Observations Along the Road

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

Observing Fandom

Written By: cahwyguy - Wed Feb 22, 2017 @ 9:04 pm PDT

Driving home from picking up the vanpool van this evening, I decided to listen to a short podcast: the Ensemblist Unedited episode on BroadwayCon.*  Listening to it, I realized that I’m not a fanboy.
*: No, I can’t link to it directly. They are theatre people; they don’t know how to make their webpage such that one can link to a specific episode. Update: You can get the individual episode links from http://theensemblist.podbean.com — not obvious, but at least its something.

Perhaps I should clarify. I know many folks that love (or should I say, luuv) their fandoms. They obsess. They know every word, every lyric, every character, the smallest minutae. They cosplay. They go to conventions for their fandoms. This could be science fiction, comics, theatre, TV, you name it.

I understand their obsession. I just don’t get obsession. It is the same way that I view myself as a professional audience. Just as I can’t inhabit characters, I can’t obsession about things. That doesn’t mean I don’t know them well (although I typically don’t read or see shows multiple times with the same cast). I just don’t fall as deeply for them. I think that goes for the rest of my life as well: I’m not strongly outwardly emotional — I’m quietly emotional.

To those of you that get so into fandoms. Enjoy. I’ll just be over here on the side. Watching.

We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Papers

Written By: cahwyguy - Tue Feb 21, 2017 @ 7:48 pm PDT

userpic=trumpToday, President Trump put a new “tougher” immigration policy in place, and our country became a less safe place for citizens and non-citizens alike. The reason why is best captured in the subtitle of a Vox post on the policy: “Almost everyone in the US without papers is now a priority for deportation.”

As you read about the new policies, I want you to ask yourself, if you are a legal US citizen, either naturalized or by birth, whether you carry papers with you at all times proving your citizenship? A drivers license is not sufficient — drivers licenses can be forged, and some states issue licenses to non-citizens. Drivers licenses are also issued to legal residents.

So, if under the new rules, an ICE officer thinks you look like an illegal immigrant, for whatever reasons, and you have anything on your record — a parking ticket — they can deport you first and ask questions later. They will not give you access to a judge or a way to prove your citizenship (even though that amendment has been ruled by the Supreme Court as applicable to anyone in the US, citizen or not).

Another problem is the tactics that ICE uses. Did you know that they can impersonate local law enforcement to entice people in — they do not have to identify as ICE until after they have taken people into custody?

Not that I’m not arguing that people should be permitted to be in this country illegally. Employers should be following immigration laws and only hiring legal immigrants, and those who don’t should be penalized (and that includes picking up undocumented laborers at Home Depot). But the Government must respect the constitution, and must respect the rights of citizens. It must not profile based on religion or skin color. It must be humane in how it treats people, and respect people as people. It must also use a risk management approach: recognizing it is impossible to identify and deport everyone, prioritize the efforts on those committing crimes, and prioritize that effort on those committing violent crimes.

This is not an easy issue — if it was, we would have resolved it by now. But the approach being taken here is just wrong and needs to be rethought.

 

Useful Security Site

Written By: cahwyguy - Tue Feb 21, 2017 @ 7:00 pm PDT

Password. The security mechanism we love to hate. Or hate to love. Or grudgingly tolerate. In any case, if you use passwords, you know you are encourage to (a) enable dual factor authentication whenever and where ever possible; (b) use the strongest passwords possible; and (c) use a unique password on every site. For (b) and (c), the easiest way to do this is to use a password manager (I use Lastpass), and have it generate strong passwords for sites (I have it generate long pronounceable passwords, and then modify them with digits and special characters). That still, of course, means you need a strong password for the password manager.

Many years ago, in the days of Dockmaster, there was a generator that would generate strong, prounceable passwords. For a few years I used those, then I went to grabbing words from various places and combining them to create master passwords. Yesterday, I found another solution. Here is a site that generates nonsense words based on a frequency list of phonemes as they occur in legitimate English words.  You should be able to get strong master passwords by combining words and making permutations to add special characters, digits, capitalization, etc.

Here is an example of some generated words: minating ocrates exishering hophish diuraggramely tilized middly apissong moratierencess antinumeted fances vaultanewns gunfins ineake snaphypong misplake quarout hightfulus ansprubblet midweir objecta steton lishep ratinessy mententes.

Hopefully, you’ll find this useful.

The Message He Sends

Written By: cahwyguy - Mon Feb 20, 2017 @ 4:00 pm PDT

I’ve been sitting around this afternoon wondering what I might post. I didn’t have enough random news chum, and I wrote up the show from yesterday. Then I saw a headline and a rant welled up that touches on a number of things from this weekend. The headline?

Vandals target historic Jewish cemetery in University City

University City, MO, is a suburb of St. Louis. It is actually where my mother grew up; we have relatives buried in a different Jewish cemetery in the city. This is on a day when we’ve yet another round of threatened (at least, we hope they are only threats) bombings of Jewish Community Centers around the country.

Presidents are supposed to lead; to represent American values. One value is the right to practice your religion. This, after all, is why homophobic Christian bakers insist they can’t bake a cake for a homosexual, right? Trump wants to defend that right. This, after all, is why Christian-owned Hobby Lobby wants to deny insurance coverage for contraceptives, even for workers whose religion permits them to use contraception? Trump wants to defend that right.

So where is Trump on this issue? Where is he insisting that antisemitism is un-American?

Anyone?

He gets questions at a press conference asking for a statement on increased antisemitism in America, and he responds that he has Jews in his family — how can he be antisemitic? Remember the days of “But I have a black friend?”

Further, he wants to ban people from entering this country — excuse me, be suspicious of them — just because of their religion, Muslim. But he wants to permit extra Christians to come in from those countries. His Secretary of Education wants Federal Tax Dollars — my Federal Tax Dollars — to flow to Christian religious schools and out of the public school system.

We all know you set an example and send messages by what you say. President Trump has demonstrated that aptly, by trusting opinion pieces on Fox News over fact from government agencies, by claiming that science is an opinion, and that independent journalism is un-American. We know these messages are bullshit, but they have been said over and over and over and have become a conspiracy theory. We all know that Conspiracy Theories can’t be disproved, and a large segment of the country now believes the conspiracy and will not be convinced otherwise. (And why should they: we’ve lost the ability to teach critical thinking)

But you also set an example by what you don’t say, and what you do without saying it? President Trump, by not condemning attacks on individuals and institutions based on religion, is condoning it. President Trump, by instituting a Muslim ban — excuse me, extreme Muslim vetting — is condoning religious discrimination. He is letting fear rule the country, just as fear kept Jews from safety during World War II, just as fear put Japanese in internment camps at the same time. By not saying anything, he is demonstrating the worst of America.

Further, those in rural areas are eating it up. Remember, much of rural America is heavily Christian. They may never have met a Jew or Muslim in person, and their only knowledge is from TV shows, movies, and the news. Jews tend to live in larger cities, because of the nature of Jewish worship and practice. Muslims are often the same — in areas with sufficient population to support a mosque. How likely is that in a city under 25,000. So these people believe what they are told: if TV says they are bad, then they must be bad. Ask yourself: how does our media portray minority religions? Now think about what we must do to battle that impression, and why it is even more important for our President to stand up and be Presidential, to say: This is not America. America respects all religions: all religions are welcome here, and no religion, including “no religion”, is favored by the Government.

Mr. Trump: Again, you are failing to lead. If you can’t do the job, resign and let someone who can do it.

[ETA: Finally, on 2/21, he condemned the threats against the JCCs and antisemitism.]

P.S.: Presidents are also supposed to work to support all states and all the people in the country, even those that may oppose him. That’s part of the job; no President is universally loved (not even Reagan). So what has Mr. Trump done to California? He cut the allocated funding for Caltrain to electrify. This makes it more expensive to run the trains, increases operating costs, retains older equipment decreasing ridership, and keeps us tied to polluting fuel. All because he doesn’t like a state. Watch out, other urban areas. You might be next (while he lines his personal pockets every time he goes down to Mar-a-Lago).

The Best Reparation Is Not Doing It Again | Allegiance Musical Broadcast

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Feb 19, 2017 @ 9:23 pm PDT

Allegiance Musical BroadcastAs you may recall, I’ve been trying to predict shows that will be going on tour. One show I’ve really been interested in is Allegiance (FB), the Broadway musical that George Takei (FB) has been involved with about the Japanese Internment during WWII. The trade papers said a tour would materialize; but the show’s website doesn’t indicate one. I’ve always expected that a tour, if it materialized, would show up at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) — or that the Ahmanson, recognizing the Japanese community in Los Angeles, might mount a local production. But the Ahmanson hasn’t announced their season yet, and the good folks behind the Broadway show felt the message was important enough to rebroadcast the musical. You see, these producers did something very intelligent. They recorded the musical about a month after it opened, and arranged to have it broadcast around the country, one time, a number of months after it closed. Through my various Broadway RSS and other feeds, I learned that they were arranging a rebroadcast this weekend — and so to hedge my bets in case it didn’t materialize on the stage, I got tickets.

What I didn’t realize, of course, was the significance of the day of the rebroadcast. Today is the 75th anniversary of the signing of the order that sent Japanese Americans to the internment camps. It is also in a time where there is an intense fear that a segment of our current population is dangerous just because of their religion, even when that segment are longtime American citizens. That makes the message of this show even more timely. Franklin Roosevelt, who was the President who signed the order, said the only thing we had to fear was fear itself. Then he gave into the fear, put US citizens into internment camps, tore away their livelihoods and homes, and regarded them as suspicious just because of their looks or their origins. It was wrong. It was unconstitutional. It was unthinkable. It must never never never happen again. And yet…. we have a large segment of our population living in fear of people because of their looks, their religion or their origin.

I’m an Engineer, but I have a confession to make. A good, compelling story does make my eyes water. Many deep Broadway shows do that — I love theatre because of its ability to tell a story and draw out the emotion. By the end of Allegiance, my jaw was quivering and I was find it hard to hold it together. That is a measure of how powerful this story is; how important it is to tell it. I can’t say to go see the show at your local theatre — alas Allegiance closed after a very short run on Broadway for whatever reason (well, the critics hated it, but what do they know). I can say to friend Allegiance‘s Facebook page so that you can find out if they ever broadcast it again. I can say you must encourage local theatres to do it, but I’m not sure it is licensed yet. We can clamor for a small tour, or push the Ahmanson or East/West to mount it. But I personally feel that this is something that must be seen, and that the critics often have problems with dark, different, and difficult material, only to appreciate it later. Remember: they hate Carrie when it first came out; now it is a great parable about bullying.

I left Allegiance appreciating the power of theatre. That is a good thing.

I guess I should tell you the story of Allegiance, which has a book by Marc Acito (FB),  Jay Kuo (FB), and Lorenzo Thione (FB), and music and lyrics by Jay Kuo (FB). According to Wikipedia, the genesis of the show was a chance meeting in the fall of 2008 of George Takei and his husband, Brad, who were seated next to Jay Kuo and Lorenzo Thione. They met again at another show, had some conversations, and this led to the notion of a musical based roughly on George’s experiences as a child in the internment camps.  I’ll also note you can find a more detailed version on the show webpage or wikipedia. In short, the show tells the story of the Kimura family from Salinas: the grandfather (Ojii-chan), the father (Tatsuo Kimura), and the two children: Sam and Kei. It starts with Sam, who is a WWII veteran, learning that his sister Kei has died. This opens us into the story and how the rift between them was created. We see the family running a farm and having an American life, and then the Japanese bombing Pearl Harbor. In short order, based on an agreement between the government and the Japanese American Citizens League, led by Mike Masaoka, internment orders go out, and Japanese on the Pacific coast are ordered to camps. The Kimura family has to sell all but what they can carry, and they are taken by force to a camp, Heart Mountain, in the wilds of Wyoming. We learn of life in the camp through a series of scenes, and get to meet two characters in particular: Lt. Hannah Campbell, a nurse at the camp, and Frankie Suzuki, another internee at the camp. Campbell is drawn to Sammy; Frankie to Kei. As time passes, the JACL convinces the government to let Japanese Americans serve in the armed force, in a segregated unit, for suicide missions. A questionnaire goes out that includes loyalty questions so that only loyal Japanese Americans can serve. Tatsuo refuses to answer yes to those questions, and gets hauled away to Tule Mountain. Sammy volunteers to serve (against his father’s wishes), and goes on to be one of the few survivors from that batallion. Frankie, on the other hand, resists; when drafted, he organizes resistance in the camp and is arrested. The creates the wedge that drives the story to its conclusion. I’ll let you read the synopsis for more, but you get the drift.

Given we’re in the era of identifying “fake news”, I’ll note that Wikipedia relates that the show does conflate experiences across different camps for dramatic effect, and adds a bit more military oversight than existed at Heart Mountain.

At this point in a writeup, I’d normally move into a discussion of the direction and performance. But this was a broadcast of a Broadway show, and I’d like to digress to explore that for a graph or two. Going in, I was torn. Recording a Broadway show can have some distinct advantages: it can preserve a performance for posterity; it can also make a show available in many places where this level of theater does not occur — and thus can spread the word about the power of theatre. On the other hand, it could supplant the live production, result in the undercompensation of the actors performing in the recording, and deny work to actors who might work in the local versions of the show. Coming out, I had a different view: the recording allowed on to see the performances up close and personal, in a way that wouldn’t be possible even from the orchestra seats. But it also disconnected the audience from the “big picture”; you never got the scope of the breadth of the stage or the grandeur of the choreography and movement.  The audience feedback was also very different, due to the awareness that there were no actors on stage. Unlike a show, where there is constant applause and feedback, this audience was silent, even at the end. Audience reaction is vital not only for the show but for other audience members, and I felt the different. I also felt the difference with the lack of an intermission and a playbill. In the end, I think seeing the broadcast only made me want to see it live even more.

Next: The Theatre. We saw this at the AMC Promenade theatre in Woodland Hills, which is one of the few survivors in a dying mall. The original auditorium had significant projection problems (double images) that they couldn’t correct before the show. They moved us to a different auditorium (same size, but different arrangement), which created some seating confusion but fixed most projection problems. There was still the problem of bleed-over bass from the auditorium next to us, and there was a sound synchronization problem during much of the first act. Some of this was beyond the theatre’s control, and despite the problems, they managed it well (plus they gave us passes as compensation for the problems). I think we’ll try them again. I’ll note that our show was sold out (130-some-odd seats).

Now, on to the performances, under the direction of Stafford Arima (FB). As you can tell, I was moved and astounded by all the lead performers — the projection allowed us to see things up close that we might never see from the audience. As it is hard to single them out (especially without a Playbill — if you want the Broadway experience, Fathom Events (FB) you should provide that!), let me just start by listing the leads:  George Takei (FB) [Sam Kimura (older), Ojii-chan]; Telly Leung (FB) [Sammy Kimura]; Lea Salonga (FB) [Kei Kimura]; Katie Rose Clarke  [Hannah Campbell]; Michael K. Lee  (FB) [Frankie Suzuki]; Christòpheren Nomura (FB) [Tatsuo Kimura]; and Greg Watanabe (FB) [Mike Masaoka]. With respect to their performances, I was particularly taken with the facial expressions of both Clarke and Salonga, who were just spectacular. I’d only seen Takei perform where everyone else has seen him before, and his performance here just blew me away. He was wasted at the navagation console :-). I’m always impressed by Salonga’s voice, but both Leung and Lee did great jobs as well. All and all, spectacular performances.

In small roles and ensemble parts were: Aaron J. Albano (FB) [Tom Maruyama, Ensemble]; Marcus Choi (FB) [Johnny Goto, Ensemble]; Janelle Toyomi Dote (FB) [Mrs. Maruyama, Executor, Ensemble]; Dan Horn (FB) [Recruiting Officer, Private Evans, Big Band Singer, The Victory Trio, Ensemble]; Darren Lee (FB) [Dr. Tanaka, Ben Masaoka, Ensemble]; Kevin Munhall [Federal Agent, Private Knight, Tule Lake Guard, The Victory Trio, Ensemble]; Rumi Oyama (FB) [Mrs. Tanaka; Ensemble]; Shea Renne [Betsy Tanaka, Ensemble]; Momoko Sugai (FB) [Peggy Maruyama, Ensemble]; Autumn Ogawa [Ensemble]; Elena Wang (FB) [Nan Goto, Ensemble]; Scott Watanabe (FB) [Mr. Maruyama, Ensemble]; Cary Tedder [Ensemble]; and Scott Wise (FB) [Grocer, Director Dillon, Photographer, The Victory Trio, Ensemble].  With the way this was filmed, it was harder to single out particular ensemble members and smaller characters, but I enjoyed the characters overall. Particularly notable was the actress playing the older Japanese woman — I’m guessing it was Rumi Oyama, but it could have been Janelle Dote.

I am not listing the standbys, understudies, and swings as I normally do, because the show has closed and we had the cast on the film. You can find the full list here, together with the list of musicians.

The choreography was by Andrew Palermo (FB), who did an excellent job. I particularly enjoyed not only the large dance numbers but the Japanese movement as well. The movement during the Hiroshima scene was particularly chilling. The Playbill page does not give credit for the musical direction or the conducting. Orchestrations were by Lynne Shankel. Check the Playbill page for information on the dance captains, assistant dance captains, and all the associate and assistant choreographers and directors.

One disadvantage of the theatrical projection is that one cannot get the full impact of the scenic design and other production aspects. Yet another reason to go see it live. In general, the scenic design and projections worked well to establish a sense of place; given the broadcast aspects, it was hard to get a sense of sound and lights. Costumes, makeup, and hair was excellent. Here are the production credits: Donyale Werle [Scenic Design]; Alejo Vietti (FB) [Costume Design]; Howell Binkley (FB) [Lighting Design]; Darrel Maloney [Projection Design]; Kai Harada [Sound Designer]; Charles G. LaPointe [Wig and Hair Design]; Joe Dulude II [Make-up Design];  Peter Wolf  [Production Stage Manager]; and Brian Bogin [Stage Manager].

One last closing note: The production was also notable for the attention to casting asians in asian roles. I’ve commented on this before with shows like Waterfall and The King and I. I still bemoan the fact that there were sufficient Japanese actors to be able to cast closer to role-appropriate (a common problem), and I also bemoan the fact that many asian actors can only find roles in things like this, or onsie-twosie in shows. We need to remember that unless the story requires a particular ethnicity, cast color and race blind.

For the theatrical credits, I must turn to IMDB, so look here for all the cinematography credits and such.

We can only hope that Fathom Events (FB) broadcasts this again.

🎩 🎩 🎩

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music 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). Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals).  I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Upcoming Shows: The last weekend in February brings Finding Neverland at the Hollywood Pantages (FB). March quiets down a bit — at least as currently scheduled — with the MRJ Man of the Year dinner,  Fun Home at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) at the beginning of the month, Martha, a one-woman play on the life of Martha Graham (a good preparation for our May VPAC show of her dance group), at the Whitefire Theatre (FB) in the middle, and An American in Paris at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) at the end of the month. April starts with Cats Paw at Actors Co-op (FB) and a concert with Tom Paxton and the DonJuans at McCabes Guitar Shop (FB) (shifting Cats Paws to an afternoon matinee that day). The next day brings the Colburn Orchestra at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB). The next weekend is currently open (and will likely stay that way). Mid-April brings Doc Severinsen and his Big Band at Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB) on April 13, followed by Animaniacs Live at the La Mirada Performing Arts Center (FB) over the weekend. That will be followed on the penultimate weekend of April with Sister Act at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB). Lastly, looking to May, the schedule shows that it starts with My Bodyguard at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) the first weekend. It continues with Martha Graham Dance and American Music at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB). The third weekend brings the last show of the Actors Co-op (FB) season, Lucky Stiff, at Actors Co-op (FB). May concludes with Hello Again at the Chromolume Theatre (FB). As for June? Three words: Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB). That, barring something spectacular cropping up, should be the first half of 2017.

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-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: 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.

P.S.: Mostly so I can find it later, here’s my predictions of what will go on tour and where they will end up. The Hollywood Pantages (FB) announced their 2017-2018 season (which was the rest of 2018, after Hamilton took over the last 5 months of 2017) on February 7th. You can find my reaction to it here. Now we just need to see what the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) will do.

The Times, They are a Changin’

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Feb 18, 2017 @ 6:24 pm PDT

I know, we’re all sick of Trump and news about Trump. So let’s take a breather. Here’s a collection of news chum that shows some other interesting ways that the times are a changin’:

  • Social Media Addiction. The New York Times is reporting that Generation X is more addicted to social media than Millenials. Again, read that headline: the younger kids (Millenials) are LESS addicated than the generation before them (GEN X, Adults 39-49). That, perhaps, explains the greying of Facebook. A Neilsen study found that adults 35 to 49 spend an average of 6 hours 58 minutes a week on social media networks, compared with 6 hours 19 minutes for the younger group. More predictably, adults 50 and over spent significantly less time on the networks: an average of 4 hours 9 minutes a week (and I’m part of this latter group). The report is based on smartphone and tablet use, and it found that in the United States, 97 percent of people 18 to 34, and 94 percent of people 35 to 49, had access to smartphones. Seventy-seven percent of those 50 and older used smartphones, the report found. The 29-page report was based on data from 9,000 smartphone users and 1,300 tablet users across the country from July through September. It also found that Facebook still dominated on mobile, with about 178.2 million unique users in September. It was followed by Instagram, with 91.5 million unique users; Twitter, with 82.2 million unique users; and Pinterest, with 69.6 million users.Snapchat, a favorite of younger users, was sixth on the list, behind the professional networking site LinkedIn.  This raises the next question: if Millenials are using their smartphones so much, and they aren’t on social media, what precisely are they doing? They aren’t making phone calls.
  • Screens on Airplanes. Another New York Times article has an interesting finding regarding screens: we are using our personal screens so much that airlines are phasing out seat-back screens (which saves them a hella-lot of money). With built-in screens, airliners provide passengers with a set menu of content through boxes that power the in-flight entertainment system. The screens appeared in their most primitive form in the late 1980s with a few movies played on a loop. By the early 2000s, they had advanced to allow passengers to make choices on demand. By streaming content over wireless systems, passengers will have a wider array of content and the carriers will not have to maintain screens because passengers will bring their own portable devices on board. For carriers that discontinue the screens, the savings can be significant. By one estimate, in-flight entertainment systems are the biggest expense in outfitting a new plane and can make up 10 percent of the entire cost of an aircraft. The screens and their wiring add weight to the plane, and when fuel prices are high, every pound makes a difference. Another financial incentive: Without the screens, carriers can install slimmer seats, which means they can accommodate more passengers and earn more money. The article makes one other very important comment regarding personal screens: Experts said that if airliners are going to rely on consumer electronics for in-flight entertainment, the carriers should be prepared to offer another amenity: outlets for passengers to charge their devices. Mr. Hoppe said it was “imperative” to have them available in all rows and seats, and “essential” to ensure that each one works.
  • Fashion Rules for Plus Size. Let’s break up the New York Times articles with a change of fashion. A bunch of editors at Buzzfeed decided to break the “fashion rules” for Plus Size women. You know what? They looked great.  This goes to show yet another change that is happening in society: people deciding not to follow arbitrary rules from someone else, and wearing and being what is right for them. More power to them!
  • Intel Dropping Out of Science Fairs. One last New York Times article: it appears that Intel is dropping its sponsorship of Science Fairs. As someone who judges at the California State Science Fair, this is bad news. I see the remarkable things kids do, and it restores my faith in our youth. I originally thought the reason might have to do with Trump — after all, Intel had been meeting with Trump and Trump hates science.  But the reason is due to a more fundamental change: [The traditional science fair’s] regimented routines can seem stodgy at a time when young people are flocking to more freewheeling forums for scientific creativity, like software hackathons and hardware engineering Maker Faires. That is apparently the thinking at Intel, the giant computer chip maker, which is retreating from its longtime sponsorship of science fairs for high school students. It has dropped its support of the National Science Talent Search, and is dropping support of the International Science and Engineering Fair. The article noted that this leads to broader questions about how a top technology company should handle the corporate sponsorship of science, and what is the best way to promote the education of the tech work force of the future. Intel’s move also raises the issue of the role of science fairs in education in the so-called STEM fields — science, technology, engineering and mathematics. All I know, as a judge, is that these fairs have encouraged some remarkable research by Middle and High School Students.
  • The Cost of Solar. As we keep debating the real costs of hydro-carbon based power, the costs of solar on an industrial scale continue to drop. Eventually, it may be that clean power is so much cheaper that we’ll be able to reserve hydro-carbons for the real thing we need them for: plastics. [And, believe me: if you think about a society without gas for your car is bad, just imagine a world with no plastics — not only no plastic bags and storage containers, but circuit boards, enclosures, insulation for wires, sterile medical devices — we need to save our oil for plastic]. Quoting from the article: Solar has seen remarkable cost declines and is competing in more circumstances with every passing year. But it is not the world’s cheapest source of electricity. Yhe main reason is that there is, at least currently, no such thing as “the world’s cheapest source of electricity,” if that’s taken to mean cheapest, all costs considered, in all places, at all times. No such fairy dust exists; different sources perform differently in different economies and different electricity systems. What can be said about solar is that it is rapidly increasing the range of circumstances under which it can compete on costs, without subsidies. This is a good thing. Together, wind and utility-scale solar are now the cheapest available energy sources in the places that are building the most of them. Utility-scale solar now has a lower total cost of power than natural gas.

 

Democrats Just Don’t Understand

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Feb 18, 2017 @ 11:01 am PDT

userpic=divided-nationOne of my absolute favorite plays — primarily for the lesson that it teaches — is Sex and Education by Lissa Levin. We saw it back in 2014 at the Colony Theatre. Sex and Education tells the story of an English teacher (Miss Edwards) who is tired of teaching; a teacher who is quitting the profession to go sell real estate. It also tells the story of a horny high-school basketball playing senior, Joe, who has accepted a scholarship to North Carolina to play college basketball. It is three days before graduation, and Miss Edwards is administering the final exam in her English class (which includes Joe). She’s looking forward to getting out of the school, and intends just to pass everyone. But then she catches Joe passing a note to Hannah, a cheerleader who is also Joe’s girlfriend. The note is confused mix of topics including insulting the teacher, the test, and asking Hannah to have sex with him under the bleachers, given that she has given him a blowjob before. It is riddled with obscenity, bad grammar, poor sentence construction, and much more. Miss Edwards she asks Joe to stay after the test.  What happens next is every English teacher’s dream. She works with Joe to write a proper persuasive essay to get Hannah to overcome her reluctance and sleep with him. The point of the play — and the reason I love it so — is that it teaches that a proper persuasive essay does not convince by presenting the reasons why you think the other person should do something, but presenting to the other person why it is in their interest to do something. In other words: you need to understand their point of view before you can convince them to anything.

With relation to Donald Trump, we Democrats just don’t understand. We are like a bunch of jocks surrounding the football player, convincing him that anyone would want to sleep with him because he is strong and sexy and the captain of the football team, without realizing that the cheerleader doesn’t care about any of that — she will only sleep with someone if it serves her needs, and the football player is uncouth and coarse and doesn’t bother to shower after the game, plus he tells everyone about who he slept with.

I was talking about his before last night’s concert with my wife, pointing out that the Democrats aren’t speaking a language that will convince Republicans that Donald Trump has to go. All the things we think they would care about — justice, American values, consistency with what they complained about with Obama — really have no meaning to the Republicans. They have other concerns, other things that Trump is speaking to. Until we can learn to speak in a way that they will listen, there will not be reconciliation (or even impeachment). Further, the divide is just getting greater, as the separation in our media views (in a database sense of a view) just increases the odds that anything we say will be written off.

And hence, this essay. My goal is to bring together a number of podcasts and articles that I have read that, just perhaps, might increase your awareness of what the other side is thinking and believing. Perhaps then we might be able to craft a way to talk such that we can convince them. All I know right now is that all the crap and memes and articles flowing across the “Blue” Facebook won’t do it.

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Singing Truth to Power | Peter Yarrow & Noel Paul Stookey @ TOCAP

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Feb 18, 2017 @ 7:44 am PDT

Peter Yarrow and Noel Paul Stookey (TO Civic Arts Plaza)If you haven’t figured it out by now, we don’t only go to theatre. We go to concerts — folk, jazz, classical, eclectic. But my first musical taste — the first artists that I truly said were my favorite — were Peter, Paul, and Mary (FB). I still have fond memories of going to see them at the Hollywood Bowl in the 1980s and the Universal Amphetheatre in the 1990s. We last saw them in Los Angeles shortly before Mary got sick, in the early 2000s. After Mary’s passing, we saw them mostly as solos: a solo concert by Peter at UJ (AJU) back in 2009, and Noel Paul’s regular appearances at McCabes Guitar Shop (FB) (first in 2011, and most recently in 2015). Our understanding of the folk community has broadened to all the artists from the era that begat PP&M, and we’ve seen and grown to understand the traditions and the music better. But at the heart of it all — the seed that started it — was Peter, Paul, and Mary.

So when I saw that this year’s appearance of Noel Paul Stookey (FB) in Southern California was a much larger concert that he typically does, and it was together with Peter Yarrow (FB), I naturally had to get tickets — without even waiting for Goldstar. It is for a group such as this and artists such as this that we braved the storm that some groups named “Lucifer” to get out to the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza (FB) [where we normally go for Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB)] for the first concert in a tour of Peter and Paul. I was looking forward to seeing Noel Paul again, possibly seeing if Peter had actually released a new album, and getting some good commentary on the election.

I’m pleased to say that I wasn’t disappointed. The show, on the whole, was wonderful. The music was something that wrapped you in a warm embrace; the PP&M audience is a family that loves each other through shared music and shared values. There were just a few off notes, but on the whole it was worth braving the storm.

Before I go further, here’s the all important song list. Unless indicated by links, all songs are either from PP&M albums or Paul’s solo albums; I have links for some new ones.

Act I:

  1. Weave Me The Sunshine
  2. Inch by Inch (The Garden Song)
  3. Puff the Magic Dragon
  4. Deportee (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos)
  5. Medley:  This Little Light of Mine ⫽ Down By The Riverside ⫽ I Woke Up This Mornin’ With My Mind Set On Freedom ⫽ Oh, Freedom
  6. Don’t Laugh at Me
  7. Where Have All The Flowers Gone?
  8. Have You Been to Jail for Justice?
  9. Light One Candle

Act II:

  1. America the Beautiful (Noel Paul)
  2. Impeachable (Noel Paul)
  3. One and Many (Noel Paul)
  4. The Children Are Listening (Peter)
  5. Lift Us Up (Peter)
  6. The Kid
  7. Leaving on a Jet Plane
  8. If I Had a Hammer
  9. Blowin’ in the Wind
  10. This Land is Your Land
  11. Goodnight Irene

Now, some impressions of the show:

  • It pains me to say it, but I think Peter is starting to lose it at little. The passion is still there 120%. The heart and soul and spirit are strong. The voice is just slightly diminished. However, the recall is a bit worse than when we last saw him in 2009. There were points where he had trouble with lyrics, and there was much more verbal hesitation in his patter. It is an unfortunately common situation as we get older; still, it is a bit of sadness to see.
  • Tom Paxton likes to say that it is OK to look back, as long as you don’t stare. There were times during this concert that the nostalgic aspects overwhelmed. Perhaps I’ve gotten used to Tom’s concerts and Noel Paul’s concerts where there is always new material. All the joint material was older material; one got the feeling that they were playing for the nostalgia (and the audience was there for that). This got better in the solo songs in the second act that touched on more topical material.
  • As both noted from the stage, Mary’s voice was there even though the body wasn’t. For me, it was loudest during “Have You Been to Jail for Justice?”, but I’m sure others heard them in her head at various points. It is a voice that is missed, especially with our current administration. You know Mary would be out there being in 45’s face.
  • One could easily see how each artist came to their political stridency from different places. Peter is clearly from the Jewish Wobbly tradition. Noel Paul comes from the true Christian side: love for one’s fellow man, doing right for those who are unable to speak for themselves. I’m not Christian, but Noel’s Christian passion is “walking the walk”, and is what I view as admirable Christianity. The important message is that we can all come with our passion to improve the world from different places — the important thing is to have and nurture that passion, and to do something based on that passion, even if it is just sitting and singing to power.
  • The most powerful portion of the show was the top of Act II: the solo sections. It made the clear impression that our children are learning from what is going on in Washington that bullying and other forms of idiocy are acceptable. We need to combine together as multiple candles creating a large flame to speak to power — to say that this is not OK, that this is not America. It is our responsibility to speak up, to fight unjust leaders and those that abuse power. This is why folk music is still relevant today.
  • Of course, it was great to hear Noel Paul do his extra verses of America The Beautiful. It was even nicer to hear the rarely done 4th verse of This Land is Your Land.
  • The PP&M audience is definitely getting older. Getting in and out of the parking lot was dealing with a bunch of moss-backed old-farts. We normally don’t have that traffic backup at the Kavli when we go to Cabrillo shows.

All in all, however, it was a great show. I look forward to the next time Noel Paul is in town, and to Tom Paxton’s upcoming show at McCabes.

 🎸 🎸 🎸

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music 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). 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: Sunday brings the in-theatre broadcast of the Broadway musical Allegiance – A New Musical (recorded on Broadway) at the AMC Promenade. The last weekend in February brings Finding Neverland at the Hollywood Pantages (FB). March quiets down a bit — at least as currently scheduled — with the MRJ Man of the Year dinner,  Fun Home at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) at the beginning of the month, Martha, a one-woman play on the life of Martha Graham (a good preparation for our May VPAC show of her dance group), at the Whitefire Theatre (FB) in the middle, and An American in Paris at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) at the end of the month. April starts with Cats Paw at Actors Co-op (FB) and a concert with Tom Paxton and the DonJuans at McCabes Guitar Shop (FB) (shifting Cats Paws to an afternoon matinee that day). The next day brings the Colburn Orchestra at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB). The next weekend is currently open (and will likely stay that way). Mid-April brings Doc Severinsen and his Big Band at Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB) on April 13, followed by Animaniacs Live at the La Mirada Performing Arts Center (FB) over the weekend. That will be followed on the penultimate weekend of April with Sister Act at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB). Lastly, looking to May, the schedule shows that it starts with My Bodyguard at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) the first weekend. It continues with Martha Graham Dance and American Music at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB). The third weekend brings the last show of the Actors Co-op (FB) season, Lucky Stiff, at Actors Co-op (FB). May concludes with Hello Again at the Chromolume Theatre (FB). As for June? Three words: Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB). That, barring something spectacular cropping up, should be the first half of 2017.

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-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: 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.

P.S.: Mostly so I can find it later, here’s my predictions of what will go on tour and where they will end up. The Hollywood Pantages (FB) announced their 2017-2018 season (which was the rest of 2018, after Hamilton took over the last 5 months of 2017) on February 7th. You can find my reaction to it here. Now we just need to see what the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) will do.