Friday, April 14, 2006

"They're Playing Our Song" - Garbeau's Dinner Theatre

(Left) Katie Murphy

After dinner at Cattleman's this evening, I went with the DMTC crew to see "They're Playing Our Song" at Garbeau's. This Neil Simon/Marvin Hamlisch musical, set in the 1970's, focuses on the romantic relationship between Vernon Gersch (Jerry Lee), an established composer of popular ballads, and Sonia Walsk (Katie Murphy), a budding lyricist. The relationship is examined with the kind of frantic, psychoanalytic, neurotic intensity that Neil Simon (and Woody Allen) are famous for.

In my judgment, Simon's obsessive intensity interferes with the ability of the actors to tell a story. Instead of a tender bud germinating in the springtime of love, the romantic relationship is treated like a hamster on a rotary treadmill in a tight, little cage, travelling in circles. The actors are constrained by the playwright, and thus must find innovative ways to break free. The actors here did an admirable job of releasing the hamster of love.

Neil Simon found fame, of course, for "The Odd Couple": examining the friendship between Oscar and Felix, two very different people. Opposites do attract: in life, in love, and in theater too! Superficial differences aside, the romantic couple here have neuroses that are too similar, so Simon's approach falls flat.

Musically, the decade of the 1970's were a time of transition - denatured jazz, degraded Broadway, plastic pop, and erratic disco combined to create a soundscape of awesome kitsch. Like a talented musical warrior, Marvin Hamlisch should have been able to overcome all these weaknesses, but instead, each genre works to sandbag him: the combination is weaker than the sum of the parts. The pop music sounds like Neil Sedaka and Donny Osmond channeling Elton John. The disco is purely derivative.

So, Lee and Murphy and company worked with energy to overcome the weaknesses. Jerry Lee (who has been making a mark of late in local musical theater circles) sings remarkably well. Katie Murphy (who arrived in Sacramento two years ago from Pepperdine University) is blessed with a dancer's energy, and the two together attack the material with gusto. The script is full of rapid-fire, yet commonplace, dialogue that is a devil to memorize, but Lee and Murphy pull it off almost flawlessly. I remember, in particular, "I am an entity!" The scenic design, by John Coyne, is fine, and the costuming by Eileen Beaver is excellent. And the choreography by Debbie Davis Worth, ably executed by the company (which includes friends Ryan Adame and Celia Green), is sharp and clever. If I understand correctly, Debbie Davis Worth is active in other theater and dance ventures in the El Dorado area. I'd like to see more of her work soon.

After a weak start, Act I ends very well. Two events (a car that won't start; a mistaken rendezvous place) almost succeed at breaking Simon's self-referential navel-gazing. Murphy really flowers here, full of life and fun. It's almost as if the hamster of love is taken off its rotary treadmill and removed from its cage. I wondered if the hamster would be set free in Act II, or put in a radically-different place, like Alaska's Iditarod Sled Race. Alas, in Act II, Simon puts the hamster back into an even more-confining cage. The neurotic edge eventually dissipates into treacle, however. It's enough to make you wonder why anyone would ever want a 'relationship'.

So, what's an actor going to do? Energy and more energy! Lee and Murphy and company do an admirable job with a script that, unfortunately, needed professional couch time back in the 1970's. I'd sure like to see Jerry Lee and Katie Murphy perform again - they are both excellent!
The Bikini Turns 60

Thank goodness for the tinkerer in the boutique:
The beginnings, however, were inauspicious. In 1946, Louis Reard, a car engineer who had taken over his mother's lingerie boutique in Paris, met with disbelief when he brought out a range of two-piece swimsuits made from just 70cm of cloth.

Although similar garments had been worn in ancient times, they were considered shocking in Reard's day. Provocatively, his garment revealed the navel - a part of the female anatomy banned as indecent from Hollywood films under the so-called Hays Code in the 1930s.

Not even his great rival, the French designer Jacques Heim, had been so daring. Heim boasted that his swimsuits were small but still covered le nombril.

Reard went a step further. "My bikini is smaller than the smallest swimsuit," he said.

And he caused such a scandal that he was unable to find a fashion model to wear his creation, which he had named after the Pacific atoll where the US had just carried out its first peacetime nuclear test. His reasoning was, apparently, that his invention would produce an atomic-like burst of excitement.

In the end, he persuaded Micheline Bernardini, a nude dancer, to pose with it on. But sales were disappointing.

With his invention denounced as immoral by the Vatican, and banned by Spain, Portugal and Italy, Reard went back to designing orthodox knickers to sell in his mother's shop.
Get Those Pills!

So, what's the street price of diuretics?

Last night, I was jamming to tunes on my headphones while here at work, and I thought "that band's horn player has got just the worst sense of rhythm." Then I realized the insistent honking was my car alarm (I had chosen to park outside the gated parking lot).

Things in my car had been rifled through, but it wasn't until later I realized they had taken my blood pressure medication (apparently the only thing they took). It's a cheap-o medication, and I didn't hesitate to leave it plain view (since I knew what it was), but I hadn't realized that, to grasping passersby, it might look valuable.

Last night, walking past the Runaway Stage Productions rehearsal space, I saw a sight that's unfortunately not unfamiliar, especially in warmer weather: crumbly windshield glass in the gutter, where some parked car was undoubtedly broken into fairly recently.

I hope thieves everywhere in Sacramento take fistfuls of my pills! They deserve the thrill of peeing every five minutes!

Thursday, April 13, 2006

"How Can You Have Any Pudding If You Don't Eat Your Meat?"

Marketing to the ignorant (basically, people like me):
Cargill's campaign features labels that help consumers figure out what to do with a particular piece of meat, online promotions and advice, and cuts that make sense for single people or smaller households.

The campaign is based on the company's own research, which found that eight of 10 shoppers were baffled by the meat case at their stores.

There's always been high demand for tender cuts from the middle of the cow -- the rib, the loin and sirloin. But most of the meat is in the tougher chuck and round -- the shoulder and rump.

"We've got to sell all of it," said Herb Meischen, vice president of strategy and consumer development for Cargill Meat Solutions in Wichita, Kan.

Cargill's survey found that shoppers' knowledge of beef depended a lot on their age. Those older than 45 tended to have grown up with stay-at-home mothers. Those younger tended to have had working moms, like Hogan, and thus a big falloff in passing down culinary knowledge.

... For Meischen, the dilemma is how to educate consumers.

"What if you're 25 years old and you haven't had any skills, teaching or any desire to learn? What would stir you to experiment with an eight- to 10-dollar piece of meat?" he asked.

What Cargill is doing, as it promotes its Sterling Silver and AngusPride premium brands, is trying to unravel the mystery.
American History - What The Callow British Learn

Those who don't learn from the past are bound to repeat it:
In GCSE history for some reason we had to watch Kennedy getting shot. I never understood why, since we were learning about Russia at the time. Maybe the teacher had the decorators in or summat and just wanted to see a man die. Anyway, just as his cranium explodes in a shower of brain, blood and bone, Chris shouts in his best Southpark voice "Oh my god! They killed Kennedy" immediatly followed by the entire class shouting "You Bastards!" We never got to watch videos after that.
Acoma Geology

How did those congealed lava flows get there, along Interstate 40, near Grants, NM?:
The story starts with an unkind spirit who killed people and took their property because he was an expert gambler, Aragon said.

Twin warrior spirits decided to fight him by learning his gambling tricks and using them against him, Aragon continued.

"He gambled away all of his power to hurt the people," Aragon said. "In the end he lost his eyes, and lost the right to do what he was doing."

However, the unkind spirit was still mad, so he boiled pine sap to throw at the people of Acoma Pueblo, Aragon said.

"But because he was blind, he spilled it," forming the lava flows, Aragon said.
Why Did I Give Up TV?

Look at what happens when you watch too many reality shows!:
A woman's skeleton was discovered in her flat three years after she is believed to have died, it emerged today.

Joyce Vincent was surrounded by Christmas presents and the television and heating in her bedsit were still on.

The 40-year-old's body was so decomposed that the only way to identify her was to compare dental records with a holiday photograph.

Police believe she probably died of natural causes in early 2003, and was only found in January this year when housing association officials broke into the bedsit in Wood Green, North East London.

They were hoping to recover the thousands of pounds of rent arrears that had piled up since her death.

... Some mail was marked February 2003, and medication and food had February 2003 expiry dates, the spokesman said.

Ms Vincent was found lying on her back on the floor of the living room, which also doubled as a bedroom.

Dr Simon Poole, a pathologist, told the inquest he had been unable to establish the cause of death because the remains were "largely skeletal", but police do not regard the circumstances as suspicious.
John London Canned

It's tough at the top, but sometimes you just can't help being bad. Too bad for the Bay Area. I know John London was Peter P.'s favorite DJ, and acting at Peter's urging, I even managed to get a couple of minutes on John's show during the 2003 California Gubernatorial Recall campaign!:
Bay Area radio talk show host John London was fired over the weekend by KIFR-FM (106.9) after offering a reward on the air to have talk host Penn Jillette killed.

London said his offer was an ``obviously sarcastic'' response to a show that Jillette did attacking Mother Teresa and calling her a fraud.

A spokesman for CBS-owned KIFR declined to comment.

... On Wednesday, London spent two hours complaining about Jillette's show calling Mother Teresa a fraud. Thursday, at the beginning of his show, he offered ``5,000 dollars to the person that kills Penn Jillette. If he suffers, I'll make it $7,000,'' according to Cruz.

London, reached at his San Francisco home, said the bit was a satrical response to Jillette's attack.

``I was sickened by it,'' said London. ``What he said wasn't satire. He raped her morally, when she couldn't respond.''

Jillette did a bit on his show claiming that Mother Teresa had set up refuges for dying people for her own ``sexual kink'' and ``sexual kicks.'' He also claimed Paris Hilton was morally superior to the sainted nun.

``Paris Hilton is much too moral'' to play Mother Teresa in a movie, said Jillette, whose syndicated show preceded London's Wednesday. ``Mother Teresa was a really bad person.''

... This is the second big firing of a local host at the FM talk station, which calls itself ``Free FM.''

The once popular Darian O'Toole was let go last month after rambling incoherently and falling asleep on her show.

The station's format began in December, in response to Howard Stern leaving the network for satellite radio.

... Its radio ratings have plummeted since losing Stern, and its ``Free FM'' format was a bold attempt to interest a young audience in controversial subjects.
"Strange Science"

My sister got this painting this week from Deborah McMillion-Nering in Phoenix. She says it reminds her of mom: I think it reminds us both of watching "Science Fiction Thriller" every Sunday afternoon on Albuquerque's KOAT TV-7 when we both were kids.
When Life Hands You A Lemon....

Kylie Minogue is now sporting a nice-looking, quite-short hair style - like Sinead O'Connor's long-lost, less-judgmental sister.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Sentimental Journey

(Left) "Miss Murphy" - B-25 Bomber. Don't cross Miss Murphy!

Our family took a day trip and visited Falcon Field, where the Commemorative (formerly Confederate) Air Force is headquartered, among the citrus orchards of the East Valley, near Gilbert, AZ.

MIG 15 (Korean War vintage) and the Navy's primary World War II Trainer, the N3N "Canary" biplane.

Vietnam-War era MIG-21.

Sidewinder anti-air missiles beneath a McDonnell Aircraft Corp. F-4N Phantom II aircraft.

"Sentimental Journey": a restored B-17 Flying Fortress.

Looking like it's right out of "2001: A Space Odyssey": Ball turrett, for shooting below B-17 "Flying Fortresses." The gunner is unusually-cramped in this ball (and quite vulnerable, of course).

Ballet Class With Mary Adams

Deborah got this shot of me preparing to take class. I misunderstood: Deborah and James said 'oh, it'll be simpler - it's Matthew's syllabus.' I thought maybe formidable Mary Adams wasn't teaching, and some lax person named Matthew was the instructor instead. Wrongo! Matthew was the student, and Mary taught in her classic RAD (Royal Academy of Dance) manner. 'Solo Seals' exams are coming up, and people need to work!

If THAT was simpler, I'd hate to see the girls' syllabus!
Memorial Service

Memorial Board assembled by my sister Michelle for the service.

Hurry! The timer gives us ten seconds to get in place for the family portrait!

Family portrait (I'm taking this particular photo, so I'm absent).

Nephew Aaron.
Arizona Trip

(Left) West Sacramento, CA. Interstate-80 crosses the Sacramento River just right of center, meets Highway 50, then heads west across the Yolo Bypass over the Yolo Causeway (upper right). The curve of the Sacramento Ship Canal is visible just under the wing of the Southwest Airlines Boeing 737.

Departed Saturday evening, April 8th and returned Tuesday night, April 11th. Nice memorial service for Aunt Helen, and a family reunion on my mother's side.

Sunset behind Mt. San Antonio, San Gabriel Mountains, north of Ontario, CA. The mist-filled Cajon Canyon is in the foreground. Pretty views just outside the window!

New Car Rental Terminal Building, located near Sky Harbor International Airport, Phoenix, AZ. I was surprised to see this facility, where all the local car rental agencies are now headquartered. The terminal opened three months ago and it's just as large, or larger, than an airport terminal. Apparently this is the largest such terminal in the U.S., and the cutting edge nationwide for such terminals. Soon, car rental agencies across the country will no longer be located in cheesy lots behind the airport, surrounded by chain-link fences and barking guard dogs, but in nice, gleaming, centralized facilities.

They give you good directions to leave the facility, but not how to return, so I had a frantic, guess-filled hour on Tuesday evening, trying to determine: if I were a gigantic car rental terminal, just where I would be located?

Flowering Palo Verde trees, Ahwatukee, South Phoenix, AZ. There are three species of this tree, which may be the state tree (if the wrongly-categorized saguaro cactus doesn't already fill that space). I was surprised that the single, large rainfall they had recently was big enough to allow flowering to proceed after the huge battering they got from the drought. But then, these particular trees may get watered, so who knows?

What I like is the single night a year, when zillions of harmless, roach-sized palo verde beetles come out to mate. One time, I saw an Arby's Restaurant, on Speedway Blvd. in Tucson, just plastered with palo verde beetles. Yum!