Observations Along the Road

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

End of the Year News Chum Stew

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Dec 27, 2014 @ 11:05 am PST

userpic=observationsIt’s the last Saturday of the year, and thus this is the last serving of News Chum Stew for 2014. Let’s hope it is somewhat tasty:

  • The Podcast Renaissance. I’ve written before about the rebirth of podcasts, exemplified by Serial. Here’s another article in the same vein. I like this article because it gives some insight as to why podcasts are seeing a rebirth, especially when you don’t see “pods” anymore. The answer is that the podcast is basically the radio version of VOD — you don’t have to listen to the talk radio stations with all their commercials — you can listen to well-produced material, streamed to your car either directly or from your phone (no downloading required), when you want. I think this should be a wake-up call to the previous generation podcasts, such as Born Ready (a Bay-Area theatre podcast) — you need to up your game and produce something that sounds better; two guys sitting around a microphone chatting on a subject doesn’t fly these days.
  • How Chicken Changed The World. Little things have big impacts. We often realize this, but then don’t think about the little things. Consider the humble chicken. According to one man, Chicken has powered human civilization. It has not only provided a cheap (cheep) and easy protein source, but had medicinal uses, and helped build communities.
  • The Death of Voice Mail. If you’re like me, you hate voice mail. You would rather send an email or a text than sit and listen to backed up voice mail. Slashdot has some interesting commentary on an article about Coca-Cola disconnecting the voicemail at its headquarters. It views this as yet another salvo in the war against voicemail, which is rapidly being won.
  • Pronounciation Errors that Shaped English. If you like history or language, you’ll enjoy this link (which I think came from Andrew Ducker): 8 ways that pronounciation errors shaped the English language.
  • Christmas Lights for Celiac Research. Slashdot recently reported that this year is the last year of Alex’s Internet Controlled Christmas Lights for Celiac Research. Now, to me, the interesting fact here is not the Internet control — in this era of computer-connected everything, Christmas lights aren’t that far fetched — but that this was for Celiac research and I never heard of it.

 

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The Power of Mathematics

Written By: cahwyguy - Fri Dec 26, 2014 @ 7:58 am PST

The Imitation Gameuserpic=moviesAs you might have figured out by now, I’m a live theatre person. However, I do occasionally go to the movies, and one of those “movie days” is always Christmas Day. This year, after some back and forth on the particular movie, I settled on “The Imitation Game“, a bio-pic about Alan Turing (my wife vetoed “Into the Woods“, which I may see the first weekend of January; she went to go see “Night at the Museum 3“).

Alan Turing is an interesting, and quite tragic, fellow. Most folks in the computer science world know of Turing: the most prestigious award in the computing field is named after him (the ACM Turing Award), anyone studying computability theory learned of the Turing Machine, and anyone dealing with artificial intelligence knows of the Turing Test. Dayenu – that would have been enough. A smaller number of people may know of Turing’s real contribution: he was one of the people behind the breaking of the German Enigma code machine — an effort that quite probably led to the Allied victory against the Germans in WWII (and, ancillarily, one of the reasons that the Unix crypt utility is insecure, as it is based on the Enigma algorithms).  As an aside, I’ll note that those who really want to study Turing might look at the online Turing archive, a large web collection of digital facsimiles of original documents by Turing and other pioneers of computing.

The general unwashed public, however, knows little of Turing and little of cryptography. There have been plays and movies portraying Turing before: most notably Breaking the Code, a 1986 play by Hugh Whitmore that was later turned into a movie starring Derek Jacobi. Most of the portrayals focus on attempting to reconcile Turing’s cryptographic work with the secret that seemingly led to his death: his homosexuality.

All this Turing talk is because the latest attempt to explore Turing’s life is the movie The Imitation Game, based on the book “Alan Turing: The Enigma” by Andrew Hodges (who runs a detailed website on Turing and his life), adapted for the stage by Graham Moore. As with any entertainment writeup, we need to look from three areas: the story, the performances, and the technical.

The screenplay for The Imitation Game does a good job of telling a version of the story of Turing’s life. It certainly goes in deeper and provides more details than Breaking the Code did. It uses a framing device of an early 1950s burglary at Turing’s house to have Turing telling his story to the police, who ultimately uncover his homosexuality and prosecute him for it. The film keeps jumping back and forth in time between the 1950s police station, the war years at Bletchly Park, and Turing’s early years in Boarding School.

The problem, of course, is that this isn’t quite the truth. Films rarely are: they simplify facts in some areas, amplify facts in other areas, and create fictional peoples and stories in still other areas. This story does that in spades — while researching this writeup I found a good summary of the historical inaccuracies in the film. There are a number of key ones, with the most glaring being the fact that Turing was never accused of espionage, and never worked with the individual identified as the actual spy in the film. It also over-amplifies the relationship with Joan Clarke, under-emphasizes the other cryptography work that Turing did, and neglects to mention the fact that multiple machines were built. It also tends to under emphasize Turing’s death from cyanide poisoning, although they hint of it at the beginning of the movie. Turing’s life story is interesting enough — read the Wiki page to get a good idea of it — but the screenwriter chose to change it. Ah, Hollywood. Note that I have no idea if Hodges’ original book makes the same errors, but I’m inclined to doubt it.

“But besides that, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln?” — If we set aside the historical inaccuracies (that is, we accept this fictional version as the story to be told), the progression works reasonably well. The jumping back and forth in time is not confusing, and the way the story introduces and builds the characters works well. The play also throws out some good quotes, most notably “it is the people no one imagines anything of who do the things that no one can imagine.” This quote is one of those wonderful inspirational lines that may goad people to get involved with science and engineering — this is a good thing.

The story also highlights a major dilemma the folks at Bletchly Park faced: they couldn’t let the Germans know they had broken the code; if they did, the Germans would change the code. Thus, they had to let some people die in order to save others. This was perhaps the most interesting question at the heart of the story. However, it is dispatched relatively quickly and doesn’t demonstrate the likely large moral debate that occurred.

The performances in the film were excellent. I’m not going to list the entire cast as I do with a play; there’s IMDB for that.  I will note that Benedict Cumberbach portrays Turing well, although it is unclear how much of the Aspergers mannerisms and stutter were an invention of the screenwriter. Keira Knightly does a good job with Joan Clarke, a fellow cryptographer and one-time fiancee of Turing. From what I’ve read of Clarke, I don’t think the role was written accurately portrays the character; however, Knightly does a good job with the role as written.

Let’s turn now to the technical side. If this were a stage show, I’d be talking about sound, lighting, and sets. Most of those just blend into the story in film; what film brings to the fore is the cinematic aspects. This film did a very nice job of establishing place and time through a mix of new sequences illustrating wartime England and grainy stock footage of bombings and such. Bletchly Park also seemed to be portrayed well, although I cannot compare it to the real thing. The good thing (to me) is that there were very few points where I became aware of the cinematographer trying to do tricks with the camera to create emphasis or mood.

Overall, I found the film quite enjoyable and worth what I paid for it. Whether it was a story that deserved the “big screen” treatment is less clear — the story would likely have worked on the small screen as well. Alas, there were few truly “need the big screen” movies out that our group could agree were worth seeing. I am disturbed by the historical inaccuracies — not because the screenwriter chose to put them in, but because this will likely be the version of the story that the unschooled will take away as Turing’s story.

Preview Notes: We have the following five movies previewed:

  • A Most Violent Year. A crime drama seemingly about a trucking company and the mob in Jersey. The story just didn’t catch my interest.
  • Black Sea. An adverture hunt to recover the gold from a sunken U-boat, with the spoils being evenly split. Of course, with an even split, you need only to reduce the number of people to increase your share… Not interested.
  • Chappie. A movie about a sentient police robot, and how he learns of his sentience. Appears to be an interesting story  about AI. It was interesting to see this paired with a story about Turing; one wonders if the robot would pass the Turing test. Potentially worth seeing.
  • Paddington. Why, you might ask, would a children’s comedy be placed in this movie. Of course, the answer is that Turing was born in Paddington. The movie itself looks quite well done and cute, and may be worth seeing.
  • Woman In Gold. A movie about a quest to recover artowrk stolen by the Nazis. This looked to be a very interesting story, well acted. Might be worth seeing.

Upcoming Shows: There is one more show in December for me: A Christmas Carol, as interpreted by Zombie Joe’s Underground (FB) on December 28. January is filling up. The first weekend of January there’s no interesting live theatre, so I may go see the new “Into the Woods” movie. The following weekend brings two shows: “Serial Killer Barbie: The Musical” (FB) at the No Ho Arts Center on Friday January 9 and “An Evening with Groucho” at AJU with Frank Ferrente at American Jewish University on Sun January 11. The next weekend starts the Rep season with “Avenue Q” at REP East (FB) on Sat Sanuary 17. The following weekend is currently open (but I’m looking). January may conclude with the Cantors Concert on Sat January 31 at Temple Ahavat Shalom. February and March pick up even more, with “The Threepenny Opera” at A Noise Within (FB) on February 15, a hold for “Loch Ness” at the Chance Theatre (FB)  on February 21, “The Road to Appomattox” at The Colony Theatre (FB) on February 28, the MRJ Man of the Year dinner on March 7, “Carrie: The Musical” at La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts (FB) on March 14, a hold for “Drowsy Chaperone” at CSUN on Friday March 20, “Doubt” at REP East (FB) on Saturday March 21, “Newsies” at the Pantages (FB) on March 28, followed by Pesach and the Renaissance Faire on April 11. 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.

A Christmas Musing

Written By: cahwyguy - Thu Dec 25, 2014 @ 7:42 am PST

userpic=chanukah-christmasToday is Christmas. To those who observe it, I hope you’re having a happy holiday and found what you were expecting under the tree. Me? No tree. No presents. Just a movie and Chinese food, with friends, in a crowded restaurant.

Christmas is one of the days in the United States where I realize I’m part of a religious minority. Almost everything is closed. Everyone (it seems) is out celebrating the birth of their religious savior, and pushing it in my face. Further, although that’s a harsh way of saying it, I don’t have a problem with much of it. People should be free to celebrate whatever faith they want (even if their faith is questioning God or non-believing — which, as the existence of God can be neither proved nor disproved — is just another form of faith). I’m more troubled with the Government observing the holidays, as that is favoring one religion over another; that’s only offset by my getting the day off.

The reason I’m writing this post (other than I have nothing else to do Christmas morning), however, is to note that I’m obviously not alone. Two days ago, I circulated on Facebook an article from Everyday Feminism (which has since been pulled, but I found the original elsewhere) about all of the examples of Christian Privilege in US society. This must have hit a nerve, as it has been one of the most shared links I have ever posted.

“Privilege” is the hot word on everyone’s lips. In the wake of Ferguson, there have been vast discussions of White Privilege. This is thing that does exist, but it is really an artifact of our society’s history… and thus, it is very hard to change. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t work to change it, but we need to recognize it won’t happen overnight. Eliminating racial based privilege and judgement will take multiple generations and training to do completely. The fact that we are even questioning the privilege and discussing it is a big step forward — compare this with our attitudes towards race 100 years ago in 1914, or even 50 years ago in 1964.

The first step towards solving any problem is recognizing it. That’s why it is important to recognize where we are giving inherent privilege without realizing it — beit White privilege, Christian privilege, Thin privilege, and so on. Perhaps this is why that article hit such a nerve.

I should, digress for a minute, about the recent anger towards the police. In addressing the question of privilege, we should not forget that policemen are people too, and that the vast majority of police officers really want to protect and serve and help all people. Any death is tragic — irrespective of color of skin, or of profession. When we judge people based on their uniform or profession, we are making the same mistake as those who judge on skin color. We need to learn to see people based on the person, not how they are packaged.

The discussion of privilege does not mean that everyone needs to be the same. That leads us down the political correctness path, and takes us to a Harrison Bergeron world (and if you haven’t read that short story, you should — it was very prescient. You can read it here. I’ll wait.) Rather, it means we should see people as the person they are, and not provide special benefits or treatment based on some characteristic.

Bringing this full circle to what day it is — I really like the notion of the recent Christmas episode of The Librarians. Christmas is as good of a day as any to spread good will, good cheer, and recharge the goodness of humanity. May today recharge you with good spirit, and may you find in the coming year the lessening of judgement and privilege based on the packaging, and the greater recognition of the person and the contents inside, which is where true value and worth lies.

 

When Restraining Orders Expire

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Dec 21, 2014 @ 12:24 pm PST

Austin Lounge Lizards (Boulevard Music)userpic=folk-artistsAs I said in my last post, yesterday was a day of running. She Loves Me ended right around 5:45 PM (it started at 3:00 PM), and we had tickets for an 8:00 PM concert in Culver City. So rush off we did, grabbing dinner at Togos and flying the 51 miles between Chance Theatre (FB) in Anaheim and Boulevard Music (FB) in Culver City. Yes, Boulevard Music — there are now two small folk music venues on the westside of Los Angeles: the venerable McCabes and Boulevard, right near Culver and Sepulveda. We were running to Boulevard Music to see the Austin Lounge Lizards (FB), who were doing their first show in Southern California since 2001 in Encino. As they noted, they were able to come back because the restraining order ended. Note: We made it there in just about an hour, thanks to Google’s alternate routing.

For those who aren’t familiar with the Austin Lounge Lizards — shame on you. They are one of the best satirical bluegrass bands around (although right now, they are down a banjo player — which, depending on your view of the banjo, might be an improvement). If you like Weird Al; if you like the Arrogant Worms; if you like Tom Paxton’s short shelf life songs — you’ll like the Lizards. They combine humor with great musicality to create a very entertaining show.

A word on the venue, as it was new to us. Boulevard Music is much smaller than McCabes — they set up the folding chairs in the main showroom (instead of the room in back) and they can’t handle online ticket sales. But they are super friendly, and seem to be well connected folk-wise, given some of the other folks there for the show. Further, the parking is much much easier. I recommend you check out their concert list and sign up for their mailing list — you might learn about some interesting concerts.

As for the show itself — the show featured two original Lizards (Hank Card, Conrad Diesler) and two newer members (Darcie Deaville, and Bruce Jones). Former lizard Korey Simeone (FB), who was local, joined the group on quite a few songs. The show playlist was as follows (♦=New Song):

Act I

  1. The Highway Café Of The Damned
  2. I Lied
  3. If I Saw You All The Time
  4. Buenos Dias, Budweiser
  5. La Cacahuate
  6. One True God
  7. We’ve Been Through Some Crappy Times Before
  8. Thank You For Touching Me There
  9. The Drugs I Need
  10. Strange Noises In The Dark
  11. The Car Hank Died In
  12. Stupid Texas Song
  13. Xmas Time for VISA
  14. Would You Like To Start A Band

Act II

  1. The Golden Triangle
  2. That Godforsaken Hellhole I Call Home
  3. ♦ I Confess To You
  4. Jesus Loves Me (But He Can’t Stand You)
  5. Paint Me on Velvet
  6. The Dogs, They Really Miss You
  7. My Bonnie Johnson
  8. Old Blevins
  9. Wer Ist Da
  10. Who Needs You
  11. Teenage Immigrant Welfare Mothers on Drugs
  12. Pflugerville

In short, the show was a mix of songs from throughout the Lizard’s performing career, with one new songs. A number of songs just can’t be done well without a banjo (how many times do you hear that!), and some really require Tom Pittman to work.

All in all, a good show…. and hopefully it won’t be 13 years before the Lizards are back in Southern California.

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 Shows: There is one more show in December for me: A Christmas Carol, as interpreted by Zombie Joe’s Underground (FB) on December 28  (my wife is seeing The Klezmatics at Disney Hall on December 22). January is slowly filling up:  “An Evening with Groucho” at AJU with Frank Ferrente at American Jewish University on Sun January 11; “Avenue Q” at REP East (FB) on Sat Sanuary 17; and possibly the Cantors Concert on Sat January 31 at Temple Ahavat Shalom. February and March pick up even more, with “The Threepenny Opera” at A Noise Within (FB) on February 15, a hold for “Loch Ness” at the Chance Theatre (FB)  on February 21, “The Road to Appomattox” at The Colony Theatre (FB) on February 28, the MRJ Man of the Year dinner on March 7, “Carrie: The Musical” at La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts (FB) on March 14, a hold for “Drowsy Chaperone” at CSUN on Friday March 20, “Doubt” at REP East (FB) on Saturday March 21, “Newsies” at the Pantages (FB) on March 28, followed by Pesach and the Renaissance Faire on April 11. 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.

A Timeless Love Story

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Dec 21, 2014 @ 11:26 am PST

She Loves Me (Chance Theatre)userpic=dramamasksI’ve written before about how I’m always up to see musicals I’ve only heard, but never seen. So back in January, when we were at the Chance Theatre (FB) in Anaheim to see Lysistrata Jones, I noticed that they were planning to do She Loves Me at one of their holiday plays. I’m familiar with She Loves Me — I’ve got two cast album versions, and have always enjoyed the music from the show. From what I had heard, it was Bock/Harnick’s best crafted show, but never achieved the measure of success they later had with Fiddler on the Roof. So it went on my RADAR for future ticketing. Now it is December, and the Chance is performing She Loves Me. So guess what part of our mad dash was yesterday: that’s right: a 61 mile (one-way) jaunt to the Anaheim Hills for She Loves Me (after which we rushed to Culver City for an 8 PM concert, but that’s another writeup).

For those unfamiliar with She Loves Me, you probably know the story but by another name. The story started out as the play Parfumerie by Hungarian playwright Miklos Laszlo. This was later made into the movie The Shop around the Corner with Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullivan in 1940. It was then re-made into the movie In The Good Old Summertime with Judy Garland and Van Johnson in 1949. Most recently, it was re-made into the movie You’ve Got Mail in 1998 with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. On the stage, however, in 1963 Parfumerie was turned into the musical She Loves Me by Joe Masteroff (book — he later went on to do the book of Caberet), Sheldon Harnick (lyrics — he next went on to Fiddler on the Roof), and Jerry Bock (music — and again Fidder).

The basic bones of the story are simple: Single man has a pen pal with whom he is falling in love. Single gal has a pen pal with whom she is falling in love. Single man and single gal work at the same place and hate each other’s guts, without knowing that each is the other’s pen pal. Now, bring them together with some catalyst, turn the gears, and enjoy the show.

In the case of She Loves Me, the story sticks pretty close to the original source. Georg is a clerk at Maraczek’s Parfumerie in Budapest in 1937 (although there are no hints of war — evidently, the real world doesn’t intrude on this story). He works together with the other clerks: Ilona, Sipos, and Kodaly, and the delivery boy Arpad, for Mr. Maraczek. When the competing parfumerie closes, one of their clerks, Amalia, talks her way into a clerk job (which upsets Georg, who starts getting on her case). While all this is happening, Kodaly is busy persuing anything in a skirt — in particular, Ilona. When Mr. Maraczek suspects his wife of cheating, he starts bearing down on Georg, who passes the pressure on to the rest of the staff — making things even testier with Amalia. His only consolation is his pen-pal, who he has never met or seen, but loves anyway. He schedules a rendezvous with her, without knowing she is really Amalia. They day they are to meet, Georg gets fired and send Sipos to tell his unknown date he won’t be there. Sipos sees it is Amalia, and gets Georg to go talk to her. Thinking he is spying on her, they have a gigantic fight. End Act I. In Act II, of course, all things predictably come together in predictable fashion, which I, predictably, won’t spoil :-).

The music in this story is just a delight. From the initial “Good Morning, Good Day” to “Days Gone By” to “Tonight at Eight” to “Try Me” to “Ice Cream” to “She Loves Me” to “A Trip to the Library” — it is just a joy. If you haven’t heard the score, I strongly suggest you pick up one of the cast albums out there. You’ll fall in love with it.

So, we’ve established that we have a classic love story with a winning score. Why isn’t this musical done more? In 1963, there were the big song and dance numbers that people expected, and it was booked into the wrong theatre at the wrong time — and thus lost money. This led to a perception that it was a failed show. Remember , however, that Chicago was a failure when it first hit Broadway. Often great shows aren’t always profitable or recognized as such. You can learn more about the show and the details of the synopsis at Wikipedia.

The execution of the show at the Chance was (as with every Chance show), perfect. The instrumentation was kept simple: a single pianist (Ryan O’Connell (FB)) and an occasional Romani Woman (Tina Nguyen (FB)) on violin. I’m a big fan of simple orchestrations — one of my favorite versions of I Do! I Do! is instrumented with just two pianos. Do it simple, or do it lush. What the Chance Theatre did here worked very very well. Note that the actor playing Kodaly, Taylor Stephenson, also served as musical director.

The performances were equally strong. In the lead positions were Stanton Kane Morales (FB) as Georg Nowack and Laura M. Hathaway (FB) as Amalia Balash (normally Erika C. Miller (FB) performs the role, but she was out this weekend). Both brought a wonderful joy and enthusiasm to the role (clearly evident in Georg’s wonderful numbers “Tonight at Eight” and “She Loves Me”, and Amalia in “Ice Cream”), and both sang and danced beautifully. In the first act, it was totally believable that they didn’t like each other, yet in the second act, they were able to turn that into a playful spark that made them a believable couple. This chemistry was more remarkable when you realize that we were watching the understudy, who hasn’t had the time to build the chemistry. Credit here goes to the actors, as well as the director, Sarah Figoten Wilson (FB).

In the second tier we had the remaining Maraczek employees: Ilona Ritter (Camryn Zelinger (FB)), Ladisov Sipos (Corky Loupe (FB)), Steven Kodaly (Taylor Stephenson), the shop owner Mr. Maraczek (Beach Vickers (FB)), and the delivery boy, Arpad Laszlo (Daniel Jared Hersh (FB)). All were excellent. In particular, Zelinger gave a spot-on performance in her number “A Trip to the Library” (which now I finally understand), and Vickers was wonderful in “Days Gone By”. Hersh had the appropriate youthful enthusiasm in “Try Me”, and both Loupe and Stephenson were great in their solo numbers “Perspective” and “Ilona”.

Rounding out the cast in the ensemble and smaller roles were Matt Takahashi (FB) (Waiter, Ensemble), Eric T. Anderson (FB) (Busboy, Ensemble), Shafik Wahhab (FB) (Keller, Ensemble), Elizabeth Adabale (FB) (Ensemble), Erica Schaeffer (FB) (Ensemble, Dance Captain), and Katelyn Spurgin (FB) (Ensemble). A few things about the ensemble that stick in my mind: A few of the male ensemble members doubled as women customers during Act I; this is not a surprise in an intimate theatre setting, and was actually quite fun to watch. What was even more fun to watch was the shop interaction of all the ensemble members — and particularly Adabale, Schaeffer, and Spurgin — as they tried products and silently worked with the clerks. Schaeffer and Spurgin were also fun to watch as the patrons in the Cafe scene, and Adabale handled her Fats Waller number quite well. Takahashi was quite good in “A Romantic Atmosphere”, and all of the ensemble was just delightful in “Twelve Days to Christmas”. Lastly, and most superficially :-), Adabale has one of the cutest faces I’ve seen in a while :-).

She Loves Me doesn’t have the big splashy production numbers one expects in shows from the 1960s; this was one of its original problems. However, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have dancing, choreography, and movement. There were scenes that were particularly movement-beautiful — in particular the movement of the opening number (“Good Morning, Good Day”, the simple dancing of “Days Gone By”, all the movement in the Cafe, Ilona’s movement in “A Trip to the Library”, and the overall chaos and movement in “Twelve Days to Christmas”.  She Loves Me was choreographed by Christopher M. Albrecht (FB), and Erica Schaeffer (FB) served as dance captain.

Turning to the technical: Again, the execution of She Loves Me was spot-on. The sound design of Ryan Brodkin (FB) was clear and worked well. When the show started I was a bit concerned that the actors might be over-amplified for the space, but the sound ended up being great. The lighting by Jonathan Daroca (FB) worked well to establish the mood, and didn’t seem to depend on the spotlights so many stage shows of this era seem to depend upon. The scenic and costume design by Bruce Goodrich (FB), together with the prop design of Amy Ramirez (FB), worked reasonably well to establish the mood and setting. I say reasonably, because I did have trouble recognizing it as Budapest; I was thinking more French or English given the barets, the backgrounds, the pricing, and the place names. However, the open and close set for the parfumerie worked particularly well. The clothing otherwise seemed period appropriate. Rounding out the technical credits were Michael Martinez-Hamilton (FB) as Assistant Director/Dramaturg, Chauna Goldberg/FB providing hair and make-up, Michelle Kincaid assisting with costume design, and Jonathan Castanien/FB as stage manager.

She Loves Me” continues at the Chance Theatre (FB) in Anaheim until December 28. If you can fit it into your schedule, you’ll enjoy it — it is a thoroughly delightful show. Tickets are available through the Chance Box Office. Goldstar is sold out, and discount tickets are not available through LA Stage Tix. Chance has announced their 2015, which consists of 11(!) shows over two stages (they are currently fundraising for the second stage). The shows are (♦ = main stage; ◊ = second stage): ♦ Loch Ness (a new musical with book and music by Marshall Pailet of Triassic Parq, lyrics & book by A. D. Penedo; January 30 – March 1); ♦ After the Revolution (by Amy Herzog; April 10 – May 10); ◊ Samsara (by Lauren Yee; April 30 – May 31); ♦ Hairspray (Book by Mark O’Donnell & Thomas Meehan, Music by Marc Shaiman, Lyrics by Scott Whitman & Marc Shaiman; July 10 – August 9); ◊ The Dragon Play (by Jenny Connell Davis, July 23 – August 23); ♦ A Bright New Boise (by Sam Hunter; September 25 – October 25); ♦ Anne of Green Gables (Book by Joseph Robinette, Music and Lyrics by Evelyn D. Swensson; Holiday Series: November 27 – December 27); ◊ The Eight: Reindeer Monologues (by Jeff Goode; Holiday Series: December 8 – December 23); ◊ Alice in Wonderland (by Randy Wyatt; Theatre for Young Audiences (TYA): February 28 – March 8); ♦ Fancy Nancy – The Musical (Book and lyrics by Susan DiLallo, Music by Sam Viverito; TYA – May 29 – June 7); and ◊ The Legend(s) of Sleepy Hollow (by Jonathan Josephson, TYA: October 8 – October 18). [As an aside, for the TYA shows, I’m impressed that Chance does a special performance for Autism Spectrum kids.] Of these, I’m interested in Loch Ness and Fancy Nancy.

Dining Notes: Prior to the show, we found a spectacular restaurant that is almost worth the drive on its own: True Shabu (FB). It is basically across the street from the Chance, next to the cinemas. It is an upscale Shabu Shabu restaurant where you cook your food at the table. Meats are organic, vegetables are organic and from local farmer’s markets where possible, the sauces are hand-made, the place is gluten-free friendly. Prices are not outrageous, especially for lunch. You can see the menu here. Note: The chef indicated they may be changing names to help people find it better, but whatever the name: go before or after the show. You’ll love it.

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 Shows: Right after this show we ran to Culver City for the  Austin Lounge Lizards concert at Boulevard Music in Culver City (that’s the next writeup). There is one more show in December for me: A Christmas Carol, as interpreted by Zombie Joe’s Underground (FB) on December 28  (my wife is seeing The Klezmatics at Disney Hall on December 22). January is slowly filling up:  “An Evening with Groucho” at AJU with Frank Ferrente at American Jewish University on Sun January 11; “Avenue Q” at REP East (FB) on Sat Sanuary 17; and possibly the Cantors Concert on Sat January 31 at Temple Ahavat Shalom. February and March pick up even more, with “The Threepenny Opera” at A Noise Within (FB) on February 15, a hold for “Loch Ness” at the Chance Theatre (FB)  on February 21, “The Road to Appomattox” at The Colony Theatre (FB) on February 28, the MRJ Man of the Year dinner on March 7, “Carrie: The Musical” at La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts (FB) on March 14, a hold for “Drowsy Chaperone” at CSUN on Friday March 20, “Doubt” at REP East (FB) on Saturday March 21, “Newsies” at the Pantages (FB) on March 28, followed by Pesach and the Renaissance Faire on April 11. 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.

Saturday News Chum Stew: From Shit to Teeth, with Jeb Bush Inbetween

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Dec 20, 2014 @ 7:37 am PST

Observation StewIf you haven’t figured it out yet, I like to do things in threes. So this is my third news chum post of the day; this one collecting all those articles from the week that didn’t theme into groups of three or more:

  • A Shitty Product. There is truth in advertising after all. On Black Friday, the folks behind Cards Against Humanity advertised bullshit for sale, and over 30,000 people bought it thinking it might be additional cards. Nope, 30,000 people really bought a box of shit. What’s even funnier is that it is selling for inflated prices on eBay. If that’s not a commentary on society, I’m not sure what is.
  • And Speaking of Shit, Here’s Annie. By now, hopefully you’re read the reviews and are staying away from that controversial movie that has killed a major character. I’m not talking about “The Interview“, but rather the remake of “Annie”. Almost every review I’ve read demonstrates why this remake and update is bad. Here’s one approach I liked: this article compares the soundtrack of the movie with the original cast album. Reminds me of that Fame remake of a few years ago, which also had a universally hated soundtrack. Some movies do not need to be remade.
  • Securing Your Home Router. During ACSAC, I posted an article related to security that gave good advice on what to do if you lost your 2nd-factor authentication device. Here’s another useful article: Seven Steps to Securing Your Home Router.
  • Things to Look At. Sometimes my links are interesting articles. Other times, they are reminders of things I want to look at. Here are two in that camp. The first is an interesting Chinese knockoff of the Parker 51 fountain pen. Like the ’51, this does not take cartridges. At just over $5, it is cheap enough to be worth trying, especially with all the bottle ink I have. The second article relates to UC Berkeley — they are changing the SHIP requirements yet again, and this time they should be easier to fit with most private insurance policies. This is a good thing — last year’s SHIP waiver was a royal pain. The new requirements are supposedly streamlined, less restrictive, and will be consistent across the UC system.
  • The Changing Face of Judaism. Here’s an interesting opinion piece about how Chabad is changing the face of American Judaism. I remember Chabad in the 1970s, where they were presenting a very positive face of Orthodoxy. Far from the original “cult of Schneerson”, the article notes how Chabad is changing the equation: One – the work Chabad does on campuses has an impact on the way Jewish youngsters think about the movement for the rest of their Jewish lives. Two – the younger generation of post denominational tendencies doesn’t have the instinctive organizational objection to Chabad (ultra-Orthodox, black hat, etc.), and hence is much more willing to participate in Chabad activities without thinking too much about ideological differences. An interesting thought piece.
  • Passings of Note. A few passings of note. The first is Rabbi Harold Schulweiss of Valley Beth Shalom, one of those seminal rabbis of Southern California who left a world-wide impact. The second is the Lanterman Center in Pomona, a place that did remarkable work with the developmentally disabled, providing with a home and stability. The article indicates it has outsurvived its purpose. I hope that is true.
  • Not Again. I snarfed this article intending to write a soapbox piece, but it never quite came together: Jeb Bush to explore a presidential run. One of the reasons I voted for Obama was that I wanted to break the “Clinton/Bush” cycle. We had gone from Bush to Clinton to Bush, and I felt that Clinton would prove to continue the cycle of divisiveness. Alas, President Obama didn’t solve the problem — much of the country wasn’t mature enough to accept a black president. Thus, this news about Jeb Bush disturbs me greatly — the country does not need another Bush/Clinton battle. We need a candidate that can calm things down and perhaps get the parties working together — and I don’t see such a candidate on either side. (and yes, alas, that does mean that we probably need at least 4 years under a white male — much of this country hasn’t reached the maturity to accept a woman in charge, much as we progressives may believe it)
  • That Bites. Here’s a question you likely haven’t thought about: Why is dental insurance so shitty when compared to medical insurance? Why do we treat our teeth different than other parts of our body? Why isn’t dentistry just another medical specialty? This article explores the question, and explains why dentistry is a 2nd class citizen.

 

The Story Behind The Story

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Dec 20, 2014 @ 7:09 am PST

userpic=lougrantAs I keep looking at the accumulated News Chum articles for today, I keep discovering groupa-three themes. So here are three articles related to how familiar things came to be:

  • The Accuracy of Google Maps. We’ve all grown to depend on the accuracy of Google maps. I know that, for me, they’ve supplanted that trusted old Thomas Brothers mapbook, currently published by the venerable map maker,  Rand McNalley. But why are Google Maps so accurate. Here’s an article the looks at the operation beneath Google maps. The article explores how the Google Maps team assembles their maps and refines them with a combination of algorithms and meticulous manual labor—an effort they call Ground Truth. The project launched in 2008, but it was mostly kept under wraps until just a couple years ago. It continues to grow, now covering 51 countries, and algorithms are playing a bigger role in extracting information from satellite, aerial, and Street View imagery.
  • The Cubicle. One of my favorite podcasts is 99% Invisible, which looks at design aspects of things we never think about. For example, a recent episode looked at the design of those inflatable dancing men you see at oil change shops. Here’s an article I found that would be right up 99%’s alley: it looks at the history of the cubicle. Although we now see the cubicle as the representation of faceless office work, it was actually designed to give the worker freedom: it was supposed to be a flexible space that could adapt, and replace the endless desks of the bullpen. The article also looks at the origins of a number of other aspects of the office: the skyscraper, the filing cabinet, the open office, and the standing desk.
  • The Shitpic. Those of us who are, ahem, old, remember the viral article of generation: that photocopied cartoon that had grown fuzzy but kept being circulated. Viral images were always copies of copies, just as urban legends came from friends of friends. But digital copies were supposed to be perfect, an exact duplicate of the original. That’s changed. The degrading viral picture has returned — the shitpic — as people spread images by taking screenshots of low resolution items instead of copying from the source. Here’s the detailed story of the rise of the shitpic.

 

To Boldly Go

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Dec 20, 2014 @ 6:49 am PST

userpic=star_trekSpace, the final frontier. Here are three articles related to exploration of space, and those that boldly go…

  • No, The One That Isn’t A Witch. When I read the headline of this article, I did a double take. Margret Hamilton — the actress who played the Wicked Witch of the West in 1939’s Wizard of OZ — worked on the Apollo project? But no, that wasn’t the case. This Margaret Hamilton was much more important — she was the lead software engineer on Project Apollo. Hamilton was 31 when the Apollo 11 lunar module landed on the moon, running her code; in fact, it was able to land at all only because she designed the software robustly enough to handle buffer overflows and cycle-stealing. We need to remember these unsung women who have been out in the forefront, and keep reminding the students of the day that women can succeed in engineering and scientific fields.
  • Keep Coming Back. When I was a teen, we were regularly going to the moon. That stopped with Apollo 17. Here’s an article that presents the real story of Apollo 17, and why we didn’t go back to the moon. What changed? A public that was increasingly fiscally wary. Spending in space was something that could be done, but with far more fiscal constraints than ever before, limiting NASA to research and scientific missions in the coming years. Such programs included the development of the Skylab program in 1973, and the Space Shuttle program, as well as a number of robotic probes and satellites.
  • Looking Inward. NASA, at least from what you normally hear from the news, has been outwardly focused — that is, we’ve been paying lots of attention to Mars. But there’s another planet that is close to us: Venus. There hasn’t been much exploration of Venus due to the heat and pressure — unlike Mars, there’s no change of landing people and exploring. But why land? A new NASA study has proposed an approach to investigating Venus, including inflatable airships, that could serve as good experimentation for future Mars missions. This would be really neat to see.