Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Last Post

Now that we're back in California, we have a differently named blog.

Friday, August 20, 2004

Broadway Roundup

I realize we forgot to write about a bunch of the shows we saw over the summer, so here are the other ones I remember:

The Frogs: We went to see The Frogs at the Lincoln Center. It's Nathan Lane's new musical, adapted from an ancient Greek play by Aristophanes. (It's a loose adaptation; I'm pretty sure the original didn't have musical numbers about the importance of turning off cellphones.) The premise is that Dionysus wants to bring back a really good poet to inspire people to stop ignoring what their leaders are doing. I'm a little skeptical about whether that would work - I mean, people who don't care about what their leaders are doing usually feel that way because they have bigger immediate concerns, and it's pretty hard to justify that the election of one leader over another will have any actual effect on that concern. Anyway, the plot doesn't matter, because it's just setup to give the characters something to talk about. The strength of the play is the dialogue. He gets Bernard Shaw and William Shakespeare in a room together for a battle of words, and they all just riff off each other for a while. Plus, the neon dancing frogs were neat.

Hairspray: Hairspray was tons of fun, and I absolutely cannot get the music out of my head. "Yooooou can't stop the beat ...." Carly Jibson is fantastic. This is a must-see.

Chicago: This production was terribly disappointing. The one redeeming feature is that this theater has standing-room tickets, so at least I only forked over $20 for the experience. I enjoyed the movie, and Andrew enjoyed the touring production he saw in Los Angeles a few years ago (with Bebe Neuwirth), but this one just fell flat. Some of the actors don't sing very well; most don't dance very well; and this is a very minimalist production so there's not much to look at either.

Musical of Musicals, The Musical: This was cute, but sort of longer than the material could support it. The parodies are right on, though; the writer has really done a good job capturing different musical styles and making them work together. It's probably an intended irony that this musical is more about paying rent than "Rent" is.

The Producers: This cast is pretty good, although having seen The Frogs I wish I could have seen the original cast do The Producers. The "Springtime For Hitler in Germany" musical number is one of my all-time favorites. The whole thing is tremendously funny and well worth seeing. Note that the super-cheap seats have a bad view, especially if you're short, because the balcony has a very tall railing.

Caroline, or Change: This is one of the few "dramatic" musicals we went to, and it was well worth it. Tonya Pinkins has an amazing voice and dramatic presence. This is really different that most other shows but it's really good.

Cookin': Like Stomp, except there is some attempt at plot and it involves Korean cooking instruments. Beware: there is some audience participation involved.

Movin' Out: A modern rock ballet with no dialogue. This is a good introduction to ballet for someone who likes Billy Joel music but thinks that ballet is for sissies. It's light and fun; we enjoyed it.

Fiddler on the Roof: Alfred Molina is a way better Tevya than a Doc Ock. He just exudes the right warm fuzziness for the role. (Plus he looks more distinguished with a beard.) The music is excellent; I was surprised to find that I knew a lot of these songs from somewhere else. The orchestra is on the stage so you can see them, and the fiddler is pretty impressive.

I think that's everything we haven't written about elsewhere. We wanted to see Wicked and The Boy From Oz, but tickets were sold out months in advance.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Eliot Spitzer Wants You To Rock The Vote

We ended up at a Democrat concert/rally on Thursday, and Eliot Spitzer was there. We had worked our way to the front of the crowd because I'm short and can't see over other people, so I was about three feet from him when he said that progressive movements are always the product of the effort of young people, and the only way to change the world is to do it. That was pretty cool. He was way better than the band, which was miked really badly (so there was enough noise to make your insides wiggle, but you couldn't actually hear anything). John Wesley Harding was there too. Then there was this other guy whose name I meant to remember, who had this neat rant from the perspective of a revolutionary (which ended with the thought that if you don't vote, you're just doing what they want you to do). Anyway, he looked sort of like Alan Rickman. I wish I remembered his name.

The anti-Bush folks are out in full force. Most days if I go out into midtown for lunch, I'm stopped by kids in DNC t-shirts doing fundraising. They always ask me if I want to beat Bush, and I say yeah, I don't want him to be re-elected. Then they ask me if I want to give money to John Kerry. And this is the part where I realize that don't actually want to vote for John Kerry, and I'm not the least bit proud to be a registered Democrat if this is the best the party can do. I want to vote NO. I remember at Caltech there was always a NO option on the ballot for student offices; if NO won, then the office would remain empty for that year. One year while I was there, NO did win for senior class president, and I can't say I noticed the difference.

But I always end up giving the DNC kids the crumpled bills from my pockets anyway; whatever change I have from lunch. It leaves me with this hollow feeling, that I'm contributing to perpetuate the same system regardless of whether the lesser or greater evil wins. I remember it was great fun to be thirteen years old and campaigning for Richard Stallings (a Democratic senate contender in Idaho); it was even greater fun to be seventeen and campaigning for an assortment of local Democrat candidates; and that Howard Dean had recaptured some of that hope and fun earlier in this election season. I think the common thread is that these are candidates I would want to invite into my home for dinner because they would create interesting, passionate, and informed conversation around the table. Bush and Kerry are sound bites - an echo of an echo of what was once an idea but is now just noise, carefully calibrated not to offend its core constituency.

I guess if I have to be a sound bite, it ought to be the one that won't further hasten armageddon. But that doesn't mean I have to like it. pthbhththhththh.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

The Spirit of Django Reinhardt

I can't believe we forgot to post about this. On July 28, we went to see "The Spirit of Django Reinhardt" at the Lincoln Center. Django Reinhardt was some French dude who put together American jazz and gypsy music in the 1930s, which means the music sounds like jazz except it's coming from unexpected instruments. The concert was performed by seven musicians who had studied in that style. It was like nothing I've heard before. Not that I make a habit of going to classical concerts or anything - if they're all this cool, maybe I'll do this more often. There was a jazz violinist. See, I never would have even put those words in a sentence together, but apparently there is more than one (the playbill says that this violinist, Roby Lakatos, is "one of Europe's major jazz violinists"). He just wailed on that violin, playing really fast and getting lots of range out of it. OK, that's not a very descriptive description, but I don't know the right words for what violins are supposed to sound like. Anyway, at the end, after the violinist had finished this really long and complicated solo, the lead guitarist, Stochelo Rosenberg, took the violin from him and played a pretty good solo of his own.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

Andrew and Lexi Go to White Castle

We started the day in the proper frame of mind to try these strange, puck sized hamburgers and then see the movie that bears their name. Our journey was a much simpler one. Neil Patrick Harris played no part in it, other than discussions of his outstanding performance in Assassins. We ordered a six pack and a cheese fries. Lexi's analysis of the burgers as the American Chasiubao is fairly accurate. Each burger is mainly soft sweet bun wrapped around a slice of meat so small that it is difficult to judge its quality. The grilled onions and burger grease create a kind of a sauce. They come with a choice of regular cheese, jalapeno cheese, or bacon and cheese (there's almost more bacon than burger meat). There are also chicken and fish counterparts. I like the chicken cheese best of all the options, even though the strip of chicken was mostly breading. The fries were hot and fresh though. It was slightly disappointing to find out that cheese fries means fries with a tiny tub of colored, flavored oil similar to 7-11 nacho cheese. Our White Castle experience did not go off without any setbacks, as they were out of not only ketchup but water as well (I wouldn't have cared before, but now that I'm avoiding caffeine, I can't just drink gallons of diet coke as I used to so I have to revert back to the basic staple of life H20 for liquid refreshment). It was an interesting experience, but I would suggest to all those Californians that may be craving this East Coast "Delicacy" that they buy the freezer packs and microwave away. I doubt the experience will lose any of its savor. Or better yet, skip White Castle and go right to the nearest In-N-Out for a truly tasty burger. (It's a shame we will never see a movie of similar nature based around In-N-Out what with the Bible verses on their bags and fry baskets and all)

Check out the Andrew and Lexi go to White Castle photo montage at:

I've also updated the Subversive Graffiti Pics. I'm a little scared. The Young Republicans have spray paint. And neat little stencils too. Aren't they so cute being all ribald and painting on the side walk. See the pics at:


Hiking on Staten Island

Wow, it's been a while since I've had time to write. busy busy busy..

Yesterday I woke up and had a hankering to see nature. Central Park is great and all, but you're always aware that you're still in the city. My initial plan was to rent bikes and go to Long Island to bike through wine country, but tis-the-season for renting bikes, and the bike stores in the area didn't have any left when we got there. We picked up a guidebook - Urban Adventure New York City by David Howard - and found the hiking trail on Staten Island. It was surprising to me that Staten Island has so much green area, because it doesn't look that way from the outside. But there's this 2,800 acre greenbelt tucked away in the middle. (In case you're wondering how to get to the greenbelt, because the website has no meaningful directions, take bus S74 from the ferry terminal to Rockland Avenue, then walk north-ish on Rockland to the park headquarters, where there are trail maps.) We hiked the blue trail, and were soon out of sight of civilization. Except for the shards of beer bottles lining the trail and the occasional sound of a distant police siren, there were no signs of other people. (The trail does occasionally detour through suburbia to cross roads, though.) The park is really nice; there were all sorts of little critters in the woods, and some ponds with stuff growing in them. This includes mosquitoes - Andrew is now covered in mosquito bites.

Mosquito bites notwithstanding, it was fun trip. I'd never been on the ferry before, and that was fun. We spent a leisurely three hours on the hiking trail, and it looks like there's a lot more area around there to explore later.

Saturday, August 07, 2004

Movin Out - On Rollerblades

You have to get up pretty early in the morning to get tickets to anything in New York. I've got to stop trying to show up when the ticket office opens. You need to get there atleast 2 hours ahead of time to have any chance of getting anything. I spent yesterday chasing tickets that were already gone. From Shakespeare in the Park to the Theater Development Fund, the lines were blocks long right at the moment the office opened. So in desperation, I started wandering around, looking for a theater that had any tickets left. I found some tix to Movin' Out.

After that I spent the afternoon lifting weights. Then I met Lexi at Central Park to rollerblade. My stride has been getting a lot better. This complicates things as my ability to brake has yet to catch up. The problem is that just as I'm right handed, I'm apparently right footed too. I can keep balance on my right leg much longer than on my left leg. As the brake is on my right foot, I have trouble keeping balance on my left as I stick out my right to stop me. It's going to be a while before I become ambifootstrous enough to stop when I want to.

We ate at the Heartland Chop House. They had the most enormous Prix Fixe. Lexi got three times the steak she could eat. We also had their beer sampler. There was an unfortunate prevalence of fruit flavored beers. This wouldn't have been a problem, except for the lingering memory of the apricot ale I had along with cold cheese sausage on the fateful birthday fishing trip for Keith. I'm not totally giving up on apricot ales the way Lexi gave up on Vodka after my 21st birthday, but I have to admit that apricot ale is a lot less pleasant than it used to be.

I found some tickets to Movin' Out, the Billy Joel musical. Lexi really wanted to see it and I like a few of his songs. Neither of us expected the new age rock-ballet that we got. There was no dialogue. The entire story was told in a combination of the lyrics of Billy Joel's songs and the movements of the dancers. There was much frantic spinning to demonstrate a whole plethora of emotional vignettes. They lose the girl, they twirl. They're fighting paranoia in the jungles of vietnam, they twirl. They come home and start doing smack, they twirl. Always, twirling, twirling towards freedom.

We finished out the night by taking another trip on our skates north along the Hudson. I really love the bike/skate path along the Hudson. It's nearly perfectly flat and very well paved. I can really build up some speed on it. We did about 7 miles round trip and then came home and collapsed in front of the first episode of Babylon 5 season 4.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Biking Northern Manhattan

The weather looked a little foreboding early today, but it quickly cleared into a very beautiful day. There's a great bike and rollerblade lane along the Hudson river. The parks were well kept all the way along the west side of Manhattan. The ride along that stretch was perhaps the most peaceful moment that I've had in New York.

It was a little less peaceful for the second half of the trip as I lost the bike path for a while and had to bike in New York traffic. I cut east across 165th St. and went down 1st Ave. for a while until I found the bike path again.

Halfway back down the island, I came across a bridge to Ward Island. It seems to be an island dedicated solely to providing teenagers with a place to go and drink or smoke. There were two guys drinking cheap beer near the dump on Ward Island. And I swear I passed their friends on my way back over the bridge on the phone asking where they were and if they had the stuff.

Pictures from my ride are up at:

Happy Anniversary

Our anniversary didn't turn out quite as we had hoped, but we had fun anyway. We had planned to go to a reading by Kurt Vonnegut, Salman Rushdie and others. But when we got there, the line went around the block twice. I hope that my Douglas Adams curse doesn't claim Vonnegut too. I heard that Douglas Adams was in Santa Barbara while I was there, studying for my masters degree. I kept putting off going to see him speak. I found out later that he had died, in Santa Barbara, right before his last speaking engagement.

With our original plans obviously not going to work out, we found a nice Sushi place around NYU. It was good, cheap sushi and sake and the Manchurian Candidate at a Time Square Movie Theater. We've gotten a couple of unlimited metrocards so we've been hopping around the city like crazy. It's nice to decide to have dinner at NYU and then catch a movie in Time Square and not have to worry about how to get there.

Before we met for dinner, I went to the financial district to see the Giscard Games. It was this interpretive dance show, where women dressed as floor traders danced up and down the steps of the federal building to mimic the violent turmoil of the market. The music sounded like a tribal techno remix of Pink Floyd's "Money". The dancers woke to the bell. Then they angrily gesticulated at each other, holding up different numbers of fingers, shaking their heads yes and no. Then they ran up and down the stairs to show the flux of different markets. Then the final bell rang and all the dancers ran up to the top of the stairs, except for one who feigned a stumble. Then in reference (I think) to the sexual harassment cases against major trading firms, the dancer who stumbled was forced to dance while all the other dancers watched, hooting and cat-calling. It was a really surreal scene in itself, but the extra security in the financial district made it even stranger. It was another one of those America in a Nutshell moments. Officers in full body armor watching women worship the market gods in the holy citadel of capitalism.

The pictures that I could get (my battery ran out) are up at: