Observations Along the Road

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

Waxing Nostalgic | Los Angeles Now and Then @ LACC

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun May 22, 2016 @ 11:37 am PDT

Los Angeles Now and Then (LACC)userpic=los-angelesAs Tom Paxton likes to note in his concerts, nostalgia is a cheap emotion. He subscribes to the theory (and so do I) that it’s OK to look back, as long as you don’t stare. Last night, I stared. It felt good.

I’ll also note that I’m a native Angelino. For those unfamiliar with that term, that means that I’m native to Los Angeles. I was born here, and have lived all my life here. This is my city, and with all the quirks she may have (which are many), I still love her. Last week I was in the San Francisco Bay Area (as an aside, did you ever notice that folks there appear to think nothing else exists: “the City”, “the Bay Area”, “the East Bay”). Driving and navigating up there made me, yet again, appreciate Los Angeles. I’m an LA boy, and I’m proud of it. You can have New York or Chicago. LA is #1 to me.

I’m mentioning all of this because last night I saw a love note to the city, of which there are very few [don’t believe me? Quick: Name 10 plays, movies, or musicals that celebrate Los Angeles.  Now name 10 that celebrate New York. Which was easier.] This love note came from the fertile mind of Bruce Kimmel (FB) — the man behind one of my favorite small musicals (The Brain from Planet X) as well as the man behind Kritzerland Records. It was in the form of a revue — a style of musical less common these days. Revues take a particular subject, and present a series of scenes and songs from multiple artists all related to that subject. It was a style that fell out of the popular conscience with the advent of the TV variety show. This love note was titled: L.A. Now and Then, and was presented by the Theatre Academy (FB) and students at Los Angeles City College (FB); last night was the final performance.

The focus of L.A. Now and Then is the Los Angeles of the somewhat near past. I characterize the timeframe that way because this show is not nostalgic for the earlier “then” — there are no songs celebrating the Zanja Madre, the opening of the Aquaduct, the bombing of the LA Times, the heyday of the Pacific Electric, and such. The audience that would remember those in the way they should be remember has passed away. Rather, this was a show that was aimed at the bulk of today’s theatre audience — men and women in the 40s through 70s that are nostalgic for the period between 1950 and perhaps the mid-1980s. The songs and scenes in the show celebrate that period. Looking back at the show (in retrospect, as the Lizards might say), I’m asking myself if there was a broader point being made about how the city has changed.  I think there was, and I think it is captured in the ultimate point of the song “What’s So Good About the Good Old Days” — namely, that Los Angeles was a much simpler and warmer city, and something seems to have been lost in moving from where we were to what we are today.

L.A. Now and Then, which features music and lyrics by Michele Brourman (FB), Grant Geissman (FB), Paul Gordon (FB), Karen Gottlieb/FB, Bruce Kimmel (FB), Shelly Markham (FB), Wayne Moore (FB), Adryan Russ (FB), Richard M. Sherman (FB), and the Sherman Brothers, and sketches and monologues by Doug Haverty (FB), Bruce Kimmel (FB), Bruce Vilanch (FB), and David Wechter,  touches upon the following subjects from the history of LA: Helms Bakery Trucks, Laurel Canyon Rock Music, the wide variety of place names, C. C. Browns, childrens TV hosts, the Pan Pacific auditorium, the surfer culture, the Disney studios, wrestling and the Olympic Auditorium, disco, movie palaces, the Black Dahlia, Uber, Hallabaloo, the Dodgers, Christmas in LA, the Sunset Strip, and more. Based on my knowledge of LA history, there were no obvious errors (I had my fears when they mentioned the Red Cars in the opening number). Did it touch on everything it could have or should have? No. I can think of numerous things that should have been included, such as the San Fernando Valley (the prototypical suburb of the Brady Bunch); the penchant for theme parks, especially those that are gone such as Marineland, P.O.P., Kiddieland, and Busch Gardens; the freeway culture of the city, including how we always say “the” in front of freeways; the Westwood of yore; or a paean  to the RTD. But you know what: they only had so much time, and could only include so much. They included enough for that quick look, and that’s better than the staring.

Being a revue, there was a wide variety of styles and presentations. The music ran the range from rap to rock, from ballad to bouncy. There were some particular numbers that have stuck in my mind:

  • “Weekday Heros”, perfromed by Bedjou Jean/FB, music and lyrics by Bruce Kimmel (FB). This was a lovely tribute to the live Children’s TV shows of the 1950s and 1960s. As someone who still uses the Birthday Cake Polka every day, this hit a nerve. The host that I remember that they missed was Sally Baker‘s Hobo Kelly.
  • “There Once Was a Building”, performed by April Audia (FB), written by Bruce Kimmel (FB). A very loving tribute to the Pan Pacific Auditorium, as well as a telling commentary on how LA doesn’t preserve its history when it can, but then recreates its image of its history — through the rose colored glasses of memory — after the destruction.
  • “The Whimsey Works”, performed by Robert Yacko (FB), music and lyrics by Richard M. Sherman (FB). A loving remembrance of the Walt Disney Animation Studio and of Walt Disney himself.
  • “Every Wednesday Night”, performed by the entire cast, with music and lyrics by Bruce Kimmel (FB). A remembrance of the era of wrestling in general, and the Olympic Auditorium in particular. For me, the Olympic Auditorium wasn’t wrestling, but Roller Derby on the weekends. I even went one weekend with my grandmother.
  • “The Black Dahlia”, performed by Elle Willgues/FB, music by Bruce Kimmel (FB), lyrics by Adryan Russ (FB). A very touching piece on Elizabeth Short — the Black Dahlia — and the continuing dream of starlets with respect to L.A.
  • “L.A. Uber Alles”, performed by Robert Yacko (FB) and Michael MacRae/FB, written by Bruce Vilanch (FB).  An insider’s commentary on the Hollywood Foreign Press, and what’s behind the curtain of the Golden Globes.
  • “Christmas in Los Angeles”, performed by Robert Yacko (FB), music and lyrics by the Sherman Brothers. A commentary on the incongruity of Christmas in Los Angeles.
  • “We Look Ahead”, performed by Robert Yacko (FB) and the cast, written by Doug Haverty (FB), music and lyrics by Bruce Kimmel (FB). A very touching look at the changes in the gay community in Los Angeles, from the homophobic LAPD of the 60s to the acceptance and creation of West Hollywood.

The cast — under the direction of Bruce Kimmel (FB) and choreography of Cheryl Baxter (FB) — consisted of two veterans and a collection of talented students from the LACC Theatre Academy (FB). The veterans were Robert Yacko (FB) and April Audia (FB). The students were Jenny Bacon/FB, Sarah Barnett/FB, Paola Fregoso/FB, Alexis Jackson/FB, Bedjou Jean/FB, Prisca Kim/FB, Michael MacRae/FB, Kole Martin/FB, Shawna Merkley (FB), Lamont Oakley/FB, Kasper Svendersen/FB, and Elle Willgues/FB. I called out some individual performances above, but it was difficult to match things up during the show with a name. A few other impressive performances: In every number that Alexis Jackson/FB was in, she grabbed the eye with her performace, her emotions, her fun, and her dancing.  Kole Martin/FB was noteworthy in a number of scenes, but I particularly remember his wrestler from “Every Wednesday Night”. Prisca Kim/FB was also someone who caught the eye, but I particularly remember her real tears at the end of “We Look Ahead” — the song evidently hit a nerve and brought emotion forward — when then was conveyed to the audience through that tear. Very touching. Bedjou Jean/FB had very expressive face; in addition to the previously mentioned “Weekday Heroes”, I remember his face from his numbers in “What’s So Good About the Good Old Days”. Lamont Oakley/FB, did a great job on the rap number of the names of LA.  All were great dancers. Further, it appears that the entire cast was having fun, and that fun was conveyed to the audience.

Music was provided by the on-stage L.A. Now and Then Band, under the music direction of Richard Allen (FB), with Allen on keyboard, Randy Landas (FB) on bass, Ed Smith (FB) on drums, Grant Geissman (FB) on guitars and banjo, Dave Hill/FB on reeds, and Bob O’Donnell (FB) on trumpet. Orchestrations were by Lanny Meyers (FB).

As mentioned earlier, the choreography was by Cheryl Baxter (FB).  The show had a wide variety of dance styles, from the 50s and 60s rock dancing to disco, from slow numbers to fast numbers. All worked well, and were well executed.

Turning to the production and creative side. The scenic design was by Tesshi Nakagawa (FB), with projection design and sound supervision by Vern Yonemura. The scenic design was simple: some white walls, some risers. The sense of place or history was provided by Yonemura’s projected images, and they worked well. Also establishing the sense of place was Natalya Shahinyan/FB and Min Lee’s costume design. In general, the designs worked well, although there were some minor historical inaccuracies (understandable given a college’s costuming budget) and minor “support” issues. None of the issues rose to the level of distracting or problematic or “WTF?”. The sound design was by Alex Mackyol/FB. It may have just been our performance, but there was something a little off in the sound. In speaking, voices were a little muffled or echo-chambery. I believe this came through to the singing as well: initially, I thought some of the students were a little flat (writing it off to “hey, they’re students”). I then realized it sounded that way across multiple students and in almost all individual vocal numbers; given the odds were low of every student and professional being flat, I realized it was the off-sound coming across in the music as well. It was minor and didn’t hurt the enjoyment once I realized it for what it was; if the show was continuing off, I would hope the sound would be tuned a bit. The lighting design was by Jim Moody. It worked well to establish mood, highlight performers, and support the sense of place without washing out the projections. Remaining technical credits: Graphic Design – Art & Soul Design ; Production Stage Manager – Joey Vreeland/FB; Executive Producer – Fred Martin; Assistant Stage Manager – Eric Sherman; Assistant Choreographer – Heather McKeown; Hip Hop Consultant – Brian Drake; House Managers – Joyce Lakin/FB and Mary Smith/FB. The LACC Theatre Academy is under the direction of Leslie Ferreira (FB), Department Chair.

Alas, last night was the final performance of L.A. Now and Then. It was recorded; it is unknown if Kritzerland Records will be publishing the CD or just making it available to Indiegogo backers. There are also hints of a future life; I could easily see this show being successful at a mid-size house such as the Geffen, Colony, or Pasadena Playhouse.

* 🎭 🎭 🎭 *

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) and the  Hollywood Pantages (FB); my subscription at  The Colony Theatre (FB) has gone dormant, and REP East (FB) has seemingly gone dark for 2016. Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals).  I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Upcoming Shows: The last weekend of May brings the MoTAS Outing to the Jethawks, and for I Only Have Eyes for You at the Ricardo Montalbán Theatre (FB). That brings us to June. June is the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), and I’ve already written about the shows I plan to see, as well as suggestions to the Fringe regarding viewing the audience as a customer. Our Fringe/June schedule is as follows:

Whew. July brings us back to conventional theatre, with Beautiful at the  Hollywood Pantages (FB) and the Western Corps Connection (FB) the first weekend, a HOLD for Grey Gardens at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB); the second weekend, The Little Mermaid at  Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB); the third weekend, Weird Al Yankovic at the Hollywood Bowl (FB) and Operaworks (FB) Opera Re-Constructed at CSUN; the fourth weekend, a mid-week Hollywood Bowl (FB) concert of Wynton Marsalis and Aaron Copeland, and … currently nothing for the weekend. As of right now, August is completely open. One weekend has a bar mitzvah, and there are a few holds for show, but nothing is booked. Late August may see us looking at shows down San Diego/Escondido for one weekend. The best of the shows available — or at least the most interesting — is Titanic from Moonlight Stages. As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, and Musicals in LA, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves.

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June 2016 Sample Ballot Analysis II: State and Local Races

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat May 21, 2016 @ 2:12 pm PDT

userpic=voteAs I wrote in Part I, which covered the Federal races: My sample ballot has arrived, indicating that California’s Silly Season has arrived. For me, that means it is time to do my Sample Ballot Analysis. For you, it means it is time for you to read my analysis and try to convince me otherwise. Hint: I’m only going to listen to positive argument based on your candidate’s positions, not negative arguments about why my candidate or choice is so bad. This post will cover the State and Local level offices and measures. Shall we dig in?

❎ State Senator – 27th District

Our current state senator, Fran Pavley, is termed out, and doesn’t appear to be running for new office somewhere else. This has created an open, likely Democratic seat… and loads of folks have jumped in. The leading candidates are Janice Kamenir-Reznik (D) and Henry Stern (D). Kamenir-Reznik is co-founder and president of Jewish World Watch, an organization dedicated to the fight against genocide. She practiced law as a partner of Jeffer, Mangels, Butler and Mitchell, and helped run a law firm with her husband, Ben Reznik, for more than a decade. She’s also served as commissioner on several Los Angeles County commissions.   Stern is a senior policy advisor to Pavley, teaches at UCLA School of Law, and endorsed by the California League of Conservation Voters, California Nurses Association, and Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs. He is also Pavley’s choice.

Also running are George Christopher Thomas (D), Shawn Bayliss (D), David Pollock (D), and the lone Republican, Steve Fazio (R). Thomas is the honorary mayor of Van Nuys, as worked as a Congressional Staffer for Rep. Brad Sherman from 1997-2001. Bayliss is an aide to Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Koretz. Pollock is a former child actor who played Rudi on the Bad News Bears, as well as being the mayor pro tem for the City of Moorpark and a long-time city councilman there. Lastly, Fazio is the owner of Fazio Cleaners, a retired reserve police officer, and a former member of the Los Angeles City Fire Commission.

Fazio states no positions on his website, but is endorsed by a bevy of Republicans. Thomas lists no endorsements. Let’s eliminate those two folks.

The remaining democrats have varying levels of endorsements. Pollock has a few supervisors, some councilcritters and mayors, and numerous educators. Bayliss has just a few, including Brad Sherman. Stern has loads of endorsements, including lots of assemblycritters, including Pavley, Waxman, Hayden, and Beilenson. Kamenir-Reznik is endorsed by loads of LA City folks, including Mayim Bialik.

I don’t think the district would be ill-served by either Kamenir-Reznik or Stern (or, for that matter Bayliss or Pollock). Going on the theory that, when in doubt, increase the diversity. Further, I think K-R is stronger on her position regarding Porter Ranch.

Recommendation: Kamenir-Reznik. Stern is an acceptable 2nd choice.

❎ State Assembly – 45th District

This is a district where there is a fair amount of spending. There are three candidates: Matt Dababneh (D), the incumbent who has been so-so; Doug Kriegel (D), who has lots of name recognition from being a consumer reporter on KNBC; and Jerry Kowal (R), the Republican trying to get a foot in the door. According to a Daily News article, campaign filings show independent expenditure committees have poured more than $350,000 into the race to support Dababneh. Keeping Californians Working, an IE funded by oil company Chevron, the California Dental Association, and the California Apartment Association, are supporting Dababneh. Other groups backing him include the California Charter Schools Association Advocates and the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians. Dababneh won the seat by just 330 votes in a 2013 race against a Republican. Fundraising is also lopsided: Dababneh has more than $837,000 cash on hand for the election, according to filings, while Kriegel has $17,000 and Kowal, 41, reports $2,786 in available funds.

Kowal is a strong gun proponent, and supports English only. I can’t see supporting him.

I was never strongly behind Dababneh — he struck me as someone steered into the position through Bob Blumenfeld. You remember Bob? He had this assembly district. He was reelected for his last term in 2012, and then promptly ran for LA City Council, creating a special election. Out of the 11 candidates for that seat, the war chest was used to paper the district for Dababneh. When the runoff was between Dababneh and Shelly (R), he beat her. At the normal election in 2014, the same contest occurred… and he narrowly lost against her. I don’t have a strong impression of Dababneh, other than he doesn’t seem to be working that much for the district. I wasn’t that much in favor of him during his first primary. I’m not in favor now.  I think Kriegel will be much more working for the people of the district.

Recommendation: Doug Kriegel

❎ Superior Court Judges

EWQ – Extremely Well Qualified > WQ – Well Qualified > Q – Qualified > NQ – Not Qualified

📚 Office No. 11

An open seat, with four candidates: Jonathan Alexan Malek (NQ), Debra R. Archuleta (Q), Steven Schreiner (WQ), and Paul Kim (Q). I’m going with the Well Qualified candidate, who is also the LA Times endorsement.

Recommendation: Steven Schreiner

📚 Office No. 42

An open seat, with four candidates: E. Matthew Aceves (WQ), Michael P. Ribons (WQ), Cyndy Zuzga (WQ), and Alicia Molina (NQ). Three well-qualified candidates, with Zuzga having the most experience already in the court. She’s the Times endorsement.

Recommendation: Cyndy Zuzga

📚 Office No. 60

This office has an incumbent judge, James A. Kaddo (Q), and a challenger, Stepan W. Baghdassarian (NQ). We have only one qualified candidate. LA Times endorses Kaddo.

Recommendation: James A. Kaddo

📚 Office No. 84

Another open seat, with the candidates being Aaron J. Weissman (Q), Javier Perez (Q), Hubert S. Yun (Q), and Susan Jung Townsend (Q). All are qualified. I personally know Weissman, as he is a member of our congregation and has attended MoTAS meetings. The times endorsed Townsend, without giving a strong reason why. Given that all are qualified, and that Aaron has loads of endorsements, I’m going to go with the man I know.

Recommendation: Aaron J. Weissman

📚 Office No. 120

This is another case of a challenger, Eric O. Ibisi (Q) going against the incumbent judge, Ray Santana (WQ).  Ibisi won’t say why he is running and has established no website. Santana has been out lately on disability, but is more qualified… and has no website. LA Times endorses Santana.

Recommendation: Ray Santana

📚 Office No. 158

Another open office. Five candidates: Kim L. Nguyen (WQ), Onica Valle Cole (Q), Naser “Nas” Khoury (Q), Fred Mesropi (WQ), and David A. Berger (NQ).  The Times explicitly disregards the NQ rating and recommends Berger. Additionally, someone has domain-squat the Berger for Judge domain and put up a blog advising folks not to vote for him. It has a private registration, so it isn’t easy to find out who is behind it.  Metropolitan News has a good background piece on Berger,  and it looks like the NQ rating, as well as the website, are the work of parties or parties offended by Berger’s Blog.  I was going to lean towards a WQ candidate, but I think I need to stand up for a blogger. There’s something fishy in the NQ rating, given the endorsement.

Recommendation: David A. Berger

📚 Office No. 165

Another challenge to an incumbent, Kathryn Ann Solorzano (WQ), this time from Tami L. Warren (Q). Warren doesn’t say why Solorzano needs to be replaced, even though she worked in her courtroom. Solorzano has the better rating, and is endorsed by the times.

Recommendation: Kathyryn Ann Solorzano

❎ County District Attorney

The incumbent, Jackie Lacey, is running unopposed.

Recommendation: Jackie Lacey

❎ Member, Party County Committee, 45th Assy District

We have 9 candidates (Cecile BenDavid, Elizabeth Badger, Raymond J. Bishop, Marcos Sanchez, Jeff Daar, Leah K. Herzberg, Richard Mathews, Scott Abrams, and Barbara Rae Rolbin) for 7 seats in a position no one really cares about.  Only one candidate (Mathews) has a campaign website; most of the rest have some information online except for Rolbin. Abrams was the campaign manager for Brad Sherman and filed FEC complains against Howard Berman in that campaign. My suggestion would be to vote for most the folks already on the committee (Bendavid, Badger, Bishop, Daar, Herzberg), except for Abrams and Rolbin. Abrams because his position strikes of patronage, and Rolbin for having nothing to inform people voting for her. That leaves space for Sanchez.

Recommendation: The incumbents — Bendavid, Badger, Bishop, Daar, Herzberg, Mathews, and Sanchez.

❎ Proposition 50 – Suspension of Legislators

We’re lucky. Only one proposition. There may be as many as 18 in November.

With respect to the one we’ve got, Ballotpedia has a good analysis.  The LA Times is against this. I’m not sure I buy their reasons; I see it as a tool that is available when necessary, but that when is rarely.

Recommendation: For Proposition 50.

❎ Conclusion

And that’s it for the June ballot. As always, I welcome your opinion.

 

June 2016 Sample Ballot Analysis I: Federal Races

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat May 21, 2016 @ 11:40 am PDT

userpic=nixonMy sample ballot has arrived, indicating that California’s Silly Season has arrived. For me, that means it is time to do my Sample Ballot Analysis. For you, it means it is time for you to read my analysis and try to convince me otherwise. Hint: I’m only going to listen to positive argument based on your candidate’s positions, not negative arguments about why my candidate or choice is so bad. This post will cover the Federal level offices; a subsequent post will address the rest. Shall we dig in?

❎ President

I’m a registered Democrat, meaning that Republicans are off the table (and off my ballot, at least for the primary). I’m also simply ignoring the candidates who haven’t made any media inroads: Willie Wilson, Roque De Le Fuente, Henry Hewes, Keith Judd, and Michael Steinberg. They have no chance of winning the nomination, and no chance of influencing the platform.

That narrows the field to two: Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. If you’ve read my previous long posts (“Election Decisions”, “Presidential Musings, Take 2 (Updated)”), you should know where this is going. I’m with Hillary.

First, let’s start with the negatives. Hillary has a load of them. However, in the scheme of things, they are minor. For most of them, if you believe them, you have drunk the GOP Kool-Aide (so to speak) — you are rewarding 25 years of GOP attempts to smear the Clinton family over minor issues. Hillary hating has become a hysteria that is not based in reality. Here’s a great quote from that last article: «Every single accusation is trivial. Petty. Penny-ante. Yes, even the business about Clinton’s private email server. And especially the septic tank full of hyped-up, conspiracy-laden nonsense that goes by the name of “Benghazi.” […] In an ideal political world, all administrations would be as clean as Obama’s. But as the events of this election cycle have demonstrated quite vividly, this is most emphatically not an ideal political world — and in the deeply troubling world we do inhabit, the prospect of a president dogged by minor scandals shouldn’t distract us from the far higher stakes involved in the upcoming election.»

The stakes are high. This is not a place for on-the-job training, even if you surround yourself with experts. Trump certainly does not have the experience. Bernie does not have the experience (especially in Foreign Policy). The LA Times said it best: «For all her faults, Hillary Clinton is vastly better prepared than Bernie Sanders for the presidency». In particular, the LA Times noted: «Sanders lacks the experience and broad understanding of domestic and (especially) foreign policy that the former secretary of state would bring to the presidency. Although Sanders has tapped into very real and widespread anxieties about economic inequality, deindustrialization and stagnant economic growth, his prescriptions are too often simplistic, more costly than he would have us believe and unlikely to come to pass.». That last point is true: Sanders proposals would increase the Federal Debt by 18 Trillion, and not provide improved benefits. Such an increase in the debt would have significant impacts on the nation.

Clinton and Sanders are congruent on most of their positions. As for Hillary’s positions, I tend to agree with them. I even agree that the military budget is required: this is especially true when you realize that most of that budget doesn’t go to bombs and guns, but to people. The engineering behind them and other advanced technology, and to our warfighters. In many ways, the DOD is the best job program — especially for well-paying white collar jobs — in the Nation. It also is one of the few programs that encourages people to go into technology fields, and encourages research into technologies on the edge. Cut that back, and imagine what happens to unemployment.

Now: With respect to Sanders, I think he is a good man with good ideas. As President, he wouldn’t get those ideas through — he doesn’t have the skill to persuade Congress — especially a strong Republican Congress. Should he drop out? That’s his decision, and I understand why he is staying in. After all, Hillary did in 2008. It provides him with the ability to influence the Democratic Platform, and that will have a significant impact for years to come. He will return to the senate with vastly more power, and will be a tireless advocate for his positions there. If you wish to vote for Bernie based on his positions, go for it. If you are voting for Bernie solely based on the fact that he isn’t Hillary, then I suggest you rethink your position. Don’t believe the smears. Examine her positions.

What is most important is after the Primary. Non-partisans and Democrats, as well as Republicans who love this country, must come together to make sure that Donald Trump does not win. We need experience. We need diplomacy. We need someone who understands the complexities of decisions. We need someone who will pick reasonable Supreme Court justices, as there will be multiple openings.

Recommendation: Hillary Clinton

❎ United States Senate

Thanks to California’s open primary rule, there are 34 candidates for State Senate. 30-frigging-4. That is so many that there are worries about ballot confusion, as the candidates are spread across two pages. Let’s see if we can separate the dregs from the fine wine.

According to the LA Times, the top candidates are: Kamala Harris and Loretta Sanchez on the (D) side, Tom Del Beccaro and George “Duf” Sundheim on the (R) side. I’ll add Ron Unz (R) and  Gail K. Lightfoot (L) (as they both have name recognition).

As for the rest, they are extremely unlikely to make it past the primary. Let’s escort Phil Wyman (R), Jarrell Williamson (R), Greg Conlon (R), Jason Kraus (-), Don Krampe (R), Mark Matthew Herd (L), Von Hougo (R), Jason Hanania (-), Gar Myers (-), Paul Merritt (-), Massie Munroe (D), Eleanor Garcia (-/Socialist Workers), Tim Gildersleeve (-), Clive Grey (-), Don J. Grundmann (-), President Christina Grappo (D), Herbert G. Peters (D), Tom Palzer (R), John Thompson Parker (P&F), Karen Roseberry (R), Emory Rodgers (D), George C. Yang (D), Jerry J. Laws (R), Mike Beitiks (-), Pamela Elizondo (G), Scott A. Vineberg (-), Steve Stokes (D), and Ling Ling Shi (-) off the stage. Some may have reasonable position, and from seeing their pages, many are kooks. All are extremely unlikely to have a change in their status over the next three weeks. I’ve attempted to link to their pages; if you think they are worth considering, let me know.

Let’s look at the remaining candidates, from least to most likely. We’ll start with Gail K. Lightfoot (L). She’s a basic minimal government libertarian, wanted to cut back the government to specific constitutionally enumerated powers. On the surface, this seems good. When you read deeper, problems emerge. Her approach minimizes foreign policy and depends on NGOs — an approach similar to depending on donations and churches to protect the poorest in society. She does not believe in taxation, and would get the government out of social welfare and healthcare.  She doesn’t want experts in government. Although I agree with some of her positions, I think she goes to far for my taste. I tend to believe that only government can balance the greed of business. Much as we believe people will do good when unfettered, that hasn’t been borne out in practice. So, given that a key (L) tenant is that people will do the right thing if the government lets them, I can’t support their position. Just. Doesn’t. Work.

This brings us to the top 3 Republican candidates: Ron Unz, Tom Del Beccaro and George “Duf” Sundheim. Realistically, in California, they don’t stand a chance unless the Democrats split their vote too much.  Let’s start with Unz, and why he’s on the ballot. According to his page: «I entered this race because the worthless Republicans in the California Legislature wholeheartedly supported the repeal of my 1998 Prop. 227 “English for the Children” initiative.» Unz believes in “English Only”, fighting immigration, and fighting affirmative action. Other than that, his positions seem remarkably … liberatarian. They also seem a lot like Sanders: Raise the minimum wage. Get out of Iraq. Dismantle Wall Street. Given California, he might have a chance if he could get a listen, especially from those who like Trump.  I could see myself supporting many of his ideas, if it wasn’t for his anti-immigration, English-only, stance. I’ll note that it is refreshing that his page makes no demands on social issues, and does not attempt to bash Obama or his accomplishments.

Tom Del Beccaro strongly supports a flat tax (which tends to hurt the poor proportionately more), is a strong supporter of private gun ownership, and believes that immigration is our biggest national security threat.  He wants to end divisiveness in the Senate, and work to eliminate tax loopholes by moving to the flat tax. What’s interesting is what isn’t on his website: social issues, church and state, his position on the military. Knowing his party affiliation, I’m very very suspicious — especially as he is currently chair of the California Republican Party.

George “Duf” Sundheim comes right out of the door using the “Second Amendment” codewords. He talks about extreme left politicians, lowering marginal tax rates, eliminating loopholes. He wants a strong military and endorses intelligence efforts.  He believes in offensive cybersecurity, as demonstrated by his statement: «technology must be thought of as a defensive and offensive priority.  As much as we should try to plug every hole in our technology network, we will never be able to do so.  People who try to undermine our network need to understand the price they will pay if they try.» He is strongly against the front-runner, Kamala Harris. There is no mention of his positions on social issues, or Obama’s accomplishments. He opposes the minimum wage increase. The Fresno Bee notes that Sundheim is “not willing to wage culture war over a woman’s right to choose, immigration, higher wages or climate change”, and supports the nomination of Garland

This brings us to the two Democratic front-runners.

Loretta Sanchez is very similar to Kamala Harris in terms of the issues. Very few of the articles I could find highlighted different issues positions. Where they differ is in style. The Sacramento Bee captures the contrast well: «Harris comes off as a 21st-century aristocrat – poised, disciplined, distant. Born and raised in the Bay Area by two academics who also were immigrants, she graduated from Howard University (the “Black Harvard”). In this, she’s representative of the rising Bay Area, an upper-middle-class island of advanced education in a struggling state. Sanchez was born in Lynwood, a poor city in southern Los Angeles County, and graduated from high school in working-class Anaheim. One of seven children born to Mexican immigrants, a machinist and a secretary, she earned her degree from Chapman, an underdog college that more recently gained renown. She represents a Southern California that has become more working-class, with education levels stagnant, median income falling and fewer payroll jobs than two decades ago.» That difference in style leads to a difference in effectiveness, and Sanchez has a reputation in the style of Ted Cruz, whereas Harris is more polished. The lack of polish leads Sanchez into more gaffes and political landmines.  Sanchez has more legislative experience than Harris, which can be significant in the Senate.

Making the recommendation is a hard decision. Unz has some good positions, and would be strong choice for those with Libertarian leanings. If it wasn’t for his immigration and English stances, I could see supporting him. I don’t like Del Beccaro — I think he is too tied to the Republican establishment. Sundheim seems to be a Republican that is acceptable to California — i.e., a moderate. I think he could put up a real battle against a Democratic candidate… but would his positions remain the same under pressure from Republican senate leadership? As for Harris vs. Sanchez. I like Sanchez in many ways: she’s a voice for Southern California (which is needed to offset Feinstein), she’s Latina, representing a growing segment of the state. She has legislative experience. Harris is more careful and measured, and might be the stronger candidate in the general election if running against a Republican. This is especially true against a Republican that might use Sanchez’s style and gaffes against her. Harris is like Clinton, and has quite a few negatives.

Recommendation: Loretta Sanchez, at least at the present time.

❎ United States Representative, 30th District

In our district, we have the current incumbent, Brad Sherman (D), facing off against 7 lesser-known candidates, where only two previous Republican candidates have any sort of name recognition: Mark Reed (R) and Navraj Singh (R). The remaining 5 you’ve probably never heard of are Luke Davis (D), Patrea Patrick (D), A. (Raji) Rab (D), and Christopher David Townsend (R).

As before, let’s look at the Republicans first. Mark Reed (R) hammers — rightfully so — on Sherman being late to the party with respect to the difficulties in Porter Ranch. But Reed also opposes the ACA. Reed is strongly for Israel. He is strongly backed by the Republican Party.  Navraj Singh (R) is running again, after running into ethics violations with his last campaign. He thinks we are in the worst economy in years, and views the ACA as socialistic. Christopher David Townsend (R) opposes the ACA, and wants to eliminate Welfare. Looking at their web pages, the best of the bunch is Reed. He has a professional website (something Townsend lacks), and no issues with ethics violations (a Singh problem). But Reed still has a major issue — that (R) behind his name that would lead him to support issues from the (R) coalition.

Turning to the democratic side: Brad Sherman is entrenched, meaning he has better committee positions than a clueless newbie. The other candidates would need to be significantly stronger to override the power of seniority. Luke Davis is a tech candidate, a founder of PlaceAVote.Com, which allows anyone on the Internet to vote on issues before Congress. He seems to have no positions of his own. Patrea Patrick has a position very much in line with Bernie Sanders. Looking at her page, if I was a Sanders voter, I might go for her (in fact, she endorses Sanders on her page). A. (Raji) Rab has the basic Democratic positions, but doesn’t distinguish himself enough from Sherman to make it worth the change.

As for Sherman, I generally agree with his issues. He also has seniority.

Recommendation: Brad Sherman. If you are a Sanders voter, I could understand a vote for Patrea Patrick. Such a vote could help move Sanders agenda program, which needs to start in the house. I don’t really like any of the (R) candidates, but Reed is perhaps the best of the bunch.

❎ Coming Up

Thus ends the first part. The second half of this will focus on the state legislative races, the county commission, judicial races, and the one ballot proposition.

Technology Tricking You

Written By: cahwyguy - Tue May 17, 2016 @ 7:08 am PDT

userpic=toshibaTechnology is sometimes straight-forward. Sometimes, however, it befuddles you and doesn’t do what you want. Here’s are some articles about some useful things to know, in advance:

  • The 7-10 Split. You’re on Windows 7. You’re not sure if you want to move to Windows 10. First, you should know  that some updates from Microsoft can bork your Windows 7 installation, especially if you have an ASUS motherboard. Assuming you survive that, next comes the update question: Move to Windows 10 or not. Here’s one way to lock in that free upgrade, and still stay on Windows 7. Of course, it involves moving to Windows 10 and then backing it out. Of course, you might not have a choice. It appears that Microsoft is forcing people to move to Windows 10 by scheduling the updates without telling them. Forewarded is forearmed. Watch closely to see how to avoid it. Further, the article confirms why Microsoft is pushing Windows 10 so hard, and why it is free. The answer: It is that old adage: if you get it for free, you are not the customer, you are the product. From the article: “When Microsoft created Windows 10, it tied in numerous monitoring and data collection tools. The operating system is capable of gathering your search history, web usage, Windows Store usage, details of what applications you use, voice recordings, emails, geographic information and just about anything else that is on your PC. This information is gathered in part for improving Windows-based services, but it is also used for market research and advertising purposes. Because each user on Windows 10 increases the amount of advertising information available to Microsoft, which in turn enables Microsoft to earn more revenue from selling this data, it is not surprising that Microsoft wants everyone to use its new OS.” In a related note, Microsoft is adding more ads to the Windows 10 Start screen that you can’t remove.
  • Booting from USB. If you get hit by malware, you might need to boot from a USB drive. The problem is: it’s not always that easy. Here’s how to boot from a USB drive. It is not as easy as it was in the old days, when you could boot from a floppy (or in some cases, a CD). Today’s PCs come with a lot of protection—which is good—but it can get in the way. Somewhere in your BIOS setup screen, you’ll almost certainly find a Secure Boot option. If you can’t boot from a flash drive, turn it off. UEFI can also be a problem. Finally, most of today’s PCs boot immediately from the internal hard drive or SSD, without looking for bootable external media first. You have to do something special to make them look, and what you have to do depends on your PC.
  • When “Buy Now” Isn’t. When you go to Amazon or iTunes and click “Buy Now”, I bet you think you’re actually buying something. That’s what most people think. The problem is: “Buy Now” sometimes doesn’t buy anything at all. As a recent study shows, when it came to physical goods, the shoppers pretty much knew exactly what they thought they were getting. But when it came to digital goods, there was a violent mismatch between what the customers thought they were buying (something they could resell, lend, or give away) and what the small print said they were getting (an extremely limited copyright license that required them to use their media in conjunction with special restrictive players that prohibited all these activities).  In short: people are buying things because they have mistaken beliefs about what they’re getting, and if they knew better, they wouldn’t buy those things on those terms.

 

Traveling On Our Stomach

Written By: cahwyguy - Mon May 16, 2016 @ 6:20 am PDT

userpic=levysThey say an army travels on its stomach. We’re traveling as well, so are some articles related to what we eat:

  • 24601. In Les Miserables, Jean Val Jean was punished for stealing a loaf of bread. He should have gone to Italy. The Italians have decided that the hungry should not be punished for stealing small amounts of food. Five years ago, Ukrainian national Roman Ostriakov was homeless in Genoa when he was caught stealing cheese and sausage worth less than $5, the Telegraph reports. He was fined $115 and sentenced to six months in jail in 2015, a sentence that he appealed. On Monday, the Italian Supreme Court ruled in his favor. Their opinion: “People should not be punished if, forced by need, they steal small quantities of food in order to meet the basic requirement of feeding themselves.”
  • Care Packages. One of the ways that soldiers in WWII won over the hearts of the populace was through care packages. Care packages were a vital lifeline for thousands of displaced families in post-World War II Europe. May 11 marks the 70th anniversary of the first delivery. The packages were shipped by CARE, a humanitarian group formed by 22 American aid and religious organizations. The first packages sent to Europe were surplus military rations left over from the war. When those ran out, CARE started putting together its own packages. At first, the boxes came furnished with just the basics — rice, beans, powdered eggs and milk. Soon, CARE started customizing packages to suit regional tastes. There were parcels tailored for Asian palates (with beans, miso and soybean oil), a kosher CARE package delivered to Jewish refugees and an Italian package (which came with spaghetti and assorted spices). NPR has a really interesting article about these packages.
  • Have You Met My Friend Harvey. If you were a traveler, however, your best choice for food was the Harvey House, operated by Fred Harvey. Boing Boing has a pointer to a nice article on this railroad dining empire. This caught my eye because OERM just opened a new Harvey House museum. The article itself is very detailed and quite a good read.
  • Salt of the Earth. Here’s an interesting piece about when to use that fancy, pricy, salt, and when not to do it. For me, I don’t fine-finish that many dishes that I think the fancy stuff is useful… but my wife has a different opinion.
  • Alternatives for What You Crave. One of my migraine groups posted this handy chart, about alternatives for those cravings you get when you have a headache. As a PS for those not familiar with migraines, here’s information on the four phases of a migraine.

The Course of a Relationship 👫 “Last Five Years” @ A.C.T. San Francisco

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun May 15, 2016 @ 5:34 pm PDT

Last Five Year (ACT San Francisco)userpic=playbillComplexity in Simplicity. That’s a good way to describe the musical we saw last night: The Last Five Years (L5Y) by Jason Robert Brown (FB). Now L5Y would not be at the top of the list of musicals we would see this week if we could (42nd Street Moon’s The Most Happy Fella would have that spot). After all, we’ve seen it twice before: in 2006 at the Pasadena Playhouse, and in 2007 at the 81 seat REP East Playhouse. However, our daughter specifically asked to see it, and so off to the Geary Theatre we went. This did provide us with the opportunity to see the show in a large venue — Pasadena is mid-size, and REP was intimate.

The Last Five Years is a simple show in terms of story: there are two actors, and they rarely appear together. The show tells the story of the relationship between Jamie and Kathy. Kathy’s version of the relationship story is told backwards: from the breakup to when they meet. Jamie version is forward: from when they meet to the breakup. They are only together at the middle (the marriage) and the last scene (but that time their songs are separate). The story alternates between the two stories, and from it the audience gets the story.

Given this structure, the storytelling depends on two things: the performance and the music. Jason Robert Brown (FB)’s music has the JRB romantic musical sound (i.e., you’ll find that The Bridges of Madison County has a similar sound): deep, lush, emotive, and at times playful. There are some very beautiful songs in L5Y; there are some very funny songs; and there are some very poignant songs.

More than almost any other show I know, this show is a showcase for the actors and the directors. Good actors can make the show. Wooden actors can put you to sleep. I’m pleased to say that the performances at A.C.T. were wonderful — they were full of personality and character. When these actors were happy, you know it; when they were sad, it was clear. You could get a real sense of their personalities from their performances. For example, just look at Zak Resnick (FB)’s performance in “Shiksa Goddess”. It was playful, happy, bouncy, and full of character. Similarly, the emotion he brought out for “The Schmuel Song” was spectacular. He was paired with Margo Seibert (FB)’s Kathy. Again, this was a performance filled with personality, as demonstrated in both “A Summer in Ohio” and “I Can Do Better Than That”. Both were just a lot of fun to watch. Kudos to the director, Michael Berresse (FB), for keeping the production simple and for bringing out the personalities of the characters.

Jeffrey Brian Adams and Kelsey Venter were the understudies.

The six piece orchestra was under the music direction of Matt Castle (FB), who also played the piano. Accompanying him were Deborah Price on violin; Jessica Ivry (FB) on cello; Kelley Maulbetsch (FB) on cello; Schuyler McFadden (FB) on guitar; Dewayne Pate (FB) on bass. Kevin Porter (FB) was the music contractor.

Tim Mackabee (FB)’s scenic design of the production was simple. Some large scrims created walls that could move, and there were various establishing furniture pieces and props that would move on stage to indicate the particular scenic location.  This was complemented by the excellent lighting design of Robert Wierzel (FB), who used the lighting not only to establish mood but to punctuate songs and emotions. Kai Harada (FB)’s sound design was clear and crisp up in the mezzanine, which is something that can be difficult in a large theatre. Remaining production credits: Associate Lighting Designer – Paul Hackenmueller (FB); Costume Design – Callie Floor (FB); Casting – Janet Foster C.S.A. (FB); Stage Manager – Megan Q. Sada (FB); Assistance Stage Manager – Christina Larson. A.C.T. San Francisco is under the artistic direction of Carey Perloff (FB).

The Last Five Years continues at the American Conservatory Theatre (ACT) of San Francisco (FB) until June 5, 2016. Tickets are available through A.C.T. online. Discount tickets might be available through Goldstar or Theatre Bay Area.

A.C.T. San Francisco has announced their 2017 season, and one show caught my eye: Here Lies Love, running in June 2017. This is a musical by David Byrne, with music by David Byrne and Fatboy Slim, about Imelda Marcos. I’ve heard the music, and it is quite fun. I recommend it to those in the Bay Area.

* 🎭 🎭 🎭 *

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) and the  Hollywood Pantages (FB); my subscription at  The Colony Theatre (FB) has gone dormant, and REP East (FB) has seemingly gone dark for 2016. Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals).  I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Upcoming Shows: Next weekend brings Los Angeles: Now and Then (FB), a new musical at LA City College (FB) from Bruce Kimmel. The last weekend of May has HOLDs for the MoTAS Outing to the Jethawks, and for I Only Have Eyes for You at the Ricardo Montalbán Theatre (FB).

That brings us to June. June is the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), and I’ve already written about the shows I plan to see, as well as suggestions to the Fringe regarding viewing the audience as a customer. Our Fringe schedule is as follows:

Whew. July brings us back to conventional theatre, with Beautiful at the  Hollywood Pantages (FB) and the Western Corps Connection (FB) the first weekend, a HOLD for Grey Gardens at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB); the second weekend, The Little Mermaid at  Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB); the third weekend, Weird Al Yankovic at the Hollywood Bowl (FB) and Operaworks (FB) Opera Re-Constructed at CSUN; the fourth weekend, a mid-week Hollywood Bowl (FB) concert of Wynton Marsalis and Aaron Copeland, and a HOLD for Armadillo Necktie at The Group Rep (FB) the last weekend.  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.

 

Chum for a Sunday Afternoon: Drums, Drives, Drugs, Dust, Dresses and More

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun May 15, 2016 @ 3:08 pm PDT

Observation StewI’ve been on travel for my daughter’s graduation, and so I haven’t had a lot of time to write about the articles I’ve seen. I’ve got two themed collections of chum that I’ll write up after last night’s theatre review (not sure when I’ll post them). But first, here’s the stuff that wouldn’t theme, but that caught my eye:

  • Bang. Bang. Bang. Anyone who has attended Drum Corps, or likely even seen a band will recognize this name: Remo. The news in recent weeks included an obituary of the man behind the name: Remo Belli, who invented the synthetic drum head. Before Remo, drums were animal skins, highly variable. As the obituary notes: “Belli was a young professional drummer in the 1950s, backing singer Anita O’Day and others, when he grew frustrated with the limitations of animal-skin drumheads, which could wilt or expand depending on the weather. In 1957, he and his collaborators perfected and began marketing one of the first artificial drumheads made of a resilient polyester film manufactured under various brand names, including Mylar, made by DuPont. He dubbed that first product the Weather King, a signal that it was durable no matter the atmospheric conditions of the gig, unlike finicky cow-skin drums.” Since then, his product has become the standard.
  • Long Commute. This article caught my eye because it deals with Las Vegas and teachers. Specifically, there is a group of teachers who live in Las Vegas, and commute daily to teach in the small community of Baker, at the gateway to Death Valley. Why? Pay, of course. The starting salary for teachers in Baker is $44,000. In Las Vegas it’s $34,000, though it will be $40,000 next year after a new contract takes effect. At the same time teacher shortages are ravaging America’s cities, however, rural schools have arguably been hit hardest. Teacher turnover is high, and many small towns are finding it hard to attract teachers. While many are attracted to Baker because of the pay, they stay because the work is satisfying, the way teaching should be but often isn’t in large urban school districts. Class sizes are extremely small: compared with the 30-50 in the large school districts, we’re talking 4-10.
  • Hacking the Brain for Fun… and to Relieve Pain. In our life, pain is a constant. My wife deals with arthritis; I deal with migraines. What do you think we would do for a good solution for the pain? Here’s an intriguing direction: A group is playing with a non-chemical solution that involves hacking the Vagus nerve. The vagus nerve starts in the brainstem, just behind the ears. It travels down each side of the neck, across the chest and down through the abdomen. ‘Vagus’ is Latin for ‘wandering’ and indeed this bundle of nerve fibres roves through the body, networking the brain with the stomach and digestive tract, the lungs, heart, spleen, intestines, liver and kidneys, not to mention a range of other nerves that are involved in speech, eye contact, facial expressions and even your ability to tune in to other people’s voices. It is made of thousands and thousands of fibres and 80 per cent of them are sensory, meaning that the vagus nerve reports back to your brain what is going on in your organs. Research shows that a high vagal tone (strength of your vagus response) makes your body better at regulating blood glucose levels, reducing the likelihood of diabetes, stroke and cardiovascular disease. Low vagal tone, however, has been associated with chronic inflammation. Said inflammation has been connected with arthritis and migraines. This article talks about using an implant to stimulate the vagus nerve to reduce pain. Fascinating.
  • Pain and Empathy. Chemical painkillers  can be insidious. For example, we all believe Tylenol (acetaminophen, paracetamol in the UK) is safe; safer than aspirin or other NSAIDs. But there have been numerous reports that even the slight overdose can cause serious liver damage, and slight overdoses are easy because it is in so many products because it is believed to be safe. Here’s another danger from Tylenol: In research published online in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, scientists from the National Institutes of Health and Ohio State University describe the results of two experiments they conducted involving more than 200 college students. Their conclusion: Acetaminophen, the most common drug ingredient in the United States, can reduce a person’s capacity to empathize with another person’s pain, whether that pain is physical or emotional. In fact, I’m on it right now (just took two Excedrin). Ask me if I care ;-).
  • It’s a Gas — Porter Ranch Causes . One group I do emphasize with are all the folks in Porter Ranch, the community next to where we leave. Not only did they have to deal with the Aliso Canyon gas leak for numerous months, being relocated and such, but they are still having problems even after the leak was sealed. They have now figured out why. Los Angeles County Public Health Department officials say its test of dust in Porter Ranch homes turned up the presence of metals, including barium, that could have caused the kinds of health symptoms some residents have reported experiencing even after the big gas leak was plugged. County officials said there appeared to be  a pattern — or fingerprint — of metals to which all of the homes were exposed. Those metals were barium, vanadium, manganese, lead, strontium and aluminum. The county health official said the barium was in the form of a salt known as barium sulfate, which is not radioactive. It was found at the Aliso Canyon Natural Gas Storage Facility, which is in the Santa Susana Mountains directly north of Porter Ranch homes. Barium sulfate is added to the fluids that are used in the course of oil well drilling. As I said when the leak first started, this is going to be a clusterf*ck of tremendous proportions — unfortunately, one that will affect our synagogue and many friends and neighbors.
  • Taking Offense at Everything. There are more folks these days that are just finding any hint of skin or sex offensive. We’ve all seen the bathroom wars, where a subgroup of men either believe that men will just choose to dress as a lady to go into a ladies restroom to attack women, or that some woman dressed as a man will go into the mens room and see their shortcomings. Here’s another one: a female weather reporter wearing a beautiful black beaded dress on-air was handed a grey cardigan because some viewers complained they could see her bare arms. This didn’t happen in some backwater area either — this was in Los Angeles folks. Geez, get a life folks. If something offends you, change the channel. If you can’t control your urges, that’s your problem. ETA: Then again, perhaps it was all a joke. Perhaps. ETA#2: Yes, it was a joke.
  • Cell Phones and Theatres. Here’s a very nice piece on Broadway vs. Cell Phones. It explains why they are such a problem. First, taking pictures is making copies of a copyrighted design (yes, the show and all the design elements are copyrighted, and represents significant artistic work). Second, the light these devices emit can distract the performers on the stage, and can distract and disturb other audience members. Thirdly, if they  make noise, the noise can do the same: distract and endanger performers, and disturb the audience. Power them off, or silence them and put them in airplane mode. Why the latter? The signals sometimes interfere with wireless microphones.
  • Replacing Ikea. In Burbank, California, Ikea is moving down the street to an even larger facility. So what is going to happen to the existing facility? What will happen to the dying mall next to it. A report this week gave the answer. Crown Realty is proposing to build a six-story, mixed-use project with 765 apartments and about 40,000 square feet of retail space on the ground level of the current Ikea space. They also envision converting the site into a community gathering area where an outdoor ice rink could be built and a farmers market could be held. As for the neighboring mall, one of the major proposed changes will be redesigning the entryway at San Fernando and Magnolia boulevards. A section of the second-floor roof will be removed to create an open-space feel and an escalator will be installed to allow pedestrians to get to the upper level from the street. Other amenities — such as the food court, children’s play area and elevators — will be moved around to create a better flow and atmosphere in the mall.
  • Yiddish in Poland. Lastly, in honor of my daughter’s graduation, here is a map of the Hebrew and Yiddish language frequency in Poland based on the Polish Census of 1931. Those of you who know her will understand.

 

A Tale of Two Cities 🎩 “The Boy from Oz” @ Landmark Musicals

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat May 14, 2016 @ 11:53 am PDT

The Boy from Oz (Landmark Musicals)userpic=theatre_tickets It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, …

Oh, wrong tale of two cities.

Let me tell you the story of two cities, both staging the West Coast Regional Premiere of The Boy from Oz, a musical based on the life of Peter Allen, with music and lyrics by Peter Allen*, and book by Martin Sherman and Nick Enright.
*: Additional music and lyrics by Adrienne Anderson, Burt Bacharach, Jeff Barry, Michael Callen, Christopher Cross, David Foster, Tom Keane, Marsha Malamet, Dean Pitchford, and Carole Bayer Sager.

In one city, there is an established theatre company going back to 1982, with a large donor pool and a reasonable budget for an intimate theatre. There are significant production resources collected over that time in terms of lights, stagecraft, sound, facilities. There is a large talent pool, and due to the nature of the company and local agreements, multiple AEA actors were allowed (on top of SAG/AFTRA actors). There is a small theatre (under 99 seats) to fill. There is time to plan the show, with the production being announced in August 2015. There is significant publicity, with numerous reviewers and almost daily posts in social media such as Twitter and Facebook, as well as publicity through popular blogs and theatre websites.

In the other city, there is a new company for which this is their second production. There is miniscule budget. There is a historic theatre with no production resources for which this is the first stage musical to be presented. There is a small talent pool with a short time to assemble it, as the rights for the show were approved in January 2016. There are limitations on the use of AEA actors (one AEA guest spot is permitted). There is a large old theatre to fill (399 seats). There is no social media presence, perhaps two reviews, and a small amount of publicity.

Both, however, open the same night, and both have the right to claim West Coast Regional premiere. However, one distinctly operates in the shadow of the other.

Perhaps the quote applies after all: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, …

Guess which production we saw? That’s right: as we believe a weekend is never complete without some form of live performance, we didn’t let a trip to the San Francisco Bay area deter us from theatre, and so last night we were in San Francisco’s Chinatown for the last weekend of Landmark Musical Theatre (FB)’s production of The Boy from Oz. As for the other city? Landmark’s production inspired us so much we want to do a “compare and contrast”, and have booked tickets to see the much better known Celebration Theatre (FB) production of The Boy from Oz while we are in Hollywood for the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB).

If you are unfamiliar with The Boy from Oz, that’s not a surprise. The musical opened in Australia in 1998, and moved to Broadway in 2004, where it won a Tony for an actor you might have heard of: Hugh Jackman (FB). However, the show never went on tour, and the regional producing rights in America were not released until this year. So the show has faded from popular memory, much like the subject of the show, Peter Allen.  The show itself is a jukebox musical, using the songs of Peter Allen to tell the life-story of Peter Allen. This is a story that starts in the outback of Australia in Tenterfield, New South Wales. It includes Allen’s stint as part of the  It includes both Judy Garland, the mentor who discovered Allen in Hong Kong and for whom Allen was a protégé, and Liza Minnelli (FB), Garland’s daughter whom Allen married shortly after her success in Flora the Red Menace. It is a story of the birth of gay awareness, as Allen realizes he is homosexual during the marriage, and the birth of the gay movement including the Stonewall Riots that occurred shortly after Garland’s death. It is the story of Allen going out as a solo act, and hitting his peak popularity in the 1980s. And it is the story of AIDS, with the death of Allen’s lover, Greg Connell, from AIDS, followed by the death of Allen himself. It is a celebration of the life of Peter Allen.

The show features many of Allen’s better known songs, including “When I Get My Name In Lights”, “The Best That You Can Do”, “Continental American”, “She Loves to Hear the Music”, “Bi-Coastal”, “Everything Old is New Again”, “I Honestly Love You”, “I Still Call Australia Home”, “Don’t Cry Out Loud”, and “I Go to Rio”. You’ll know the songs, even if you don’t know Allen.

Boy From Oz (Publicity Photos)As I implied at the start of the writeup, the Landmark production had limited production funds. I’ll go into that in more detail when I cover the production aspects — lighting, costumes, sets, etc. But the production was still a great success and a lot of fun primarily due to the talent that director Jon Rosen (FB) assembled. It appears that much of the energy and drive for this production came from Rosen, who is by day a software designer (go Jon 😃), and by night an active theatre force in the SF Bay Area: producing, directing, doing lighting design, and acting. Rosen also serves as Artistic Director for Landmark Musical Theatre, who are developing their first full season of musicals at the Great Star Theatre.

Leading the production was the team’s one AEA guest artist: Dan Seda (FB) as Peter Allen (nee Peter Woolnough). Seda had a wonderful singing voice, and gave a warm and accessible performance. He was quite enjoyable and engaging to watch. His performance took quite a bit of energy, as he was on stage and involved in the action for almost every scene. He was particularly touching in his interactions with both Liza and Greg. I cannot judge how authentic his Australian accent was, but it was somewhere between Hugh Jackman and the guy that does the Outback commercial (but I think closer to Jackson).

There were three primary women in Allen’s life: Judy Garland, Liza Minnelli, and his mother, Marion Woolnough. Judy Garland was portrayed by Connie Champagne (FB), a well-known Garland impersonator who was one of the first performers cast. The program noted the New York times described her Garland portrayal as “a subtle masterpiece of parody and homage”. I would tend to agree with that: she eerily captured Garland’s persona and voice, with an oddly frozen look that worked well for Garland in the latter days of her life. What I found odd was that she didn’t lift that personal during the curtain call, when you would customarily see a smile. Evidently, she deeply immerses herself in her character. She did a great job in “All I Wanted Was The Dream”, as well as in “Only an Older Woman” and “Quiet Please,There’s a Lady On Stage.” As Liza Minnelli, Kat Robichaud (FB) captured the basic look of Minnelli well, and had the dance moves (especially in the Fosse-style number) down well. She needed a pinch more kookiness in Minnelli’s early days, but overall it was a great portray. Robichaud also did a great job of capturing Minnelli’s singing style, especially in “She Loves the Music.” Lastly, as Allen’s mother Marion Woolnough (pronounced “Wilna”), Amy Meyers (FB) did a spectacular job with a very touching portrayal… plus knockout singing on “Don’t Cry Out Loud”.

In the latter part of Allen’s life, the principle characters were Allen’s lover Greg Connell (played by Ivan Hardin (FB)), and Allen’s agent Dee Anthony (Keith T. Nielsen (FB), who also played Garland’s husband, Mark Herron). Hardin was wonderful, with a strong stage presence and a very engaging way about him. He also had a truly spectacular singing voice, which he demonstrated in “I Honestly Love You”. Men’s looks don’t normally catch my eye, but he had a look that made you see why Allen fell for him. Nielsen was also a surprise, who had a bit more of the Jerry Ohrbach vibe. He also had a strong singing voice.

One other non-ensemble member is worthy of special note: Dylan Palmer (who plays Young Peter Allen, alternating with Daniel Kaukonen). Palmer, for his age, was a remarkable singer and dancer, and interacted well with Seda’s Allen. He was just a delight to watch.

Rounding out the smaller roles and the ensemble positions were: Davin Coffey/FB [Ensemble]; Lisa Darter (FB) [Ensemble / Dance Captain]; Brian FitzMaurice (FB) [Dick Woolnough]; Janine Hartmann (FB) [Ensemble]; AeJay Mitchell (FB) [Trick, Ensemble]; Jery Rosas [Chris Bell]; Garrick Sather (FB) [Ensemble]; Joella Wolnik (FB) [Ensemble]; and Bessie Zolno (FB) [Ensemble].  Of these performers, a few comments. Wolnik had a spectacular singing voice — there were occasions when you could distinguish it from the rest of the ensemble and it was just a delight. Harmann was quite fun to watch on the stage with both her movement and dancing, although I’m not quite sure about the blue sparkly lipstick in the last number. Lastly, it is important for all the ensemble to remember to have fun out there. In the final number I could see the obvious fun that they were having, but there some of the numbers where they were seemingly concentrating more on getting the smiles right and the moves right. Remember to have fun out there.

The production was choreographed by Kimberly Krol (FB). The dancing was good, but some of the ensemble numbers could have used a touch more precision to give them a bit more oomphf. However, overall, the look and (to use a DCI term) general-effect were well-served by the choreography. Music was provided by an on-stage 5 piece orchestra under the music direction of Tammy Hall (FB). Hall was not there at our show; on the keyboards and leading the orchestra was Grace Renaud/FB. Rounding out the orchestra were Keith Leung/FB (Reeds); Aaron Priskorn (FB) (Trumpet); Ben Brown/FB (Bass), and Daria Johnson (FB) (Drums/Percussion).

Moving to the production side of things: remember how I said the production had high talent. This high talent compensated for a low production budget and facility limitations. The set design, from what were were told by the director (who designed it), was under $1000. There was a large (artificial) piano, a multi-tier musical base, and a chaise/banquette (moved up from the audience), together with some projections that were the sole mechanism of establishing place.  This is understandable given the budget, but the show would really benefit from stronger sets and better projections. Richard Gutierrez/FB‘s costume design (assisted by Myriah Gross (FB) (Costumer) and Rhonda Coles (Wardrobe Supervisor)) was similarly low-budget, but creatively appropriate within that budget. No credit is provided for hair and makeup — which generally worked well, although the wigs at times could use  a little better seating. The lighting design of Colin Johnson was similarly hampered: the Great Star Theatre only had lights on the side of the stage, no proper spot booth, no uplights and minimal proscenium lights. It reminded me of the early days of Nobel Middle School. Still, they did the best with what they had. The theatre space (Great Star Theatre) similarly hampered the sound design of Lisa Lash. The performers were all adequately amplified, but the hard-surface nature of the space (walls are undampered cinderblock, and there are limited speakers) resulted in a muffled sound. Rounding out the production credits are:  Richard Gutierrez/FB [Production Manager]; Liz Matos (FB) [Stage Manager]; Jon Rosen (FB) [Projection Design]; Lou Fischer [Photography]; Shaina Elster [House Manager]; and Danny Williams [Marketing].

This is the last weekend to catch The Boy From Oz at Landmark Musical Theatre (FB). Tickets are available through Goldstar as well as Brown Paper Tix.

Dining Notes: Before the show, we ate next door at Bund Shanghai Restaurant (Yelp), 640 Jackson Street. In one word: Yum! They were very accommodating of our dietary gotchas.

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Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) and the  Hollywood Pantages (FB); my subscription at  The Colony Theatre (FB) has gone dormant, and REP East (FB) has seemingly gone dark for 2016. Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals).  I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Upcoming Shows: Tonight we will be seeing The Last 5 Years at San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theatre (A.C.T.) (FB).  May 21 brings Los Angeles: Now and Then (FB), a new musical at LA City College (FB) from Bruce Kimmel. The last weekend of May has HOLDs for the MoTAS Outing to the Jethawks, and for I Only Have Eyes for You at the Ricardo Montalbán Theatre (FB).

That brings us to June. June is the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), and I’ve already written about the shows I plan to see, as well as suggestions to the Fringe regarding viewing the audience as a customer. Our Fringe schedule is as follows:

Whew. July brings us back to conventional theatre, with Beautiful at the  Hollywood Pantages (FB) and the Western Corps Connection (FB) the first weekend, a HOLD for Grey Gardens at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB); the second weekend, The Little Mermaid at  Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB); the third weekend, Weird Al Yankovic at the Hollywood Bowl (FB) and Operaworks (FB) Opera Re-Constructed at CSUN; the fourth weekend, a mid-week Hollywood Bowl (FB) concert of Wynton Marsalis and Aaron Copeland, and a HOLD for Armadillo Necktie at The Group Rep (FB) the last weekend.  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.