Observations Along the Road

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

Theatre Planning — Hollywood Fringe Edition

Written By: cahwyguy - Fri Apr 29, 2016 @ 7:58 pm PDT

userpic=fringeTicketing for the Hollywood Fringe Festival opens Sunday morning. Here are the shows that I’m currently planning to see, if they don’t break the budget. There are additional shows of interest that we couldn’t fit into the schedule. Note: This is just a paste of my favorites from the Fringe Website.

  • 30JJ OR BUST: THE WORLD IS MY UNDERWIRE. It’s surprisingly what comes up when you’re living as a 30-double-J in a 34-C world.
  • ALIEN VS. MUSICAL. What happens when the world of musical theatre meets the most terrifying alien in cinema history? The award winning ALIEN VS. MUSICAL returns for 2016 and it’s bigger and better than ever!
  • ALL ABOARD THE MARRIAGE HEARSE. Sean and Amy are a typical co-habitating, Catholic/Jewish couple who love each other and share common goals…sort of. Now, after four years, Amy wants to get married but Sean does not believe in the institution. The game is on! Don’t miss this acclaimed, international hit romantic comedy!
  • ALL THE BEST KILLERS ARE LIBRARIANS. In this action-packed comedy, Lauren Van Kurin (“King of Kong: A Musical Parody”) stars as a shy librarian recruited into the thrilling world of professional assassinations, international intrigue, and forbidden romance. **WINNER** Season Ten of “Serial Killers” at Sacred Fools Theater
  • CODE:197 DWB (DRIVING WHILE BLEWISH). Benny Lee Harris Lumpkins Jr, a.k.a. Ben-El David, a.k.a Benny Weinberg, or is it Benny Lee Harris Weinberg-Lumpkins, whatever, he is Blewish, a.k.a. Black and Jewish. Oy Vey! Sababa? Why Judaism? These questions are answered and more at the only Oneg at hff16. Special appearance by Diversidad.
  • EINSTEIN! Einstein comes back from the beyond. Upset with the way his image has been cheapened, he tells us the remarkable– sometimes harrowing, story behind relativity and his struggles as a father. Told through humor and heart, Jack Fry breathes life into one of the most intriguing icons of all time.
  • HAMLET . Shakespeare’s Hamlet cut and adapted for modern audiences. Set in the 1940s in a struggling Las Vegas with the mob as the Royal Family.
  • LAMPREY: WEEKEND OF VENGEANCE. Lamprey is having trouble with her husband at home, her partner was just murdered, Internal Affairs is riding her ass, and a homicidal killer is gunning for her. This might just be the best day of her life! The Lamprey premiered at Serial Killers at Sacred Fools.
  • MY BIG FAT BLONDE MUSICAL. It’s not over ’til the fat lady sings. My Big Fat Blonde Musical follows Terri as she fights her insecurities and learns to measure her worth by talent rather than the size of her pants.
  • MARK TWAIN ANSWERS ALL YOUR QUESTIONS. Fresh off his award-winning performance at last year’s Poe Show,* Mr. Mark Twain is back with his one man show! This June at the new Sacred Fools space, Mr. Mark Twain will be shooting out the lights with stories, observations, and general nonsense (with extra nonsense on the side). If he fools around long enough, he may even say something worth repeating.
  • SQUEEZE MY CANS. The Church of Scientology had actress Cathy Schenkelberg for 14 years; 5 years after leaving them behind, she has the courage to tell us all about it. This hilarious and horrifying story unfolds under the direction of Shirley Anderson.
  • SWEET LOVE ADIEU. Romeo and Juliet meets Monty Python in this hilarious comedy of errors from multiple award-winning British verse playwright phenomenon, Ryan J-W Smith. Winner – The International Award – Hollywood Fringe Festival 2015. “The Bard Mark II – Genius!” – BBC. “A damned good romp” – British Theatre Guide
  • TELL ME ON A SUNDAY. Directed by the award winning Calvin Remsberg and starring Shannon Nelson (“Drop Dead Gorgeous” and “Absolutely Filthy”), Andrew Lloyd Webber and Don Black’s classic one-woman musical that charts the course of an English hat designer’s romantic misadventures from NYC to LA and back again.
  • THE OLD WOMAN. The true life story of his mother’s heartbreaking journey into dementia, confronting the inevitable truth of aging, and coming to terms with his own mortality. A beautifully moving story peppered with moments of absolute joy and humor. “★★★★!” – CBC “Masterful storyteller” – WFP
  • THE TOXIC AVENGER MUSICAL. HFF FIRST FOR THIS OFF-BROADWAY HIT! A light-hearted rock musical chemical spill. Good versus evil, love versus murder, nuclear waste versus New Jersey. Based on **that** infamous B Movie, TOXIE is factory-run-off fun, but a bit risqué. (13 and up, please.)
  • TITUS ANDRONICUS JR.. Murder…Cannibalism…Kids! Shakespeare’s bloodiest play performed by a cast of middle school students under the direction of a teacher suffering a nervous breakdown… What could go wrong?

Some shows that we considered, but couldn’t fit in, included A Little Hamlet, Who Are You Anyway, Doctor in the House, Vintage Box, Charming, The Human Test Subjects, Suckin Injun, Still Got It, The Story of Dick the Pussycat, My Manana Comes, Quaddafi’s Cook—Living in Hell, Cooking for the Devil, and many others. Go to the website and click on shows: there are over 274 to choose from.

Tickets go on sale May 01, 2016


What We Eat, Where We Eat, How We Eat

Written By: cahwyguy - Fri Apr 29, 2016 @ 11:52 am PDT

userpic=pastramiAs I sit here eating my lunch, food is naturally on my mind. It may be on yours as well after this post. Here’s a collection of food related news chum: articles on what we eat, how we eat, and where we eat:

  • What We Eat: Marred Fruit. Our country wastes tons and tons of food each year because we’ve been led to believe by the media that our food must look perfect. Guess what? Not only does your food not have to look perfect, eating marred and ugly fruit may actually be healthier for you. It turns out that the mechanisms used by the plant to fight off infection from the damage actually makes the food better for you.
  • What We Eat: Avocados. Here, supposedly, is a method for ripening a rock-hard avocado in 10 minutes. I haven’t tried it yet.
  • What We Eat: Cracker Jack. Cracker Jack, that snack-food of Baseball, is ditching the prize in every box for a QR code. A sign of the times, but also (if you think about it) disenfranchising for the poor that cannot afford internet access or phones to read the codes.
  • What We Eat: Internal Impacts. It turns out that what we eat and drink has a significant impact on our internal microbiome. Coffee, tea, water, wine — these are loved by the biome. Sodas and artificial sweetners — bad for the biome. Foods like fruits, vegetables, yogurt and buttermilk can increase the diversity of bacteria in a person’s intestines. Foods containing loads of simple carbohydrates appear to reduce bacterial diversity in the gut. Of course, medicines we take have a big role as well. This cements my belief that we’ll soon discover the best weight loss method, and the best way to be healthy, is to treat our biomes right.
  • How We Eat: Exercise Doesn’t Help Lose Weight. Increasingly, the belief that you exercise to lose weight is turning out to be a myth. That’s not to say exercise is bad; rather, exercise is important for overall health and wellness. However, the calories you burn exercising just aren’t enough to make a significant dent in your weight.
  • How We Eat: The Clean Plate Club. If you are like me, you were brought up in the generation that believed you needed to clean your plate (for those starving children in China), and that it was a crime to waste food on your plate. Here’s an article that opines that plate size is a big reason for the obestity epidemic. Basically, the notion is that our plates have grown in size, and we were raised to “take a plateful and eat it all”. As such, we’re increasing portion sizes without realizing it. It is certainly something I’ve believed on the dining out side for a while: restaurants serve you too much food because food is cheap, and you need to see a lot of food to justify the prices you need to pay to cover labor. I think it is true at home as well. I’ve been consciously been trying to use smaller plates.
  • Where We Eat: Hollywood Bowl. There’s a new food lineup at the Hollywood Bowl this summer, and you can learn what it is in these pictures. This year, the Bowl has partnered with James Beard Award-winning chef Suzanne Goin and business partner Caroline Styne—the team behind local hotspots Lucques, A.O.C., Tavern and The Larder—to bring a range of delicious new dining options to the historic amphitheater. The new partnership will replace the Patina Restaurant Group, which will catered the venue’s numerous restaurants, markets, and food stands for over 15 years. The overhaul features all new offerings that will appeal to a wide variety of tastes, including everything from tacos and BBQ to wood-grilled fish and grab-and-go salads. The new food and drink options will be scattered throughout the venue, and will include a burger stand, a wine bar, a raw bar, a marketplace for sandwiches and salads, as well as several fine dining options. They’ll even have retro-style food trucks parked around the venue for quick bites.
  • Where We Eat: Portos. Here’s a great article on Portos Bakery, and the work required to keep it in operation. There is evidently method to the madness of the place. They are working on finding just the right balance between being busy, and being too busy that customers go elsewhere.
  • Where We Eat: Mexican Kosher Groceries. Here’s a neat article on a Catholic grocer in Mexico City that caters to the Jewish population needing to keep Kosher.

Presidential Musings, Take 2 (Updated)

Written By: cahwyguy - Tue Apr 26, 2016 @ 8:27 pm PDT

userpic=political-flakesA few weeks ago, I expressed some preliminary musings regarding the field of presidential candidates. Since then, I have been monitoring political news, increasing my focus on the political blogs I monitor (Electoral Vote, Electoral Projection, and FiveThirtyEight), and watching the posts as they come across Facebook. I’m starting to settle down (or just settle) for a particular candidate, and so I thought I would share you my thinking so far. I’ll note this is on the eve of the sample ballots being sent out in California.

Before I do, a comment on decorum. I’ve been writing of late about the importance of diversity. My opinions here have been been shaped by two excellent podcasts — one from Startup, and one from ReplyAll. I extend this importance to political diversity. Having the diversity of political opinions and views is vital to our country; it is the compromises achieved from those positions that tempers the extremes and often finds an approach that can be tolerated by all. Central to this diversity is the notion that reasoned people can, based on their experiences and circumstances, arrive at different views. Just as I do not want an echo chamber, I want the respect for the different views. If you cannot do that — if you can’t respect either the candidates or their supporters — then just don’t bother to comment. This reflects an evolution of my position since the days of Bush 43 where I did resort to such name calling. I now regret that.

Next a stipulation. I’m a Democrat in the mold of Hubert Humphrey (whatever happened to him 🙂 ). This tends to shape my overall position. As such, the current crop of Republican candidates are not under consideration. Donald Trump is, in my opinion, too unpredictable and unmeasured to be President. I would not have confidence in his having appropriate interactions with international leaders, or in his ability to work with Congress. I also do not like his stated positions. He is also, to put it bluntly, a bully (as demonstrated by his interactions with Ted Cruz and his making fun of Kasich). [ETA: He is also sexist and works to inflame differences.] Not presidential. As for Ted Cruz and John Kasich, they are eliminated from consideration, before any other consideration, because of their social positions (i.e., their views regarding equality and the role of Christianity in government). [ETA: Furthermore, I think a Republican President with a Republican Congress and a Republican-leaning Supreme Court will hurt this country. Even if the Presidential candidate is a moderate like Kasich, they won’t be able to veto overly conservative legislation from Congress because they need to support the party position, and the R-leaning Supreme Court will demonstrate, because it did in the past, that politics trumps justice. Nope. Cannot support a R candidate in the present political environment.]

That brings us down to the battle between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. I truly like the characterization of Hillary Clinton as the best candidate for the system we have now, and Bernie Sanders as the best candidate for the system we should have.  I also agree with the characterization that whether or not Bernie Sanders becomes the nominee, he has already won. Vox said this best: “Even in defeat in New York and most likely in the overall quest for the 2016 Democratic nomination, Bernie Sanders has already won in another, perhaps more important way: His brand of politics is the future of the Democratic Party.” Just as Trump is moving the Republican Party to the right, whether they win or lose; Sanders is moving the Democratic Party to the left. He has energized the young people with this view, and as we older Boomers move to the back of the picture and decrease in number, the Sanders view will become stronger. To the younger, strident, Sanders supporters: I urge you to remember this. Patience — something often not found in the young — will enable you to triumph in the long run.

Translation: This means that I’m leaning towards Hillary Clinton at this point. (more…)

The State of Theater Today 👩 “Anton in Show Business” @ Hudson Mainstage

Written By: cahwyguy - Mon Apr 25, 2016 @ 11:03 am PDT

Anton in Show Business (Hudson Mainstage)userpic=theatre_ticketsBack in mid-March, I received a very interesting press release about the forthcoming play “Anton in Show Business” (now running at the Hudson Mainstage (FB) through May 15th). The release (or some article I saw on the show) noted that a unique fact about this production was its all female production team: writer, director, producer, cast, creatives. Everyone except the guy who built the set was female. Given all the recent talk about diversity (both in the theatre, such as the Producers Perspective with Lynn Ahrens, or elsewhere, such as in the recent excellent episodes of both Startup and of Reply All), and the importance of having women (and minorities) both on-stage and in the creative and production positions — this was (alas) noteworthy.

Alas, the one possible weekend I could see the show was already booked. But then that changed. As a result, Sunday afternoon saw us in Hollywood for the all female Anton in Show Business, written by Jane Martin and directed by Nell Teare (FB).

Anton in Show Business tells the story of two New York actresses and one Hollywood star recruited to star in a production of Anton Chekhov’s Three Sisters in San Antonio, Texas. Along the way (i.e., as the story is told), theatrical conventions are skewered, the industry is criticized in many ways, comments are made about the power of critics, realities are exhibited about the power of producers… and of their “name” stars, and in general the curtain is pulled back to expose what theatre is really like (well, at least what the mysterious Jane Martin wants you to think theatre is really like — I wouldn’t know, being a cybersecurity guy).

This is all done on a very simple set: chairs, beds, tables, and that’s about it. The entire sense of story comes through costuming and the wonderful performance of the various characters.  The character who keeps things moving along is the stage manager, T-Anne. She introduces the sense of place, provides the interstitials when place changes or there is information of side significance. Also providing commentary are the three actresses — the Hollywood star Holly, the long-suffering off-Broadway actress Casey, and the newbie Lisabette. In many ways, the behavior of these three provides an echo of their counterparts in Three Sisters, Masha, Olga, and Irina. Additional commentary is provided by an “audience” member, Joby, who is also a critic.

Given the simplistic set, direction is key. Luckily, Nell Teare (FB)’s direction is spot-on, making these characters believable and amplifying the chemistry between the actresses. One would almost think she understood the commentary being made about the theatre personally.

In the lead positions were Gillian Shure (FB) as Holly, Anzu Lawson (FB) as Casey, and Dana Pollak (FB) as Lisabette. All three were a delight. Shure’s Holly projected a wonderful sense of self-importance and confidence that befit her character. She was also able to show the underlying vulnerability within her facade of bravada. Lawson’s Casey had that wonderful sense of “been there, done that”, which was appropriate for a character of her experience and lack of significant advancement. Lastly, there was Pollak’s ever cheerful Lisabette who was just a joy to watch.

Supporting these folks were a number of talented actresses who got to portray multiple characters. Courtney Sauls (FB) was not only the aforementioned stage manager T-Anne, but also Andwyneth (the Female African American Artistic Director of the San Antonio Black Rage Ensemble) as well as Don Blount (the Male VP of Tobacco Co, the corporate sponsor). Sauls was wonderful in all the roles, but I particularly enjoyed her stage manager and her single scene as Andwyneth. Just hilarious. Claudia de Vasco (FB) was Ralph (the arrogant gay British stage director), Wikewitch Konalkvis (the male Polish stage director), and Joe Bob (the Chairman of the Board of the San Antonio Black Rage Ensemble). de Vasco’s Ralph did a wonderful job of capturing the arrogance of British directors, as well as the overblown sense of importance of the Polish director. Lastly, Marguerite Insolia (FB) was Kate (the producer of the San Antonio Three Sisters), as well as Ben (a San Antonio actor and cowboy singer playing Vershinin), and Jackey (a gay male costume designer). We saw Insolia mostly in the role of Kate, where she had just the right sense of exasperation at the proceedings and her loss of control. She was also strong as Ben in her interactions with Shure’s Holly. Jesse Madera (FB) was Joby, the audience member and critic.

Katie Hall  (FB) was the understudy in the cast so we didn’t see her. Although the main cast was great, it would have been nice to see her as she was a REP East alumna.

Turning to the production and creative side: The production design was by Isabella Mack (FB), and was relatively simple in terms of set construction. No specific credit is given for costume design, so presumably Mack took care of that as well. The costumes were very good, especially the one for Andwyneth. Mack also handled the lighting design. No credits were provided for sound design, however Ashley Clark (FB) (whom we know from the Nigerian Spam Scam Scam (FB) team) was there. Ashley has handled those functions in other shows, so she might have been doing that here as well. Set construction was by the token male Aaron Lyons (FB). Sandra Kuker (FB) handled publicity. Lara Myrene (FB) was the real stage manager. Anton in Show Business was produced by Gillian Shure (FB) (which has greater significance, as the program notes this was under AEA’s Self Producing Plan (as opposed to the 99-Seat agreement that the #pro99 group is working to keep in a modified form).

Anton in Show Business continues at the Hudson Mainstage (FB) until May 15th. Tickets are available through Plays411.net. Discount tickets are available through Goldstar. This is a very funny show, well worth seeing.

* 🎭 🎭 🎭 *

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

Upcoming Shows: The last weekend of April will be the Four Clowns (FB) production of Lunatics and Actors at the LA Shakespeare Center on April 30. May starts with Endgame at the Kirk Douglas Theatre (FB). We then run off to 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 has a HOLD for Los Angeles: Then and Now, 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). As for June? It’s the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), and I’ve started to hold dates for the following shows: Alien vs. MusicalAll Aboard the Marriage HearseAll The Best Killers are LibrariansCode 197 DWB (Driving While Blewish)Qaddafi’s Cook — Living in Hell, Cooking for the DevilSqueeze My CansTell Me On A Sunday   Toxic Avenger: The Musical  ✨  Vintage BoxEinstein Titus Andronicus Jr.The Old Woman Sweet Love AdieuMy Big Fat Blond MusicalDoctor in the HouseHamlet (Las Vegas Style) ✨. But that’s just a small percentage; there are over 240 shows listed now.  We thought about Love The Body Positive, but then again… no. Can’t be scaring people.  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, a HOLD for 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.

For Your Seder Discussion: Kosher L’Pesach News Chum

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Apr 23, 2016 @ 9:44 am PDT

Observation StewFirst and foremost: to those who observe: May you have a happy Pesach (Passover). May your seder move you in ways that matzah never will. Here’s some accumulated news chum for the week for your Pesach discussions. I promise you they’ve only been thickened with potato starch:

  • Seders for Christians. If you are like me, you probably we brought up on the belief that Jesus’ Last Supper was a Passover seder. After all, it was a meal with a large group, and Passover occurs around the time of Easter, right? But then again, I’m Jewish. What do I know? But we all should have been suspicious of the “Take this bread” comment.  But as a result of this misbelief, Christian groups have been holding their own seders to remember the Last Supper, and Jews have often invited Christian friends to their seders. The Coffee Shop Rabbi has a nice informative piece that sets the record straight: To Christian Friends Coming to Seder. Well worth reading.
  • Expect to See This on “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me”: Do you ever read an article online and go: “We’ll see this on Wait Wait?” Here’s an article destined for the show; I could easily see this in the “Bluff the Listener Game”. It is a story about the next advance in the Internet of Things. Here’s the quote describing the item from Slashdot: “Do you worry that your significant other is having mid-day romps in your bedroom while you’re stuck at work banging out TPS reports? There’s an app for that, and a smart mattress with built-in sensors to detect when between-the-sheet activities are taking place, with or without your participation. It’s part of what a mattress company in Spain is calling its “lover detection system.” You can’t make this stuff up. Or maybe you can. You might seriously question whether or not the so-called Smarttress from Durmet is a real thing or an attempt at a viral marketing stunt. By all accounts, it certainly looks real. There are two dozen ultrasonic sensors embedded in the springs of the mattress. These tell-all sensors detect the speed and intensity of motion, how long the mattress has been active, and the history of encounters. That data is used to create a 3D map in real time, which you can view on your mobile device with an app for either iOS or Android devices.
  • Expect to See This on “Planet Money”: Then again, there are those articles that you know will show up on Planet Money from NPR, especially after they have already done a podcast on the subject. Hot on the heels of that podcast, which was about how Argentina racked up great debt, and then refused to pay it leaving bondholders in the lurch. Most eventually settled for pennies on the dollar (or whatever the Argentinian equivalent is). Today brings news that, in order to get the black mark of bond default off their record, Argentina is paying off the remaining bondholders in full. So, two questions: (1) If you were a bondholder who settled for bubkis, how would you feel? (2) Given this history, would you lend this money country, or invest in a pension fund that does?
  • Diversity and Hollywood. In the recent past, I’ve highlighted some very interesting podcasts that have increase my understanding of diversity, including some excellent episodes of both Startup and of Reply All. Here’s another interesting question on diversity: Why does Hollywood keep casting whites in Asian roles? Performance art (theatre, movies, TV) clearly has a diversity problem: both on-stage/before-the-camera and in the unseen creative and production roles. If this country is truly a melting pot, then our creative results should reflect that. But here’s a question as a result: As a result of this, one culture’s expression may become popular with all. How does one balance broad acceptance with cultural approbation? For example, I saw a friend posting about a Color Vibe run. I saw it, and instantly thought of the Holi Hindu color festival. Think about the first item in this chum, about Christians picking up the Seder custom. Cultural approbation? It even occurs at the Seder: look how the idea of the Orange on the Seder Plate was adopted and changed by the male majority.
  • Cybersecurity Chum. Here are a few cybersecurity items to scare you:
  • Development Chum. Two development related articles: Boyle Heights — a community in Los Angeles that was home to the first synagogue and has a vibrant hispanic life — is battling the attempts to gentrify the community and change its nature. If it happened to DTLA (excuse me, Downtown Los Angeles), it can happen to you. Up in the Bay Area, there has been more success: although the area around the original Mel’s Drive In is being converted to housing, Mel’s will remain.
  • Behind the Scenes. Two interesting articles that take us behind the scenes. The first looks at the dying life of the film projectionist in the UK. The second takes us behind the scenes of Medieval Times, the faux knights-and-damsels pageant. Both are extremely interesting reads.
  • Drugs and Brains. Our last article is something I’ve reported on before: how common allergy drugs can create problems for the brain. This is of particular concern: I”m a regular user of benedryl, and have other drugs that affect the head but help the migraines.


Link Chum Stew: What’s In The Pot This Week, Johnny?

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Apr 17, 2016 @ 3:05 pm PDT

Observation StewThis afternoon, I’ve been spending some time cleaning up. What’s this? A list of links? Let’s write about them before they go stale and rotten (like the plums on the dining room table):

  • Dancing Around Politics. If you’ve been around LA at all of late, you’ve probably been handed a flyer for the Shen Yun dance troupe, who have been performing at halls across the city. You’ve probably never heard of them. The LA Times had an interesting article on who they really are and who is backing them: they are a touring dance troupe founded in New York by practitioners of Falun Gong, the spiritual practice banned by the Chinese Communist Party in 1999. The party calls it a cult; Falun Gong says the Chinese government is trying to eradicate thousands of years of culture and tradition and that its repression of Shen Yun shows an intolerance of freedom of expression and religion. Indisputably, the dance company — marking its 10th anniversary — has become a cultural phenomenon. That fits with what my wife called the show: religious indoctrination.  As the article noted: “Nonetheless, it’s safe to say that the bright costumes and spinning dancers are meant to convey a message. “The Falun Gong has a very well organized, managed and elaborate program of public relations, and Shen Yun is part of that,” said James Tong, a UCLA professor, expert in Chinese politics and author of a book about the Communist Party and Falun Gong. When audiences see Shen Yun, “people want to know more about the Falun Gong.””
  • Digital Last Wills. Here’s a good reminder article from LastPass about Digital Wills. As they note in the article: “When preparing a will, many of us focus on our monetary and physical assets. But what about social media accounts? Or email addresses? Or the myriad of online accounts we use to manage our lives, every day? Making a “digital will” that includes passwords and other important digital details will go a long way in helping those who need to settle your affairs, or in helping you if you need to settle the affairs of others.” It is an important concern: I know I do my banking via Quicken… would my wife be able to easy pick that up. To inform all those whom I’m friends with online of what is happening with me? To pass off my highway pages somewhere? To handle other online financial accounts?
  • Upgrading Your Smartphone the Smart Way. Here’s an interesting article on how cell phone companies get you yet again: the upgrade fees if you buy a phone through them. With some, it is cheaper to buy your phone elsewhere, and then just bring it in and have it activated. Useful information to know.
  • Fighting Blisters. One of the scourges of walking as exercise are blisters. They are the reason I’ve switched to Injinji Toe Socks and Vibram Five Fingers. Too bad I didn’t know about this: there is evidently an easy way to combat blisters: use of surgical paper tape. I’ll have to give it a try one day, especially when the plantars fasciitis is acting up and I need shoes with padding and arch support.
  • Women in Cybersecurity. As you know, I’m part of ACSA, the sponsoring group behind SWSIS — the schoarship for women studying information security. Here’s a profile about one of our first recipients. I met Jill when she came out to ACSAC; I wish I had known this about her.
  • High Fidelity. Yesterday was Record Store day, and alas I missed it. But then again, I have enough records for this month. The iPod is at just under 38,000 songs. But here’s a good guide, for Record Store Day, about getting the right equipment to play your records. As for me, I have two turntables (Technics and Sansui), a good JVC amplifier with a phono curve, which feeds into my soundcard and the Roxio tools for recording to MP3 or WAV.
  • Free, as in Free Gigs. How would you like 2GB of free days for a month or two? Evidently, Verizon has a promotion where if you use Android Pay at three retailers, they’ll give you and extra 2GB for two months. The giveaway is part of a promotion that encourages people to start using Android Pay, which is essentially the Android version of mobile payments. Any Verizon customer with a postpaid plan who has an Android Pay-compatible phone will get 1GB of free data the next time they use Google’s mobile payment platform. Use it another two times, for a total of three separate purchases, and Verizon will throw in another gigabyte of free data.Once you’ve got the data freebie, Verizon says you’ll be able to use it across two billing cycles. The offer ends on June 14.
  • Mulholland Drive. Lastly, here’s a fascinating history article on Mulholland Drive: its origins and first plans. If you happen to be inspired to drive all of Mulholland — including the dirt portion across the top of the Santa Monicas, keep your eye out for a watch. I lost it there sometime in high school :-).


Food and Science Chum

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Apr 16, 2016 @ 10:22 am PDT

userpic=mad-scientistOne more quick food and science chum post, while my wife finishes her shower. Then it’s off to Faire…

And now it is off to the Faire…

Election Decisions

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Apr 16, 2016 @ 9:05 am PDT

userpic=political-buttonsA post yesterday by a friend picking apart Hilary’s logo made me realize that I need to start thinking about the upcoming June primary in California, at least at the Presidential level.

It probably comes as no surprise that I’m on the Democratic side: I cannot stomach either Trump or Cruz. Kasinich is much more moderate, but (a) will not get the nomination without splitting the GOP, and thus dooming the GOP, (b) still has positions — such as his abortion stance and his opposition to the Affordable Care Act — that I cannot stomach.  The Republicans are pretty much screwed at the Presidental level: the moderates hate Trump and view Cruz, at best, as a toilet plunger — something you use to get the turd out of the way.  If Trump is denied the nomination, the party will split; if Trump wins the nomination, the party is doomed.

So it really comes down to Sanders vs. Clinton, and the most important thing is that *either* of them get elected. Each has their faults, but either of them is better than the GOP alternatives. But how to decide? I have some irrational fears that I have to sort through: I’m worried about Sanders being Jewish, and his election creating antisemitism, about Sander’s past involvement with socialism, and about Sander’s age. On the Clinton side, I’m worried that she brings far too much baggage that the GOP hates, making compromise difficult. I worry that her positions are perhaps too politically calculated, and perhaps don’t go far enough for my liberalism. I worry about her ties to the 1%, although (again) it is much better than any Republican. These are not necessarily rational worries. So let’s set them aside for now.

I looked at some comparison sites, and the two have very similar view.

Inside-Gov Comparison. Looking at Inside-Gov’s comparison, I note that Sanders has a definite lack of foreign policy experience, but has significantly more legislative experience. Foreign policy experiences is increasingly important, but foreign policy positions are equally significant. Legislative experience could indicate an ability to work with Congress as opposed to butting head with Congress. Then again, they need to be able to propose ideas that will actually get through Congress. This is where Hilary is stronger: her ideas, being more moderate, are likely to get more cross party support (if that can be done at all these days). That’s harder with some of Bernie’s more radical proposals.

Sanders does not have a legal background, and only has a BS. Clinton is clearly smart and has the legal background, with both a BS and a JD degree.

Most of their scores are similar except in the area of defense. Defense is of interest to me. I think most people think defense spending is just building bombs and funding troops, but it really is a massive jobs program. The funds go to defense contracts, who put people to work with well paying jobs. Much of the middle class comes from these workers. Me included. I support an FFRDC that supports the USAF on the acquisition of space systems and space cybersecurity. I’m personally concerned on how the candidate wants to work in space and expand our cybersecurity protections.  Here, all I can see is that Clinton is more conservative.

Mother Jones. The Mother Jones comparison (written before primaries started) highlights something interesting:

The contrasts between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are largely differences of degree. He’s a self-proclaimed socialist; she fashions herself a “progressive that likes to get things done.” He hopes to bust up the biggest banks and offer free tuition at public colleges and universities; she wants to tamp down on risky Wall Street behavior and require students to work part-time in order to attend college without building up debt.

But these discrepancies would likely disappear if either Democratic candidate wins the presidency and attempts to push these bills through a Republican Congress that considers all of the proposals too far left for its liking.

The real difference between Sanders and Clinton might come down less to the what of their policies than to the how of implementing them. When Sanders unveils a new policy as part of his presidential campaign, he tends to pair it with legislation he introduces in the Senate. Judging from his campaign, a President Sanders would spend much of his time trying to convince Congress to pass massive legislative overhauls.

Clinton, on the other hand, often pairs ideas for legislation with promises of executive action in her policy fact sheets. When she rolls out a new policy proposal, the most details are usually in descriptions of the unilateral actions she would take through the power of the executive branch.

This could directly translate into how effective they end up being if the Democrats don’t regain Congress.

Continued Comparisons. I continued to read the comparison sites, but often they are partisan, cherry picking the issues. Some Sanders supporters have a visceral reaction to Clinton, just not trusting her. But in general, I see their proposals as pretty similar.

Drawing a Conclusion. At this point, I can’t really decide between the two. I think, in terms of governing ability, that Clinton will be stronger. She’ll have more moderate ideas, and be able to work better on getting them through Congress. She’ll have more experience with foreign policy and diplomacy. Sanders may have better ideas than Clinton in a number of areas, but having better ideas doesn’t necessarily get them through Congress and enacted (despite what your followers want). I’m unsure if he would end up being more effective. He has some naive assumptions in the foreign policy area — much as he believes one can talk through any problem, that doesn’t work in all cultures.

I think, alas, this campaign is going to boil down not to the question of who is the best candidate, but who is good enough. I think aiming for the best in terms of policy may have the result of hurting the electibility or the likelihood of getting that policy implemented. Good enough means electing someone with known imperfections, but someone with policy that are more likely to move us incrementally in the right direction, and that can get through Congress.

I truly would like to say Hilary can do that … and she could … if only she wasn’t a Clinton. The hatred on the many sides of that family could doom her ability to govern. That’s why I supported Obama in 2008 — because I felt we needed to break the cycle of Clinton and Bush. Would we be starting that up again with Hilary and the Hilary haters.

And so I keep oscillating between the two, like one of those perpetual clacking ball toys.