Observations Along the Road

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

Learning from History

Written By: cahwyguy - Mon Mar 17, 2014 @ 6:57 pm PDT

Inherit The Wind (GTC Burbank)userpic=theatre_ticketsIf you read the news these days, you’ll see how many religious people still take the bible as the literal word of God. Don’t believe me? In 2012, Gallup surveys showed that 46% of people believed in the Bible’s view of the creation  of the world. Just this month, Bill Nye held a debate about whether evolution or creationism was valid. Despite scientific evidence to the contrary, people believe the world was created in 6 days, and that what is written in the Bible is the law we should follow. This is still driving the debates these days on climate change, gay marriage, and a myriad of other subjects in this nation. Notwithstanding the Constitution, there are a large number of people who believe this should be a Christian nation, which Christian scripture as law.

But this is nothing new: there were similar efforts in the 1950s during the McCarthy trials (remember “Godless commies and pinkos”), and even in 1925 with a trial over whether evolution could be taught in the public schools. That trial, the infamous Scopes Monkey Trial, pitted a former presidential candidate, Williams Jennings Bryant, against one of the best legal minds of the century, Clarence Darrow. In the 1950s, Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee fictionalized that trial as the play “Inherit the Wind“, as a warning against the witch-hunts that were going on with Sen. Eugene McCarthy in Washington. In 1960, the play was made into a classic film starring Spencer Tracy, Fredrick March, and Gene Kelley. When I discovered earlier this year that GTC Burbank (specifically, Wasatch Theatrical Ventures) was doing a production of “Inherit the Wind“, I wanted to go. “Inherit the Wind” is one of my favorite movies; I wanted to see the original. So I got tickets, and scheduled it for the afternoon of Purim (which, alas, was the last performance).

For those unfamiliar with the story, John Thomas Scopes Bert Cates is put on trial in Dayton TN Hillsboro TN for violating a Tennessee law regarding the teaching of evolution. The bible-thumping community brings in Williams Jennings Bryant Matthew Harrison Brady to assist the local prosecutor. The American Civil Liberties Union Baltimore Sun hired Clarence Darrow Henry Drummond to defend Cates. The event was covered by famous journalists, including H. L. Menken E. K. Hornbeck of the Baltimore Sun (who also put up bail for Scopes/Cates). The play, as you can tell, incorporates much of the history, but does add some fictionalized elements of its own, such as a relationship between Cates and the daughter (Rachel Brown) of the town Reverend, or the timing of the death of Bryant/Brady (in actuality, Bryant died 5 days after the trial). As I said, this is one of my favorite plays/movies, so I urge you to read up on the trial, rent the movie, and discover how it really is timeless.

The Wasatch Theatrical Ventures production, under the direction of Kiff Scholl, was excellent. Even with a simple set (more on that in a paragraph or so), the actors brought the trial to life. Much of this was due to the performances of the leads, Robert Craighead as Matthew Harrison Brady, and Mark Belnick as Henry Drummond. Belnick’s ability to play a convincing lawyer is no surprise, for he has a law degree and is a senior litigation partner and was Deputy Chief Counsel to the US Senate Iran/Contra Investigation. Craighead is more of a traditional actor, but also gave a convincing performance as one who believed wholeheartedly in the Bible and its unerring truth. Supporting them as the cynical reporter E. K. Hornbeck was J. Richey Nash, who was wonderfully acerbic and troublemaking, with a convincing attitude of “stir it up”. These leads were just great.

In the second tier of characters were Robbie Winston as Bert Cates, Laurel Reese as Rachel Brown, Alan Brooks as Reverend Brown, Amir Levi as Tom Davenport (the prosecuting attorney), and Donald Agnelli as the Judge. Winston’s Cates was suitably subdued, but he handled his final statement quite well. Reese’s Rachel was very touching in her concern for Cates, and Brooks was suitably “fire and brimston” in his prayer meeting. Levi and Agnelli provided suitable court demeanor.

Rounding out the cast were Steven Scot Bono (George Sillers), Scott Golden (Reuters Reporter / Jesse H. Dunlap /  Esterbrook), Nicholas Goldreich (Bill Bannister), Dutch Hofstetter (Howard Blair), David Reynolds (Meeker / Elijah), Suzan Solomon (Mrs. Blair), Rosemary Stevens (Mrs. Brady), Rachel Werline (Melinda), and Edmund Wyson (Mayor). Of these, I’d like to single out Suzan Solomon, who had a lovely singing voice.

The set for “Inherit the Wind“, designed by Adam Haas Hunter, was simple but effective. A basic wall with doors with appropriate evolution drawings, it was augmented with simple tables, chairs, and podiums to create an effective courtroom. This was supported by the great lighting of Michael Gend and sound of Matthew Richter. The costumes by Shannon A. Kennedy were appropriate and effective,  and did a wonderful job of making you believe it was dripping hot. Amber Bruegel was the Production Stage Manager, assisted by Erica Lawrence. “Inherit the Wind” was produced by Racquel Lehrman and Victoria Watson of Theatre Planners.

Alas, the performance we saw was the last performance of “Inherit the Wind“.

[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:  March 22 brings “Harmony” at The Ahmanson Theatre (FB), followed by “Author, Author: An Evening with Sholom Aleichem” at the Santa Monica Playhouse (FB) on March 23. The last weekend of March is open, and will likely stay that way as we’ll be exhausted. April starts with “In The Heights” at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) on April 5, and should also bring “Tallest Tree” at the Mark Taper Forum on April 12. The following weekend brings a benefit at REP East (FB): “A Night at the Rock Opera“. The last weekend of April will bring Noel Paul Stookey at McCabes, as well as the Southern California Renaissance Faire. Current planning for May shows “The Lion in Winter” at The Colony Theatre (FB), and “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” at REP East (FB), as well as “Hairspray” at Nobel Middle School. June is mostly open pending scheduling of an MRJ meeting, but I will try to fit in as much of the Hollywood Fringe Festival as I can. 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.



Realizing a Problem Exists is the First Step…

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Mar 15, 2014 @ 8:29 pm PDT

userpic=stressedTonight, I went to the Purim schpiel, and realized that I’ve got a problem.

Perhaps I should explain. For the last two years, I’ve been a vice president of $mens_club, and as such I’ve been working behind the scenes to reposition the organization to emphasize our place and importance in building relationships within and with the congregation at large. I’ve tried to do that at some smaller events this year. Naturally, being active has its own rewards, … , one of which is likely getting increased leadership opportunities.  In this case, that means I am likely going to have increased responsibility to promote the group to members of the congregation.

Here’s where the problem comes in. Although I may seem outgoing, I’m really only outgoing with a supporting Powerpoint presentation :-). By that, I mean that my normal nature is to sit back quietly and do my job, and help make sure the event is a success.  I can get up and speak when I know the subject well (which is what preparing the Powerpoint does for me). Whereas my father had the personality to go up to strangers and introduce himself and become friends, doing that cold is a very very difficult mountain for me to climb (if I know something about the person to start the conversion, it is much much easier).

Tonight I thought I might give it a try. I thought I would have the gumption to go up to congregational men — who were there with their families and are precisely the men we need to draw into the organization — and introduce myself to them. I thought I would be able to sell $mens_club to them. But I couldn’t even get started up the cliff. I realized I’m the engineer, not the salesman. I don’t have that salesman persona.

I’ll note this isn’t new. I never was one to go out for drama classes or run for offices. I never sold cookies or candy bars for schools successfully. At Halloween, I was never the one creating the superinventive costume — I was either behind the door with the sound effects, or wearing a costume that made me look like everyone else. At camp, I wasn’t the one in drama or the one being out in front; I was in arts & crafts and squarely in the middle. I was fine being a committee chair or running an activity, but never the outgoing face. Even in the UCLA Computer Club, when we played Superhero 2044, my character was “Mr. Cellophane” — the one no-one every noticed because he blended in.

Realizing this is the first step to solving the problem. Practice and acting “as if” will be a second step. I’ve viewing this opportunity in the organization as a chance to improve myself; to gain a skillset that will prove me useful. It also making me realize that I need to think about doing what any good organizational head would do: if you don’t have a skill your organization needs, you find someone who can excel at that skill to make your organization complete. You bring them on board, and while they are exercising that skill, learn from them how to do it better.

That’s one reason I’m writing this post. To those who read this who are the “born salesmen” (or should I say “born salescritters”): what tips do you have, and how do I learn the skill.

Technical Items of Yore

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Mar 15, 2014 @ 9:04 am PDT

userpic=televisionIn my continuing question to clear off my accumulated news chum list, here is a collection of links related to technical items of olden days (like, say, when I was young :-) ):


Selling It But Good

Written By: cahwyguy - Fri Mar 14, 2014 @ 11:24 am PDT

userpic=corporateHere’s another belated lunchtime post (can you tell I’m clearing out a backlog). This time, the subject is selling and marketing:


Solving Problems

Written By: cahwyguy - Fri Mar 14, 2014 @ 11:24 am PDT

userpic=mad-scientistThis belated lunchtime news chum post looks at some recent (or at least new to me) articles about solving problems:

  • The Engineer Shortage. You hear everyone say there is a shortage of engineers, and we need fewer liberal arts majors and artists, and more technicians. Well that’s just wrong thinking. The world needs its artists as well.
  • Migraines. Headaches are a pain. I know. I get them. So I read with interest how the FDA has approved a TENS-headband to reduce the frequency of migraines. The device uses a self-adhesive electrode to apply electrical current to the skin, which can be felt as a tingling sensation. The current stimulates the trigeminal nerve, which is responsible for facial sensations and has been linked to migraines. I do know that, at least for my headaches, one measure is the sensitivity of that nerve — I can just lightly touch the area where the top of my nose meets my eye socket, and if I’m headachy, it is much more sensitive. I’d be willing to give this device a try.
  • A Privilege to Pee. San Francisco is addressing a big problem at one of their parks with the pPod, which has no relation to the iPod. The pPod is a custom-made, open-air urinal that San Francisco is installing at Dolores Park to help deal with the hordes of male hipster inebriants that descend on the popular Mission spot on weekends. It is a 7-foot-tall, semi-cylinder mesh screen surrounding a concrete pad and drain that empties into the sewer system. The pPod will be open at the back for easy wheelchair access – with no doors or locks.


Getting Your Purim On

Written By: cahwyguy - Thu Mar 13, 2014 @ 11:22 am PDT

userpic=cookingWhile I’m eating my lunch, I figure I should make you hungry by posting some links to interesting hamentaschen recipes. For those unfamiliar, hamentaschen are three-cornered pastries eaten on the Jewish holiday of Purim; the shape supposedly remembers Hamen’s three-cornered hat.


The Illuminati Did It (A Lunchtime Musing)

Written By: cahwyguy - Wed Mar 12, 2014 @ 11:08 am PDT

userpic=star_trekI’ve been fascinated by the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, and the fact that there has been absolutely no evidence found from the aircraft. I mean, there are even crowdsourcing efforts to examine satellite photography! Malaysians are praying for a solution, and the Malaysian government “welcomes all help to trace the missing flight, including from “bomohs,” or shamans, as long as their methods conform to Islamic teachings”. Me? I’ve been just waiting for the conspiracy theories to pop up, and Time Magazine kindly obliged me. Their theories are:

  1. Ghosts. Relatives and friends of the plane’s passengers said they were able to find their loved ones on a Chinese instant messenger service called QQ, reports the Washington Post. Others tried calling the vanished passengers’ phones and heard ringtones even though the calls were not picked up. Many thought the phones might still be on, and more than 100 of them signed a petition to the Malaysian government to hurriedly investigate. That led more suspicious observers to fire off rounds of irrational theories. Did the mysterious ringing indicate the passengers had been kidnapped and are still alive somewhere? Or was it the supernatural at work?
  2. Aliens.“If we never find the debris, it means some entirely new, mysterious and powerful force is at work on our planet which can pluck airplanes out of the sky without leaving behind even a shred of evidence,” said one blogger. Was it an alien abduction? others ask.
  3. Predestined. Reddit is rife with commenters fixated on the numerical coincidences of the flight’s disappearance. “Interesting numerology,” said one Reddit user, RedditB. “Flight 370 disappears on 3/7 while reportedly traveling 3,700 km. Flight 370 flew at an altitude of 37,000 feet when it was last reported using flight tracking software. Luigi Maraldi, age 37, was one of the individuals whose passport was stolen. Malaysia Airlines is one of Asia’s largest, flying nearly 37,000 passengers daily. As of today, we are beginning the 37th month since the Fukushima tragedy, which is located on the 37th degree and initially caused 37 injuries at the plant.”
  4. North Koreans. Others have argued the jet was hijacked by North Koreans and flown to Pyongyang. One Reddit user, Nickryane, claims the plane had enough fuel to fly to North Korea and remain within cell phone range. The dictatorship hijacked a jet in 1969, so Kim Jong-un would be pulling an old card out of the deck.
  5. Illuminati. One guess points to the supposed vortex energy points on the earth’s surface that Illuminati “and/or ancient aliens” who can control the energy grid. Commenters and bloggers emerged to point to occultists and nefarious shadowy figures who helped down the plane.

You gotta love any theory that includes the Illuminati.

In reality, though, I’m surprised there hasn’t been any evidence. I would think that even with a mid-flight explosion, there would be some larger pieces that would survive and splash down, and there would be some components that would float. Even with a mid-flight explosion, the black box should survive. If they landed the plane whole in the ocean, there would be something that would be floating and visible. I just think they aren’t looking in the right places.

Then again, perhaps Amelia Earhart needed a new plane.

Sometimes, I Feel Like Roman Mars (A Lunchtime Musing)

Written By: cahwyguy - Tue Mar 11, 2014 @ 11:59 am PDT

userpic=roadgeekingYesterday, I shared an article on Facebook about the submitted designs for the interstate highway marker shield, and why the design chosen was chosen. This is one of the many aspects of highways that fascinates me. I’m not the numbering purist who is miffed when a route is given an illogical number (cough, I-238), or the type that wants to see interstate highways extended willy-nilly to meet some logical goal that is a physical and economic impossibility (cough, extending I-40 to Santa Barbara). But I love to learn the history — why a particular shape was chosen for a state shield, why a route has a particular number (even if it is illogical), and why states do what they do.

As I noted before, the article I shared dealt with the design of the Interstate highway shield — a simple shield of red, white, and blue with numbers (green for business routes). There were loads of other designs, many incorporating an “I”. But what was chosen worked well. It was the result of a desire to have a different shield than that used for the US Highway system (think US 101), which was black and white (unless you were in Florida), and much more ornate.

State shields are more interesting, as this map or this map shows. For some, the meaning is obvious — Washington is a clear example. Others incorporate the shape of the state. A few others incorporate objects well known in the state — Utah, New Mexico, North Dakota, and even Alaska do this. Another one that does this is California, although it’s not as clear as it used to be. California used to have white shields, and the shape of the shield was chosen to look like a ’49s miner shovel stuck into the ground, post first. You don’t get that we the green. Lastly, a number of states are simply boring.

Oh, and in case you didn’t get the reference in the title of the post. Roman Mars is a host of an excellent podcast of out of Oakland called 99% Invisible… which is all about design. Who knows… one day you might even hear me on an episode (I’ve been interviewed; I have no idea if it will ever make it on the air). I found the recent episodes on the design of the handicapped access symbol (they are using the new one in Portland) and on the design of magazine covers to be fascinating.