Sunday, February 26, 2017

Strike Back(wards)

One of the fun things about Amazon is watching shows that you missed earlier. One of these is the Cinemax / Sky show, Strike Back.

It is a goofy black ops show that is 60% shoot-em-up, 20% buddy comedy, 10% gratuitous breast shoots and 10% gratuitous nuded up man-candy shots.



The two leads play the Straight-laced, rock jawed British elite forces guy and the semi-sex addicted loosey goosey American.

And they are pretty damn perfect in their roles.  But here is the funny thing. 



The buttoned up Brit is actually Phillip Winchester who is from (despite the name) Montana, USA.



And the loosey goosey American who won't shave is really Sullivan Stapelton, born in Melbourne Australia.

Okay - maybe I just thought it was funny.  How about interesting? (Since we are in America, I can't really post bookie pictures or I would get flagged.)

Friday, February 24, 2017

An Assult on Freedom of Speech and Freedom of the Press


I try not to get to hyperbolic anymore. Because it is to easy to scream the sky is falling. But I do worry that President Trump and the Republican Political Party (not Republican voters per say) have recently crossed the line from blowhard to scary. Two actions, occurring right now, frighten the hell out of me.

First - Trump has gone off the rails accusing the FBI of being in league with "his enemies" because they won't stay that his administration has no communications with Russia before the election.

Second - President Trump has demaned the FBI round up the leakers immediately. Very much in the vein of round up the usual suspects from Casablanca.

AND THESE ARE NOT THE THINGS THAT REALLY FRIGHTEN ME!!

In actually, "let's ignore the constitution"... items that scare me.

1) Today his Spokesman refused to allow major news outlets to the press briefing (link).  CNN, New York Times, and the major news networks were not allowed in. Instead the major friendly outlets were invited: Brietbart, Washington Times (Sun Mung Moon's paper) and a few others. This treads dangerously close to removing freedom of the press. And a first for our country.

2) The Republicans in 12 states have started to outlaw protests in some forms. In Arizona they have passed a law that equates protesters with Terrorists. Including the legal ability to arrest people for planning a protest AND seizing their property for simply planning a protest online. (link). In South Dakota and other states they are making it legal to run your car into protesters that are on a public roadway.

Yeah, that's fucked up.

You can say what you want about Democrats, but we never made taking lives legal because they had a different opinion. And we didn't shred the First Amendment (allowing Gay Marriage for others is NOT prohibiting your free exercise of your religion.)

There is a lot of Wait (and a little hate) in Giraffe Labor

So an Adventure Park in New York has a live feed for a Giraffe that is in labor. BUT giraffes can be in labor for many days, so it is not a really a super active giraffe feed.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mew3CqW8xlU

But, because idiots here could screw up a wet dream, it was taken down for a while as being "pornographic".  Oy. We have TV shows were blood is literally splattered on walls, but a giraffe walking around and maybe giving birth is pornographic?

If you want to watch, click on the image above. But be warned. It is a lot of one fat giraffe walking around - and very little pornographic birthing at this point. They can be in labor for a long time.

It is good, ready to take a nap viewing though, even with a spa like new age "clin clin clin" going on as the soundtrack.

(Repost from my review site)

Sunday In The Park With George is a Play About and A Work Of Art


This show is spectacular. 
Sunday In The Park With George is a well known and seen musical. Start with a difficult, dissonant score by Stephen Sondheim and then add a definitive, widely viewed and heard recording by Bernadette Peters and Mandy Patinkin and you have the recipe for a disappointing revival. But the show in the newly restored Hudson Theater is the opposite of disappointing. It borders on revelatory.
Jake Gyllenhaal and Annaleigh Ashford
Sunday In The Park With George is a musical about the fanatical drive of the artist Georges Seurat to create. And, in particular, to create his masterpiece, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. Jake Gyllenhaal inhabits the character of Seurat with a fervor that is masterful and eloquent - and a voice that handles the score wonderfully. Annaleigh Ashford is Dot: his muse, lover, model companion and yet a distant second to his art.
This Sunday In The Park With George breaks past of its boundaries and is a joyful experience. This is a triumph of the actors and director, because most of the show isn’t about joy, it is about obsession, drive and containment.
The score mimics Seuart’s use of pointillism by creating harmony out of distinct notes. In Seuart’s paintings you have to step back to get the full effect. In this version of Sunday, the music is somehow less remote. The musical method of hammering single notes, endemic in the score, is used more sparingly by director Sarna LaPine. Instead, some of the songs blend the music together allowing the meaning and emotion to sail through.
And that emotional depth is where Mr. Gyllenhaal and Ms. Ashford shine extra brightly. Seuart is captive to his art, expressing through it all of the emotions he cannot otherwise express. Even more challenging, his art isn’t emotional when you are close to it. You have to step back and view the whole to see the warmth and love. Mr. Gyllenhaal captures the love of the artist for his work and the dreams that people will judge him not by his actions, but by artistic results. And the disappointment when they cannot see what he sees.
In the first act, Seuart draws and paints a variety of individuals strolling in the park as his relationship with Dot grows and then grows apart. The vignettes reveal much about of the repressed and rigid class differences in Paris at the time. Propriety rules their lives, except for George and Dot. George is ruled by a passion for art, which can manifest as disinterest in his fellow man. Passion for George, and life itself, rule Dot. When these two cannot resolve their differences it isn’t a rejection, but rather an acceptance of their differences, a bittersweet acceptance.
At the end of act one, these individual interactions and sketches resolve into the painting as portrayed in a Tableau Vivant on stage. And then, the beauty and love Seuart had for these characters and their moments of individuality is obvious. And stunning.
The second act of Sunday takes place in the present - when a much younger George, perhaps the great-grandson of the painter, is delivering an artistic installation. Here Mr. Gyllenhaal plays the artist who has lost the fervor of creating art by the overwhelming pressure to fund art. It takes a trip back to Paris and the visit of the spirit of Dot to inspire him again. (And yes, for once, the Chromolune is handled amazingly.)
If you can, go see Sunday In The Park With George. It is one of those shows people will talk about for years. But be warned it is still Sondheim, and the people that hate his work won’t be persuaded by these.
(more pictures below - because I loved it)
Sunday In The Park With George | Music and Lyrics: Stephen Sondheim, Book: James Lapine | Director: Sara Lapine | Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Annaleigh Ashford, Brooks Ashmanskas, Jenni Barber, Phillip Boykin, Mattea Conforti, Erin Davie, Claybourne Elder, Penny Fuller, Jordean Gelber, Robert Sean Leonard, Liz McCartney, Ruthie Ann  Miles, Ashley Park, Jennifer Snachez, David Turner, Max Chernin, Mayann Hu, Michale McElroy, Jaime Rosenstein, Julie Foldesi, Laura Irion, Andrew Kober

(link)

Thursday, February 23, 2017

This is How Your Know the Republican Politicians Here Are Playing Politics with People's Lives.

So we have President Trump - and the Republican Politicians - argued that LGBT protection and Transgender bathrooms laws should be left to the local levels. So he rescinded President Obama's Executive Order that protected Transgender students at the federal level.


At the same time, some Republican State legislatures have passed laws saying that ONLY State Law can govern local bathroom issues. And city statues on Gay Rights or Transgender rights are illegal. North Carolina has done that with HB2 and Arkansas has done that with LGBT non-discrimination passed by cities in Arkansas.

So, is it best left to the local governments? Or is it just a way for the Republicans to make live miserable for people wherever they can?

By the way, the Supreme Court in Arkansas did NOT say that outlawing LGBT rights was legal. It said that the state has the right to overturn local laws. The Court remanded back to the lower court to decide if LGBT and Transgender discrimination was legal at all. That will probably still go back up the to AR Supreme Court no matter what.

Terriers Don't Play "Fetch" Well.

So Trevor was bored this morning. Don't ask how I know, just trust me I know.

Well, the back patio area is empty. It has furniture in the spring and summer, but they put it away for the winter.  AND, it is empty now as the snow melted. So we went to play fetch.



Ultimately he got good at it. He still won't being the ball back to me, but he drops it when I get to him.  This is better than Ashford - who would get the ball, come back but then wouldn't let go of it.  Or Hastings, who got the ball, then played keep away running as far away as possible.

I say ultimately, he got it - because the first thing Trevor did was get the ball, then run to a corner of the patio and drop the ball outside the gate. The gate doesn't open or unlock. So he watched the ball roll away down hill.  Talk about one Freaked Out Dog! The ball was leaving!!!!!

He shoved about 2/3s of his body through the grate, until (luckily) his hips got stuck. Then he was just stuck, trying to get through, until I caught him and drug him back inside.

Scene of the Crime: The green arrow is where he dropped the ball. Luckily, it rolled out of sight (red arrow) ultimately.
THEN he would play fetch and just drop the ball when I got to where he was.  Progress.

Kid Victory

Disconcerting and Disquieting: Kid Victory Is Good But Isn’t Easy

Kid Victory is the new musical from John Kander and Greg Pierce at the Vineyard Theater, and it is a doozy. It’s best to deal with the biggest item up front – this is NOT a musical that everyone will love.
Brandon Flynn
It is a fairly up and perky musical about a terribly conflicted story. Kid Victory is the story of Lucas’ reactions, upon his return to his family after being held in captivity for a year by a psychotic and probable sex criminal.

Yeah, there’s that. 
Brandon Flynn plays Lucas with fantastic depth, not just when acting but in reacting and even in repose. It is not the type of story one expects in a musical. Worse, there is the additionally layering of the fact that Lucas was flirting with the assailant before he was abducted - which isn’t the type of grey area normally explored in happy musicals.
The viewer’s ability to live with that particular story in a musical will define if you like the Kid Victory or not.  If you find the idea offensive, you might not be able to get past it. I very nearly walked out early, but I am glad I didn’t.
Kid Victory follows Lucas’ return to his home and small hometown after the experience. His parents (Karen Ziemba and Daniel Jankins) are dealing with his return, by not dealing with the experience. They try to help integrate him immediately back into his old life, which is impossible. His old friends and church acquaintances, which have taken on a large part of his parents’ life since his abduction, offer, too enthusiastically, to help. It is more than he can take.
Lucas takes a job with the town Bohemian, Dee Roscioli as Emily. Here he finds a sanctuary and friend. Little by little, we learn what happened to Lucas.  He meet a man in an online game, Michael (wonderfully creepy Jeffry Denman). The fact that Lucas met him willingly, although didn’t go with him willingly, is at the root of Lucas’ inability to deal with the abduction. There was also the unspoken, but obvious sexuality that was assumed in their meeting.
Kander and Pierce’s music is oddly out of place, and yet perfect for Kid Victory. Some numbers are whimsical and others are love songs of yearning, completely at odds with each other and the reactions we should have. They adds to the emotional dissonance of Kid Victory, which keeps the viewers from ever really being comfortable. For example, after some of the songs, the audience really wants to applaud, but is it appropriate to applaud in this environment?
Brandon Flynn and Dee Roscioli
Director Liesl Tommy has handled a truly odd show deftly. I can’t imagine Kid Victory ever finding a large audience, but I thought that about Next To Normal so my radar on that isn’t great. Ultimately, Kid Victory is a very good show, but not a great one - and I fear a great one would be needed to overcome the audience's squeamishness about the topic.
Kid Victory at The Vineyard Theater| Playwrights: Music and Lyrics: John Kander and Greg Pierce | Director: Liesl Tommy | Cast: Ann Arvia, Joel Blum, Laura Darrell, Jeffry Denman, Brandon Flynn, Daniel Jenkins, Dee Roscioli, Karen Ziemba, Blake Zolfo

Jake Gyllenhaal is Amazing

Jake Gyllenhaal is amazing. There is no other word.

I saw Sunday in the Park With George yesterday. I have seen the original on DVD often, it stars Mandy Patinkin and Bernadette Peters - and I loved it.


The revival stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Annaleigh Ashford. Annaleigh, winner of the Tony for Kinky Boots, is excellent. She is different than Bernadette - which is great. More venerable and just different.

Jake Gyllenhaal is not only different that Mr. Patinkin (whom I love), but better. He shows the pain and anguish underneath more subtly and more believably. And, it is really impossible to believe, has a fantastic voice.  Which just doesn't seem fair. One person should not have that acting ability, voice and presence. I don't even find him attractive, yet I swooned.
Jake Gyllenhaal and Annaleigh Ashford in the staged reading of the show at City Center. This went so well, it was moved to Broadway where I saw it yeterday.

It was fantastic. (Review can't be done in previews - but you know I'll like it.)

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Political?

A set of posters titled "We The People" has been made and made available for free download. They are designed to show that the face of America is multicultural and rich. However, a school in Maryland has insisted they be taken down as being Anti-Trump.

I ma not sure they are anti-Trump in any way. They are pro-diversity, but that doesn't make them anti-anything.

President Trump has said, as recently as yesterday, that the country has to come together as one nation. We need to transcend our hatred. He said this in response to the anti-Jewish attacks.



If we are to take him at his word, and at "what is in his heart" as we are requested to do, - then these poster reinforce his message of inclusion.  What coudl be offensive about that?

My Review of Man From Nebraska is Up

(Reposted from LINK)

A Tedious Loss of Faith In Man From Nebraska

Man From Nebraska is the 2003 Pulitzer Prize finalist play from the amazing author Tracy Letts, author of August: Osage County. The audience’s enjoyment of this piece will depend on one’s tolerance for silence as identifier for desperation. For me, it the images and quiet desperation between the main characters was magical for 30 minutes, tedious for the next 30, then just annoying. Your mileage may vary.
Reed Birney is an amazing actor, and here – as Ken – he gives another fantastic performance as a man who has lost his faith. Unfortunately, it is the fantastic performance of a very passive man. While completely believable, sometimes you just want to slap him and scream, “Wake Up!”.
Annette O'Toole and Reed Birney in Man From Nebraska
The piece starts with Ken and his wife, Nancy, (Annette O’Toole – in an oddly written role) playing small vignettes with the minimal conversation. Nancy speaks a sentence or two and finds a comfort in their regular routine. Ken rarely speaks, but the audience can sense an undercurrent of dread and angst, even if Nancy can’t. Finally, but randomly, Ken breaks down one night and confesses to his wife he doesn’t believe in God anymore. In the middle of Baptist Nebraska, this terrifies Nancy.
Ultimately, after a lot of slow conversations with deep pauses, Ken decides to venture abroad in search of something. The Man From Nebraska finds a lot of the same angst in London, until he befriends Tamyra (a luminous Nana Menash) and adventure ensues. Ms. Boras gives a wonderful performance and livens the stage every moment she is on it.
Reed Birney and Nana Mensah in Tracy Lett's Man from Nebraska (Photo: Joan Marcus)
Without giving too much away, a rather obvious turn of events tumbles Ken back into his original life, but he is now transformed. Spiritually transformed, since his outward demeanor is passively the same.  All is tidied up by the final curtain. But it was a long slow slog back to the beginning.
In most traditional ways, it is a great play. The acting was perfect, the pace delivers what was piece calls for. Man From Nebraska is probably a great show, just not an enjoyable one.
It was a finalist for the Pulitzer, and the quiet, deliberate pace and mannerism will resonate with many people. The sets (Takeshi Kata), with one amazing exception, mimic the show; they are minimal and understated, showing up to emphasis the distance between people. Director David Cromer has succeed in delivering exactly what he wanted. The acting is uniformly first rate and the pace is very much at one with the show. If it sounds interesting, or if you are a Reed Birney fanatic, see it.
Man From Nebraska | Playwright: Tracy Leets | Director: David Cromer | Cast: Reed Birney, Annika Boras, Heidi Armbruster, Tom Bloom, Nana Mensah, Max Gordon Moore, Annette O’Toole, Kathleen Peirce, William Ragsdale

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Alternative Facts: International Edition

Last Week the Shit Show opened to its European run. 

Trump turned his laser like focus on Europe, in order to explain how the world really works to Angie Merkel and friends (you know he dated Angie Dickinson once - back when she was hot - not now).

Anyway, back to the Shit Show.

Since Kellyanne Conway and Stephen Miller are in a CNN imposed time-out, he sent the B team to Europe.

First Mike Pence told the European Union that the US supported them.

And that Trump was misunderstood when he said it was an outdated institution that others would leave.

And when Trump applauded Brexit and said others would beat a path out - he didn't really mean he wanted that to happen. He just meant the the EU was such a disaster that it would happen.

VP Pence said this at an European Union meeting where he managed his speech without every saying the words "European Union".

Applause was tepid.

Then Defense Secretary Mattis (Mad Dog) had to go and talk with those cheap ass SOBs of NATO. 

He said that the US was fully behind NATO and nothing would change that. You know, unless they didn't raise their Defense Budgets to 2% of their GDP. Not that this information would be used if our allies were attacked - but if Russia decided to attack the Baltics, only Estonia has been making the 2% contribution. We would defend everyone, but we might start in Tallinn (he's looking at you Lithuanian and Latvia).

Poor Mad Dog Mattis then had to comment on Trump's plans to steal Iraq's oil.

Mad Dog said that just because Trump said we should have taken the oil, that doesn't mean Trump wanted to. 

And just because President Trump said, "We'll see..." when asked if he would go back and take the oil now, doesn't mean we are investigating that possibility.

And yes, we know it's a War Crime.  The US doesn't do War Crimes - and no, waterboarding didn't count because we stopped it (wink wink nudge nudge, do you have another question because we can answer it in private).

And then there is that Hell On Earth, Sweden.

Trump was just parroting what he saw on TV in the middle of the night and it's not his fault if those pesky Swedes don't want Fox News.

If they did, then they would know they are living in a Communist Hell Hole with Global Health Care, 6 months of maternity / paternity leave, one of the lowest levels of income inequality, free child care - it's like a Trump Tower nightmare. Every Swede has the right to a happy healthy life, what kind of bullshit is that?

Monday, February 20, 2017

The School at St. Jhon The Devine

The Anglican Cathedral next to us has a school. I love walking Trevor through the grounds because the school is SO cool.

Sometimes, in the sun it looks warm and inviting.


Other times, in the shade and snow it looks like the scene of a Gothic Horror show.


In any case I imaging myself living there easily. Wandering through the rooms where my ancestors lived, creaking staircases and ghosts. Ito a paneled library. stuffed with books.  And I know it is crazy, as the buildings aren't that old and on the Scottish moors - but still, Trevor and I dig it.

Montenegro Coup

Montenegro is a fascinating (and GORGEOUS) little country. A by little I mean little. It is a little smaller than Connecticut. It was a province of Yugoslavia, then part of Serbia after the break up, but is now it's own country.

And it was recently the scene of an attempted coup by Russian backed military / political party groups.



All because they have applied to NATO (should they be in NATO- that is another story entirely). The election in October was for the President (who has run the country since 1991 - so "President") and it was relatively free and he was opposed by a party backed by Russia. A few days before the election, the country was warned that Russians, disguised as Montenegrins, would cause upheaval and try to steal the election.  They were found, arrested and some deported back to Russia.

You may wonder why Russia cares.  Well, geo-politically, Montenegro is the last warm water port in the Mediterranean Europe that isn't part of NATO. And, it would be a little embarrassing to have them join.

But more than that Montenegro has a rather large Russian population of second homes.  You see, Montenegro is gorgeous and they allow Russian, Ukrainians, Germans and Americans to buy there. It won't look good if Russian second homes are protected by NATO.  And, yes, of course I want a second home there (but the list of what I want is long and getting longer every day :-).

Here are some of the pictures we took in Montenegro in 2015 with friends.
John and Sue in the Square in Kotor (they hiked up the hill to the old fort and took the picture at the top of this page too.)


Jane and I outside Kotor's Walls.

The 1,000 year old Kotor Cathedral that had been Catholic and is now Orthodox.

Herceg Novi

Jane and Barbara on the Herceg Novi walls.

A view of Kotor Bay from the Kotor Fort

Friday, February 17, 2017

We May Be Seeing A Lot More Of This

A Woman Spurned has nothing on a Politician Forced to Grovel and Still Kicked to the curb...

I have a feeling we will be getting a lot more stories like this...


This Makes Me Feel Better

So... the world sucks and Donald Trump is depressing and the Congress (which was busy as bees knowing Obama was going to veto things) can't pass anything to save it's life.

ObamaCare. Congress voted to repeal it 60 times when Obama was in The White House, now - they can't find their ass with a map and a compass. They have passed 1 law - ONE. The allowed people that are on disability with mental problems to buy guns. That's progress!

Anyway... I digress.

I sponsor a couple of kids overseas. One is via World Vision and one is via the Christine Nobel Foundation in Ireland. I just got my report on my sponsored child in Mongolia.  He is Chinbat (which must be a common Mongolian name).

He is 11 and in 6th grade. He lives with his Grandmother. The live in a Ger (which I think is a smaller version of a Yurt). My funds take care of his school needs (uniform, supplies, lunches, and maybe fees). He and his grandmother live on her pension and a small amount of government money because his mom died young. They were homeless until recently. His dad is away working in agriculture to make money and send home.

Anyway - I get to help. And it does make me feel better.  Here are pictures of him, grandmother, the Ger and his uniform.  It made me smile...