🛣️ Headlines about California Highways – July 2019

Ah, July. The middle of the year. The month started with Caltrans redesigning all their websites in response to AB 434, which required all state websites to be accessible. In doing so, a number of resources went permanently or temporarily unavailable. I was in the middle of a highway page update when this happened, so this made life fun. I will repeat the offer I made to Caltrans and the CTC then: If you have resources you can no longer make available due to AB 434, I will be glad to either host them here or help find a roadgeek website to host them, as roadgeek websites are not subject to AB 434. Of course, modulo the updates, I’ve been collecting headlines. Items marked with ✔ have already been incorporated into the highway page updates; 💲 indicates an annoying paywall may be in place (I don’t mark the LA Times, as I subscribe to the LA Times):

  • Actions taken by the Metro Board of Directors at their June meeting. Includes an update on projects connected to Measure R, as well as certification of the Final Environmental Impact for the Link Union Station project.
  • 💲 New Embarcadero Bridge over Lake Merritt channel finally opens. Two and a half years late, the replacement of Oakland’s Embarcadero bridge over the Lake Merritt Channel — linking Jack London Square and Brooklyn Basin — finally opened this week. Because the old bridge was seismically unsafe, the city opted to demolish it in 2015. An 18-foot wider, 6-foot taller bridge was built in its place. The new bridge features a 5-foot sidewalk on one side and a 12-foot sidewalk on the other side, as well as bike lanes on either side of the two-lane road. The bridge is part of the San Francisco Bay Trail — a 500-mile walking and cycling path in the works around the entire San Francisco Bay. Oakland Department of Transportation director Ryan Russo, at a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the bridge Friday, touted the new bridge as complementing the housing development at Jack London Square and the 3,100-unit Brooklyn Basin complex — one phase of which will open later this summer.
  • San Rafael offramp project cost surges by $4.3M. The cost to replace an aging Highway 101 offramp that crosses San Rafael Creek went up by $4.3 million following issues with construction bidding, according to the California Department of Transportation. Caltrans plans to re-advertise the construction contract, delaying to 2020 the project that was supposed to begin construction this summer.
  • ✔ 💲 City blames poor Caltrans maintenance for CarMax fire, issues emergency resolution. A fire that burned 86 vehicles in a CarMax lot has sparked frustration among local leaders, who say the damage could have been prevented if Caltrans had better maintained the median where the fire began. The Bakersfield Fire Department has determined that the conditions of the grass and brush along Highway 99, where the fire began, allowed the fire to spread rapidly across the median, and eventually caused $2.1 million in damage to vehicles in the lot last week.
  • ✔ 💲 Carbon Canyon truck ban in the hands of Caltrans. Chino Hills and Brea have each adopted resolutions requesting Caltrans to ban large truck traffic from using Carbon Canyon Road. The cities submitted the resolutions to Caltrans June 19. State Route 142 extends from Chino Hills Parkway in Chino Hills to Valencia Avenue in Brea and is in the jurisdiction of Caltrans 8 and Caltrans 12.

Read More …

Share

🎭 Skin Color Battles Are Nothing New | “West Side Story” @ 5-Star

West Side Story (5-Star Theatricals)Most people know the musical West Side Story. Most people think they’ve seen the musical West Side Story, but when pressed, what they mean is that they’ve seen the movie version of the musical. That movie made some changes in the stage version, and is strongly rooted in the era in which it was filmed (it is being remade this year). But neither are the stage show. When did you last see the original?

For me, the answer was 15 years ago, almost to the weekend, in a production at what was then Cabrillo Music Theatre in Thousand Oaks (my wife had the (mis)fortune of seeing the bilingual tour version at the Pantages in December 2010).  I say “was”, because last night both of us were at Cabrillo, since renamed 5 Star Theatricals (FB), for their new production of West Side Story. Bottom Line Up Front: This is a very good production, well-cast and well performed. The dancing could use a bit more sharpness, but given it only runs two weekends and had limited rehearsal, that’s a minor quibble.

On the odd chance that anyone is unfamiliar with West Side Story, it is essentially Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet reworked an transported to New York in the 1950s. Warring families have become warring gangs, and the battle has become a racial one: whites vs. hispanics, white Americans vs. “immigrants” (in quotes, because white America conveniently forgets PR is part of America). There are still star crossed lovers, and the story ends in tragedy. The story was based on a conception of Jerome Robbins, with book by Arthur Laurents, music by Leonard Bernstein, and lyrics by Stephen Sondhim (with some translations, uncredited, by Lin-Manuel Miranda). The original production was entirely directed and choreographed by Jerome Robbins. You can read the story of the show’s creation on Wikipedia or on the WRTI page.

Over on the Guide to Musical Theatre, I found this concise synopsis. There’s a much more detailed synopsis on the Wikipedia page.

Loosely based on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, and set in the urban slums of New York, the show used, as its modern equivalents for the Montagues and Capulets the juvenile gangs of local whites (the Jets) and immigrant Puerto Ricans (the Sharks). The did battle with childish seriousness over the streets that they claim as their territory. The Jets, boastful and contemptuous of the immigrants, call on Tony, who used to be their leader but now has a regular job and is on his way to adulthood, to help their new leader Riff and the gang in a challenge to the Sharks. Riff reminds Tony of his old allegiance and of how menacing are the newcomers. Tony reluctantly agrees reluctantly but soon becomes excited with the thrill of potential combat.

Meanwhile, in a bridal shop Anita, the sweetheart of the Shark’s leader, Bernado, is converting Maria’s communion dress into a gown for the dance that evening. Maria is Bernardo’s sister. He has brought her from Puerto Rico hoping that she will marry his best friend, Chino.

At the dance Riff challenges Bernado and the groups agree to do battle. Tony and Maria have seen each other and fall in love, instantly and become oblivious to the menace that is building up around them.

Most of the Puerto Ricans are nervously elated over the coming conflict but they are confident and determined to assimilate into the American way despite the homesickness that some of them feel. The threatening groups are dispersed by a policeman but the separation is only temporary. What could have just been a game of muscle flexing turns to tragedy when Bernado provokes a knife-fight which results in Riff being killed. Bernado is murdered in turn by the avenging Tony. He flees to the home of Maria who has been told of the news of her brother’s death by Chino. Her love for Tony overcomes her hatred for her brother’s killer. Tony promises to take her away and in a dream ballet sequence the battle is re-enacted but this time the lovers are not allowed to meet. The dream turns into a nightmare but Tony and Maria flee.

The gangs meanwhile are concerned with their inevitable encounter with the law and mockingly imagine how they will deal with the situation in the number “Gee, Officer Krupke”. Anita taunts Maria for remaining faithful to Tony but nonetheless agrees to deliver Maria’s message for Tony to the Jets. Unfortunately the Jets threaten to abuse and rape her that she is driven to claim that Chino has shot and killed Maria. Hearing this, angry and wild with grief Tony goes after Chino, but Chino coolly shoots him just as Tony discovers that Maria is not dead after all. Somewhat ashamed, the Jets and the Sharks between them remove Tony’s body as Maria follows them.

As the production ended, one thought came to mind: How different this was from last weekend’s similar tragedy. Think about the compare and contrast with Miss Saigon, for it says a lot about why one production has become timeless, and one increasingly problematic. Both are stories ultimately based on classic theatre written by white men about cultures they didn’t know personally (Puccini about Japan, Shakespeare about Italy). Both were adapted into a story about cultural clash. Both end in tragedy, in the death of a key figure propelling the story, leaving the loved ones left behind to pick up the pieces after the show ends.

But whereas Miss Saigon is a problematic adaptation, portraying no heroism or honor in the Vietnamese except for the lead heroine, West Side Story does not draw a caricature of the Puerto Rican culture. They are shown with loving families, as people who care about each other, who care about the country, and who just want their chance at the American way. The only racist sentiment (other than the inherent gang racism, of course) is from the Police, who express a racist attitude of anyone not white or lower class. But that, unfortunately, is something that is still present today. Just ask any hispanic or black family if they get fair treatment from some police departments.

Miss Saigon tells a story that in increasingly dated and stereotypical, but with beautiful music, dance, and stagecraft. West Side Story,  on the other hand, tells a story that is a timeless star-crossed lover story, set in an environment of racial fashions that alas is still far too prevalent today. Perhaps one day the racial and ethnic divisions that make West Side Story work will go away, and that aspect of the story will also seem dated. Hopefully one day.

The production used the modified 2009 version of the script. This was the version that replaced some of the songs sung by Puerto-Rican characters with Spanish lyrics, although by the time the tour settled down and the script was finalized for MTI, the only Spanish lyrics left was the sequence of the Sharks in “Tonight”. There were some relics in a bit of Spanish dialogue at points in the story.

The director, Larry Raben (FB), made some interesting directorial choices in the show. For Doc, the owner of the store where Tony works, he cast an African American. This emphasized without words the separation of that character from the battles around him, and made his attempts to stop the violence even more poignant.  He also presented the dream ballet sequence using a youth ensemble. This highlighted the innocence of the internal conceptions of the characters from the hard exteriors we saw on stage. There were some problems in the execution of the sequence, but the idea itself was an interesting choice. Raben also did a great job of working with the actors to bring out the characters as distinct.

As always with 5-Star/Cabrillo, the performances were strong. 5-Star uses a mix of AEA-talent (æ) (some established, some upcoming) in a few select lead positions, and the top local talent and upcoming local talent in smaller positions. I always like to point out that Katharine McPhee got her start on the Cabrillo boards, many years ago as the lead in Annie Get Your Gun.  It is a key training ground for talent.

In the lead positions were Brandon Keith Rogers (FB) (æ) Tony and Giselle Torres (⭐FB) Maria. Both gave very strong performances, and the chemistry between the two was believable. Rogers had a higher voice that I remembered for the Tony role, but it worked quite well and was lovely in all the songs. Torres got even higher notes, but handled them with aplomb. They were great.

Turning to the rest of the Jets: Aleks Pevec (FB) (æ) Riff, the Gang Leader; Doug Penikas (FBAction; Nic Olsen (FBA-Rab; Chet Norment (FBBaby John; Daniel Brackett (FBBig Deal; Brock Markham (FBDieseland Antonia Vivino (FBAnybodys. Pevec was strong as Riff, with a great stage presence and a nice singing voice. Most of the other guys blended into the background in the numbers, with Penikas and Markham as standouts in their characterizations. All the guys got to shine in the difference characterizations they get in “Officer Krupkie”. I emphasize the word “guys”, because as the one non-guy, Vivino’s Anybodys was always a standout, bringing a fun playful energy to her role. Although not explicitly credited, she was also the lead vocal for the dream Maria in “Somewhere”, bringing a lovely voice to the song (and outshining in vocal quality the dream Tony). Note that Vivino has a new album out with her sisters Natalia and Donna called DNA, available on CDBaby and Amazon. I happened to pick up a copy of the album yesterday because I remember Natalia from other Cabrillo productions, and although I’ve only listened to a few songs to date, it is beautiful.

The Jet girls (other than Anybodys) have smaller more backgroundish roles, and although they have character names, their characters come across as less distinct to the audience. The Jet girls were: Tara Carbone (⭐FB, FB) Graziella; Elizabeth Sheck (FB) Velma; Alley Kerr (⭐FB, FB) Minnie; Carly Haig (FB) Clarice; Lindsey Wells (FB) Clarice; and Laura Aronoff (⭐FB, FB) Suzy.

This brings us to the rival gang, the Sharks. In the lead positions for the Sharks were Patrick Ortiz (FB) (æ) Bernardo, the leader; Lauren Louis (FB) Anita, Bernardo’s Girl; and John Paul Batista (FB) Chino. Ortiz was very strong as Bernardo, with a strong stage presence and great singing and dancing voice. Louis got to shine as Anita, especially in “America” where she gets to be very playful. Batista also had a good stage presence, but didn’t get to shine until the closing scenes. Rounding out the gang were James Everts (⭐FB, FB) Pepe; Jared Cardiel (FB) Indio; Lyndon Apostol (FB) Luis; Joah Ditto (FB) Anxious; and Antony Sanchez (æ) Nibbles.

The other Shark girls, who get to shine in both “America” and “I Feel Pretty”, are: Taleen Shrikian (FBRosalia; Cheyenne Omani (FB) Consuela; Sophie Shapiro (FB) Teresita; Veronica Gutierrez (FB) Francisca; Arianna White (FB) Estrella and Erin Gonzalez (FB) Margarita.

The few adults in the show have much smaller roles: Ivan Thompson Doc; Skip Pipo (FBSchrank, Glad Hand; and Rich Grosso (⭐FB, FB) Krupke. Notable among these was Thompson’s Doc, who I mentioned previously. Note also that Pipo is a REP alumni, having been in multiple REP shows. REP memories are fading, and so REP alumni and season ticket holders need to stick together.

Rounding out the cast was the youth ensemble, who we only see during the dream sequence. The ensemble is primarily a dance ensemble, although one gets to sing a lead a dream Tony (and was a little shakey). Dance-wise they were reasonably good overall; and remarkably good given their age. The ensemble consisted of: Anabel Alexander; Brando de la Rosa; Natalie de la Rosa; Emma Driscoll; Iyana Hannans; Callie Kiefer; Mikayla Kiefer; Daniel Peters; Luke Pryor; Drew Rosen; Sawyer Sublette; and Emily Tatoosi (⭐FB).

This brings us to the dance and stage movement, under the direction of choreographer Karl Warden (FB) and dance captain Veronica Gutierrez (FB). This is, at its heart, a dance show. The dancing in the show was good, but at times, the sharp precision the music leads one to expect just wasn’t there. It was close, and most of the audience didn’t perhaps notice it. But I’m used to movement in drum corps, where all the rifles come down with a singular snap. The Bernstein movement requires that precision, and in quite a few numbers it wasn’t there. This isn’t a major flaw, as this is a show with limited performances and limited rehearsals, and that precision take work to build. Hopefully, they can get a bit closer in the second weekend. This was particularly notable during “Somewhere”, as the kids ensemble just doesn’t have the strength at their age to pull off the strength and power the dream ballet requires. They come close, and are beautiful, but at are about 90%. On the other hand, the fight choreography, presumably under the fight captains Lyndon Apostol (FB) and James Everts (⭐FB, FB), was spectacular, creating believable and menacing fight sequences. Well done, well done.

The pit orchestra was under the musical direction of Jeff Rizzo (FB), who served as conductor. The orchestra consisted of: Ian Dahlberg (FB) Flute, Piccolo, Alto Sax, Clarinet; Darryl Tanikawa (FB) Clarinet, Alto Sax, E-flat Clarinet; Bill Wilson Flute, Piccolo, Clarinet, Tenor Saxophone;   Matt Germaine (FB) Clarinet, Bass Clarinet, Flute, Baritone Saxophone; John Nunez (FB) Bassoon;  Melissa Hendrickson (FB) Horn; Bill Barrett (FB) Trumpet 1; Chris Maurer (FBTrumpet 2; Nathan Stearns Trombone; Sharon Cooper Violin 1 (Concertmaster); Sally Berman Violin 2; Judy Garf (FB) Violin 3; Stephen Green Cello; Jennifer Oikawa Keyboard Synthesizer; Lance Conrad-Marut GuitarShane Harry (FB) Double String Bass; Chris Kimbler Piano, Celeste; Steve Pemberton Drums; and Tyler Smith (FB) Percussion. Darryl Tanikawa (FB) was the Orchestra Contractor. The orchestra was produced by Tanikawa Artists Management LLC. The orchestra had a great sounds and was a joy to listen to.

Lastly, the remainder of the production and creative team. There is no credit for scenic design, although the program notes that the set and scenery were provided by The Music and Theatre Company LLC, with costumes provided in party by the Maine State Music Theatre. Other costumes were designed by Kathryn Poppen, with hair and wig design by Jessica Mills (FB) and prop design by Alex Choate (FB).   Jose Santiago (FB)’s lighting design worked well in establishing time and mood; I particularly noted it during “One Hand, One Heart” where there was just a beautiful background color.  Jonathan Burke (FB)’s sound design was good, as always. Rounding out the production credits: Talia Krispel (FB) Production Stage Manager; Jack Allaway (FB) Technical Director; David Elzer/Demand PR Publicity; Fresh Interactive (FB) Marketing; Patrick Cassidy (FB) Artistic Director. Originally produced on Broadway by Robert E. Griffith and Harold S. Prince, by Arrangement with Roger L. Stevens.

West Side Story has one more performance this weekend, and a number next weekend. For more information and tickets, visit the 5-Star Site. Discount tickets may be available on Goldstar.

🎭

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 (or I’ll make a donation to the theatre, in lieu of payment). 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), the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) [2018-2019 season], the Soraya/VPAC (FB), and the Musical Theatre Guild (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:

August starts with an alumni Shabbat at camp, and The Play That Goes Wrong at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). That’s followed by Loose Knit at Lonny Chapman Group Rep (FB). August ends with Mother Road and As You Like It at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (FB). In between those points, August is mostly open.

Early September is also mostly open. Then things heat up, with the third weekend bringing Barnum at Musical Theatre Guild (FB), and the fourth weekend bringing Blue Man Group at the Hollywood Pantages (FB). We start getting busy in October, starting with The Mystery of Irma Vep at Actors Co-op (FB). The next weekend brings Anastasia – The Musical at the Hollywood Pantages (FB). The third weekend brings us back to the Kavli for The Music Man at 5 Star Theatricals (FB). October concludes with Mandy Gonzalez at the Soraya/VPAC (FB).

Looking to November, it starts with A Miracle on 34th Street – The Radio Play at  Actors Co-op (FB). The second weekend brings Summer at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) and The Goodbye Girl at Musical Theatre Guild (FB).  November concludes with a hold for Bandstand at Broadway in Thousand Oaks. Somewhere in there we’ll also be fitting in Nottingham Festival and Thumbleweed Festival, if they are happening this year. Yes, there are a lot of open dates in there, but I expect that they will fill in as time goes on.

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. 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. Want to learn about all the great theatre in Southern California? Read my post on how Los Angeles (and its environs) is the best area for theatre in the Country!

Share

📺 It’s A Strange New Streaming World

I’m an old(-fashioned) guy. I grew up in the world of a limited number of TV channels (2,4,5,7,9,11,13 plus a few UHF). I remember the early days of cable with Theta, the Goddess of Television, in West LA. I remember the first outings with Adelpha, and then DirecTV in the valley, and I’ve been a DirecTV customer for at least 15-18 years now. I had heard about streaming, but had never really played with it as (a) my computer wasn’t connected to my TV, and (b) I didn’t have an HDTV until recently. But with the recent pissing match between AT&T/DirecTV and CBS, I wanted to explore ways to get local channels, so I went out and bought a Roku Streaming Stick+ to connect to one of the other HDMI slots on my TV. This post is intended to capture my observations from playing around with the Roku stick and what seems to be out there. I’m not paying for any additional streaming channels yet.

First, there seems to be a different approaches to streaming, perhaps generational. Our TV watching style is either watching something we recorded on the DVR, or just seeing what’s on. Streaming seems to be great for the former, and “on-demand” seems to be equivalent to the DVR: watch it when you want. That’s great for “appointment TV”: going to the tube to watch something in particular. But for “what’s on”, streaming seems to … suck. If you’re not looking for a particular show, figuring out what is it out there across all the different services is hard. There’s also no equivalent to a DVR for a live stream — it isn’t even like the VCR days when you could schedule something to record, as there is no easy way to tune. There’s no VCR Plus for Streaming. It is really a different paradigm.

Then there’s my theory that you don’t save much by streaming. Especially if you want live channels, you’re needing to pay for the Internet, some live channel package subscription (typically about $50 a month), and then the premiums you want (at $6 to $20 a pop). Your total, although it will be divided across services so you don’t see it, will be around the same as the bundled packages.  One article I read said it best:

There’s more streamable content now than ever and even more ways to consume it; these days, we’re drowning in choices. Even so, streaming all that stuff looks a little different in practice, namely because signing up for a bunch of services can get expensive — fast. Besides, if you subscribe to more than, say, two services, it’s overwhelming to cycle through their various offerings to find something you want to watch. Having too many choices is exhausting.

Because of the convoluted nature of licensing agreements and the vagaries of corporate competition, what’s on Netflix is substantively different than what’s available on Hulu or Amazon Prime. Different still are the network-specific streamers, like the up-and-comers HBO Max and Disney+, and the more niche offerings, like Shudder, Kanopy, Mubi, and Criterion. All of them have the same aim, which is to lock up intellectual property to keep people streaming. It’s a lot!

And of course, for most of the services, any interesting content is behind a paywall, after a “free trial” period. So as the intellectual content divides across the providers (Disney, HBO, CBS, etc.), the best shows will go behind the paywall with the exclusives, leaving the free services with the shit. Each service will be out there wanting their small fee in perpetuity, but you’ll be paying so many small fees you’ll never add up the total. What this will lead people to is the model of:  subscribe, binge watch the shows you want, then cancel. Perhaps you’ll have a live package to augment things.

That’s likely the model we’ll take. Here are the channels we may explore and the reasons why. If there are other shows we should consider, let us know. Note: I’m not interested in shows I can find elsewhere on DirecTV, HBO, or Showtime (we currently have Choice Xtra Classic on DirecTV, which includes Boomerang, Chiller, and Paramount on top of Choice Xtra, plus HBO and SHO):

  • CBS All Access: Star Trek: Discovery, Picard, Below Decks, Short Treks;  Strange Angel; Good Fight.
  • Hulu: The Orville, Shrill, Catch 22, The Handmaids Tail. See also this list.
  • Netflix: Stranger Things, Gracie and Frank, Santa Clarita Diet, G.L.O.W., Fuller House, One Day at a Time (Remake, Moved to Pop), A Series of Unfortunate Events, The Family. See also this list.
  • Amazon: Mrs. Maisel, Fleabag, Good Omens.
  • Broadway HD: Numerous shows.

Of these, the highest priorities will probably be CBS and Hulu for Star Trek and the Orville.

 

Share

🎭 A Shakespearean Sitcom | “A Comedy of Errors” @ Shakespeare by the Sea

A Comedy of Errors (Shakespeare by the Sea)What would summer be without Shakespeare in an outdoor setting. Last year, it was in beautiful Lake Tahoe,  where alas the Scottish Play led to a food mishap for my wife before the show. This year we opted for a comedy, in a wonderful location next to the freeway in Long Beach. But the Scottish Play struck again with the food — more on that at the end. The production, on the other hand, was a delight: Shakespeare‘s A Comedy of Errors, which is being done in repertory with Henry V throughout Los Angeles and Orange County, from the South Bay to the Valley, by Shakespeare by the Sea (FB). The company is on tour throughout the southland, with forthcoming stops in Beverly Hills, Santa Ana, Torrence, Ranch PV, Pasadena, Whittier, Encino, Seal Beach, Aliso Viejo, Santa Monica … you get the idea.

A Comedy of Errors is a play I was seeing for the first time, although I had heard the music. Well, I had heard the music from The Boys from Syracuse, which was actually the first musical made from a Shakespeare play. That’s close enough. So I knew the basic plot. It really is a Shakespeare sitcom, as there is loads of mistaken identity. It is also a Shakespeare comedy, because everyone ends up in love and coupled off by the end of the play, including the servants.

Here’s the basic story, from the synopsis page on the website:

Aegeon, a merchant from Syracuse is arrested in Ephesus for violating a law barring travel between the two cities. He tells the Duke that he came to Ephesus seeking his wife and twin sons (both called Antipholus) and their servants (both called Dromio). They were separated in a shipwreck. Aegeon was rescued with one son and one servant but the other son and his servant were rescued by a different ship. Aegeon never knew what happened to the rest of his family. When Antipholus of Ephesus came of age, he and Dromio went in search of his twin brother. But when they never came home, Aegeon went out looking for all four of them. The Duke commiserates and gives him one day to pay a ransom or suffer the death penalty.

Unbeknownst to all, the long-lost twins and their mother Adriana have settled in Ephesus, and Antipholus and Dromio of Syracuse have also arrived in Ephesus. Antipholus S. meets Dromio E. and has words when Dromio takes him to Adriana’s house for dinner. When Antipholus E arrives at his real home for dinner, Adriana locks the doors, believing that her husband is already inside with her. A gold chain that was ordered by Antipholus E is accidentally given to Antipholus S and Antipholus E refuses to pay Angelo, as he doesn’t believe he received it. Angelo has Antipholus E arrested and he asks the Duke for help, as he has been wrongly accused. Antipholus and Dromio of Syracuse go to the abbey for safety, and when they emerge, find Antipholus and Dromio of Ephesus, as well as Aegeon. The abbess reveals that she is actually Aegeon’s long-lost wife, Emilia. Aegeon’s ransom is paid, and the family is reunited.

Was I right. It’s a sitcom.

A Comedy of Errors (Production Photos)It’s also very funny. Under the direction of James Rice (FB), the action is fast and furious, and the actors are given sufficient leeway to have fun with their roles and play a little bit to the audience. This is clearly fun for them, and that fun is contagious.

In the lead positions are Jonathan Fisher (FBAntipholus of Ephesus, Alex Elliott-Funk (FBAntipholus of Syracuse, Melissa Green (FBDromio of Ephesus, and Brendan Kane (FBDromio of Syracuse. These four were spectacular: they handled the dialogue well and made it so the audience could hear it (always important with Shakespeare). They handled the physical comedy well, and were extremely funny. I particularly liked the comic antics of both Green and Kane. They must just be so sore by the time the evening ends with all the running and jumping they do.

Primarily playing off of these four were Antipholus-E’s wife Adriana (Olivia Saccomanno (FB)) and her sister Luciana (Amber Luallen (FB)). These two were also very playful with their roles, as well as bringing beauty to the stage. They, too, got to have fun with the physicality of the roles, especially Luallen in her scenes with Kane.

Also critical to the story are the merchants who work with Antipholus-E, and the Courtesan who is his friend: Sean Spencer (FB) Pinch / First Merchant; Alden Bettencourt (FB) Second Merchant/Gaoler; Benjamin White (FB) Angelo; and Sharon Jewell (FB) Courtesan / Balthasar. Of these, I’d particularly like to highlight White’s performance. He’s the goldsmith, and he has quite a bit of fun with the role.

Rounding out the cast in smaller roles are: Andy Kallok (FB) Aegeon; Sonje Inge (FB) Abbess/Luce; and Jane Hink (FB) Duke.  Hink, in particular, did a great job playing the Duke for comic effect.

Haley Tubbs (FB) is the Luciana understudy on 8/17.

Production-wise, things are kept simple, given they have to take down the stage after every performance and rebuild it the next day. There’s a multilevel set with some simple doors, and relatively simple lighting. Costumes are vaguely Shakespearean but of no particular time or era. The artistic and production staff consists of: Sara Haddadin (FB) Tour Manager; Matthew White Scenic Designer; Diana Mann (FB) Costume Designer; Nayla Hull Sound Designer; Patrick Vest (FB) Fight Choreographer; Claire Mazzeo (FB) Stage Manager; Cinthia Nava-Palmer (FBSound Engineer; Amy Zidell Webmaster; Holly Baker-Kreiswirth (FB) Press RelationsLisa Coffi (FB) is the Producing Artistic Director, Suzanne Dean (FB) is the Associate Artistic Director, and Stephanie Coltrin (FB) is the Associate Producer and synopsis writer.

As I noted earlier, this summer’s season of Shakespeare by the Sea (FB) has many more performances until its last on August 17. Locations it will be visiting include Beverly Hills, Santa Ana, Torrance, Rancho Palos Verdes, S. Pasadena, Whittier, Encino, Seal Beach, Aliso Viejo, Santa Monica, Manhattan Beach, the Fairfax District, La Mirada, Cerritos, with the final performances in San Pedro. You have no excuse to go — the performances are free (although donations are accepted).

We really had a good time at the show. Now that we know about this, we’ll try to make it again next summer. Learn more about the show, its tour schedule, and how to reserve space at the Shakespeare by the Sea website.

🍽

Although the show was great, alas, I can’t say the same thing about dinner before the show. On the recommendation of a friend, we tried The Attic in Long Beach. It was my wife’s birthday, and we wanted some place sorta-foodie. We thought she would be safe: their menu marked what was gluten-free, and we let them know she was gluten-free — not by choice — when we made the reservation and placed our order. But the curse of the scottish play from last year followed us.

She ordered the shrimp with grits, which was marked Gluten Free.

It wasn’t. Somehow, she got poisoned with gluten, either as a direct ingredient or by cross-contamination. This is unacceptable; it left her sick all day. Enjoy the restaurant if you can handle gluten, but if you are at all sensitive — stay away. My wife has left a negative review on Yelp.

🎭

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 (or I’ll make a donation to the theatre, in lieu of payment). 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), the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) [2018-2019 season], the Soraya/VPAC (FB), and the Musical Theatre Guild (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 July brings West Side Story at 5 Star Theatricals (FB). August starts with an alumni Shabbat at camp, and The Play That Goes Wrong at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). August ends with Mother Road and As You Like It at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (FB). In between those points, August is mostly open.

Early September is also mostly open. Then things heat up, with the third weekend bringing Barnum at Musical Theatre Guild (FB), and the fourth weekend bringing Blue Man Group at the Hollywood Pantages (FB). October starts with The Mystery of Irma Vep at Actors Co-op (FB), and concludes with Mandy Gonzalez at the Soraya/VPAC (FB).  Yes, there are a lot of open dates in there, but I expect that they will fill in as time goes on.

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. 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. Want to learn about all the great theatre in Southern California? Read my post on how Los Angeles (and its environs) is the best area for theatre in the Country!

Share

🎭 A Problematic Reinterpretation | “Miss Saigon” @ Pantages

Miss Saigon (Pantages)Our post-Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB) theatrical break has ended (last weekend, which I didn’t write about, was the quasi-theatrical concert of An Intimate Evening with Kristen Chenowith at,The Hollywood Bowl (FB)). Saturday night we were at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) for Miss Saigon (FB). It is a show for which I’ve known the music for years and years, but had never seen.

Now that I’ve seen it — so many mixed emotions. I’m glad to have seen it, and to finally have an understanding of the story behind the music. But I have no strong desire to see it again; in fact, this is a show that requires a lot of context setting and discussion to make it fit well in the modern world. This tour is not doing it; IIRC, it has chosen not to do it. Most audiences will see this show, take it on surface values for the beautiful music and performances, and not understand the real story and problems behind it. There are some attempts to bring important issues to the fore, but they seem tacked on afterthoughts for the story.

Let’s start where all performances must start: the story. In this case, an uncredited adaptation of the themes of Madame Butterfly by Giacomo Puccini made by Alain Boublil French Lyrics and Claude-Michel Schönberg Music, with further adaptation by Richard Maltby Jr, and Alain Boublil English Lyrics, Michael Mahler Additional Lyrics, and the production expertise of Cameron Mackintosh. Madame Butterfly, if you are unfamiliar, tells the story of an American Naval Officer in 1904 who goes to Japan, falls in love with a Geisha (“Butterfly”), and then leaves. Butterfly finds herself pregnant. Three years later he returns, married. The wife has agreed to raise the child, but when she sees how devoted Butterfly is to the child, she decides she can’t take the child away. Butterfly insists that the officer come tell her himself. When he does, she prepares her child to live with his father, and commits suicide behind a screen.

One important to note at this point: We’re talking a story about Japanese culture, written by a white Italian, based on a semi-autobiographical novel by a white French man, that has traditionally been performed by non-Asian opera singers. What could possibly go wrong as it is adapted for modern times?

Boublil and Schönberg updated the setting of the story, transforming it to the time of the fall of Saigon. This time, an American GI, Chris, falls in love with a girl from a local village, Kim, who just started to work at a girl-bar for “The Engineer”. The two get married per Buddhist custom. During the marriage ceremony, the cousin to whom she was promised, Thuy, shows up — a North Vietnamese officer — and curses her.  Saigon falls, and Chris is on the last chopper out of the embassy, unable to get Kim out. Cut to three years later. Thuy has found The Engineer in a reeducation camp up North, and persuades him to find Kim for him. He does, but Kim does not want to marry the officer. When pressed, she reveals she has a son who is half-American. Thuy threatens to kill the boy, but Kim shoots and kills Thuy to save her son. The Engineer, on the other hand, sees the boy as the ticket out of Vietnam, and pretends to be Kim’s brother and they escape to Bangkok. Back in the states, after a year or so, Chris remarries to Ellen, who knows nothing of Chris’ past. John, Chris’s buddy from Vietnam, contacts him to let him know Kim has been found, and there is a child. All three go to Bangkok to meet Kim. But before the planned meeting, the Engineer lets Kim know where Chris is. She goes there, only to meet Ellen. Ellen had been willing to bring the boy back, but seeing Kim’s attachment decides they instead will support Kim and the boy, Tam. Kim insists that Chris tell that to him face-to-face. Chris, John, and Ellen head down to Kim’s room to do so. As they do, Kim tells Tam that he’ll be going with his father to a better life. She goes behind a curtain and shoots herself. Tearful last scene with Chris.

Of course, this is a linear presentation of the story; the stage version keeps going back and forth in time.

When this first opened, there was controversy aplenty when Mackintosh cast a white actor, Johnathan Pryce, as the Engineer, and another white actor as Thuy. He also cast Lea Salonga as Kim. He petitioned Equity to bring these three to America (and won), but not after lots of protests. Times have changed, and at least we have Asian actors in those roles. These are usually Filipino, not Vietnamese, however.

So where to start, story-wise. The basic story, stripped of all the cultural trappings, is both classic opera and classic colonialism, taking advantage of those in a culture felt to be inferior. If it was to be set entirely in a European culture, would it be an acceptable story? Probably not, other than as melodrama. But both the original and the Miss Saigon version use the story to present a colonial view of Asian culture, and that’s wrong. White guys writing about Asian culture. What could go wrong?

When you look at the Asians in the story, only one comes off as noble and good: Kim. The rest are either pimps (The Engineer), whores (the bar girls), or Communist Baddies (North Vietnamese soldiers). Further, their portrayal is excessively offensive — especially in the bar scenes. Women are treated as property, sexual toys, vessels for men to take advantage of and use. Setting aside ethnicity for a moment, this is an extremely offensive portray of the treatment of women. This is not to say that it didn’t happen in the mid-1970s in Saigon and Bangkok, but it is so different from modern sensibilities that context is required. None was provided. So we have an offensive stereotypical portrayal of Asians, and Asian “sex dens”, and of violence towards women in that culture and time. What more could go wrong?

This brings us to “The Engineer”: A character designed to be a pimp and a conniver and a schemer, a man who will do anything and everything he can to survive and make money for himself, and achieve the stereotypical American dream. He made me think quite a bit of Donald Trump, except the Engineer is a rung above Trump, as the Engineer is at least aware of what and who he is, and what he does to get there. Trump is. But the Engineer is one of those offensive anti-heroes (and it is no surprise that Pryce went on to play Fagin in a revival of Oliver! a few years later — the two are very similar stereotypical characters).

As for the Americans, they are portrayed as honorable types who could do no wrong. They are only virtuous, wanting to do what is best. This, again, is a stereotypical portrayal hyping the image of the great white God.

If there is anything redeeming in the story, it is perhaps bringing attention to the children left behind after war. But even then the show does not make an effort to inform the audience of how to help these children. The stories are real, as described by the New York Times and Chicago Tribune. And there are real foundations helping these children, including the Pearl Buck Foundation. But are they mentioned in the show or in the Playbill? No.

So the story itself not only presents a tragedy on-stage, but contains a multitude of additional tragedies. It could be a beneficial starting point to oh so many discussions. But that opportunity is not taken, and so we are left with a white-man’s view of a tragic love story, designed to pull emotion out of audiences.

If the story is problematic, why does Miss Saigon keep succeeding for over 25 years. The answer is threefold: music, performance, and stagecraft.

  • In terms of Music: Boublil and Schönberg (and Maltby)’s music and lyrics are beautiful. Some of the songs, such as “The Last Night of the World”, “Bui Doi”, or the Act I closer, “I’d Give My Life For You”, have become ballad standards. Other songs, such as “The Heat Is On”, “If You Want to Die in Bed”, or “The American Dream” are just energetic earworms. This is a score that is just nice to listen to, crafted well.
  • The performances tend to be strong. The Engineer, while sleaze on stage, is fun to watch. Kim has soaring vocals. John gets a lovely turn in Bui Doi. And Chris’ duets with Kims are lovely.
  • The stagecraft seals the deal. From the Vietnamese soldiers dancing acrobatically during the “Morning of the Dragon”, to the sex shops of Saigon and Bangkok, to the spectacular landing of a helicopter on stage in Act II: the audience applauds the art.

So let’s explore those performances, which were under the direction of Laurence Conner,  with musical staging and choreography by Bob Avian, and additional choreography by Geoffrey Garratt (FB), helped by Seth Sklar-Heyn (FB) Assoc. Director, Jesse Robb (FB) Assoc. Choreographer, Ryan Emmons (FB) Resident Director, Brandon Block (FB) Dance Captain, and Anna-Lee Wright (⭐FB, FB) Asst. Dance Captain.

In the “lead” position was Red Concepción (⭐FB, FB) as The Engineer (👨‍🎤) (Eymard Cabling (FB) at select performances). Concepción’s Engineer was very different than what I surmise Pryce’s must have been. Concepción played the character with an incredibly slimy and disgusting vibe, which was perfect for the character. He did a great job on songs such as “The Heat is On” “If You Want to Die in Bed”, “What a Waste”, and especially “The American Dream”. He was only hindered by the horrible acoustics of the Pantages, which delight in muffling sound — and which require actors to sing very clearly and with the right sound balance. But his characterization was spot on.

As Kim (👩), Emily Bautista (FB) (Myra Molloy (⭐FB, FB) at select performances) was stunning. She had a beautiful voice, and captured the initial shyness — and later the determination — of the character quite well. A joy to watch.

Her love interest, Chris (👨), was played by Anthony Festa (FB). Festa had a nice “everyman GI” look to him. He wasn’t overly hunky or buff, but a believable everyguy who was drafted into a war he didn’t want to be in. He sang well, and had a nice chemistry with Baustista’s Kim. As his buddy John (👦🏿), J. Daughtry (FB) did an outstanding job, especially with his Act II opening number, “Bui Doi”.

Turning to the remaining second tier roles: Jinwoo Jung (FBThuy (👧), Barman and Stacie Bono (FBEllen (👱‍♀️). Jung brought a strong presence and a strong voice to Thuy, the spurned suitor/cousin, and a great ghost in the second act. Bono’s Ellen exists more in the background, although she does get a nice number in the second act with Kim.

Of the last somewhat main characters, there is Kim’s son, Tam (Adalynn Ng at our performance, alternating with Tyler Dunn, Haven Je, and Fin Moulding). This character is … a human prop. “He” (because some actors are female) gets to be on stage, hug his mother, be carried by other characters, and occasionally, be thrown around and manhandled by other characters. He has no lines. At the curtain call, he comes out and looks cute, and gets applause for surviving. The actors do the best they can for the limited role, and for their age, but I feel sorry them in that they don’t really have more of an opportunity to show their skills off.

This brings us to the rest of the company, who play many different roles over the show. Of these, most notable are Dragon Acrobats (Noah Gouldsmith (FB), McKinley Knuckle (FB), and Kevin Murakami (FB)) who were outstanding. The company consisted of (additional named roles as shown; named understudy positions indicated with superscripts): Christine Bunuan (⭐FB, FB) Gigi (👩‍🦱), Patpong Street Worker; Eymard Cabling (FBThe Engineer (👨‍🎤)-Alt, Vietnamese Army Soldier, 👧u/s; Myra Molloy (⭐FB, FB) Kim (👩)-Alt; Devin Archer Marine, 👨u/s; Alexander Aguilar Marine; Eric Badiqué (FB) Vietnamese Army Soldier, Moulin Rouge Club Owner, 👨‍🎤u/s; Kai An Chee (FB) Bar Girl, 👩u/s, 👩‍🦱u/s; Julie Eicher (FB) Bar Girl, 👱‍♀️u/s; Matthew Dailey (FB) Marine, Shultz; Noah Gouldsmith (FB) Marine, Acrobat; Adam Kaokept (FB) Vietnamese Army Soldier; David Kaverman (FB) Marine, 👦🏿u/s; McKinley Knuckle (FB) Marine, Acrobat; Madoka Koguchi (FB) Dominique, Moulin Rouge Club Dancer; Garrick Macatangay (FB) Vietnamese Army Soldier, Patpong Street Worker; Jonelle Margallo (FB) Mimi, Patpong Street Worker, 👱‍♀️u/s,  👩‍🦱u/sKevin Murakami (FB) Acrobat; Jackie Nguyen (FB) Yvette, Moulin Rouge Club Dancer; Matthew Overberg (FB) Vietnamese Army Soldier; Emilio Ramos (FB) Marine, Vietnamese Army Soldier; Adam Roberts (FB) Marine, 👨u/s; Michael Russell (FB) Marine; Julius Sermonia (⭐FB, FB) Asst. Commissar, 👧u/s; Emily Stillings (FB) Bar Girl, Patpong Street Worker; Tiffany Toh (FB) Fifi, Patpong Street Worker; Nicholas Walters (FB) 👦🏿u/s; and Anna-Lee Wright (⭐FB, FB) Yvonne, Patpong Street Worker. U/S Key: 👨‍🎤 Engineer; 👩 Kim; 👨 Chris; 👦🏿 John; 👱‍♀️ Ellen; 👧 Thuy; 👩‍🦱 Gigi.

Swings were: Brandon Block (FB), Joven Calloway (FB), Rae Leigh Case, Nancy Lam (FB), Brian Shimasaki Liebson (FB).

This brings us to the music side of the art: the orchestra, conducted by Will Curry (FB) Music Director, assisted by Adam Rothenberg (FB) Assoc. Conductor. The orchestra had a very nice sound, and consisted of the following artists (🌴 indicates local): Zoe Miller (FB) Concertmaster; Erik Rynearson 🌴 Viola;  David Mergen (FB) 🌴 Cello; Mike Epperhart (FB) Bass; Mira Magrill (FB) Flute / Piccolo / Asian Flutes; Michele Forrest 🌴 Oboe / English Horn; Richard Mitchell 🌴 Clarinet / Alto Sax / Flute; John Fumo (FB) 🌴 Trumpet;  Charlie Morillas (FB) 🌴 Trombone / Bass Trombone; Jenny Kim 🌴, Katie Farudo French Horns; Russ Nyberg (FB) Drums / Percussion; Adam Rothenberg (FB), Jordan Jones-Reese Keyboards; Mary Ekler (⭐FB) 🌴 Keyboard Sub. Other music credits: Stephen Brooker Music Supervision; James Moore (FB) Tour Musical Supervisor; Eric Heinly (FB) 🌴 Orchestra Contractor; John Miller (FB) Music Coordinator; William David Brohn Original Orchestrations; Stephen Metcalfe (FB) & Seann Alderkng Original Orchestration Adaptations.

This brings us to the stagecraft and creative side of the story. Based on a design concept by Adrian Vaux, Totie Driver and Matt Kinley‘s Set Design is remarkable, especially for a touring production. They have done a very effective job of creating the hustle and seedy underbelly of Saigon and Bangkok, and the gigantic Ho head is quite menacing. They also create a great helicopter illusion. My only complaints are more Bruno Poet‘s lighting design (which continues the Cameron Mackintosh tradition of being far too dark and dim) and Mick Potter‘s sound design, which is far too muffled for the Pantages. It take work to get clear and crisp sound in the Pantages, and there are some that get it right when they load in. These folks didn’t, and on the sides, you couldn’t always clearly hear or make out the words. Andreane Neofitou‘s costumes seemed appropriate, although I cant’ speak to their authenticity. Luke Halls‘s projections were effective. Remaining production credits: Tara Rubin Casting Casting; Jack Stephens Company Manager; Justin T. Scholl Assoc. Company Manager; Jovon E. Shuck Production Stage Manager; Michelle Dunn Stage Manager; Stephanie Halbedel Asst. Stage Manager; Rachael Wilkin Asst Stage Manager; Broadway Booking Office NYC Tour Booking.

Miss Saigon continues at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) through August 11. If you like the Les Miz style of Boublil and Schonberg, you’ll enjoy this. The performances and stagecraft are great. But don’t think too much about cultural problems behind the story, because that might make you think twice about attending. Me? I’m glad to have seen it this once, but I don’t have the desire to see it again.

🎭

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 (or I’ll make a donation to the theatre, in lieu of payment). 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), the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) [2018-2019 season], the Soraya/VPAC (FB), and the Musical Theatre Guild (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:

Sunday brought us A Comedy of Errors from Shakespeare by the Sea (FB)/Little Fish Theatre(FB), which is next on the list to writeup. The last weekend of July brings West Side Story at 5 Star Theatricals (FB). August starts with an alumni Shabbat at camp, and The Play That Goes Wrong at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). August ends with Mother Road and As You Like It at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (FB). In between those points, August is mostly open.

Early September is also mostly open. Then things heat up, with the third weekend bringing Barnum at Musical Theatre Guild (FB), and the fourth weekend bringing Blue Man Group at the Hollywood Pantages (FB). October starts with The Mystery of Irma Vep at Actors Co-op (FB), and concludes with Mandy Gonzalez at the Soraya/VPAC (FB).  Yes, there are a lot of open dates in there, but I expect that they will fill in as time goes on.

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. 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. Want to learn about all the great theatre in Southern California? Read my post on how Los Angeles (and its environs) is the best area for theatre in the Country!

Share

🛣️ Changes/Updates to the California Highways Website | April – July 2019

What better than Independence Day as the time to start working on the next round of updates. The site redesign is still on the horizon, but I still need to read my Responsive Design book and figure out the design I want. As I’ve noted before, I have no plans to change the content or my method of content generation. I have settled on my replacement editor for HoTMetaL ProBlueGriffon. as it seems to have a good tag manipulation mode. I also plan to use Pinegrow to check the responsive design aspects. and plan to continue to use Amaya as the main editor (even though Amaya seems to be abandonware). You can see my thoughts on what I would like from the redesign here; it also explains how the site is generated. I’ll note that I tried to use BlueGriffon for some of this round of update. It introduces some form of HTML error that Amaya has trouble with, so I need to investigate fuller. No one seems to make a clean editor anymore: they all seem to enforce their designer’s ideas.

Caltrans Website Rework and Its Impacts

Note: Caltrans and the CTC have updated their websites to a new accessible design, as the result of AB 434, which required all state websites to be accessible. Of course, the state waited to contract it until the last moment, and many of the resources are now broken, awaiting remediation for accessibility. All Caltrans and CTC links should be revisited, as they likely no longer work. I’m reporting broken links as I find them to Caltrans on Twitter where appropriate, and fixing them as a run into them. In particular, the Caltrans Bridge Log seems to have (temporarily) disappeared. Luckily, Bonnie Kuhn, the Public Information Officer for Mendocino and Lake Counties has provided me copies of the logs for all the districts, and they have been uploaded to my Caltrans Resources page, together with the following additional resources (Thank you very much, Ms. Kuhn):

Also the CTC minutes and liaison website are broken, but luckily I found someone at the CTC who was willing to help me in this round of updates. Agenda Item 4.4 from the May 2019 CTC meeting provided more information:

  1. The Commission’s website must be redesigned and rebuilt using the most recently revised version of the State of California’s Website Template to ensure the underlying infrastructure is compliant with accessibility standards.
  2. All content migrated to the Commission’s newly redesigned website (documents, images, graphics, videos, etc.) must be converted to meet the accessibility criteria established in AB 434. This complex conversion process is commonly referred to as document remediation.
  3. The Commission must remove content older than three years from its website, and save it internally to be provided upon request.

This means that if you are looking for older content, you should contact Caltrans or the CTC to get a copy of it. Those of us who run websites should coordinate to make these retrieved resources available to the public, and to relieve the burden on the CTC and Caltrans personnel. I have created a preliminary page to make such information available.

Update Details

Updates were made to the following highways, based on my reading of the papers (which are posted to the roadgeeking category at the “Observations Along The Road” and to the California Highways Facebook group) as well as any backed up email changes. I also reviewed the the AAroads forum. This resulted in changes on the following routes, with credit as indicated [my research(1), contributions of information or leads (via direct mail) from Tom Fearer(2), Maryam Madani(3), Northcoast707 on AARoads(4), Scott Parker (Sparker)(5), Anthony Pearson(6), Splashflash on AARoads(7), Don Wilson(8): Route 1(1,2,5), Route 2(1,2), Route 4(1), I-5(1,2,5), I-8(2), I-10(2,5), Route 11(1), Route 12(1), Route 14(2,6), I-15(2), Route 17(1), Route 18(1,2,5), LRN 18(2), Route 23(2), Route 25(1), Route 27(2), Route 29(1), Route 37(1), Route 39(2), Route 41(2), Route 46(1), Route 47(1), Route 49(1), US 50(1), Route 58(1,2), Route 59(1), US 60(2), Route 60(1,5), US 66(2), Route 67(5), US 70(2), Route 74(1), US 80(2), I-80(1), Route 84(5), Route 89(1), Route 91(1,2), Route 99(1,2,5,7), US 101(1,2,8), Route 104(1,2), Route 108(1), Route 109(1,2), Route 110(2,5), Route 113(1), Route 120(1), Route 121(1), Route 125(1), Route 126(2), Route 128(1), Route 131(2), Route 134(2), Route 138(2), Route 142(1), Route 147(2), Route 156(1), Route 163(2), LRN 165(5), Route 170(2), Route 173(2), Route 177(1,2), Route 180(1,2), Route 194(2,5), Route 195(2), I-210(1), I-215(1,2), Route 228(3), Route 235(2), Route 241(1), Route 243(1), Route 247(2), Route 259(2), Route 268(2), I-280(1), Route 282(2), US 395(1,2), I-405(1), Route 480(4), I-580(1), I-680(1), I-710(1), I-805(2), I-880(1), Route 905(1), I-980(1), County Sign Route N2(2).

Added a link to the hardest cycling climbs in the world. If you are looking to find the grade of steep road, this will help. Expressways and freeways are limited in their steepness, but other state highways that permit bicycles can be very steep. Those will show up on this maps. Updated the Stats page.

Updated the El Camino Real page regarding the removal of the bell at UC Santa Cruz. Grabbed some information I posted on the Scenic Highway requirements, and added it to my highway types page. Alas, the links therein are broken due to the Caltrans site rework. Added some more map sources.

Reviewed the Pending Legislation page, based on the new California Legislature site. As usual, I recommend to every Californian that they visit the legislative website regularly and see what their legis-critters are doing. Although numerous bills have been introduced, none have gone to the Governor for signature yet. As many people are unfamilair with how the legislature operates (and why there are so many “non-substantive changes” and “gut and amend” bills), I’ve added the legislative calendar to the end of the Pending Legislation page.

Read More …

Share

🎆🇺🇸 Better Get Them To Sign It In The Next Coupla Days…

Every year I post this on the 4th of July. For all that certain groups purport to know what this country’s founders wanted, I think it is best expressed in the sentiment “life, liberty, and the purſuit of happineſſ”. We still have that, for all the complaints. Even though we have elected officials who make us tear our hair our whenever we read the news, we still have the best system out there — one that allows us to use the power of the ballot box and protest to change things. Lastly, as much as I get annoyed at what those on the other side of the political spectrum say, I am still pleased to live somewhere where they have the right to say it. Happy Independence Day!

But first, however, we rise for the National Anthem:

Rumplemeyer’s Horseshoes
Are the best you can use
What so proudly he nailed
Onto all kinds of horses
Whose broad backs and bright eyes
As they smile in their stalls
Give proof through the night
That they wear Rumplemeyer’s
Ask the horse who owns one
He’ll say, “Son of a gun
Rumplemeyer’s Horseshoes
Are, by me, number one”
That’s Rumplemeyer’s Horseshoes
Spelled R-U-M-P-L-E-Meyer’s
Twenty-seven Chestnut Street
Ask for Harry or Dave

And now, on with our narrative:

Narrator: The trouble continued to brew. It was a time for action, a time for words. On a hot July night in 1776, Benjamin Franklin was aroused from his work by the call of destiny. Read More …

Share

🗯️ Blowing Things Up 💣

Oh, how I long for the days when the only thing we exploded on the 4th of July were fireworks in a celebration everyone could enjoy.

However, whenever I read the news today, I see this administration blowing up and destroying more than fireworks: they are destroying the norms, values, and protections that have made our country a leader in the world, and that “shining beacon on the hill”. They have allowed and encouraged foreign governments to interfere — directly or indirectly — in our elections. They have allowed administration officials to conduct partisan politics while on the Federal clock, violating the Hatch Act and not caring. They have eviscerated the power of science and facts in government policies. They have manipulated tax laws for their personal gain, and the gain of their cronies. They have ballooned the Federal deficit, again often for personal gain. They have placed industry lobbyists and executives in charge of the industries they are supposed to regulate. They have used bipartisan events for partisan purposes (such as rewarding GOP donors at the supposedly non-partisan 4th celebration). They have befriended dictators and despots, and taken their word over the word of the honest hardworking members of our intelligence communities. They have made consumer protection toothless, and are decimating organizations that protect Americans such as the USDA. They have ignored Congress and Congress’ constitutional role of oversight. They have made explicit efforts to pack the courts with partisan judges. They have attacked social security, medicare, and veterans benefits. They have repeatedly attempted to legislate religious policy as national policy. I could go on and on and on.

I ask myself often: why are they doing this? Yes, it plays to their base that hates government with such a seething anger that it blinds them to the good that government does for them. An angry base does keep people in power — often through violence, threats, and bullying — and these folks like their power.  It also benefits them financially in the short run. But I think, more importantly, it serves the interests of the puppet masters — those foreign powers that influence the election to elect these people. This is because the net, long term, result will be a diminished America. An America that is no longer the primary power on the world stage. An America that no longer has moral authority. An America that no longer has financial strength. An America that is in decline.

Yes, making America great was a smokescreen for something much more sinister.

Even more troubling are the people that are falling for this.  I’ve known many Conservatives over the years; and although we disagreed, I knew that at their hearts they were good people. But today, often their blind support for the administration, and the over-amped hatred of “The Liberal” from the administration and its anger-feeding minions have closed their mind and turned them away from what they once believed. These were people that believed in the rule of law, and that government must follow the laws and be ethical. These were people that believed that government must live within its means and not waste money. These were the people that believed in investigating government wrongdoing, and misbehavior by government officials down to the smallest indiscretion. These were the people that believed that foreign governments must not interfere in the operation of the American government.  These were the people in a party that held for liberty and justice FOR ALL.  But where are those beliefs now? Dead on the field, replaced by hatred and the desire to blow things up.

I find it hard to celebrate Independence Day this year, because I fear that thanks to these folks, the battle could be for nought. I fear that the damage that has been brought on in under three years will take us generations to reverse. I fear that these folks are moving the country in a very dangerous direction, a direction that keep feeding ultra-nationalism and hatred over actual care. I fear that folks who profess to be Christian have forgotten the key fundamentals of the Bible: Love and treat your neighbor as you would want to be treated, take care of the stranger in your land because you were once strangers yourself. Our compassion has been replaced by the quest for wealth and fear of the stranger, and that’s wrong.

I’ve taken a few minutes to write this up over lunch because it has been increasingly bothering me. It is why I have made contributions to those candidates I feel can best bring us out of this mess. It is why I’m encouraging everyone to learn what the candidates have to say, think about the America you truly want — an America that is that example for the world … and who can best bring us there. I’m encouraging everyone to get active and involved, even if you’ve sat out elections before, even if you’ve never voted. We have to combat the might and power of the foreign governments, the oligarchs (both foreign and domestic), and the top 1% who want to preserve their privilege. You need to be out there: whether it is speaking on social media, combating misinformation, getting out the vote, and donating even small amounts to the candidates you like. It all adds up, and we must bring back the days when the only fireworks we have to deal with are on the 4th.

And you better do it before they all take off for the Fourth of July weekend….

Share