Observations Along the Road

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

The Past, It Is Just History

Written By: cahwyguy - Thu Mar 30, 2017 @ 11:06 am PDT

If you haven’t figured it out by now, I like posts about interesting transitions. I’ve been accumulating the following articles on transitions for a while, so let’s take a walk through memory lane:

  • Earthquake Panorama. The Northridge Earthquake was almost 25 ago. Since then we’ve moved from near Panorama City to Northridge, and almost all the damage has been repaired. But there’s been one building — a blighted high-rise near Roscoe and Van Nuys that has remained standing and unoccupied. Not for much longer, though. Plans have finally been announced for redevelopment of the 1962 Welton Becket designed building. It is going to become housing and retail, with an “open mall” next door. But that’s not all. A large mixed use project on the site of the former Montgomery Ward department store is also in the works, while the recent purchase of the Panorama Mall by Primestor Development has inspired speculation that a major overhaul of the shopping center could be on the way.
  • Albertsons and Sprouts. Talk about a mixed marriage! Evidently, Albertsons and Sprouts are in merger talks. This would be Albertsons (parent of Safeway) buying Sprouts, putting Sprouts in a better pricing tier and meaning more bad news for Whole Paycheck. Here are the details from Bloomberg.
  • Downtown Redevelopment. Panorama City isn’t the only place being redeveloped. There are big plans for Downtown LA, or in newspeak, DTLA. Parker Center would be replaced with a 27-story structure set to include around 713,000 square feet of office space, along with 37,000 square feet of street-level retail. A second office tower would be constructed at the site of the Los Angeles Mall, where one can currently find City Hall power players chowing down on chicken plates and sandwiches from Quizno’s. The project would include 545,000 square feet of office space, 50,000 square feet of retail, and 80,000 square feet of flex space. There is no word on what will happen to the Triforium.
  • New Digs for Valley Outreach. Valley Outreach Synagogue finally has a home. On March 19, in a ceremony 32 years in the making, 400 VOS members attended the grand opening of the Valley Outreach Synagogue and Center for Jewish Life in Calabasas. Formerly a warehouse, the 15,000-square-foot facility, located at 26670 Agoura Road, has a library, a coffee bar, offices and a Meeting and Learning Center. Its high-ceilinged sanctuary seats 500 and features three flat-screens on the walls as well as a Jerusalem limestone-lined ark housing four newly donated Torah scrolls.
  • Dancing the Airport Boogie. Are you ready to dance? Come May, if you fly a number of airlines in/out of LAX, you might need to. There’s going to be a gigantic gate shuffle, with Delta moving to Terminals 2/3, and most of who is in 2 and 3 moving hither and yon. Having been in Delta’s beautiful Terminal 5, the logos and style are going to be out of place for the folks moving in there.
  • Neon Museum Grows. Moving from LAX to LAS, there’s welcome news that the Neon Museum will be growing. They have acquired the ugly building next to them, will be tearing it down, and soon there will be more dead neon signs. Maybe even some new lit ones. Makes me want to go back to Vegas.
  • Remembering TWA. Dead neon is pretty. Dead buildings, less so. But we still have the unfinished Fontainebleau in Vegas, where the Thunderbird used to be. Blame is squarely on Carl Icahn. But that’s not the only thing he killed. He also killed TWA, which was a great airline. I recall many a flight to STL on TW 91. Luckily, there’s a neat TWA museum in Kansas City. It even has a Carl Icahn Voodoo Doll.

 

Share

--- *** ---

Everything Old is New Again (or Refurbished)

Written By: cahwyguy - Fri Feb 17, 2017 @ 11:07 am PDT

Let’s start clearing out some of the non-Trumponia news. In this collection of links, we look at things from the past that may be getting new leases on life:

  • The Triforium. Those outside of Los Angeles probably have no idea what I mean when I say “the Triforium”; hell, most younger Angelinos have no idea either. The Triforium is a art installation that goes back to when I was in high school, a “space-age-looking pointy edifice that stands six stories tall and is covered with 1,494 colorful lights that once blinked in time to music blasted from its four gigantic speakers”. It never quite worked as intended, and for most of its life has been a barely or non-operative artwork in a below-ground mall only frequented by those nearby on jury duty when they go to lunch. But that may be changing. The Triforium Project, co-founded by musician Claire Evans, Tom Carroll, host of the popular local web show “Tom Explores Los Angeles,” urban planner Tanner Blackman and Jona Bechtolt, Evans’ bandmate in the pop-dance group YACHT,  has a plan to “replace the computer system entirely with something that is network simple, easy to update, open-sourced and remotely accessible so that we can turn the instrument into something genuinely interactive for residents of the 21st century”. The improvements are now in the approval process.
  • Downtown Las Vegas Lights. Derek Stevens in Las Vegas is a man with a mission. He’s purchased one of the original blocks in downtown LV, and is tearing down and revamping the buildings, including Fremont Street’s Las Vegas Club casino and several neighboring properties, including Mermaids and Topless Girls of Glitter Gulch. All told, it adds up one entire city block that the Stevens brothers intend to demolish and build up anew. The problem? This block is home to a number of vintage neon signs that feel pretty essential to the character of the street, including Vegas Vickie, the kicky neon cowgirl that debuted with Bob Stupak’s Glitter Gulch casino in 1980; the sign for Herb Pastor’s Golden Goose casino, circa 1974; and the giant “Las Vegas Club” letters themselves, which have been part of the streetscape for more than 60 years. However, unlike many casino owners, Stevens cares about LV history — and is preserving the signs and planning to operate them — in some way — going forward.  According to Stevens, “The signs are going to be part of the design. Whether they’ll be internal or external, I’m not quite sure yet. … I’m a pretty big fan of Vegas history. I don’t see anything getting the wrecking ball.”
  • Nokia Candy Bars. For the youngsters out there, I’m not referring to the candy bars that are more expensive than the street drugs, at least according to our President. Rather, the candy bar phone — the Nokia 3310 — which the new owners of the cell phone name plan to bring back, at least in Europe. This was an extremely reliable, long-battery-life pre-iPhone cell phone, where you only had a numeric keypad (but you had a great version of the game “snake”). The phone, originally released in 2000 and in many ways beginning the modern age of mobiles, will be sold as a way of getting lots of battery life in a nearly indestructible body. The new incarnation of the old 3310 will be sold for just €59, and so likely be pitched as a reliable second phone to people who fondly remember it the first time around. It will be revealed at Mobile World Congress later this month. For those who want to know where this fits historically, here’s a chart of all the Nokia dumpphones released from the first one in the early 1980s until 2006.
  • LP Records. We all know by now that LP records have made a comeback (it seems everything old is new again, especially analog stuff). So what type of record collector are you? This article attempts to find out, defining 7 types of record collectors. As for me, depending on the genre and artist, I’m either a lifer, a completest, or a casual.
  • iPod Classics. For some, the iPod Classic is seeing a resurgence; for some, it has never left. For those of us using them, something that periodically resurfaces is the article on how to replace the hard drive with SSD devices. It just resurfaced again. The only problem with the article is that Tarkan moved his site with the boards to http://www.iflash.xyz. These are for iPod Classics 5G and later, and he has boards that can accomodate a wide variety of SSD, including SD cards and micro-SD cards. I’ve been using the iFlash Dual in two of my Classics for over a year now (each is at 512GB) with no problems. We plan to upgrade at least one more iPod Classic (a 7.5G). We also have a 80GB 6G, but we can only take that to 128GB. PS: If you are in the Southern California area and need someone to do the mods, I may have a contact for you.

 

Share

--- *** ---

Travelin’ Style

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

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.

 

Share

--- *** ---

A Final Serving of News Chum Stew to Close Out 2016

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Dec 31, 2016 @ 11:12 am PDT

Observation StewIt’s the last day of the year. That means it is time to clean out the accumulated News Chum links, so I can  start 2017 fresh. It’s been a busy week, what with cleaning out the highway headlines and getting the California Highways website updated. But I’ve caught up on the RSS links (again, I highly recommend newsblur, which I switched to when Google Reader died), and I’ve got a full set of hopefully interesting articles ready to go:

  • Livejournal Moves its Servers to Russia. The Russians haven’t only interfered in the US elections and been sanctioned for it (more on that in my second post for today). Long ago, the Russian entity SUP purchased Livejournal from SixApart. In fact, supposedly the Russian word for blog is Livejournal. But the servers for the American Livejournal have long been on American soil, under American rules. Not any more: Livejournal has moved their servers to Russia, and already Russia is interfering with free speech. I’ve been with Livejournal since I started blogging back in 2004; I’ve got a permanent account there. I’ve been there through the original ownership, the days of SixApart and Vox Media, and the SUP ownership. About 4-5 years ago, I got fed up with their DDOS attacks and moved my blog over to WordPress, self-hosted on cahighways.org. I also created a Dreamwidth account with the same username as LJ (cahwyguy), and set things up so my posts auto-crosspost to Dreamwidth, and thence to LJ. I also imported all my posts from LJ to this blog, although some were protected and comments didn’t come through. Most of the friends I’ve had from LJ days have been refriended on Facebook. Long story short (TL;DR): LJ is now my tertiary site; I still read and comment there, but main posts are here. Those still reading this there are welcome to friend me over on Dreamwidth (user: cahwyguy) or on Facebook (again, user cahwyguy).
  • Fiddler on the Roof Announces Tour. Continuing the trend of starting with some updates, about a week ago I did some predictions about the upcoming touring season of Broadway shows. Since I wrote that, Fiddler has confirmed their tour. I predicted that Fiddler would go to the Ahmanson; as the Pantages shared the news from Playbill, it could end up there. I’m interested in this tour primarily because this version’s Motel, Adam Kantor, did Yiddishkeyt with my daughter.
  • The Twelve Days of Christmas. As we’re on the penultimate day of Chanukah, and still within the 12 days of Christmas (and we still have annoying Christmas car commercials on TV), this article is still of interest: The story behind the most annoying Christmas Carol: The 12 Days of Christmas. For someone who doesn’t like Christmas Carols (for the record, my favorite is still Peter Paul and Mary’s Christmas Dinner), I found the background fascinating.
  • Solar Power – It’s Everywhere. Another thing currently on my mind is solar power, as we’re about to embark on a re-roofing and solar installation here (a consequence of extremely high DWP bills ($1500 and $1200 from July/August and September/October) and wanting to get it done before Trump guts everything). So this article about how Solar Power is getting cheaper caught my eye. To my eye, solar is now a no-brainer even if you don’t believe in climate change: it helps us get off of imported oil, and ensures our domestic reserves will be there in the future when we need them (as there is no dispute that petroleum is a limited resource). More importantly, cutting edge solar is now cheaper than Natural Gas, as least for large power producers. Alas, home solar has not gotten significantly cheaper, although presumably it will pay out in utility savings (especially in the hot San Fernando Valley).
  • Historical Notes. Two articles related to history caught my eye. The first has to do with Air Force Space Command, and particularly a new website that captures that history. I know one of the folks on that website, Warren Pearce; he seems to view me as a “greybeard” in relation to AFSPC (although I’m more of a CBG – Chubby Bearded Guy). I’m not really a greybeard in the true sense (although my first task when I got to my current employer was doing the security certification of then Lt. Pearce’s facility in the Springs — which I still remember because our finding was the lack of plastic sheeting in case the sprinklers went off), although I know quite a few from my SDC days. The second looks at the history of the Shopping Mall, and how the designer came to regret it. The mall — in its original sense of a square building, with the stores turned inwards surrounded by parking and a non-descript exterior — is dying, to be replaced by urban streetscapes such as the Rick Caruso specials or Big Box stores that harken back to the shopping main streets of old. What’s old is new again. Speaking of that, remember the site in Carson that was going to be the home of the LA Raiders. It’s becoming a shopping outlet mall.
  • Annoying Things. Here’s another pair of interest, dealing with annoying things. The first article looks at those annoying notifications of “Facebook Live” events from your friends — and provides information on how to turn them off. The second is more significant, and worth saving as a reference: what to do if you are hit by ransomware. Of course, the first thing to do is make sure you have backups, not network connected, to save your ass. The page, however, provides information on how you might be able to decrypt your disk, and not pay the ransom. Related to that is a third potentially useful link: How to use the Microsoft System File Checker to restore potentially corrupted system files.
  •  Food News. Two food related items. The first has to do with a Russian-Armenian restaurant in North Hills that sounds interesting enough to try. The second deals with the death of yet another deli: Carnegie Deli in NYC has served its last Pastrami Sandwich, although an outpost remains in Las Vegas.  I’ll also note that Cables Coffee Shop in Woodland Hills has Closed.
  • Android Phone Information. Did you get a new phone for the holidays? Is it Android? If so, here are two articles for you. The first talks about what you should do to get rid of your old Android phone. The second talks about how to transfer stuff to your new Android phone.
  • Supersonic Flight Possibly Returning. We’re getting near the end, folks. Here’s an interesting article on why we lost commercial supersonic flight, and the way it may return. The answer is: It may not be for everyone, and it will remain very expensive.
  • The Specialist. Lastly, one of the podcasts I listen to is “The Specialist”, which talks about odd jobs. Here’s one for the specialist: the guy who replaces the light bulbs in the Fremont Street Experience in Las Vegas. I’m sure he didn’t go to college with that career in mind.

And with that, we’ve cleaned out the 2016 News Chum. I’m planning one more political post to close out the year, and then it is on to 2017. May your new year be a good one, filled with fewer deaths of people close to you or celebrities you care about, and may all your news chum stews be filled with tasty morsels of delight, as opposed to pieces of sinew (as we got with the 2016 election, but that’s the next post).

Share

--- *** ---

Finders, Keepers

Written By: cahwyguy - Tue Dec 20, 2016 @ 7:35 pm PDT

Today’s news chum post is all about people finding things (or finding lost things):

 

Share

--- *** ---

It’s Rotten in Denmark | “Hamlet” @ HFF16

Written By: cahwyguy - Mon Jun 27, 2016 @ 6:51 pm PDT

Hamlet (HFF16)userpic=fringeWhen reading through the list of shows at the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), shows catch my eyes for various reasons. For example, yesterday’s show, Hamlet, was written up thusly:

Hamlet is set in the 1940s of Las Vegas and the Royal Family is the mob. Having a struggling desert town working its way towards greatness as a parallel for the turmoil that Denmark was going through connects modern audiences to a time they never experienced before. With a script cut to emphasize the story’s moral and original language to emphasize the depth of the story, this retelling of a classic will wow audiences.

Reading this, I thought: “Wow! Ever since I saw the Four Clowns presents Hamlet, I’ve been wanting to see another take on Hamlet. Plus, I’m a student of the history of Las Vegas (especially the mob era in Vegas), and this blend sounds fascinating. I’m in”. So we booked our tickets, and last night we worked our way to West Hollywood for our last show of the Fringe Festival: Hamlet, from the Boundless Artists Theatre Company/FB.

Alas, the description was better than the execution. This is not to say that the performance was bad — it wasn’t (although it had some problems). Rather, it simply didn’t match the expectation created from the catalog description. Let’s analyze why, and what could have been done to fix it.

Let’s start with that first line: “Hamlet is set in the 1940s of Las Vegas and the Royal Family is the mob.” Great, great idea. So we walk into the theatre, and it is a black box with no set, no projections. The only intimation that we are dealing with the mob is that everyone is in black suits and dark shirts and carry guns, and the ladies are in heels with black hose. Yup. Damon Runyon (think “Guys and Dolls”) mobsters. That’s it. The language still refers to Kings and Queens and Princes and Denmark and France, but with a light New York accent. That’s all that gives us the sense of place. Doesn’t work. Nothing in this execution said “Vegas” at all.

So, what could they have done? First, move it up about 8-10 years. In the early 40s, the only resorts on the strip were El Rancho Vegas and The Last Frontier, both started before the war and both without heavy mob involvement. The Flamingo opened in 1946, and the era that is desired is the 10 year era after that, probably best between 1954 and 1956 when you had a number of mob-owned “union pension fund funded” resorts opening. 1954 is particularly good: you’ve got the El Rancho, Last Frontier, Flamingo, Sahara, Sands, Desert Inn, and Thunderbird operating. Go to 1958 and you can add about 5 more, including the Stardust and Riviera. Make Claude (Claudius) the general manager of the hotel, who bumped off the previous general manager and married his wife, Gertrude. Hamlet could remain Gertrude’s son, and perhaps be something like the Casino Director who doesn’t like the situation, perhaps because Claude was the general manager at a competing resort (and, yes, this happened at the time — look up folks like Gus Greenbaum, who was brought in to manage the Riviera in 1955, after successfully managing the Flamingo Hotel after the death (some would say mob hit) of Bugsy Siegel. In December 1958, Greenbaum and his wife were murdered in their Phoenix, Arizona home, reportedly on the orders of either Meyer Lansky or Tony Accardo. Make the other characters have similar changes: Ophelia as Hamlet’s girlfriend who works in the hotel; Laertes in another position and connected to his father, Polonius, who perhaps works with one of the union pension funds. The key point is that if you are going to set it in Vegas and the mob-controlled strip, you have to adjust the story to that context and mileau. Tweak the characters and names. As this is Fringe, use projections to establish the places: the hotel, offices, on the casino floor, in the desert burying a body. Make the costumes era appropriate and not caricatures of what you think the era is.

The mob Vegas aspect is a wonderful place to set the Hamlet story and to modernize it (doing so could be a great start at a fun screenplay). However, the execution of this version just failed miserably on that count. It was less visible than the Royal Nevada. The director, Rachel Lynn Walker (FB), who was also responsible for the adaptation and adjustments, needed to study and understand the era before attempting to do this.

Independent of screwing up the theme, how was this production as Hamlet itself? What would Billy Shakespeare think? By the way, if you aren’t familiar with Hamlet, either read the Wikipedia entry, the sparknotes, or the play itself.

On this aspect, the show was a bit better, but was still flawed (but see the note at the end). The adaptation did a lot of work to preserve the key lines that everyone expects from Hamlet. That was the good part. The bad part was that many of the actors spoke their lines far too fast, and without clear enunciation, which made it difficult for the audience to follow the story (which is already difficult given the unfamiliarity with Shakespeare’s language and language patterns). This was evidence from the moment when Bernardo steps on the stage and speaks his first lines (the actor playing Bernardo was one of the worst — but far from the only — offender). This problem I blame squarely on the director, Rachel Lynn Walker (FB), who has the responsibility to guide her actors to ensure they can be heard and understood by the audience. I have to tell technical students this all the time: slow down and speak clearly. This is certainly true for actors, who must add projection on top of that (and is doubly true when you are adding an accent).

So, we set aside the theme, and we set aside hearing many of the actors, and what do we have left? The performances. I’m pleased here to say there were some strong performances that offset the weak and worked to carry the story. We’ll do it in the usual tiers, with highlights.

At the time, of course, there is Evan Garcia (FB)’s Hamlet. For the most part, Garcia spoke clear but perhaps a little fast, and captured the emotions well (although he might need to a bit of work to convey the madness of Hamlet a little better). He also didn’t appear to have the strong connection required with Cynthia Asmar/FB‘s Ophelia, who is supposedly his love. Asmar’s Ophelia was fun to watch — kudos for casting diverse body shapes — and handled most of her lines well.

As the King and Queen, Richard Lozoya (FB) and Lauren Sanatra (FB), respectively, performed reasonably well. My wife thought Lozoya spoke a little fast; I thought he was OK. More importantly, other than the words there was nothing to convey a good sense of what the relationship was between Hamlet and these folks, and why he cared about them at all.

Polonius was played by Sergio Venegas (FB), and he had one of the best performances of the team. He spoke clear and loud, and did a great job of conveying his meaning. Shannon Walker (FB)’s Horatio worked well sometimes and at other times spoke too fast. In any case, she performed well and was fun to watch. However, there were a few points where it was clear she was struggling on the next line; by the 5th Fringe show that problem should have gone away. Her partner-in-crime, Daniel Verdugo/FB‘s Bernardo, was more of a problem. He always spoke too fast and too softly, and it was often difficult to figure out what he was saying or doing.

Rounding out the cast were Andrew Cercedes (FB) as Guildenstern, Joy Ann-Marie Horn/FB as Rosencranz, and Ryan Jones/FB as the ghost. Rosencranz and Guildenstern needed to work on their projection and slow down a bit more.

Turning to the production side again, there was no credit provided for set design, because there was no set. Costume and Prop design was by the director, Rachel Lynn Walker (FB), and here again there were some distracting fails. My wife noted that the shoes were wrong for the era. At one point Joy Ann-Marie Horn/FB was an a dress with a large opening in the back, and a bra strap was clearly visible. This did not fit the era in question — either the 1940s or 1950s. In the final scenes, Shannon Walker (FB) needs to watch out as she was about falling out of her top when she was leaning forward. Again — that’s a costuming problem that should have been caught by the director.  Actors seemingly kept dropping their props, and the variety of guns was off. On the plus side, the fight and dance choreography by Richard Lozoya (FB) was quite good. No credit was provided for stage management or lighting design. Justin Huen operated the board, and the production was presented by the Boundless Artists Theatre Company/FB.

Note: Writing this up uncovered the fact that most of the actors, as well as the director, of this production are relatively new to the industry. I do not want this writeup to seem harsher than it should — they were very good for their skill level. The problem is: the audience (especially an audience at Fringe) doesn’t know the actor’s skill level. As a result, the actors and production team need to up their game. There are things one overlooks because it is Fringe: fancy sets, fancy costumes, lots of rehearsal time in the space. But other things are space independent: learning to speak at a speed where the audience can understand, speaking with sufficient projection and enunciation to convey the story. Exhibiting emotions and relating is one thing, but what makes something a play over a pantomime is the writing. I encourage these young actors to keep practicing and working at the craft, and hope to see them much improved next year. This is where a skilled director can come in; they can educate and teach while molding and shaping. I fear the director in this case was overextended: not enough time to research for the writing, not enough time to rehearse with the actors, and not enough time to research to get the costumes to convey the message. In any case, this company still has a skill I don’t have — inhabiting another character. I’m just an engineer who knows how to write.

We saw the last performance of Hamlet, and it looks like it wasn’t extended for the Fringe Encore Awards.

Attention Programmers! Take the Fringe Programming Challenge! Scheduling your shows at the Fringe can be a pain in the …. I’m trying to solve the problem for next year, so take a look at my specs for a Fringe scheduling app. Can you write it?

* * *

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, 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. September is similarly mostly hold dates at this point. 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.

Share

--- *** ---

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.”
Share

--- *** ---

Chum for a Sunday Afternoon: Drums, Drives, Drugs, Dust, Dresses and More

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun May 15, 2016 @ 3:08 pm PDT

Observation StewI’ve been on travel for my daughter’s graduation, and so I haven’t had a lot of time to write about the articles I’ve seen. I’ve got two themed collections of chum that I’ll write up after last night’s theatre review (not sure when I’ll post them). But first, here’s the stuff that wouldn’t theme, but that caught my eye:

  • Bang. Bang. Bang. Anyone who has attended Drum Corps, or likely even seen a band will recognize this name: Remo. The news in recent weeks included an obituary of the man behind the name: Remo Belli, who invented the synthetic drum head. Before Remo, drums were animal skins, highly variable. As the obituary notes: “Belli was a young professional drummer in the 1950s, backing singer Anita O’Day and others, when he grew frustrated with the limitations of animal-skin drumheads, which could wilt or expand depending on the weather. In 1957, he and his collaborators perfected and began marketing one of the first artificial drumheads made of a resilient polyester film manufactured under various brand names, including Mylar, made by DuPont. He dubbed that first product the Weather King, a signal that it was durable no matter the atmospheric conditions of the gig, unlike finicky cow-skin drums.” Since then, his product has become the standard.
  • Long Commute. This article caught my eye because it deals with Las Vegas and teachers. Specifically, there is a group of teachers who live in Las Vegas, and commute daily to teach in the small community of Baker, at the gateway to Death Valley. Why? Pay, of course. The starting salary for teachers in Baker is $44,000. In Las Vegas it’s $34,000, though it will be $40,000 next year after a new contract takes effect. At the same time teacher shortages are ravaging America’s cities, however, rural schools have arguably been hit hardest. Teacher turnover is high, and many small towns are finding it hard to attract teachers. While many are attracted to Baker because of the pay, they stay because the work is satisfying, the way teaching should be but often isn’t in large urban school districts. Class sizes are extremely small: compared with the 30-50 in the large school districts, we’re talking 4-10.
  • Hacking the Brain for Fun… and to Relieve Pain. In our life, pain is a constant. My wife deals with arthritis; I deal with migraines. What do you think we would do for a good solution for the pain? Here’s an intriguing direction: A group is playing with a non-chemical solution that involves hacking the Vagus nerve. The vagus nerve starts in the brainstem, just behind the ears. It travels down each side of the neck, across the chest and down through the abdomen. ‘Vagus’ is Latin for ‘wandering’ and indeed this bundle of nerve fibres roves through the body, networking the brain with the stomach and digestive tract, the lungs, heart, spleen, intestines, liver and kidneys, not to mention a range of other nerves that are involved in speech, eye contact, facial expressions and even your ability to tune in to other people’s voices. It is made of thousands and thousands of fibres and 80 per cent of them are sensory, meaning that the vagus nerve reports back to your brain what is going on in your organs. Research shows that a high vagal tone (strength of your vagus response) makes your body better at regulating blood glucose levels, reducing the likelihood of diabetes, stroke and cardiovascular disease. Low vagal tone, however, has been associated with chronic inflammation. Said inflammation has been connected with arthritis and migraines. This article talks about using an implant to stimulate the vagus nerve to reduce pain. Fascinating.
  • Pain and Empathy. Chemical painkillers  can be insidious. For example, we all believe Tylenol (acetaminophen, paracetamol in the UK) is safe; safer than aspirin or other NSAIDs. But there have been numerous reports that even the slight overdose can cause serious liver damage, and slight overdoses are easy because it is in so many products because it is believed to be safe. Here’s another danger from Tylenol: In research published online in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, scientists from the National Institutes of Health and Ohio State University describe the results of two experiments they conducted involving more than 200 college students. Their conclusion: Acetaminophen, the most common drug ingredient in the United States, can reduce a person’s capacity to empathize with another person’s pain, whether that pain is physical or emotional. In fact, I’m on it right now (just took two Excedrin). Ask me if I care ;-).
  • It’s a Gas — Porter Ranch Causes . One group I do emphasize with are all the folks in Porter Ranch, the community next to where we leave. Not only did they have to deal with the Aliso Canyon gas leak for numerous months, being relocated and such, but they are still having problems even after the leak was sealed. They have now figured out why. Los Angeles County Public Health Department officials say its test of dust in Porter Ranch homes turned up the presence of metals, including barium, that could have caused the kinds of health symptoms some residents have reported experiencing even after the big gas leak was plugged. County officials said there appeared to be  a pattern — or fingerprint — of metals to which all of the homes were exposed. Those metals were barium, vanadium, manganese, lead, strontium and aluminum. The county health official said the barium was in the form of a salt known as barium sulfate, which is not radioactive. It was found at the Aliso Canyon Natural Gas Storage Facility, which is in the Santa Susana Mountains directly north of Porter Ranch homes. Barium sulfate is added to the fluids that are used in the course of oil well drilling. As I said when the leak first started, this is going to be a clusterf*ck of tremendous proportions — unfortunately, one that will affect our synagogue and many friends and neighbors.
  • Taking Offense at Everything. There are more folks these days that are just finding any hint of skin or sex offensive. We’ve all seen the bathroom wars, where a subgroup of men either believe that men will just choose to dress as a lady to go into a ladies restroom to attack women, or that some woman dressed as a man will go into the mens room and see their shortcomings. Here’s another one: a female weather reporter wearing a beautiful black beaded dress on-air was handed a grey cardigan because some viewers complained they could see her bare arms. This didn’t happen in some backwater area either — this was in Los Angeles folks. Geez, get a life folks. If something offends you, change the channel. If you can’t control your urges, that’s your problem. ETA: Then again, perhaps it was all a joke. Perhaps. ETA#2: Yes, it was a joke.
  • Cell Phones and Theatres. Here’s a very nice piece on Broadway vs. Cell Phones. It explains why they are such a problem. First, taking pictures is making copies of a copyrighted design (yes, the show and all the design elements are copyrighted, and represents significant artistic work). Second, the light these devices emit can distract the performers on the stage, and can distract and disturb other audience members. Thirdly, if they  make noise, the noise can do the same: distract and endanger performers, and disturb the audience. Power them off, or silence them and put them in airplane mode. Why the latter? The signals sometimes interfere with wireless microphones.
  • Replacing Ikea. In Burbank, California, Ikea is moving down the street to an even larger facility. So what is going to happen to the existing facility? What will happen to the dying mall next to it. A report this week gave the answer. Crown Realty is proposing to build a six-story, mixed-use project with 765 apartments and about 40,000 square feet of retail space on the ground level of the current Ikea space. They also envision converting the site into a community gathering area where an outdoor ice rink could be built and a farmers market could be held. As for the neighboring mall, one of the major proposed changes will be redesigning the entryway at San Fernando and Magnolia boulevards. A section of the second-floor roof will be removed to create an open-space feel and an escalator will be installed to allow pedestrians to get to the upper level from the street. Other amenities — such as the food court, children’s play area and elevators — will be moved around to create a better flow and atmosphere in the mall.
  • Yiddish in Poland. Lastly, in honor of my daughter’s graduation, here is a map of the Hebrew and Yiddish language frequency in Poland based on the Polish Census of 1931. Those of you who know her will understand.

 

Share

--- *** ---