take 6 (FB). Take 6 is an  a cappella gospel music sextet formed in 1980. It consists of Claude V. McKnight III, Mark Kibble, David Thomas, Joey Kibble, Khristian Dentley, Alvin Chea. They had some remarkable vocal qualities, including Chea’s ability to become the best bass you’ve ever heard.

In most shows with two artists, you often have one act with one artist, a second act with the other artist, and the two coming together for perhaps one or two songs. That wasn’t the case here. These two groups were obviously comfortable with each other, and kept switching it up: doing songs together, swapping members (for example, “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square” was sung by the two ladies of MT and two of the men of T6). There were a few sequences done with each group alone, and there was one sequence where each group playfully sang some of the other groups songs. In short, they were having fun out there being playful with each other, and this fun was reflected into the audience.

I did not keep track of the songs to make a playlist. I know that MT did a number of there most popular songs — I remember them doing Tuxedo Junction, Route 66, Candy, Operator, Trickle Trickle, and Birdland. Being less familiar with T6’s songs, I can’t quite recall which ones they did. Both did a number of songs with audience participation. Again, playful and fun.

This is the type of jazz that I like: harmonies, melodies, swinging. There was also quite an element of traditional jazz in the scat and playing with the music and the melody. They packed quite a lot of fun into a single ~100 minute, one act show. If you like this style of music, I’d recommend this show strongly.

Their performance at VPAC was just for the one night, but they are playing tonight at the McCallum Theatre in Palm Desert, Saturday 2/11 at the Cerritos CenterSunday 2/12 in Wickenberg AZ, and Tuesday 2/14 in Tucson AZ. After that, according to their website, they are off to Florida, the Carolinas, and Virginia.  As for us, our next concert is Peter Yarrow and Noel Paul Stookey at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza (FB) a week from tonight (February 17), and our next jazz is Doc Severinsen and his Big Band at Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB) on April 13.

🎩 🎩 🎩

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music 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), the Chromolume Theatre (FB) in the West Adams district, and a mini-subscription at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB). 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: Theatre continues this weekend with 33 Variations at Actors Co-op (FB). The third weekend of February brings Peter Yarrow and Noel Paul Stookey at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza (FB) on Friday, February 17, with seeing Allegiance – A New Musical (recorded on Broadway) at the AMC Promenade on Sun 2/19. The last weekend in February brings Finding Neverland at the Hollywood Pantages (FB). March quiets down a bit — at least as currently scheduled — with the MRJ Man of the Year dinner,  Fun Home at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) at the beginning of the month, and An American in Paris at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) at the end of the month. We may go see Martha, a one-woman play on the life of Martha Graham (a good preparation for our May VPAC show of her dance group), at the Whitefire Theatre (FB) on March 18 — we’re still planning that. April starts with Cats Paw at Actors Co-op (FB) and a concert with Tom Paxton and the DonJuans at McCabes Guitar Shop (FB) (shifting Cats Paws to an afternoon matinee that day). The next day brings the Colburn Orchestra at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB). The next weekend is currently open (and will likely stay that way). Mid-April bringsDoc Severinsen and his Big Band at Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB) on April 13, followed by Animaniacs Live at the La Mirada Performing Arts Center (FB) over the weekend. That will be followed on the penultimate weekend of April with Sister Act at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB). Lastly, looking to May, the schedule shows that it starts with My Bodyguard at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) the first weekend. It continues with Martha Graham Dance and American Music at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB). The third weekend brings the last show of the Actors Co-op (FB) season, Lucky Stiff, at Actors Co-op (FB). May concludes with Hello Again at the Chromolume Theatre (FB). As for June? Three words: Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB). That, barring something spectacular cropping up, should be the first half of 2017.

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-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: 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.

P.S.: Mostly so I can find it later, here’s my predictions of what will go on tour and where they will end up. The Hollywood Pantages (FB) announced their 2017-2018 season (which was the rest of 2018, after Hamilton took over the last 5 months of 2017) on February 7th. You can find my reaction to it here. Now we just need to see what the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) will do.

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userpic=trumpWhen the state of Israel was formed, many Orthodox Jews were anti-Zionist. The reason was simple, in their logic: “the Torah forbids us to end the exile and establish a state and army until the Holy One, blessed He, in His Glory and Essence will redeem us. This is forbidden even if the state is conducted according to the law of the Torah because arising from the exile itself is forbidden, and we are required to remain under the rule of the nations of the world”. In other words: It was G-d’s responsibility to establish the state, not the actions of men.

I mention this because of an interesting article that came across my RSS feeds today exploring the Islamic view of Donald Trump, and how the Koran foretold his arrival. The d’var koran, if I can use a mixed term, describes how the Muslim scripture foretold someone who seems to fit the description of Trump, and notes:

“The individual described in the Quran did not meet a good end. The result of his cheap, mean-spirited ways was that God destroyed his garden overnight, and when he and his workers came to it in the morning they lamented: “nay we have been deprived of everything.” The only silver lining the Quran offers is that they, after witnessing the result of their evils, realized the error of their ways, reproached one another, turned to God and repented of their past injustices.”

Now, I’m not an Islamic scholar. I do not know if this is a conventional interpretation, or a fundamentalist interpretation. All I note is that it is an interesting interpretation, and one that might be used as an excuse for many things, from an Islamic ban to…

But apocalyptic interpretations of scripture are not limited to Muslims. Many devout Christians appear to support Mr. Trump precisely for the chaos he is bringing. You see, they view him as the anti-Christ:

Trump does fit several of the criteria attached to popular perceptions of the Antichrist. Many earnest sources of apocalyptic speculation, including the best-selling Left Behind series by the late Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, imagine the Antichrist as a truly modern figure. Although the wildly popular 17-book series, which was published between 1995 and 2007 and has sold over 65 million copies, is fictional, the vision embraced by LaHaye and Jenkins portrays the coming apocalypse as an event where non-believers are forced to reckon with the damage wrought by the Antichrist. Here, the Antichrist is a worldly, charismatic man, often of Eastern European and Jewish heritage, who embraces modern technology and institutions for his own sinister ends. This interpretation, which is common among a large subset of American Evangelicals, believes the Antichrist’s reign — a period known as the “tribulation” — will follow the rapture of true followers of Christ.

It’s easy to extrapolate this to Trump. He’s vainglorious, charismatic (at least in the eyes of some Americans), and obsessed with wealth. Kushner Companies, a real estate company jointly owned by Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, is headquartered at 666 5th Ave. Trump, while not Eastern European himself, has a proclivity for Eastern European women and promises better relations with Russia, a country that figures prominently in 20th and 21st century apocalyptic tales. And while Trump says that his favorite book is the Bible, he did once note that he’s “not sure” as to whether he’s asked God for forgiveness of his sins.

In particular, Steve Bannon, Trump’s closest advisor, has such apocalyptic visions:

In Bannon’s view, we are in the midst of an existential war, and everything is a part of that conflict. Treaties must be torn up, enemies named, culture changed. Global conflagration, should it occur, would only prove the theory correct. For Bannon, the Fourth Turning has arrived. The Grey Champion, a messianic strongman figure, may have already emerged. The apocalypse is now.

[…]

War is coming, Bannon has warned. In fact, it’s already here.

“You have an expansionist Islam and you have an expansionist China,” he said during a 2016 radio appearance. “They are motivated. They’re arrogant. They’re on the march. And they think the Judeo-Christian West is on the retreat.”

To confront this threat, Bannon argued, the Judeo-Christian West must fight back, lest it lose as it did when Constantinople fell to the Ottomans in 1453. He called Islam a “religion of submission” in 2016 — a refutation of President George W. Bush’s post-9/11 description of Islam as a religion of peace. In 2007, Bannon wrote a draft movie treatment for a documentary depicting a “fifth column” of Muslim community groups, the media, Jewish organizations and government agencies working to overthrow the government and impose Islamic law.

And you wonder where Trump gets his ideas.

I have seen discussions on Facebook where the hope has been expressed for the rapture to occur, and for the true believer to be swept up to Heaven to live with Jesus. As for the rest of us: non-believers and liberals and such, well, it is the pits of Hell. And if not Hell, then Detroit or Cleveland.

Now, I’m not going to criticize anyone for their beliefs. This is America, and you are free to believe whatever you wish. Further, the government is not supposed to establish or favor any particular religion, so as to permit you to believe whatever you wish. More importantly, to permit me to believe whatever I wish. [Translation: This is not a Christian Nation; even though almost a third of Americans think you need to be Christian to be truly American. Sigh.]

However, your right to your beliefs stops when it impacts someone else. I take offense at people who deliberately elect someone unqualified, and with a dangerous narcissistic streak, just to hasten the Rapture and the Apocalypse. Here I side with the Orthodox: it is not your place to bring it about. If a Rapture and Apocalypse is going to happen, it is up to G-d to bring it about, not you or me. You are not G-d, and you are certainly not my G-d. If there is a G-d.

Note that there is a distinction between belief in G-d and faith. Although I sometimes question the existance of G-d, I certainly do have faith. In particular, I have faith that the American People and our Nation will survive the bumpy ride we’re in for with Trump. Resistance to his unilateral executive orders is growing, his unqualified nominees are not making it through the Senate, and the Democratic Congress has decided to resist Trump the same way the Republican Congress resisted Obama. Further, a number of Patriotic Republicans such as John McCain and Lindsey Graham, are standing up for American Values and saying: Trump’s behavior is not who we are.

Both the Muslim and the Christian interpretations of scripture above assume that all is ordained, with the implication that we don’t have the ability to stop it. But we are given the choice in Deuteronomy 30:19: “This day, I call upon the heaven and the earth as witnesses [that I have warned] you: I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. You shall choose life, so that you and your offspring will live;” We are given the choice — we can choose. We must and should choose the good, the blessing, the life, and not the evil.

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Some people play games as a palette cleanser between tasks; I look at the news. In this NPR article about Trump meeting with Airline Executives, the following exchange was quoted:

Trump said his private pilot, “a real expert” and a “smart guy,” has told him that the government has been buying the wrong type of equipment in its years-long effort to upgrade the current control system. He said U.S. airports “used to be the best, now they’re at the bottom of the rung.”

Sigh. Reminds me of an anecdote. Many years ago, there was an on-going interaction between Dr. Dixie Baker (my boss at the time), who had long been working in what then was called computer security (now “cybersecurity”) and Cliff Stoll, who had just published his book “The Cuckoo’s Egg”. Cliff kept insisting he was a security expert, when those of us in the field knew he was a newcomer, a poser, someone who had lucked into a situation to solve. Cliff asked Dixie what it would take to be a security expert — after all, he had published X papers. (I forget the value of X). Dixie’s response: “X+1”.

Trump’s opinion on how to modernize the Air Traffic Control situation is based on his private pilot, a “real expert” and a “smart guy”. Having been through the AAS years and all the issues with FAA modernization: This isn’t going to end well.

Again, from the article:

“You’re going to be so happy with Trump,” the president said.

Oh, where is Stan Freberg when we need him.

Maybe this is the harbinger of the apocalypse. Oh, wait, that’s the next post.

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