Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Little Walk up Central Park West This Week-End Part 1

The cap of the American History Museum with statues of Boone, Audubon, Clark and Lewis
This week-end Eddie and I walked up Central Park West to the Time Warner Center for lunch and shopping.

I thought I would take some pictures from top (i.e. 110th Street) to bottom (59th).
An old religious study building turned into condos. I love this place

First Church of Christ, Science - and one of the first "skyscraper" churches that included rooms for social activities not just prayer - built 1903
The Beresford. Kind of dull, but a cool top. Built 1929 - First Apartment building were elevators opened into Apartment,not onto a hallway!
The new Teddy Roosevelt addition to the Museum of Natural History (which was originally more of the turret section in the back).

Teddy Roosevelt Entrance (Detail of top at top of post)

Teddy Roosevelt statue. Leading the "lesser" races to enlightenment And, yes - I know that is offensive, but that statue was seen as quite progressive itself when it was done because Teddy believed that eventually all races would be uplifted

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

One Good Movie and One Bad Movie - And You'd Probably Guess Wrong

Eddie and I saw two movies this week-end. One much better than we expected and one much worse. Oh, so much worse.  You know the more you think about the movie the more you hate it - and you nated pretty much at the theater? That was...

Paris Can Wait

This is the first non-documentary made by Eleanor Coppola. And I don't want to trash an 81 year old woman's first movie, but just because you got Coppola in your name, doesn't make you an R-teist.

It is a throwback to those old romances where "No" means "Maybe" and a man leaving you at a gas station for an hour is forgiven because he was getting roses for you. Diane Lane did a game job of an American Wife of a movie producer (Eleanor Coppola anyone?!?) who puts up with a too-busy spouse who directs and trouble shoots his films. When swifeyhe can't fly the hour to Paris (ear problems, that the husband doesn't even notice), her husband's french business partner begs her to let him drive her to Paris.
Diane Lane, Eleanor Coppola and the charming french scoundrel...
The seven hour trip dissolves into multiple days, lots of food, flirting and the Frenchman ignoring her very basic requests to take her to Paris so he can stop by old girlfriends, old haunts and sleep in cute old hotels. It is romantic kidnapping and if the theme music was changed would be a great stalking movie.

Then there was the movie that was suppose to be bad, but I liked it.

Arthur; Legend of the Sword

Granted it is dumb and huge and loud and silly - but when you hire Guy Richie to do a King Athur movie, what did you expect?  We all saw his Sherlock Holmes.

King Arthur - the only man in England with Hair Gel and Bleach.

Here he decides to pretty much throw out all details of the story, the back story and history. Instead we are given an humpy King Arthur (Charlie Huhnan who doffs he shirt quite often early, and way too little later on). Artie's shirt is always white and, except for immediately post battle, clean. This contrasts with everyone else in the show.

We have Jude Law in a massively over the top of the top performance as his evil wizard uncle. Don't give Jude Law his head, because he will steal your movie from under you!

We also have giant snakes, mages (good-girl witches), lots on sad pathetic Londiniumites and lots of voluptuous prostitutes with hearts of gold and the big boobies to match.
Holy Battle Mastodons Batman!

AND giant fighting Mastodons! What could go wrong. Sit down, turn your brain off and enjoy the ride.

Oh wait, I forgot the best. One of the knights of the Round Table (spoiler alert) is the Asian Kung Fu master that taught our young King to fight - which, married to the magic sword - makes him all but unbeatable.
The addition of training Kung Fu gives us naked Charlie AND Asian representation

A Christmas Must Buy

A Bit of Clarification on NATO

NATO States (the one in South America is a part of France)
Our President has got himself a bit wrapped around the axle regarding NATO. He is not a dumb person, just quite uninterested in what he isn't interested in, so perhaps others have the same issue. Let's clear some things up.

Regarding the NATO spending target of 2% of GDP.
 - This is a target that NATO members have decided on. It is how much they have, as a group, decided military spending should be. This target was pushed by the United States who believe that overall military spending is too low.
 - The reason that the USA believes this is because the alliance did not do a great job of projecting force in Afghanistan or the Balkans in the 1990s. They would like a better partner in countries.
- USA spends a lot more than 2% of its GDP on the military, and feels its treaty partners should also.
- Recent aggressive moves from Russia (invasions of Georgia and Ukraine and annexation of Crimea) underscore the need for a military.

Regarding NATO allies "Owing" money.
- The 2% spending is on military by that country. It is NOT money owed directly to NATO or the United States. There is no batch of money that goes to NATO (at least not at a realistic level, although there is some communication and coordination funding).
- This is like USA foreign aid spending: we have signed up to targets of spending 1% of our GDP to foreign aid. We don't do that at the government level. We don't "owe" the missing aid money balance to anyone. It is just something we don't do.

Regarding the comment that this low spending robs American tax payers.
- No. The USA spends what it spends on military regardless of what our NATO allies pay. We spend what we think is correct to secure our place in the world.
- For example: Croatia has a GDP of ~ US$100 Billion. They spend US$1.55 Billion on defense. If Croatia spent another $450 Million on defense would the US cut $450 Million from our defense budget? No. And we know this because before the 2008 financial crisis, ALL our allies spent significantly more on defense, and we did not cut our budgets.

Regarding the President's refusal to acknowledge Article 5 and Germany's response.
- Article 5 is the purpose of NATO. It says that an attack on one country is an attack on all countries and each will come to each other's defense. It has only been used once, after 9/11 when NATO went into Afghanistan.
- Without this confirmation, the treaty is worth much less. AND THE US CAME UP WITH THIS TREATY. There is a twofold reason for the being of NATO (from the USA standpoint). It is important to understand WHY there is a NATO at all.
- FIRST, the USA did not want Europe to fall back into a patchwork of alliances. That lead to two world wars (or one big long one depending on your viewpoint) that cost a ton of lives of US soldiers. Rather than have Germany and Italy and others rearm, this time with nuclear weapons, we agreed to a mutual defense treaty and worked actively to reduce their military spending.
- SECOND, rather soon after WWII, the USA and the USSR became adversaries. The official US position was to surround and choke off USSR influence, and NATO was a key part of that in Europe.

So - Should We Demand the NATO allies spend more funds?
- There may be some level of defense spending required to be part of NATO - but military targets set by defense ministers shouldn't be that determining number. If we want to have a required amount, then let's negotiate it.
HOWEVER - there are a couple of problems:
- First, some countries we want in don't want to pay that much. Iceland is an example. Iceland has never really be threatened by anyone. They pay a small percentage of their GDP, but the US had decades of use a military installation that was key to NATO. So we want some countries in that this may force out. Montenegro is also an example that we just let in. We don't care about Montnegro's minuscule military - we don't want Russia to access their Mediterrian ports - so we used NATO to essentially "buy" the ports.
- Second, be prepared that without NATO, (or kicking countries out) military growth would lead to more nuclear weapons. One product of NATO is that Germany, Turkey, Greece, Poland, Italy - nearly all countries in Europe don't have nuclear weapons. Lessons from Ukraine, Iraq, Iran and North Korea show that nuclear weapons buy a huge deterrence. If the US doesn't provide deterrence, then they will on their own.  This is a map of countries with nuclear power plants and therefore a simple and ready supply of raw materials for weapons (light green are planning only, but blue and dark green have them ready).
You want all those countries to have nucs?

Friday, May 26, 2017

Great Night at 54 Below

I went with Jen to 54 Below, a very New York-y old time venue. That evening was Big Band Broadway, in which a bunch of Broadway tunes were rearranged for a big band.

Then Broadway near-stars would sing the hell out of them. It was a great night.  Most of the songs were very good. Some, like The World Goes Round were originally written for Big bands and they were fantastic.  Here are some pictures and old snippet.

This is Charlie Rosen -it is his Band.

Adam Kaplan - From Newsies

Anna DeBrois who was perfection!

Hanna Ellis who rocked the World Goes Round

Thursday, May 25, 2017

LOVED Whirligig

Whirligig is the fantastic new play by Hamish Linklater presented by The New Group. As the audience enters, a young woman lies in a hospital bed, slowly spinning on the stage. The play starts when other pieces are brought forward to suggest settings. The set spins quite often on stage. Not always in the same direction and not always the focus of the show, but the sets work well both as the stage and a metaphor for life, which is always moving but not always predictable. And what is important isn't the walls or chairs, but the conduits of memory.

Norbert Leo Butz, Noah Bean, Dolly Wells
We are immediately treated to a sick but quick witted young woman, Julie, (nicely played by Grace Van Patten) her overly extroverted but desperate father (a wonderful turn by Norbert Leo Butz) and oddly removed and hesitant mother (an aching performance by Dolly Wells). There is an odd dynamic where the daughter and mother communicate through dad, but it is explained quickly.

Whirligig pitches the audience forwards and backwards in time and emotion, without ever losing its own footing. A beautifully efficient story of love in its many forms, the players in Whirligig have taken the play’s honesty to heart with touching and perfect performances. The tragedy is how long it takes us all to cut through the bullshit to truth and forgiveness.

Two key players (and fantastic performances) are Trish (Zosia Mamet) and Derrick (Jonny Orsini), both of whom loved Julie and both of whom blame her addition and current situation on themselves. The play is set in a small town in eastern Massachusetts where lives are intertwined in surprising ways, even to the people there. 
Grace Van Patten, Norbert Leo Butz, Jonny Orsini
Whirligig is skillfully directed by Scott Elliott, who uses the spare stage and spare dialog to great effect and immediacy. Played out in the intimate stages of The Pershing Square Signature Theaters, the play feels both large and intimate. There are almost no false notes among this talented group of actors. And their honesty in this situation pulls at the audience like gravity. Well done

Whirligig | Playwright: Hamish Linklater | Director: Scott Elliott | Cast: Noah Bean, Norbert Leo Butz, Jon DeVries, Alex Hurt, Zosia Mamet, Jonny Orsini, Grace Van Patten, Dolly Wells | website

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

So Inept - They Could Screw Up a Wet Dream

How to ruin things...

1. Take a great, fun movie. Here - The Mummy - with a telegenic star (Brenden Fraizer).

2. Reboot it as a disgusting bug infested nightmare and try to sell it as semi-horror.

3. But don't believe in the re-boot, so put in crazy Scientologist and try to make horror movie and action adventure. During this remove any semblance of fun.

4. Make it a little post-Apocalypse-lite to sell it to the "End of the World" crowd.

5. Ta-da - Shit!

California Highway 1 Suffers MORE Damage

California Highway 1 is one of the prettiest roads in the world. It is similar (but prettier) than a drive along the Capetown Coast.

Our pictures are in storage or I would share the picture of Ed and I along the coast drive. I took him on one of our early trips because I wanted to associate the beauty of the place in his mind with me, the pups and California.

Severe weather (which some might say has been made worst by climate change, but we don't believe that in American anymore) has screwed with the cost.
The bridge was damaged, so you can see the temporary road being built around it.

First - slides caused cracks in the gorgeous bridge that everyone (including Eddie and I) takes a picture. Now that was old, it was build in the 1930s. Back when depressions were addressed by government action to put people back to work - or, as Trump, McConnel and Ryan call it - socialism.

Anywho, it was old and it made a little sense that it cracked.

But the other day a mudslide of epic proportions took out a huge part of the road.

But this is in no way due to severe weather from climate change. Its a random event due to the third "1,000 year storm" in less than 12 months.

Mainly Done With Trump on Nincompoopery

So it is a resolution I will probably break, but - except for a weekly update - I'm probably done talking about Donald Trump.

You see has committed the crime of Obstruction of Justice. That isn't an opinion. He stated it to Lester Holt. It is in the "official" notes of the Trump / Russian Ambassador meeting.
Where Trump said he made the decision to fire Comey before the DOJ report because of "this Russia Thing".
The Republicans in Congress don't care about our country's values or the rule of the law.  So, it isn't really the country I was raised to believe it was, right? The President illegally obstruction justice not just of an investigation, but of an investigation of our enemy. There is a reasonable argument to be made for Treason, but I don't need to go there. He is already guilty - SELF ADMITTEDLY guilty to Obstruction of Justice, and the Congress doesn't care.

This isn't the country I was taught I lived in when I was in school. It isn't the country I believed in. This isn't the country Americans fought and died for.

And Congress, in swearing before God to Protect the Constitution, are - if you believe in that sort of thing - are doomed to an eternity burning in hell. So there is no point getting angry anymore. No one cares.

And, in fact, complaining about it will probably just get us all thrown in jail - so why bother. Enjoy the fucking bananas I say.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

New Review Site For Me

The Show-Score web site is republishing my reviews.  So that is very cool (link)

Saturday, May 20, 2017

End of an Era

And Era may be too short a length of time for this...

The Ringling Brothers / Barnum and Baily Circus is playing its last show tonight, just down the (Long) island in Nassau County.

It is the end of a long line. I confess, I didn't enjoy most of the circus. I didn't like the Lion Tamer or clowns. But I did love the Trapeze. I also find it sad that on the last show, the PETA and other protesters were out. I mean you won, you closed down the circus (along with poor sales) - let them have their last night for goodness sake.

Always my favorite
My least favorite act was always the walking poodles. I mean, poodles? Really

Friday, May 19, 2017

Rampaging Stupidity is NOT a "Sickness"

I think this stretches the definition of "sickness". I mean, I don't fully get "sex addiction", but I totally don't get "texting pictures of my penis to underage girls" as a sickness. Take the phone away from him.

Review Up For " The Lucky One"

this is up on my review web site...

The Lucky One Is In the Eye of the Beholder

The Mint Theater Company brings another excellent production to life with The Lucky One. Written by A. A. Milne before he was typecast as a children's writer, it is the story of two brothers and the effect of jealousy. As with every Mint production, it is a beautifully realized play with outstanding acting.
Robert David Grant, Ari Brand - photo: Richard Termine
Robert David Grant plays Gerald Farrindon, the sparkling brother. Gerald is handsome, athletic, smart and has success in his profession and personal life. Ari Brand plays Bob, "poor Bob". Poor Bob is the less attractive, shorter brother. He is less loved by his parents, less capable at work and less able to express himself. Paton Ashbrook plays Pamela, introduced first as Gerald's finance, and we learn first a friend of Bob's. 
Robert David Grant, Cynthia Harris - photo: Richard Termine
The Lucky One begins at the Farrindon family estate, where Gerald and Pamela are announcing their engagement. We are introduce to the family, the mother and father dote on Gerald. It is one of those family's with a limited amount of love and support, so Bob barely receives a nod, much less his parents' affection. Only Aunt Tabitha (a charming Cynthia Harris) keeps an eye out for Bob, and offers help.
And Bob needs help. He is in over his head at work, quite possibly in legal trouble and comes to Gerald for help.
Mr. Grant does a wonderful job with Gerald. He wears a consistent grin, but it plays, at various times, as sly, noncommittal, friendly, devoted and angry. It is a great performance that takes a while to fully expose itself. You think of Gerald as the superficial twit for quite a long time. Ari Brand's Bob is harder to like. He has internalized the lack of support from his parents and turned it into a emotional scab that he picks at.
It is a very nice show, but it isn't a revelation. The Lucky One tells the tale of sibling rivalry that seems ordinary. It moves well from point A to B to C, but nothing really surprises here. Director Jesse Marchese does a good job, and the wit is sparkling - but not unexpected.
Paton Ashbrook, Ari Brand - photo: Richard Tremine
The Lucky One | Playwright: A. A. Milne | Director: Jesse Marchese | Cast: Paton Ashbrook, Ari Brand, Robert David Brand, Cynthia Harris, Michael Fredric, Andrew Fallaize, Wynn Harmon, Deanne Lorette, Peggy J. Scott, Mia Hutchinson-Shaw | Website

Thursday, May 18, 2017

A Special Prosecutor - Maybe We Can All Relax Now and Wait... Nevermind

A special prosecutor has been appointed to investigate President Donald Trump's Campaign contacts with foreign governments. Primarily Russia, but Michael Flynn was butt boy to the Turks as well.

The official White House response, made after sober discussions with all involved last night, was that the White House was glad we were going to get to the bottom of this. President Trump welcomed the news and looked forward to working with the prosecutor - the former FBI Director Muller.

That response lasted until tweet time.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

I Find The Singluar Pronoun They / Them Difficult To Use

I am writing a review which includes two people of a non-conforming gender. Their preferred pronouns are "they / them" rather than "he / him" or "she / her".

I find the use of a traditionally plural pronoun applied to an individual to be confusing linguistically. I wish they would prefer something else.  And no, I don't have a witty example, I am being serious.

What New Asshattery Is This?

Well kids, it's time for WTF.

So this week in asshattery, our President has outdone himself. He has proven to be completely unable to keep track of his own lies. Now, terms of sticking with the lie, my father was definitely more accomplished. He once told a woman he was 16 when I was born and I was ten years younger than I was.  He stuck with that until caught (he forgot to tell me my age). How hard is it to stick with whatever asinine story leaves your cake hole?

(Editor's Note: This isn't all the asshattery around this week - just the "Stick With The Lie" idiocy)

Lie #1: FBI Director Comey was fired because of a recommendation from the Justice Department. That was the "official" story went out for a few days - including Spokeshole Sean Spicer giving that news to reporters in the dark - from the bushes of the White House.  Just an aside, my favorite Washington Post corrections of all time came from that. Because the White House objected to the term "in the bushes". It ran a little something like this...

Who Blew That Lie?... President Trump.  He was interviewed by Lester Holt and said, he was going to fire Comey in any case, regardless of the report. He didn't like the FBI Russian Investigation.  He then said his spokepoeople couldn't always be right.

Lie #2: The day after the firing (because Trump's Campaign was being investigated for colluding with the Russians!), Trump met with the Russian Foreign Minister and Russian Ambassador (which  we only know about because the Russian News Service was let in, not American news!) - Trump let fly an intel secret that wasn't to be shared with anyone. Not our real allies, not most people in the administration - defiantly not with our frenemy Russia. The reason is because it comes from a mid-east ally that doesn't want it sources known because it puts them at risk of death and losing access to more secrets.

Trump's team (including his Secretary of Defense!) came out and said Trump didn't give sources or methods (which isn't what anyone reported in any case).

The Russian spokeshole told Russian media it was "Fake News" and never happened.

Fox News said it might have happened, but it was probably no big deal because it was an accident. "On the other hand, if it's not deliberate, it's not exactly a high crime and misdemeanor."

 Of course President Trump DID do it deliberatly. Why, because he wanted to prove how cool it was to have Russia's BFF as President.

Who Blew That Lie?.... Today Trump said (paraphrasing slightly), "Screw you guys... I did it on purpose because I am the President!"

Monday, May 15, 2017

Brits Off Broadway Delivers Another Great Performance

Sophie Melville is transfixing as Effie in Iphigenia in Splott. Splott, in case you don’t know, is a depressed suburb of Cardiff, the city in Wales. Iphigenia, Effie as she is called by everyone, is an unemployed, unhappy, listless young adult with few prospects going forward. She is also hard, crass, bitter and nasty to everyone from her boyfriend to strangers on the street. On the positive side, she enjoys being a bitch.

Sophie Melville in Iphigenia In Splott. Photo by Mark Douet.jpg

Her rage is transfixing and often humorous, albeit exhausting, as she berates anything or anyone that wanders into her zone of attention. Effie’s weekly routine consists of drinking, screwing and dealing with a hang over until she is ready to do it all again.
Iphigenia in Splott takes this character and listens as Effie tells the story of when her life changed, when she realized there was more possible. It is a format of a play that is often used in single character shows, particularly British or Irish pieces. Her story revolves around a man she met at a bar that might or might be her soulmate and what happens to her after that meeting. It isn’t a harrowing tale, but it is a heartbreaking story. There is a bit of social rage tacked on at the end that tries to make the audience think twice about the plight of people like Effie in towns like Splott.
The play is effective and the audience connects with Ms. Melville. She gives a great performance, but it is a performance limited by the format. The audience listens to Effie rage and pout and swagger about for 80 minutes. It is a long time to spend with a, mainly, unpleasant and inconsiderate bitch, even if you feel for her. A strong Welsh accent doesn’t help matters, and makes it tough to keep up, particularly when her volume launches into a screech.
Directed by Rachel O’Riordan, Iphigenia in Splott forces you to care for Effie, ultimately excusing her actions and attitude because of luck and forces well beyond her ability to control. In this, Iphiginia comes from a very European mind-set where your opportunities are predetermined, children pay for the crimes of their parents and you have very little control over your fate. If you believe that, then rage might be the only reasonable response.
Iphigenia in Splott | Playwright: Gary Owen | Director: Rachel O’Riordan | Cast: Sophie Melville | website