Observations Along the Road

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

Climb Up the Hill

Written By: cahwyguy - Fri May 13, 2016 @ 7:54 am PDT

userpic=nixonAs I clear out the News Chum, some political news chum. If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m settled on being a Hillary supporter. Is she perfect? By no means. In some ways, I feel like PJ O’Roarke (a conservative commentor) on his “ringing” endorsment of Hillary on last week’s Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me:

“I am endorsing Hillary, and all her lies and all her empty promises,” O’Rourke continued. “It’s the second-worst thing that can happen to this country, but she’s way behind in second place. She’s wrong about absolutely everything, but she’s wrong within normal parameters.”

Of course, being a Hillary supporter can be dangerous. On my Facebook feeds, I found a wonderful article about that danger. It noted how, if you come out about supporting Hillary, you’ll often be attacked by the rabid Bernie supporters, and be barraged about all sorts of lies about Hillary’s character. What they forget is this: despite all the wishing by Bernie supporters and the various machinations attempted (getting California Republicans to reregister and vote for Bernie; gaming Superdelegates), it is mathematically highly unlikely that Bernie will get the nomination; he is also way behind in the total number of votes against Hillary. The article about the danger of being a Hillary supporter had this great quote:

Hillary is not a perfect candidate. There are many valid criticisms of her, and she has certainly made mistakes in her 30-year political career. I don’t regard her as a pinnacle of political purity. In fact, I disagree with her on several issues. I agree with many people that we need campaign finance reform, and I see the hypocrisy in her calling for campaign finance reform while simultaneously benefiting from the current law. But to me, the presidency encompasses so much more than the mechanics of a campaign, and Hillary Clinton’s approach to policy aligns with my own more closely than any other candidate. I believe she is by far the most qualified candidate in either field to lead this country, and my support for her isn’t all about pragmatism — believe it or not, she inspires me. She has been attacked and knocked down and had her name dragged through the mud by Republicans for decades, and she is still standing, still fighting. I admire her resilience, her capacity for compromise, and her toughness. I support her with joy and without apology.

I’ve heard people question how it’s possible that Clinton is winning the election when you hear so little from her supporters online. One reason your Facebook feed isn’t brimming with glowing pro-Clinton posts is because when you say nice things about Hillary Clinton online, you will face a barrage of ridicule and spite from purer, more “progressive” liberals. If you know you’re undoubtedly going to be taken to task over posting a video clip that inspired you, you may think twice about sharing it. Sometimes I don’t feel like playing defense with multiple people in the comment section who are attacking my integrity. It’s exhausting.

For me — and I’ll emphasize this for me — she is the only candidate out there with deep experience in foreign policy at the national level, deep experience in running an executive department of the federal government and in interacting with other federal departments, deep experience in working with Congress and testifying before Congress. She has seen firsthand what it takes to head national interests, and how to work those through Congress. This is a level of experience that neither Donald, Bernie, or Gary have.

But, you say, the email server incident. Here’s an interesting article on that from the LA Times. The article notes:

Most legal experts, including a number of former federal prosecutors, believe that Clinton faces little risk of being prosecuted for using the private email system to conduct official business when she served as secretary of State.

Using a private email system was not banned at the time, her supporters note, and other senior government officials also have used personal email to transact official business.

[…]

The primary question is whether Clinton or her aides distributed classified material in email systems that fell outside the department’s secure classified system.

Even if prosecutors determine that she did, the chances that she will be found criminally liable are low, experts say. Federal law makes it a crime only if someone knowingly or willfully retains classified information, handles it in a grossly negligent manner or passes it along to someone not entitled to see it.

But, you say, she’s a warmonger? Is she? Read her position on war and peace, where there’s doesn’t be a desire to have war for war’s sake. Read her interview with the LA Times, where she notes:

Clinton:  Well, first, I always believe that military force should be the choice of last resort, not the first choice at all. And I, as secretary of State, advocated for what I call smart power. And part of that was to elevate the role of diplomacy and development  after what had been the eight prior years of much heavier emphasis on military solutions to all of the challenges that we faced.

I’ve asked this before on Facebook, and only one person read it right and took up me on the challenge: instead of telling me why Hillary is bad, tell me why your candidate is better. Specifically, tell me policy areas where your candidate has a better policy proposal, and compare and contrast it with the opposition with respect to their policy in that area. Tell me the assessment of whether that policy proposal is achievable — both whether it could get through Congress and the cost estimates for the proposal on the Federal Budget — and the impact of those costs. Let’s focus on a positive, policy-based, discussion.

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The Future of Music

Written By: cahwyguy - Fri May 13, 2016 @ 7:25 am PDT

userpic=white-ipodEven though I’m on vacation this week, I’ve still been reading news and collecting articles. One subject that has been popular this week has been Apple, iTunes, Apple Music, and the future. Here are some of the discussions that caught my eye:

  • All About the Benjamins. A number of articles have been circulating about the skyrocketing value for older iPods, such as this article, which notes that the U2 edition of the iPod is now supposedly fetching $90K, but of course only if it was factory-sealed in its box. To us old timers, this sounds like the Cabbage Patch Doll craze of many years ago, or the Beanie Baby craze. iPods are meant to be used: to hold music, to play music, to be the center of your musical life. They are not meant to remained boxed. I have two iPod Classics, each modified to have a 512GB SSD memory instead of the 160GB Hard Disk, and I use them everyday (in fact, I’m using one of them as I write this up: currently playing, “Fireflies” by Vana Mazi from the album Izam Anav).
  • W3C, DRM, EME, and other Acronyms from Hell. Yesterday, on Boing Boing, was an open letter from the Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF) to W3C (the Web Advisory Council) about their stance on new DRM (Digital Rights Management) technology for the web. They are creating a video DRM standard designed to prevent people from implementing it unless they have permission from the big movie and TV companies, by invoking the notorious Digital Millennium Copyright Act and its international equivalents. Earlier in the week there had been a similar article about how earlier attempts at DRM could have killed iTunes and the iPod. That article noted that “iTunes was able to become a powerhouse in music by allowing Apple customers to legally format-shift their digital music. The fact that the RIAA hated this, said it was (or should be) illegal, and tried to stop them didn’t mean that Apple couldn’t go on.” I’ve been format-shifted music I own for years, and there’s nothing that can stop it (especially if you’re willing to go the old analog route, and actually do analog re-recordings of music). I do analog recording from LPs, CDs, and cassettes; digital ripping of CDs, and purchase music digitally. Back when I was much younger, I even recorded off of AM or FM radio (that’s how we used to “stream” music 🙂 ).  I’m of the belief that people should actually own copies of the music they listen to; if they do, they should have the ability to format-shift their purchase so they can use it.
  • iTunes and Destroying the Will to Collect Music. However, these days, collecting music has gotten much harder. Our interfaces to manage the music doesn’t help — witness how many people complain about iTunes (which is likely still the largest music manager for MP3 players and their brethren).  Here’s one man’s story about how iTunes destroyed his desire to collect music. What with fears about iTunes replacing carefully curated tracks with similar versions on the cloud, to the tendancy of iTunes to lose tracks or delete music, the ability to manage a collection — especially large collections — gets difficult. I can understand the concern. If you’ve visited our house, you know I have a large collection of LPs and CDs (and once upon a time had a very large collection of cassettes recorded from those LPs and CDs). I have just under 38,000 tracks in iTunes, and plan to add more. I recognize how I’ve grown tied to iTunes and its play counts and ratings, as well as how easy it is for iTunes to screw up and lose music.
  • iTunes vs. Apple Music. But the music industry may be trying to screw listeners once again. There are conflicting stories out there about how Apple is going to kill the iTunes store within 2 years; but then again, it may not. The conflict (and the reason for the conflicting reports) is the movement to streaming music (which I view as an insidious plot). Supposedly… Apple wants to get out of the profitable business of “selling” people music through the iTunes store, and replace it with the streaming of music through Apple Music, where you can stream tracks you are leasing (but I put “selling” in quotes, because in someways it was leasing as well, because Apple could delete the trick, or might have DRMed the track). I tend to side with the folks that say Apple isn’t doing this now, simply because it is a profit center. I think the risk of it going away is there, especially if more people move to storage in the cloud and a streaming model. Luckily, I think the artists still want to have the ability to get music in the hands of their fans — be it  through download, CDs, or other means. I have yet to hear rumors that Amazon is getting out of the digital music field — and I always get my music through Amazon if I can as they do not DRM protect their tracks; I subsequently import them into iTunes (which moves them out of Amazon Music’s reach).

So what is the upshot of these articles. I think it is simple. People have always wanted to own the music of the artists they like: be it sheet music in the early days, LP recordings through much of the 20th century, cassette records, and later CDs and digital tracks. With recording technology, they like — and need — the ability to format shift their music to formats of their choosing. They also need the ability to pass their music collections to their children (something that may be difficult to do). We should not be forced to buy new copies of recordings we own every few years, despite what the music companies claim.

As for Streaming Music: Streaming music is demon spawn. It is a reinvention of the radio, but under your control. However, with streaming, you not only pay for the music, you pay for the bandwidth used to deliver it. Further, the streamers can lose the ability to send you the music at any time. Further, it is only good if you have a signal to stream the music. Fight streaming. Purchase your music, record it to a format you can use, and just play from your collection — non-streaming or local (i.e., your house) streaming. Oh, and that iPod Classic you’ve got in your closet — don’t sell it as a Cabbage Patch MP3 Player, and don’t throw it away. Replace the hard disk with SSD, load it up, and use it. You can have your entire music collection with you, and listen to the songs you want.

What We Call Making an Exit 👴 “Endgame” @ CTG + “Carney Magic”

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun May 08, 2016 @ 6:45 pm PDT

Endgame (Kirk Douglas)userpic=ahmansonIf you attend musicals, there are classic composers and lyricists that you should see. Similarly, if you attend plays, there are seminal playwrights (in addition to Shakespeare). One of these is Samuel Beckett, a 20th century author of a number of absurdist comedies. Currently, the  Center Theatre Group/Kirk Douglas Theatre (FB) is doing one of these plays (Endgame, 1957); it has the added benefit of being directed by one of the few actor/directors left that actually worked with Beckett when he was alive, Alan Mandell (FB). When we discovered that Endgame was on the Kirk Douglas schedule while seeing a show at the Ahmanson, we decided we should take advantage of Hottix and catch it. We were able to get seats, and so after a lovely dinner at Picnic LA (FB), we entered the absurd world of Samuel Becket.

Endgame is hard to describe. It is a four character play. The lead is Hamm (Alan Mandell (FB)), an old man confined to a wheelchair, who is unable to walk and unable to see. Taking care of him is Clov (Barry McGovern), who may be his son (it is unclear). Clov is unable to sit down. Near him, in two ashbins, are Hamm’s elderly parents, Nagg (James Greene) and Nell (Charlotte Rae, at our performance, alternating with Anne Gee Byrd (FB)). They do not have legs. The setting, which Beckett is very particular about (i.e., no interpretations allows) is a small empty space. Left and right back, high up, are two small windows, curtains drawn. At the front right is a door. Hanging near door, its face to wall, a picture. There are the two ashbins, front left, touching each other. Hamm is in the center, in an armchair on castors, initially covered with an old sheet.

The play consists of Clov taking care of Hamm, and Hamm directing Clov to do various things. At points Clov tries to go away, but he rarely succeeds for long, being constantly called back to take care of Hamm. Nagg and Nell interact with each other for a bit, but Nell passes away at some point. Nagg also interacts with Hamm, being requested to listen to a story the Hamm wants to tell after Clov refuses to listen to it. At the end of the play, Clov finally indicates that his leaving. He then stands there, dressed to go, while Hamm continues on believing he has been abandoned.

You can find a more detailed plot summary at SparkNotes. You can actually find the text of the play at the Samuel Beckett website.

One of the questions I had watching this play is: What led Beckett to write this? After all, it is such a strange play, it is difficult to see how the situation and dialog could come to a playwright. But I guess that’s why I’m not a playwright. Beckett wrote this play during an era when Theatre of the Absurd was popular. It was a post WWII-style. According to Wikipedia, Theatre of the Absurd focused largely on the idea of existentialism and expressed what happens when human existence has no meaning or purpose and therefore all communication breaks down, in fact alerting their audiences to pursue the opposite. Logical construction and argument gives way to irrational and illogical speech and to its ultimate conclusion, silence. It is up to the audience to decide the meaning of the piece.

Endgame Publicity PhotosAs I’m a Professional Audience™ PEND , here are my thoughts on meaning.

The primary thought that kept going through my head while watching the performance was the relationship of my wife to her mother. Her mother is in assisted living right now, dealing with mental deterioration. The resulting relationships of parent to child, caregiver to caregivee, is a lot like the relationship between Clov and Hamm. Hamm is elderly and utterly dependent on Clov to feed him, clothe him, give him medicine, and fulfill his every need. Hamm is also non-sensical, often living in the past, at times petulant and vindictive, not caring about those around him, gruff and bitter, and at other times resigned. If you have ever seen a parent dealing with cognitive impairment or Alzheimers, that is exactly the behavior. Clov, on the other hand, is like any adult child taking care of such a parent. He keeps wanting to leave, wanting to have his own life, but is trapped in the endgame of taking care of his parent because he’s the only one who is able to do so. This game has worn him down so that any love that has been there has been replaced by forced duty, forced obligation. Whatever relationship there once was has been eroded away. At the end of the play, Clov finally decides to be his own man and walk away and take care of himself for one — but never quite makes it out.

So what about Nagg and Nell. I think they were the memories of the parents in the mind of Hamm. Often, for such patients, they are living in a quasi-world where both the past and the present exist in their mind. Clov was required to play along with the artiface, as caregivers often do.

There are some wonderful lines in the production that seem to support my interepretation:

  • Sometimes I wonder if I’m in my right mind. Then it passes over and I’m as lucid as before.
  • Sometimes I wonder if I’m in my right senses. Then it passes off and I’m as intelligent as ever.

I’ve certainly felt that way.

That’s the primary interpretation that was in my head. The secondary interpretation was more of a joke, but as I thought about it… it made quite a bit of sense: Endgame is a political argument on Facebook. Hamm represents the person posting the initial article and defending it with all sorts of convoluted argument. The argument draws people into a discussion they can never quite leave, and into which they get trapped — until they just decide to walk away. Nell and Nogg, in this case, are side digressions that support the story but go in unexpected directions. The fact that everyone in the discussion is crippled in one way or another is a representation of the fact that nobody on Facebook is playing with a full deck.

But Beckett couldn’t have been talking about Facebook. After all, it didn’t exist in era when the play was written.

In general, the story focuses on the larger issue of dependency, and the dispair that dependency can bring to us. Hamm is dependent on Clov. Clov on Hamm (he has the keys to the larder). Nagg on Hamm. And so far. As we are dependent for longer, we become handicapped by our dependency, and it traps us. The term “Endgame” refers to the chess position where the final set of moves are dictated and cannot be changed. Our dependency traps us into an endgame. How do we escape? Nell makes that clear: she escapes by dying, after she refuses to be dependent on Nagg. At the end, has Clov refused enough to escape? We never find out.

The discussion above is the demonstration of one important take-away about this performance: it was good enough to make people think about a variety of subjects. It provided the ability for the elderly cast (I don’t think there has been a cast this elderly on stage since the last production of 70 Girls 70) to demonstrate their expertise with Beckett — this was a rare chance to see some of the foremost Beckett performers on one stage. It was at points humorous, sad, befuddling,  touching, relevant and irreverent. It was outstanding.

Normally, at this point, I would turn to a discussion about the performances. All were spectacular, and it was difficult to single anyone out. Central to the story were the spot on performances of Alan Mandell (FB) and Barry McGovern. These are foremost interpreters of Beckett; they know how to convey every nuance of the story. Our Nagg (James Greene) and Nell (Charlotte Rae, at our performance, alternating with Anne Gee Byrd (FB)) worked well together; I hesitate to say chemistry, for that implies there is a reaction between the two. I think the overall ensemble was just interesting to watch.  Note that Ned Schmidtke was the understudy for the male roles.

Turning to the production and creative side: The overall production was directed by Alan Mandell (FB), whose experience with Beckett was demonstrated in the overall ensemble and portrayal. John Iacovelli (FB)’s scenic design captured well the bleakness that Beckett intended from the text: a cold-grey stone castle, with two inset grey windows, grey dustbins, dirty dropcloths, grey clothing. A world of despair, with nothing to live for except the life from the characters. Maggie Morgan (FB)’s costume designs were equally bleak: grey, black, and dark-brown bed clothes and suits, adding to the atmosphere. Jared A. Sayeg (FB)’s lighting design was strong, as usual: mostly white lights, often kept dimmer, adding to bleakness. A lack of color. Cricket S. Myers (FB)’s sound design was what a good sound design should be: unnoticeable. The few sound effects that were present worked well. Rounding out the production credits: Susie Walsh (FB) [Production Stage Manager]; John Sloan (FB) (Assistant Director); Brooke Baldwin (FB) [Stage Manager]. Michael Ritchie is the Artistic Director for Center Theatre Group.

One last note: After the performance, there was an audience discussion on the meaning of Endgame. This discussion was led by Isabella Petrini (FB), and was excellent. Isabella also curated the Endgame game in the foyer, and we had the pleasure of talking to her before the show. Isabella’s company, Bae Theatre (FB), has a show at the upcoming Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB): Matt and Ben. It sounds interesting, and is written by Mindy Kaling. Alas, I have already booked my schedule, and do not have room to fit it in, but figured I would mention it.

Endgame continues through May 22 at the  Center Theatre Group/Kirk Douglas Theatre (FB). Tickets are available through the Center Theatre Group online. Hottix may be available. All offers for Endgame on Goldstar have expired, but tickets are available to the next show at the Kirk Douglas.

* 🎭 🎭 🎭 *

Carney Magic (Colony)userpic=colonyAt the last minute, an opportunity arose for live performance today as well. As you recall, The Colony Theatre (FB) had gone dark due to financial problems, although there was the option for subscribers to potentially attend lease events. One such event was this weekend: Carney Magic, an encore performance of a previous successful lease. Carney Magic is what is purports to be: 90 minutes of sleight of hand magic by magician John Carney (FB).

So, how was the magic? Entertaining. I couldn’t see how it was done, but it was also a relatively straightforward slight of hand show. There was audience participation. There was humor.

I think the larger question for me was: This fellow is entertaining and does corporate shows. Is this a possibility for ACSAC in December? That I haven’t decided yet. I want to see Einstein at the Fringe Festival first.

I will note there was one thing that was sad about the show: seeing the lobby and waiting area at the Colony. Evidently, it is a full-on lease house now, and all the photos of past productions are down. All of the furniture and old props are out, replaced by simple uncomfortable seats. The art gallery is empty of art. The character is gone. I felt like I was identifying a corpse in a hospital, and that was sad. The patient may not be dead yet, but she’s definitely moved out to either Board and Care or Assisted Living, and it was sad. We may, alas, be in the Endgame period for the Colony. And that’s sad.

Production credits for Carney Magic: Written and manipulated by John Carney (FB). Produced by John Carney (FB) and PFC Entertainment. Additional material by Jim Steinmeyer. Technical coordination by Genetra Tull.

We saw the last performance of this incarnation of Carney Magic.

* 🎭 🎭 🎭 *

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 week sees us in the Bay Area for our daughter’s graduation from Berkeley. While there, we are seeing the Landmark Musical Theatre (FB)’s West Coast Regional Premiere of The Boy from Oz (but pay no attention to that production behind the curtain at the Celebration Theatre (FB) — if they start the same day, they are simultaneous premieres and both have equal bragging rights). We will also 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.

CyberChum: Selected Technological Links of Interest

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat May 07, 2016 @ 12:54 pm PDT

userpic=cyborgOver lunch, let’s continue the clearing of the accumulated links. This collection of links all relates to technology in some way:

  • Safe Exchanges. Have you ever purchased something over Craigslist, but then been worried about meeting the other person in a safe place to exchange the items. If so, did you know that many cities have established safe exchange zones, where the exchanges can take place under a security camera in a public place.  You can find the safe exchange location near you by clicking here.
  • Google Keyboard Updates. Google is updating its Android keyboard again. For example, one of the most useful changes is a fine cursor control: just tap and hold on the space bar and you can slide the cursor to where you want it to go. Suggestions are also smarter, as you can touch and drag away one that you don’t like to the trash. This can cut down on those typos that got saved into Google’s memory. There’s a one handed mode, and a 9-key layout for entering numbers.
  • Extending Gmail. Another Google related article: 5 Chrome extensions that enhance Gmail.
  • Cables: Keep or Toss. Here’s a good explanation of all those cables you find around the house. I disagree a bit with his recommendations on what to keep or toss. For example, I’ll keep 30-pin Apple connection cables, but that’s simply because we have 3 iPod Classics in this house. I also would tend to keep VGA, but that’s simply because the ACSAC projectors use VGA. We also still tend to use RCA/Composite cables, but that’s because we haven’t gone to digital TVs.
  • Hacking Airplanes. The aviation industry is waking up to the need for cybersecurity. About damn time.
  • Ransomware. Ransomware is now the biggest cybersecurity threat. It certainly is a large worry for me, especially when I see a lot of disk activity or a file goes missing. Here are some good tips to stop ransomware in its tracks. I particularly like the advice to backup to an external drive that does not remain connected to your system. That’s what I’ve been doing of late.

 

Design Considerations

Written By: cahwyguy - Fri May 06, 2016 @ 9:24 pm PDT

userpic=clutterContinuing to clear out the accumulated links… Here are three interesting articles all having to do with design. Tomorrow, you’ll get a chum post on computer stuff, followed by some tasty stew:

  • Making Cities Hostile. Cities are increasingly becoming more hostile to the homeless and downtrodden. You see it if you know where to look. As the linked article notes, historically, landowners and city planners have kept sections of the population at bay by incorporating defensive design features into the architecture: spiked fences; barbed wire; a castle moat. In the 21st century, however, overt deterrents like these have given way to subtler features aimed at exerting social control, and keeping unwanted groups out. Hostile architecture, also known as defensive architecture, exists on a spectrum. At one end are the overt design features that are obvious to anyone walking by—like spikes and fences. At the other end, says Petty, are the design elements in which “the hostile function is often embedded under a socially palatable function.” A prime example is street furniture, particularly public benches. Think of all those strips that establish seats: they also make it impossible for someone to sleep there. The article goes into more detail.
  • Bowling Alleys. We all remember the bowling alleys. Greasy coffee shops. Bright lights. Ugly shirts. Bowling leagues. That’s all changing. There is a movement afoot to transform bowling alleys into the-sexy. The renovations have preserved many elements of the classic midcentury designs of these sites, but ultimately left them with a more sleek and modern vibe. Flatscreens and projectors are everywhere, not only displaying goofy animations after a strike or gutterball, but broadcasting sports or TV shows. The lights are dimmed and the lanes are illuminated under a black light that makes the balls and pins glow. It makes for a clubby atmosphere meant to appeal to younger and more casual bowlers.
  • Oakland Tribune Tower. Here’s an interesting article on how the Oakland Tribune tower was repaired and rescued. There are some really vertigo inducing photos in the mix.

 

What is Truth?

Written By: cahwyguy - Fri May 06, 2016 @ 9:04 pm PDT

userpic=don-martinWhat is truth? How do we tell black from white? Here are a collection of stories where the truth may not be what you read:

 

Who Is The Customer?

Written By: cahwyguy - Fri May 06, 2016 @ 11:30 am PDT

userpic=theatre_ticketsI like to joke that with all the theatre that I attend, I’m a professional audience member.  On April Fools day 2015, I took that a step further, and announced the formation of a union for audience members: the League of Audiences, Fans, and Others Organized for Los-Angeles-Theatre. After a recent discussion with Colin over on Bitter Lemons, building off my post on how the Fringe Festival might treat its audience better, perhaps I shouldn’t have been joking.

In every business, you will have a producer, who produces a product or service, that is sold to the customer. You can often gain insight into the business, and the problems and risks, by understanding exactly who that customer is. Often it isn’t clear. For example, take Facebook? Who is the customer. If you think it is you the user, you’re wrong. Customers pay for goods and services. You get Facebook for free. So who is the customer? That’s right: the advertisers. Now ask yourself: What is the product? The answer is: your user data.

In terms of the theatre, it is an interesting question to ask. Let’s look at the Fringe Festival. To hear the lead organizers talk, it is the producers and actors. That’s pretty clear when you see all the workshops, and all the resources made available to the participants. When you go to the Hollywood Fringe website, and click on the big “Schedule” button — it asks you to schedule a show. Ticketing is at the single person level. Again: All geared towards the producers and actors. Where is the audience — and I should clarify, the TICKET PAYING audience — in the equation? Does Fringe central open up with the very first production for the audience? Can pins be obtained in advance? Is there a mechanism for people buying tickets for couples? Have arrangements been made for parking, or even recommendations? What information is provided to audience members before they arrive in terms of where to eat, where to park, where to pass time between shows? I think you know the answer. The Fringe Festival does not consider the audience their customer, at least at the present time.

How can the Fringe solve this problem? That’s easy: devote dedicated staff time to improving the audience experience.

At the other end of the spectrum, we have services like Goldstar, which Colin railes against in a recent post over on Bitter Lemons. His complaint there is about Goldstar’s skew towards the audience, where they provide loads of services. I note quite a few of them in my comments on that post:

  • An easy way to find shows of interest, from a wide-variety of venues — often, much wider than is available from either Footlights or LA Stage Tix
  • The ability to see reviews and recommendations about the shows and venues
  • The convenience of an easy to use online and app interface.
  • Discounted seats. Everyone likes to save money
  • For red-velvet members, the easy ability to cancel a show, without penalty, if plans change. That’s often priceless, and often makes me use Goldstar over another service where — if reviews indicate a show is a stinker, I’m stuck.
  • The ability to “star” shows and venues, so I can easily learn when a company or theatre I like has a new show, or when new tickets are available.
  • They cover lots of cities. I’ll be in the San Francisco area next week, and I’m seeing two shows. One I have tickets to from a Kickstarter (otherwise, it’s on Goldstar) — the Boy from Oz from Landmark Musicals. The other — ACT San Francisco’s Last 5 Years — is from Goldstar. I didn’t have to hunt around to find how to get discount tickets — or tickets at all — in a different city.

The primary complaint against Goldstar is that they often strong arm theatre to give large blocks of tickets to the service, and there is a push to make many of the complementary, which brings no income to the producer. He also complains about Goldstar’s fees, but as I note above, they do provide a lot of service for their fee (certainly more than Ticketmaster).  Note that the Fringe is that the other end of the spectrum: low fee, but low additional benefits for those ticketing through the service.

So, to bring this all home, what can we learn from all of this?

The Fringe has a producer and artist focus — and makes it difficult for the customer. Goldstar has great customer service, but with a big cost to the producer (of aggressive discounting). What is needed is balance: a complete understanding of all the customers — producers, artists, and audience. The successful approach — one that brings customers in and keeps them coming back  — is one that understands the need of all of them and benefits them all. I’m not sure yet that intimate theatre has found the right balance.

A West Coast Premier (Just Ignore that Show Behind the Curtain)

Written By: cahwyguy - Wed May 04, 2016 @ 11:38 am PDT

userpic=theatre_musicalsIf you’ve been following the media coverage of theatre in Southern California (for example, here), you know that last weekend marked the West Coast regional premiere of the musical The Boy From Oz at Celebration Theatre (FB). Reviewers and bloggers are gushing over how great the production is, and how it is nice to finally see the show on the West Coast. I haven’t seen the show yet, but knowing the caliber of Celebration’s work, I’m sure it is great. In fact, I had been planning to see it later in the run.

So what’s the problem?

The Southern California reviewers have blinders on to the fact that there is another West Coast premiere of the same show, starting the same date and the same time, from Landmark Musical Theatre (FB) in San Francisco. The Celebration production has April 22-28 and opened April 29 with no stated closing date. The Landmark production opened April 23 and runs to May 15. The Landmark production has also gotten good reviews, and is TBA (Theatre Bay Area) recommended.

I discovered the Landmark production when I was looking for Bay Area theatre to see while in Berkeley to attend my daughter’s graduation the weekend of 5/13. I had wanted to see Boy from Oz, and Landmark’s production was the only thing of interest that weekend, so I supported their Kickstarter and got tickets to their production instead of Celebration’s (since then, I’ve learned New Conservatory Theatre is doing On a Clear Day…, starting 5/13, so I’ll see if I can somehow work that in). I’m very curious how theatre in other cities compares with the LA ecosystem, and I’ve seen some great work in the Bay Area (Tabard Theatre (FB), TheatreWorks (FB)).

From my vantage point here in Los Angeles before the trip, however, it is as if the northern half of the state doesn’t exist. From reading coverage in Northern California, it is as if Los Angeles doesn’t exist. Neither acknowledges the other. To me, that’s wrong. We should be celebrating the Joint West Coast Premiere of The Boy From Oz. If you’re visiting down south, go to Celebration. If you’re up north, go to Landmark. I’m debating whether to go to both (budget and time permitting). Landmark’s show is in a 300-seat old theatre in Chinatown; Celebration is in a small 99-seat theatre in Hollywood.  This is Landmark’s second musical, and (as evidenced by their Kickstarters) has limited budget. Celebration is a well established company with some good industry support and connections; I’d expect some “fabulous”-ness in their production. The contrast should be quite interesting, just as when I saw Last 5 Years both at the Pasadena Playhouse and at REP East.

Good theatre is good theatre, whereever it is. We shouldn’t be blind in SoCal about the great NoCal theatre; and NoCal should recognize the great theatre scene we have here. Here’s an idea: Wouldn’t it be great to have an intimate theatre tour, bringing the best shows in intimate theatre throughout the state?