Friday, June 26, 2009
Monday, June 22, 2009
Sunday, June 21, 2009
Saturday night I went to the Ahmanson Theater to see the Los Angeles stop in Dame Edna's new show, "My First Last Tour."
This was the third time I'd see Dame Edna on stage (once before at the Ahmanson and once before that at the Shubert Theater before it was torn down). The current show was pretty much the same as the others -- and that was just fine with me.
Edna makes fun of the people in the top balcony ("hanging on like Mexican Fruit Bats" and "Bernies"), talks to people in the audience about their home ("Is it detached?", "Navajo White isn't just a plain White"), their clothes ("I used to try and make my own clothes too"), invites some of them on-stage -- including "Senior" -- for a further grilling and then ends by flinging gladiolas into the crowd.
Dame Edna is very quick and witty, but it's her interaction with real folks that makes the show so entertaining. When she asked "Cristina" how she spelled her name Edna replied that was her second-favorite spelling of "Christina." Up on stage, "Sonia" revealed a beautiful singing voice in her duet with Edna of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." And poor "Debbie" was so on-edge and defensive in every answer to Edna's questions ("Is your husband dead or alive?") that she nearly stole the show.
And based on the crowd reaction there seemed to be a lot of Friends of Kenny (Dame Edna's youngest and most beloved son) in the audience.
Sunday afternoon I went to the matinee performance of "The Little Foxes" at the Pasadena Playhouse. Following the show the cast took questions from the audience.
This well-known play by Lillian Hellman debuted on Broadway in 1939, starring Tallulah Bankhead and was turned into a 1941 movie starring Bette Davis. But it was new to me.
The first act was a little slow but by the time the show was over I really enjoyed this look at the not-so-nice Hubbard family of Demopolis, Alabama in 1900. Despite being 70 years old the issues tackled by the play (race, sexism, greed) still seem fresh today.
The most famous actors in the cast are Kelly McGillis (in the green dress) and Julia Duffy (seated to McGillis' right).
Mercifully, my stint walking Eugene and Murphy has come to an end. The boys were pretty well behaved on our final walk. I guess they're smart enough to leave me with pleasant memories in anticipation of the next time I'm hit up for doggy duty (and hopefully not "doggy dootie").
Thursday, June 18, 2009
Well, I've been faithfully feeding and walking Eugene. I also entertained Murphy (in the background) on Sunday but his human companion, Rui, reclaimed him on Monday.
Mostly Eugene has been a joy and is much easier to walk now than he was last December (except for the scene on Monday when three little yappy dogs were barking at him from behind the fence in their front yard and Eugene went crazy. "Bad dog, bad dog," I yelled trying to get him under control. Three schoolgirls who witnessed the whole scene added "bad dog" as they laughed while walking by. So at least that was cute.)
Tonight was a completely different story. When I got to GeezBob's house Eugene wasn't in the backyard. I panicked a little but there was no evidence that he had gotten out and his leash was missing so I figured another one of his "Uncles" was taking him for a walk.
I walked to the house next door and was happy to find Eugene playing in the front yard. Eugene seemed happy to see me too. Carlos, the next door neighbor, explained he'd brought Eugene over so the dog would have some human contact. (I later found the note Carlos had left in GeezBob's backyard.) Carlos put Eugene's collar and leash on him and I started to take him on a walk. I didn't really like the way Carlos had put the collar on (clipping the two ends together rather than threading one end of the chain through the loop). I decided to take Eugene into the backyard and fix the collar. Right BEFORE we went in the gate I decided I could just change the collar there because Eugene was being such a good boy. I don't really know why I thought that but it was a huge mistake.
Eugene saw a man walking down the sidewalk near the house and took off towards him. I called him but he wasn't about to stop so I went running after him. The man stopped and Eugene started circling him, barking and growling. I got in between Eugene and the man but couldn't get the dog under control. The man kept trying to get away and Eugene kept cornering him and evading my attempts to grab him. Every time I almost had him he'd jump away from me and lunge back at the man, barking and showing his teeth. Time moved in slow motion and this went on and on. The man was backed up to a tree trunk and Eugene wouldn't let him go. Finally Carlos came out from next door and between the two of us we cornered Eugene and Carlos grabbed him and drug him back to GeezBob's backyard.
I did my best to apologize to the man but he really just wanted to get away from the situation -- can't say I blame him.
I just fed Eugene and didn't take him for a walk. I figured he'd had enough exercise for one day.
File this under "Be careful what you ask for."
When the Mark Taper Forum announced their current season schedule Anton Chekov's "Uncle Vanya" was slated for the early summer slot. I'm not a Chekov fan -- the writing is way to dry to hold my attention, so I was happy when the announcement was made that "Uncle Vanya" was out and David Mamet's "Oleanna" was in.
(This was clearly another example of cost-cutting at the Center Theater Group, which programs the Mark Taper Forum. With a cast of two, "Oleanna" is clearly cheaper to produce than a Chekov ensemble piece.)
Anywho, I went to see "Oleanna" Saturday night and this play is clearly David Mamet at his absolute worst. The dialogue is so repetitive and comprised of three word sentences it almost seems like a parody of Mamet.
Within five minutes I was ready to walk out. Mercifully, the show clocks in at 90 minutes with no intermission so at least my entire Saturday night wasn't ruined.
"Didn't like it." "The play?" "The Mamet play?" "Tough to sit through." "The play?" "Yes, Mamet's..." "His play?" "Couldn't take it." "Oleanna?" "Please shoot me." "With a gun?" "Yes, this gun here." "To shoot you?" "Yes, with the gun."
Friday, June 12, 2009
I spent Monday at the State Capitol in Phoenix, Arizona helping out with the Junior Statesmen Arizona Symposium.
The State Capitol Building is topped with copper -- one of the five Cs, the historic underpinnings of Arizona's economy. The other four Cs are Cattle, Cotton, Citrus and Climate.
The students attending the Arizona Symposium met with the Deputy Treasurer of Arizona inside the Trading Room in the Treasurer's Office. Because of the number of students attending (more than 100) they were divided into two groups with half going into the Trading Room at one time.
Junior Statesmen is working to raise $50,000 in the next two weeks to help deserving students attend Junior Statesmen Summer School. If you enjoy reading this blog I'd like to ask you to make a contribution. Junior Statesmen is a huge part of who I am today. No contribution is too small or too big and you can help by going to www.jsa.org/donate. (Click the left button "make a donation" to make a tax-deductible contribution to the general Junior Statesmen Scholarship Fund).
Here's more information from an email I received today from Junior Statesmen:
We have at least 50 students who are struggling to raise enough funds in this tough economy to make it to Junior Statesmen Summer School. We'd like to raise $50,000 in the next 10 days to get them there and we need your help (see below to find out how).
These are bright and ambitious students looking for the opportunity of a lifetime that our Summer programs provide. Here are just a few of their stories (we've changed their names for privacy and there are many more talented student leaders just like them):
* Steven is a 4.0 student from Florida. He's active in student government, the marching band and the math team. His mother is a maid making $6,000 a year (his father is not in the picture). He wants to go to our Stanford program and take A.P. U.S. Government (the tuition is $4,395). We've given him a scholarship of $900 and he's raised $2,300 on his own from 20 individual donors by going door-to-door in his community. He needs another $1,195 in order to be able to attend.
* Maria is a young woman from Los Angeles. She's been a JSA student leader for two years. Her mom is finishing nursing school and works at night to pay the bills. JSA has changed her life. An Ivy League education was not a possibility she ever considered before joining JSA. She wants to study Civil Rights at our Yale Summer School. We've worked with her to raise $2,395. She needs $2,000 more to attend.
* Michael is a JSA leader from Michigan. Both of his parents were laid off from the auto industry. He has a 3.9 GPA. During the year, he raised money to bring his chapter to all three school-year conventions in the Midwest and recruited 30 students to come to our summer programs. He's organized car washes, tapped local businesses, and is working as a golf caddie this Summer to pay his way. He needs $1,700 more to study International Relations at our Georgetown program.
If you want to see the hope our programs inspire, just read what Jamal from California wrote in his scholarship application (he's raised all but $1,800 of his tuition this past year by tutoring kids in his community): "Have you ever had the feeling that you wouldn't make it out, or that the whole world was against you? I know somebody has, but what about that feeling your whole entire life? From growing up without the presence of a father figure, to being on the streets in another person's home so that your mother could make ends meet by working strenuous graveyard shifts. To almost being evicted because my mom's income wasn't meeting the standards, to being put out of class because the tuition wasn't paid. My life isn't nearly halfway over and I have experienced a "mid-life crisis" that most people would encounter at the age of 40, but in my case, that age came a little sooner at the age of 11. Since I could remember, my mom always taught me to become a leader and, no matter what happened, as you had an education, your opportunities would become endless. I know her words are true, but it's kind of hard to make things possible when you're in the financial situation I'm in. This gives me the will to do better in life, to become something, to make a name for myself, to actually be somebody in life. Having an opportunity to go to the Junior Statesmen Summer School at Princeton would be one of a lifetime and would further my dreams of being a leader."
Your contribution will make a difference in the lives of these students. Please call us at 1.800.334.5353 to make your contribution today. You may also donate directly on line at www.jsa.org/donate. (Click the left button "make a donation" to make a tax-deductible contribution to the general Junior Statesmen Scholarship Fund).
Please be as generous as you can, it's important for America's future. -- Ted
GeezBob is headed out of town for a week and I'm on dogwalker duty -- set to walk Eugene once a day. Our friend, Rui, is also out of town for a couple of nights and his dog, Murphy, is staying in GeezBob's backyard too. Today we did a dry run and I walked both dogs at the same time. They're both strong dogs, but we did just fine. I just wish Murphy would do his business in the backyard instead of during our little adventure.
Afterwards GeezBob and I had dinner at the famous South Los Angeles Creole restaurant, Harold and Belle's. Delicious! And just about the best peach cobbler I've had since the lady who lived next door when I was four -- I called her "Boo" -- used to make it for me.
Sunday, June 07, 2009
The Junior Statesmen Symposium on Arizona Leadership and Politics kicked off this afternoon at 2 p.m. with more than 100 high school students participating. Most of the students are from Arizona but a few traveled from California, New Jersey and Indiana to participate.
The weather is cooperating -- the high today was 92 degrees, 10 degrees below the norm for this time of the year.
In honor of tonight's Tony Awards broadcast I thought I'd post something theatrical -- Joan Crawford's costume and make-up test from the movie "Straight Jacket."
For the last four or five years I traveled to New York City to attend the Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall. But this year I decided not to go.
It was really interesting to watch the show on TV. I enjoyed all the close-ups and crowd reaction shots you miss sitting in the auditorium.
And my hotel room has an HD-TV, something I don't have at home. Boy, the detail in the picture really makes a huge difference in the viewing experience. Now I know what to ask Santa to bring me for Christmas.
Saturday, June 06, 2009
For the first time since March 3 I left California -- flying this morning to Phoenix to participate in the start of the Junior Statesmen Symposium on Arizona Politics.
The students are staying at a dorm at Arizona State University in Tempe and I'm staying nearby at an Aloft Hotel -- that's the new cheaper version of W Hotels. I'm pretty impressed -- my room is very comfortable and functional. The place is hip without being over the top.
Nearly forty years ago I went with my Father to a dog show in Phoenix and we had dinner one night at a Western restaurant called Bill Johnson's Big Apple. I made a big impression on me because they served piping hot apple pie for dessert and I burned my mouth.
I went back for dinner tonight and can report the apple pie is still served hot. Fortunately, I'm a little bit better now at letting it cool off.
Monday, June 01, 2009
Friday night I went to the Edgemar Center for the Arts in Santa Monica to see their production of "The Miracle Worker" -- the story of Helen Keller and the teacher who figured out how to communicate with a girl who was blind and deaf.
I'd never seen the show before and enjoyed this company's spirited production.
A group of visually-impaired young people were part of the audience. After the show they were invited onto the stage to meet the actors along with touching the sets and costumes. I got pressed into photo duty -- which I was happy to do.
During the intermission three of the young people went to the bar next to the theater. As the audience was called back into the theater for the second act the last thing I saw was the three adventurers being seated at a cocktail table. Since their theater seats were in the front row their absence was pretty noticeable. One of their chaperons came up and asked to no one in particular, "Where are they?" When I said, "They're in the bar next door," she shot me a withering look -- clearly indicating "that's not a funny joke." Once she realized I wasn't kidding she scurried off to collect her charges. They held the second act curtain and soon enough the young people were back in their seats. I never did find out if they'd had enough time to get served.