Observations Along the Road

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

Good Things That Are Bad

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Nov 08, 2014 @ 10:12 am PST

userpic=don-martinHere’s a collection of articles and opinion pieces that all seem to fall within the theme of things that are good, while really being bad:

  • Dogs. We all love our dogs. Our friendly canine companions have been shown to be good for our mental health and well being. But are they good for the environment?
  • Fake Grass. Here in California, we’re in the midst of a bad bad drought. The DWP (Department of Water and Power) is offering incentives for people to rip out their lawns and replace them with less water-hungry alternatives. Some go with fake grass (the modern-day equivalent of Astro-Turf). But is fake grass good for the environment?
  • Anesthetics. One of the things that makes modern medicine possible are anesthetics. But — especially in the elderly — they have their drawbacks — memory-loss. Here’s why.
  • It Does a Body Good. We’ve been taught that “Milk Does a Body Good” and that you should drink cows milk every day to get Calcium. The problem? Too much milk doesn’t do a body good. In fact, a recent study found that, in both women and men, higher milk consumption correlated with higher rates of death. And in women, those who consumed more milk were also more likely to have fractured a bone, not less. The fault may lie with lactose. In fact, fermented dairy products may be better for you — yogurt, buttermilk, sour cream, and possibly cheese.

 

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We’ve Been Through Some Crappy Times Before

Written By: cahwyguy - Wed Nov 05, 2014 @ 11:43 am PST

userpic=obama-superman

You say the last election didn’t turn out like you planned.
You’re feeling blue and clueless, you just don’t understand.
You’re sad, sulky, sullen, moping and morose.
You’re woefully weak and weary, semi-comatose.
You stare at your computer screen devoid of any joy and hope.
You’re so depressed, you can’t get dressed, your noose is up a rope.
Just remind yourself, when you can’t stand it any more:
That we’ve been through some crappy times before

 

Starting last evening, I’ve been seeing the cries of woe and misery from my progressive friends. Meanwhile, those conservatives that I still talk to are cheering their victory. Both are wrong to cry or celebrate for their side, because this really isn’t a long-term victory for the Republicans or a long-term loss for the Democrats. This is an opportunity for the nation, and it may be a good thing. It may also be good, in the long run, for the Democrats, and perhaps even for the Republicans. Hence, this lunchtime musing.

 

We’ve been though some crappy times before.
Slavery, unbridled knavery and the civil war.
Don’t stop caring, stop despairing, get up off the floor.
Because we’ve been through some crappy times before.

 

Here’s why I’m not worried. First and foremost, the Republicans do not have a supermajority (67%) in either house. To overrride a veto, a supermajority is required in both houses: 290 in the House (at best, if all the uncalled races went R, they would be at 259), and 67 in the Senate (at best, they are at 55). That is a very rare occurrence; only 10% of Presidential vetoes have been overridden. This means if the Republicans want to pass any legislation that has a chance of becoming law, they must make it sufficiently moderate that the President will sign it (or that they can get sufficient Democratic colleagues to come over to their side to override the veto). This is much better than the 2012-2014 Congress, where we couldn’t even get laws to the President because they couldn’t get out of Congress, even if they were moderate.

I’ll note that one article I read today believes it to be a myth that more might get through Congress. They claim the problem was not the Democratic Senate, but the much more conservative Republican house under John Boehner. However, all this means is that we won’t be worse off then before, but the more moderate Senate might still veto the bills (or the Dems filibuster them), and the President would surely veto them.

Ah, but the Presidential appointments will never get through, you say. I can’t guarantee they will get through, but they actually are more likely to get voted upon. This time, in the Senate, it is the Democrats who control the power of the filibuster, being the minority party. They won’t be stopping votes, and the Senate is required to vote on appointments. They don’t do they, they can legitimately be called on the carpet for not doing their Constitutional jobs. It may also push the President to appoint more centrists (which are a better reflection of the country at large, vs. more party-oriented ideologues)

Ah, but you say the Republicans won’t allow the filibuster. My friend, Rich Wales, over on Facebook, addressed this concern: “While the GOP senators could indeed abolish the filibuster (by simple majority vote at the beginning of a session of Congress, if I recall correctly), it would be a phenomenally short-sighted and stupid thing for them to do. First, it would gain them nothing in terms of enacting their party’s agenda — because even if a bill could sail through the Senate as well as the House, the President still has his veto power, and the GOP is not going to have enough votes in either house to override a veto. Second, even the most fanatically single-minded Republicans know they will not always be in power on Capitol Hill. If they abolish the filibuster in the Senate, they will effectively be abolishing it for all time — and when the Democrats one day regain control of the Senate, it will be their turn to be able to ram anything they want through that body, and a GOP minority won’t be able to stop (or even appreciably slow down) a Democratic majority. Even if the Republican leadership in the Senate are bound and determined to abolish the filibuster, enough Senators with a broader view of things are likely to oppose the idea that a rule change’s chances of passage are small. Go to Wikipedia and read about the “Gang of 14″ for a reasonably recent example of how Senators went to great lengths to avoid invoking the so-called “nuclear option”.”

 

Intolerable intolerance has swept across the land.
The gospel thumping homophobes have got the upper hand.
They are peeping though the windows and they are creeping through the door.
But we’ve been through some crappy times before.

We’ve been through some crappy times before.
McCarthyism, Prohibition, and the World Wars.
We’re up a the creek, the boat is leaking, still we will reach the shore.
But we’ve been through some crappy times before.

 

But “It’s the Republicans”, you say. Consider this. During the primary elections, many of the more strident Tea Party candidates were defeated in favor of the establishment Republicans. None of the Republicans elected to the Senate, to my knowledge, were Tea Party. Combine this with the fact that in order to do anything, they have to be moderate, not Tea Party, to get their actions signed by the President. This is not a Tea Party take-over; it may be an opportunity for a rebirth of the Republican party for the moderates.

More significantly, most of the Republicans elected were elected because the electorate was dissatisfied with a Congress that was doing nothing. If the new Congress continues to do nothing, what will happen? That’s right — they may not keep their seats. That happened to many Tea Party candidates.

 

We hear reassurances that everything is fine.
It’s been a while since we were a canary in this mine.
When you think it’s really bad, it gets a little worse.
But keep on looking forward, though we’re going in reverse.

We shout out that the emperor is not wearing any clothes.
He lies so much that you could hang your laundry from his nose.
The fox is in the hen house and the wolf is at the door.
But we’ve been thought some crappy times before.

 

This election is also an opportunity for the Democrats. Using the election as an excuse, they can adjust their leadership to move away from the polarizing Reid and Polosi. Both are good people, but bring a lot of baggage. They also have the opportunity to distance themselves from the President, if he remains unpopular. They can easily blame the Republican Congress for not taking any action. Congressional inaction is no longer the fault of the Democrats.

This election also provides the Democrats with the opportunity to groom and identify additional candidates. Hilary is great, but Hilary brings with her significant baggage (and I don’t just mean Bill). This election could very well be setting the stage for a Democratic victory in 2016, whereas retaining the Senate might very well have led to a Republican victory in 2016.

 

We have been thought crappy times before.
Indiscretion, floods, Depression, Vietnam and more.
The sun has set but don’t forget another day is in store.
Because we’ve been thought some crappy times before.
Yes, we’ve been though some crappy times before.
Yes, we’ve been though some crappy times before.

 

Another day is in store. It is important to remember that control of the House, Senate, or the Executive Branch is like the weather. It always swings back and forth. When it is hot, you know it will eventually be cold…. and then hot again. When we have Democratic leadership, you know that will swing to the Republicans…. and then back again. It has been this way throughout the nation’s history, although some of the cycles have been longer than others. As long as the Democratic party is one of the two major parties, they will eventually be in control of both houses again. In fact, it is likely that will happen when we have a Republican president. The electorate loves having Congress as a check for the President, not a rubber stamp.

Lyrics from “We’ve Been Through Some Crappy Times Before”, Austin Lounge Lizards, available on “The Drugs I Need“.

P.S.: Courtesy of Amy Angel on FB, here’s another interesting take on the subject.

A Modest Presentation for a Remarkable Man

Written By: cahwyguy - Tue Nov 04, 2014 @ 11:49 am PST

Stan Freberg Tributeuserpic=frebergIf you’ve been reading this blog for any amount of time (well, since before Columbus Day), you’ve probably figured out that I’m a big Stan Freberg fan. Early in October I learned through Mark Evanier’s blog that there was going to be a special tribute to Stan Freberg. So when tickets finally went on sale, I was first in the virtual line to get them. Last Sunday night saw us in Hollywood, surrounded by other Freberg fans (famous and non-), to pay tribute to the man.

Unfortunately, they tend not to hand out programs at tributes like these, but luckily Mark Evanier posted a summary of the evening. I won’t repeat all of it here, but suffice it to say that there were segments covering Stan’s animation work, his radio work, his recordings, his television work, and his advertising work, all followed by a short segment with Stan and his wife Hunter.

Yes, it seemed like everyone in the audience had memorized “Stan Freberg presents the United States of American  Vol I” when they were young.

There were a number of things I had never seen before, including works that I hadn’t known Stan had done. Two days out, here’s what I remember:

  • Stan did loads and loads of secondary characters in major animation efforts: Bugs Bunny shorts at WB, Fritz Freleng cartoons, and even Disney work. We got to see samples of many of these, including the complete version of the “Three Little Bops“, a jazz-take off on the Three Little Pigs, Stan’s only screen credit.
  • Many of the record segments were hearing routines I had already heard, although it was neat seeing Stan’s appearances on the Ed Sullivan show, including him performing St. George and the Dragonnet live with Daws Butler and June Foray.
  • Some of the TV clips were interesting, including the early “Time for Beany” skit, Stan’s appearances on the Frank Sinatra show, and his appearance on the Monkees and in The Girl from U.N.C.L.E.
  • There were representative samples of Stan’s commercials, including a number for Chun King, Jino’s Pizza, and the classic Ann Miller “Great American Soups” commercial. You can find a list of many of them on the Wikipedia page.There were also a number of the radio-only commercials. The commercials segment ended with Stan’s takeoff of the Lark cigarette commercial where everyone showed their Larks to the Lone Ranger Theme; Stan did it with pizza rolls, and had the real Lone Ranger there.

As expected, time did not permit including (or seemingly even discussing) some of the odder works, such as the 6 minute Butternut commercial that only mentioned the sponsor in the last minute (“Omaha”), Stan’s work on the Oregon Centennial, and Volume II of the United States of America (there will likely not be a Volume III).

The main sad thing about the tribute was the end, when Stan was on stage. Stan had recently broken a rib, and was in a wheelchair. They tried to have a segment where Stan would tell his stories, but Hunter had to keep prompting him and it was clear his memory wasn’t there. Whether that was the side effect of painkillers or something else, it was sad to see.

One additional comment: I’m not sure this is directed at the Cinematheque, or the event organizers. For a 7:00 PM event, at minimum, the box office and lobby should open at 6:00 PM, and the doors to the theatre no later than 6:30 PM. At this event, although we were told the box office was opening for will call at 6:00 PM, it opened at around 5:30 PM. Even more annoyingly, even though they said the lobby would open at 6:00 PM, people were kept waiting in line until 6:40 PM. Bad form.

Still, all in all, it was a fun evening. We even ran into someone we sorta-knew there: we ended up having dinner at the table next to Rabbi Wolf’s daughter-in-law and his grandchildren. The Freberg community must be like the security community: you keep running into people you know.

[Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre audience. 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 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 Theatre and Concerts:  This coming weekend brings “Handle with Care” at The Colony Theatre (FB) on Sun 11/9 (shifting to avoid ACSAC and opening night), a trip out to Orange Empire Railway Museum to see my buddy Thomas on 11/11,  “Sherlock Holmes and the Suicide Club” at REP East (FB) on Sat 11/15, the Nottingham Festival on Sun 11/16, and “Kinky Boots” at the Pantages (FB) on Sat 11/29. I may also see some theatre when I visit my daughter Erin in Berkeley between 11/20 and 11/26. Right now, I’ve scheduled “Harvey” at Palo Alto Players (FB) in Palo Alto for Friday 11/21, and I’m looking at The Immigrant at Tabard Theatre (FB) in San Jose, , “Rhinocerous” at the UC Berkeley Theatre Department (FB), or possibly a show at UC Santa Cruz featuring a family friend in the cast or crew. [As a PS on the above: I’m trying to figure out a way to balance “The Immigrant”, the show at Santa Cruz, and Dickens Fair on one weekend. Am I crazy?] As for December, I just ticketed “She Loves Me” at Chance Theatre (FB) in Anaheim on 12/20, and we’ll probably go see Joseph and His Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” at Nobel Middle School just before ACSAC. Right now, there is only one show booked for January 2015 – “An Evening with Groucho” at AJU with Frank Ferrente. 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.

A Tail (or is that Tale) of Father and Son

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Nov 02, 2014 @ 12:50 pm PST

Big Fish (MTW)userpic=theatre_musicalsAs you know by now, I love filling my iPod. So when new musicals by composers that I like (in this case, Andrew Lippa) come out, I tend to pick up their cast albums quickly. This happened in March, when I picked up the album for “Big Fish, a musical that opened and closed relatively quickly on Broadway (open in September 2013, closed in December 2013). When I discovered that Musical Theatre West (FB) was presenting the West Coast Premier of the musical, I decided that this was something that justified the drive to Long Beach, and picked up tickets. Hence, last night saw us down in Long Beach at the Carpenter Center for an opening weekend performance of “Big Fish“.

Before I dive into the review, a word about the venue. This was our first time at the Carpenter Center on the campus of CSULB. A beautiful venue with great sight lines, it has one major problems: the side entrances do not close. This lives you not in a great dark box where your imagination can take over, but with light in the side of your peripheral vision constantly reminding you that you are in a theatrical venue, and distracting you with visible movement of the ushers. Bad, bad design.

On the the musical itself. “Big Fish” features a book by John August, and music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa. It is based on the 2003 movie “Big Fish” which was also written by August, based on the novel by Daniel Wallace, which I have never seen. I emphasize that because reading the Wikipedia description of the movie and the summary of the musical makes clear that there are situations in the movie that were collapsed and combined into the musical, and if you come in expecting to see the movie on screen, you will likely be disappointed. This isn’t the movie, I rarely ever go to the movies, and I judge the stage production on its own merits. There, I’ve said it.

Big Fish, at its heart, is the story of fathers and sons. In this case, the father, Edward Bloom, is an seemingly ordinary traveling salesman in rural Alabama. He loves to tell far-fetched stories to his son Will of his life growing up; stories in which he was always the hero. These stories are meant to inspire Will to be the hero of his story, but children are often the opposite the parents. Will is a pragmatist who believes his father’s stories are fictions; falsehoods leading him astray. The musical opens on the occasion of Will’s wedding to Josephine, and the announcement that Will is to be a father. Shortly we also learn that Edward is dying. The musical then keeps moving back and forth between Edward’s story and Will’s attempts to find out the truth.

Edward’s stories border on the fantastic: Edward charms fish out of the lake. Edward meets a witch who tells him how he will die, giving him confidence because he knows the situation is not the one that will kill him. Edward meets a mermaid who teaches him about love. Edward is the hometown “big man” who always saves the city, destined to marry the head cheerleader (Jenny). Edward rescues his hometown from a giant (Karl), befriending him instead. Edward joins the circus, sees the girl he will marry (Sandra), and spends three years working for the circus owner, a werewolf, to get the clue to the girl. Edward saves a general from death.

On the other hand, Will has this image of what he thinks his father to be — especially as he wasn’t home a lot — and he does his best to confirm it. As Will is going through his father’s records in preparation for his passing, he discovers that his father co-signed a loan for an unknown woman in his hometown. Will believes this to be evidence of his father’s secret life — and secret mistress. When his father refuses to talk about it, Will goes to his father’s hometown, and discovers the truth. This ultimately changes Will’s view of his father, and his entire approach to raising his own child.

When one looks at a show, there are three distinct aspects to assess. The story, the performance, and the technical side. I’ve given you the summary of the story; as I’ve noted, those coming in expecting the movie may be disappointed. I found the story itself charming; presenting an interesting core notion of the relationship between father and son. How does a father convey his values to his children? Some (like me) try to do it by being a role model, living by example. In this case, Edward attempts to convey his value and life philosophy through his stories — his notion that one needs to be the hero in your life, and to recognize your heroism. By the end of the play, we learn that much of the stories are embellishments — but at the center of it all, Edward is still the hero he claims to be. In fact, he is more the hero than he was in the stories, for his actual heroism — his biggest act — was in the story he never told. Its an interesting life philosophy, and theatre is a great medium for transmitting broad philosophies. We saw this last week in Pippin, which gave the philosophical message that fulfillment for extraordinary people may often be found in the ordinary. We see it again this week, in proving that the ordinary people may be quietly extraordinary. It’s quite an interesting juxtaposition.

Before I delve into the performances themselves, let’s address the larger performance aspects: The direction and choreography. This production featured the Broadway sets and costumes, but not the Broadway director and choreographer (Susan Stroman). Reading the reviews of the Broadway production, one gets the idea that the disappointment was less in the show itself, and more in Stroman not being as creative as the critics expected her to be. This production of Big Fish was directed by Larry Carpenter, and choreographed by Peggy Hickey (FB). I didn’t particularly notice the direction — which is a good thing. Story and scene melded reasonably well into the next story and scene; the characterizations of the actors seemed reasonable and believable. Movement and dance integrated well into all of this, and there were many beautiful dances (which might have been based on Stroman). I think this is one advantage of regional theatre — you can move away from the baggage brought by the “name” creatives, and see the story for what it is.

In the lead performance tier in this show were Jeff Skowron (FB) as Edward Bloom and Andrew Huber/FB as Will Bloom. Although not a Norbert Leo Butz (Edward in the Broadway production), Skowron gave a very strong performance as Edward. He sang well, he danced well, and most importantly, he seemed to embody Edward and enjoy being the character. This was clear from the onset in his “Be The Hero” number. Similarly strong was Huber as Will, his son. Strong movement, strong singing (especially in “What’s Next”) — just very well done. Supporting these two men were Rebecca Johnson (FB) as Sandra Bloom, and Kristina Miller (FB) as Josephine Bloom. Sandra gave off the sort of charm that made you see why Edward fell in love with her at first sight, especially in her “Little Lamb from Alabama” number. Kristina was more supporting, but both worked well to ground the family side of the story. Also notable was Jude Mason as young Will.

Supporting the family were the many characters in Edward’s stories. These included Molly Garner (FB) as The Witch, Timothy Hughes as Karl (the Giant), Gabriel Kalomas (FB) as Amos Calloway, Zachary Ford (FB) as Don Price, Michelle Loucadoux (FB) as Jenny Hill, and Marisa Field/FB as the Mermaid (Girl in the Water). Notable performances here were Garner as the Witch, who had a spectacular dancing number in “I Know What You Want” and Hughes in “Out There on the Road”. Hughes’ dance was even more notable given that it was done on stilts!

Rounding out the cast were Richard Bulda (FB) as Dr. Bennet, Jake Saenz/FB as Zacky Price, and the members of the ensemble: Caitlyn Calfas (FB), Rachel Davis (FB,TW), Jessica Ernest (FB), Aaron Felske (FB), Brad Fitzgerald/FB, Annie Hinskton (FB), Morgan McGeehan (FB), Lauren Newman/FB, and Michael Starr (FB).

Musical direction was by Matthew Smedal (FB), who also led the uncredited orchestra of some unknown number of players. At least they got to be in the pit with the mermaid :-).

Turning to the technical side of the equation. Here’s where there were some problems with the show. I’ve already noted the distracting effects due to the building design not creating a fully-darkened box. There were also sound problems with the sound design/mixing of Brian Hsieh — at times mics had incorrect volume, and at times there was a fair amount of static. There were also some large thumps in the second act as scenery was moved. Other technical areas were good: the lighting design of Phil Monat worked well to create the mood; the sets (from the original Broadway production, designed by Julian Crouch) established place well and were reasonably flexible; the costume design of William Ivey Long (again, from the original Broadway production, adjusted locally by Karen St. Pierre) were clever and inventive (especially for the Witch’s dance and the Giant); and the properties (by Melanie Cavaness and Gretchen Morales) worked well. Also very inventive were the projections of John Infante. Additional technical credits: Hair Design – Michael Greene; Technical Director – Kevin Clowes; Stage Manager – Heidi Westrom (FB);   Production Stage Manager/ASM – Mary Ridenhour; Production Assistant – Anna Katharine Mantz; Executive Director/Producer – Paul Garman.

Big Fish” continues at Musical Theatre West until November 16. Tickets are available through MTW; discount tickets are available through Goldstar.

[Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre audience. 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 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 Theatre and Concerts:  November is back to busy. Tonight brings a special tribute to Stan Freberg at the Egyptian Theater.  Next weekend brings “Handle with Care” at The Colony Theatre (FB) on Sun 11/9 (shifting to avoid ACSAC and opening night), a trip out to Orange Empire Railway Museum to see my buddy Thomas on 11/11,  “Sherlock Holmes and the Suicide Club” at REP East (FB) on Sat 11/15, the Nottingham Festival on Sun 11/16, and “Kinky Boots” at the Pantages (FB) on Sat 11/29. I may also see some theatre when I visit my daughter Erin in Berkeley between 11/20 and 11/26. Right now, I’ve scheduled “Harvey” at Palo Alto Players (FB) in Palo Alto for Friday 11/21, and I’m looking at The Immigrant at Tabard Theatre (FB) in San Jose, , “Rhinocerous” at the UC Berkeley Theatre Department (FB), or possibly a show at UC Santa Cruz featuring a family friend in the cast or crew. [As a PS on the above: I’m trying to figure out a way to balance “The Immigrant”, the show at Santa Cruz, and Dickens Fair on one weekend. Am I crazy?] As for December, I just ticketed “She Loves Me” at Chance Theatre (FB) in Anaheim on 12/20, and we’ll probably go see Joseph and His Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” at Nobel Middle School just before ACSAC. Right now, there is only one show booked for January 2015 – “An Evening with Groucho” at AJU with Frank Ferrente. 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.

California Highway Headlines for October 2014

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Nov 01, 2014 @ 10:50 am PST

userpic=roadgeekingOctober has been a quiet month. Major products (such as the Bay Bridge and the I-405 Sepulveda Pass project) are winding down, and money is moving more to transit, bikeways, and repairs as opposed to new roads or major route changes. Here’s what caught my eye during the month:

  • Plan proposes $349 million in Highway 29 improvements. A new $349 million plan to improve Highway 29 in south Napa County includes having six lanes in American Canyon, building a Soscol flyover at Highway 221 and reconfiguring lanes at the Sonoma County turnoff. The plan also calls for giving Highway 29 a look and character in keeping with the areas it passes through, be it rural or city.
  • Can a $5.4-billion tunnel plan fix the notorious 710 gap?. Officials have long blamed the unfinished 710 Freeway for congestion on nearby freeways and local streets. Opposition from cities led by South Pasadena has always quashed finishing the 710, but now, authorities are considering extending it with 4.9-mile-long twin tunnels. Light rail, enhanced bus service and wider streets are also being explored. Opponents who have sued to block construction before call the tunnel idea “public works boondoggle.”
  • Mayors, regional leaders celebrate completion of 1st phase of widened Highway 84. Pleasanton Mayor Jerry Thorne joined other city, civic and regional leaders this week in officially marking the completion of the first phase of widening State Route 84 between the I-580 and I-680 freeways. With this widening project, the Isabel Avenue segment of Hwy. 84 is completed as a four-and six-lane throughway from I-580 to Stanley Boulevard.
  • Without more funding, Bay Lights may go dark. A local landmark may go dark if millions of dollars in donations don’t come soon. The Bay Lights on the San Francisco side of the Bay Bridge offer a stunning, computer-generated display each night. It’s created by 25,000 twinkling, energy-efficient LED lights, its said to be the largest LED light sculpture in the world. And it could soon be blinking out for good, according to Illuminate The Arts founder Ben Davis.
  • L.A. area has many freeways that stayed on the drawing board . When suburbs began spreading out across Southern California after World War II, officials envisioned a sprawling freeway system to get people around. But big chunks of that system were never built, and that’s one cause for the clogged commutes many face. [Note: I disagree with one of their maps — I have seen no evidence that the Whitnall Freeway (Route 64) was intended to connect to the Industrial Freeway down Normandie. That would have made an interesting loop around Los Angeles, as Route 64 also would have gone across Malibu Canyon]
  • Gilman Street, I-80 interchange roundabouts receive Caltrans approval. A traffic infrastructure renovation at the intersection of Gilman Street and Interstate 80 has moved closer to realization after Caltrans approved a proposed double-roundabout design to address chronic traffic problems and a high number of accidents and complaints. The proposal includes two roundabouts, circular intersections in which incoming traffic yields to traffic traveling around the juncture. This design reduces fatal traffic accidents by as much as 90 percent, increases traffic flow — leading to reductions in emissions and fuel consumption — and promotes safer pedestrian access, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

It’s Something to Stew About

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Nov 01, 2014 @ 10:50 am PST

Observation StewAs a reminder, I’m still trying to find the album title, album artist, and song titles for the album mentioned in my previous post. While you’re searching (I did find some stuff searching in Hebrew, but I couldn’t read it) and translating/transliterating, here’s some news chum to keep you busy:

  • It’s Back! It’s Back! The Empress Pavilion in Chinatown is back, under new owners, dispensing dim sum from carts in Chinatown. This is good news, as we were never able to find a place we really liked in Monterey Park (which was a schlep anyway). Sounds like a grand excuse for a dim sum run.
  • It’s Dead! It’s Dead! What happens to you when you die? I don’t mean meta-physically, I mean physically. There’s a body farm in Texas that is exploring the question, placing bodies out in fields and watching their decay. The article is a fascinating read — but be forewarned that it does include pictures of dead bodies in various stages of decay and decomposition. It isn’t as bad as you think (although you don’t get the smells), and it is comforting to think of your final act being to provide nutrients to other living things.
  • It’s Voting! It’s Voting! Of course, I shouldn’t need to remind you to vote on Tuesday (and if you need, here’s my ballot analysis: Part I (major offices); Part II (propositions); Part III (judges)). If you’re in LA County, you’re voting on the old Inka-Vote system. That may soon be going away: LA County has let a contract for a new electronic voting system. Based on what is described in the article, they may actually be doing it right: the County owns the code; the vendor that writes the code cannot operate the voting system; the voting machine prints a paper ballot to be tallied (hopefully legible to the voter).
  • It’s, umm, I forget. Recently, we’ve been dealing with the slow memory deterioration of my mother-in-law. It’s hard to deal with, and sad to see. This article — My Mom Has Dementia and Other Good News — was recently going around Facebook. It is an interesting take on the problem.
  • It’s Old! It’s Old! You know I like history, and that I like theatre. Here’s an interesting combination: the history of the El Portal Theatre in North Hollywood. It was once a movie theatre, and recently has been the site of numerous rental productions. We saw Marvellous Wonderettes, Pump Boys and Dinettes, and at least one other show there.
  • It’s Pastrami! It’s Pastrami! We’re seeing fewer and fewer true Jewish delicatessens. Here’s an interesting article on how one deli, Katz’s in New York, stays in business. Quoth the article: “But with a throwback menu comes a throwback business model, the downsides of which are especially apparent in these days of astronomical beef prices. That’s one reason why Dell—whose grandfather purchased Katz’s in 1988 and who in recent years has taken over most day-to-day oversight from his father and uncle—is fretting. If you want to fully appreciate why a place like Katz’s is special, you have to appreciate its odd economics, which pretty much ensure there will never be another deli quite like it.”

 

Is A Puzzlement?

Written By: cahwyguy - Thu Oct 30, 2014 @ 7:22 pm PST

userpic=recordMy wife recently picked up an Israeli CD at an estate sale. While importing that CD into my iPod, my thoughts turned to a puzzlement from many years ago, where I had another Israeli CD. That time, no amount of searching could find me the artist name, album name, or track information. I tried again tonight, and still no luck. So I’m asking you. Below are scans of the front cover and back cover (click on the images for the full size versions). Can you help me figure out album artist, album name, and the track names so I can import this into my iPod?

Unknown Album Cover

Unknown Album Back

Blowing in the Winds

Written By: cahwyguy - Wed Oct 29, 2014 @ 6:56 pm PST

LA Symphonic Windsuserpic=folk-guitarIf you recall from my write-up of “Pippin, I said we had two shows this weekend. The second show came about because some friends of ours (the Past President of MoTAS; I’m the current Prez) had the audacity to skip away the weekend of the Golf Tournament to take a cruise to Hawaii. They offered us their tickets, and knowing that my wife loves symphony music, we accepted. As a result, Sunday saw us not only scoping out Calabasas for the location for the tournament, but going to the new Performing Arts Center at Calabasas High for the special LA Symphonic Winds performance “Stars of the LA Winds”.

The 100 piece Los Angeles Symphonic Winds is a community band in Los Angeles. Membership is drawn from the vast pool of gifted Los Angeles-based professional, semi-professional and amateur musicians, many of whom have performed with major symphonies, motion picture and television recording studio orchestras and entertainment-world headliners. The L.A. Winds normally presents a six concert subscription series before sold-out houses in the beautiful Performing Arts Center on the campus of picturesque, suburban Los Angeles Pierce College (but as that is being rebuilt, they were in Calabasas).

The program we saw was part of the Daniel Pearl World Music Days concert series, and highlighted select members of the Winds. Here is what was on the program:

  • Suite from “The Big Country”: Main Title; Waltz; Ballad; Scherzo; Finale. Jerome Moross. Arranged by Bob Joles. This was  a collection of scoring music from a motion picture. Quite enjoyable.
  • Concerto for Horn: II – Andante Moderato; III – Allegro. Ralph Hermann. Jennifer Bliman on horn. Another enjoyable piece.
  • Concerto for Euphonium Part I: I- Non troppo allegro; II – Dance: Zeibekikos. Philip Wilby. Neil Jansen on euphonum. Also enjoyable, especially the dance.
  • Concertino for Clarinet, op. 26. Carl Mari von Weber. 9 clarinetists, whom I’m not going to list. The piece itself was OK. The first three pieces were introduced by Sttephen Piazza, director of the Winds, who told the story behind each of them. This piece was conducted by Charles Fernandez, who got up, glared at the audience, and then started without a word of intro.
  • Five Folksongs for Soprano and Band: 1 – Mrs. McGrath; 2 – All the Pretty Little Horses; 3 – Yerakina; 4 – El Burro; 5 – A Fiddler. Bernard Gilmore. Sung by Christina Kushnik Roszhart. I wasn’t that crazy about this piece: folk music doesn’t work that well when sung by an operatic soprano with an orchestral quality fancy band backing. Folk cries for the simplicity. An interesting note discovered writing this piece: Roszhart was married less than two weeks ago — two weeks a newlywed.
  • Finale from “Death and Transfiguration”. Richard Strauss. I like Strauss’s waltzes. This wasn’t a waltz. I wasn’t that crazy about it.

There are far too many members of the Winds to list them all, but you can find them at the Winds Website.

[Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre audience. 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 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 Theatre and Concerts:  November is back to busy, with “Big Fish” at Musical Theatre West (FB) on Sat 11/1, “Handle with Care” at The Colony Theatre (FB) on Sun 11/9 (shifting to avoid ACSAC and opening night), a trip out to Orange Empire Railway Museum to see my buddy Thomas on 11/11,  “Sherlock Holmes and the Suicide Club” at REP East (FB) on Sat 11/15, the Nottingham Festival on Sun 11/16, and “Kinky Boots” at the Pantages (FB) on Sat 11/29. I may also see some theatre when I visit my daughter Erin in Berkeley between 11/20 and 11/26. Right now, I’ve scheduled “Harvey” at Palo Alto Players (FB) in Palo Alto for Friday 11/21, and I’m looking at The Immigrant at Tabard Theatre (FB) in San Jose, , “Rhinocerous” at the UC Berkeley Theatre Department (FB), or possibly a show at UC Santa Cruz featuring a family friend in the cast or crew. [As a PS on the above: I’m trying to figure out a way to balance “The Immigrant”, the show at Santa Cruz, and Dickens Fair on one weekend. Am I crazy?] As for December, I just ticketed “She Loves Me” at Chance Theatre (FB) in Anaheim on 12/20, and we’ll probably go see Joseph and His Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” at Nobel Middle School just before ACSAC. Right now, there is only one show booked for January 2015 – “An Evening with Groucho” at AJU with Frank Ferrente. 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.