🛣️ August Headlines About California Highways

Another month has passed, and so it is time for another accumulation of highway headlines. Hopefully, your summer has been filled with interesting travels along the roads of this state. Speaking of states, I’ll note that I’m currently in the process of the second phase of the site remodel: I’m starting to add maps to the county sign route pages. So far, I’ve done routes in the A, B, C, D, and E groups. I’ll announce when that effort is completed.

Here are your headlines for August:

  • Route Highway 37 through American Canyon? Napans shudder. One idea to save Highway 37 along San Pablo Bay from predicted sea level rise is moving a section north to drier land along a new route through American Canyon and rural southwest Napa County. The Napa County option would mean combining the 40,000 autos using Highway 37 daily with the 45,000 autos using Highway 29 daily through the city of American Canyon. American Canyon is already a notorious traffic chokepoint in Napa County.
  • Caltrans I-5 rehab on track for 2019.  When Santa Clarita Mayor Pro Tem Marsha McLean tried to use the freeway earlier this month, her experience, like many in the Santa Clarita Valley, was a bit tumultuous. As McLean tried getting on the freeway at Lyons Avenue traveling northbound, blocked lanes made it difficult for her to dodge the trucks going by “pretty fast.” That’s because the California Department of Transportation’s Interstate 5 Roadway Rehabilitation Project is well underway. The 15.8-mile stretch of I-5 under construction cuts through the Santa Clarita Valley, and has served daily traffic for 50 years.
  • 405 Freeway widening project moving forward with closure of McFadden Avenue bridge on Aug. 7.  It’s time to start paying attention to the 405 Freeway widening project – and to figure out alternate routes. Beginning next week, bridges crossing over the freeway will lose lanes or – in some cases – be shut down altogether. Construction work, however, will be staggered along the 16-mile stretch to help alleviate traffic jams sure to plague each area as it takes its turn.
  • Trans-Sierra Highway Passes; Interstate 80 Donner Summit. Back in 2016 I attempted as many Trans-Sierra Highway Passes as I could upon my return to California.  I started with Interstate 80 over Donner Summit during the late winter on the way to Lake Tahoe and Virginia City.

Read More …


🗯️ What This Liberal Wants

No, Folks, I do NOT want this to become a full-on Socialist Country.

I want the beautiful balance of Capitalism and Socialism that we had back before Nixon and Reagan, when we looked out for Rich and Poor, back when a one-income working person’s salary meant he or she could afford to rent – or even BUY – a nice little 2-bedroom house with a little bit of yard. I want the days when kids could learn a trade or go to college, or both, without spending a fortune, and usually ended up living as well as their parents within 10 years or so. I want days when people could afford to go to the doctor and get the medical treatment they needed, and there was confidence in the quality of that treatment.

If only this system had worked for everyone!

The blot on this sunny scenario was … Racism. Non-white people were treated badly and paid far worse and jailed far more often than white folks, even with other factors (intelligence, work ethic, education, nature of infraction, etc.) being equal. What’s worse is that this still goes on. At times, I seems that the Far Right’s entire purpose has been, since the 1950s, to make sure this state of affairs continues. If not for the Civil Rights Act — an act brought forward by Democrats that lost them the Southern Vote to this day — we would still have legally separated neighborhoods!!!

You should SEE the bullshit in the original CCRs (from the 1940s and NULLIFIED BY THE CRA) for the neighborhood I grew up in the Crestwood Hills community in West Los Angeles! These state that no one of Asian, Negroid, or Hispanic heritage could own or rent in our neighborhood. I even recall that there were initially covenants against Jews. In other neighborhoods, POC were not allowed to SLEEP in the neighborhood unless they were household servants living in separate quarters on the property.

This was an era when the best position to be was White, Male, and Christian. Those who were not in those categories were viewed — either explicitly or implicitly — as “beneath”. There was implicit privilege in three attributes: you got the better jobs, you got better treatment from law enforcement, you got the better pay, you got the better working conditions, you got accepted at the better colleges, you could join the right clubs and organizations — all without you having to do anything.

The GOP, which was once the anti-Slavery Party, is now the chief supporter of discriminatory actions in policing, in housing, in hiring, in firing.

Notice the completely different rules THEY follow when THEY are in power (e.g. “No criticism of US; To HELL with the First Amendment!”) versus when they are OUT of power. When they are out of power, they criticize, they investigate, and they complain about the corrupt ethics of those in power. When they gain power, that goes out the window. No criticism is permitted, despite what the First Amendment says; investigations into corruption are “witch hunts”, and there is a distinct lack of ethics.

From what I can tell, the GOP now represents only the those that have money, privilege, or position, and those that want to preserve their money, privileges, and/or positions. I’ve seen this characterized as the “Richies and the Racists”.

If we REALLY want America to be “great again”, we need to truly crown our good with brotherhood and knock off the racist crap,  We need to go beyond the “under God” in the pledge, and focus on the “liberty and justice for all.” We need to move beyond the constant fearmongering and international saber-rattling that make us cut beneficial social programs so we can spend insane amounts on the military … all while military families struggle MORE than the rest of the middle class. We need to truly and realistically understand the external risks that this nation faces, and use our military power to defend against those realistic risks, and as a way to help other nations protect and promote freedom, which benefits this country through the reduction of overall risk.

I have no idea how we can fix this, when when we live in a country where a large portion believe it to be a Christian Nation (despite what is written in the Constitution), where Christian values are to be legislated in statute and imposed on all. When we live in a country where Black Men Kneeling during the flag salute is treated as a soulless act of disrespect, but White Men marching to support White Privilege and re-segregation of society, and deliberately killing a counter demonstrator with one of their cars during the process, is treated as merely a product of understandable frustration. When our leadership proclaims that there is equal wrong on both sides.

The Right has gone insane, thanks to twisted religion, racism, greed, bully-worship, and fear. They have abandoned the values of their once respectable party to the cult of personality, and the worship of power and privilege.

Luckily, there is one way to bring us back to where we need to be. Please, Sane People! GET OUT AND VOTE! Every Primary. Every Election. Your vote is the difference.

[Note: This was adapted from a post by my friend Mary W. over on Facebook. Shared and adapted with permission.]


🗯️ Political Observations: Lessons To Learn

userpic=divided-nationOver the last week, a number of political thoughts have been swirling around my head. I think it is time to get them out:

  • While on a drive recently, I was binge-listening to the latest season of the Start Up Podcast on Church Planting. They had a very interesting episode on theology of evangelical churches. One standard position is “complementarianism”, which is the view that women is complementary to man, and that they should never have a leadership position. For the evangelicals, this may have been an unspoken reason why Hillary was unacceptable, and why there is so much hatred of her assuming leadership. But that’s the past. What is the lesson here?  Namely, a man of any color is more acceptable to them than a woman would be. If our goal is to retake the White House — which is a must in 2020 if not before — we need to keep this in mind when choosing candidates. We must take care to not needlessly shoot ourselves in the foot.
  • In fact, it would be astute of us to understand exactly why Evangelicals support Trump, despite all his faults. Here’s a good explanation. Here’s a real telling quote: “They want the return of Protestant privilege in American culture. The loss of Protestant privilege, and the reality of religious plurality, is driving them crazy.” For all their protestations about Sharia law, they want a Christian nation where Christians have the privilege, and those who are not are second class citizens. I’m not sure there is a way to turn these folks around, unless they can believe there is a different anointed candidate that will press their goals. What is the lesson here? We must work on the non-evangelical Christians — those who believe in what Christ actually said and did, as opposed to evangelical beliefs, and demonstrate how Trump is not building a better world.
  • Trump is also using fear to bring his supporters to the polls, implying that Liberals will use violence to overturn all he has done for the evangelical community. We know that is not the reality, but fear is a powerful motivator. What is the lesson here? We must work to counter that, and use all means necessary to turn out the vote: get people registered, help them get to the polls, and get all those who have been sitting on their hands not voting to get out and vote and make a difference.
  • We need to learn how Trump voters see themselves, and see the Liberals. Here, the name Dinesh D’Souza is critical. D’Souza’s latest movie, Death of a Nation, compares Donald Trump to Abraham Lincoln, and his Democratic opponents to Nazis. Yes, you’ve read that right. I have friends on FB that believe it — and this is what feeds into the fear of AntiFa. They don’t recognize the party ideological swap that occurred in the mid-1960s as a result of the Southern Strategy. What is the lesson here? We must continue to demonstrably counter — with patience — their view of Liberals. We need to demonstrate there isn’t a unified thought, and just as with Conservatives, there is a broad spectrum of views.
  • We’ve all commented on how many Trump supporters seem to have drunk the Kool-Aide, and think whatever he does will benefit them. I know many such supporters who are on limited means who have partaken that beverage. Yet he is making life more expensive. His tariffs on imported vehicles and parts will make even US made vehicles more expensive, and the new trade deal with Mexico will make them even more expensive. Will this awaken them? Probably not. What is the lesson here? We must keep hammering home how Trump’s policies are making things more expensive, and how wages are not increasing enough to compensate, making the economic condition of lower and middle classes worse (while the rich are getting richer).
  • One thing I’ve noted from many Trump supporters is an attitude of … not quite hate, but of “get off my lawn”. They seemingly are angry at everything: liberals, taxes, other people, society. Trump speaks to them because he reflects anger — his whole “schtick” is to intentionally do things that piss off the people he does not like, and to revel in their reactions. What is the lesson here? As Liberals, what must our response be to this? First, we must not react with anger in return, for that is the reaction that they want. We must learn to deflect that anger, and infuriate them even more by being nice and reasonable in response. Remember: Don’t feed the trolls. Set the example, and attract the moderates who are tired of the anger.
  • We’ve seen lately how Trump is angry at Google for returning more negative results about him. Setting aside the question of why the President is bothering to search himself online (narcissist, me thinks), what he doesn’t understand is that it is just an algorithm, one that returns what is out there on the web, and giving priority to links on sites that have proven themselves over time to be trustworthy. Algorithms can only return what is out there, and there is much less on the web that is positive about Trump, and the sites that are positive about Trump get much less links. What is the lesson here? If you have a blog, link to reputable articles only. If you are on Facebook, share reputable articles. Help the algorithms find the truth, simply by posting the truth.

🗯️ Taking the Pledge

userpic=trumpThere’s a meme going around Facebook asking why we ask our students to pledge allegiance to the flag every day, but we don’t ask our leaders to recite their oath of office every day? That’s a damn good question.

First and foremost, we should push our Democratic representatives to pass a bill requiring all congresscritters, senators, and executive officers to recite their oath of office every workday in front of the staff. This would be win-win. First, it would remind them daily that their duty and allegiance is to the Constitution above all, not to the President. Second, if they refuse to do it, what does that say about where their loyalty lies? It’s not un-American to disagree with the President, but to refuse to affirm your oath of office?

Next, on the Pledge itself. We’ve debated whether “under God” belongs in the Pledge, but no one debates “with liberty and justice to all”. That’s not qualified. Citizen and non-citizen. Hetero or homo. Gender normative or not.  Any race. Any creed. Any sex. “to all” is simply that — to all. We need to remind those folks who fight for “under God” that they must honor the rest of the pledge — arguably the most important part — as well.


🗯️ A Few Simple Questions

A few simple questions for my Republican and Trump-supporting friends. But first, let’s enter the Wayback Machine, shall we? (harp music plays). Just imagine. It is Summer 2014, four short years ago. Obama is President; Kerry is at State. While investigating Benghazi, the FBI uncovers information about the President and follows the leads:

  • They discover that during the 2012 campaign, President Obama’s lawyer illegally paid off two women who had threatened to expose sexual affairs with President Obama, and that such payments were “in coordination with and at the direction of a candidate for federal office” and had been done “for the principal purpose of influencing the election”.  What would you demand to be done about Obama’s behavior?
  • They discover that Obama’s campaign advisor had comitted bank and tax fraud, and was subsuquently indicted and found guilty of those crimes.  What would you demand to be done about Obama’s behavior?
  • They discover that Obama and top members of his campaign team had met with the Russian government to obtain information on Mitt Romney in order to influence the election?  What would you demand to be done about Obama’s behavior?
  • They discover that Russia, immediately after President Obama made a call for them find Romney’s smoking gun, had broken into Romney’s campaign servers.  What would you demand to be done about Obama’s behavior?
  • They discover that Russia was still attempting to influence American elections and was hacking into election systems and state and local voting systems to influence the 2014 elections.  What would you demand to be done about Obama’s behavior?
  • They discover that Obama is trying to influence the investigation and publicly discredit it, and is attempting to influence witnesses through any means at his disposal.  What would you demand to be done about Obama’s behavior?

I truly doubt that, in such a situation, Obama and the Obama administration would get a “pass”. I doubt that you would consider the investigation a “witch hunt”. After all, Bill Clinton was impeached for lying about a cigar.

What you would demand be done about Obama in such a situation?

What does the fact you are not demanding the same thing be done about Trump say about you?

If some action is wrong, it is wrong no matter who does it. People of your party do not get a pass just so they stay in power. Corruption in government and foreign influence of our elections is wrong whether it is done for or by the opposition party or your party. If you don’t speak up about it, and demand action, further investigations, and potentially the President’s impeachment, you are at minimum hypocritical. You are at minimum putting political parties over the nation’s welfare. And, if you are doing it because you didn’t like that black man in the White House, you could be racist.

If your white son and his black friend both stole cars, and then used them to steal money from a bank, and you don’t think they should get the same penalty for the same crime, what does that say about you?



🎭 Watching a Friendship Ravel | “Merrily We Roll Along” @ 4Leaf • GPAC • Colony

Merrily We Roll Along (4Leaf/Golden Performing)When one thinks about the Second Broadway Golden Era — roughly the post-Fiddler era to the British Invasion of the 1990s, there are a few major composing teams that come to mind — teams that characterize that era. Once of these folks was Stephen Sondheim. His successes from those days are well known — shows like Sweeny Todd or Into the Woods. Other shows were only moderate successes when first performed, but have grown into legends subsequently, such as Company or Follies. Still other shows have remained problematic and are rarely produced, such as PassionsAnyone Can Whistle, or Merrily We Roll Along. I’ve had concert or revival versions of the latter two on my iPod of late, and I’ve been growing to appreciate the music, recognizing how many of the songs from these shows have gone on to a longer life, even if the show was recognized as problematic.

Enter the Colony Theatre (FB). We are former Colony subscribers. After they had a second run of financial trouble, the producing side of the company went dormant, and they focused on leasing out the space and offering classes to make the rent and to presumably keep the City of Burbank happy. The shows they have brought in have been hit or miss over the years, and we’ve skipped most of the offerings (although their guest production of Funny Girl a couple of years ago was good). But one of their guest productions this summer piqued my interest: 4Leaf Music (FB), a new producing company, together with Golden Performing Arts Center (FB), a Canoga Park-based non-profit that trains young actors, had teamed up to present Merrily We Roll Along at the Colony. As this was a Sondheim show — in particular, a Sondheim show I had only heard but never seen — plus it was one of those legendary Sondheim flops (it ran for only 52 previews and 16 performances) — I had to figure out a way to see it. Luckily, the timing worked out, and so we were back at the Colony last night for Merrily.

I must note that every time we visit the Colony venue these days I’m filled with a sense of melancholy. What was once a great company is gone. The walls once filled to the brim with years of photos of productions are now empty. The furniture pieces in the lobby, which were leftover props from past productions, are gone. A few towers with set designs from productions are all that remains. Even the artistic director, Barbara Beckley, has gone Emerita and her spirit doesn’t permeate the halls or the stage. What went wrong? Where did this company veer off course and flounder?  When was the seed of destruction sown; when did the artistic notion that propelled them go by the wayside? As I said melancholy — and looking back now, an interesting echo of the story to be told on stage. It was like, say, presenting a production of Follies in a theatre that had been long closed and was reopening just for that show before being torn down.

Which brings us to the story of Merrily We Roll Along, which featured a book by George Furth, based on the original play by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart.  Merrily tells the story of Franklin Shepard, a producer of Hollywood movies, chasing after fame and money. As with the original play, it starts with him at the top of his fame, after multiple divorces, with his current wife learning of his affair with the leading lady in his movie, which was to have starred her, with an estrangement from his best friends, Charlie Kringas (his lyricist) and Mary Flynn (a writer and theatre critic) who helped him get started. This is in 1976. As with the original play, it then moves backward in times, showing key moments about of where it went wrong, of where he snatched seeming victory (but really defeat) from the arms of time. 1973. 1968. 1966. 1964. 1962. 1960. Finally, 1957, where we see him move in with Charlie and meet Mary for the first time. You can find a more detailed synopsis on the Wikipedia page; the 1994 synopsis presented there reflects the show at the Colony.

Whereas the original play was a somewhat success for its time (151 performances in 1934); the first version of the musical was a failure. The staging had lots of problems. The themes — about abandoning ones dreams for commercial success — were not well received at the time, and the reverse chronological approach made the show difficult to understand. There were also some problems with the structure of the score, which were remedied to an extent in subsequent revisions and revisals, leading to the 1994 version that was performed at the Colony.

Did they succeed in fixing the problems of the show? My wife found the show ponderous. I thought it was interesting, but that the backward time structure hindered the storytelling. It forces you to start out with people who you don’t like, and over emit (time, backwards), learn what they did to make themselves unlikable, instead of learning why you like them. The backwards structure provides the 20/20 hindsight that allows the audience to think they know better by providing “aha, that’s why” moments and “oh, no, don’t do that moment”. Using conventional time would have worked better: you would see the character arcs of how the person changed with the foreshadowing. Further, the reverse nature of the story necessitated musical transitions to take the back in time with the people on stage — and these transitions slowed the narrative without adding to the story.

In short, the book remains problematic — and problematic in a way that may never be easily resolvable. This show may be the Mack and Mabel of Sondheim’s catalog: the show that got away. The show with great music that had an incurable book. As such, it will remain a piece of fascination — a piece that will be reexamined to see what went wrong, and where were the signals that were ignored.

That brings us to the 4 Leaf/GPAC production. An LA Times piece on this production makes clear why the producers chose this show, and chose to do it now:

The impetus to stage this production started about 12 years ago, when Trevor Berger [the actor playing Franklin Shepard] was in a “Merrily” production with L.A.-based Musical Theatre Guild, playing Frank’s son, Frank Jr. “I fell in love with the show,” Trevor Berger said. His father decided to mount a production, which will have a full orchestra, as the younger Berger gets ready to move to New York City. “It’s a big send-off party for him,” Rick Berger said.

Nice father.

While the performances in this show were mostly very strong, the first production nature of the show did show through at points on the production side. More on those production problems in a bit. Under the direction of Sonny James Lira (FB), who also did the choreography, the cast brought a lot of energy onto the stage. Theatrically, they did a great job of inhabiting their characters and bringing them to life. The movement was satisfactory, but at times the dance side was a bit baffling, as I couldn’t see what story or message the movement was bringing. Movement shouldn’t just be there for movement sake, it should enhance the story.

However, the performances were, for the most part, quite strong. In the lead position, as Franklin Shepard, was Trevor James Berger (★FB, FB). I was unsure about Berger at first — he didn’t have the right look of the character for me. But his performance grew on me, and by the end I quite enjoyed his performance, He had a very pleasant singing voice, and he embodied the character quite well.

I had no such questions about the other leads: Jeremy Ethan Harris (FB) as Charlie Kringas and Tori Gresham (FB) as Mary Flynn. Harris had a lovely and strong singing voice, and a strong personality that he brought to the character making him warm and likable. Later in the show, a comparison struck me between Harris and a young Richard Kind, who worked with Sondheim on Bounce, later retitled Side Show. Greshman’s Flynn was a delight. She had a wonderfully unique and strong singing voice, and her performance had elements of both Stritch and Merman. She’s an actress I hope to see on the stage again. Her performance was that strong.

In the second tier of characters, a particularly notable performance was Sarah Ryan (FB) as Beth Spencer, Frankin’s first wife. Strong performance, strong singing, good movement, good personality — and did I mention that she had a great voice. I was less taken with Renee Cohen (FB)’s Gussie Carnegie (Franklin’s second wife). There was just something off in her characterization and performance that I couldn’t put my finger upon. Technically adept, but there was a sense of “trying too hard” in either the look or the acting that missed the mark slightly. I don’t mean to imply the performance was bad — it wasn’t. But it needed something different in the characterization that I couldn’t quite put my finger on.

Rounding out the second tier of characters was Brian Felker (FB) as Joe Josephson, as Franklin’s producers and Gussie’s Ex, and Vince Venia as Franklin Shepard Jr. Felker gave a strong performance within the confines of his character; I particularly liked him in “Opening Doors”. Venia did what any child actor must do: look cute while believably being a character’s kid. Both worked.

This brings us to the ensemble. There are a few performances of members of the ensemble worth particularly noting:  Taylor Bass (FB) [Meg, Ensemble] was a particular standout: there was something about her look, her voice, and her performance that just drew my eye to her. Also strong was Shaunte Nickels (FB) [Scotty, Evelyn, Ensemble] — she had a very strong voice and brought a nice character to her track. I also liked the look of Ashley Knaak (FB) [TV Newswoman, Mrs. Spencer, Ensemble] and her voice, although the wardrobe her track had problems. Rounding out the ensemble (named roles indicated) was: Logan Allison (FB) [Terry, TV Newsman, Mr. Spencer], Riley Boronkey (FB) [Dory, Jerome], Aaron Camitses (FB) [Make Up Artist, Photographer], Donna Kim (FB) [KT], Josiah Lucas (FB) [Tyler, Judge], and Christopher J. Thume (FB) [Ru, Minister].

[A side note to the young actors in this production: If you notice, I attempt to link to your actor page — this is to help people find you if they like your performance. Most of you didn’t have such pages. Get them. Create yourself a web page, and remember to keep your domain registration paid. Create a resume on Backstage or an equivalent site. Enter your credits at abouttheartists.com. Link your page to your Facebook. Make sure the pages you want come up if someone searches your name + “actor”. This is to help people who like your performance find you for future performances.]

Music was provided by a live orchestra, under the musical direction of Jan Roper (FB) [Conductor, Keyboards]. In addition to Roper, the orchestra consisted of Ann Kerr [Woodwinds], Peter Miller [Woodwinds], Anne King (FB[Trumpet], Andrew Lippman (FB[Trombone], Christian Klikovits (FB[Synthesizer], Steve Billman (FB[Bass], and Alan Peck [Drums / Percussion].

This brings us to the remaining production aspects of the show, which is where most of the problems revealed themselves. Effy Yang (FB)’s set design was simple — perhaps too simple — consisting of a number of movable platformy-stagey things and simple projections that were drowned out by the lighting. Two problems here. First, the stage pieces didn’t convey that much of a sense of place, so it was difficult to distinguish where something was happening. The projections didn’t help all that much in that regard; they also had some jerky motions that served to distract. The sense of place — and more importantly, time — can also be conveyed through the costume design, and the hair and makeup design. This was the second place that was problematic. Michael Mullen (FB)’s Costume Design was sometimes period-right and sometimes period-wrong, and it was often paired with the wrong hairstyle for the period, providing chronic-dissonance. There were also distracting costume failures (my wife noted a seam on a suit), odd gaps, and outfits that appeared to be too tight or misfitted. Some of this might come with the financial constraints of a production such as this for a new company, but they remained distractions from the show. Even if you must compromise, you must do so in a way that doesn’t unduly distract the audience. Slightly less problematic was the Zachary Titterington (FB)’s lighting design. Here, the problem was that the occasional actor on the side of the stage was not lit, so they were performing in darkness. Not in darkness, however, were the upper wings. The orchestra, of course, can’t be dark, but the curtain can be adjusted to minimize their operating lights. On the stage left upper wing, there was no reason for the work light to be on when the actors weren’t up there. Again — distractions. Rounding out the production team was Riley Boronkey (FB) [Asst. Choreographer]Manichanh Kham (FB[Stage Manager]. Rounding out the creative credits: Jonathan Tunick [Original Orchestrations]; Harold Prince [Original Direction].

There is one more weekend of performance of 4 Leaf/GPAC’s Merrily We Roll Along. Tickets are available through Brown Paper TIckets. Although there are some flaws on the production side, and the book of the show remains problematic, the energy and enthusiasm of these performers does elevate the production and makes this rarer show worth seeing.


Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at 5 Star Theatricals (FB), the Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB), and the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals). I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Upcoming Shows:

The last weekend of August will bring more Shakespeare — this time Macbeth at the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival (FB).

Looking forward to September: The first weekend of September is currently open, but I’m looking for shows in the Sacramento area. The second has a hold date for I Dig Rock and Roll Music at the Rubicon in Ventura — whether we go depends on ticket prices. The third weekend has Ain’t Too Proud at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) on Friday, followed by Paradise – A Divine Bluegrass Musical Comedy at the Ruskin Theatre (FB) on Saturday. The fourth weekend has Rope at Actors Co-op (FB), and the fifth brings Bark: The Musical at Theatre Palisades (FB). October is also getting quite full. It starts with Oppenheimer at Rogue Machine Theatre (FB). The following weekend has a HOLD for Moon River -The Music of Henry Mancini at the Saroya [the venue formerly known as the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)] (FB) — I’m just waiting for tickets to come up on Goldstar. The third weekend of October brings Shrek at 5 Star Theatricals (FB). October will close with the Contemporary Crafts Show in Pasadena.

Continuing the lookahead: November starts with She Loves Me at Actors Co-op (FB) and Stitches So Cal. The second weekend of November is very busy: Dear Even Hansen at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) and A Bronx Tail at the Hollywood Pantages (FB), as well as A Day Out With Thomas at Orange Empire Railway Museum (OERM) (FB). The third weekend of November brings Finks at Rogue Machine Theatre (FB). Thanksgiving weekend has a hold for Steambath at the Odyssey Theatre Ensemble (FB). December starts with the Annual Computer Security Applications Conference (ACSAC), followed by a hold for the Canadian Brass at the Saroya [the venue formerly known as the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)] (FB). Then we may travel up to the Bay Area for Tuck Everlasting at TheatreWorks Silicon Valley (FB). Lastly, January will start with Bat Out of Hell at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB).

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-LemonsMusicals in LA@ This StageFootlights, as well as productions I see on GoldstarLA Stage TixPlays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves. Note: Lastly, want to know how to attend lots of live stuff affordably? Take a look at my post on How to attend Live Theatre on a Budget.


🗯️ Do The Math

Yesterday, writing about the importance of a free press and depending our mainstream media, I emphasized the phrase “follow the evidence”. That’s what scientists and journalists do. Today, I’m encouraging you to do the math. This is because our free press, which follows the evidence, is highlighting the fact that online trolls are using immigration as a wedge issue for November elections. Here’s a slightly edited (to add context) quote from the article:

In a new report, the Digital Forensic Research Lab at the Atlantic Council, a nonpartisan Washington think tank that partnered with Facebook, concludes that the shuttered pages and accounts [that were part of a covert operation to stoke racial tensions in the United States] were run by or linked to Russia’s Internet Research Agency, the troll farm in St. Petersburg that U.S. officials say meddled in the U.S. presidential election in 2016.

One of the pages had an administrator from the Russian agency — “the most direct link between the recent accounts and earlier troll farm operations,” the report states. Two of the pages, including Aztlán Warriors, were also linked to Twitter accounts believed to have been created by their operatives.

The Russian agency and 13 of its employees were indicted in February on charges brought by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III on allegations that they sought to interfere “with U.S. elections and political processes.” U.S. officials have since said that Kremlin-backed groups have continued to spread mayhem in American politics.

The nation’s volatile immigration debate has amplified online, researchers warned, and foreign operatives and homegrown trolls are using it as a political wedge ahead of the November elections. The report said the online disinformation campaign was likely to grow more sophisticated, with bad actors tailoring their posts, videos and other content to target communities of color — and to hide who is controlling the message.

“Covert influence campaigns, some steered from abroad, are using disinformation to drive Americans further apart, and weaken the trust in the institutions on which democracy stands,” the report warns.

During the upcoming election, you will see Internet sources and politicians urging you to fear the immigrant. They will make you fear that they are coming to take your jobs. They will make you fear that all sorts of evil people are streaming across the board, hoards coming to do unspeakable things, and that they are the only people standing between you and the unthinkable them. They will try to make you believe that only by electing them will you keep your communities safe. They will play on your fear. They will play on your nationalism. They will play identity politics.

But do the math.

Ask yourself how many immigrants — legal or otherwise — have come across the border over the years. Look at the percentages of documented vs. undocumented, and how they have changed. Look at the overall percentages of good immigrants vs. bad. When you look at the “bad” category, make a distinction between those whose only crime is crossing the border without papers vs. the more violent crimes of the MS13 variety. I believe that you will find that — with the extensive vetting we do — the amount of “bad actors” in documented immigrants is minuscule. There is probably greater risk of getting hit by a car when crossing the street, or getting in a car accident. For the undocumented immigrants, the percentage is likely a bit higher, but I do not believe it is a large percentage of those crossing. The fear is being magnified out of proportion to the risk.

Are they coming to take your jobs? To answer that, ask yourself: Why would an employer hire an immigrant over you? If it is because they have more skills or are harder working or have a better work ethic — can you blame the employer? That’s something that is in your power to fix — capitalism means the employer wants the best employee possible. They also want that employee at the lowest possible wage. Are you willing to work for that low wage? If not — don’t blame the immigrant, blame the employer. Just as you’ll order from Amazon rather than patronize the local merchant because of price, the employer is simply being a capitalist. Do you want to solve the problem? Raise the minimum wage to something that you will work for, making the playing field even.

What about those undocumented immigrants? Surely they want your job? First, note that an employer is taking a risk hiring undocumented workers. What makes it worth the risk? The fact that they can use fear to exploit them further: not giving them legal benefits or legal wages, making them work longer hours, locking them in buildings, giving them bad working conditions. You wouldn’t work under those conditions, so they aren’t taking your job. But what the employer is doing is wrong. Again, blame the employer, not the undocumented worker. The worker is just trying to feed themselves and their family. It is the employer that is taking advantage of them — again, doing what employers do under capitalism: get the employee who does the most work for the lowest price.

Immigrants have built this country. All of your major companies and industries in this country were started by immigrants (or (children of)n>0 immigrants). Immigrants run your corner markets and restaurants. They bring new ideas and hard work, and truly appreciate the freedoms that we have. They may come from different places, and may workship in different ways, and may speak different languages, but that diversity gives this country strength. Do the math. Don’t fear the immigrant.

Do, however, fear the politicians that play on your fear and try to manipulate your emotions. Fear the Internet sites that do the same, for an agenda that they do not publicize. Follow the evidence, and the sunlight and wisdom it brings. Don’t give in to the fear.


🗯️ Follow the Evidence

Reading today’s non-editorial about the importance of a Free Press in the LA Times this morning* got me thinking about journalism and science. Both are evidence and science based (which is perhaps why the President hates both). Both go wherever the evidence takes them, even if it goes against the theory they are trying to provide or the story they want to tell. Both focus on fact, not fiction. Both respect peer review and independent confirmation of facts. Both encourage others to verify their results and findings.
(*: Wherein the LA Times said, a free press is important, but dammit we’re so free that we’re not going to let anyone else tell us when to editorialize about it)

Both also have factions that push fictional science for agendas, that publish papers where the evidence is questionable or the conclusions are unsupported by the data, but that purport to be true (cough, anti-vaxxers, cough). These factions have ardent believers, who through intricate conspiracy theories believe the world is against them because the non-believers dispute their fraudulent findings. Even when confronted with evidence from multiple independent reputable sources, they cry “fake” at the truth, put on their tin-foil hats, and continue to march along the path of ignorance.

But focusing on the evidence, following the evidence, is the hallmark of both. So let’s follow the evidence:

  • Hillary Clinton. “Lock her up”, they say. “Investigate her crimes”, they say. “Follow the evidence”, I say. There have been numerous investigations — both Congressional and FBI — into her purported crimes. There has been Congressional testimony. However, there has been no sufficiently strong evidence uncovered — evidence that will stand up in court — to indict and try. Without evidence, in this country, we do not lock people up. Without a trial, with sufficiently strong evidence to convince a jury, we do not lock people up. But Congress is free — if there is sufficient evidence — to start up a new investigation. Congress is also controlled by the party that ran against Hillary. But they do not start the investigation, even though they have the majority to do so. What does that evidence say about the evidence they do have? Conclusion: There is insufficient evidence to investigate further.
  • Robert Mueller. “It’s a witch hunt”, they say. “It’s a fake investigation”, they say. “Kill the investigation,” they say. “Follow the evidence”, I say. If, as with Hillary Clinton, there is insufficient evidence to indict, there will be no indictments. If there was nothing wrong, why fear the investigation. After all, did Hillary Clinton say “Stop the investigation, it’s a witch hunt”? Hillary Clinton knew she did no wrong, and thus had nothing to fear from the investigation. Donald Trump is surely better than Hillary, and should be able withstand a deep investigation. After all, if he did nothing wrong, then there will be no evidence he did anything wrong. Follow the evidence. [Never mind that the evidence is certainly finding indictable offenses from those under him, and it is certainly finding evidence of contact between the Trump team and Russia, and it certainly finding evidence that Russia wanted to elect Trump and manipulated — through propaganda and cyberattack — the election to that end. There may not be collusion in the end, but they were working towards the same goal, and the evidence uncovered is certainly troubling and would be a major problem if any other President had done it — and that should be the standard.]
  • Fake News. There have been numerous cries from the President that any news media that reports unflattering stories about him is fake. However, the hallmark of a strong democracy is its free press that investigates its leaders, that reports on their follies, foibles, mistakes, and yes, crimes. It has been that way in America since its birth — some press more muckraking and sensational than others, perhaps. But is mainstream media fake? “Follow the evidence”, I say. If the press was fake, there would be ample evidence that what was reported was false. There would be no videos or reporting to back it up. There would be discrepancies in the various reports — after all, if it is false, then multiple parties need to come up with the exact same lie and stick to it, without variance. There would be no corroboration from multiple sources. But that’s not the case. The essence of what is reported is based on evidence from multiple sources, and multiple journalistic outlets investigate and come up with the same stories. That’s preponderance of the evidence. Sure, some outlets may have more spin on the news than others, and some spin left, and some spin right. But spin is not falsehood — it is reviewing the evidence and drawing a conclusion. And even then, the spin can be confirmed with evidence, and one needs to look at how the same evidence is interpreted by multiple sources, and look at where the consensus is. Doing that makes clear that the bulk of what is out there in the news — I’d guess 80% to 85% percent, with the fringes being non-journalistic internet sources — are not fake news. That also puts the President’s claims — and the claims of groups like Infowars — into the fictional category.

If you take away something from today, it should be the importance of evidence-based reporting — be it science or journalism. It should be the importance of peer review and independent confirmation. It should be that our news media is not fake, and those making the claim are doing it to both push their particular agenda, and to create a smokescreen to hide the truth of that agenda from you.