June 30, 2007

Spring Awakening

I'm working at Spring Awakening again this week and I couldn't be more thrilled. Even though I know the show is good, it's been a while since I've seen it. From the first song, I was reminded what a truly great show this is and why it absolutely deserved to win the Tony for best new musical.

The backdrop of the show is a small German town before the turn of the 20th century but the music for the show is written for today. And even though the musical takes place over 100 years ago the theme is remarkably contemporary. Before you say that it's natural that the show would be contemporary because it was mostly put together in the 21st century, take note that the book is based on a play written German playwright Frank Wedekind in 1891.

From what I've learned Wedekind wrote this play after a series of teen suicides in Germany in the late 19th century. He explores the effects of a sexually repressed society on teenagers who are becoming aware of their sexuality.

For me, what makes the show contemporary is the fact that in the play, most of the adults that the teenagers rely upon for support, comfort and nurturing basically fail them, leaving them to deal with the consequences of behavior that they don't understand? What do I mean? Well. The musical opens with 14 year-old Vendla asking her mother where babies come from. Because her mother is so embarrassed she lies to Vendla and gives her a blatantly inaccurate accounting of sex and reproduction.

Naturally, Vendla gets pregnant and has no idea at all why. Then her mother blames her for not knowing better. Another character in the play commits suicide and after his father shames him for failing, claiming that his parents will no longer be able to face their friends in church because their son had gotten kicked out of school for failing. There's a lot of that in this show; children raped by a parent; children being purposely failed in school for being less than popular; children who are thrown out of their homes to live with Bohemians.

And through it all, the wonderful music expresses the children's rage and frustration through lyrics that sound like teen poetry and music that sounds as classical as it is rock.

By the end of the show, you're left thinking about how kids are left to fend for themselves today. How many stories do we hear about teenage pregnancy, suicide and incest?

This a great show. And hopefully it will run long enough that you'll get to see it.


People are losing their minds over this new iPhone. The NY Post, as well as other news reporting agencies, have been presenting articles for days examining the iPhone craze. I do have a couple of favorite stories.

First - there's the Greg Packer story. Jon came home one night with an early edition of the next day's paper. And in it was a story about Greg Packer who was interviewed because he had already been waiting on line for one of the first iPhones available for sale later in the week. Upon review, the editors realized that Greg Packer is famous for getting quoted in newspapers and magazines and spends a significant amount of time doing it. He even has his own entry in Wikipedia. Upon realizing this, the NY Post team decided not to run any pictures or quotes from Greg Packer as they pertained to the iPhone and he did not appear in the late edition.

Second - Another Post article talked about how when the Mayor of Philadelphia was standing in line for his iPhone, passerby and Philadelphia citizen, shouted out a question about why the Mayor hadn't brought down the city's murder rate. Doesn't that make you wonder why the Mayor of Philadelphia was standing on line in the first place? Isn't he important enough that he would have people to stand on line for him? Apparently he really wanted to be one of the first people to get a new iPhone because he likes having new things. Even with a rate of 200 murders so far this year

Third - today I read something from Breitbarts about the first flood of I-Phone sales. The story covers several people who are thrilled to death to have FINALLY gotten there iPhones after the incredibly long wait. They even found people who managed to hook their laptops up to the ether (wireless internet) and activated their iPhones within minutes of getting them. But what made this one of my favorite iPhone stories was the fact that Steve Wozniak rolled up to an Apple store on his segway where waiting customers stepped aside to give him his honarary first place in line. He then bought two iPhones even though he will most likely get one for free next month. It's just an embarassment of riches, I tell ya'.

"Even Steve Wozniak, the ex-partner of Jobs, showed up at a Silicon Valley mall at 4 a.m. aboard his Segway scooter.He helped keep order in the line outside the Apple store. The other customers awarded the honorary first spot in line to Wozniak, who planned to buy two iPhones on Friday even though he remains an Apple employee and will get a free one from the company next month. He said the device would redefine cell phone design and use."

Our Love's In Jeopardy - Literally

Jon and I have discovered a wonderful website where you can play Jeopardy against some really smart people. And we just really love it.

The community that set up and maintains the game site has done a good job of recreating the Jeopardy experience including the frustration of competitive buzzing for a turn to answer correctly. But Jon and I are working that out.

In fact, the first game I played, I won, with some luck. I've watched some of the other games and if I had played those I would certainly have lost but I got lucky with some familiar categories (which I don't even remember right now) and managed to pull ahead.

I consider it a great stroke of luck that the final Jeopardy question had to do with planets. This questions I remember as it mentioned three moons and asked to which planet they belonged. I had a vague memory of the names of Uranus's moons and sure enough that was the correct answer or question rather.

June 27, 2007

Xanadu Revisited

Here is a link to Xanadu which gives you a taste of what to expect at the Helen Hayes Theater.

Xanadu On Broadway

Who Has the Magnetron?

Jon and I saw a matinee showing of Ocean's 13. Jon had to negotiate with me to get me to go because I was reluctant to see it - specifically because Ocean's 12 was such an annoying movie. And then there was the Pacino factor. You never know what you're gonna' get with him lately, because sometimes his performances are a little bit over the top.

But he Al Pacino dialed it back a little bit for this one and gave a subtle performance without losing too much of that pinache that makes him Pacino.

Of course, you can't forget about Brad Pitt. He's hot as ever. And Casey Affleck outshined his brother yet again in as small a role as any of Ocean's original 11 could have. How can this person be related to Ben Affleck? How is it that Casey is the lesser star of the two when he has three times the talent? I don't understand. The rest of the cast are up to the task. I'm still annoyed that Don Cheadle chose to give his character a British accent because I believe it isn't necessary for the character but whatever - he's such a good actor.

If you liked the first Ocean movie but hated the second one then you'll love the third one. However, if you thought the second movie was better than the first, I can't help you. You probably won't like the third.

I recommend Ocean's 13.

June 11, 2007

The Sopranos - Made In America - Episode 86 - A Few More Thoughts

There are definitely spoilers to follow in this post and the one I wrote last night which appears right after this one, so if you haven't yet seen the finale - Stop Reading Right Now.

Here are some random thoughts with regard to the final episode of the Sopranos

After AJ's SUV blew up and his parents bawled him out for not being more responsible with his very unsafe catalytic converter (still don't understand this one), AJ discussed the incident with his therapist. It was the second time or third in the final episodes that AJ seemed positively delighted watching something violent happen in front his eyes. You may recall how excited he was when AJ participated in the maiming of that poor college kid who owed the two Jasons money for a football bet. And I seem to remember AJ laughing at the same kid coming to school a few days later on crutches. I may be reading into that behavior but it reminds me how often Tony turns to violence to relieve his own feelings of frustration.

After Bobby's funeral, Janice goes to see Junior in the institute where he's wasting away into nothing. She told him that Bobby had died. I thought it was because Bobby was like a son to Junior but it turns out she was just trying to get at Junior's money. Now that Bobby's dead, she needs a new ATM. This thought was confirmed when Janice tells Tony that now she has to find a a new husband. She laughs it off as a joke that only Tony would understand, but Tony knows it's not a joke. When Tony asked Janice about Bobby's kids, she was willing to let Bobby's son go live with an aunt, but wanted to keep Bobby's daughter around because her own daughter was so fond of her "big sister". She's a witch. When Tony realizes that Janice is going to ruin those kids and after Uncle Pat tells him that Janice is trying to get to Junior's money, he went to talk with Uncle Junior to make sure that he left his money to Bobby's kids but it's for naught because Junior has completely lost his mind. He became the crazy man he pretended to be to get out of being prosecuted.

I've read a few recaps and comments that suggest that characters who had died in episodes past were seen throughout all the scenes but I didn't see that. I could be wrong but I feel like a pretty dedicated and knowlegeable fan of The Sopranos.

The Blank Screen
I've also read a lot of theories about the blank screen at the end of the episode.

I agree with anyone who said that Chase left the ending up to the audience but I still believe it to be a big F--- You to his fans.

Even if nothing happened, he should have just ended his story.

June 10, 2007

The Sopranos - Made in America - Episode 86

Tonight, along with millions of TV viewers across this great nation, Jon and I watched the eagerly anticipated series finale of The Sopranos.

It was a regular episode that lacked the feeling of finality you would have expected. It opened with the usual scenes from the previous episode. Then went into the extremely familiar opening titles sequence where we like to watch the names of the actors appearing in the episode to give us an idea of what may be going on in the episode. And then the show started.

It opened with a tight camera shot of Tony Soprano's face on the pillow of the bed where he went to sleep with Bobby's gun in the previous episode. We saw that location last week. It was a house that looked eerily like Junior's house but wasn't. It was a safe house which happened to have a big cardboard cutout of Silvio in the living room. We as the audience were left to wonder what that big cutout of Silvio was for, but it didn't matter really. The cutout was there because Silvio, who had just been shot a bazillion times in the chest, was in a coma.

Then the episode went on. Tony's family was hiding out in a house by the Jersey shore. His wife was bored. His kids went on with their social lives. Aside from the Soprano's appearance at Bobby Bacala's funeral, Tony pretty much kept a low profile for half of the episode.

Then he decided to take some action. He had enough of laying low, so he decided to meet with his FBI friend. He gave his Agent Harris some information about Christopher's Muslim friends in the hopes of getting some information about Phil's location. But that doesn't really pay off until later in the episode.

Let's see. What happens with the kids? Well. In the heat of a passionate moment with his girlfriend, AJ somehow blows up his SUV. I'm not exactly sure how that happened and Tony's explanation of catalytic converters and dried leaves didn't exactly help explain things. But that apparently freed AJ up to make decisions about America's dependency on foreign oil and later leads him to a career in the army. Tony and Carmella talk him out of it by dangling a career in filmmaking in his face. So. AJ lives. And he doesn't get involved in crime. Whew!!

Meadow. Well, she was just as annoying as ever. She did have a good scene. Well, she was in it, anyway. It's when her old friend Hunter is visiting. Carmella is happy to see the young woman until she hears that Hunter is in her second year of medical school, which you can tell really sticks in Carmella's craw because as we all know, Meadow changed her major from medicine to law because her new boyfriend/fiance is a lawyer. So. Meadow lives. And will presumably get a husband and a job at his law firm with a starting salary of $170,000 a year.

Carmella. She's still with Tony by the end of the episode and apparently is very serious about becoming a real estate developer or house builder or real estate agent. . .I'm not exactly sure but whatever she's doing has to do with building plans for a kitchen they showed us at some point during the episode.

Agent Harris does eventually get to giving Tony some information about Phil's whereabouts. But before he does that, Tony has a sit down with the key players of the New York family about cooling things off for a bit. Then, Agent Harris gave Tony the information that Phil's been making phone calls from a pay phone at a gas station in Oyster Bay, Long Island (go Billy Joel). Tony's guys spend some time looking for that gas station. So we know that by the time we saw Phil at a gas station saying goodbye to his wife and twin grandchildren that he was saying goodbye for real. Just after his final goodbye, one of Tony's guys (I'm not sure which one. You need a flow chart to keep up sometimes) shoots Phil in the head which lays him out flat next to the SUV with his family inside.

Phil's wife jumps out of the car, leaves it in drive and starts screaming about Phil. Then the car started rolling forward with the babies inside which caused another panic and brought everybody's focus away from Phil's dead body lying in front of the wheels, wheels which were moving forward. . .and eventually over Phil's head. Some random onlookers on the scene threw up it was so gross and I actually felt a little sick myself. Because while they didn't show his head getting crushed, they did show the beginnings of his head getting crushed, and that was enough for me.

With Phil gone, you'd think that Tony would have nothing to worry about, but no. At a meeting with his lawyer, Tony learned that Carlos (one of the guys that was hiding in the house with him) was most likely going to turn state's witness because his son Jason (one of the Jason's that tried to corrupt AJ) was picked up for something or the other.

One of the most moving scenes in the episode was Tony's visit with Junior at the state institution where he had to move for lack of finances. Tony visited him because Uncle Pat (on whose farm where Tony used to spend his summers as a kid and where his cousin Tony played by Steve Buscemi met his end) told him that Janet was trying to chisel money out of Uncle Junior. But Uncle Junior didn't even know who Janet was. He didn't know who Tony was and he had completely forgotten about Tony's father. He didn't even know that he used to be a mob boss. That Dominic Chianese is a really good actor. I really believed he was an undernourished, senile old man. But for the time in about 7 episodes, I felt bad for Tony. His ties to the past are cut. There isn't anybody left from the good old days to remember him really except for Paulie "remember when" Walnuts and who the hell wants that guy around?

The episode ended in a diner. Tony was sitting in a booth waiting for Carmella and he put Don't Stop Believing by Journey on the juke box. Then Carmella came in. And then AJ. While all this was going on, we saw some boy scouts having dinner with a kid's dad. We saw a couple having a giggly romantic time and we saw possible assassins walking in and out and around Tony and his family. The editors cut in footage of Meadow parallel parking her car badly with the diner pastiches. The cuts back and forth were tense. It was what you expect from The Sopranos - a slow build of seemingly harmless or normal moments leading up to something explosive -- but we'll never know what they were leading up to, because in what is perhaps the biggest F- You Chase could have given the dedicated and patient fans of his show, he jumped to a blank screen just as Meadow walked into the diner.

The last thing we saw was Tony lifting his eyes to meet something, we're not sure what. The last sounds we heard were the bell ringing when the door opened and Steve Perry singing Do--. We didn't even get to hear the end of the word DON'T from Don't Stop Believing.

What's up with that? I was very disappointed with the ending of this episode. Otherwise the other things were tied up nicely.

Aside from the inexplicable ending, it seems David Chase went with the life goes on approach. The family is always the family. And Chase did something really nice when he had AJ quote something Tony said in the final episode of the first season - something about finding the joyful moments. Because David Chase is such a good writer, he can give us that kind of continuity from the first season to the last episode of the finale season 9 years later.

But that blank screen. Agggggggg!!!!


Multimedia message

Last week, I worked at the Helen Hayes theater where they are running Xanadu in previews.

When I first heard that Xanadu was coming to Broadway, I was skeptical. I wondered why on earth would producers make yet another mediocre movie into yet another mediocre musical. But guess what!! It's fantastic. It works. Dare I say it? It's better than the movie.

I recommend it with all my heart. The show is entertaining, funny and full of tremendously talented people. Kerry Butler is fantastic as Clio/Kira/Tangerine. She makes singing beautifully while dancing on roller skates look effortless. And she's funny to boot.

But it's the kind of show that critics could make or break. I really hope they make it.

Go see it. Keep it alive.

June 04, 2007

Weekend Fun

Mets Game 3We had a fun packed weekend which started with our attendance of the Mets game on Saturday.We went with a group of friends. The outing was arranged by one person and he did a good job coordinating everybody's schedules and finding seats that everyone would like. My favorite part about our seating was the view and the fact that we were completely in the shade. Even though Saturday was a warm day, the breeze from Flushing Bay and our shady seats combined their efforts to keep us cool and comfy while the Mets kicked the Diamond Back's butts.

We certainly ate our share of ball park food. Before going, I resolved that I was going to stay as close to the healthy eating we've been following. But instead I ate one hot dog with both mustard and ketchup, popcorn, crackerjacks and I even drank a beer - all in addition to the water and one pretzel I was certain would be the only concessions I consumed.

And we had fun. But the most fun moment for me had little to do with baseball and more to do with numbers. At 2:21 pm, the score of the game was 2 to 1. I thought that was soooo cool I took this picture. Do you get it? I know. It's geeky but hey. That's who I am.

Mets Game 2

After the game, we came home and hung out together. That's a very rare occurence for us because we're usually working on Saturday nights. We both took the day for the game.

I was up very early Sunday morning for an appointment. Afterwards, I treated myself to a scrumptious (yet costly) breakfast of Roumanian Steak and Eggs at the Brooklyn Diner on 57th Street. I didn't photograph the food but I did photograph my coffee cup and milk dispenser. At the Brooklyn Diner they serve your milk in a little caraffe. Isn't that cute?
Brooklyn Diner

Then I started my trek downtown to meet Jon and Tony for our afternoon activity. But first I needed to find a restroom. It was muggy out. My hair was messy and I just needed a bathroom. As I was heading down 7th Avenue, I was looking for a place where I could stop. And then I remembered the time last year that my in-laws stayed at the Sheraton on 52nd Street. It's a very busy hotel, so it's easy to just walk through the melee and use the very clean bathrooms by the conference room. So. Add that to you list of clean and publicly accessible bathrooms in New York City but don't tell anyone I told you.

I met Jon and our friend Tony later in the morning at the Baggot Inn where Tony was hosting an abbreviated version of The Drunken Smartass Olympics, a pub quiz he hosts on Wednesday at Dempsey's Pub with our friend Janet. His game was part of a bigger trivia game gathering called the Game Show Boot Camp. Tony was working in tandem with two other trivia game organizers. Participants included the winners of several game shows including Who Wants to be a Millionaire and Jeopardy among others. And guess who the big winner of the day was? That's right. It was Jon. He won every game that he played in.

As a team we won The Drunken Smartass Olympics. As individuals, Jon won Buzzer Battle, Smarty Pants and had the highest score playing fake Jeopardy. But it's not just that he won. He beat people who were 5 time Jeopardy champions and big, big winners at Millionaire.
Game Show Congress

In the spirit of tooting my own horn, I won when I played fake Jeopardy against two other contestants.
Fake Jeopardy

Jon captured this shot of my early lead. I answered this question correctly.
Fake Jeopardy Score

Afterwards, we joined up with a group from the day for dinner at Caliente Cab Co. Following dinner, Tony, Jon and I ran between the rain drops to get to the subway and then finally home where we arrived just in time to watch the second to last ever episode of the Sopranos, which I'll write about tomorrow.

As far as free time goes, I think that was the most amount of time I've ever spent playing trivia games. I had an amazing time and learned something very valuable.

We have to get Jon on a game show.