Observations Along the Road

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

TQM for the Soul – Some Lunchtime Thoughts

Written By: cahwyguy - Mon Sep 22, 2014 @ 11:20 am PDT

userpic=tallitA dear friend of mine, Rabbi Sheryl Lynne Nosan-Lantzke, has been posting over on Facebook at teaser about the High Holy Days: First “Getting…”, then “Getting ready…”, then “Getting ready for…” and so on, at a speed of about one per day. This would make the National Slow Talkers of America (and Australia) proud. She does, however, have a point — the High Holy Days start Wednesday evening (even in Australia), and now is the time to get ready. In that spirit, I went to TAS’s recent S’lichot study and service (although we didn’t stay for the service, as my wife wasn’t feeling well). There were some interesting ideas discussed in the study that I want to share, for they reminded me very much of the only useful thing I ever got out of TQM.

Normally, as one prepares for the HHD, one focuses on what one has done wrong in the past year, and how to “right the wrongs”. This is very much a “repent ye sinners” tone, and it is off-putting to many. The approach taken during S’lichot at TAS, however, was based on the approach over at Let It Ripple — and focused more on character development and character traits. In particular, we discussed the periodic table of character strengths. We discussed where were were already strong, and what character strengths we might focus on in the upcoming year to improve.

Here’s the TQM connection: the only thing I ever got out of TQM was the notion of +/Δ: when evaluating a program, don’t focus on what went wrong. Focus on what went right, and those areas where you can improve. The character strength approach is similar: identify those character strengths you have. Identify those strengths you want to improve. Don’t focus on your failures: be positive, move forward instead of looking back.

This is a notion I can support, and it doesn’t even require that you buy into the spirituality side. What a wonderful way to explore making yourself better in the coming year. I suggest looking at the table of character strengths, and seeing where you can be stronger.

 

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Saturday Stew: A Groupa Twos Stew, on Average

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Sep 20, 2014 @ 5:15 pm PDT

Observation StewIt’s Saturday, and you know what that means: Time to see what sort of a tasty stew we can make of the articles that I’ve saved over the week. Let’s see how flavorful this one is:

 

The Measure of a Community Is How They Treat The Stranger

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Sep 20, 2014 @ 11:56 am PDT

Bat Boy (CSUN)userpic=ucla-csunWhen I told people that I was going to go see “Bat Boy: The Musical“, most thought I was going to see a musical about Batman. After all, there have been musicals about Superman and Spiderman, so a musical about  the caped crusader as a boy isn’t that farfetched. Farfetched, after all, would be a musical drawn from the pages of the Weekly World News, that crusading paper that is more accurate than Fox News, brings you headlines such as “Saturn is a Giant UFO“, “Chicago to be Renamed Obama City“, and, yes, “Bat Boy: Going Mutant“.  But it is just that paper — and in fact, that last story — that was the inspiration for the musical “Bat Boy: The Musical“, drawn from the pages of the Weekly World News, that we saw last night at the CSUN Experimental Theatre.

For those not familiar with the Bat Boy, he was a creation of the Weekly World News — a news source much like the Onion of today, only weirder. Half-man, half-bat, he was discovered in a cave in West Virginia. Constantly hunted by the government, he is regularly captured but escapes. The story first appeared in the pages of the WWN in 1992; by 1997, the Actors Gang had created a musical based on his story. This musical, with story and book by Keythe Farley (FB) and Brian Flemming, and music and lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe, made it to an off-Broadway production (which was recorded, permitting me to learn about it) and a London production. This fall, Janet Miller (FB) [who has done a great job with Good People Theatre Co (FB) productions of "A Man of No Importance" and "The Fantastiks"] selected “Bat Boy” as a production of the CSUN Theatre Arts Department. I learned about this production when I saw a poster for it while attending the Operaworks Advanced Artist production this summer. Having heard the music (which is great), loving the story (which has a great message), and knowing the quality of the director made this a must see. As soon as the ticket office opened in late August, I purchased my tickets for opening night.

[I'll note an odd coincidence: Last night, I added yet another album to my iPod: the cast album for Heathers: The Musical, which just closed on Broadway. It turns out that Laurence O'Keefe did the music for that show, as well as for the Legally Blonde: The Musical. You'll like the music to Bat Boy, especially the main song ("Hold Me, Bat Boy") which is a definite ear worm.]

Bat Boy: The Musical” takes place in Hope Falls, WV. As the production opens, Rick, Ron, and Ruthie Taylor are exploring some deep caves near the town. In one cavern, they discover the Bay Boy; as Ruthie tries to make friends with it, he bites her on the neck. They kick and capture the Bat Boy and take him to the Sheriff and Ruthie to the hospital. The Sheriff decides to take the Bat Boy to the local veterinarian, who will know what to do with him. The vet, Dr. Thomas Parker, isn’t home so they leave the boy with his wife, Meredith and their daughter, Shelly. Although Meredith wants to take care of the boy and make him part of the family, the daughter wants nothing to do with him. Mom wins out, and slowly starts educating the boy (who is a fast learner). When Dr. Parker comes home, he wants to put the boy down, but Meredith dissuades him from doing so with the promise of sex with her (which hasn’t been happening for a while). Meanwhile, the town is becoming agitated: not only is Ruthie Taylor not getting better, the coal mine has closed, and all of the cattle around the town are getting sicker and thinner. The town, naturally, blames the Bat Boy and believes that killing him will solve all their problems. Back at the Parkers, the Bat Boy (now renamed Edgar) and Shelly are growing closer, and Edgar is learning fast — he already has his high school equvalency diploma. He wants to attend the big revival meeting but the town doesn’t want him to. When Meredith and Shelly take him anyway, he wins the town over. But when Rick Taylor attacks Shelly, Edgar goes crazy and bites Rick. This starts the hunt for the boy, based on some turn of events and resulting in some disclosures which I won’t reveal (as they are spoilers)… but you can find them in the Wiki synopsis.

The story is a good one, and quite time. At its heart, it explores xeonphobia in a funny and touching way. The Bat Boy is the stranger in our midst — an uglier reflection of ourselves. Seemingly uncivilized, yet some can see beyond that to discover the civilized person underneath. Are they human? Are they animals? Do we blame the stranger for our problems, or are our problems often created by our own actions (after all, you can’t feed cows on a coal mine). Take this musical, which was written in 1997, and look at it through 2014. Muslims in our community are the Bat Boys of today — misunderstood aliens, seen by some as civilized members of society, but seen through ill-informed and ignorant eyes as all evils, prone to attack when provoked. I think this musical is much more timely today than when it was first performed.

This production — like many CSUN theatre productions — was excellent (I still have fond memories of an excellent production of Hair many years ago). Director and Choreographer Janet Miller (FB) worked with the students to bring out excellent dramatic performances — you could see that were intensely into each character they played. That’s not to say the production was 100% perfect, but it was very very good. Let’s look at the players.

In the lead position was Skylar Keck/FB as Edgar, the Bat Boy. Keck nailed the dramatic side of the performance, from his movement as the uncivilized Bat Boy to his maturation as the civilized Edgar. In the beginning you see Keck on all fours, running around and screaming gibberish. As the story progresses you see him grow into an Oxford-English speaking young man (BBC language tapes). He was really spectacular to watch. He also moved well during the dance numbers. If he had one drawback, it was that his singing voice was a little off on some of the numbers; I believe that will improve with time and practice. I look forward to seeing him in future professional productions.

In the other lead positions were Aubrie Alexander (FB) as Meredith Parker, Jessica Patterson/FB as Shelly Parker, and Jared Tkocz/FB as Dr. Thomas Parker. All three had strong characterizations of their characters — I was particularly taken by both Alexander and Patterson in their characters. Tkocz had the evil side down well as well. All three were also strong in their singing and dancing numbers.

Much of the remainder of the cast doubled or tripled roles, some going cross-gender. This initially confused me; my wife thought it had to do with the diversity statement in the program. It turns out neither was the case: it appears to be intentional double casting from the original production. In any case, given the multiple casting it is difficult to single out many performances. Some, however, are worthy of special note. I was very taken by Nick Bruno/FB‘s performance as Pan during “Children, Children”. He had a very strong singing voice combined with a winner personality that shone through the character. Bruno also doubled as Bud, one of the ranchers whose cattle were dying. Also strong was Matthew Kesner/FB as Reverend Bill Hightower in the “Joyful Noise” number — again, a strong singing voice combined with good movement and the ability to be humorous worked well. Kesner also doubled as Daisy, a schoolteacher, with a very incongruous look (I’d say you could guess why she was a spinster, but then again, this is West Virginia). Lastly, I liked Benjamin Schwartz/FB‘s portrayal of Sheriff Reynolds. My wife felt that Mrs. Taylor (Logan Allison/FB) deserved an award for overacting, but I think the character was intentionally written that way to play up the nature of the Bat Boy threat. Allison also doubled as Roy, a rancher.  Rounding out the townsfolk and remaining cast were: Steve Brogan/FB (Rick Taylor, spelunker; Mr. Dillon, a rancher); Rachael Johnson/FB (Ron Taylor, spelunker; Maggie, senior Town Council rep); Julia Alix Ober/FB (Ruthie Taylor, spelunker; Ned, a rancher); Sarah Kline/FB (Lorraine, a rancher’s wife; Clem, a townsman); Hyungwood Jang/FB (a doctor, ensemble/townfolk); Jessamyn Arnstein (FB) (a doctor, ensemble/townfolk); Chelsea DiBlasi/FB (Institute Man, ensemble/townsfolk); and Alexander Cody Phaphol/FB (ensemble/townfolk).

The actors were supported by an on-stage band behind the main set. This band consisted of Philip Matthew Park (Musical Director, Keyboard I), Paul Duffy (Keyboard II), Andi Moresi (FB) (Guitar), Dustin Morgan/FB (Bass), and Wayne Hildenbrand/FB (Drums). The band had a great sound quality, and about the only quibble was the reflection of the “Exit” light in the plexiglass surrounding the drummer.

Turning to technical side, where my main quibble with this production lies. Let’s start with the problem, and then move on to what worked. What didn’t work was the sound design by Kenji Kang/FB. When the microphones worked there was an odd echo quality to them; later on in the show there were numerous static and glitch problems. This could just be opening night problems — I see that Kang was a Van Nuys HS graduate, meaning he should have learned from the best (Marque Coy (FB)). Hopefully, they will get things tuned for subsequent productions. In contrast to the sound, the lighting design of Kevin Vasquez/FB worked quite well, creating a mood, illuminating scenic queues, and making good use of moving lights and LED lights. The costume design of Bich Vu worked well and appeared suitably West Virginia-y to me, although my wife had some problems with the footware on some of the actors. The costuming for the Bat Boy was particularly good. The scenic design of Christopher Scott Murillo (FB) was simple but effective, and made good use of the CSUN Experimental theatre black box space. Heidi Dippold was the dialect coach; her work was particularly notable in the Bat Boy’s gibberish and later BBC accent (I can’t speak to WV accents). Shad Willingham (FB) was the Fight Choreographer. Lindsey Martin/FB (as opposed to Lindsay Martens/FB) was the stage manager (yes, I did a double take for a minute).

Bat Boy: The Musical” continues at CSUN (CSUN Theatre Arts Department (FB) through September 28, 2014, with performances today (9/20), tomorrow (9/21), and next weekend (9/24-9/28).  Tickets are available through A.S. CSUN at 818/677-2488. You might be able to get them online through Ticketmaster, but the fees will be less through the phone. Tickets are not available on Goldstar. You’ll have a great time if you go.

[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:  Next weekend brings  “What I Learned in Paris” at The Colony Theatre (FB) on Sat 9/27, and “The Great Gatsby” at Repertory East (FB) on Sun 9/29. October currently has two shows (three if you count Yom Kippur on 10/4): “Don’t Hug Me, We’re Married” at the Group Rep (FB) on Sat 10/18 (when Karen is at PIQF), and “Pippin” at the Pantages (FB) on 10/25. 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’m looking at The Immigrant at Tabard Theatre (FB) in San Jose, “Harvey” at Palo Alto Players (FB) in Palo Alto, or “Rhinocerous” at the UC Berkeley Theatre Department (FB). As for December, right now I’m just holding one date: “She Loves Me” at Chance Theatre (FB) in Anaheim on 12/20. 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.

“The theater is our lifeline to humanity — Without it we’d all be Republicans”

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Sep 14, 2014 @ 4:41 pm PDT

moon-over-buffalouserpic=yorickI’ve written before about how much I enjoy farce. Be it “Lend Me a Tenor” at the Pasadena Playhouse back in 1992, Black Comedy” at the REP in 2006, a revival of Noises Off” at the Pasadena Playhouse in 2003, Don’t Dress for Dinner” at REP in 2006, Is He Dead?” at ICT in 2009, or many others — you can always depend on farce for a laugh. So when I saw that Wasatch Theatrical Ventures (FB) was doing Ken Ludwig‘s farce “Moon over Buffalo” at the Grove Theatre Center (FB) in Burbank (where we had seen an excellent production of “Inherit the Wind” earlier in the year), the only question was when I could fit it into my schedule. Luckily, I was able to find space on closing weekend — so last night saw us in Burbank (where it was hot hot hot) seeing a farce (we where much luckier than my cousin, who was in the Rose Bowl taking her daughter to see some unknown boy band).

What makes a good farce a farce? The director of last night’s show, Kiff Scholl (FB1, FB2) wrote in the program that a farce has a number of rules: (1) lots of doors; (2) lots of confusion; (3) lots of physical comedy; and lots of improbably plot twists. What he doesn’t mention is that a good farce also needs good timing, a good comprehension of what is funny and what is not, and what is supposed to be funny and what is not. The latter is important: the actors shouldn’t be playful in a scene that in the stage reality isn’t funny, but in the real-world is. In essence, what this means for a farce is that the audience is in on the joke, but the actors don’t see it at all. In fact, in the farcical world, the absurd is perfectly normal, but it isn’t quite to the level of absurd (at least Ionesco absurd) yet. Confused yet.

Good writing is also important. The title of this post is one of the quotes from this show. I didn’t write down others, but did some searches post-facto. Here are some other lines to give you a taste:

  • “This is Buffalo, New York. It’s like. Scranton without the charm.”
  • “What? Bad news in this company? The House of Usher Repertory Theatre?”

You’re probably wondering what Moon in Buffalo is about. As with any farce, giving too many details will spoil the jokes, so here is how Ken Ludwig (the author) describes it on his web page about the show (slightly augmented):  “In the madcap comedy tradition of Lend me a Tenor, the hilarious Moon Over Buffalo centers on George and Charlotte Hay, fading stars of the 1950’s. At the moment, they’re playing Private Lives and Cyrano De Bergerac in rep in Buffalo, New York with 5 actors. On the brink of a disastrous split-up caused by George’s dalliance with a young ingénue (Eileen), they receive word that they might just have one last shot at stardom: Frank Capra is coming to town to see their matinee, and if likes what he sees, he might cast them in his movie remake of The Scarlet Pimpernel. Unfortunately for George and Charlotte, everything that could go wrong does go wrong, abetted by a visit from their daughter Rosalind’s clueless fiancé Howard (a TV weatherman from Buffalo) and hilarious uncertainty about which play they’re actually performing, caused by Charlotte’s deaf old stage-manager mother Ethel who hates every bone in George’s body.” Add to this a stage manager Paul, who is Rosalind’s former boyfriend, and Richard, who is both George’s lawyer and who wants to be Charlotte’s lover and next husband, and …. well you get the idea.

In farce, performances are key. Performances without the right timing or humor will torpedo a show. Luckily, the cast in this show gets things right. In the lead position are Mark Belnick (FB) as George Hays and Kimberly Lewis (FB) as Charlotte Hays. Belnick (who doesn’t need to act (if you follow his previous link), but loves to act) captures the hamminess of the character well — it is said of him in the show that he “is a walking ham — they should stick cloves in him and serve him with pineapple.” He handles the physical comedy well and excels at the requisite overacting the character calls for. As his wife, Charlotte, Lewis also captures the long-term actor well. She’s at her best in her interactions with Richard (her lover) and with George.

In the second character tier are Keri Safran (FB) as Rosalind Hays, Chuck Raucci as Howard (her fiancee), Paul Galliano (FB, FB2) as Paul (the stage manager and Rosalind’s former beau), and Carol Herman (FB) as Ethel (Rosalind’s hard-of-hearing grandmother). Safran handles Rosalind quite well — she has the timing and ability to play the daughter of an acting family who wants to get out of the family business, but the universe is conspiring to not let her escape. Raucci captures the clueless weatherman well, especially as someone who has no idea what he has gotten into. Galliano kept reminding me of perhaps a young cross between Bob Saget and John Stamos — handsome with good comic timing and reactions. Lastly Herman captured the befuddled old woman well.

In the last character tier were Sarah Randall Hunt (FB) as Eileen and Paul Michael Nieman (FB) as Richard. You can tell this is the third character role tier because all actors have three names :-).  Hunt seemed a little bit cold in her first few scenes as Eileen, but in her last scene you could see a wonderful personality and warmth shining through, so I’m guessing the earlier scenes were intentionally cold given the craziness of the characters. Nieman seemed appropriately blustery and forceful as the lawyer who wanted Charlotte. Neither character was involved in the actual mechanics of the farce much, although they may have been precipitating catalysts.

In general, the strong comic acting combined with the good direction from the aforementioned Kiff Scholl (FB1, FB2) combined to produce a funny show that, for the most part, enhanced the material.

Turning to the technical: The set (designed by Adam Haas Hunter (FB)) worked reasonably well to create the green room with the requisite lots of doors. The lighting by Michael Gend (FB) set the mood well, and the sound design by Daniel Hoal (FB) was mostly reasonable, although the mood music was a bit loud.  The costumes by Michael Mullen (FB)worked well for both Cyrano and Private Lives, as well as the Green Room scenes. Mike Mahaffey was the fight director. Erica Lawrence/FB was the stage manager. “Moon Over Buffalo” was produced by Racquel Lehrman and Victoria Watson/FB of Theatre Planners. (FB).

Alas, the last performance of “Moon over Buffalo” is happening as I type this; alas, this writeup was delayed due to this morning’s MoTAS meeting.

[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:  Next weekend brings  Bat Boy: The Musical” at CSUN for the Friday night before Slichot (9/19). This is followed by “What I Learned in Paris” at The Colony Theatre (FB) on Sat 9/27, and “The Great Gatsby” at Repertory East (FB) on Sun 9/29. October currently has two shows (three if you count Yom Kippur on 10/4): “Don’t Hug Me, We’re Married” at the Group Rep (FB) on Sat 10/18 (when Karen is at PIQF), and “Pippin” at the Pantages (FB) on 10/25. 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’m looking at The Immigrant at Tabard Theatre (FB) in San Jose, “Harvey” at Palo Alto Players (FB) in Palo Alto, or “Rhinocerous” at the UC Berkeley Theatre Department (FB). As for December, right now I’m just holding one date: “She Loves Me” at Chance Theatre (FB) in Anaheim on 12/20. 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.

News Chum Stew: DNA, Pools, Tarantino, Politics, Mel Brooks, and more

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Sep 13, 2014 @ 1:27 pm PDT

Observation StewIt’s Saturday at lunchtime, and you know by now what that means — it is time for some tasty news chum stew. Let’s see what we find floating in the broth this week:

 

I Come To Mourn a Click-Wheel…

Written By: cahwyguy - Thu Sep 11, 2014 @ 11:48 am PDT

userpic=ipod…not to praise it. During its revamp of the Apple Store this week, Apple quietly and without ceremony removed the iPod Classic from the line up. There have been wistful reminiscences, but most have just been nostalgia. The belief from much of the world — especially the connected and early adopters — is that one no longer needs to carry all your music in your pocket. Who needs storage when you can have streaming. In my opinion, these folks have “drunken the kool-aide” of the music industry. Here’s why this is deluded thinking:

  • Not every location can stream. You can’t stream music when you’re on an airplane, in a subway, or far away from modern communications. Often, these are the times when you most want your music.
  • Not everyone has unlimited free bandwidth. Streaming often uses limited cellular bandwidth or requires you to pay for wireless (if free wireless is not available, such as on an airplane). This is one reason why the cellular providers don’t want phone manufacturers to put lots of storage on phone and to have bandwidth heavy apps. They make money off you.
  • You don’t physically possess your music. When your music is in the cloud or streamed, you don’t own it — you lease it. The cloud storage provider could delete that music at any time, and you would have no recourse. When you have the music stored on your device you possess it. You can copy it. You can make backups. You can make CDs or cassettes or other physical media. It is yours to edit and play with.

Further, the death of the iPod Classic is a movement away from the single purpose device. Single purpose devices can be devoted to doing one thing very well. Multi-function devices, such as phones, often do multiple things at varying levels. The 128GB of storage on your phone may sound large, but it means your music is competing for space with your photos, text messages, videos, and applications. So why don’t they give you more storage? They would rather you back up your data to the cloud (using bandwidth, possibly using storage you pay for, and making it susceptible to security breeches).

The iPod Classic was a simple device. It played music, video (and a few games). It had a simple interface which was notable less for the click wheel, and more for the fact that you didn’t have to look at it to use it. This made the device usable by the visually impared — something that is not true for smart phones today, which have no tactile feedback

Did the iPod Classic have its problems? Sure. There are those that complained about the hard disk, but the hard disk is suitably reliable if you realize it is a hard disk and treat it carefully. SSD may be more robust to vibrations, but it has more significant wear issues over time. There are iPods from its first introduction that are still being used. How long does your SSD device last?

There is a complaint about sound quality, but that comes from people who want lossless audio. You could store lossless audio on the iPod, but space limitations rapidly hit you. There is the Pono player coming out that encourages lossless, but it has a horrible form factor and doesn’t solve the space problem: you have 64G internal, and up to 128G on an SSD card that you can swap for different libraries.

Apple has written off the true music collector. Had they come up with a simple update to the iPod Classic that moved it to the lightning connector and a 500GB or 1TB drive, they would have had a significant sales bump as all those people currently owning Classics replaced them. They opted not to, because they see their future in streaming and leasing music, not selling music and supporting the listener.

As for me? I truly love having my entire music collection with me at all times. It allows me to listen to all of it — and to all of it I do (I have playlists that help). My iPod is with me on the van in the morning, in the background playing while I work, providing podcasts on the way home, and playing music to put me to sleep. It plays and is used in environments where a phone cannot stream — on the LA Metro underground, on an airplane, and in other isolated locations. As such, I’ve already got a backup iPod Classic 160GB in the shipping stream — I’ll alternate it with my current player, which I play 8-10 hours daily, and which has 34,606 songs (and 34,899 tracks overall). I’ll look into other players if they offer the same storage and can move my iTunes metadata. Of course, I could always just upgrade the drive to 240GB. Once I have a backup, that might be an option. That might just do me for a while…

…a few months, at least  :-).

Music, Rhythm, and Feet

Written By: cahwyguy - Wed Sep 10, 2014 @ 11:47 am PDT

Earth/quaked with Savion Glover | Muse/iqueNormally, I pick the shows that we see. So when my wife points to an ad for some shows and says “Get tickets for this”, I do it with nary an additional question. Recently, this happened with an ad for Muse/ique (FB), a counter-cultural orchestra event. She was reading the LA Times when she saw an ad for a concert event with Savion Glover (with a half-off discount code). She brought it to me and asked me to get tickets. I did, and Sunday evening saw us on the lawn at Beckman Mall at CalTech for a concert titled “Earth/quaked: Dance Changes the World“. I’m very pleased that I went. I do, however, need to apologize in advance for two things: First, I apologize for for the delay in this writeup — I’ve been busy with MoTAS business the last two nights. Secondly, I apologize for the briefness of the summary of the show and lack of complete credits — the closest thing to a program that was provided was a fan with some information, and I’m going from memory for the rest.

Let me start with some observations about the setup, which was remarkably civilized. One hears “concert on the lawn”, and one things this means bringing blankets and folding chairs. Not for Muse/ique (FB). There were tables set up on the lawn in distinct seating areas: upfront for the special patrons, in the middle for the premium assigned seats, and even tables of 6 for the festival seating (where we were) in the back. You could buy food at the catering tent in the back, or you could bring your own food in. Unlike the Hollywood Bowl or other such venues, there was no bag check — no limitations on bottles or what you could bring in. Further (and this really surprised me), no one ever asked to see my ticket! Each of our festival seating tables had a small bag of hard candy and a few fans that served as the concert program. Very, very, civilized.

The show itself had a wide variety of music, presented by the Muse/ique Counter-Conventional Orchestra. I’m going from memory, but the compositions (in order were): A medley by Lennon/McCartney, A medley from “West Side Story” (Bernstein), a clip of Bill “Bojangles” Robinson dancing with Shirley Temple, a recording of Mr. Bojangles sung by Sammy Davis Jr., a composition or two by Alan Steinberger, a longer medley of music by Duke Ellington (one of his suites), concluding with a long medley of Vivaldi. Starting with Mr. Bojangles, Savion Glover joined the orchestra. Glover, if you recall, was the man behind “Bring in ‘da Noise, Bring in ‘da Funk“, and his dancing during this show exemplified his philosophy of tap: that tap dancing is a form of music and that one can create music with the feet. Bojangles was straightforward emotional tap, but by the later numbers (especially in the Vivaldi piece), Glover’s feet were a part of the orchestra. Of course, being the back we could only see the dancing through the few big screen monitors that had been set up; but with Glover, this is dancing meant to be heard. I’ll also note that there was one segment that featured a display of artwork by davidkremers, a visitor in Aerospace at Caltech…. which was accompanied only by the sounds of Glover’s feet dancing.

The orchestra at Muse/ique was under the direction of Rachael Worby (FB), the artistic director of Muse/ique. It was a very large orchestra featuring the following artists: VIOLIN I / Roger Wilkie, Agnes Gottschewski, Grace Oh, Mei Chung, Shelly Shi, Hana Kim / VIOLIN II / Tammy Hatwan, Neel Hammond, Alwyn Wright, Simeon Simeonov / VIOLA / Shawn Mann, Rodney Wirtz, Brett Banducci / CELLO / Kim Scholes, Joo Lee, Ginger Murphy / BASS / Mike Valerio, Geoff Osika / FLUTE / Sara Weisz, Sal Lozano / OBOE / Jennifer Johnson / CLARINET / Amanda McIntosh, Damon Zick / BASSOON / Anthony Parnther, Samantha Duckworth / HORN / Kristy Morrell, Amy Sanchez / TRUMPET / Marissa Benedict, TJ Tesh / TROMBONE / Mike Hoffman / TUBA / Blake Cooper / TIMPANI / Theresa Dimond / KEYBOARD / Alan Steinberger / PERCUSSION / Jason Goodman / DRUM / Jamie Tate / ELECTRIC BASS / Mike Valerio… and of course, as Worby noted, / FEET / Savion Glover :-).

There were no technical credits, which is too bad because the sound designer ensured that the sound was clear throughout the mall, and the lighting designer used LED lighting very effectively to convey mood.

This was the end of the Muse/ique performances for the summer, but they do plan on activities over the year. Next summer’s program will focus on Leonard Bernstein, and we plan to be back. For future reference, they do appear to list tickets on 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:  This coming weekend bring “Moon Over Buffalo” (Goldstar) at the GTC in Burbank. The remainder of September brings  Bat Boy: The Musical” at CSUN for the Friday night before Slichot (9/19),  “What I Learned in Paris” at The Colony Theatre (FB) on Sat 9/27, and “The Great Gatsby” at Repertory East (FB) on Sun 9/29. October currently has two shows (three if you count Yom Kippur on 10/4): “Don’t Hug Me, We’re Married” at the Group Rep (FB) on Sat 10/18 (when Karen is at PIQF), and “Pippin” at the Pantages (FB) on 10/25. 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. I’d love to get down to San Diego to see either (or both) of “Bright Star“, the new Steve Martin/Edie Brikell musical, at The Old Globe Theatre (FB) (September 13-November 2), or “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” (based on the Disney film) at The La Jolla Playhouse (FB) (October 25-December 2), but I’m not sure either would work in the schedule.  As for December, right now I’m just holding one date: “She Loves Me” at Chance Theatre (FB) in Anaheim on 12/20. 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.

 

 

Thoughts on War

Written By: cahwyguy - Mon Sep 08, 2014 @ 11:31 am PDT

userpic=war-not-healthyFor the last few weeks, I’ve been thinking about war. Specifically, I’ve been thinking about some situations going on in the world that might draw us into war. I was thinking… and thinking… and so wrote the first version of this post… and promptly sat on it for a week. Today, while perusing news.google.com over lunch, it highlighted an article from Fox News titled “An open letter to Barack Obama: World War III is here“, by that noted political historian, Larry Gatlin of the Gatlin Brothers (i.e., a country singer). However, as his attitude appears to be echoing something I’m hearing from some on the Conservative side of the spectrum, and because it fits within this post, I’d like to explore it in this post:

Ukraine. This, perhaps, is the most “traditional” potential World War. We have one government (Russia) annexing or taking territory belonging to another country (Ukraine), ostensibly to protect the interests of their people in the area. To those familiar with Europe, this looks a lot like the early days of WWII, where Germany was having a lot of territorial ambitions against neighboring countries. At that time, the US stood mostly aloof. Not quite neutral (we were on the side of the Western countries — UK, France), but we weren’t putting troops on the ground. In fact, we didn’t do a massive troops-on-the-ground effort until our territory (Hawaii) was attacked and war was declared against us.

So what should the US do here? This is an old-fashioned war — government armies against government armies over specific territories. But it is also a war that really doesn’t involve US interests, and history might say we should stay uninvolved unless attacked. NATO is a complicating matter — if Ukraine is a NATO-signatory, then we are obligated to defend her. So how does a desire to avoid war balance against a design to prevent history from repeating itself?

It is important to note that as this is government against government, sending in bombers could be viewed as an act of war against a particular government, making the conflict worse.

Syria/Iraq. Here we have a very different war, but also a war with World War echoes. Here we have a fundamentalist religious group, terrorist in nature, not associated with a specific recognized sovereign state government attempting to take territory and establish a new sovereign state (caliphate). Along the way, they are conducting religious and ethnic cleansing of anyone not of their fundamentalist persuasion. They haven’t (yet) attacked American soil, but they have attacked and killed American citizens. In fact, these latter atrocities have incited many conservatives to call for full-out war against the group (ISIS/ISIL).

A major problem here is the nature of the warring parties. Whereas one can control a government and get them to retreat, one cannot wipe out a terrorist group. We can reduce their effectiveness, but there will always be pockets that will come back (look at the Taliban as a good example). It is like trying to wipe-out gangs in a city–as long as there is one member left, it can come back. There is also no clear victory condition, as the governments that remain in the area are often no better and certainly no stronger. That, in fact, was the problem with the previous Iraq/Al Quaida war: there was no clear victory condition — in fact, one can argue that we never “won” as Al Quaida still exists.

Troops-on-the-ground and a World War is not the answer here — we’ve already seen how ineffective that is in the area. This is not a traditional war where grunt soldiers are effective. In fact, normally we wouldn’t care about this conflict except (a) we don’t ever want to permit ethnic cleansing to occur again; (b) being a terrorist group, they will continue to attack America; and (c) there are interests in the area to protect. [Yes, two journalists were killed. Journalism -- especially front line journalism -- is a risky job, and people get killed in risky jobs] Perhaps the approach here is what we are doing — surgical airstrikes, drone attacks, and perhaps specifically-targeted special forces. We might offer various groups safe-haven, but given current attitudes towards immigration… This may be a case where the answer is to evacuate those at risk who want out, then lock the doors and let the fighting take place in the arena.