Wednesday, September 28, 2005


I went to opening night of Ragtime at Broadway by the Bay last week. It was great to see a bunch old friends perform my favorite musical of all time with such passion. Tim Reynolds was amazing as Tateh. I just finished working with him for months in Brigadoon and he transformed himself so much I barely recognized him.

It's a spectacular show. Go see it!

Friday, September 23, 2005

Aida at Bus Barn Stage Company

When Aida opened on Broadway, despite its enormous success, and the Tony Award for Best Musical, it was generally panned by most of the critics. I didn't see the show on Broadway, but I suspect that the reason it was so hated by the critics is that it was "Disneyfied". From what I've read it seems that the Aida was staged as a replica of the majority of the Disney animated films: silly, slapstick, and shallow.

Barbara Cannon and her creative team including Michael Spector (co-director), Michael Langham (musical director) and Shannon Stowe (choreographer), have created the Aida that I suspect Sir Elton John and Mr. Tim Rice intended. The directors cast the lead roles perfectly. Aida the Nubian princess, played by Jennifer Oku, is magnificent. Her vocal range, purity of sound, coupled with her ability to switch from operatic grandiosity to sweeping rock vocals sent chills down my spine. Robert Brewer plays the role of Radames, the Egyptian warrior-prince. Mr. Brewer exudes the power and virility required in the role and his singing and acting are flawless. Together, Brewer and Oku show a touching multi-layered understanding of love, responsibility and personal sacrifice. Jason Arias' as Mereb will make you laugh out loud. His comic timing and vocal artistry are excellent. Keite Davis as Amneris, displays her comic witt, her beautiful voice, and the depth of character required for the role.

Shannon Stowe has staged some truly sublime moments through intriguing dance and movement. She uses the talents of her dancers, particularly Michael Saenz and Lori Martinez, very well. Mr Saenz is a very gifted dancer. I hope he doesn't up and move to New York.

The rest of the cast is magnificent as well. Tomas Theriot as Zoser deftly plays the power and Machiavellian intent of his character. Shane Osbourne as Amonosro is a commanding presence in his short but very memorable scenes. John Aney as Pharaoh combines the fact that he is dieing and his diminishing power as king with excellent acting agility.

Aida runs through October 1. Don't miss it.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

At Least 160 Die in Iraq al-Qaida Bombings

Al-Qaida and its philosophy is beyond anything I am able to comprehend. How on earth do they think that they are justified in their actions? Today's happenings have filled me with a simmering anger. Today they suicide bombed like never before. This particular one makes me exceptionally sick:

In what was believed to be a new tactic, the bomber set off the explosive after calling the construction and other workers to his small van and enticing them with promises of employment, a witness said. At least 112 people were killed and more than 200 were wounded, according to Health Ministry officials. Twisted hulks of vehicles blocked the bloodstained main street in Kazimiyah's Oruba Square.

In this particular incident we have a couple of hundred guys looking for a way to make a little money so that maybe they can afford to buy enough food for their families this week. One may have been hoping to make a dollar or two moving a pile of gravel, or putting on a mud roof. He may have already been waiting for a couple of hours that morning almost ready to give up, ready to return home penniless once again. He may have secretly longed for the days when Saddam ruled the country, at least then he had steady work.

Suddenly, down the drive appeared a small van. It stopped. A smiling Iraqi man rolled down his window and said something to the nearest worker. He became very animated and called everyone to the van. "He says he can keep us all working for a week, digging a foundation for a new refinery." Filled with joy, our Iraqi man quickly makes his way over to the van along with the 111 other hopefuls.

As they all gather, perhaps the man driving the van starts explaining to them how much they will be paid per day and exactly what it will involve. Stragglers inch closer to the van window to hear the details. The driver speaks very quietly, so that to hear they must get very close to the open window. Then mid-sentence, the Iraqi driver reaches in his pocket, pulls out a cigarette and pulls the lighter from the dashboard. None of the men realize that the lighter is attached to a wire which is attached to a detonating device. This device, within milliseconds of the tiny electrical charge initiated by the removal of the cigarette lighter, sends 100 watts of power surging through 500 lbs. of crude explosive strapped to 10 old Soviet artillery shells. All these explosives are in the back of the van covered by an old blanket. Our Iraqi worker hears a sizzling noise, a deafening explosion, and he realizes that he no longer has limbs. He sees blood flowing out of the area where his left leg used be attached to his torso. He rolls on the ground for a few seconds. He's gone.

At Least 160 Die in Iraq al-Qaida Bombings - Yahoo! News

Friday, September 09, 2005

Clamperland Diaries

One would think that Clamperland would be free of governmental red tape. After all Clamperlanders believe that simplicity is best. So, when I went to Clamperland's County Office, I thought that my little problem could be fixed in a matter of minutes. Boy , was I wrong. It just goes to show you that in Clamperland, life is never boring. And as the grumpy fifty-something woman behind the counter educated me, "Yes, young man, life is a learning experience." For some reason I felt the need to snort. But instead, I just shrugged and left, determined to defeat the Clamperland bureaucracy.

"She sure didn't want to give me any dang help," I said, with as much of a country boy twang as I could muster. "It's always best to try and sound like a local," I thought.

"Oh, you had to deal with Pig Lady," he said with a Texas twang. Clamperlanders have Texas twangs even though most of them have never left California. It must be because their ancestors came from Texas or Kansas or one of them thar places. Or maybe they just listen to lots of country music.

His name was Fred. He looked like a computer nerd from Silicon Valley, but I had the distinct impression that he never ventured out of Clamperland. His desk was in the back of a real estate office occupied by two bleach blond women who both looked at me like I was a Martian when I barged into the office.

Fred was a piler. He had piles of papers and books everywhere. He had little horn-rimmed glasses and a hair cut that made him look like Bill Gate's younger brother. He handed me his card. His title read, Assistant Paralegal. "Assistant to who? " I wondered. Why would two underworked real estate agents need an Assistant Paralegal. My intuition told me that he must have earned his "degree" through a correspondence course.

"Pig Lady?" I said.

"Yep, that's what we call her - Pig Lady, because she looks like a pig and she acts like a pig."

"Oh," I mused. "I guess when you mention it, she did look sort of like a pig, and she was kind of grumpy."

"Yehhp," he said. "You know, I'll tell you something." He leaned forward from his desk, his eyes looking both embarrassed and naughty. Looking around, first right, then left, he made sure that no one was listening. "Last year, she-," hesitating he made one more check around the office. He seemed downright chagrined to tell me what he was about to tell me, but he just couldn't help himself.

"Wo," I thought. She must have been an axe murderer or at least she was having an affair with the mayor.

Whispering, "Last year, they put her on what they call them - ," silence, "them ANTI-Depressants. It's the only time I ever seen her smile."

Stunned, I had the look of a surprised raccoon. "That's it!" I thought. Then the laughter came. I couldn't stop. "Well," I said, "they should have kept her on 'em, I guess."

"They sure should have," he said. "They sure should have."

About three hours later, after wading my way through the intricacies of real estate law in Clamperland, I returned to the County Records Office, the domicile of the fabled Pig Lady. As I waited at the counter, the same middle-aged woman that treated me like a buzzard on a shit wagon that very morning, suddenly appeared before me - twelve inches from my face. When I first heard the name Pig Lady, I kind of thought it was mean. But now as she stared at me with those steely blue eyes, I realized that she truly did look like a pig. Don't get me wrong. I have nothing against pigs. I think they're kind of cute - that cute upturned little snout, those doe eyes, those perky ears.

Monday, September 05, 2005

The Angry Inch

What happened in New Orleans is nothing more than sad. I am not in the mood to criticize or place blame. It's just sad.

Gas is at $3.00 a gallon now, but I don't think it stopped anyone from driving today, at least not in the Bay Area. I drove from Palo Alto to Angels Camp this afternoon. Normally leaving at 3 P.M. relegates one to driving at a snail's pace until you hit Escalon. But being that it was Labor Day, heading east in the afternoon meant free sailing all the way. But heading west, from Manteca to the Livermore, there was a line of cars that appeared to be moving no faster than 2 mph. As I rambled down the highway, screaming to my Hedwig CD, I rejoiced in my freedom to cruise along at 80 mph. Watching the other cars in the opposite lane plod along, gave me a crazy sort of joy. "Six inches forward, and five inches back, I got... I got my angry inch..."

Saturday, September 03, 2005


Donate to the RED CROSS and Help The Victims of the Hurricane

Hurricanes need to be named more accurately. Katrina somehow makes me think of a Russian ballerina flitting prettily across the meadow. They should have names like "Bone Crusher" or "Clubber".

For the last couple of days I find myself having sudden sensations of breathlessness. I have to consciously take a breath to alleviate the feeling. I thought that it cold be asthma, so I took a couple of puffs on my inhaler. But the feeling didn't go away. I realize now that it's a case of post-hurricane stress syndrome. Watching on TV the images of all those poor, sick, suffering people with no one coming to their rescue has really taken a toll on me. You see them on your screen, you want to help, you want our government to help, but nothing happens. You think, "this is the United States, where are the helicopters? "

I read this morning that the people at the Civic Center are starting finally to be rescued. I hope that we take good care of them when this is all over. I really fear that we won't. It's the United States, we are capitalists, and the poor must fend for themselves.

I remember watching a documentary about Chernobyl. The Soviet Union ordered every bus within in the region to the city to evacuate the people. The whole place was emptied within a matter of hours. In New Orleans, one had to have a working automobile and money for gas to get out. That means one had to be a member of the middle class. Once again the poor were left behind.