Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Big News from Coalinga

Stopped by Harris Ranch for dinner Monday to learn their Coffee Shop is closed until October 31 for renovations. In the meantime, meals are being served in the Horseshoe Bar.

I'm not sure pulling drivers off I-5 to eat in a bar is such a good idea but, oh well.
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Monday, September 29, 2008

Cheers for "Vanities"

Saturday night I went to see the new musical "Vanities" at the Pasadena Playhouse.

This show traces the lives of three women -- starting with when they were cheerleaders together in high school. It's impressive how the three actresses "age" by over 20 years on stage.

I really didn't like the first 15 minutes of the show -- the "cheerleaders" really bugged me. But as they "grew up" I was drawn more and more into the show.

I believe the show, which closed on Sunday, is now destined for New York -- but I'm not sure if it's headed for Broadway or off-Broadway.
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In the middle of last week I went to see "Lakeview Terrace" and have to report I really liked this Samuel L. Jackson/Patrick Wilson movie.

Jackson plays a not-so-nice cop not very happy about the new interracial couple that moves in next door.

Directed by Neil LaBute, this film is gripping and moves along at a great pace.
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Took a quick road trip to Northern California Sunday and stopped of at The Apricot Tree restaurant in Firebaugh for breakfast. I was delighted to see they have a collection of lunch boxes lining the walls.
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Here's the thermos section of the collection.
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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Lack of Enthusiasm

I went to Dodger Stadium last night as the guest of Greg and Jennifer Gloede.

It was only the third game I went to this season. I enjoyed going but I'm afraid my days of putting on the face paint for the Dodgers are over.

The Dodgers beat the Padres 10 to 1.
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This is the outfit of someone anxious for some attention.
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Before the game the Dodgers honored Dr. Frank Jobe whose invention of the "Tommy John surgery" revolutionized sports medicine. This arthroscopic elbow surgery extended the career of many pitchers.

Before Dr. Jobe came on the field Tommy Lasorda greeted, from right to left, Darren Dreifort, Tommy John and Orel Herscheiser.

Tommy John went on to throw out the first pitch, using his "new" elbow.
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Tommy Lasorda greets Dr. Jobe on the field.
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The Dodgers hazed the rookies on the pitching staff by "forcing" them to wear little kids' backpacks on the long walk from the dugout to the bullpen. That seems pretty lame to me. Most teams make the rookies dress-up in outrageous costumes. I'm against hazing, but if you're going to do it....
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Monday, September 22, 2008

On Stage and Off

Sunday I caught the new Keira Knightley/Ralph Fiennes/Dominic Cooper movie, "The Duchess."

It's an enjoyable movie that's beautiful to look at with sumptuous costumes and settings.

Based on a true story from the 1700s, Knightley plays the Duchess of Devonshire, unable to find true love in her marriage to the Duke of Devonshire, Ralph Fiennes. Enter Dominic Cooper.

The photo above is taken at sunset from the rooftop of the garage at The Grove looking north towards the Hollywood Hills with CBS Studios in the foreground.
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Saturday night I was excited to go to the Mark Taper Forum -- regarded by many as the most prestigious theater in Los Angeles.

The Taper closed over a year ago for renovations and this was my first trip back, to see John Guare's ("Six Degrees of Separation") late 60s play, "The House of Blue Leaves."

First the theater, then the show.

The Mark Taper Forum has always been a beautiful sight to behold -- the smallest of the four auditoriums at the Music Center, with less than 900 seats. Tiny seats that, thankfully, were replaced with larger seats as part of the renovation.

The entrance was raised so patrons no longer step down into the theater. The famous abalone wall (seen in the photo in the back of the entryway) has been cleaned and dramatically lit so it shimmers.

Leaving "The House of Blue Leaves" last night I told my guest I didn't really "get" the show. Having thought about it overnight (and read the program notes) I'm more impressed with the show. Set on October 4, 1965 -- the day the Pope passed through Queens on his way to address the U.N. General Assembly -- this is a show about broken dreams and humiliation.

Last night I couldn't understand why the tone of Act One (thoughtful character development) was so different from Act Two (almost slapstick comedy). But now I know what transpired between the writing of the two acts -- the playwright's father died (on the day he finished writing the first act).

The acting truly is superb. John Pankow ("Twelve Angry Men" on Broadway) plays Artie Shaughnessy, who dreams of leaving Queens and moving to California to pursue his non-existent musical career. Kate Burton ("Spring Awakening" on Broadway and married to the Taper's Artistic Director Michael Ritchie) plays Artie's mentally unstable wife, Bananas. And Jane Kaczmarek (from TV's "Malcom in the Middle) is really running on all cylinders as the full-of-life lady from downstairs Artie is carrying on with right in front of his wife.

This comedy has a dark ending that really takes some mental processing to cope with.

And I wonder if I've spotted a new trend. Before the show began last night, as well as last Friday before "9 to 5" in the Taper's sister theater, the Ahmanson, there was no customary announcement reminding audience members to turn off their phones and unwrap their candies. That announcement has become so automatic it's absence was really noticeable. I wonder if the Center Theater Group, which runs both theaters, figures audiences have heard the announcement enough they know by now how to behave. Sadly, 20 minutes into the show the elderly couple behind me started unwrapping their candy in some really crinkly plastic. But who knows if an announcement would have made a difference. People like that seem to live in their own little bubble.
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Overall the renovations at the Mark Taper Forum are impressive -- and the theater is certainly more comfortable from the patron's point of view. But I'm not so sure about some of the "early disco" decorating decisions.
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Saturday, September 20, 2008

Smells Like Teen Spirit

Hollywood's The Blank Theater Company is currently presenting the West Coast Premiere of Stephen Karam's comedy "Speech and Debate," directed by Daniel Henning (second from the left in the photo).

Set in Salem, Oregon, a high school's three member Speech and Debate Club form unlikely friendships as they work through their own adolescent alienation.

Aaron Himelstein, previously seen in The Blank's "Dickie & Babe: The Truth About Leopold & Loeb," impresses as an "investigative reporter" for his high school paper suppressing his own issues while chasing down the dirty gossip on others.

And what a thrill to see Dale Dickey on stage again. I didn't know she was in the show until I opened the program. Dickey is currently co-starring in Del Shores' "Sordid Lives" on LOGO and can also be seen as "Patty, the daytime hooker" on "My Name is Earl."

As someone who did speech and debate in high school, I enjoyed the show's look at the characters one encounters on the competitive speaking circuit.
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Thursday, September 18, 2008

L'Amour, L'Amour

I'm a big fan of George Cukor's 1930s movie "The Women."

It's based on a play by Claire Booth Luce which was revived on Broadway a few years ago. I saw the star-studded revival which included Jennifer Tilly's famous scene where she stepped out of a bathtub naked proving the carpet didn't match the drapes. (And I was in the mezzanine.)

So I went into Diane English's remake of the movie with great hopes -- which were dashed. How can she take something so witty and zingy and make it so dull and boring?

Even Bette Midler's 5 minute cameo as the Countessa can't save this turkey.
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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Coen Brothers Strike Again

"Burn After Reading," the Coen Brothers new movie, is great, great fun -- in a dark sort of way.

It all starts when a disk of "secret CIA stuff" is found on the floor of the ladies locker room in a DC area gym. "It was just lying there." Brad Pitt -- having too much fun as a compete dolt of a gym employee -- decides a little blackmail is in order. Frances McDormand -- who completely steals the movie, as usual -- joins in as Pitt's gym co-worker with major body issues. She's convinced with just four cosmetic surgeries her life will be completely different.

The Coen Brothers have a knack for creating outrageous characters and putting them into wild situations. And they prove in "Burn After Reading" a little bloody violence can be so much fun.
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Monday, September 15, 2008

Crushed Nuts

So what did we learn on Saturday?

We learned a buckeye is the nut that grows on the State Tree of Ohio. The mascot of the Ohio State University Buckeyes (photographed upside down above) is neither a human nor a critter but is a nut.

And I guess the Buckeye fans, watching their team lose 35 to 3, learned why the USC Trojans are ranked the Number One team in the country.

It's a long bus ride back to Columbus, Ohio.
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A new Drum Major takes over the Trojan Marching Band this year.
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It was absolutely packed on campus when the Trojan Marching Band stopped by to perform.
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I never found out what Tigger was doing on campus. I guess it was the place to be Saturday afternoon.
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The Trojan Marching Band lines up to perform the National Anthem. I've never seen the Coliseum this full before the game began.
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A military flyover, which I understand shook nearby homes, concluded the National Anthem.
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Traveler makes its triumphant return to the field of the Coliseum.
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Now that the ineffectual Los Angeles Coliseum Commission has settled its lease dispute with USC -- recognizing USC as its major tenant -- a mural of Tommy Trojan astride Traveler has gone up along the wall where the tunnel from the locker rooms enters the Coliseum.
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It's a little hard to make out but you can see the Ohio State University's mascot -- a living, walking nut -- in the middle of this photo. He's the one crying little nut tears.
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