Observations Along the Road

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

One is the Loneliest Number | “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” @ Pantages

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Nov 06, 2016 @ 9:27 am PST

Hedwig and the Angry Inch (Pantages)userpic=broadwaylaThe Los Angeles Times called Hedwig, “Annie with a Bad Attitude”. We saw Hedwig and the Angry Inch last night at the Hollywood Pantages (FB), and I’m not sure I would go that far. She is, however, a self-professed nasty woman. In that profession, you begin to see why Hedwig is such a special woman for these times, and why this show appears to have a special resonance.

It is difficult to know how to approach Hedwig. On the surface, it is a hard-rocking musical (supposedly in the style of David Bowie, but not being a Bowie fan, I can’t vouch for that). I do know it is the sort of angry hard rock I like — the type with an underlying melody beneath the volume (Green Day’s American Idiot is similar). But there is a mix of very tender ballads thrown in.

In another sense, it is an echo of our current times where we are beginning to understand the wide variety of gender and sexual identities. Hedwig is not the drag queen of Priscilla, nor the stereotyped gay of La Cage Aux Folles. Hedwig is “genderqueer”, which if you aren’t familiar with the term, is defined as “a person who does not subscribe to conventional gender distinctions but identifies with neither, both, or a combination of male and female genders.” Hedwig was male, had a botched sex change (hence the “angry inch”), and is now presenting as female … and sometimes male (the ending of the show isn’t quite clear). There is something similar in Hedwig’s husband, Yitzchak, who is traditionally played by a woman dressed as a man, who reemerges as a woman at the end. There is a joke in the show about how Yitzhak was originally singing songs from Yentl — how appropos.

Hedwig is also a topical musical. Unlike musicals that have a set book, the musical is like Hedwig herself — a little bit fluid around the edges. Each production is tailored to the time and the location — hence the references to Los Angeles, the audience interaction, the reference to the Hollywood Bowl, and veiled references to both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton (when Hedwig proclaims herself to be a “nasty woman”).

Ultimately, Hedwig might best be compared to The Book of Mormon (of all things). For all the flash and glam and “in-your-face” of the presentation, it is at its heart a very conventional musical story: the quest for love, the quest to find your other half. So many musicals explore this quest. This is demonstrated in a very early number, “The Origin of Love”, which explores not only the origin of gender fluidity, but of the quest to find your other half — whoever he, she, or whatever-pronoun-you-choose may be.

I realize I haven’t describe the plot of the show yet. It is summarized in the Times article; it is also in the Wikipedia page (where it is also useful to read the history of the show). In short, is the story of Hedwig/Hansel, an East German man in love with American music. When a gay American GI offers Hansel a chance out, he takes it — even though it means leaving a bit of himself behind. Becoming Hedwig, she shares her story of her life in America, her relationship with the career and the man behind Tommy Gnosis, and her connection to Yitzhak. In the end, Hedwig finds, well, it is unclear what Hedwig finds in some form of cosmic merging.

The conceit surrounding Hedwig (and the supposed excuse for her being on Broadway (or at your regional theatre) is that Hedwig and her band were booked to perform a one-night show after the previous booking, the new musical Hurt Locker: The Musical opened and closed the same night. Using Hurt Locker’s set, Hedwig goes on. There are Playbills for Hurt Locker scattered around the theatre — if you can snag one, do so. It is hillarious. Just read the entry for Metallica, and you’ll get the tone.

Hedwig is topical, gender bending, in-your-face, transformative, loud, gentle, and surprisingly complicated. It is a clear example of how what we see on the surface is only that — the surface — and that the complexity and strange directions of people’s lives color us in way we can’t expect. We put on the clothes, we put on the wig, we put on the expectations, and we… become. Every Hedwig is different — and there have been many in the role — but they are also the same. Hedwig exposes that common humanity, and exposes that urge to find the person from whom you were torn asunder. You walk out of the show a little confused, but with an ultimately positive feeling.

But “Annie with an attitude”? I think not.

Bringing this Hedwig to life is Darren Criss (FB). Criss’ performance leaves one at a loss for words. Under the direction of Michael Mayer, Criss lives and breathes Hedwig. The personas merge; you truly believe he is she, is Hedwig. It is also clear that she, meaning he, is having a blast on  stage with this role — with a rare liberty to go all out, to play with the audience and the character, to go (within reason) beyond the staid book of a musical. It is just an astounding performance that you will remember long after.

Supporting Criss is her husband, Yitzchak, portrayed by the Broadway Yitzchak, Lena Hall (FB). Silent and sullen throughout much of the show, he gets his/her moments to shine, providing some spectacular numbers (and an astounding transformation). Hall will evidently play Hedwig at a number of performances (Sun Eve 11/6, 11/13, and 11/20; Fri Eve 11/25), and that should be a real Victor Victoria moment: a woman playing a man playing a woman who was a man once. How the ending of the show will be handled at those performances leaves me a little perplexed.

That’s it. That’s the cast. Hedwig (Criss) and Yitzchak (Hall). There is no ensemble. Hedwig and Yitzchak are supported on stage by Hedwig’s band — the Angry Inch. The Inch consists of Skszp (Justin Craig) [Music Director, Guitar, Keyboards, Vocals]; Jacek (Matt Duncan (FB)) [Bass, Guitar, Keyboards, Vocals], Krzyzhtoff (Tim Mislock (FB)) [Guitar, Vocals]; and Schlatko (Peter Yanowitz) [Drums, Vocals].

Standbys for the performance are Mason Alexander Park (FB) (for Hedwig), Shannon Conley (FB) (for Yitzhak), Dylan Fusillo (FB) (for Schlatko), and Matt Katz-Bohen (FB) (for the remaining band members — Skszp, Jacek, and Krzyzhtoff). Note the Conley is performing as Yitzhak the days that Hall assumes the role of Hedwig.

Turning to the production and creative side. Hedwig was written by John Cameron Mitchell, who was the original Hedwig on Broadway. Hedwig started out as Mitchell’s story — he was Tommy Gnosis — the gay son of an Army General in Berlin; his caretaker was someone like Hedwig. The music and lyrics in Hedwig are by Stephen Trask (FB), and are particularly strong. Orchestrations are by Trask (FB), with an assist on the arrangement of “Sugar Daddy” from Justin Craig. Amusing note: Trask’s real name is Stephen R. Schwartz, the name credited in the Hurt Locker musical — not to be confused with Stephen L. Schwartz, who wrote Wicked, among many other shows; or Stephen Michael Schwartz, who was part of Parachute Express and wrote the musical “It Came From Beyond”.

The musical staging — which appears to be a fancy way of saying choreography without all the implications — was by Spencer Liff (FB). Paul McGill (FB) was the Movement Associate (which is a guess is a fancy way of saying Asst. Choreographer 🙂 ).

The scenic design was by Julian Crouch (FB), and was ostensibly the scenic design of Hurt Locker: The Musical , which was also credited to Crouch.  As this was the design for Hurt Locker, it consisted of bombed out rubble, with a stage door in the back, that gets deconstructed as the show goes on. However, the dual-use design had some nice elements to support Hedwig as well — in particular, the dancing wigs for the “Wig in a Box” number. Lighting design was by Kevin Adams — also credited for both shows.  The lighting design was very effective and rock-ish, but be forewarned there is heavy use of strobes if that is a trigger. The scenic and the lighting were supported by the projection designs of Benjamin Pearcy for 59 Productions — these were awesome in “The Origin of Love”. The true scenic elements, however, were the costumes and the wonderful wigs and makeup. Credit for the costumes goes to Arianne Phillips (FB) (who coincidentally designed the costumes for Hurt Locker), and for hair and makeup to Mike Potter (FB) (ditto for Hurt Locker).  The sound design was by Tim O’Heir (FB), and Stephen Gabis (FB) was the dialect coach.

Before I complete the credits, a buried credit I must highlight. The Playbill for Hurt Locker: The Musical is credited to Mike Albo and Amanda Duarte (FB), with design by Rogers Eckersley. From the casting to the bios to the song titles (“The Humvee With the Roof-Mounted Machine Gun on Top”) to the ads in the back, it is hilarious. Find one. Read it. Laugh profusely.

Completing the real credits: Casting – Calleri Casting (FB); Music Supervision and Coordination – Ethan Popp (FB); Associate Director – Johanna McKeon (FB); Production Stage Manager – Lisa Iacucci (FB); Stage Manager – Jovon E. Shuck; Assistant Stage Manager – Jeff Siebert; Production Management – Aurora Productions; Executive Producer – 101 Productions, Ltd. (and loads of producers).

Hedwig and the Angry Inch continues at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) until November 27, 2016. You can purchase tickets online through the Pantages website. Discount tickets may be available through Goldstar. It is well worth seeing; if you are sensitive to loud noises, bring earplugs. If you are sensitive to strobe lights, I’d stay away.

Dining Notes: Before the show, we tried a new restaurant near the theatre, in the complex where they charge far too much for theatre parking (take Metro instead): Greenleaf (FB). It was excellent — healthy, portioned right, and presented well. We’ll come back; it is nice to have an alternative to Feast (FB).

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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), the  Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB), the Chromolume Theatre (FB) in the West Adams district, and a mini-subscription at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB).  The Chromolume 2017 season looks particularly good: Zanna Don’t (Tim Acito, January 13 – February 5), Hello Again (Michael John LaChiusa, May 5- May 28), and Pacific Overtures (Stephen Sondheim, September 15 – October 8) — all for only $60). Past subscriptions have included  The Colony Theatre (FB) (which went dormant in 2016), and Repertory East Playhouse (“REP”) (FB) in Newhall (which entered radio silence in 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:  This weekend continues with the Nottingham Festival (FB) in about an hour. We then lose a weekend as we travel to Palo Alto for a Bar Mitzvah. The third weekend of November brings Funny Girl, a Conundrum Theatre Company (FB) guest production at  The Colony Theatre (FB) and a Day Out With Thomas at Orange Empire Railway Museum (FB) [excuse me, “Southern California Railway Museum”]. November concludes with Little Women at the Chance Theatre (FB) in Anaheim. December starts with Into the Woods at Nobel Middle School, and staged concert of Wonderful Town being performed by the LA Opera at the Dorothy Chandler Pavillion. The next week brings the CSUN Jazz Band at the Annual Computer Security Applications Conference (ACSAC), and Amalie at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). The third week of December brings  The King and I at the Hollywood Pantages (FB). December concludes with an unspecified movie on Christmas day; and a return to our New Years Eve Gaming Party.

Turning to 2017, January currently is quiet, with just a single hold date for Zanna Don’t at the Chromolume Theatre (FB). February 2017 gets back to being busy: with a hold for Zoot Suit at the Mark Taper Forum (FB) the first weekend. The second weekend brings 33 Variations at Actors Co-op (FB). The third weekend has a hold for the WGI Winter Regionals. The last weekend in February brings Finding Neverland at the Hollywood Pantages (FB). March quiets down a bit — at least as currently scheduled — with Fun Home at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) at the beginning of the month, and An American in Paris at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) at the end of the month.

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, Musicals in LA, @ This Stage, Footlights, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves. Note: Although we can’t make it, I also recommend the 10th Anniversary Production of The Brain from Planet X at LACC. Lastly, want to know how to attend lots of live stuff affordably? Take a look at my post on How to attend Live Theatre on a Budget.

Election-Free News Chum Stew

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Nov 05, 2016 @ 11:33 am PST

Observation StewTake a deep breath. Three days and the national nightmare begins — but at least we won’t have the ads, the fake news stories, and the FB battles. To hold you over, here’s a bit of news chum I’ve accumulated over the last few weeks:

  • Math and Knitting. Two articles related to mathematics and knitting. The first article is about a couple that have focused on knitting mathematical objects: Together they have knitted and crocheted about 90 mathematical afghans, as well as other mathematical objects. The other article is on illusion knitting: Knitting that takes advantage of the 3-D nature of knitting to show different images depending on how the knit object is viewed. The simplest kind of illusion knitting uses one color of yarn. From the front, you see a swath of, say, green. From the side, you see an alternating checkerboard of green squares. Or take the knit below, which appears to be a multicolored grid straight-on but from an angle reveals circles within the grid.
  • Food Triggers. Two articles related to food that can trigger medical problems. The first looks at a group of proteins that have  been identified as the possible cause of non-gluten wheat sensitivity. This group, called amylase-trypsin inhibitors (ATIs)  are a small group, representing about 4 percent of wheat proteins, but they’re powerful. The scientists found that consuming pure ATIs can cause all manner of nasty reactions throughout the body, triggering inflammation not just in the gut but also in the lymph nodes, kidneys, spleen, and brain. That same inflammation can exacerbate autoimmune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, asthma, lupus, and inflammatory bowel disease. The second article looks at why some foods trigger migraines. It turns out it isn’t only the food, but the microbes in the mouth. The research team analyzed 172 oral samples and nearly 2,000 fecal samples taken from the American Gut Project, and sequenced which bacteria species were found in participants who suffered migraines versus those who did not. And it turns out, the migraineurs have significantly more nitrate-reducing bacteria in their saliva than those who don’t suffer these headaches.
  • Paying Rent. This went around a few weeks ago, but its still fun: London is still paying rent to the Queen on property rented in 1211 (it seems they didn’t know about “lease-to-buy”). The rent? A knife, an axe, six oversized horseshoes, and 61 nails. Further, no one knows where the property is anymore. Each fall, usually in October, the city and the crown perform the same exchange, for no particular reason other than that they always have. You have to admire the Brits.
  • Popcorn. Here’s another interesting piece of history: why do we have movie popcorn? One didn’t always eat popcorn at movies, but it came into vogue during the depression. At that point, people began to expect it, and theatres realized they had a moneymaker.
  • Internet Problems. Have you found the internet harder to read of late? Even after you take out the election posts, is it hard to read? There could be an answer. Scientists believe that what is making the Internet harder to read is a trend towards lighter and thinner fonts. Where text used to be bold and dark, which contrasted well with predominantly white backgrounds, now many websites are switching to light greys or blues for their type. “If the web is relayed through text that’s difficult to read, it curtails the open access by excluding large swaths of people such as the elderly, the visually impaired, or those retrieving websites through low quality screens.”
  • New Cars and Car Washes. Have you bought a new car of late? Ever take it to the car wash? Many new cars won’t work in car washes because the additional safety equipment locks the wheels even when the car is in neutral. Those cars need special configuration to go through a car wash, and it isn’t just a “car wash” button — but it is buried in the manuals. The issue is automatic parking brakes, which put on the brakes, even if in neutral, to prevent the car from rolling into people or things. It does this if it detects things near the car.
  • Homelessness and Cars. Sigh. The city has passed an ordinance to prevent people from sleeping in cars or RVs in residential districts. This is an example of a law that the privileged pass against the unprivileged, instead of helping.
  • Jacob Neusner Z”L. A passing you may have missed: Jacob Neusner, one of the top Jewish scholars of our generation. Neusner almost singlehandedly created the modern study of Judaism. In doing so, he revolutionized our understanding of the history of Judaism and our perception of what Judaism can mean to Jews today. I know I was reading Neusner’s books when I was at UCLA in the 1980s.

Cybersecurity and Continuing Education

Written By: cahwyguy - Fri Nov 04, 2016 @ 6:40 pm PST

userpic=acsacSince 1990, I have had the honor and the privilege of being the Training Chair for the Annual Computer Security Applications Conference (ACSAC), one of the three original conferences on what is now called Cybersecurity. ACSAC, which is held in early December in the sunbelt, is an approximately 200-250 person conference that brings together academics and industry to connect and talk about the application of computer security cybersecurity research. Attendance is about 25% international.

The conference, which this year takes place the week of December 5 at the beautiful Hilton Universal City in Los Angeles, consists of two days of training and workshops, followed by a two-and-a-half day technical conference. The purpose of this post is to highlight this year’s training program. Advance registration ends 11/14/2016. I encourage you, if you have an interest in cybersecurity, to attend one or more of our training courses:

Monday, December 5, 2016
M1 Understanding and Contrasting Android Malware at Runtime
Giovanni Russello, University of Auckland
M2 Program Analysis and Machine Learning to Improve Security and Privacy
Paolina Centonze, Iona College
M3 angr: Advancing Next Generation Research into Binary Analysis
Fish (Ruoyu) Wang, Yan Shoshitaishvili, and Chris Salls, UC Santa Barbara
Tuesday, December 6, 2016
T4 Practical Homomorphic Encryption
Kurt Rohloff, New Jersey Institute of Technology
T5 Big Data Analytics Over Encrypted Data
Hassan Takabi, University of North Texas
T6 Hands-On Interactive Car Hacking
Craig Smith, Theia Labs and Brendan Harris, US Dept. of Transportation Volpe Center
T7 Steganongraphy with Malware Applications
John Ortiz, Harris and UT San Antonio

Tutorials T4 and T5 are half-day, the rest are full day. Click here to register for the conference; there are discounts for locals and those staying in the conference hotel. To register at the hotel, click here. Tutorials cost $575 (full day), $300 (half day); students are $300 (full), $150 (half). Rates include a good-sized continental breakfast and lunch (I know, I’m doing local arrangements and the food as well). Rates go up after 11/14.

Here is a summary of the tutorials: (more…)

Election Fallacies

Written By: cahwyguy - Fri Nov 04, 2016 @ 11:17 am PST

userpic=political-flakesReading my FB feed over lunch, I saw a post berating the left in various ways. I felt that a number of statements in that post were wrong … and thus, this post.

In spite of poll after poll suggesting Bernie Sanders would do far better against Donald Trump, the DNC tilted its resources and will toward Hillary Clinton.

This is an example of a canard I’ve seen time and time again, especially from the Trump camp who believe the DNC rigged it so they would go against Clinton, as opposed to Sanders. What this forgets is the fact that the bulk of the reason that Clinton received the D nomination was that she got more votes. While the strong progressive wing of the party is perhaps the loudest, they are not the only folks voting. There is a large centrist and moderate wing. Some of these folks were strongly Hillary; some were anti-Bernie because they felt his past Socialist connections could be a major problem in the general election. All the manipulations of the DNC were not things that would change the needle for most voters.

White men overwhelmingly want Donald Trump to be the next president.

Not true. Not all white men. The surveys have shown that white college-educated men support Hillary. White non-college educated men tend to support Trump. In other words, those who have not been taught about the complications of politics and the need for critical thinking, and who have been hurt by the affirmative action and the loss of privilege — those are the ones who go for Trump.

Hillary Clinton should have really, like really pivoted hard left, which means she needed to legitimately change to blow this evil motherfucker out.

Again, no. America may like talk of change, but they don’t like change. In particular, they don’t like radical change or change that occurs too fast. Bill Clinton was successful precisely because he played to the middle, and was able to build a coalition of centrist Democrats and Republicans. Hillary is trying to do the same thing — incorporating some ideas from the left, but working to build that coalition that draws in Republicans because that is essentially how you govern a country that embodies all constituencies. What happens when you play to the radical base to get elected, and then win. You get what we’ve had in the Republican party for the last 20 years.

Left leaning white folks and MSNBC spent the last 8 years bemoaning what the right was doing wrong, instead of reckoning with the what the left failed to do for extremely vulnerable black and brown folk.

The United States is like an aircraft carrier. You can get it to change directions, but it is very slow to do so due to loads and loads of inertia and momentum. Many of us want to address the injustices in the world when we view the world through out social values glasses. But when we put on our pragmatist glasses, we know that if we do it too fast or before the bulk of the country is ready, it will be rejected. We’re seeing that in numerous areas. It has taken over 125 years just to start making the equality won in the Civil War a reality, and that still doesn’t address the issue of implicit privilege. Before we can get society to address the injustice, we have to work to get them all aware that the injustice (highlighted by things like #BlackLivesMatter) really exists.

In short, Hillary is far from the perfect candidate. In most other years, her actual lack of experience (a little over one term as Senator, one term as Secretary of State) might prevent her from succeeding against more experienced politicians. Luckily, for her, compared to Trump she has loads of experience. She brings loads of baggage — a small amount real, a large amount imagined into reality. Most Democrats would like someone not connected to the Clinton — it is not as if we don’t have qualified female governors and senators. But we have who we have. Further, as flawed as the Democratic primary process was, the Republican side was even worse for it resulted in the Donald.

Change is wanted — that is clear. But we often forget the big divide that is in this country — and it is not a black/white racial divide, but an urban / rural divide. If you look at how the states break down in their support of R vs D, you’ll see it is clearly rural vs. urban. Urban people are used to fast change, to seeing the racial divide, to pushing for racial justice, and social justice. They are used to the melting pot and do not fear it because they live it. Rural, other the other hand, live in a much more homogenous society. This society values hard work, pulling yourself up by your effort, and fears the stranger — especially the stranger who has not achieved through hard work. That alone should explain the rise of Trump, whose central campaign point has been battling the dangerous unspecified “other” who freeloads.

In the primaries, Presidential candidates can win by playing to the loyal bases. Democrats can focus on change in the cities, because they will outnumber the rural democrats voting. Similarly, Republicans can play to the rural votes and amplify their fear, for they will outnumber of urban Republicans (in many areas). But to win the Presidency, a candidate has to appeal to the entire country.  Sanders could not have done that. Consider all the antisemitism on the Republican side — and now imagine that instead of running against a Methodist, they were running against a New York Jew, who used to be a Socialist. Trump would have loved to run against Sanders.

The Conservatives, over many many years and many many investigations, have built a false picture of the Clintons as crooks and thieves — never mind that they actually didn’t do anything. Similarly, they have convinced the Conservative side that Trump’s wrongdoings were excusable because he was a businessman (and we know that is how businessmen behave), as opposed to a politician (who are supposed to be all sweetness and light and honesty).

By the way, this is why it is important to listen to your Conservative friend: you learn these things. Now that you know, you can counter them.

Setting Aside the Unproven Crimes: Reconsidering the Candidates

Written By: cahwyguy - Wed Nov 02, 2016 @ 7:28 pm PST

userpic=obama-hillary-california,politicsFor those of you that haven’t voted yet, I would like you to re-consider (or just consider) your pick for top of the ticket. Innuendo has been flying hot and heavy about potential crimes committed by one candidate or the other, and all of these accusations has made it difficult to make an informed decision. I’m here to help. In this country, one is innocent until proven guilty, and none of these charges — against either Trump or Clinton — have yet been proven in court. So, let’s presume both are innocent. Although there might have been classified information on Hillary’s server, it didn’t reach the level where it was intentional and broke the law. All those accusations against Donald — just hot air until proven. For the sake of argument — and this post — let’s consider both innocent.

I’d like you to take a look at the candidates fresh, taking the following into account:

  • Experience. If you were looking at a random candidate, for the sake of argument, white male, with the experience of both candidates, who is best qualified to run for public office? Candidate 1, Howard Carlin, has been secretary of state, a senator, has worked in the executive branch, and has been working for the public good his entire life. Candidate 2, Darren Towers, has been a private businessman, never elected to a public office, and never worked in a public corporation where he had to answer to a board of directors.
  • Diplomatic Style. How do they react under pressure? Do they study an issue and present a reasoned response? Can they be goaded into a response by an adversary? Do they carry grudges, and do they use the power of their office to retaliate?
  • Knowledge of how Government Works. Do they have a demonstrated knowledge of civic affairs and government processes? Do they understand where revenue bills start? Do they know checks and balances? Do they understand the limitations of each branch of government? Do they have the ability to compromise with those with whom they disagree?
  • Positions. Do they have stated positions for the most pressing issues facing this country? Are these positions both reasonable and realistic? Can they be implemented without major financial impact on the Federal Budget and Deficit? If the candidate doesn’t get the issue how they want it to be, can they live with a compromise?

I know, when I look at the two candidates Howard Rodham Carlin (HRC) and Darren James Towers (DJT), I know who I will choose. I hope you’ll make the same decision when you consider the issue. Certainly, in the first three areas, there is a distinct difference between the candidates — and much as some may hate government, we need it to work and work effectively for our society to function.

Next, if you haven’t seen it, here are the links to my ballot analysis:

Skeletons On The Stage | “Vote or Die Laughing” @ VPAC

Written By: cahwyguy - Wed Nov 02, 2016 @ 6:48 pm PST

Vote or Die Laughing (VPAC)userpic=ucla-csunIt wasn’t what I expected. In some ways, I was a pez fuera del agua.

Perhaps I should explain. When I booked our Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB)’s mini-season, there was a show a week before election day called Vote or Die Laughing by a group called Culture Clash. I thought it was another group like The Capitol Steps, and we would have an evening of politically themed comedy.

I was wrong. I was right. I’m so confused. I should have looked at the subtitle. We really did have a “post-modern political vaudeville”.

The comedy group Culture Clash, consisting of Richard Montoya, Ric Salinas, and Herbert Sigüenza, were the glue for the evening, which was part political commentary, part a celebration of Dia de los Muertos, and part a celebration of Latino culture and arts. In between various comedy pieces — both live and taped — from Culture Clash, there was standup comedy, dance, music, and celebration, all with a distinctly power to la raza political vibes, although they were officially bi-partisan. Not.

As a result, the unexpected surprise was a delightful evening, even though I only understood about 90% of it.

The acts in the political vaudeville were as follows:

Culture Clash. This was a comedy group that arose out of San Francisco that had both pointed and dated political comedy. I think the most timely piece was a “Election Jeopardy” pitting Trump against Clinton against Tarzan, whose only answers were Cheech and Chong. This played on the stereotypes of Trump and Clinton, with Clinton knowing loads of facts on Latino history, and Trump knowing precious little. Other comedy segments included a taped version of “American Border Gladiators”, and a Paleta Man number which touched upon references that I (a white Jew) did not pick up on. There was also a touching piece by Ric Salinas on when he got shot, and a recorded piece from their TV show when Lalo Guerrero sang about there being no Hispanics on TV. Alas, that’s still true.

Stand Up Comedy. There were two stand up comedienne’s, one in each act. In the first act was Marga Gomez, who was a founding member of Culture Clash. The second act was Cristela Alonzo. Both were very funny.

Dance. The first act included two dance performances from Pacifico Dance Company: one number titled Calacas Clandestinas and the other Popurri de Chilenas. It was a delight to watch.

Music. The main music for the show was provided by the group Buyepongo, who performed in both acts. It is hard to describe Buyepongo, other than engergetic eclectic latin music. We really enjoyed them, and picked up their latest album.

Also performing, at the top of Act II, was La Santa Cecilia, who did three or four numbers. They were spectacular, especially when their lead vocalist, La Marisoul, did one song without amplification — demonstrating both the power of her voice and the power of the acoustics at VPAC.

There was also a number from Richard Montoya with Michael Roth and the Atzlan Underground that focused on #BlackLivesMatter. Very moving words and images, although not my style of music.

As you can see, it really was an eclectic mix of an evening, and not what I expected. I enjoyed the dance and music, got about 80% of the jokes, and truly felt that the evening wasn’t aimed at me. That’s fine. I enjoyed seeing and learning about another culture. that is so important here in the southland.

Plus, I used to live a stone’s throw from Pacoima, so perhaps by osmosis….

Here’s the review from The LA Times. They remembered a bit more than I did, including these fantastic puppets of Trump and Hillary that accompanied the dancers.

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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), the  Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB), the Chromolume Theatre (FB) in the West Adams district, and a mini-subscription at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB).  The Chromolume 2017 season looks particularly good: Zanna Don’t (Tim Acito, January 13 – February 5), Hello Again (Michael John LaChiusa, May 5- May 28), and Pacific Overtures (Stephen Sondheim, September 15 – October 8) — all for only $60). Past subscriptions have included  The Colony Theatre (FB) (which went dormant in 2016), and Repertory East Playhouse (“REP”) (FB) in Newhall (which entered radio silence in 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:  This weekend brings Hedwig and the Angry Inch at  the Hollywood Pantages (FB) and the Nottingham Festival (FB). We then lose a weekend as we travel to Palo Alto for a Bar Mitzvah. The third weekend of November brings Funny Girl, a Conundrum Theatre Company (FB) guest production at  The Colony Theatre (FB) and a Day Out With Thomas at Orange Empire Railway Museum (FB) [excuse me, “Southern California Railway Museum”]. November concludes with a HOLD date for Little Women at the Chance Theatre (FB) in Anaheim. December starts with Into the Woods at Nobel Middle School, and staged concert of Wonderful Town being performed by the LA Opera at the Dorothy Chandler Pavillion. The next week brings the CSUN Jazz Band at the Annual Computer Security Applications Conference (ACSAC), and Amalie at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). The third week of December brings  The King and I at the Hollywood Pantages (FB). December concludes with an unspecified movie on Christmas day; and a return to our New Years Eve Gaming Party.

Turning to 2017, January currently is quiet, with just a single hold date for Zanna Don’t at the Chromolume Theatre (FB). February 2017 gets back to being busy: with a hold for Zoot Suit at the Mark Taper Forum (FB) the first weekend. The second weekend brings 33 Variations at Actors Co-op (FB). The third weekend has a hold for the WGI Winter Regionals. The last weekend in February brings Finding Neverland at the Hollywood Pantages (FB). March quiets down a bit — at least as currently scheduled — with Fun Home at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) at the beginning of the month, and An American in Paris at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) at the end of the month.

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, Musicals in LA, @ This Stage, Footlights, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves. Note: Although we can’t make it, I also recommend the 10th Anniversary Production of The Brain from Planet X at LACC. Lastly, want to know how to attend lots of live stuff affordably? Take a look at my post on How to attend Live Theatre on a Budget.

 

California Highway Headlines for October 2016

Written By: cahwyguy - Tue Nov 01, 2016 @ 12:32 pm PST

userpic=roadgeekingOctober. The start of the last quarter of the calendar year. By now, you’re sick of the election coverage, so let’s turn instead to something more interesting in the news — highway headlines!

  • How toll-lane network could cover five counties. As the 91 widening nears completion, Riverside County transportation officials are gearing up for their next major freeway expansion – adding toll lanes on Interstate 15. The Riverside County Transportation Commission recently marked two big milestones with the long-planned project to add two toll lanes in each direction on a 14.6-mile stretch of the 15 from Cajalco Road in Corona to Highway 60 at the San Bernardino County line.
  • Audio: California gives LA control over freeway-facing billboards: What’s next?. A state ban on billboards near freeways was recently lifted for a busy section of the 110 Freeway downtown, placing authority over roadside visual clutter in the hands of the Los Angeles City Council. Gov. Jerry Brown signed AB 1373 into law on Friday. The bill, by Assemblyman Miguel Santiago, removes Caltrans authority over new standard and digital billboards for the east side of the 110 Freeway from Interstate 10 north to 8th Street.
  • Roadshow: Montague Expressway carpool lane gap to be filled. Q There’s a stretch on Montague Expressway in Milpitas without a carpool lane. When will that be fixed?

(more…)

The Power and Misuse of Social Media

Written By: cahwyguy - Mon Oct 31, 2016 @ 4:59 am PST

userpic=socialmediaWhen I started blogging/journalling back in 2004, we were in the midst of Kerry vs. Bush. Facebook was still pretty much restricted to college campuses, and the hot place to be was Livejournal. I don’t remember much political discussion online then. Certainly, we didn’t have the explosion of pundit and commentary sites, we didn’t have the heavy satire sites and such. We still got most of our news from less partisan sources (I won’t go so far as to say non-partisan) such as broadcast and print media. But there was still a heavy amount of criticism of George Bush, and all the memes about village idiots and such started circulating. I’m sure you could find all the icons from that era and you would see the large amount making fun of Bush (and I’m sure there were equal ones making fun of Kerry, but I didn’t see those).

By the 2008 election, Livejournal’s star was starting to fade and Facebook’s rise, but I still remember loads of political discussions on LJ. Many of my political icons come from that era — especially during the primaries where it was Obama vs. Clinton. In my admitted progressive circles, there was lots of criticism of John McCain (especially when he chose Sarah Palin). Online news sites and prediction sites were starting up, but I don’t remember the large number of partisan sites and pages.

With the 2012 election, the shift to FB had begun in earnest, and online journalism sites were rampant. This was the battle of Romney vs Obama (and Obama had no serious primary opposition). Memes — as in the stylized photos with the large bordered text — were beginning to circulate. Romney certainly made sufficient gaffes to feed them.

It is now 2016, and social media has become the influencer of elections, not the reporting outlet. Parody news sites are rampant, as are partisan meme generators. In fact, memes have been the source of news for many people, believing any text they see on a meme. It has gotten really really bad folks. People have turned off their critical thinking; they are sheeple, willing to do or think anything the Internet says. This becomes a vicious circle, and the echo chamber that FB is has increased the partisan nature of discourse.

Reading my FB feeds brought this all back to me. I see posts about the situation at Standing Rock, about people should post their location as Standing Rock to confuse the police. I see memes going around expressing political opinions, and loads of sharing from hyper-partisan, non-journalistic sites. As I’m up early due to a headache, seeing this leads me to post the following reminders:

  1. Facebook is not the world. Police do not have the time to monitor everyone’s FB feed to determine who is where and who to arrest. Showing your location as someplace in solidarity with an action does not benefit those you are supporting. Similarly, liking or sharing positions pieces is only benefitting the “likes” of someone you don’t know. It is often a trick to entice you.
  2. Just because text goes around on top of an image doesn’t make it true. Anyone can claim something is a quote or a statement, pop it on an image, and people will believe it. Don’t keep circulating those, no matter how enticing. Confirm (or double confirm) anything you read, focusing on confirmation from well-known broadcast and print media, and especially international and multiple sources.
  3. Recognize satire sites. If it is from The Onion, Andy Borowitz at the New Yorker, or a number of other sites, it is likely not true. Very likely.
  4. Recognize partisan sites. Many of the sites that pose as news these days — e.g., Occupy Democrats, Partisan Report, Red State Blue State — spread news in a hyperpartisan manner. Don’t repeat what they say, you only make it worse. This article has a good summary of such sites from the progressive side; On the conservative site, such sites include Breitbart News, Wall Street Journal (oh, how the mighty have fallen), NY Post, and I’m sure there are more. Again, always double or triple confirm what you read.
  5. Remember that if you see it on the Internet, there is no guarantee that it is true. People can make up anything and easily make it look real. Confirm everything before you reshare or react.
  6. Facts are non-partisan. Do not believe the innuendo regarding the fact checking sites. Snopes, FactCheck.org, and such are not partisan mouthpieces — they call out all sides for incorrect use of facts.

We have just about a week to go in this election. As you see all the mud being slung, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. For those that like Trump, if his past and behavior were on the part of any other candidate, would you still support that candidate? For example, if it was a white, male Democrat such as Gary Hart, John Kerry, or Ted Kennedy, would you be calling for them to drop out of the race? Trump is not special; your hatred of Clinton should not blind you to the foibles of the man that disqualify him. Consider Bill Cosby: he’s had a lot of the same accusations and has fallen from grace; Trump has had similar accusations, and yet has grown in support. Double standard, anyone?
  2. Similarly, if all the behaviors that make you hate Clinton were attributed to a Republican candidate, would you accept them? Would you be demanding the emails from George Bush, Mitt Romney, or John Cain? Would defunding embassy security have disqualified Bush for a second term? Recognize that the FB echo chamber has made this worse, and that your hatred is inflamed because she is Clinton, or because she is, well, “she”.
  3. Are you reacting to manufactured news, or news slated so as to play to your biases and hatreds? If so, just say no. This is true from both sides.

Hopefully, this has given you something to think about, as we start the last week of the campaign.