Observations Along the Road

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

Decision 2016: It’s Simple, But It’s Complicated

Written By: cahwyguy - Fri Jun 10, 2016 @ 12:11 pm PDT

userpic=obama-supermanThe California Primary is over, we have presumptive nominees from the major parties, and I’ve got a collection of Decision 2016 News Chum just waiting to be posted. In thinking about these articles over lunch, I realized they fit a theme: just like history is more complicated than people realize, politics is more complicated than people realize. Often the simple tropes and sound bites that circulate in the social media world are too abstracted to discuss the real issue, and when you investigate the complicated real issue, you often find much more than you would have thought. Let’s explore some of these:

  • False Simplification = The People Elect the President. A lot of people believe the process of electing a President is just like electing a Senator or Congresscritter: we have a primary where we narrow down the field to the top candidate in each party, and then pit those candidates in an election where the one with the largest number of votes wins. But that’s not how the process works. We don’t have a democracy; we have a representative form of government. For President, each parties chooses — using their own processes — how they will pick their nominee at their convention. In the past, this was the literal smoke-filled room, which gave us some of our greatest presidents. Lincoln never had a primary election. Roosevelt never had a primary election. Picking the nominee at a convention is done by the delegates who attend those conventions. Each state defines its own process to pick those delegates, as we have seen. Each state has its own rules. This indirection is even true for the general election. Each state has rules on how it allocates its electors to the electoral college, and it is the electoral college that actually elects the President. Changing this system would require changing the Constitution, as well as the rules within each state. That won’t happen immediately, especially when we only realize these problems every four years.
  • False Simplification = Bernie Can Win the Nomination. This is a big one from the Bernie Sanders supporters, who at this point believe Bernie could be the Democratic nominee if only he could get those superdelegates to switch sides. The excellent Electoral-Vote website had some interesting commentary on this, noting that even if Bernie got what he wanted — superdelegates in proportion to his winnings — he still would not get the nomination. The math just isn’t there to support him, unless Bernie is advocating that the superdelegates should completely ignore the wishes of the voters in the Democratic primaries. Basically, Hillary will be the nominee because she got the most votes in the primaries; for all the indirection and games in the process, it actually worked to sync with the voters. By the way, this is also true on the Republican side: Trump got the nomination because a majority of Republicans voted for him. Further, the other candidates did not stay around to provide a viable alternative to Trump, leaving the Republican voter with only one distasteful choice. As to the question of whether Sanders should drop out: I don’t think so — at least not until after the DC Primary. His presence there demonstrates that the Democrats believe in providing the choice.
  • False Simplification = Hillary is a War Hawk. Now we start to get to some of the tropes that have been going around about Hillary trying to discredit her. We’ll start with this: that she’s a hawk and wants to bring the US to war. However, a study of her foreign policy shows that she is not a hawk. That record suggests she’d be more hawkish than President Obama — and many of her fellow Democrats. But don’t expect her to go overboard. She knows all too well the political price that can come with military intervention. She knows foreign policy; she’s very concerned with relationships and alliances. One gets the impression that she’ll use military intervention only when it is really needed — and remember, she’ll need congress’ approval to do so (at least for any extended action).
  • False Simplification = Hillary is Corrupt. I posted this article a while back, but it is worth reposting. The gist is that if you believe that Hillary is corrupt — and in particular, more corrupt than other politicians — you’ve swallowed the conspiracy theories fed to you by the GOP. Furthermore, unlike Monica, you didn’t spit it out as distasteful. If you look at the history objectively, you’ll discover that most of these “scandals” really have no substance to them, and what is there is truly insignificant in the scheme of how the Presidency works. Moreover, you’ll see that both Hillary and Bill have devoted their life to public service and working for the people. They’ve become wealthy by the fact that they are lawyers (a high income profession), and as politicians in the limelight, get paid well to speak and write about their experiences and observations.
  • False Simplification = Hillary is Out of Touch with the Poor. This claim has come to a head this week with the kerfuffle about the $12K dress. Snopes has something to say about that: pointing out that the jacket was really half the price, and was likely donated. I’ll go further and say that the question itself is misogynistic.  When Bernie Sanders talks about income inequality, does anyone ask how much his suit costs? When President Obama talks? If Trump talked about it at all, would anyone ask him? No. But we ask women what they wear as if it is something important, and we will pick on them if they don’t look right, or wear the same clothes over and over. Focus on the substance of what she says, and what she has done when in office — not what she is wearing.
  • False Simplification = Hillary is not the Candidate of the People. Say what you will about Bernie and the Donald: they see inequities, and they get angry about it. They get so angry they yell from the campaign trail. What would the reaction be if Hillary did that? Here’s an interesting article that shows how Hillary is a very apt, but very different politician. The thing is: her approach to politics is unlike the typical male candidates — and especially the male candidates that our election process rewards. Hillary works in the background building coalitions and nurturing relationships. This is a very feminine approach, and one that people do not see.
  • False Simplification = Hillary is Dishonest. This appears to be a favorite of Donald Trump. But guess what: it isn’t true — in fact, Hillary is fundamentally honest. So, the question continues, if she is honest, why does she refuse to release all the information about her speeches. The answer is noted in the linked article: “Some of it she brings on herself by insisting on a perimeter or “zone of privacy” that she protects too fiercely. It’s a natural impulse, given the level of scrutiny she’s attracted, more than any male politician I can think of.” But when it comes to honesty, and objective analysis demonstrates that she is fundamentally honest.

Let’s look at these characteristics as they relate to the other major candidate: Donald Trump. Trump has no demonstrated record of working in public service or in the public interest; in fact, it is clear that the only interest he has been interested in supporting to date is his own. This is why he has valued his businesses differently when talking about them on the trail vs. when they are subject to asset taxation. We don’t know his position on war, but we do know he has been fast to come off the handle and threaten war. We also know he doesn’t care about relationships with allies — America First. Is he corrupt? There is evidence he has made major donations to states attorneys general to get them to drop cases against Trump University. He has also clearly misrepresented his interests, and drove many of his businesses into bankruptcy. I shouldn’t even need to ask the honesty question.

But even with all of that, I’m not going to say “Vote Against Trump” (I’ll believe it, but I won’t say it). Rather, I’ll say that you should vote “for” a candidate. Look at the published positions of the candidates (and by that I mean all the candidates: Dems, Repubs, Libertarians, Greens, etc.) — not what the media says they are, but what they are saying about their positions. Look who is endorsing them. Look at their experience and their demeanor. Consider their knowledge of all the complexities that go into being President: working with the Senate and House, dealing with all the hidden complications of the Federal Budget; dealing with the nuances of foreign policy; thinking about long term impacts of actions; thinking about the ramification and costs of actions both domestically and abroad. Select your candidate based on those characteristics, not the manufactured stories and tropes manufactured by the media to bring eyeballs to their properties.

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Transposing the Matrix: Update 3 – Subaru with a Vengence

Written By: cahwyguy - Wed Jun 08, 2016 @ 8:59 pm PDT

Subaru Userpicuserpic=matrixPreviously, on Transposing the Matrix: If you recall, just over two weeks ago I had an auto accident resulting in my 2006 Toyota Matrix being totaled. Friday, we began the search for a new car. That post detailed some of the requirements for any replacement vehicle: cargo capacity, not too big, being able to work with my iPod Transpod, convenient Aux jack, backup camera, decent gas mileage. In Update 1, we had narrowed the field to three contenders: : the 2016 Scion iM [brochure], the 2016 Honda Fit, and the the 2016 Subaru Impreza 5-Door. In our most recent update, we had narrowed the field even further, to the the 2016 Scion iM [brochure] and the 2016 Subaru Impreza 5-Door. The two cars were very closely matched on specifications, often matched to within inches of each other. The prices were also very close to each other, especially when the Costco Buying Service came into play.

By the end of the last week, we had made the decision between the two cars, but to the dealers we were each telling them the other candidate was better. The decision? The 2016 Subaru Impreza 5-Door. Some of the key factors that pushed us in the direction of the Subaru were:

  • Slightly more rear passenger room
  • Slightly more storage room
  • Slightly more horsepower and get-up-and-go
  • Better resale value
  • Better retention of value
  • Quieter interior
  • Design-wise, it was a tad more sedate — which hopefully translates into being less of a theft magnet for those looking to race

Of course, none of those trumped the most important factor — very important for the San Fernando Valley in the summer:

  • It had the option of a tan interior

If you’ve ever had a black interior in the summer in the valley, you know the problem with that.

So, last Sunday (between the MoTAS meeting and Fringing) we went over to Subaru of Sherman Oaks, and working with our salesman Daniel Robson, purchased the Matrix replacement:

2016 Subaru Impreza

(image generated via “Build Your Own Subaru“)

I was tired of all the silver, grey, and white cars out there, and would not go for black or red, and so I chose a lovely green. Hence, it has been named the “Big Green Subaru” (although really it is a baby Subaru) — the car for a Road Scholar. Financing has been straightened out, insurance has been updated, and there is just some final DMV paperwork to do.

I’ve been asked how does it drive. Repeatedly. By Michael, who is living through this purchase because Target was out of lives :-). The answer is: I don’t really know yet. I’m on a vanpool, and have only driven it home and around the block to vote yesterday. I’ll do some more driving this weekend. From what I have driven, it is very smooth and quiet. I’ve acquired a CD-mount cell phone holder and a 30-pin line out cable, and have mounted the iPod off the CD holder. The only problem is that it slightly blocks the backup camera, so I take it off when backing up. Most of the other electronics are working well — I’ve already paired my phone with the car, but haven’t tested it for calls. I still need to get the Homelink buttons on the mirror to work with the garage door opener, but I’ll figure that out.  It could just be that our garage door opener is too old.

userpic=cahwys-licenseSo, our Matrix has been transposed into an Impreza. All that remains is transferring my license plate. So, if you see a Green Impreza with the license plate shown to the right, give a wave. It is your friendly highway guy, probably on the way to see some theatre.

The Quiet Ones | “All The Best Killers are Librarians” @ HFF16

Written By: cahwyguy - Wed Jun 08, 2016 @ 7:47 pm PDT

All The Best Killers are Librarians (HFF)userpic=fringeI’ve known many a librarian in my life. One of my dearest friends (Z”L) was a librarian, and she had an inner something that made you not want to cross her… or you would pay the price. I’ve got corporate librarians on my van; again, don’t let their exteriors fool you about their toughness. I even know librarians that can dance people until they drop. So, when I saw a show in the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB) catalog that was described as “In this action-packed comedy, a shy librarian is recruited into the thrilling world of professional assassinations, international intrigue, and forbidden romance”, well, I was sold. That show was All The Best Killers are Librarians (FB, TW), and it was the second show we saw last Sunday.

Before I go into the show itself, I’ll note that this show was the winner of Season Ten of “Serial Killers” at Sacred Fools Theater. Serial Killers (FB) is a Sacred Fools (FB) late night production where each week, three continuing stories face off against two new tales. At the end of the show, the audience votes for the three stories that will continue on to the next Saturday night, where their subsequent episodes will then be pitted against two completely new storylines. The season culminates in a head-to-head battle royale between the sixteen top serials, including the eight longest-running serials plus audience-choice selections!

All The Best Killers are Librarians (written by Bob DeRosa (FB)) tells the story of Margo, a shy librarian, content to hide out at the research assistance desk in the back of her library. But then she meets Lancaster, a man who hires and trains the best assassins in the world. Lancaster is convinced she is a natural born killer, and he proves this by sending in three trained assassins to kill her. She dispatches them quickly, for she has the gift to instinctively kill when her life is threatened. Lancaster then recruits Margo into his action-packed world of professional assassinations, international intrigue, and forbidden romance. There’s only one problem: Margo doesn’t really like to kill, and she has started to fall in love with the cleaning man. You know, the cleaning man. The man who disposes of the bodies. Before the show is done, Margo’s hands will be stained with blood and she will know the truth: all the best killers are librarians!

The acting ensemble, who I’m presuming are drawn from the Serial Killers regulars, are aptly directed by Alicia Conway Rock (FB), who keeps the pace brisk and the action non-stop. She takes advantage of blackouts and sound effects to have stage violence that isn’t too violent, focusing instead on the fun of the story. I think this is one part of why this show is so successful.

Another part of the show’s success is the acting ensemble itself, led by Lauren Van Kurin (FB) as Margo, the librarian. Van Kurin’s Margo is sexy, smart, and damn good with a throwing knife. She’s playing this show for fun, and it is clear she enjoys this very physical role. That enjoyment comes across to the audience, who is rapidly drawn into to her dilemma and adventure. She’s just a hoot to watch, and I truly could not take my eyes off of her.

Paired with her as her recruiter and mentor is Eric Giancoli (FB) as Lancaster. Giancoli’s Lancaster is the classic handsome strong silent type, who gives the great impression that there’s something more there that (say it slow) he (pause) is (pause) not (pause) telling. Nice deep voice, very well played.

Margo’s love interest, Henry, is portrayed by Pete Caslavka. Caslavka seems to be having fun with the role, although I think he missed a spot up to the right :-).

Rounding out the performing ensemble were Jennifer C. DeRosa (FB) as Eleanor, Carrie Keranen (FB) as Crane / Mrs. White, Mike Mahaffey (FB) as Belinda / Numerous Killers, and Monica Greene (FB) as Sally / Numerous Killers. All of them were great and it is hard to single out specific supporting roles (especially as the two sacrificial killees are killed so many many times). DeRosa was fun to watch as Eleanor, Margo’s supervisor. In general, the amount of physical work that these cast members go through must be exhausting!

That leads us to the production and creative credits, and at the top of the list must be Mike Mahaffey (FB)’s fight choreography. Knives were popping out everywhere, and I just couldn’t see how it was done; there were loads of physical fighting moves and punches, and yet no one got hurt. Remarkable choreography, especially when you realize that Mahaffey was there in the middle of it. Also noticeable was Ben Rock (FB)’s sound design — a significant part of what made this production work were the sound effects, perfectly selected and timed. Matthew Richter (FB)’s was very effective (especially considering that one cannot always get the lighting one wants or needs at a Fringe venue), making maximum use of blackouts to create the illusion of extra violence. Rounding out the production credits: Jennifer C. DeRosa (FB)  — Producer; Rachel Manheimer (FB) — Stage Manager; Blake Gardner (FB) — Photographer.

There are four remaining performances of All the Best Killers are Librarians (although some may already be sold out, including this Friday): Friday 6/10 at 8:30 pm; Wednesday 6/15 at 10:30pm; Saturday 6/18 at 4:00 pm; and Saturday 6/25 at 3:30 pm. I’ve been telling all my librarian friends about this. You can learn about the show and get tickets at http://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/3510. You’ll enjoy this show quite a bit.

I should note that the Serial Killers team that is behind this show is also behind two other Fringe shows: Lamprey: Weekend of Violence and Serial Killers at the Fringe. We already have tickets to the former; and don’t have room in our schedule for the latter. You might, and you should probably go to those as well.

* * *

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) and the  Hollywood Pantages (FB); my subscription at  The Colony Theatre (FB) has gone dormant, and REP East (FB) has seemingly gone dark for 2016. Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals).  I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Upcoming Shows: Ah, June. Wonderful June. June is the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), and I’ve already written about the shows I plan to see, as well as suggestions to the Fringe regarding viewing the audience as a customer. Our Fringe/June schedule is as follows (for shows in the past, ✍ indicates writeup is in progress; ✒ indicates writeup is complete and links to the writeup):

Whew. July brings us back to conventional theatre, with Beautiful at the  Hollywood Pantages (FB) and the Western Corps Connection (FB) the first weekend, a HOLD for Grey Gardens at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB); the second weekend, The Little Mermaid at  Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB); the third weekend, Weird Al Yankovic at the Hollywood Bowl (FB) and Operaworks (FB) Opera Re-Constructed at CSUN; the fourth weekend, a mid-week Hollywood Bowl (FB) concert of Wynton Marsalis and Aaron Copeland, and … currently nothing for the weekend. As of right now, August is completely open. One weekend has a bar mitzvah, and there are a few holds for show, but nothing is booked. Late August may see us looking at shows down San Diego/Escondido for one weekend. The best of the shows available — or at least the most interesting — is Titanic from Moonlight Stages. As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, and Musicals in LA, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves.

 

A Single Girls Story | “Tell Me On A Sunday” @ HFF16

Written By: cahwyguy - Tue Jun 07, 2016 @ 11:05 pm PDT

Tell Me on a Sunday (Fringe)userpic=fringeSome musicals have thousands and thousands of people. OK, hundreds and hundreds. Would you believe in the double digits? Others make do with small casts (like Toxic Avenger). Some only have two. Then there is the rarer musical that only has one. Andrew Lloyd Webber and Don Black‘s musical,  Tell Me On a Sunday (FB), which was our first show on Sunday at the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), is one of those rare musicals.

You can read the Wikipedia page for the story that led to this piece.  Briefly, it started as a one-act after Evita, first with Tim Rice, then Don Black. First performed in 1979, it was later combined with a ballet called Variations to create the musical Song and Dance. That’s where I first heard the piece: the London recording with Marti Webb doing the performance. It was reworked in 1985, eventually landing on Broadway with Bernadette Peters playing the role. Hint: Let Peters be Peters; don’t have her do a fake accent. It doesn’t work. It has been revived a few times since then. Many don’t like the character being portrayed. Still, it remains a great one-woman piece, and I’m surprised that it isn’t done more.

The story being told concerns Emma. She moves to New York for her boyfriend, who cheats on her. She dumps him, moves in with a friend. She finds another man to latch on to — a Hollywood producer. This prompts a move to Los Angeles. That relationship fails for a similar reason, so she goes back to New York. This time she meets a salesman and the relationship begins again… only to fail when she discovers his cheating. She finally gets her green card, and starts dating a married man. She does this one just for fun, no relationship, and then is faced with him at her door having left his wife. She decides she doesn’t want him either, and is left figuring out what she wants in life.

Not a particuarly likable character. Not a character who one would want to be. There’s lots of inner exploration, comments on the superficiality of Americans. In some ways, I wonder if the piece is a commentary on the state of American relationships. Still, the music is melodic — and if you listen closely, you’ll hear a little bit of Variations sneaking in (you’ll also hear a little in School of Rock).

Unsurprisingly, this show depends on its star. For Fringe, Emma is played by Shannon Nelson (FB). Nelson does a spectacular job capturing the emotion, vibrance, and spirit of the character. She sings extremely well, having only a little trouble with the extreme low note in “When You Fall In Love” (oops) “Unexpected Song”. I thoroughly enjoyed her performance. Calvin Remsberg (FB)’s direction worked well, especially in handling the lack of formal set pieces and the need for on-stage costume changes. Matt Valle (FB)’s choreography worked quite well.

Music was provided by Richard Berent (FB), who was the on-stage band… also of one.

The lighting design was by Brendan Hunt, and was perhaps the most problematic. My hope is that the lighting problems were due to this being a preview, but there were times where the actress was in the dark, or was hunting for the light. This should be corrected in subsequent productions.

Remaining production credits: Rebecca Schoenberg (Stage Manager); James Xavier (Poster Art). Produced by Lucid by Proxy (FB).

I found Tell Me On a Sunday enjoyable, and I think you will as well. There are four more performances of the show: June 11 @ 3:00 PM; June 15 @ 9:00 PM; June 19 @ 11:00 PM; and June 20 @ 10:00 PM. Performances take place in the Sacred Fools Theatre Black Box. Tickets are available off Sunday’s Fringe Page. Go directly to the tickets tab by clicking here.

* * *

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) and the  Hollywood Pantages (FB); my subscription at  The Colony Theatre (FB) has gone dormant, and REP East (FB) has seemingly gone dark for 2016. Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals).  I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Upcoming Shows: Ah, June. Wonderful June. June is the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), and I’ve already written about the shows I plan to see, as well as suggestions to the Fringe regarding viewing the audience as a customer. Our Fringe/June schedule is as follows (for shows in the past, ✍ indicates writeup is in progress; ✒ indicates writeup is complete and links to the writeup):

Whew. July brings us back to conventional theatre, with Beautiful at the  Hollywood Pantages (FB) and the Western Corps Connection (FB) the first weekend, a HOLD for Grey Gardens at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB); the second weekend, The Little Mermaid at  Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB); the third weekend, Weird Al Yankovic at the Hollywood Bowl (FB) and Operaworks (FB) Opera Re-Constructed at CSUN; the fourth weekend, a mid-week Hollywood Bowl (FB) concert of Wynton Marsalis and Aaron Copeland, and … currently nothing for the weekend. As of right now, August is completely open. One weekend has a bar mitzvah, and there are a few holds for show, but nothing is booked. Late August may see us looking at shows down San Diego/Escondido for one weekend. The best of the shows available — or at least the most interesting — is Titanic from Moonlight Stages. As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, and Musicals in LA, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves.

He’s Mean and Green | “The Toxic Avenger Musical” @ HFF16

Written By: cahwyguy - Tue Jun 07, 2016 @ 9:19 pm PDT

The Toxic Avenger Musical (Good People Theatre/HFF16)userpic=fringeOK, I have this thing for off-beat, quirky, what might be called “Off Broadway” musicals. Be it Brain from Planet X, Evil Dead: The MusicalIt Came From BeyondZombies from the Beyond, Zanna Don’t, or even The Rocky Horror Show (yes, it was a stage musical — and Off-Broadway at that, before the movie) — these little musicals are just a hell of a lot of fun. I also like to find musicals for which I’ve heard the music but never seen them on stage. Good People Theatre (FB)’s The Toxic Avenger Musical at the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB) is a two-fer: a wonderful quirky musical that I’ve never seen before.  It is a spectacular production that you are sure to enjoy.

The Toxic Avenger Musical is based on Lloyd Kaufman (FB)’s The Toxic Avenger. It was adapted for the stage by Joe DiPietro (Book and Lyrics) and David Bryan (Music and Lyrics) — the same team that did Memphis – The Musical. I guess I should say, following my conceit, that Kaufman did a wonderful job of adapting the stage show.

In any case, The Toxic Avenger Musical tells the story of a nerd, Melvin Ferd the Third, who secretly loves the town’s blind librarian, Sarah. Melvin also hates how his town of New Jersey has become a toxic waste pit. He investigates with a lead from Sarah, and discovers that the Mayor is behind the dumping of the toxic waste. He threatens to destroy her, and she sends her goons to take care of him. They dump him in a vat of toxic waste, and he emerges mean and green… and out to return New Jersey to the garden spot it is meant to be. After rescuing Sarah from attackers, she falls in love with him, believing him to be French (explaining the stench). So does the now christened Toxie save Tromaville, or does the Mayor win?

Yes, a comic story. Yes, a silly story. But one surprisingly relevant, based on concerns about toxic waste and global warming. The songs are infectious and upbeat, and I challenge you not to come out of this musical smiling. It is just great green toxic fun.

Of course, it is helped by spot on performances, under the direction of GPT’s Janet Miller (FB). Every time we’ve seen something Janet has done or directed, we have walked out impressed. Be it Fringe shows like Marry Me a Little or A Man of No Importance, or CSUN shows like Bat Boy, her direction guarantees a quality show. I’m not saying that to be nice. There are a few musical directors in Los Angeles who consistently do quality work in small theatres, folks like Richard Israel (FB) or Roger Bean (FB). Janet is part of that small group. If you see her name, go see her show.

Back to the performances, the cast in this was outstanding. Before I get to the mean green man himself, I want to highlight my favorite: Kim Dalton (FB). We saw Kim earlier this year in Chance’s Dogfight, and we were impressed. This time, we were blown away. Kristen Chenowith better watch out: this tiny package has a set of pipes on her that are astounding. I’m still thinking about “My Big French Boyfriend” , “Hot Toxic Love”, or “Choose Me, Oprah”. Further, her acting was great. In this show, she is playing a blind librarian. This could have degenerated quickly into caricature or farce, but she did it realistically, reminding me of a blind friend of mine. She was touching, funny, sexy, and just remarkable. I look forward to seeing her in more Southern California productions.

Toxic Avenger Publicity PhotosAs for our mean green man, Melvin Ferd the Third, who become The Toxic Avenger, he was played by Jared Reed (FB). Reed projected a wonderful mix of meekness and strength — a combination that made him accessible and friendly and distinctly not a monster. Except when you cross him. Here’s a hint: You don’t want to cross big green men. Just ask Bruce Banner. Reed also had a lovely singing voice, which he ably demonstrated in sochs such as “You Tore My Heart Out”, “Kick Your Ass”, and “Hot Toxic Love” (a lovely duet with Dalton).

All of the other actors in the show play multiple characters. A particular standout is Shirley Anne Hatton (FB), who we first saw in GPT’s A Man of No Importance. Hatton plays the Mayer, Ma Ferd, and a nun, and just nails all three performances. From her solos in the opening number, “Who Will Save New Jersey?”, her performance with the girls in “All Men are Freaks”, to her over the top duet, “Bitch/Slut/Liar/Whore” — she is just spectacular.

This leaves us with the men and women of all trades: Danny Fetter (FB) and Wesley Tunison (FB). Fetter, the generically titled “Black Dude”, plays Sluggo, Professor Ken, Sinequa, Fred, Lamas, and a number of other unnamed roles. Tunison, the generically titled “White Dude”, plays Bozo, Sal the Cop, Diane, the Folk Singer, Lorenzo, and other roles. This is one of the amazing things about this show: that these two guys play so many characters and constantly switch between them. They work really well together in “Big French Boyfriend”, and Fetter does a wonderful song on “The Legend of the Toxic Avenger”.

The music was under the direction of Corey Hirsch (FB), who also played keyboard on stage. He was joined by Mike Lindsey on drums, Brenton Kossak (FB) on bass, Jeff Askew on guitar, and Dave Thomasson on reed. Orchestrations and arrangements were by David Bryan and Christopher Jahnke.

Turning to the remaining production and creative credits. The scenic design was by Zorro J. Susel (FB), who came up with a very clever design given the limitations of Fringe (load in and out in 10 minutes or so). The scenic design was supplemented by Emma Hatton‘s props. The clever costume design was by Mary Reilly, who did an outstanding job on Toxie’s creative costume, as well as those worn by other characters, which supported rapid quick changes. This was supported by  Zorro J. Susel (FB)’s makeup. Wigs are uncredited. The lighting design was by Katherine Barrett (FB) and the sound design was by Robert Schroeder (FB). We were at a preview performance, and both had problems — which wasn’t surprising — this was their first time being exercised. Both showed the potential of being excellent, so under the fringe-preview-benefit-of-the-doubt, I’m expecting the other performances to be excellent. Katherine Barrett (FB) was also the stage manager, who I’m guessing got the double-duty of holding up the signs and interacting with the characters and generally having a huff when they just expected props to magically go off-stage.Then again, it might have been Rebecca Schroeder (FB), the assistant stage manager. [ETA: GPT clarified on Facebook: “Our sign girl is, indeed, our lovely Assistant Stage Manager, Rebecca Schroeder. Her mother, our illustrious Stage Manager, Kate Barrett, is in the booth!“] Remaining production credits: Logan Allison/FB [Assistant Director], Emma Hatton [Production Assistant];  Kimberly Fox [Marketing Director]; Michael P. Wallot (FB) [Casting Director]; and Oliver Lan [Graphic Designer].

This is a must see at the Fringe. Really. Visit the show’s Fringe Page to book tickets. Remaining performances are: Friday June 10 2016, 9:00 PM; Saturday June 11 2016, 6:00 PM; Monday June 13 2016, 11:00 PM; Wednesday June 15 2016, 11:00 PM; Thursday June 16 2016, 7:00 PM; Saturday June 18 2016, 6:00 PM; Wednesday June 22 2016, 10:00 PM; Friday June 24 2016, 8:00 PM; Saturday June 25 2016, 5:00 PM; and  Sunday June 26 2016, 1:00 PM. Performances are at the Sacred Fools Theater (Main Stage) at  1076 Lillian Way.

* * *

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) and the  Hollywood Pantages (FB); my subscription at  The Colony Theatre (FB) has gone dormant, and REP East (FB) has seemingly gone dark for 2016. Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals).  I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Upcoming Shows: Ah, June. Wonderful June. June is the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), and I’ve already written about the shows I plan to see, as well as suggestions to the Fringe regarding viewing the audience as a customer. Our Fringe/June schedule is as follows (for shows in the past, ✍ indicates writeup is in progress; ✒ indicates writeup is complete):

Whew. July brings us back to conventional theatre, with Beautiful at the  Hollywood Pantages (FB) and the Western Corps Connection (FB) the first weekend, a HOLD for Grey Gardens at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB); the second weekend, The Little Mermaid at  Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB); the third weekend, Weird Al Yankovic at the Hollywood Bowl (FB) and Operaworks (FB) Opera Re-Constructed at CSUN; the fourth weekend, a mid-week Hollywood Bowl (FB) concert of Wynton Marsalis and Aaron Copeland, and … currently nothing for the weekend. As of right now, August is completely open. One weekend has a bar mitzvah, and there are a few holds for show, but nothing is booked. Late August may see us looking at shows down San Diego/Escondido for one weekend. The best of the shows available — or at least the most interesting — is Titanic from Moonlight Stages. As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, and Musicals in LA, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves.

But Officer, I’m a MOT | “Code 197: Driving While Blewish” @ HFF16

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Jun 05, 2016 @ 4:27 pm PDT

Code 197: Driving While Blewish (HFF)userpic=fringeAs soon as we finished watching the Aliens go after the Musical Stars to eliminate the competition, we quickly walked down the two blocks to Studio C, near the Complex, to catch our next show, Code: 197 – Driving While Blewish. As Aliens vs. Musical had let out late (at 4:07pm), we arrived at DWB about 4:15pm. Luckily, the show hadn’t started yet: just like we two hapless audience members, the actor was running on JST.

Perhaps I should describe what this show was, and that will explain the JST reference. Here’s the description from the Fringe guide:

Ben-El David, a.k.a Benny Weinberg, or is it Benny Lee Harris Weinberg-Lumpkins Jr., whatever it is, is blewish, a.k.a. black and jewish. Oy Vey! or Sababa!? Either way, the struggle is real. Benny has heard it all from “How are you Jewish?”, to “You’re not really Jewish, are you?”

Born in the home of the world’s first Jewish Crime Family, The Purple Gang, Benny’s early Jewish influences were all around him. As a young kid in the mean streets of Detroit, the Jewish curiosities began with a high school english teacher, Mr. Daniel Sheehy. Why was he never at work? What was that funny thing he wore on his head all the time? What’s a shmuck?

As an adolescent, and the final flight of Detroit Jews from the inner city to the suburbs was complete, Benny had lost touch with his Jewish friends, and their sense of community and ideologies. Fast forward to an era of new enlightenment for Benny and a hunger to regain his early Jewish inspirations, Benny began his adulthood journey into Judaism.

Would Benny have to forget his former life in order to find the answers he was looking for in Judaism? “Why Judaism?” Is their really a God? What’s this Jesus thing all about?

Combine the above with the original description, which ended with “These questions are answered and more at the only Oneg at hff16”, and you had me intrigued.

Now, we were at a preview performance: We had no choir. We had no Diversidad. We had no Oneg. But we still loved this show. Here’s why.

The show, starring Benny Lumpkins Jr (FB) a/k/a Benny Weinberg, is part scripted, and part improvised. The scripted portion provides the background of Benny’s conversion; the improvised portion includes Benny having audience members select particular topics from his life to discuss. From these topics, you learn what drove Benny to his conversion.

What I found most interesting, however, was his comments about the Jewish attitude towards Jews of Color. There is this inherent suspicion that they are not full Jews, that they are converts. Benny related how many of the Africans that were brought over for slavery were Jewish — there is a belief that many African communities were some of the lost tribes. They were forced into Christianity which was not their religion. As such, when they return to Judaism, why are they viewed as outcasts. Often, this comes from the very same Eastern European Jews who converts to Judaism in the 12th and 11th century for commerce reasons. The hypocrisy is fascinating, and belies the requirement that the convert be treated exactly the same as the Jew by birth.

Benny pointed out that this is a form of implicit or unspoken racism: How often Jews of European background simply expect a certain look for Jews — although this is unstated — and then suspect those who don’t look that way to be ersatz or “not real” Jews. This, of course, goes against Jewish teaching and against the inclusiveness that modern Judaism emphasizes. Having had a best friend who was a Jew of color, and knowing many other Jews of color, I have seen this in action. I, of course, think it is wrong — and thus, Benny’s show raises the awareness of this behavior — allowing us to correct it. Thought provoking, right? Exactly what theatre is supposed to do, right? [ETA: I edited this paragraph in because I wrote the first version very quickly, and later remembered that I wanted to make this point.]

So we really enjoyed this, and talked to Benny afterwards. In fact, he does take the show on the road, and I thought I could be thought provoking MoTAS meeting topic.

Benny noted that the show will be different each time. We won’t be able to fit it into our schedule, but you might…

There are four more performances of Driving While Blewish: Friday June 10 2016, 8:30 PM; Thursday June 16 2016, 5:30 PM; Sunday June 19 2016, 6:00 PM; and Friday June 24 2016, 10:30 PM. The show lasts 1hr, and is at Asylum @ Studio C (Mainstage), 6448 Santa Monica Blvd. According to the Fringe website, tickets are free. Such a bargain. Get tickets at the Fringe Website.

* * *

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) and the  Hollywood Pantages (FB); my subscription at  The Colony Theatre (FB) has gone dormant, and REP East (FB) has seemingly gone dark for 2016. Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals).  I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Upcoming Shows: Ah, June. Wonderful June. June is the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), and I’ve already written about the shows I plan to see, as well as suggestions to the Fringe regarding viewing the audience as a customer. Our Fringe/June schedule is as follows (for shows in the past, ✍ indicates writeup is in progress; ✒ indicates writeup is complete):

Whew. July brings us back to conventional theatre, with Beautiful at the  Hollywood Pantages (FB) and the Western Corps Connection (FB) the first weekend, a HOLD for Grey Gardens at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB); the second weekend, The Little Mermaid at  Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB); the third weekend, Weird Al Yankovic at the Hollywood Bowl (FB) and Operaworks (FB) Opera Re-Constructed at CSUN; the fourth weekend, a mid-week Hollywood Bowl (FB) concert of Wynton Marsalis and Aaron Copeland, and … currently nothing for the weekend. As of right now, August is completely open. One weekend has a bar mitzvah, and there are a few holds for show, but nothing is booked. Late August may see us looking at shows down San Diego/Escondido for one weekend. The best of the shows available — or at least the most interesting — is Titanic from Moonlight Stages. As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, and Musicals in LA, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves.

What’s Your Motivation | “Alien vs. Musical” @ HFF16

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Jun 05, 2016 @ 7:34 am PDT

Alien vs. Musical (HFF16)userpic=fringeWell, it has begin. The Hollywood Fringe Festival (HFF) (FB). Over 275 live performance shows spread over 30 or so venues over the month of June.

We have also begun to Fringe (which, yes, is a verb). 15 Fringe shows (plus one regular show and two reunions) during the month of June. Possibly more, depending on if we had to the schedule. We may be sane, but that doesn’t mean we’re not crazy.

Our first Fringe show, Alien vs. Musical (FB),  was nominated for 10 HFF awards in 2015, winning Best World Premiere Production, Outstanding Songwriting, and The Encore! Producers Award. I had wanted to fit it in last year, but just couldn’t rejigger the schedule. Luckily, the show’s producers brought it back this year in a longer version.

How to describe the show? Let’s do it as a theatrical trailer….

In a world where musical theatre characters are real.

In a world where these characters share the same context and are friends.

In a world used to happy endings and tap-dancing dreams.

In such a world, an innocent gift of a pod found at a crash site sets into play a chain of events that reeks bloody havoc on the carefully coiffed character, but introduces a performer the likes of which hasn’t been seen on stage since Little Shop of Horrors.

Yup, that just about says it. The basic conceit of this show is that a bunch of musical theatre characters — Effie (from Dreamgirls), Danny (from Grease), Annie (from Annie), Harold (from The Music Man), Elder (from Book of Mormon), Tracy (from Hairspray), Valjean (from Les Miserables), Elphaba (from Wicked), Maria (from The Sound of Music), and Mark (from Rent) are having a birthday party for Effie. Annie finds a pod at a crash site, but before she can give it to Effie, it attacks Elder. From there the show is off: the Alien (from the titular movie of the same name) is off and bringing chaos to musical theatre land. If you know parody musical, I think you can take it from there.

The show, with book by Erik Przytulski (FB) and Steve Troop (FB), and music and lyrics by Erik Przytulski (FB), falls clearly into the parody musical genre. It cleanly skewers the style, songs, and characterizations of Broadway musicals such as those associated with the characters above, in addition to others such as Hamilton and West Side Story. It provides an opportunity for the audience to see well known theatrical protagonists get skewered — sometimes literally — in front of the audience. It also, in a sense, skewers shows such as Little Shop, with singing and dancing aliens with motivations very different from what a typical human might expect. But then again, we’re not talking normal humans. We’re talking actors and Broadway.

Under the direction of Matthew Tyler (FB), Alien vs. Musical (FB) clearly goes for the fun and the playfulness in the characters. It is clear that he loves these characters, and is having fun bring out there archetypes in the performances. The performances themselves are pretty good for Fringe: there are some strong players, and some that perform well be need stronger voice. There is loads of enthusiasm, channeled into a package that is clearly audience pleasing. The producer (Erik Przytulski (FB)) built upon last year’s successful 60 minute show to create a full 90 minutes that skewers even more musicals.

Lengthing the show permitted inclusion of new material, such as  wonderful rap battle between Harold Hill of The Music Man, and Alexander Hamilton of Hamilton.

The performances from the acting team are good. Some arise from good to the very good to the excellent, others can use a little work. We saw the first performance during preview week, so understand that any problems we may have seen will likely be corrected in subsquent performance.

The acting team consisted of: Levanna Atkinson-Williams (FB) [Effie], Christopher Bunyi (FB) [Danny]; Allie Costa (FB) [Annie], Nick Emmet McGee (FB) [Harold], Taylor Minckley (FB) [Elder], Ally Mulholland [Tracy], Matthew Noah (FB) [Valjean], Suszanna Petrela [Elphaba], Brianne Sanborn (FB) [Maria], and Brad Simanski (FB) [Mark].  Performance-wise, all captured their characters well, believably bringing forward the mannerisms of whomever’s persona they were assuming. Singing-wise, they were a bit more across the board. Some, such as Sanborn’s Maria or Noah’s Valjean, had a good acting voice but really needed stronger projection.  Others were belting their way through their songs from the get-go, such as Atkinson-Williams’s Effie or Costa’s Annie. Others were squarely in the middle, such as McGee’s Harold or Simanski’s Mark. Given this show is performed without amplification, the actors need to belt and project in order for the audience to hear them over the orchestra. One thing is clear, however — these actors are having fun with these roles, and that fun comes across to the audience.

The program does not credit the additional characters the actors portrayed. Most importantly, it does not credit the actors that portray the alien — in particular, the one that does the final performance of the alien. So, Ms. uncredited actor (I have a feeling it was Petrela), I just want to say you gave a stunning performance at the end, a performance that rivals that poser Audry2. Now there’s an epic battle: Audry 2 vs. Alien.

Music, under the music direction and music arrangements of  Emily Cohn (FB), is provided by an on-stage band consisting of Emily Cohn (FB) [Keyboards], Brenton Kossack (FB) [Bass], Taylor Murphy/FB [Drums], and Kyle Scherrer/FB [Guitar]. The musicians seemed to have fun playing along with the actors when required, particular Cohn.

The choreography by Regina Laughlin/FB worked well.

On the technical side: given this is a Fringe production, there isn’t much required in terms of set. After all, you have to be able to load in within 15 minutes, and out just as quickly. What the show does depend upon is the marvelous creature design of Steve Troop (FB), combined with the costume design of Taylor Moten (FB) and the make-up design of Rachel Tyler/FB. The alien puppets were simply great, and for the humans, the costumes mostly conveyed who they were intended to be. Perhaps the weakest was Valjean, who required the 24601 — perhaps because the costumes in that show are less iconic. Remaining creative and production credits: Steve Troop (FB) – Production Design; Beth Wallan (FB) – Stage Manager; Itzel Mendoza-Nava/FB – Assistant Stage Manager; Adam Earle – Technical Supervisor.

Alien vs. Musical (FB, HFF) has four more Fringe performances: Thursday, June 9th @ 7:00pm, Friday, June 17th @ 11:30pm, Thursday, June 23rd @ 8:30pm, and Sunday, June 26th @ 6:00pm. Alien vs. Musical performs at the former Elephant Stages Lillian space, which is now the Sacred Fools (FB) Main Stage at 1076 Lillian. Tickets are available through the Fringe website; buy a Fringe button and save a buck. For the NYC Folks: It looks like the show will be at FringeNYC in August.

* 🎭 🎭 🎭 *

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) and the  Hollywood Pantages (FB); my subscription at  The Colony Theatre (FB) has gone dormant, and REP East (FB) has seemingly gone dark for 2016. Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals).  I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Upcoming Shows: Ah, June. Wonderful June. June is the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), and I’ve already written about the shows I plan to see, as well as suggestions to the Fringe regarding viewing the audience as a customer. Our Fringe/June schedule is as follows (for shows in the past, ✍ indicates writeup is in progress; ✒ indicates writeup is complete):

Whew. July brings us back to conventional theatre, with Beautiful at the  Hollywood Pantages (FB) and the Western Corps Connection (FB) the first weekend, a HOLD for Grey Gardens at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB); the second weekend, The Little Mermaid at  Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB); the third weekend, Weird Al Yankovic at the Hollywood Bowl (FB) and Operaworks (FB) Opera Re-Constructed at CSUN; the fourth weekend, a mid-week Hollywood Bowl (FB) concert of Wynton Marsalis and Aaron Copeland, and … currently nothing for the weekend. As of right now, August is completely open. One weekend has a bar mitzvah, and there are a few holds for show, but nothing is booked. Late August may see us looking at shows down San Diego/Escondido for one weekend. The best of the shows available — or at least the most interesting — is Titanic from Moonlight Stages. As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, and Musicals in LA, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves.

Fringe Preview Week News Chum

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Jun 04, 2016 @ 7:17 am PDT

Observation StewThis is a busy weekend, with the start of the Hollywood Fringe Festival (we’re seeing 5 shows this preview weekend), a Bat Mitzvah this morning, a MoTAS meeting with Erin speaking tomorrow, and picking up the new car tomorrow afternoon. So its probably best to clear out the accumulated links before all the posts related to the above begin:

  • Op-Ed: History isn’t a ‘useless’ major. It teaches critical thinking, something America needs plenty more of “. Although perhaps grammatically challenged (ending a sentence with a preposition), a good point is being made: History teaches loads of skills, including the ability to think critically. It also teaches its students to see that simple solutions are often not the right answer; life, like history, is often complicated by a myriad of factors. As the article notes: “A historian, however, would know that it is essential to look beyond such simplistic logic.  […]  The utility of disciplines that prepare critical thinkers escapes personnel offices, pundits and politicians (some of whom perhaps would prefer that colleges graduate more followers and fewer leaders). But it shouldn’t. Labor markets in the United States and other countries are unstable and unpredictable. In this environment — especially given the expectation of career changes — the most useful degrees are those that can open multiple doors, and those that prepare one to learn rather than do some specific thing.” An op-ed piece well worth reading. PS: If you want to exercise the critical thinking skills of a history major, especially one that knows Yiddish, Jewish Studies, and Native American studies, I know of one looking for work.
  • Op-Ed: Why I hate Waze“. I agree with this article quite a bit. The point is not that Waze is useless, but our growing dependence on it and similar aps is leading people to lose their connections with where they live. Waze reduces navigation to points on a map. It is not a substitute for knowing your city, how it is laid out, the neighborhoods, the character. As the author writes: “Navigation, to me, is what the city is all about, and not just navigating the streets but the people. It’s one of the secret thrills of urban living, knowing how to get along, how to carve a passage amid the millions with whom we share the territory. […] This is why I avoid the apps; they strip us of authority, adaptability. They replace the subtleties of memory, of hard-won knowledge, with a device whose skills are generic — even, at times, incorrect.”
  • Date of First Riviera Tower Implosion Confirmed: June 14“. And more Vegas history goes down into a pile of rubble. The Riviera is one of the last hotels still standing from 1950s Vegas. All that will be left on the strip will be the two-story wings of the Tropicana. Next is Caesars and Circus-Circus, dating to the 1960s. I’m not arguing to save the Riv — that ship has sailed. Rather, this is a recognition that Las Vegas is a town where the past is bulldozed, tilled under, and reborn. Vegas does not create memories that can be revisited; it creates experiences that are lived in the moment.
  • There’s an Art Deco Airport Lying Ruined in Brooklyn“. Name your New York airports. You probably think JFK, La Guardia, and Newark. How about Floyd Bennett Field, New York’s first airport in Brooklyn. This article is a fascinating exploration of that field, which is still standing. “Long before JFK and LaGuardia, there was Floyd Bennett Field, New York City’s first municipal airport. Designed in stunning Art Deco style, it was once the most modern airport in the world, a glittering gateway into America’s principal metropolis. Many of the leading aviators of their day started daring adventures here during the golden age of aviation—pilots like Amelia Earhart, Charles Lindbergh and Roscoe Turner, the latter of whom flew with a lion cub as his co-pilot. […] But today many of the old hangars lie empty and abandoned. The deserted control tower looks over runways covered in weeds.” Fascinating read; c’mon 99% Invisible, how about a story?
  • How The FAA Shot Down ‘Uber For Planes’“. The sharing economy. We’ve seen apps for sharing unused space in cars, unused space in houses, and unused spaces at the dinner table. What about that unused seat on a private aircraft? The links in this discussion explore a startup that tried to address that space… and that got shot down when the FAA said it was a common carrier and would need to follow all of the rules of the big boys. Yet another example of the laws not catching up with our technology.
  • ((( How Twitter Is Teaming Up to Mess With the Nazis )))“. You may have seen the articles going around at the end of the week about a Chrome App that was being used by White Supremacists to identify “Jewish names” on the Internet so they could attack them. This app surrounds Jewish names with ((())) [the app has now been pulled by Google]. This article, which might be OBE, explores how a group of Twitter users decided to combat the antisemites in a different way: by everyone — Jewish or not — putting (((around))) their names. As the article noted: “It’s worth noting that the internet’s anti-Semites hate when their culture is appropriated by their opponents.”. How they must have felt when “It turned out a lot of people—not just Jews—liked the idea. Some anonymous accounts even outed themselves as Jews to show solidarity. Muslims, Christians, and Hindus changed their names to show their support. As of now, hundreds of accounts have appropriated the Nazi symbols as their own.”
  • Audio fandom: exploring the ambient noises of stfnal spaceships“. Have you ever watched Star Trek, and thought about the background noise? The Enterprise had a distinct hum (at least in TNG), which was very different than the background noise on DS:9. Those noises come from somewhere, and this article is an explanation of that “where”. It discusses how the sound and art designers come together to create an almost subliminal image statement about the ships.
  • How a Lost Marx Brothers Musical Found Its Way Back Onstage“. I know, you think I’m talking about the Marx’s interpretation of Chekov’s The Bear, as seen in “A Day in Hollywood, a Night in the Ukraine“. I’m not. There’s another Marx musical — one that has been unseen since the 1920s, when it was the Marx’s first show. This article explores how “I’ll Say She Is” — the first Marx Bros. musical (before Cocoanuts), which has been reconstructed and is about to reopen off-Broadway.
  • The Long Quest to Find Ashkenaz, the Birthplace of Yiddish“. As I type this, I’m digitizing some Yiddish cassettes for my daughter. Have you ever wondered where Yiddish might have come from? Where the “Ashkenaz” in Ashkenazi comes from? “The place name Ashkenaz occurs three times in the Bible, but by the Middle Ages the exact origin of Ashkenaz was forgotten. Because of the migration of the Ashkenazic Jews it later became associated with Germany. This led to all German Jews being considered “Ashkenazic”, a term which was then applied to central and eastern European Jews who follow Ashkenazic religious customs and who speak Yiddish.” This article attempts to explore that question, and is a very interesting read.
  • How to Listen to and Delete Everything You’ve Ever Said to Google“. You might not have realized it, but Google records and keeps everything you say: “Every time you do a voice search, Google records it. And if you’re an Android user, every time you say “Ok Google,” the company records that, too. Don’t freak out, though, because Google lets you hear (and delete) these recordings.” This article explains how to do that.
  • City Museum: A 10-Story Former Shoe Factory Transformed into the Ultimate Urban Playground“. If you are ever in St. Louis, this is a fascinating place to explore … and isn’t just for kids. “Housed in the former home of the 10-story International Shoe Company, the sprawling 600,000 square-foot City Museum in St. Louis is quite possibly the ultimate urban playground ever constructed.  […] So what can you find at the City Museum? How about a sky-high jungle gym making use of two repurposed airplanes, two towering 10-story slides and numerous multi-floor slides, a rooftop Ferris wheel and a cantilevered school bus that juts out from the roof, subterranean caves, a pipe organ, hundreds of feet of tunnels that traverse from floor to floor, an aquarium, ball pits, a shoe lace factory, a circus arts facility, restaurants, and even a bar… because why not? All the materials used to build the museum including salvaged bridges, old chimneys, construction cranes, and miles of tile are sourced locally, making the entire endeavor a massive recycling project.”