Observations Along the Road

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

Saturday News Chum: Deaths, Mergers, Departures, Health, and Foreign Aid

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Feb 14, 2015 @ 10:14 am PDT

userpic=lougrantFinally, it’s Saturday. This has been a busy week — I’ve been accumulating articles, but haven’t had time during the week to post them. Before we jump into the stew, Happy Valentine’s Day to those that observe. What are we doing? We’re going to a wonderful organic Shabu Shabu restaurant we’ve discovered, and then seeing a musical story about the Loch Ness monster. And you?

  • Deaths in the News. A few major deaths have happened in the last couple of days that are quite noteworthy — primarily because these are people about which no one says anything bad. Really good people are rare to come by, and we’ve lost three. The first is Stan Chambers, long-time newscaster at KTLA — and by long, I mean 63 years! This is someone beloved in the news industry, a fixture in Los Angeles, who just reported the story and the facts. Forget your Brian Williams and Dan Rathers — this was the real deal, a reporter to look up to. The second is Gary Owens, a long-time radio and TV personality in Los Angeles. Again, this is someone who everyone looked up to, who helped loads of people with their careers, and of whom no one said anything bad. The third is Florence Sackheim, a long time member at Temple Beth Torah — again, this is someone who was there for everyone else, and whom no one had anything bad to say about.
  • Corporate Mergers. There are a number of corporate mergers of interest. Two weeks ago. Staples made an offer to buy Office Depot Office Max. This is a major consolidation in the office supply industry, and I think it is a bad thing. Loads of stores will close, loads of employees will lose jobs, and prices will rise without two equivalent competitors. Where are the regulators. In a similar consolidation, this week Expedia made an offer to by Orbitz. Expedia already owns Travelocity, so this is a major consolidation in the online travel booking industry. Again, I think this is a bad idea, although there’s a little less of a problem here in that the two services were about the same on price.
  • Going Away. Last week, the news was focused on Radio Shack going away. This week brings news of some other going-aways. First, Costco is celebrating Valentine’s Day by breaking up with American Express.  Well, the breakup will happen in 2016. AmEx has already been hammered as this brings them a lot of business; I know it is the only reason we have a non-corporate Amex card. Costco is reportedly near a deal with a new issuer; it is unclear whether accounts will be transferred, or reapplication will be necessary. In another going-away, the rumors are increasing that the Riviera Hotel may soon be closed and demolished. This makes me sad — there’s not much of 1950’s Vegas left on the strip — some two-story wings at the Tropicana and the original 9-story 1955 Riviera are about it. When the Riviera goes, so goes the history. However, the plan makes sense: the place has become a dump and cannot compete with the newer hotels; it is on the slow end of the strip next to a dead partially completed hotel, across the street from Circus-Circus and… not much else, as Echelon/Genting World is still under construction as well. Supposedly, the Riv is being bought by the Las Vegas Convention Bureau, who want to extend the Convention Center’s reach up from Paradise Blvd to LV Blvd, between Convention Center and Riveria Blvd. Not much is there — the parking lot that was the Landmark, a Dennys, a Walgreens, the Riv, and a 3-story apartment complex and some small businesses. I think we can kiss the Riv — and it’s history — goodbye.
  • Nose and Throat. A week or so ago, on This American Life, I heard a segment on a annoying condition (for some) called Vocal Fry. I’d never heard of it, or could even notice it — so luckily, Mental Floss had a nice article on Vocal Fry.  Now that I know what it is… I still don’t get why people are annoyed. People’s voices are their voices. Get over it. In another interesting article, Vox had a nice exploration of mucus. I actually found this interesting, as I have continual sinus trouble (and I’m also one of those addicted to Afrin).
  • You Know How Foolishly Generous Those Americans Are. So said Stan Freberg in United States of America, and many people believe America gives too much Foreign Aid. However, those beliefs don’t correspond with the facts — and American really doesn’t give that much foreign aid. In fact, less than 1 percent of the $4 trillion federal budget goes to foreign aid. The largest portion of the money goes to health: a third of the U.S. foreign aid budget in 2014, or more than $5.3 billion. The next two biggest portions go toward economic development and humanitarian assistance. Small sums of aid support democratic elections in other countries. A tiny portion goes to protect forests in countries where logging is destroying natural habitats. Some aid funds programs that train local law enforcement to combat drug trafficking. (But no foreign aid goes directly toward another country’s military.) Proof again that most people wouldn’t know the facts if they bit them in the …
  • Dealing with Death. One problem when you die is that you can’t update your Facebook anymore. Fear not. Facebook will soon let you appoint a digital heir.  This is actually a good thing, as  there are more and more memorial Facebook pages, and it would be nice to know they are memorials (so you don’t keep wishing them a happy birthday).
  • Used Bookstores in LA. LAist attempted to do a list of the 10 best used bookstores in LA. Used bookstores are great, and we have lost some significant ones in the last year — both Cliffs and Brand Bookstore are gone. But LAist missed some great ones — in particular, Bargain Books in Van Nuys, and Books 5150 in Chatsworth. But this is no surprise — all those Los Angeles lists are done by westsiders who forget that the valley exists.
  • Women and Work. Last week’s Backstory was on women and work.  As part of this, they did a special segment on women in computing.  Well worth listening to, and something we should encourage. The segment gives me the opportunity to pimp for a project of ACSA: the Scholarship for Women Studying Information Security.



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Sunday Stew: A Day Late, and Appropriately Short

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun May 18, 2014 @ 2:54 pm PDT

Observation StewIt’s Sunday again, and … what’s this? No stew on Saturday? We must remedy this, with this hastily thrown together pot of material collected during what was, again, a very busy week and an even busier weekend:

  • It’s Too Big. Here’s a call from a congressional candidate in Los Angeles to break up LA Unified. What’s interesting here is how he wants to do it: His bill would make school districts with more than 100,000 students ineligible for federal aid.  This would affect almost every major city school district, and result in lots of wasted money as many of the supporting school services — payroll, human resources, legal, and such… as well as school boards — get duplicated. The larger question, perhaps, is how much of LA Unified’s problem is LA Unified. After all, there are schools within the district that are excellent (many of them charters, such as Granada Hills or Pacific Palisades). There are lower performing schools, but these tend to be in lower performing neighborhoods. Often, the district’s hands are tied by state and federal requirements, as well as their own procedures. Breaking up the district doesn’t solve those problems. Decentralization (where appropriate) and local empowerment (when appropriate) does.
  • It’s Everywhere. One little snippet in the latest from Donald Sterling was not emphasized in the news — where he repeated Jewish stereotypes. You might have thought or hoped antisemitism would be dead … but you would be wrong. A new ADL survey shows that pnly 54 percent of people polled globally are aware of the Holocaust — and an alarming 32 percent of them believe the mass genocide of Jews was a myth or has been greatly exaggerated.  The survey found that 26 percent — more than one in four — of the 53,100 adults surveyed are “deeply infected” with anti-Semitic attitudes. Nine percent of Americans surveyed harbor at least six of the 11 anti-Semitic views. About 31 percent of respondents believe Jews “are more loyal to Israel” than the U.S.
  • It’s Scary. Antisemitism is really scary. The Disney comedy Frozen, edited into a horror movie trailer, is less so. Still, it is a great example of how the Frozen mania is continuing unabated. I think the last Disney film that got this deep into the social context was The Lion King.
  • It’s Dying. When they came out, CDs were touted as the perfect music medium. Crystal clear digital reproduction (as opposed to those scratchy vinyl records or tapes that wore out and broke), and they would last forever. Guess what? That was all a lie — CDs are degrading at an alarming rate. I have a large CD collection (and a large LP collection, and a large digital only collection … my iPod just crossed the 34,000 song mark). Of these, only the LPs have a long life — they degrade by scratches and stuff. All the tapes I made of records are long gone, and I rarely pull out the physical CDs anymore. Will they be there as backups, or will only the professionally made ones be readable. This, friends, is why people stick with analog data in the form of vinyl and paper.
  • It’s Dead. The death of the Fountainbleu in Las Vegas is closer: the construction crane has been removed. It is now less likely that this 80% finished mega-hotel will ever be completed. More than likely, it will be an expensive scrap recovery project, with loads of material destined for landfills. What a waste. How much dead landfill space in Las Vegas is taken up by the remains of hotels?
  • It’s, uhh, I forget. There might be some good news for those of you taking antidepressants. It turns out that certain antidepressants — particularly Celexa — is good a combatting memory loss. This may help combat Altzheimers Disease.
  • It’s Back. Lastly, those in the Bay Area can rest assured in the safety of the Bay Bridge. Sure, the bridge might fall down in an earthquake due to newly discovered flaws. But the protective troll is back, protecting drivers from his barely visible perch.


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Mothers Day News Chum Stew

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun May 11, 2014 @ 4:43 pm PDT

Observation StewYou know you want to take your mother to dinner. But what will you talk about? Here’s a bunch of news chum stew items, accumulated over the last two weeks (I’ve been busy, what can I say) that might just do:

  • Size Matters. Here’s a great discussion topic for your mom… or for “Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me”. A recent study has shown that, the larger your penis, the greater the likelihood that your wife will cheat on you. In particular, according to this study, every one inch longer penis increased the likelihood of women being involved in extra-marital partnership by almost one-and-half times. I think I’ll leave the subject at that and go on to the next subject…
  • Got Gas? Here’s some more useful information. Remember “Beans Beans They’re Good for the Heart”. Well, it turns out that lots of gas is a sign of a healthy biome in your gut. This reminds me of a joke from Jason Alexander. It seems there was this long married couple whose sex life was in the dumps (see item #1). The wife went to a sex counselor, who suggested they try 69. She came home and explained it to her husband. They got in bed and in the position…. and she ripped a good one. After the air had cleared, they tried it again… and she ripped another one. They were about to try it again when the husband said, “you think I’m going to do this 67 more times, you’re crazy”.
  • It’s the Place To Be. Yup, that Farm Living is the life for me. If this makes you think of Green Acres, you’re not along. There are plans for a Broadway stage play adaptation of the hicksville TV show originally starring Eddie Albert and Eva GaborThe rights to the property were acquired by director Richard L. Bare, who was one of the most prolific helmers on the original series, and by producer Phillip Goldfine through his production company Hollywood Media Bridge.
  • Cramming It In. Sony is working on new technology that will cram 3,700 blue-rays into a single cassette tape. Actually, that’s a little misleading — we’re not talking here about a C-60 or a C-90, but a specially designed cartridge. Still, the technology is intriguing: a whopping 148 GB per square inch, meaning a cassette could hold 185 TB of data. Sony uses a vacuum-forming technique called sputter deposition to create a layer of magnetic crystals by shooting argon ions at a polymer film substrate. The crystals, measuring just 7.7 nanometers on average, pack together more densely than any other previous method. The result is that three Blu-Rays’ worth of data can fit on one square inch of Sony’s new wonder-tape.
  • A Touching Story. Here’s a very touching story about a late night encounter in a supermarket, told by Mark Evanier.
  • Anything But Starbucks. A touching obituary for Herman Hyman, founder of the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf chain. This chain, which roasts its beans in Ventura County, started in a small store on San Vicente Blvd in Brentwood in the 1970s. I think, in fact, that it started not far from my first condo.
  • Buildings Up, Buildings Down. Two interesting buildings in the news. First, the plans have been announced for the former furniture store space across from the Pasadena Playhouse. Should be an interesting project; it will be interesting to see how it changes the character of that area. In Las Vegas news, approval has been given to finally take down the Harmon. If you aren’t familiar with the Harmon, it is the oval blue-glass coated skyscraper next to the Aria and Vdara, across from Planet Hollywood and the Cosmopolitan. It was built wrong and is unstable, but they can’t implode it because it is too close to other stuff. They have to take it down piece by piece. Now if only they could do something with the Fountainbleau, which is an even bigger eyesore on the N end of the strip (where the Thunderbird once was).


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We’re Alone in the Woods. What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Written By: cahwyguy - Wed May 07, 2014 @ 11:47 am PDT

Evil Dead The Musical (V Theatre)userpic=las-vegasLast night, we saw our third show in Vegas: “Evil Dead: The Musical” (FB). This is a musical I’ve been wanting to see for a while — I’ve had the CD on my iPod since 2009, and I’ve gotten a hoot out of the 2006 original off-Broadway cast. Sirc Michael’s production (FB) of the show at the V/Saxe Theatre Complex (FB) in the Desert Passage Mall Miracle Mile Mall has been running a while (I think they said it is the longest running production of the show), and our visit was an opportunity to finally put the show with the music. I’m glad I did, and modulo a few problematic areas, the show is a hoot and well worth seeing. Be careful, however, if you are in the first few rows.

As you may have surmised, “Evil Dead: The Musical” is a parody of all the slasher horror films, and particularly the Evil Dead franchise. Reading through the summary of the films (which I actually have never seen), it is about 80% of the original Evil Dead movie, 80% of the sequel Evil Dead II,  and perhaps 10% of Army of Darkness. The story concerns five college students: Ash, an S-Mart Housewares Employee; Linda, his girlfriend; Cheryl, Ash’s younger sister; Scotty, Ash’s best bud and friend; and Shelly, a girl Scotty picked up at a nearby bar three days ago. They are going off to break into an abandoned cabin in the woods for a weekend of debauchery. When they arrive at the cabin, they start to hear odd voices, and while investigating, discover a copy of the Sumarian Necronomicon (Book of the Dead), a number of weapons (axe, historical knife, gun), and a recording in the cellar. Playing the recording unleases the demons… and one by one each gets possessed and killed in various bloody and punny ways. That’s the basic story that come in from the original movie. The sequel comes in through the introduction of Annie (daughter of the cabin’s owner); Ed, her boyfriend; and Jake, their guide to the cabin. They eventually make their way there and discover Ash and all the dead bodies. Not surprisingly, they start to get possessed as well, and things get even bloodier. Eventually, Ash (who cut off his hand when it turned evil) mounts a chainsaw on his hand (hence, the picture) and starts killing every demon in sight. But demons never stay dead, do they?

Before I go into the production itself, a few words about the theatre itself. As you know if you know me, we go to theatre very regularly. When a show is called for a particular time, we’re used to being able to go into the theatre about ½ hour before the show. We’re used to getting a program that lists the actors and provides their credits. There was none of that here. We were told to arrive at 9pm to start lining up for a 10pm show. We arrived about 8:50pm, and were directed upstairs to the bar area (others arriving later were evidently lined up and had souvenir pictures taken — we’re glad we missed the pictures, but the V Theatre needs a consistent process). Eventually, the groups combined upstairs… and waited. The previous show, Zombie Burlesque, was running late. When you added in their picture process, we didn’t enter the theatre until around 10:15 pm, and the show didn’t start until around 10:30 pm. There was no communication of this delay to the audience. We entered the theatre — with no program being handed out (luckily, I learned from talking to a staff member that credits were available online). These are all correctable problems — and they should be addressed to provide a good audience experience.

Back to the show itself. This show is a cheesy and fun parody. If that’s the type of show you enjoy, you’ll get a kick out of this. There is loads of profanity, but words only — this is not risque in what you see (at least in terms of sex). The violence and gore is very cartoonish. As for the parody itself … I happen to enjoy parody musicals. I’ve seen quite a few, from Brain from Planet X, to Silence: The Musical, to Triassic Parc: The Musical, to … This is pretty good on the parody scale: it amps up the silliness of the original concept, grabs and exaggerates the recognizable parts of the original movies, and most importantly … it knows what it is. The cast has fun with this, playing with the puns and the humor. It is clear they enjoy their work, and get a kick about giving the audience a good show and a good time. This probably is why this show gets such reviews — it isn’t perfect, but it is fun. If you want polish, go see Elton John or Rock of Ages. One other thing that I appreciated is that, at least based on the cast album, this production included the entire show (including the intermission). This is rare for a Las Vegas Strip production — most of the shows do slightly cut-down versions for audiences that can’t sit for longer than 90 minutes with no intermission.

This show advertises itself as “4D”. That’s not a count of the deaths :-). Rather, it refers to the fact that if you are in the first few rows, you will get wet. They give T-Shirts to the official “splash zone”, but with the amount of liquid they drench you in, don’t wear something you care about. The actors seem to enjoy drenching the audience in the front. Note that there may be a little overspray, so be prepared.

The performances themselves were quite good. In the lead position was Ben Stobber (FB). Stobber has won awards for this performance, and it is easy to see why. I’ve written before about how I enjoy it when actors take a role, inhabit it, and have fun with it — and Stobber is clearly doing that with this role. Although he had one or two minor off notes, they get lost in the overall effectiveness of his performance. I also found it interesting to watch the height differential between Stobber and the rest of the cast: he seems to tower at least a foot over most of them. It creates this interesting image of this clean-cut good guy, towering over evil, chainsaw in hand, as he prepares to kick ass.

Another notable performance was given by Lorie Palkow (FB) as Cheryl, Ash’s younger sister. Palkow originally caught my eye because I tend to be drawn to nerdy girls. Looking a little bit like Sarah Gilbert, she gave a performance full of enthusiasm and fun. She had a strong singing voice and handled the change in personality quite well. As with Stobber, you could just tell she was having fun with this role.

Rounding out the members of the cast drawn from the first Evil Dead movie were Jennifer Daquila (FB) (Shelly), Kolton Rostron (FB) (Scotty), and Lynnae Meyers (FB) (Linda) [it is unclear who played the possessed Candarian Demon moose]. Daquila (in her Shelly incarnation) captured the dumb blonde caricature well and with enthusiasm. Rostron also captured his caricature  of the dumb bro well, especially in his overuse of the “Stupid Bitch” line. Rostrom was particularly notable for his glee in drenching the first few rows of the audience with the blood from his intestines. Lastly, Meyers’ Linda was a beauty who drew your eyes when she was onstage, at least before she became demonic. All were good singers an performers. Lastly, Beau Rigbye/FB was an obvious Fake Shemp in his role as the dead headless Linda (the belly gave him away). [By the way, what is it with actors and concierges? Both Stobber and Meyers work as concierges at Aria; my friend Shae, who is also into performing, also works as a concierge.]

Turning to the cast members drawn from Evil Dead II:   Jennifer Daquila (FB) reappeared as Annie, discarding her dumb blonde for a more overbearing sort. Christopher Lyons/FB was her boyfriend and bit-part player Ed, and Greg Korin (FB) was good ol’ Jake. All played their roles well, and Korin in particular (if memory serves correct) enjoyed drenching the audience.

Lastly, rounding out the cast as performers according to the website, but with unspecified roles, were: Shawnnie Slaughter (FB), Big Sexy, Chris Weidman, Tori Imlach/FB, Kirsten Heibert, Evelyn Benitez, Jeremiah Riesenbeck, and John Tomasello (FB). Slaughter was fun to watch as some sort of zombie who was entertaining those waiting in the bar with some interesting improv, as well as seating guests in the theatre. As for the others, I guess that they are understudies, swings, and other unnamed people (such as the MC).

Turning to the technical side of things…. big sigh. Lets start with what worked: the sets (designed by Tim Burris) were simple, but they worked. This show apparently moves between theatres in the V/Saxe complex, which demands simple movable sets. What they had was sufficient for the job. Similarly, the costumes by Stephen C. Halford were effective and titillated just a little (although there were some continuity problems with Linda’s blouse); his  special effects were a little more cheesy (but that’s an artifact of the time they have to change in and out of them). No credit is provided for the lighting, but it worked reasonably well. The blood effects by LeeAnn Wagner were plentiful and smelled of cherry; I was glad I was not sitting in the front row.

So, you’re wondering, why the big sigh? The answer is the sound design of Thomas Chrastka. I understand the demands of having to shift theatres, and of coming in after a different show with different actors and different demands. Still, the actors were over-amplified, making it difficult to hear the clever dialogue and puns… and even worse, during the musical numbers, there was too much reverb which muddied the actor’s singing. The sound system needs some retuning to return it to the crispness required.

Rounding out the credits: the production was directed by Sirc Michaels (FB) — as I’ve noted before, I can never separate direction from the acting. Choreography was by Jennie Carroll, and it worked well — particularly during the necronomicon dance. Fight choreography was by JP Dostal, and could have been a little stronger during the shooting sequences. You can see the remainder of the credits (including technicians, publicity, and the like) at the Evil Dead website.

Evil Dead: The Musical” (FB) continues at the V/Saxe Theatre Complex (FB) well, umm, until it no longer brings in enough money to cover the rent. Tickets are available through the V/Saxe Theatre Complex Box Office, and through numerous discount outlets throughout the city. I found it worth the money, especially if you are looking for a fun time and enjoy parodies. Note that the show runs very late, and watch out for the splash zone.

A final comment on the location of the show. The V/Saxe Theatre is in the former Desert Passage Mall, which wraps around the former Aladdin hotel. We were there for the ACSAC conference in 2003, and a number of the stores are still in the mall from that time (particularly Cheeseburger Mary’s and the Italian restaurant across from the theatre). Much as Planet Hollywood has tried to “Miracle Mile” the mall, the interior still screams Desert Passage, and the southern exterior is almost unchanged from the faux Arabian desert. I kept trying to remember what was in the V Theatre space back in 2003, but I drew a blank. I think, if PH wants to successfully transition away from the Aladdin legacy, they need to do something about retheming the mall whilst staying open and keeping vendors. A difficult problem. I did read that they are about to retheme the southern exterior.

[Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre audience. I’ve been attending live theatre in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.]

Upcoming Theatre and Concerts:  We have no more shows planned for while we are in Vegas, but it’s busy when we return: Saturday is a twofer day: Hairspray” at Nobel Middle School followed by “The Lion in Winter” at The Colony Theatre (FB). The next weekend brings both “Porgy and Bess” at the Ahmanson and “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” at REP East (FB). The next two weekends are currently unscheduled: Karen is helping Erin move, and there’s not that much calling to me from Goldstar. June is busy. It starts with a CDF Conference for Karen while I see The Fantastiks at Good People Theatre (FB). We lose the following weekend to a Bat Mitzvah. The remainder of the month brings “Stoneface: The Rise and Fall of Buster Keaton” at the Pasadena Playhouse (FB) on June 22, and “I’m Not Just a Comic Genius” at Secret Rose (FB) on June 27. July will be busy: “Ghost” at the Pantages (FB) on 7/5, “Return to the Forbidden Planet” at REP East (FB) the weekend of 7/12, “Once” at the Pantages (FB) on 7/19, “Bye Bye Birdie” at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) on 7/26, and “Family Planning” at The Colony Theatre (FB) on 8/2. August then remains quiet as we work around vacations and such, but things start to get busy again in September and October. More on that later. 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.

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Feeling Blue

Written By: cahwyguy - Tue May 06, 2014 @ 6:12 am PDT

Blue Man Group (Monte Carlo)userpic=las-vegasBefore we went on this trip to Las Vegas, I asked my wife what show she wanted to see. Her response, “Blue Man Group“. This started a quest for decent discount tickets for the show. Online, I found some discounts at TravelVegas, but these seemed to lead straight to the hotel’s Ticketmaster site — meaning that on top of the ticket price, there would be the city taxes, venue fees, and Ticketmaster fees. No thank you. Instead, we ended up using the service we’ve used for all the shows we’ve seen this week: Tix4Tonight. I went down to the booth in front of the Aladdin Planet Hollywood yesterday, and got two mezzanine tickets for BMG for around $67, including fees. [I should note that we’re doing pretty good: Using Tix4Tonight, we’ve gotten tickets to three shows for around $260, meaning each show is roughly $40 on average]. Last night, we walked over to the Monte Carlo and saw the show. For $67, we ended up in the second row in the mezzanine in the center — perfect seats.

The show itself? In a word, spectacular.

I’ve been trying to think of a way to describe Blue Man Group. I started with the phrase “childlike wonder”, but shortly realized that the Blue Men are simply a fancy form of clowns. They like to explore silliness, make people laugh, and just play with things. They submerge their individual identities to personas to focus people on the laughter. This is the essence of clowning.

As for the show itself, it is hard to describe. Looking back, a number of things stick in my mind. First was the giant floating things that circulated through the audience before the show. There was the percussion and the lights, and the playfulness of creating instruments out of anything and everything. There was the audience interaction (I wonder if that woman in the first row ever got her credit card back). There were the robots. There was the playing with the food and the Twinkies. There was the GiPhone and the heavy use of lights. There was the penultimate ending, with balls floating everywhere through the audience and paper going all around. There was the actual ending, with the drums of color. In short… spectacular.

One problem with Las Vegas shows is that they never provide a standard program or credit. That’s too bad. For what makes BMG successful is not only the three blue men (who are always never named), but all the musicians and technicians and staff behind them. That was certainly true last night: the musical team behind BMG was just great, and the technical work that goes into the show — from sound to lights to timing to projections to programming to playfulness — was remarkable. They deserve to be credited, and I acknowledge their efforts.

Dining Notes: Before BMG, we ate a totally non-special dinner: Rubios in the Food Court. But before that was something spectacular: one of the few non-Starbucks coffee venues we’ve seen in a hotel: Sambalatte. Now I’m not a coffee drink, but my wife tells me that the coffee she had there was one of the best cups she’s ever had. Sambalatte has three locations. [I’ll note they were less spectacular for tea — they were using bags — but there are no spectacular tea shoppes in Vegas: there’s Teavana (which is Starbucks now), but they have limited non-flavored black tea options); there’s Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, which is always good but is more coffee focused; and there’s … umm … Starbucks :-( ).

Upcoming Theatre and Concerts:  Tonight is our last Vegas show: “Evil Dead: The Musical” at the V Theatre in the Desert Passage Mall Miracle Mile Shops. Once we return, we’ve got a twofer day: “Hairspray” at Nobel Middle School followed by “The Lion in Winter” at The Colony Theatre (FB). The next weekend brings both “Porgy and Bess” at the Ahmanson and “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” at REP East (FB). The next two weekends are currently unscheduled: Karen is helping Erin move, and there’s not that much calling to me from Goldstar. June is busy. It starts with a CDF Conference for Karen while I see The Fantastiks at Good People Theatre (FB). We lose the following weekend to a Bat Mitzvah. The remainder of the month brings “Stoneface: The Rise and Fall of Buster Keaton” at the Pasadena Playhouse (FB) on June 22, and “I’m Not Just a Comic Genius” at Secret Rose (FB) on June 27. July will be busy: “Ghost” at the Pantages (FB) on 7/5, “Return to the Forbidden Planet” at REP East (FB) the weekend of 7/12, “Once” at the Pantages (FB) on 7/19, “Bye Bye Birdie” at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) on 7/26, and “Family Planning” at The Colony Theatre (FB) on 8/2. August then remains quiet as we work around vacations and such, but things start to get busy again in September and October. More on that later. 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.

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Hair at Harrahs

Written By: cahwyguy - Mon May 05, 2014 @ 7:49 am PDT

Jason Alexander (Harrahs)userpic=las-vegasYou may have noticed that it’s been quiet from this end of late — I’ve had some high priority projects at work sucking my time, plus we’ve been getting ready for a little vacation. On the vacation now we are (did you appreciate that little call-out to Star Wars in honor of 5/4) (even though I’m still working in the mornings :-( ), so I thought I would bring you up to date with my thoughts… plus I think I’m incapable of seeing live entertainment and not writing about it.

Every time I come to Vegas I realize how this town has changed from when I was here as a kid in the 1970s. Gone are the headline entertainers and the “dinner show” showrooms; gone are most of the production shows. Gone, in fact, is everything serving the great god of gaming — everything is its own profit center now. Still, when you’re in Vegas, you see shows (and there are a few I want to see, if the price is right).

One of the shows we discovered was in town was the end of Jason Alexander’s stint at Harrah’s. Now, I’ve never watched Seinfeld (I’ll repeat that, because you probably don’t believe it — I’ve never watched Seinfeld). However, I am a fan of Mr. Alexander from his work on the stage — he was in a number of Broadway shows, and we saw him give a great performance in The Producers in Los Angeles. We’re also aware of him from his movies — our daughter was a big fan of Dunston Checks In. Given that his show wasn’t that pricy, we went last night.

I’m glad we did. It was a very funny show. Jason combined music, musical parody, and great comedy observations to create a hilarious two-hour show. He riffed on a variety of subjects — Seinfeld (of course), hair, relationships, and sitcoms are a few I remember. We just enjoyed the show immensely. If you get a chance to see Jason Alexander, it is worth it.

Dining Notes: Before the show, we ate at Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville at the Flamingo. We chose them because they were one of the few restaurants in walking distance with a gluten-free menu. Very good food, and fun entertainment.

Upcoming Theatre and Concerts:  While in Vegas, we’re also hoping to see Blue Man Group at the Monte Carlo, as well as Evil Dead: The Musical“. Once we return, we’ve got a twofer day: “Hairspray” at Nobel Middle School followed by “The Lion in Winter” at The Colony Theatre (FB). The next weekend brings both “Porgy and Bess” at the Ahmanson and “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” at REP East (FB). The next two weekends are currently unscheduled: Karen is helping Erin move, and there’s not that much calling to me from Goldstar. June is busy. It starts with a CDF Conference for Karen while I see “The Fantastiks” at Good People Theatre. We lose the following weekend to a Bat Mitzvah. The remainder of the month brings “Stoneface” at the Pasadena Playhouse on June 22, and “I’m Not Just a Comic Genius” at Secret Rose on June 27. July will be busy: “Ghost” at the Pantages (FB) on 7/5, “Return to the Forbidden Planet” at REP East (FB) the weekend of 7/12, “Once” at the Pantages (FB) on 7/19, “Bye Bye Birdie” at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) on 7/26, and “Family Planning” at The Colony Theatre (FB) on 8/2. August then remains quiet as we work around vacations and such, but things start to get busy again in September and October. More on that later. 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.

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Is It Worth It?

Written By: cahwyguy - Wed Apr 30, 2014 @ 9:15 pm PDT

userpic=theatre_ticketsI’ve been doing some theatre planning for the upcoming months/trips. There are some shows I’m interested in seeing, but I can’t decide the best approach to take, given the cost. Here’s what I’m exploring: opinions are welcome.

  • Stoneface at the Pasadena Playhouse. Tickets are $34 to $39 on Goldstar, but have a service charge of $7.50 each. I’m not sure if the Pasadena Playhouse is worth $42-$45 per ticket (I don’t pay that much for tours at the Pantages). Still, it is French Stewart as Buster Keaton…
  • Evil Dead – The Musical at V Theatre, Las Vegas. Tickets are $29.95 for Saturday at 11:30pm, or $32.95 for Tuesday at 10:00pm, which is reasonable. However, they want to add service charges of $6-$8 per ticket. I’m not sure I want to pay that much for what is a parody show (even if it is funny). I’m wondering if I can get the tickets at one of the discount booths on the strip for a lower service charge.
  • Blue Man Group at Monte Carlo. Here I’ve found a deal for $59 a ticket… which is a good price. But they take you to the Monte Carlo box office (good), which uses Ticketmaster (bad)… meaning there are likely surcharges on the order of $10 per ticket. Again, I’m normally not in that ticket price range. Is it worth it?


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Saturday Stew: From XP to Exes, from New Coins to Old History

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Mar 22, 2014 @ 6:52 am PDT

Observation StewIt’s Saturday, and that means it is time to clear out the links for the week. This has been a busy week, with a major recorganization (which was more of an org chart relocation) at work (means loads of “all-hands” meetings full of sound and fury, saying little), loads of documents to review, and loads of stuff to catch up on. As a result, I rarely got time to look at the news over lunch, and have only collected a few things that didn’t them. Let’s get to them:

  • The Death of XP. My RSS feeds are full of dire warnings about continuing to use XP after support stops on April 8. As it is, I have three XP machines at home: two that are just sitting, turned off, and one that is used solely as a print server. Still, I am thinking about replacing it, and two articles caught my eye. The first looks at 3 Linux alternatives to upgrading Windows–I’d seriously think about upgrading at least one to Linux if it can work as a print server on a Windows network. The second talks about how Microsoft is offering special deals of $100 for those upgrading from XP. With some Windows 8 machines in the $200-$300 range, this brings systems to the noise level.
  • Challenging Coins. Two interesting articles on coins this week. The first talks about the new £1 coin Britain is introducing. It will be 12-sided, and incorporate different-colored metals, for a faux gold and silver look, instead of the mostly copper blend now in circulation, and boast a high-tech anti-forgery feature used in paper money. It looks like it is complicated to make. Even more complicated is a new domed collectable coin being made by the US Mint: a domed coin commemorating baseball. Evidently, it was very hard for the mint to manufacture, and took a bit of experimenting to get right. What’s interesting here is reading the comments — there are a large number of people who do not understand that collectable coins and stamps make the government money.
  • Training For It. About a week or so, I had set aside a story about a railroad club in Orange County that had their trackage stolen, intending to send them a little something. Turns out I wasn’t the only one: the club has received thousands of dollars in donations. A nice reminder that there are a lot of good people in the world.
  • Bad Design. Here are two articles about some bad designs. The first is about a new device you can slap on a milk carton–it uses nanotechnology to indicate visually if the milk is good or bad. So what’s the problem? According to the article, “red” is good, “green” is bad. This is the opposite of how red and green are nomally used in interfaces, and I predict people will get sick from the “green is good” hardwiring. The second is about golfing: it appears that titanium clubs striking rocks can create sparks that start brush fires. Perhaps they should give golf clubs to people on Survivor.
  • Out of This World. I’ve had this article sitting for a few weeks, but nothing seems to want to pair with it. Baker is a dying town — once home to the largest thermometer in the world, it is now slowly fading into the desert. But the owner of Alien Jerky wants to change that — and one way is to build a flying saucer shaped hotel.
  • The Jewish Valley. I’m into history. I’m into Judaism. So naturally, I’m into the history of Jews in the San Fernando Valley. Many years ago, Rabbi John Sherwood and I even toyed with the idea of writing a book on the subject. So here’s an interesting article in that vein: it explores the early days of the Valley Jewish Community Center, which became the Conservative synagogue Adat Ari El. This is the synagogue that was the parent of most Conservative synagogues in the valley, just like Temple Beth Hillel was the first Reform congregation and was essentially the parent of most Reform congregations in the valley.
  • Marital Success. What makes a successful marriage? Is it your partner? It is living together before you get married to work out the problems? Is it “murder frequently, divorce never?” According to this article from Atlantic, it is being mature when you get married. An exploration of the science of cohabitation shows that the older people are when they make their long-term commitment as a couple, the more likely that couple will stay together. The study found that individuals who committed to cohabitation or marriage at the age of 18 saw a 60 percent rate of divorce. Whereas individuals who waited until 23 to commit saw a divorce rate that hovered more around 30 percent. I got married when I was 25, and next year we will have been married for 30 years. As they say, you do the math.


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