Friday, February 29, 2008

Hmmmm...

The WINTER PROJECT, as my amplifier restoration is known, has been energized for the first time.

The good news: It did not blow up or catch on fire.

The bad news: All it does is hum, and somewhat loudly at that.

Q: "What does one do when one's amp hums all the time?"

A: Teach it some words.

I'll try a few things over the week-end.

Electrocution is not on the agenda.


Comments: 4


Thursday, February 28, 2008

"8 Goths and 22 Northmen on an exploration journey from Vinland westward. We had camp by 2 skerries one day's journey north from this stone. We were out fishing one day. When we came home we found 10 men red with blood and dead. AVM save us from ill. We have 10 men by the sea to look after our ships, 14 days journey from this island. Year 1362"

So reads the inscription on the famous/infamous Kensington Rune Stone, found in 1898 by Olof Ohman, a farmer in Kensington township in west-central Minnesota. It is now kept in a museum in the nearby city of Alexandria.

All of the above is true.

Everything else about the Rune Stone- its authenticity, language, meaning and age has been vigorously debated since its discovery. It has undergone a resurgence in interest in the last ten years, with new evidence suggesting that it is not the hoax proclaimed by some in academic circles. The chief objections to it were primarily linguistic as it was believed that some of the runes and some of the word-forms on the stone were not known in the 14th century. Recent research by Richard Nielsen and others has disproved this, but academic tradition is resistant to change.
The inscription concerning the location makes little sense in relation to where it was found, but Thomas Reiersgord's The Kensington Rune Stone- Its Place in History suggests, with a wide variety of evidence, that the stone had been held as a sacred object by the Dakota Indians until the mid-1800's, when it was moved and buried, to be unearthed years later.

What does it mean? Any idea of visits to the North American continent by Scandinavians before Columbus was vigorously opposed by many groups (I clearly remember this from my childhood), even up until the early sixties when irrefutable evidence at L'Anse aux Meadows was uncovered.

There have been many stories about pre-Columbian European influences. The Reiersgord book adds more, presented in a logical manner. The thing I find most interesting about this whole issue is the impassioned denial by many academics of any pre-Columbian contact in central North America. It has become a belief of negation, not a scientific conclusion, and is in danger of becoming obsolete, as more finds are constantly being discovered or re-interpreted.


Comments: 2


Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Melancholia

I spend a fair amount of my life rummaging through other peoples' memories, cherished or otherwise. With the explosive growth of scrap-booking, people have a need to transfer their old photos into a digital-friendly form for resizing and putting into what are now quite elaborate layouts. No longer just a bunch of photo-corners stuck on black paper, these are artist-designed templates supplemented with ornaments and stickers- a work limited only by your imagination (and money.) The drudge work, actually giving each image a proper scan (it does make a difference, you know) is left to me, with my trusty Epson 1640XL or, for some occasional overkill, a pricey Hasselblad drum scanner. I'm a glorified copy-machine operator, but hey!- It's a living.

There's a saying among photo-finishers: "Don't look at the pictures!", meaning don't waste time looking at the content. I can't help it with this old stuff: so many birthdays, Easter outfits, proud prom-goers, new babies, fading grandparents, new cars that have by now been recycled many times, and most poignantly, beloved pets who now only exist in blurry snapshots and blurrier memories. You see what looking at the pictures can lead to- a feeling of sadness, a sense of fatalism that does no one any good, especially in one already prone to melancholy.


Comments: 2


Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Inspiration

It is the spark that makes a blog (or any other form of writing) work. "When you're hot you're hot", as the old song goes, but when inspiration wanes sometimes you have to borrow a little. I'll "borrow" inspiration from almost anyone if it moves me- even if it moves me indirectly or counter-intuitively. Of course sometimes (like yesterday) I'm out there on my own without a net or anyone else to blame for my excesses.

But there are several blogs that I keep returning to- they're in my links, most of them I've followed for years; some of them have nearly stopped posting, while others have evolved over time- slowly changing as they explore new areas.

From the very start Flippism Is The Key has had an Icelandic component. Like a fiend with his dope, and a drunkard his wine, I need my Iceland "fix". One of them has, by her constancy, influenced and inspired me; only recently have I begun to realize just how many of my posts were unconsciously modeled on hers. Maria Roff, at Iceland Eyes has steadfastly given the world a photo and a paragraph or two about Iceland nearly every week for the last four years.

Think of a regular travel book. By its nature, it is usually a commercial or semi-commercial endeavor; none have the kind of depth that this blog has, and few have such clear examples of Icelandic life- it's as if you had your own personal guide. the other blogs listed each have their own approach- some very informal, others more personal, all of them are a treasure.

Occasionally I'll run into people who can't see the worth of blogging, or even understand what a blog is. I'll direct them to these blogs, and to Maria's in particular. Some old co-workers of mine recently traveled to Iceland and used these blogs for ideas- they had a wonderful time, and in a way that would have been hard to duplicate by going on a package tour.

So, when Maria recently called for stories and photos from people who had visited Iceland, I was more than glad to send her mine.

Thanks Maria, for keeping your window into Iceland open so wide, and for so long...


Comments: 5


Monday, February 25, 2008

Oscar Buzz

My mother’s uncle Oscar was a cranky old bachelor Swede.

But that’s not the Oscar I’m concerned with tonight- IT’S THE NIGHT OF THE FREAKIN' ACADEMY AWARDS, dozens of “Oscars” will be presented and I’m all a-twitter! I’ve got my trusty computer warming my lap, a list of nominees, a bottle of red wine (Montepulciano D’Abruzzo, natch) and the remote control at my side (just in case a musical number is too much to bear.) I’ll be writing this in real time, and will post it after the show (I’d blog it in real time, but would anybody read it?) I'll also keep tally of my "Crying Jags"...

On to the Red Carpet- AND IT'S REGIS PHILBIN WHO CAN’T REFRAIN FROM SPEAKING IN ALL CAPS WITH NO PUNCTUATION EXCEPT EXCLAMATION POINTS!

George Clooney appears with his girlfriend (granddaughter?) Next up Marion Cotillard (Edith Piaf portrayer) with an albino mermaid costume! OOH-LA-LA! (pardon my French.) John Revolta appears (alas, not in his “Hairspray” outfit). Laura Linney does basic black. Javier Bardem shows up with a much better haircut and his Mother (really), but he forgot to shave... OMG! MILEY CYRUS! AWESOME! (Whew! How much of this excitement can I take?- and there's only three and a half hours to go!)

Back to the carpet...Mickey Rooney- still alive (I think), Helen Mirren in Red Satin (double whew!)... Jennifer Garner squeeeeezed into a tight black gown... Daniel Day Lewis with his mother?... CAMERON DIAZ pretty in pink (all these women are strapless, BTW) ...Amy Adams- this Red Carpet is a long way from the Chanhassen Dinner Theater... Ellen Page shows up- but only barely- man is she tiny! Hillary Swank, all bone and sinew wrapped in Versace... only 5 minutes remaining... 3... 2... 1...

The show begins with a cheesy CGI sequence, with ads even in the introduction- real classy. Jon Stewart riffs on the writer’s strike and panders to the crowd...and throws in a Jewish joke, lest we forget the burlesque heritage of Hollywood. More pandering... a nod to Diablo Cody, Minnesota’s’ own, she gets my award for best tattoo... Stewart goes off on politics, not a funny subject this year...

FIRST PRESENTER: Jennifer Garner for costume design, then a flashback to what- 30 years ago? It's not a good omen if you can’t refrain from recycling your awards show in the first ten minutes...

SECOND PRESENTER: George Clooney, for the clip show (the same each year-Jack Palance doing push-ups, Björk in swan dress, they're really recycling now), I cry a little...

THIRD PRESENTERS: Anne Hathaway and Steve Carrell- Animated Features, she’s more animated than him... first Steve jobs mention...

FOURTH PRESENTER: Kathryn Heigel, Make Up- and she should have won the award for her make-up...

FIRST SONG: Happy Working Song with Amy Adams, who can sing! Perky but dumb song.

More flashbacks...

FIFTH PRESENTER: Dwayne Johnson (“The Rock”) awards special effects- more dumb CGI...

SIXTH PRESENTER: Cate Blanchett, Art Direction, funny she doesn’t look a bit like Dylan now with that bump...

...more clips... I tear up just a little...

SEVENTH PRESENTER: Jennifer Hudson, Supporting Actor (finally an Major Award!), Javier thanks his mom... I’m sobbing like a baby now.. The Weaver says I am “soft-hearted”...
more clips... (Theme: binoculars and periscopes, bad dreams... no, I am not making this up!)

SECOND SONG: Raise It Up Soul Choir, a song with no verses... or is it no choruses? Certainly not a bridge...

EIGHT PRESENTER: Owen Wilson, short film. Owen looks good, he's only a little bit shaky...

NINTH PRESENTER: Jerry Seinfield, (as a bee), animated short film... your movie was not funny Jerry, and this isn’t either... maybe some more wine would help...

SECOND GLASS OF WINE

More clips...

TENTH PRESENTER: Alan Arkin, Supporting Actress- TILDA SWINTON! A SURPRISE! And she doesn’t look anything like Dylan either!

More clips...

ELEVENTH PRESENTER: Jessica Alba, technical awards- goes to the inventor of her gown (burgundy with feathers and a baby bump.)

TWELFTH PRESENTER: Josh Brolin- Adapted Screenplay, YES! The Coen Brothers Rule!

PRESENTER: Sid Vicious(?), explains the Academy selection process- I didn’t really tune in to see Price and Waterhouse cavort... maybe if they were in topless gowns...

THIRD SONG: introduction by Miley Ray Cyrus, AWESOME! That’s How You Know . I do know when a song doesn’t work I hear it... the mute button on the remote works, thank goodness...


THIRTEENTH PRESENTERS: Some Guys in Tuxes, are they comedians?- for sound effects and editing, I mean recordings of car crashes... and explosions...

...more clips, just a little moistening in my eyes...

FOURTEENTH PRESENTER: Forest Whitaker, Best Actress- SURPRISE! MARION COTILLARD! She doesn’t look like Dylan either, much less Edith Piaf... tears, tears and more tears...I AM SUCH A SAP!

FOURTH SONG: Colin Farrell, Falling slowly from Once. Once was enough, I actually paid to sit through this dreck ... the mute is on....

FIFTEENTH PRESENTER: Jack Nicholson, something was funny to him. ...more clips...

SIXTEENTH PRESENTER: Rene Zellwigger- Film Editing... aw, Roderick James didn’t win! I would have loved to see who picked up that Oscar...

SEVENTEENTH PRESENTER: Nicole Kidman, honorary to Robert Boyle, art director still active at 98, barely... but funnier than Stewart. Big tears...

EIGHTEENTH PRESENTER- Penelope Cruz, Foreign Language, ...I miss my film festivals, haven’t heard a peep about any of these...

FIFTH SONG: So Close from Enchanted, sung by a young EMO singer...mute, mute, mute!

NINETEENTH PRESENTER: John Revolta, Best Song, OK, I cried a little when the Once team won, but I still hate the song... the tears dried up when they cut the woman off... at least they had the grace to let her back on...

THIRD GLASS OF WINE

TWENTIETH PRESENTER: Cameron Diaz, Cinematography, PINK! PINK! PINK! ... Oh, there was an award presented?

TWENTY-FIRST PRESENTER: Hillary Swank, Death clips...I cried for Heath Ledger...

TWENTY-SECOND PRESENTER: Amy Adams, isn’t she just as cute as a bug? A june bug?, Original Score, I don’t think I’ll be rushing out to buy any of these...

TWENTY-THIRD PRESENTER: Tom Hanks, U.S. Armed Forces, Short Documentary... real live soldiers from Bagdad, with the winners crying more than me...

TWENTY-FOURTH PRESENTER: Tom Hanks again, Documentary Feature- War, Sickness, Torture.... all we are saying is give war a chance?

TWENTY-SIXTH PRESENTER: Helen Mirren, sixty never looked so good, Best Actor...Daniel Day-Lewis, who’d a thunk it?

more clips...

TWENTY-SEVENTH PRESENTER, Directing, Martin Scorcese, THE COEN BROTHERS! MINNESOTA BORN AND BRED! These guys are so cool...

TWENTY-EIGHTH (and last, thank goodness!) Cuba Gooding Jr. gives the Best Picture Award to... wait for it... THE COEN BROTHERS! THE COEN BROTHERS! THE COEN BROTHERS!

There you have it- my Oscar Buzz, to match my wine buzz...


Comments: 2


Thursday, February 21, 2008

When Even The Big Kids Were Little


Reunions were few and far between in my father's family. Too many bad things had happened in the past, things that weren't talked about; the family had fallen apart in the thirties and forties. But one Christmas we managed to get almost all the brothers and sisters, with their children, together. It was a bit overwhelming for this three-year old (seen hiding in the back row) to be with all those kids at once. Even the big kids, the first wave, were little then. I was part of the second wave, and in a few years there would be a third, along with a couple of "surprises" a few years after that. But my father's family was never all together like this again.

My father's mother died young, my father's father never recovered. There were other things as well, things never spoken of, but the paucity of these occasions speaks
volumes.


Comments: 1


Party Animals

Plaid shirt and Leopard print blouse.

Perfect fashion sense.

Two party animals on the prowl.

Leave your heart at home, lest it be broken by this cunning pair.

Living on the edge.

They'll hit Dakota and get out.

Their psychology is flyin'.

Younger than yesterday.

Crazy in love.

Crazy, man, crazy.


Comments: 1


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Home Truths For Home Consumption

Some days I can't bring myself to write another word. Another word.

Evidently not today.

For some real blog-spiration, check out today's Sharon Spotbottom.

For some more, try today's entry from Lab Munkay.

Then come up with some of your own.


Comments: 0


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

I Don't Want to Hurt Like This Anymore

My proverbial ass has been kicked.

Old Man Winter, AKA Jack Frost, has done whupped me good.

It isn't the dirty snow.

Nor the salted crust on my car.

It isn't the 90 days in a row below freezing (only a slight exaggeration.)

It is the sting of sub-zero air on my delicate epidermis.

The burn of frost-nip on my fingertips.

The shock of icy air in my lings, dropping my core temp in an instant.

I want the hurting to stop.

I want spring.


Comments: 4


Monday, February 18, 2008

Peer Gynt



or: The Onion, Revisited

When last I tangled with the amoral hero of Henrik Ibsen's dramatic poem, it was in Baltasar Kormákur's incendiary 2006 production at the Þjóðleikhúsið- Iceland's National Theatre. Sunday we met again, this time at the Tyrone Guthrie Theater in downtown Minneapolis. Ibsen's work has been newly translated and adapted by Robert Bly, the noted poet and "Men's Movement" figure. Because Peer wasn't originally intended for the stage, some adaptation is usually needed; a previous Guthrie production that was unabridged ran over 5 hours in length. This version is framed with a modern opening and ending- a surprise 50th birthday party for "Peter" who collapses and while unconscious "imagines" the play.

Bly does the language justice, he cleverly waits until Act II to introduce the rhyming couplets, which worked a lot better than had I expected. Mark Rylance, a British actor, plays Peer with more of an oafish aspect, rather than the rakish style which is often associated with the role. The austere set (above) is minimal, this is more a play of ideas, rather than spectacle. Rylance gives a good interpretation of the famous "Onion Speech", one of the few times where he rises above buffoonery.

It is perhaps unfair to compare the intense production I saw in Reykjavík with this somewhat tepid affair. There is a tradition at the Guthrie of introducing a special "effect" into their big shows- this time it was undulating floorboards simulating a desert and an ocean- I only wish they had come up with a few more dramatic "show stoppers" instead of that gimmickry.

The play itself remains pretty relevant, touching on the evils of unbridled capitalism (including slave and arms trading), human nature and its failings (the trolls are a satiric device exploring baser urges), and of course the failure of Peer to grow into adulthood and establish meaningful relationships, and, ultimately, discover his own humanity.


Comments: 0


Friday, February 15, 2008

Lacock


Nestled in the English countryside about 20 km East of Bath, with its "National Trust Approved Exteriors" is an old English village. Nearly everything in England has a historical story or two or more. This town has an amazing one, with implications far beyond its sleepy confines. There is an old Abbey adjacent to the town, taken from the Catholic Church when Henry the VIII established the C of E in 1534. On its own, the Abbey is well worth a look: with a restored brewery, cloisters, a sphinx on a tower and of course, the main house itself. But what really distinguishes this sleepy little place is that exactly three hundred years after Henry's "liberation" the owner of the Abbey, a certain William Henry Fox Talbot developed the photographic process* there. On a tour of the house you can stand where the first photograph was taken and see the exact scene- there is even a working camera (in replica, of course) in its proper position. There aren't many birthplaces of an important invention as this is in such "picturesque", yet humble surroundings.

Talbot's invention isn't quite obsolete, but, with the advent of digital imaging, it is headed in that direction. The village, the ancient Abbey and its grounds may last longer than the process it fostered.

*Daguerre, who is also credited with the invention of photography, created images by a different process, a process that was obsolete by 1865.


Comments: 0


Thursday, February 14, 2008

My Funny Valentine



No manic professions of love this year, no flowers, no regrets. Only these childish hearts have I to offer- but my feelings remain the same.

Respectfully submitted for your approval...


Comments: 4


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

S.W.L.A.B.R.

News from Iceland has it that Eric Clapton (AKA GOD) will be playing there this summer- "all his favorite songs" is what the story said. My personal relationship with E.C. is, like most peoples', non-existent- except through the songs he's played over the years. I was into "Slowhand" Clapton (Early sixties- The Yardbirds) but I lost interest when he went traditional with John Mayall in the mid-sixties. Fast forward a few years when the release of Disraeli Gears coincided with a rare opportunity for some quality time with a Bonnie young lass: a couch date at her place with both parents absent! I had borrowed the as-yet-unheard disc from a friend and just when things were getting interesting I put it on:
I'm with you my love,
The lights shining through on you.
Yes, I'm with you my love,
It's the morning and just we two.
I'll stay with you darling now,
I'll stay with you till my seeds are dried up.

Those fabulous sixties! They knew how to write a romantic lyric then. Surprisingly enough I was not thrown out for playing it. Not even when, a little later, the lyrics became even more impressionistic:
So many fantastic colors; I feel in a wonderland.
Many fantastic colors, makes me feel so good.
You've got that pure feel, such good responses.
You've got that rainbow feel- but the rainbow has a beard.

Well, I imagine that Eric will play Sunshine Of Your Love, but it may be
quite awhile before we hear him play the likes of S.W.L.A.B.R. again.


Comments: 1


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Quote Unquote

Theme-less rambling...

"Try as I might, I couldn't put it down."
(the book was printed on flypaper, perhaps?)

"I heard that McCain has a plan to get the U.S. out of Viet... er, Iraq."

"Are you sure the clinic said to abstain from sex for 48 days before your pelvic exam?"

"Prepare for penetration, the area of contact is bound to be sensitive..."
-Spock to Kirk on an episode of Star Trek (no kidding!)

... my brain is frozen. It should be warmer tomorrow, hopefully that will help...


Comments: 0


Monday, February 11, 2008

Cold Comfort

In the depth of this miserable winter (-40° windchill today) I yearn for a summer's day. A day when I was a boy in my grandmother's kitchen, a small 12'x12' room in a country farm house. That kitchen was a room that was bursting with love, even though that word was seldom, if ever, uttered there. There was a round oaken table where many hours were spent playing card games: Five Hundred, Whist or, if old "Poker Charlie" happened to stop by, Smear. Next to it stood the cupboard which held the good china, one of the few luxuries that my Grandmother possessed. Beyond that was the doorway which led into the entry. The pans for washing up were kept there, hanging by the screen door. The hand-pump was just outside, bringing up ice-cold well water, seasoned with a strong flavor of iron, and drunk from a copper cup hung on a hook fashioned from an old coat hanger. Spread around the yard were apple trees with apples so sour they couldn't be eaten- except after being baked into a pie. The potato patch was my Grandfather's domain- he grew Kennebecs- enough to last through the next winter. Running up to greet me with a stick in his mouth was Skipper, a dog who never tired of playing "fetch." There was a wood pile on the south side of the barn, with a vegetable garden by the driveway on the barn's north side. Down the road a half-mile or so was a creek with a mossy coolness under its bridge, making it a good place to wade.

Those days seemed to go on forever and then, after supper, so did the good-byes. We would drive home in the sunset, with the barns along the highway lit up in a ruddy, golden glow. When we finally got home, the stars would be fierce pinpricks of light blazing in the black velvet sky high above us.


Comments: 6


Friday, February 08, 2008

Trivial Pursuit


After spending over an hour rifling through my parts drawers last night I found myself working my way up to a proper fit- due to my efforts in selecting a new set of knobs for my guitar. If my "box" was a classic model or some other collectible it would be an easy task- just get the exact knob made for that guitar (there is a whole industry dedicated to guitar purists.) My guitar, an Ibanez, while a fine instrument in most respects, is something of a mutt- made in China but lacking in the harmonious aspects of "Feng Shui". The color scheme is brown wood with a black headstock, chromed hardware and cream colored trim. For some reason the knobs that came with it were of a tawdry gold-colored plastic! As you can see in the picture, my in-house options were many: "chicken heads", pointers, rounds, small, medium, large, vintage, and contemporary. I finally made a choice (the art deco ones nearest the red screwdriver) but I know that I'll probably just end up at the music store tomorrow getting a new set of cream-colored barrels.

I have a suspicion that most, if not all of my readers have never suffered this dilemma. Just think of it as my attempt to accessorize an outfit.


Comments: 0


Thursday, February 07, 2008

At Eighteen

          Jakobinarina composite

Caught this article today; The Icelandic band Jacobinarina is breaking up. The average age of the members in the group is eighteen. Certainly they have had their turn, with far more success than almost any band has: playing around Europe and the US, headlining the SXSW and the Airwaves festivals. Being a professional musician is a hard life, I understand that the lead singer Gunnar Ragnarsson (pictured above, with dopplegänger) had had enough.

AT EIGHTEEN?

Perhaps he hadn't heard that a band or performer has to re-invent themselves every three or four years. Now what? A comeback at 19? A reunion tour at 20? Playing casinos by the time he's finally old enough to be in one?

Seriously, I wish him the best. Some dreams die hard, but sometimes it's better to wake up. He might emerge from this experience a more fully formed person. Or not. A very wise woman once sang: "There's more to life than this..."


Comments: 0


Wednesday, February 06, 2008

At Seventeen

I was in limbo.

I learned the truth at seventeen...

After a series of less than noble sexual encounters I was confused, conflicted and somewhat disgusted with myself.

That love was meant for beauty queens...

When I started to realize that these adventures had a potential for hurt, I stopped them.

In high school girls with clear skinned smiles...

It would be two more years before I would attempt any further intimacies; those also ended poorly.

Who married young and then retired...

I still had my desires, I just felt that I shouldn't act on them.

The valentines I never knew...

I thought that I was undesirable to anyone.

The Friday night charades of youth...

My lack of money and wheels put a crimp in any dating plans.

Were spent on one more beautiful...

Still, near the very end of my Senior year, I managed to arrange a date.

At seventeen I learned the truth...

And not just any date, but a date with the loveliest, smartest, most talented girl in school.

And those of us with ravaged faces...

I talked my childhood buddy into driving us so I had to get him a date too.

Lacking in the social graces...

And it was OK. Live theater- a funny play, and even a bite to eat afterwards.

Desperately remained at home...

I was trying to sort out some major problems I had.

Inventing lovers on the phone...

I later found out that she was bitter about her high school experience.

Who called to say come dance with me...

She had barely dated at all.

And murmured vague obscenities...

I never knew.

It isn't all it seems...

But we had one night where it was OK.

At seventeen.

-"At Seventeen" lyrics by Janis Ian


Comments: 6


Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Revue Review



Dinner Theater.

A curious mix of dining and drama, any occurrence of excellence in either category is not to be expected due to the curious nature of the animal. Making "comfort food" and "comfort theater" palatable to bus groups and an older clientele is an art form in itself.

Despite these drawbacks, yours truly- the intrepid culture vulture that I am- found myself in Chanhassen, Minnesota last Sunday to attend a production of

RESPECT The Musical Journey of Women.

"Combining excerpts of 60 songs with women's own stories of finding dreams, lost loves, relationships, entering the workforce, gaining independence..."

This revue should have been right up my alley; pop hits made famous by women, demonstrating the growth of women's independence over the years. The show was written by Dorothy Marcic, an academic from Vanderbilt University and is currently in production at several venues in the United States.

But first things first. The Chanhassen Dinner Theater is actually a complex, with three stages, dinner is served either in the theater or, in this case, in one of several dining rooms. One area even had original Hogarth prints lining the walls (although an innocent diner might lose his appetite after looking at some of the prints- including the series The Harlot's Progress.) The food was fair, if somewhat bland. I hoped it would not be an omen for things to come.

The show was nothing if not ambitious. In addition to the music there was a narration and slide show (!) portraying the writer's family history(!!), the Civil Rights Movement and the Women's Movement, all interspersed with various iconic pop culture and political images. I suspect the germination of this production was in a lecture series. The awkwardness of the title hints at the lack of focus of the author.

The music was familiar, with show tunes and standards along with more modern pop tunes. Those numbers that were fully developed (I Wanna be Loved by You, God Bless the Child, At Seventeen, Whatever Lola Wants) were the most fulfilling, but many numbers were truncated to pointlessness. I've always been a bit confounded that pop tunes, which are distinguished by a catchy "hook" and little else, are usually eviscerated of even that by musical arrangers in these sorts of medleys. Even worse was the fact many of the verses, including those which actually had something to say about the subject, were missing. The band was competent if perfunctory. The choreography was good throughout and gave the show a lift- it was a welcome respite from the narration.

In a production such as this, the singers really make or break the show. This is where I was pleasantly surprised, at last finding the excellence that I hadn't dared hope for. Of the four principals, Seri Johnson, Andrea Uselman and Timotha Lanae are veterans of this circuit: professional, competent, but definitely from the category of "actors who sing." Then there was the newcomer, Emily Rose Skinner, who is simply a great singer, a fine actor, and a tremendous stage presence. She belongs in a better production. Her range, both in her voice and in her acting, is terrific. All of her solo numbers were high points and in her duets it was obvious that she is in a class apart.

It is fun to see someone with an exceptional talent perform well and lift the whole show. Despite all the drawbacks, I'll recommend RESPECT BUT- if you are having dinner, avoid the Walleye!


Comments: 1


Monday, February 04, 2008

Foreign Aid


The tiny town of Mountain, North Dakota has been selected to receive some assistance in the building of its new community center. Despite what the National Geographic has to say on the state of the state, there are still people looking toward the future here, willing to invest to preserve a way of life that is rugged but beautiful.

Just who is the mysterious benefactor, willing to contribute money to a small town, far away from any big city, with fewer that 200 inhabitants? Is it some wealthy philanthropist with ties to the area? Some corporation in need of PR? A wealthy Emir from the Mideast, trying to secure future oil rights?

No, it is none of these.

It is actually a gift from a country, a small country with a sense of history and pride in the accomplishments of its departed sons and daughters.

The country is Iceland.

The story is here.


Comments: 3