Observations Along the Road

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

I’m Fed Up With The Lot of You

Written By: cahwyguy - Mon Jan 16, 2017 @ 6:46 pm PST

userpic=trumpThis is my political post of the day. It is brought to you by the fellow who responded to a post on Rep. John Lewis by saying “Those who refuse to accept reality are welcome to leave.” The bad mood is brought to you by having to do a whole house repipe on top of a reroofing on top of having to replace a double wall stove on top of having to replace the struts on my wife’s car and all other such similar expenses.

To the Conservatives:

  • I am sick and tired of being called a libtard.
  • I am sick and tired of watching you count down until Trump’s inauguration.
  • I am sick and tired of you calling our legitimately elected President names.
  • I am sick and tired of you wanting to take health care away from people that really really need it just because you hate anything Obama has done.
  • I am sick and tired of you wanting to shove your religion down my throat and enforce it on everyone else because you believe you are the arbiter of whether we go to heaven. Related to that, I’m tired of you believing in Christ so much you feel you need to hasten Armageddon.
  • I am sick and tired of telling people to shut up simply because you don’t like what they are saying.
  • I am sick and tired of you spreading false news just because it appeals to your biases. You can check your sources. Further, Snopes is a legitimate fact checker who cites their basis, so check their facts if you don’t believe them.
  • I am sick and tired of you discounting our journalists. They may not be perfect, but they are the best we have.
  • I am sick and tired of you wishing all liberals would die, or that all people from a particular minority group would be locked away.

To the Liberals:

  • His name is Trump. Not Drumpf. Not “He who will not be named”. Not any of these silly names you make up. Didn’t Harry Potter teach you anything? You use the name of your opponent; not naming him gives him more power.
  • He is President. If you claim to believe and support our constitution, you have to accept that. However misguided, the Electoral College voted for him. So don’t call him illegitimate or any other such nonsense. We have to accept that he is President.
  • He is doing enough stupid things that you don’t need to go around spreading fake news. All of these stories of “oh that’s gotta hurt” and other fake news. Don’t spread them. Don’t be like the Conservatives were during the Obama administration. Here’s a simple test: Would you have wanted a story like that spread about Obama? If not: Don’t share.
  • Act like an adult. Pure and simple. If you are behaving as childish as the other side did during Obama’s presidency, you’re only perpetuating the partisanship. You’re better than that.
  • Protest like an adult. Do you want to go out and peacefully protest? Go for it. Do you want to write letters and petition Congress? I’m all for that. Call your congresscritters. Write letters. Protest and exercise your right to free (adult) speech while you have it.
  • Insist that Congress behave towards President Trump as they did for President Obama. Just because the President is from the same party doesn’t mean he gets a “Get Out of Jail” card for himself or his nominees. Investigate, investigate, investigate (but only for legitimate crimes). Insist on ethics disclosures and no conflicts of interest. Insist on the absence of influence from foreign powers.
  • Remember that President Trump has a very thin skin. When pressed by legitimate free speech and criticism, he will do something impulsive and stupid — impulsive and stupid enough to get Congress to investigate, and potentially impeach and remove him from office. President Obama was able to deal with the pressure from the haters. If Alec Baldwin can rile Trump, just imagine how he will deal with 4 years of pressure. This is why you must behave like adults. Childish taunts can be ignored, and responded to childishly. Adult legitimate criticism creates investigations.




Revisiting a Topsy-Turvy World | “Zanna Don’t” at Chromolume

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Jan 15, 2017 @ 1:10 pm PST

Zanna Don't (Chromolume)Back in 2007, the Republicans were in power, George W Bush was President, and the US Military was operating under a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. In this environment, the West Coast Ensemble (FB) theatre company presented the West Coast premiere of Zanna Don’t, an Off-Broadway musical that had first run in 2003, in the same environment. Zanna Don’t, with music and lyrics by Tim Acito and additional book and lyrics by Alexander Dinelaris (FB), tells the story of an alternate reality where being homosexual is normal, and being heterosexual is unnatural and shunned, in order to make a point about the homosexuality laws of the time.

Fast forward to 2016. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” went away as policy in 2011, and the Supreme Court has legalized same sex marriage. One might thing this musical was overtaken by events (OBE). But Donald Trump is about to be installed as President with the support of a Republican Party that still opposes same sex marriage and homosexuality, working with a extremely Christian Vice-President who is also against same sex marriage. What was OBE is now, chillingly, relevant again.

In it in this atmosphere that Chromolume Theatre (FB, TW) has opted to remount Zanna Don’t as the first show of their 2017 season. The season almost didn’t happen, what with landlord trouble (don’t ask, but I’ve been told they have been resolved for 3 years) and the messy kerfuffle with Los Angeles Theatre. These have placed some limitations on Chromolume, being an under-50 seat theatre, especially in terms of budget, and number of performances, that weren’t there back in 2007 for WCE. Thus, the difference in the quality of the sets and costumes, for example, is not a surprise. (I’ll note that it also explains the three-show season). For you, reading this, there is one significant takeway: if this writeup makes this show sound interesting, get your tickets NOW. It won’t be extended, and this theatre needs as many full houses as possible, with full price patrons.)

As noted above, Zanna Don’t takes place in an alternate reality where being homosexual is normal, and being heterosexual is unnatural and shunned. Set in Heartsville USA, it  is the story of a matchmaker, Zanna, who lives only to help people fall in love with the right guy or girl. The show opens on a busy day, when Zanna is creating some new matches between the super-popular Chess team champion, Mike, and the new Football player, Steve. He also is matching up Roberta with the head of the precision mechanical bull riding team, Kate. He does this all with the aid of his canary, Cindy, his wand, and love music selected by Tank, the DJ. Life at high school is highlighted by the drama club musical, directed by Candi and her assistant, Brad. This year they have chosen to do something daring, something that upsets the locals and the school board. They are doing a musical about heterosexuals in the military. The musical stars Steve (the football player) and Kate (the bull rider). Although they each have their own partners (Steve has Mike, Kate has Roberta), the reluctantly agree to kiss. As you might guess, they fall in love. But this is a forbidden love, which has its consequences… that are explored in the second act.

Act II deals with the consequences of this love. Their partners are left in the dark, not understanding how someone could fall that way. Candi is disgusted, and is protesting to the school board, which promptly bans straight couples from the prom. The couple turns to Zanna, who unleashes a love spell that changes the world, a spell that makes the world safe for heteros. After the spell is cast, the scene changes to the prom… where in their black tuxes, Mike and Roberta and Candi and Brad all gather together to crown their new King and Queen: Mike and Kate. Into this sashays Zanna, in a grey and pink tux… and is immediately the outcast, for he is (gasp) gay. But the attitudes change, and soon everyone is singing about how all love must be accepted (and Zanna finds a guy for himself, Tank).

As I noted above, Chromolume’s production was developed under some tight restrictions of budget, at a time where there theatre had some existential issues of its own.  This surely impacted the development and rehearsal process, and the theatre has done a remarkable job when these limitations are taken into account. It also surely impacted the cast available. Looking at the overall picture, the direction and realization of the story by Lauren J. Peters (FB) worked well. My only quibble was whether the characterization of the gay characters was a bit over the top, but it is also possible that is how the script directs things to be. This got a lot of laughter from the audience, but you want that laughter to be for the right reason. One wonders (assuming it isn’t in the script) how it might play if the actors did it more (pardon the expession) straight, and how that might color their reception and perception of the story. One other directoral comment, as the problem was common across a number of performers: the authors crammed a lot of words into fast songs, meaning extra attention needs to be paid to both enunciation and projection if the audience is to make them out.

⇒ [ETA: Chromolume has posted a Facebook album of pictures of the actors in the show. ]

Turning to the individual performances: In the lead position was Jason Bornstein (FB) as Zanna. To my eyes, Bornstein had the wrong look for Zanna, but in small theatres you get what the casting process brings. Setting aside my look biases for the role, Bornstein gave his all in the performance, and exhibited some wonderful comic improvisation when the jukebox prop failed to stand up on its own. His singing was good (and stronger in the second act), and I found his emotional expression in the second act quite good. Zanna is a difficult role to get right: you need to be playful and magical without being overly over-the-top, and you need to balance a meddling exterior that is not too annoying with a sensitive core that the exterior is hiding. Bornstein came pretty close to getting that right.

The other two lead characters were Jacob Zelonky (FB) as Steve (as well as Officer Klotsky in the opening number) and Jillian Easton (FB) as Kate. Zelonky did a great job with Steve, especially when you consider that he is only a high-school senior. He nailed the singing and the emotion of the performance. You could get a sense that he was a little less comfortable on the dancing, but that will come with time (I told him after the show that an audience can always pick up when the actor is having the time of their life performing the character, and this will come through in his dancing as he gets more comfortable there). Zelonky was also an example of the string of small-world connections that happen with this theatre (the first occurred when we saw Prez): he is the son of the director of Life Long Learning at our synagogue (in fact, you can see him at the upcoming Cantors Concert on Feb. 4th), and he is in the same magnet program at Van Nuys HS that our daughter attended. As for Easton, we saw her last in The Count of Monte Cristo – The Musical at HFF15, when I wrote: “She combined her strong voice with a very interesting look and performance, and again was a delight to watch.” The same was true here: a strong vocal performance, strong dance, and strong performance. Just watch her during “Ride ‘Em”.

In the second tier of characters was Everjohn Feliciano (FB) as Mike and Vanessa Magula (FB) as Roberta. Feliciano was very good at Mike, with strong singing, performing, and dancing, especially in his interactions with Magula’s character in the second act. He was also very good in the “I Think We’ve Got Love” number in the first act, where we really meet the character. However, the surprise of the show was Vanessa Magula’s Roberta. This young woman, in her LA Theatre debut after just graduating UCLA (and not with a performance degree), was an exceptional singer, performer, and dancer. I’m just a cybersecurity guy and long-time theatre audience member, and I hope to see this young woman in many more shows. She has the potential to go far.

In the third tier of characters were Michael Angel (FB) as Buck / Bronco, Lilly Elliott (FB) as Candi / Karla / Loretta, and Ken Maurice Purnell (FB) as Tank / Tex. Elliott seems to have extremely strong comic timing and great singing skills — I kept picturing her as a Penny Pingleton from Hairspray — if you get the sense — comic, playful, spunky. She was very fun to watch. Purnell I was less sure about in the beginning: he was one of the folks that needed to enunciate a bit better during his fast songs in order for the audience to pick up all the words. However, in his closing number with Zanna, “Sometime, Do You Think We Could Fall In Love”, he just blew me away with the quality of his singing. I look forward to his getting the whole package together and appearing in more LA shows. Angel was a bit more comic in his performance, with good singing and dancing. The three got a chance to shine in one of my favorite numbers from the show, “Fast”. In this number, Elliott was a particular standout in her ability to keep up with the extremely fast and tricky lyrics while preserving the ability to hear them cleanly.

Rounding out the cast was Lauren J. Peters (FB) providing the voiceovers for Principal Cooper. The understudies were Christopher Tiernan (FB) for Steve, Amy Segal (FB) for Kate, and James Esposito (FB) as Principal Cooper.

Choreography was by Michael Marchak (FB), with musical direction by Daniel Yokomizo (FB), who also lead the Heartsville High Band consisting of Daniel Yokomizo (FB) [Piano], John A. Graves [Bass], Anthony Jones (FB) [Drums], and Jeff Fish (FB) [Drums]. The dance numbers and movements were reasonably good, particularly in the “Fast” and “Ride ‘Em” numbers. Musical quality was good, although at times it overpowered the singers. It is unclear if that is a problem with the music, or the fact that singers don’t project as strongly these days, depending more on microphones.

Speaking of microphones, let’s turn to the technical and creative production side of things. The sound design by James Esposito (FB) was good, but was plagued by numerous execution pops, balance, static, and drop problems. I made a comment during intermission, and I now know the theatre is working on it (so it will hopefully get better). The lighting design by Richard Fong (FB) worked reasonably well to establish the mood. As noted earlier, Lauren J. Peters (FB) scenic design was clearly budget limited (especially when compared to WCE), but she did a very good job within that budget. It made me realize we were spoiled with the fully realized designs we saw at places like REP and The Colony; but that theatre does not require fancy designs as the goal is for the actors to create the design in your imagination (yet another contrast with cinema). I think the design here had the proper bones to do that, and the only real problem was the jukebox that couldn’t stand on its own… stand. The costume design was by Michael Mullen (FB), and was suitably high-school-ish. My only quibble was the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” mini-musical and the military costumes — and that’s only because I work with the military daily and know what proper uniforms look like (and that the military costumes would have been very different if the other Michael Mullen did them). But hey, this was supposedly a high-school musical and high-school students would assemble rag-tag costumes like these. Veronica Vasquez (FB) was the stage manager, assisted by Danielle Han (FB). Publicity was by Ken Werther Publicity (FB).

Zanna Don’t continues at Chromolume Theatre (FB, TW) through February 5th. Tickets are available through the Chromolume online store. Use the code zanna30 for 30% off! There are a very small number of tix on Goldstar for a few select performances at 40% off too. The show is fun and well worth seeing. I’d also be remiss in my duties as Past President of the Men of Temple Ahavat Shalom if I didn’t remind you that you can also see Jacob Zelonky from this show at the upcoming TAS Cantors Concert on Feb. 4th.

* * *

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). 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: Zanna Don’t kicked off our 2017 theatre year. Next weekend this continues with Aladdin: The Musical (Dual Language Edition) at Casa 0101 Theatre (FB) on January 21 (my birthday!). January ends with Claudio Quest at the Chance Theatre (FB) on January 28. February 2017 gets back to being busy: with 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 the MRJ Man of the Year dinner,  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. March may also bring Cats Paw at Actors Co-op (FB) as that gets shifted from April. Speaking of April, it will hopefully start with a concert with Tom Paxton and the DonJuans at McCabes Guitar Shop (FB) (shifting Cats Paws to an afternoon matinee that day, or the Sunday matinee the weekend before). 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 Animaniacs Live at the La Mirada Performing Arts Center (FB). 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.


News Chum Stew for 170114: Theatre, Judaism, Feminism, and Zombies

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Jan 14, 2017 @ 8:12 am PST

To close out the week, a tasty news chum stew, wherein I pull out the chunks and provide commentary to chew on:

  • Dealing with Ticket Scalpers. Ken Davenport had an interesting commentary on the ticket resale market, triggered by the news that Hamilton in London is going to a ticketless system — instead, you swipe your payment card for entry. I have a number of problems with this — primarily, that it hurts legitimate patrons. Things come up in life, and occasionally you need to change your tickets to a different date — but they are non-refundable. You bought the tickets — you should be able to give them to a friend (possibly being reimbursed for cost), or donate them to a charity; these anti-scalping measures seem to prevent that. As for Cameron Macintosh and Hamilton, it is a very bad idea. Not only does it disenfranchise those with cash — who are often the younger audiences we must get into theatre, but how often had you had to ice a card due to fraud and replaced it with a new card and new number.  Unfortunately, it is a fact of life: when you have a limited highly desired product, there will be a secondary resale market.
  • Steve Allen Theatre Going Away. I received some sad theatre news this week in a mailing from the Trepany House Theatre Company: In Summer 2017, the CFI-LA building and the Steve Allen Theatre inside will be torn down this summer to make room for new condos. CFI-LA confirmed this in their latest newsletter: “CFI has accepted a favorable offer on the property where the Center for Inquiry–Los Angeles now resides, and this vibrant and active branch is expected to have a great new location by the fall. This is a positive development for CFI–L.A., which will mean a brand new home for the community, and the resources to keep it thriving.” This is sad — the Steve Allen Theatre was home to Meeting of Minds (which was created by Allen), and the memory of Allen is too important to disappear.
  • Jewish Feminism and Brotherhood Privilege. Soferet Jen Taylor Friedman created Tfillin Barbie a few years ago. In response to Mattel releasing a set of Barbies in all shapes, colors, and sizes, Jen has created an Intersectional Barbie Dream Minyan “because Jewish feminism shouldn’t be only for white girls.” I love the copy Jen wrote; here’s the first paragraph to give you an idea: “Maybe some of them are Sephardic and some are Maghrebi and one is an adult convert and one was adopted and converted as a child. One of them has blue hair. One of them has red hair, and one of them has red highlights. Nobody in this minyan ever says “But where are you really from?” or “But surely you weren’t born Jewish.” Some of them are what Mattel calls “curvy.” Some of them are short.” I especially the last sentence: “In principle, Kens are welcome in this minyan, but today they’re outside fixing breakfast, which is why you can’t see them.” That’s the men’s club for you. Always fixing the food in the back. I’ll bet they are using a BBQ.
  • Body Positivity and Modeling. If you’ve been reading here recently, you know I’ve been talking about body positivity. Perhaps it is because I find all people beautiful and enjoy watching the diversity (especially of the opposite sex) — and people are at their most beautiful when they are happy with themselves. That’s why I supported The Nu Project and its message. It shouldn’t be a surprise that a recent interview with Emme on the A-Plus blog caught my eye. In particular, I appreciate it when she said, “It’s not a hidden, hushed conversation anymore. Every day, women are showing themselves in all forms of dress (or undress) on social media where you would NEVER [have seen] this in the ’90s. A revolution of female strength and power — thin, medium, and curvy — is at hand. It’s a time to feel blessed to be in! It begs me to say men also are gaining from this liberation. Body image and self-esteem are not only a woman’s trip. Men are on it and dealing with very similar issues, but feel ashamed to speak up about it. The eating disorder clinics are full with young men, fathers, and boys — reflecting the phenomenon today.” This all goes back to the key line from my favorite musical, Two Gentlemen of Verona: “You can’t love another without loving yourself.”
  • Rights and the Backlash . Have you ever been somewhere where a group that was in the minority started exerting their rights, and the members of the formerly privileged group started fighting back? Did this fighting back often progress to violence against the minority group, disturbing images, and even more disturbing behavior? Was the end conclusion something you liked? I’m not talking about Donald Trump here (although I well could be); rather, my cousin has brought to my attention a very interesting article about the situation in South Korea between women and men. Feminism is rising in South Koren, and a deep-seated misogynist backlash is coming out (just like the “white privilege” backlash after #blacklivesmatter). It’s getting ugly. A really interesting article, well worth reading.
  • The Zombies of Penzance. Don’t you just love that title. The Zombies of Penzance is a new musical that is about to have a reading and a staging in St. Louis. I just love the description, and look forward to this being staged in LA: “In The Zombies of Penzance (subtitled At Night Come the Flesh Eaters), according to press notes, “Major-General Stanley is a retired zombie hunter, who doesn’t want his daughters marrying the dreaded Zombies of Penzance (for obvious reasons). According to documents found with the manuscripts, Gilbert and Sullivan finished work on The Zombies of Penzance in mid-1878, but their producer Richard D’Oyly-Carte refused to produce it, calling it vulgar, impolitic, and unchristian, and in one letter, ‘an operatic abomination, an obscene foray into the darkest of the occult arts.’ In a letter to his cousin, Gilbert expressed his deep disappointment, writing ‘I fear the walking dead shall be the end of me yet.’ Until now, music scholars had been baffled by that reference. After a battle that almost ended the partnership, the team reluctantly agreed to rewrite their show, and in 1879, D’Oyly-Carte debuted the much more conventional, revised version, The Pirates of Penzance, which added the characters of Ruth and the policemen, and eliminated all references to zombism.””
  • Genealogy and Personal Information. Genealogists have a hard problem — especially amateur genealogists. You want to share the information to get the most knowledge about your family tree, and you want to be able to research online, but you have to be careful about exposing PII (personally identifyable information). There’s loads of PII in genealogy: addresses, mother’s maiden names, birthplaces, school dates and locations, and such. You’ll see why that is a risk when you think about all those password questions you get. This has come to the forefront of people’s attention with a story going viral on Facebook about how one genealogy site has scraped public databases to get addresses, and has published them for free. This has everyone up in arms, but they are forgetting one fact: this is information that was already PUBLIC. If someone was stalking you, they don’t need this site to do it. The information is easily discovered with a bit of Google-fu. Still, you can opt out if you wish. I likely won’t bother: I was in my last house 10+ years, and this house 10+ years, and am easy to find. [Not to mention that of all the Faigin’s out there, I’m not in their database. Cousins are. I’m not.]
  • Housing Style. I live in a single-story ranch house. But what makes such a house a “ranch house”. What is “Cape Cod”? Here’s a handy guide on personal housing architectural styles. What type of house do you live in?
  • Gluten-Free and Fads. Lastly, an article that explores the question: Is gluten-free more than a fad? By that, the real question they mean is: Should gluten-free be for more than just celiacs? These other folks are known as “PWAGs;” in the medical jargon: “people without celiac disease avoiding gluten.” [Note that this is a very different thing than a PAWG, so be careful when you search, although a PWAG can be a PAWG]. They’re often stigmatized as faddish foodies or placebo-addled hypochondriacs who don’t understand the science behind a serious health problem. According to a new study published this month in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings, their number tripled between 2009 and 2014, while the number of cases of celiac disease stayed flat. The article notes that there is growing evidence that severe gluten sensitivities exist outside the realm of celiac disease; further, researchers simply don’t know how many of the people following a gluten-free diet may actually have a legitimate health complaint.  It notes how many PWAGs (glad I didn’t mistype that) find relief in a gluten-free diet, and people still aren’t sure why.


Bringing Things Back

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Jan 14, 2017 @ 6:33 am PST

Today’s news chum post looks at a number of things from the past (some of which are being brought back):

P.S.: While working on this post, I was reading my FB Pages feed, and I discovered that Orange Empire Railway Museum (FB) is bringing back my buddy Thomas and his friends in April (April 1-2, 8-9). This was a surprise to me; upon investigation, I discovered that OERM is now your only place to see Thomas in SoCal, and that he’ll be back as usual in November as well. We can’t make it to volunteer in April as our schedule is too booked up (you’ll see why in my theatre post tomorrow), but you should if you’re into the Really Useful Engine. We’ll be there as usual in November.

Political Observations of the Day

Written By: cahwyguy - Fri Jan 13, 2017 @ 6:22 pm PST

userpic=divided-nationAs I noted yesterday, I’m trying to limit myself to one political post a day. So here goes:

  • There’s been a meme going around Facebook about the importance of criticizing our leaders when appropriate. I agree with that wholeheartedly, but I want to emphasize some things related to that. First, there’s a distinction between what you say, and how you say it. If you are going to criticize our leaders, or be critical, be an adult about it. Don’t call them names (Drumpf is just as insulting as Obumbo was), and don’t use insulting names for the movements or followers (yes, libtard and conservatard as are stupid as they sound). Watch out for using a broad brush, such as treating all members supporting a politician or a political movement a particular way. If you are writing “All Conservatives…” or “All Trump followers” or even “That’s how they think…” — think twice and don’t do it. Watch out for sensationalized news stories, and don’t spread fake news (especially if it plays to your biases). Check your sources; Snopes and other fact checking organizations are your friends (and for those that think Snopes is biased — they always give their sources, so check their sources). In short, we (and I’m referring to the liberal side here) got to see some of the worst behavior from many folks on the Conservative side during the Obama administration. We should not act the same way.
  • Be aware that what you see on Facebook is biased. There’s a great site provided by the Wall Street Journal called “Red Feed, Blue Feed”, that presents an active display of feeds from both sides. Note how the stories are biased. You’re seeing sensationalized information that is playing to your biases, on order to keep you on pages longer, click on pages to improve rankings, and otherwise manipulate you and your political thought. Think for yourself, and don’t surround yourself with only people you agree with. Much as it may be painful — much as it might make you cringe to see what they write — maintain some friends from the other side of the spectrum and occasionally like what they write. You don’t have to agree with everything, but you need to understand.
  • Understanding will be the key to getting through this. There is much talk about a Liberal agenda, and those of us on the Liberal side don’t see it because we believe in it. We believe it is just and right to do the things that we did, for it is helping those whom we see as poor and disenfranchised. The problem is: (a) we’re not hitting all the poor and disenfranchised, and (b) we don’t stop to think how it looks. Many in the country — many in the blue class non-urban heartland — were left out of the economic recovery. They saw the life they knew going away, they saw hard work not being rewarded, they saw people they believed were cheating the system promoted before them and receiving benefits they couldn’t. What we might have seen as “white privilege” wasn’t life as they saw it, for although there is white privilege, it is often trumped (Trumped?) by blue-collar stereotypes and class warfare. These folks believed that Trump could change that, and overlooked his flaws.
  • That last sentence is important. I’ve been listening to the Gimlet podcast on Dov Charney and the fall of American Apparel and the rise of his new company Los Angeles Apparel. As Dov Charney said, “In America, if you’re making money, everything is forgiven. Trust me.” Sound familiar? Charney was someone who lost his company through mismanagement and sexual harrassment lawsuits. He had a temper problem and an extremely thin skin. Yet his new company is succeeding because of the power of his personality, his ability to make money, and his ability to sell himself and not look back at the past. Sound familiar. It’s a multi-part series, and worth listening to for the parallels to our incoming President.
  • The nature of Social Justice as we see it is disputed by the Conservative side. I believe the goals are the same — helping the poor, helping those in need, ensuring equality. But the way we get there and the speed we get there differs drastically. The Democratic attitude since the rise of the “neo-Liberal” (i.e., since the transition from the Democratic Party of Hubert Humphrey to the one of Bill Clinton) has been one of redistribution of wealth and fast change. The speed of change upset many, and the government enforced redistribution of wealth upset more. If you look closely at many Republicans (at least those active in the churches and stuff), they often give more and more of themselves to help others, at a personal level, than anyone. The deep south is one of the largest supporters of “Make a Wish”. The problem is that attitude doesn’t exist in many of the millionaires and billionaires that exploit the attitude for their personal gain. In this, Bernie Sanders had it right — the real issue is not a party distinction but a class distinction and a wealth disparity, and we forget that at our peril. The answer comes in not giving everyone a handout through redistribution of wealth — the answer comes in giving them a hand in however they need it. Think of what the “Computers” did in Hidden Figures when they were facing automation. They didn’t give up; they learned how to program. The answer is not to prop up dying industries or to help via welfare — the answer is to support families while we retrain people to capture the new jobs created by new industries.
  • This brings us to the upcoming inauguration. In particular, the question of whether Jewish leaders should participate and whether it is proper to bless Trump. The Coffee Shop Rabbi Blog captured why such blessings are actually very important:


We are living in a time in which strong feelings run high. There are those who are happy about the change in leadership in the U.S., and those who are very concerned at what it might bring.

We pray for the government not only to ask for Divine help, but also to remind ourselves that the government in place is the only one we’ve got. Even in the worst case suggested in Fiddler, Jews prayed for safety under the government that existed.

In a democracy we have a participatory role that Tevya couldn’t have imagined. We fulfill our sacred duties within our democracy when we vote, and when we express our opinions to our elected officials. Without our active participation, it ceases to be a democracy.

We pray that God not necessarily bless our leaders for what they have done, but that God leads them to making wise decisions, selecting advisors with wisdom, and to making our country strong and a safe place for all of the inhabitants (all creeds, all colors, all orientations, all sexes, all genders — everyone). We pray that God helps them work within the bounds of what is legal, and that God wants them to know that there are no “favored religions”: and thus National law takes precedent over religious teachings, and that everyone should have the ability to practice their faith or non-faith in the privacy of their own home, but not to the point where they are using their faith to impact others. We pray that God leads them on an ethical path, putting the needs of the country before their personal gain.

That’s the sort of prayer we can stand behind.


Travelin’ Style

Written By: cahwyguy - Fri Jan 13, 2017 @ 11:24 am PST

This collection of news chum brings together a bunch of articles that all have to do with travel or things we use when traveling such as maps:

  • Bordering on the Crazy. Most of us think of borders as straight lines. Perhaps another line meets them, bringing three entities together. Sometimes it is a form of a +, bringing four entities together. Sometimes it is even weirder than that. This article explores 11 different international border oddities, including multiple levels of enclaves (enclosed countries) and divided villages.
  • Art on or In The Road. Canadian artist Roadsworth likes to take existing street and sign markings and turn them into street art. Literally. I find them quite cute, but I wonder if people notice them.
  • Las Vegas Remembers. Las Vegas may not be keen on keeping the past (as the hotels go boom!), but it is keen on remembering it. It does this by…. naming streets. You’re familiar with the dead hotels memorialized in street names: Sands, Dunes, Riviera, Sahara, Tropicana (oh, right, that’s not dead yet). It also does it for start associating city — most recently, when it renamed a stretch of Riviera as Elvis Presley Blvd. Elvis Presley Boulevard, formerly Riviera Boulevard, is four-tenths of a mile and runs from the Strip to Paradise Road near the Convention Center and the Westgate. Other streets named after celebrities include Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. drives, all of which meet behind the Mirage. Jerry Lewis Way can be found south of that intersection, also intersecting Dean Martin Drive. Not far from there is Mel Torme Way, off of Spring Mountain Road near Fashion Show. Tony Bennett Way runs east of Paradise in between Twain and Flamingo. Debbie Reynolds Drive is near Convention Center Drive, and Hugh Hefner Drive is just off of Flamingo Road. UNLV’s most famous basketball coach has Jerry Tarkanian Way in the southwest along the 215 Beltway. Wayne Newton Boulevard is near McCarran International Airport. You get the idea.
  • Belugas in the Air. Airbus has released photos of the Airbus Beluga XL. This plane, a modified A330, is used to fly aircraft components across Europe for manufacturing. Some think it is pretty. It reminds me of a Pontiac Aztek.
  • The Speed of Sound. A bit faster than the Beluga is the Supersonic Jet designed by Industrial Engineer Charles Bombardier. The Paradoxal resembles a stingray, and would not be suitable for autonomous operations. But it would go fast, being outfitted with two rim-rotor rotary ramjet engines that would give it enough power to climb to 60,000 feet and reach Mach 3. At that point, the air-breathing engines would transform into rocket engines by injecting liquid oxygen injected into the gas exhaust port, placing it on a parabolic suborbital path with an apex of 65 kilometers (approximately 40 miles)—a cruising level well above the stratosphere. The plane would be made of standard civil aviation materials using current aircraft manufacturing techniques, and would be compatible with all existing airport infrastructure and services. However…. a few of its mechanisms have yet to be developed: for starters, the proposed R4E engines, though they could be replaced with existing turbines that use afterburners to increase thrust.
  • Bye Bye 747. United Airlines has announced that it will be pulling its last 747 out of service this year. The 747 was a revolutionary plane when it was introduced in 1969, but its four engine design makes it a gas guzzler in an era where both fuel consumption and exhaust output must be minimized. Further, the economics are increasingly not there — profits are easier on an appropriately outfitted A330 or 767, and if you need BIG, there’s always the A380 or the 787. The 747 remains a cargo workhorse, given how much it can hold.


Bigger and Better in Los Angeles

Written By: cahwyguy - Thu Jan 12, 2017 @ 11:56 am PST

I’m doing my best to limit myself to one political musing per day, and I’ve met my quota. So let’s turn to my city and county, Los Angeles, and see how it is on the brink of some big changes:

  • Biggest IKEA in the US. Come February, the current Ikea near the Colony Theatre is closing, and a gigantic (shall we say “yuuuuge”) IKEA is opening down the street. The store will be 456,000 square feet, nearly twice as large as the previous Burbank store, replacing a total of 19 different storage buildings. The store will also include parking for 1,700 vehicles, a childcare facility, and a 600-seat restaurant significantly larger than the dining area at the existing Burbank location. The store will display the whole range of products that Ikea has to offer. Shoppers will be issued Firhot Flare Guns upon entry, together with Gaarmaan GPS maps and whistles to call exclusive IKEA Doog robots if shoppers get lost.
  • The Chargers Return. The San Diego Chargers are coming to Los Angeles, where they will be known as the San Diego Chargers of Los Angeles. Perhaps I should say “returning”, after all, they played their first season here before giving up and heading south in more ways than one. The general reaction of most people in the city is “yawn”. Inglewood is happy, because they will have even more nights with “home” football games. I’m not sure whether they will be successful in the move. I’d wish them the same success as the Rams, but I’m trying my best not to be nasty. Meanwhile, the Oakland Raiders are planning to run to Vegas and have a quick nuptual presided over by Elvis (who is getting a street named after him, but that will be a different post)
  • A Magical Duplication. There is an old convoluted, invitation-only, black-tie house in the Hollywood Hills called the Magic Castle, operated by the family of Milt Larsen, where it serves as the home to the Academy of Magical Arts. Evidently, an unknown side-show magician who was once on TV has indicated more slight-of-hand magicians are needed in Washington DC; as a result, the Larsen family has decided to open a second Magic Castle. The new castle will be near Santa Barbara and called the “Magic Castle Cabaret”, and will overlook a lake and nature preserve in Montecito (the property formerly housed the Casa del Sol restaurant and events center). The structure is about a fifth the size of the Hollywood castle and will feature a 50-seat theater and a lounge.
  • Ewoks in the Park. George Lucas has announced that he has finally selected where he will put his musuem of Star Wars Ephemera and randomly collected art works. Exposition Park. As if that park didn’t have enough museums and attractions with the California ScienCenter, the African American Museum, the Rose Garden, the Natural History Museum, the Space Shuttle Pavilion, plus an LAUSD elementary school, the Coliseum,  and the new LA Soccer Stadium. There’s plenty of space and parking. Right?

Can A Government Employee not be a Government Employee?

Written By: cahwyguy - Thu Jan 12, 2017 @ 7:56 am PST

userpic=trumpThis morning, while I was in the shower, an odd question popped into my head:

  • If President Trump or a Cabinet Head elects to take no salary, are they a government employee?

Here’s why that question occurred to me: Ethics rules, disclosure rules, conflict of interest rules, rules about accepting gifts, and all other sorts of regulations apply to government employees. But Trump is nominating millionaires and billionaires who don’t need the salary. Many of them have publicly said they will not take a salary. So does this make them exempt from all the regulations that apply to government employees? Further, note that it means they will not have taxes taken from their salaries (avoiding taxes), and their income will be primarily capital gains on investments (which is a much lower tax rate, and can be offset by losses reducing taxes even further). No salary, and income primarily from capital gains also puts them in a lower tax bracket (I think — I could be wrong there).

So, by refusing a salary, could they both avoid those pesky regulations and lower their taxes? Could this be why we are seeing so many millionaires and billionaires being nominated?

[ETA: Conclusion: (•) Salaries are defined by statute, and must be paid — then they can be subsequently donated, returned to the Treasury, etc.; (•) Volunteering for government service is not allow, so they have to accept a token of $1; (•) even if they did volunteer, there are volunteer agreements to cover ethics.]