Observations Along the Road

Theatre Writeups, Musings on the News, Rants and Roadkill Along the Information Superhighway

My Aphroisms

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Nov 28, 2015 @ 11:59 am PST

userpic=don-martinI thought I would do a post that would collect the aphorisms I live by. What is an aphorism? An Aphorism is a statement of truth or opinion expressed in a concise and witty manner.

  1. Never ascribe to malice what you can to stupidity. Loads of things happen in life that can upset us. Sometimes they are intentional faults, sometimes just stupid or unintentional slights. I tend not to let things upset me unless there is a pervasive malice behind the acts.
  2. 90% of everything is presentation. I’m of the firm belief that many of the problems we run into are created not by what we are saying, but how we are saying it. We often don’t take the time to craft our words correctly, to think about the implications or the way they may hurt or be misinterpreted. Present something right the first time, and you’ll do better. A corollary is that we must sometimes look past the presentation for the underlying meaning.
  3. The best apology is fixing the problem so it doesn’t happen again. We’ve all been the recipients of stupids. We’ve gotten apologies, many of them meaningless. At least for me, the best apology is one that is accompanied by a correction, so that the apology doesn’t need to ever be given again. So (as an example), Office of Personnel Management — I get that you’re sorry that my information got to Chinese hackers, and thank you for the monitoring service. But what are you doing so it doesn’t happen again?
  4. Everyone is an expert at remembering something. I’m horrible with names and faces. Unless I meet you and see you somewhat regularly, I’ll probably take a while to recall your name. But spatial layouts? I’ve got maps in my head going back 50 years. I can remember how rooms were laid out when I was a kid, and what was where. Everyone has their skill.

Note: I may come back and edit this post as I realize additional aphorisms. Please feel free to comment with your own aphorisms to live by.



Gettin’ The News You Need

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Nov 28, 2015 @ 8:05 am PST

userpic=televisionIt’s Saturday morning. Time to put your feet up and read what laughingly passes for a newspaper these days — which, of course, means we have some media news chum for you:

  • The Dress. The Dress. No, not that dress. Rather, this is a situation where dozens of female meteorologists (what used to be called “weather girls” or even derogatory terms) all have been observed wearing the same dress. The dress, a “Stretch Tunic Pencil Sheath Dress” sold on Amazon for $23, has been seen on at least 50 weather reports across the country. Jennifer Myers, a meteorologist from Dallas, Texas, posted a collage to Reddit showing several of the women sporting the ensemble.  Dress of female meteorologists is restricted: they aren’t allowed to wear “distracting prints,” lace, anything green, short skirts, or cleavage-bearing shirts. Other than the humor of the inadvertent common uniform, a few observations. First, while looking into this story, I happened to click on the Amazon page. Big mistake. Now all the little Amazon ads that pop up everywhere are trying to sell me a dress. Second, with respect to local TV, I do find the dress of the weathercritters to be interesting. I often catch the weather on KTLA at 10pm, and their weathercaster, Vera Jimenez, often picks an unflattering outfit (the problem, by the way, is more the choice of color and the shortness of the skirt). Doesn’t affect the quality of her presentation any, but for some reason it is one of the few times where I comment to my wife on fashion (and it now has me wondering why I’m so petty in this one area). It sounds like TV newscritters are responsible for their on-air wardrobe, as opposed to the studio providing it.
  • This is National Public Radio. Two articles related to NPR and NPR news.  The first relates to demographics: it appears that the NPR audience is significantly aging, and NPR doesn’t know how to turn it around. This is a problem in a number of ways. First, the station funding model is one of subscribers, and subscribers come from pledge breaks, and pledge breaks come from listeners, and if the listeners are greying and dying off — what happens to your funding? Younger audiences do listen to a number of NPR programs, but they do so via direct streaming or podcasts, and thus support the podcast directly, not the station. They are exploring ways to turn this around (including the NPR One app), but so far it hasn’t made a dent. The second article relates to breaking news. Those of us who grew up with newsradio (cough, KNX, cough, KFWB) knew that entire programming days could go out the window when there was breaking news. NPR, on the other hand, doesn’t always take that approach for breaking news. They have a complicated approach to when they can go live, depending on staff, where they are in the “clock”, what they would be interrupting, etc.
  • Los Angeles Times in the News. In yesterday’s news chum, I wrote about the buyouts that have occurred at the LA Times. I fretted about how they are decimating the reporting, and the once great paper was but a shadows of its former self. Yesterday a rumor surfaced about the possible sale of Tribune Publishing and the LA Times. The rumor, from Rupert Murdoch, has been subject to intense analysis and may or may not be true. I, for one, hope that it is. Los Angeles used to be a great newspaper community, from the LA Times to the Herald Examiner to the Valley Green Sheet to the Orange County Register to the VC Star to the San Diego Union Tribune. Now they are all gone, merged together, or otherwise diminished.  It would be nice to see it come back, even a little.


This is the city, Los Angeles, California. I work here.

Written By: cahwyguy - Fri Nov 27, 2015 @ 7:47 am PST

userpic=los-angelesToday’s news chum post brings a collection of stories about Los Angeles, and all things Los Angeles:

  • The Feud. KCET has an interesting article on “the feud” — that is, the supposed ongoing rivalry between Southern and Northern California. KCET’s attitude: “get over it”. I would tend to agree. I’ve seen numerous people from Northern California who are disdainful of Southern California, making fun of all sorts of supposed and real attributes of Southern California folks. Southern California folks, however, don’t seem to have the same dislike of the area, finding it a very nice place to visit. There are dichotomies in California, but neither the Tehachapis or the SLO/KER/SBD northern county lines are not one of them.
  • The Triforium. In a downtown mall that really isn’t a mall but a lunch hideaway for jurors, there exists a sculpture that doesn’t work. The Triforium, originally designed as a “‘polyphonoptic’ sculpture,” was intended by mosaic artist and sculptor Joseph Young to have its nearly 1,500 glass bulbs on the six-story structure light up “in synchrony to music from a 79-note glass bell carillon.” But it was ahead of its times, and never quite worked right. It became more of a mockery than an attraction. But that may be changing. A Triforium Refurbishment is in the works. United behind the present Triforium restoration project is a group including noted LA booster/explorer Tom Carroll from the Tom Explores Los Angeles web series, the group YACHT of the 5 Every Day app, the executive director of the Downtown LA Art Walk, and Councilmember Jose Huizar. According to their website for the undertaking, the group is hoping to refurbish the piece, updating its computer technology to something more modern—”a nimble and inexpensive computer system that can achieve Young’s original goals”—and replacing the bulbs with efficient LEDs. They’re also planning to create an app that would allow anyone to compose their own “polyphonoptic” music and send it to the Triforium to be played out of those ladybug-like speakers, offering a whole new opportunity for engagement with the sculpture. Would you like to help? Here’s more information.
  • The Times. Los Angeles used to have a great paper: The Los Angeles Times. Local, with bureaus all over the world, it rivals the NY Times. Nowadays, it is a shadow of its formal self. Page count has dropped. Ad revenue has dropped. To compound matters, the Times has been saving money by downsizing, which makes the product worse, so revenue drops more, so they downsized more. The LA Times just completed another series of buyouts, and the people left Wednesday,  and the draw-down of talent is significant. It’s got me questioning whether I still want to subscribe, but the other local papers face equally whittled staff and equally bleak prognoses. I’d consider the NY Times (where real journalism still exists), but (a) it’s New York, and (b) it exhibits such a paternalistic “look down the nose” attitude towards LA. SCPR/KPCC had an interesting take on the downsizing, as it looked at the changes in the Food section over the years. When one of the food editors who is leading started, “We needed a huge staff because, typically, the Food section was 70 to 80 pages every week, and during the holiday season we would publish two sections a week and sometimes those would be hundred-page sections.” These days, it is a lot smaller.
  • The Traffic. Everyone talks about the traffic in LA. It is one of my fears for conference attendees in just over a week. We have horrible bottlenecks on our freeways. The problem is induced traffic. A freeway gets widened with a new mixed-use or HOV lane, and it speeds up. As a result, more people take the freeway (either through new jobs, or a return to solo driving)… and the traffic ends up worse. I’ve seen this firsthand: right after the 405 construction process ended, traffic was better. Now it’s worse: our drive home is more often over 100 minutes, as opposed to the previous 85. It’s just that the traffic is in a different place. So how do people get around it? Waze. But Waze is creating another raft of problems, because traffic, like water, will find a way. Waze is moving traffic to tiny city streets, many of which were not designed for that traffic load. Again, I see that everyday. I theorize that is why the left from Chatsworth onto Wilbur, which used to take 1-2 lights, now regularly takes 4-5 lights.
  • The Airport. It is Thanksgiving weekend; one of the busiest traffic weekend. This drew out a number of articles on the historical LA Airport. We have an LA Magazine article on the origins as Mines Field, including a really neat map. Next we have a photo archive of the LA airport from the Mines Field days to the reconstruction in the 80s. Lastly, we have a history of the LA Airport Theme Building. I have this odd connection to the airport. I grew up near the airport, and had friends who lost their houses in the airport expansion to jet traffic in the mid-to-late 1960s. I attended synagogue on Airport Blvd, and never knew why that was the name — learning later that it was the main route into the “interim” terminal that was at Airport and Century. This was the terminal that was used after the Mines Field days, but before construction of the new LAX in the late 1950s.  Here are more images. PS: While writing this, I discovered that the Hyatt hotel at Sepulveda and Century was the first Hyatt hotel.


What do you mean you cooked the turkey, Charlie? (A Thanksgiving Tradition)

Written By: cahwyguy - Thu Nov 26, 2015 @ 9:55 am PST

Today is the day when we are thankful for many thing. Home. Family. Loved ones. Stan Freberg.

Yup. Stan Freberg, who reminded us in his 1962 album “The United States of America” that this is national “Take an Indian to Lunch” week. I wonder if he would have to change the words these days, although the sentiment is equally true…

Take an Indian To Lunch

Take an Indian to lunch this week
Show him we’re a regular bunch this week
Show him we’re as liberal as can be
Let him know he’s almost as good as we

Make a feathered friend feel fed this week
Overlook the fact he’s red this week
Let him share our Quaker Oats
‘Cause he’s useful when he votes
Take an Indian to lunch

Two, four, six, eight, who do we tolerate
Indians, Indians, rah; rah; rah

Take an Indian to lunch this week
Let him sit right down and munch this week
Let’s give in and all do the brotherhood bit
Just make sure we don’t make a habit of it

Take an Indian to dine this week
Show him we don’t draw the line this week
We know everyone can’t be
As American as we
(After all, we came over on the Mayflower)
Take an Indian
(Not a wooden Indian)
But a real, live Indian
To lunch!

Stan Freberg also reminded us about how the first Thanksgiving really went…

The Luncheon Under The Trees

Narrator:Needless to say, the luncheon there under the trees was a great success, and a good time was had by Puritan and Indian alike. Everything came off beautifully with the exception of one minor catastrophe.

Mayor: What do you mean you cooked the turkey, Charlie?
Charlie: Well, I cooked the turkey, that’s all.
Mayor: You put our national bird in the oven. Is that correct?
Charlie: Yeah, well I, uh …
Mayor: And all of us had our mouths set for roast eagle with all the trimmings.
Charlie: Yeah, well I, uh …
Mayor: You did a thing like that?
Charlie: Well, the two birds were lying there side by side.
Mayor: The *turkey* was for the centerpiece, Charlie, I mean …
Charlie: Well, they looked so much alike that I, uh …
Mayor: Well, we blew it now. They’re all sitting down at the tables out there.
Charlie: Yeah, yeah.
Mayor: … starting on their little nut cups already. Just have to switch the birds, that’s all.
Charlie: Yeah, well …
Mayor: Serve them turkey instead of eagle. But it’s kinda scrawny-lookin’, isn’t it?
Charlie: Yeah, well I thought I’d stuff some old bread in it and make it look a little fatter.
Mayor: You do that, OK?

May all my friends and readers have a wonderful Thanksgiving, and remember the holiday for what it originally was: shopping later that evening at the Mall of Plymouth for those stylish belt buckles. Stay safe!



And take a tip from La Belle France: “Viva la difference!”

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Nov 22, 2015 @ 8:00 pm PST

Observation StewLet’s end this week of news chum posts with song lyrics in the title with a very apropos song for a “news chum stew” post: Pete Seeger’s All Mixed Up. The point of the song is a timely lesson for all of those who profess hatred or refuse to permit in refuges:

There were no red-headed Irishmen
Before the Vikings landed in Ireland
How many Romans had dark curly hair
Before they brought slaves from Africa?
No race of man is completely pure,
Nor is anyone’s mind, that’s for sure
The winds mix the dust of every land,
And so will woman and man.

And now, on with the stew:


How Much Would You Be Willing to Pay for a Cheap Vacation?

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Nov 22, 2015 @ 10:28 am PST

Timeshare (Eclectic Company Theatre)userpic=theatre2If you’ve ever walked down the Las Vegas Strip or along a beachfront walk in Hawaii, you’ve run into them: the salescritters in the little booths, enticing you to come and see a timeshare presentation. In exchange for your time, you’ll get something valuable: tickets to a Vegas show, tickets to a luau, a flat screen TV, a free vacation. Perhaps you’ve succumbed to their offer. Perhaps you’ve gone to a free show. Perhaps your the lucky owner of a timeshare now.

I can say this as the owner of a timeshare, although not one I purchased personally. Back in the mid-1970s, my parents purchased an interval at one of the first timeshares in Maui, the Whaler on Kaanapali Beach. While they were alive they went regularly, or rented it out. I was there for my honeymoon, and regularly went with them in high school and early college days. I inherited it after they died, and have been there… once (this year, for my 30th wedding anniversary). Why? The primary reason is cost: although staying there is free (well, it really isn’t: you have HOA dues), getting there is not. Airfare for two to Hawaii, plus rental car, adds up fast. So the years we haven’t gone we’ve exchanged our interval, usually for someplace in driving distance (Las Vegas, Palm Springs, Tucson, Escondido, Sedona). The first time we exchanged for Las Vegas, we did exactly what most people do: went on a timeshare sales presentation to get tickets to a show. This is so common there are loads of websites talking about the tactics that timeshare salescritters use (and here), and how to get your free stuff for free (example, example, example, example), and most importantly, how to say “no”. So, when I was at The Colony Theatre (FB) recently, and picked up a postcard with the following description, I was intrigued:

Trying to change his life and save his marriage, Tom takes a job as a timeshare salesman. He learns the latest sales techniques, and hypes himself up several times a day with the “One Minute Sales Talk”. As he struggles with his learning curve and the ethics of the Timeshare industry, he is tricked and threatened by his co-workers, harangued by his boss, and seduced by the sexiest salesperson of all. Tom perseveres, learning new sales skills and maybe even a new career. However, just as he begins to become a competent salesperson, a disgruntled Customer pulls a gun, shoots the sales manager, and takes the Timeshare showroom hostage. Tom must now use his new sales skills to convince the gunman to let everyone live. It’s life and death capitalism, and now Tom must close this big sale, or die.

I was so intrigued I hunted down tickets (hmmm, succumbed for the sales pitch); thus, last night saw me at The Eclectic Company Theatre (FB) for a performance of their new comedy, Timeshare, written and directed by Steve B. Green (FB) [who we last saw onstage in “Green Grow the Lilacs].

The store of Timeshare is pretty much as detailed in the pitch above. In the first act, we’re introduced Tom, his Sales Manager Frank, and his co-workers in the New Jersey sales office: Jack, the fast talking salesman more interested in telling stories of his sexual conquests; Christine, the New Jersey “goil”  who has learned how to use sex and attitude to close sales; and Mike, the ex-jock co-worker more interested in getting a timeshare of Christine. We’re also introduced to the tactics of the industry. We see these tactics  in how salescritters are motivated both by team pep talks and individual sales talks in front of a mirror. We also see them in a series of vignettes with customers coming in and being “sold” by salesman, to varying degrees. These customers include a couple clearly there only to receive the flat-screen TV — antagonistically so (Martin and Maria); a single mother cashier with her baby (Tiffany); an older couple where she is interested (because of what she can wear), but her husband is a realist and only sees the cost (Ira and Melanie); a couple of New Jersey playas (Bart and Amy); and an older couple where she would love to travel, and he is pressured (Neil and Gretchen). What the salescritters don’t know is that Neil has just been “downsized”, and the pressure of the sales presentation causes him to snap (Falling Down” style), pull out a gun, and shoot the sales manager and one of the customers. Thus endeth Act I. Act II consists of the sales staff working to convince Neil to give himself up. It’s hard to describe, but it permits one to see these people bettter. Most importantly, it provides the opportunity for Tom (who is the lead character in all of this) to grow as a salesman.

Before going into the performances, let’s assess the book and its realization by the director. In general, I liked the story quite a bit: it reflected my experience with timesale sales presentations quite well, and had a large number of very funny lines (none of which I can remember this morning, alas (thank you Mr. Migraine)).  The problems — and I usually don’t say this — were primarily directoral. I felt the interstitial music between the various scenes in Act I was overdone and cheesy (this isn’t a book problem; it’s a directoral decision), and made the scenes come across more as a sitcom or an episodic cartoon (think the scenes with the Sheriff and Bart in Blazing Saddles). It would have been much better to just have silence there. I was also unsure whether there might have been one too many individual customer scenes. Two could have been combined (perhaps with different salescritters). They just seem to go on a pinch long, although I can see storywise why they were there and what they were showing. This could have just been due to the transition style.

Additionally, the pep talks had some staging problems. It wasn’t clear, especially in the beginning, that the talks in front of a mirror in the bathroom were in a bathroom; they initially came across more as a talk to the audience. This could have been addressed through better scenic design; lacking that, some performance queues (such as combing hair, washing hands) might suffice. The group pep talks had the sales manager walking away from the sales staff and walking up and facing the audience, which suspended the belief that it was a pep talk. Judicious rearrangement and restaging could have made it so both the sales manager and the sales team were partially facing the audience. The second act seem to have resolved the staging and pacing problems (except for the final pep talk, which had the problem above).

The problems noted above weren’t major failures — they certainly didn’t make the show bad or unwatchable. But they created some unnecessary distractions that — at least to this untrained layperson — could have been corrected with a little tweaking.

Whatever the staging problems, the performances more than made up for it. In the lead was the handsome and personable Tony Pauletto (FB). Pauletto played the role with charm, and really came across as a down-on-his-luck man who grabbed at the timeshare sales opportunity, but really didn’t want to be there (and didn’t have the salesman in him). This is something I related to, as the ability to do sales is a skill that I don’t have. It was interesting to watch how the actor transformed over the course of the evening into a real salesperson. I would say that indicates there is hope for those of us who can’t do sales, but I wouldn’t consider being transformed into a salescritter necessarily a good thing 😃.

As Tom, the hard-sell sales manager, Jon Mullich (FB) was fun to watch. I had been familiar with Mullich solely from his wonderful artwork he had been posting to the pro99 group on Facebook (examples here); by lucky happenstance this show provided the opportunity to meet him and see him on stage. Mullich has quite a skill with comedy and comedy movement: watch him twitching in Act II after he has been shot. He was also able to do a nice turn of character, as demonstrated when he pivoted from his manic salesman mode to being a loving father. In short, he was very fun to watch. Hopefully, I’ll see him more (and not just on Facebook) — I had never connected that he was the evil mastermind behind USS Pinafore that I had seen quite a few years ago at Crown City.

The remaining timeshare salescritters were Sarmarie Klein (FB) [Christine], Kerr Lordygan (FB) [Jack]; and Travis Quentin (FB) [Mike]. Klein’s Christine was pure New Joisey, down to the accent and the attitude. She was a delight to watch, especially how she used her sexuality and looks to play and manipulate both the other salescritters and the customers (as an aside, I’ve never been able to understand how women can cross their legs that tight or wear heels that high — it must be horribly uncomfortable). Her interactions with all the salescritters were well played, and it was interesting to see how she was able to bring out the different personalities when talking to Tom (who she was sexually interested in) vs. Mike (who she clearly wasn’t) vs. Jack (who she just seemed to not see). Lordygan I’ve known from the pro99 Facebook group; it was nice to see him on stage. He had the sexually-obsessed slime role down well; he made you believe that you would want to wash your hands after meeting him. Well played. Quentin’s Mike came across as the typical jock interested in only one thing; it was hard to see why he was there as he appeared to have a worse sales technique than Tom.

Most of the customers that we meet are caricatures, archetypes of the types of folks that frequent timeshare presentations. The only ones we really get to know are Bart and Amy (Zachary Davidson (FB) and Madelyne Heyman (FB)) and Neil and Gretchen (Paul Messinger (FB) and Marbry Steward).  Davidson and Heyman were the playas, putting on a gangster attitude.  They captured this well in both style and dress (although I have no idea how one can move in a skirt that tight), which made the ending transformation quite endearing. The two made a believable couple. [As an aside, I hadn’t noticed Madelyne’s last name before, and now wonder if she’s connected to the Heyman side of my father’s family — although based on her FB page, I don’t know of any family in her hometown. If she reads this and is connected to the Heyman’s from New York, let me know]  Messinger and Steward were essentially the antagonists of the story (well, Messinger’s Neil was); they essentially drive the transformation of Tom’s character. Messinger captured the downtrodden downsized worker well: he personified a character who believably snapped, and then found himself in a situation he was unprepared for. His reactions as he tried to cope with that situation were great to watch, although the ending was perhaps predictable as there wasn’t a good alternative resolution. Perhaps that was a writing problem (there should have been a possible other out, making the ending more poignant and more of a commentary on where society is taking us); nevertheless, Messinger portrayed it well. Steward’s role was smaller but equally important: she represented the anchor to Messenger’s breakdown. She captured that slightly kooky new-age anchor well, and provided wonderful voice-acting in the latter parts of Act II.

As noted earlier, the other customers appeared only in the vignettes in Act I: Maria and Martin (Victoria Yvonne Martinez (FB) and Gerard Marzilli (FB)), the customers only there for the flat-screen TV; Ira and Melanie (David Datz (FB) and Randi Tahara (FB) [understudy for JC Henning (FB)]), the older couple where she was interested in the travel, but he was the realist interested in the cost; and Tiffany (Alyssa LeBlanc (FB)), the single-mother cashier. Of these, two stand out in my memory: Martinez was wonderful as the no-nonsense Maria, focused not on the sales pitch but on the flat-screen; and Tahara’s Melanie, who was going along with her husband only for the fashion she could wear.

Understudies († indicates they had non-understudy roles) were: Alyssa LeBlanc (FB)† [Christine]; David Datz (FB)† [Neil]; Gerard Marzilli (FB)† [Jack], Zack Pappas [Bart / Martin]; and MZ Runyan [Tiffany].

On the production and technical side…. the set design by Marco De Leon (FB) worked reasonably well in portraying a timeshare office, given intimate theatre budgets. I had only two notes with respect to it. First, the backstage access to the restroom needed better camouflage,  as seeing either the door or the ladder was disconcerting, if not distracting. Second, as noted earlier, the design could have established the bathroom a little better: just the top of a bathroom faucet and a “Lave su manos” sign was insufficient. The sound design by MZ Runyan was good, although the volume of the intermission music was a little loud. The lighting design by Yancey Dunham (FB) worked well to establish scene and mood; I’ll note that Leko that was illuminating the bathroom seemed to have a little flicker. Poster and postcard design was by MZ Runyan and must have been effective — it brought me in 😄. Program design was by Jon Mullich (FB), who I thank for including actor URLs (although there is a typo in Marco’s URL). Other production credits: Music Compilation – Maureen L. O’Connell; Music/Sound Editing – Edwin Stauss; Propmaster – Victoria Yvonne Martinez (FB); Production Advisor – JC Henning (FB); Production Stage Manager – MZ Runyan; Producers – Steven B. Green (FB) and Rochelle Perry (FB).

Timeshare – A Dark Comedy continues at The Eclectic Company Theatre (FB) through December 13. Tickets are available by calling (818) 508-3003 or visiting the Eclectic Company Ticketing Website. There are no discount tickets on LA Stage Tix, but may be available through Goldstar. I found the show enjoyable; you might as well.

Valley Village Discovery of Note: A block away from the theatre I discovered an intriguing music venue: Kulak’s Woodshed (FB), which appears to be a music venue for songwriter/artists to perform and have their performances webcast. In a sense it is like McCabes (FB) or Boulevard Music (FB), but smaller and seemingly for the more up-and-coming. It looks like someplace I’ll want to keep an eye on (as it is much closer, at least time-wise). It also seems to fit the spirit of Woodsongs (FB)’s  Woodsong Coffeehouse movement — they should connect there to get some additional publicity. On the other side of Eclectic Company is the wonderful Russian Dacha (FB) restaurant — we ate there before Uncle Vanya, and it was great to eat there again.

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre 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 subscribe at three theatres:  REP East (FB), The Colony Theatre (FB), and Cabrillo Music Theatre (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 of November sees us back at Zombie Joes Underground (FB) for the intriguingly-titled “The Jew That Saved Christmas“. December starts with High School Musical at Nobel Middle School (FB) (running December 1-4), followed by “El Grande Circus de Coca-Cola” at The Colony Theatre (FB) on December 5. During the week I become a producer, when we present The Nigerian Spam Scam Scam as the dinner entertainment at the Annual Computer Security Applications Conference (ACSAC). The weekend after the conference sees us at the NoHo Arts Center (FB) for Theatre 68 (FB)’s production of Who Killed Santa?, which sounded so warped as to be either extremely funny or extremely stupid– should be fun to watch! The third weekend of December brings the touring company of “If/Then” at the Pantages (FB). The last weekend of December is held for “The Bridges of Madison County” at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). I’m just starting to plan 2016 — I’ve been waiting on the REP schedule. So far, January shows “Bullets Over Broadway” at the Pantages (FB) on January 9, and “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) on January 30. There are also “holds” (i.e., dates blocked, but awaiting ticketing) for “Louis and Keeley – Live at the Sahara” at The Geffen Playhouse (FB) for either January 2 or 16 (pending tickets on Goldstar) and “Stomp” at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB) (pending confirmation we’re doing a mini-subscription). There is currently nothing on the schedule for February, but February 28 has a hold for The Band of the Royal Marines and the Pipes, Drums, and Highland Dancers of the Scots Guards at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB) (pending confirmation we’re doing a mini-subscription). March brings “Another Roll of the Dice” at The Colony Theatre (FB), and has two potential dates on hold for “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) (pending Hottix). As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, and Musicals in LA, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves.

They’ll make you a mix tape / To give you a clue.

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Nov 21, 2015 @ 11:00 am PST

userpic=white-ipodLet’s continue the theme of using song lyrics. In Avenue Q, the characters sing of using a mixtape to send a signal. There’s a word in there that has transcended its origin: mixtape. We’ve moved far from the original notion of making a cassette with a mix of music; we’re in the brave new world of digital music. In this world, we don’t even know what music sounds like — “good enough” is good enough. Apple has given into this: they no longer have players with the capacity for lots of high-def music (I’ve bemoaned this before, and won’t bemoan it here). But mixtapes — and in particular — tapes — have given us the theme for this post (which was really keyed off the C-90 item). Cassettes came in a variety of sizes, but the most common were C-30, C-45, C-60, C-90, and if you were really brave, C-120s. So, here are some news chum items, in the sizes of cassettes:


You know I love that organic cooking…

Written By: cahwyguy - Fri Nov 20, 2015 @ 7:35 pm PST

userpic=caduceusLet’s continue the trend of using lyrics in titles, although many of us will start singing just from the title line alone. Let’s see if this helps:

You know I love that organic cooking
I always ask for more
And they call me Mr Natural
On down to the health food store
I only eat good sea salt
White sugar don’t touch my lips
And my friends is always begging me
To take them on macrobiotic trips
Yes, they are

Tonight’s collection of news chum has to do with the intertwined topics of food and medicine, including some studies that indicate that some of what we thought might be completely wrong:

  • Oil Me Up. Oil Me Down. For years, what has been the mantra: Vegetable oil good. Butter bad. Grapeseed oil good for high heat. Olive oil best raw. Oh, and never never never go for that palm or coconut oil. Turns out, what we know about cooking with oils may be completely wrong. Based on some recent studies, scientists are now warning against the dangers of frying food in sunflower oil and corn oil over claims they release toxic chemicals linked to cancer. These leading scientists are now recommending food be fried in olive oil, coconut oil, butter or even lard.  Scientists found that heating up vegetable oils led to the release of high concentrations of chemicals called aldehydes, which have been linked to illnesses including cancer, heart disease and dementia. This goes along with some other research that is showing that whole milk may be much better for you than low-fat or skim.
  • GMO Salmon Safe. This week, the FDA approved consumption of genetically modified salmon. Now, I love salmon as much as the next guy, but even this gave me pause. Do I want to eat it? Turns out, genetically modified salmon appears actually to be safe to eat. The article goes through a number of the fears, including the complaint that it endangers consumers’ “personal health,” that it “could cause human allergies,” and that it’s been approved based on “insufficient safety testing.” In the case of GE plants, these scary what-if arguments are unfalsifiable, based on speculation about chemical properties and ever-expanding demands for longer study periods and bigger samples. The GE salmon was initially submitted for FDA approval 20 years ago. The agency declared it safe in 2010 and then spent another five years reviewing objections. Thursday’s statement says the FDA has concluded that the salmon is “safe to eat” and is “as nutritious as food from other non-GE Atlantic salmon.” It also says the genetic change is “safe for the fish itself.” There are loads of links in the Slate article, so decide for yourself.
  • Overweight Bad? Here’s another study of interest that shows that being moderately overweight may not be as bad for your health as once thought. I’ll emphasize moderately. Being overweight is now believed to help protect patients with an increasingly long list of medical problems, including pneumonia, burns, stroke, cancer, hypertension, and heart disease. Researchers who have tried to show that the paradox is based on faulty data or reasoning have largely come up short. And while scientists do not yet agree on what the paradox means for health, most accept the evidence behind it. “It’s been shown consistently enough in different disease states,” says Gregg Fonarow, a cardiology researcher at the University of California, Los Angeles. They aren’t sure why.  My thoughts: it isn’t being overweight — it is really that we’re miscalculating what a healthy weight is. In fact, it could very well be that, just as in the next item, what is a healthy over- or under-weight value may vary by the individual.
  • Diets are Individualistic.  It turns out that what may be the best diet for one may not be the best diet for another. Researchers Eran Elinav and Eran Segal of the Weizmann Institute of Science have just published the results of a large, comprehensive study in the journal Cell that found people can metabolize the exact same foods in very different ways. What this means is that a healthy diet for one person may not be healthy for another person. Rather than recommend a cookie-cutter solution to weight problems, the researchers say, doctors could be more effective by recommending a personalized nutrition plan to a patient, based on the way that patient metabolizes certain foods.  Again, this doesn’t surprise me: obesity and health is increasingly being shown to be dependent on  our individual gut biome, which we’ve been systematically destroying.
  • Bed May Be Bad. We start to move away from the food a bit now. Here’s an article on a study that sleeping in (as you do on the weekends) may be bad for you. Disruptions to routine sleeping patterns can increase the danger for developing metabolic diseases for example diabetes and heart disease, according to a brand new study. New research conducted at the University of Pittsburgh demonstrates that societal jetlag as basic as getting up late may also be bad for health. Social jetlag refers to a mismatch between an individual ‘s socially-imposed sleep program and their natural circadian rhythm. Researchers said societal jetlag is understood to relate to obesity and other cardiovascular conditions, yet the connection to healthy individuals is fresh. Doesn’t surprise me at all: I tend to get less migraines if I keep my sleep cycle regular.
  • Potential New Migraine Preventative. Scientists may have finally come up with an effective migraine preventative. This is wonderful news. We’ve started to have drugs that can stop an attack in progress. Prevention? We’ve adapted blood pressure drugs (which I use), depression medications, epilepsy meds, and even Botox to try to prevent them. It doesn’t always work (I know I go through periods where I’ve got light migraines almost every other day). However, neurologists believe they have identified a hypersensitive nerve system that triggers the pain and are in the final stages of testing medicines that soothe its overly active cells. These are the first ever drugs specifically designed to prevent the crippling headaches before they start, and they could be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration next year. If they deliver on the promise they have shown in studies conducted so far, which have involved around 1,300 patients, millions of headaches may never happen. The work focuses on the trigeminal nerve system, long known to be the brain’s primary pain pathway. Studies in animals indicated that in branches of the nerve that exit from the back of the brain and wrap around various parts of the face and head, overactive cells would respond to typically benign lights, sounds and smells by releasing chemicals that transmit pain signals and cause migraine. The heightened sensitivity of these cells may be inherited; 80 percent of migraine sufferers have a family history of the disorder. This makes sense to me: when my migraines started, I could touch near my nose and feel it around to the back of my neck — in other words, the trigeminal nerve was over-sensitive.
  • Addressing Blood Pressure. Another concern of mine is blood pressure. I’m on a combination of meds to get it down, but I’m still routinely in the 140-130/90-80 range, and they now want a target of under 120/80. Here’s a great article I ran across on other things to do to lower blood pressure. I’m trying to lose weight and exercise, but it is hard when you’re getting home at 5:30p and want to have dinner by 8pm.
  • The Brain GPS. I’ve always said that everyone is experts in remembering something, and my particular expertise is spatial and temporal. I can remember the layout of rooms I haven’t been in for 20 years. I have maps in my head and innately know where I am (except in the twisty maze of roads near John Wayne Airport). I invariably come back in the kitchen when there is just 10 seconds on the timer. Turns out: there is a brain GPS, and it helps with our memories. A recent animal study found that special brain cells that track an animal’s location also can track time and distance. This could explain how rat and human brains are able to organize memories according to where and when an event occurred. The cells, called grid cells, appear to be “laying down the sequence of space and time that provide a framework for events that are unfolding,” says Howard Eichenbaum, an author of the study and director of the Center for Memory and Brain at Boston University.

Going back to the song, have you figured it out yet. Perhaps some more will help:

Oh, but at night I stake out my strong box
That I keep under lock and key
And I take it off to my closet
Where nobody else can see
I open that door so slowly
Take a peek up north and south
Then I pull out a Hostess Twinkie
And I pop it in my mouth
Yeah, in the daytime I’m Mr Natural
Just as healthy as I can be
But at night I’m a junk food junkie
Good lord have pity on me

Speaking of Junk Food, how about a run for the border. In this case, I’m talking a specific Taco Bell, “Numero Uno”, which was saved from demolition and moved last night from Downey to Irvine. That is south of the border. Well, at least south of the Orange Curtain.