Saturday, January 15, 2011


The show is open. People are lined up every night outside the box office. It costs between $70 and $190 for a ticket.

Discount tickets for $79 to $99 are available on week nights. In "Variety" magazine's weekly gross announcements for last week, Spider-Man Turn off the Dark grossed $1.9. million, with $121 as the average price for a seat.

Touted as the most lavish musical ever mounted on Broadway, the show has mechanical lifts, flying machines, and very high-tech costumes. It's dangerous, some of the "kinks" apparently have not yet been ironed out.

An onstage accident December 20, when the leading actor, felt 35 feet, has left Nick Wyman, the head of the Actors' Equity Association, "disturbed and distraught." Aside from the leading man, another performer has broken both wrists; another has fractured both feet; the leading actress, hit by a rope, suffered a concussion that took her out of the show for more than ten days.

Responding to criticism that the producers of the musical, haven't done enough to protect the show's performers, Wyman said, "Equity members have insisted on further safety protocols, backups and fail-safes."

Christopher Tierney, dancer-actor, leading man, who suffered a fractured back four broken ribs, concussion, and other abrasions, attended the show on January 7th. He was able to walk in, visit fellow actors backstage, and embracing them, Tierney promised that he will be back in the show "very soon."

Tierney has just completed an initial course of physical therapy treatments at the Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine. (When my back was broken in an automobile accident, I went to Rusk Institute three times a week for a year.) Tierney wears a back brace, and has 10 screws in his spine. Many months of therapy will be necessary before the 32-year-old Tierney can discard the brace. Yes, he may be able to dance again, but his playing the lead again in this show is unlikely.

Spider-man Turn off the Dark is in previews, and is set to open February 7, 2011.

Each night, before the curtain goes up, the stage manager announces that representatives from Occupational Safety and Health Administration, OSHA, (the main federal agency), are on hand backstage to make sure the stunts are in full compliance with safety requirements, and that New York State Department of Labor has okayed the production,

The show is framed by four teenagers, who appear to be working on a script in front of the stage. As they talk about the story, actors appear and perform what the kids are discussing -- acting out what the audience may have seen in comics, or in the "Spider-man" films.

Director Julie Taymor has delivered some splashy, whimsical, creative numbers, similar to what she did in Broadway's The Lion King. The most spectacular number, at present, is the dance of the golden spiders, who swing from 40-foot golden curtains (but it's similar to Cirque du Soleil acrobats). Fights between "Spidey" and "Green Goblin," as they fly above the audience, are unexpected and breathtaking, but only half the audience can actually see them, since the fights take place high at the back of the theater.

Right now, in terms of music, songs, and production numbers, the show needs more work. A trusted director-friend of ours said he was impressed for ten minutes or so, as he could be at Circe du Soleil, but then, he was restless --"There wasn't a story or numbers to keep me involved."

Will we see it? We might, but based on the reports we've heard. I don't think "Spider-Man the Musical" is our cup of tea.

Friday, January 14, 2011

THAT'S LIFE (video)

Give it a minute; don't let the foreign language turn you off.

When this video started, I thought, "What in the world does this have to do with me?"

Thursday, January 13, 2011


<---- This is the porch of the gunman, Jared Lee Loughner, who is accused of shooting Congresswoman Gabrielle Gifford and 19 others in Tucson, Arizona on Saturday, the 7th of January.

It's a skull sitting atop a pot filled with shriveled oranges. It suggests a chilling occult dimension in Loughner's mind.

Today feels like yesterday.

There are bulletins on the Congresswoman's condition -- hopeful quotes, though at best, she'll probably be another Jim Brady, the aide who was shot in the head when an attempt was made to assassinate President Ronald Reagan.

Brady and his wife have spent the last 30 years fighting for gun control, working with therapists, trying find ways to help him get back into the world.

What's happening right now? Lots of speeches, lots of comments. The kid/man/boy who is being arraigned for the shooting, appears to be one more mentally ill child, who's responding to the way the world is -- the ads, movies, media, TV, and famous leaders-celebrities-politicians in our country and around the world.

Who hasn't been affected by the violence, the horrifying behavior that's infected, continues to infect/affect everyone?

Meanwhile, there's very little "let's-fix-it " talk about gun control. Representatives Mike Lee and Senator Rand Paul, (Republicans), are already defending our current gun laws. Paul quoted the usual line on CNN -- "Weapons don't kill people; it's the individual that kills these people."

Caroline McCarthy, a Democrat, is working on new gun-control legislation, but it's unclear if the nation will get behind it -- an October poll showed 44 percent of Americans favored stricter gun control laws, down 78 percent in 1990.

I'm having a bad day. I'm remembering "Fort Hood." Perhaps the name echoes in your mind the same as it does in mine, and suggests another similar disaster -- murder -- a lot of people murdered by a man who was "off his rocker" crazed, mentally ill.

It happened November 2009.

Has anything been done, or changed since then? Has anything really changed since 1999, and Columbine High School? We've had how many murderous school kids -- bringing weapons to school, planning rape, attempting murder?

How many riveting local terrorist dramas have we experienced vicariously, with headlines, comments, lurid photos, gory details infecting us -- affecting me, affecting kids?

You can become very famous if you attempt to murder a celebrity -- you'll be in encyclopedias. Maybe your life story will be told in a movie with a star playing YOU.

What can I do? Everything I'm saying here you've heard. You know the commandment -- THOU SHALT NOT KILL.

Hey guys, everyone who reads this -- talk up gun control. chant it, write a song, or a poem, tell your friends, neighbors, put a comment, a shouting declaration anyplace you can find on the Internet or in the supermarket -- THOU SHALT NOT KILL.

We need gun control.

If you can't get anyone to listen, what should you do? Pray.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


First lady Michelle Obama is a major person in our lives, who moves quietly, always gracefully, with utter skill and intelligence, as she's providing what's needed and what sustains her family and our president.

I think of her ... no, I sense in her ... no ... I've seen her and heard her. I've observed her words, her behavior as a queenly, high level, highest level executive, who could be in politics, or head a major department in our government. That won't happen -- I think Michelle and Barack have a pact, an agreement they made, and Michelle is fulfilling her part in their covenant, doing what they decided would be best for our First Black President.

I don't like the "First Black President" phrase, but I feel that's how Obama is seen by Democrats who more or less support him, and Republicans who are determined to bring him down -- those who think of him as black, and have a deeply ingrained sense of what "black" means, based on their own growing up years in race-prejudiced America.

If Barack Obama's wife were too important -- if she spoke up -- if she showed her brains, her education, her independent thinking -- whoa -- it's fuel for the bonfire that people "Obamites" -- people who don't like Obama want to ignite.

I think many Obamites don't like him, don't trust him, are compelled by their upbringing as children -- what they learned from their parents -- to destroy this black man as their leader.

Michelle and Barack, with deep sensitivity, feel it, know it, and accept the race-prejudiced thinking -- not with hate, or fear, or anger -- but with empathy.

Obama said, in the books he wrote before he ran for president, "Our differences are important, not trivial," and, in-depth, author Obama has explained that his opponents hold principles and ideas as deeply rooted in American history, American tradition, as his own. Therefore, he strives to understand and deal with Republicans (as well as Muslims and others with opposing religious beliefs and political convictions), with empathy.

Barack Obama says that by identifying with his opponents, he is able to understand their feelings, and work constructively with them.

So, there Michelle is -- in the White House. Surely, there are a hundreds of major and minor chores to handle. Aside from the White House staff whom she guides and supervises, Michelle runs the Obama family.

Whew! It's more than an ordinary wife's job. It's a partner's job. There's a daily social-personal-political agenda -- dinners, lunches, guests, special occasions, holidays, celebrations. Michelle's mother, Marian Robinson, lives with them. Her being there was a wise move the husband and wife partnership made -- Grandmother Marian enables the Obamas to function as the "first couple" more freely.

Michelle's projects -- her vegetable garden, eat-healthy, exercise, fight obesity -- her supporting education, and Military families -- her attending the annual Democratic women's conference, her appearance in Nevada with Harry Reid, her presence at the NAACP convention in July -- all this is important, but does not divert or interfere, in any way, with the President's work -- even Michelle's trip to Spain with Sasha and a protective staff that created the furor about so much money spent protecting them -- I can find no fault in Michelle's behavior.

I would vote for her. I vote "yes" for her, and Obama, to keep on being what they are -- the First Black President and First Black First Lady to be scrutinized by everyone in our country as well as the world -- they are making our country a better home, and land for us all.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


The Literary Review, an established British magazine, each year gives a Bad Sex award. The magazine is Britain's principal monthly literary magazine. Founded in 1979, it has a circulation of approximately 45,000, and reviews a wide range of published books, including fiction, history, politics, biography and travel.

Each year since 1993, Literary Review's annual Bad Sex in Fiction Award is presented to the author who produces the worst description of a sex scene in a novel. The award itself is in the form of a "semi-abstract trophy representing sex in the 1950s, which depicts a naked woman draped over an open book."

(I Googled. Despite a dozen references to it, I couldn't find a picture of the actual award).

The purpose of the award is: "To draw attention to the crude, tasteless, often perfunctory use of redundant passages of sexual description in the modern novel, and to discourage it."

In case this intrigues you, as a reader or perhaps as a writer, and you'd like to study the work of author's who have won this award, the winners of the Bad Sex in Fiction award include:
1993: Melvyn Bragg, A Time to Dance
1994: Philip Hook, The Stonebreakers
1995: Philip Kerr, Gridiron
1996: David Huggins, The Big Kiss:
1997: Nicholas Royle, The Matter of the Heart
1998: Sebastian Faulks, Charlotte Gray
1999: A. A. Gill, Starcrossed
2000: Sean Thomas, Kissing England
2001: Christopher Hart, Rescue Me
2002: Wendy Perriam, Tread Softly
2003: Aniruddha Bahal, Bunker 13
2004: Tom Wolfe, I Am Charlotte Simmons
2005: Giles Coren, Winkler (article)
2006: Iain Hollingshead, Twenty Something
2007: Norman Mailer, The Castle in the Forest
2008: Rachel Johnson, Shire Hell
also: John Updike, was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award
2009: Jonathan Littell, The Kindly Ones

The winner of this coveted award for 2010 was novelist Rowan Somerville's second novel, The Shape of Her.

One sentence, particularly, has been noted by judges as well as other British literary critics. Using the image of a butterfly collector Someville wrote: "Like a lepidopterist mounting a tough-skinned insect with a too blunt pin he screwed himself into her."

Somerville accepted the honor,, saying: "There is nothing more English than bad sex, so on behalf of the entire nation I would like to thank you."

The magazine's judges did consider making Tony Blairs book, "The Journey," the first non-fiction book ever nominated. Blair wrote the excruciatingly unforgettable description in his autobiography, of himself with his wife Cherie on the night of 12 May 1994: "I devoured it to give me strength. I was an animal following my instinct."

The judges finally concluded that the passage was too brief to merit it. The other contenders for this year's award included the hugely-acclaimed Freedom, by Jonathan Franzen, The Slap, by Christos Tsiolkas, and poet Craig Raine's first prose novel, Heartbreak.

Here is a link, that will take you to the award winning writing in Someville's book,"The Shape of Her.".

Monday, January 10, 2011


How do you feel when you hear or see the names of people who died last year?

The tributes, the names of the newly dead take away some of my pleasure when I'm watching Jimmy Stewart, Bette Davis, Judy Garland, or Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, or Gary Cooper, Audrey Hepburn, and Cary Grant -- great stars who aren't around anymore but they're so alive in their films ...

Grant was always so vital -- amusing, unpredictable -- that he's "gone" doesn't occur to me when I'm watching a classic film in which he's featured.

Right now, nostalgia's in the air and many media people are mentioning the names of those who are gone -- famous faces, beloved stars I'm going to miss along with the "names," the older stars who been gone since ... I don't know when.
My favorite stars are mostly in those older classic movies -- yes, they're "old," but they're not dusty, old-fashioned, out of date -- not to me! I enjoy them more than current movies, which, like television, usually start with some bang-crash-thrilling-suspenseful scene that will hook you immediately.

They don't hook me.

In the old classic movies, I like the simple opening credits that give the title and cast list -- who's playing what character, and the character's name.

I like the fact that there's a plot -- a BEGINNING when I meet the people and learn what's on their minds -- what's at stake or who wants what. I like dialogue, real talking back and forth, not grunts, sound effects, pounding music, monosyllabic exchanges, and I'm not excited or blown away by what the movies call "shoe leather"-- visions of action.

(When JC was trying to sell a movie script he wrote based on a book, "The Secret Life of Algernon Pendelton," by Russell Greenan, the turn-downs from producers and agents usually included, ''it needs more shoe leather.")

When watching a classic film, after I've met the main characters, the MIDDLE usually involves will they get what they want -- be it money, a big dream, love, or whatever. And it's resolved in the ENDING, with the director resolving the unresolved issues, and leaving us with a feeling of pleasure, joy, sadness -- chuckling perhaps, or nodding wistfully.

The other night I saw "Some Like It Hot" again, but I was aware that Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, and Marilyn Monroe were gone -- the word "dead," of course, isn't used. But they are dead -- Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Grace Kelly -- and Charlton Heston, Burt Lancaster, and yes -- Karl Malden, Patrick Swayze , and ... oh my, Paul Newman ...

I'm not listing Michael Jackson or Johnny Carson, or Ted Kennedy, and I'm not on the verge of mentioning other major, inspiring, powerful people who are no longer around, who were so vividly alive for me, for so many, many years.

You have your own list. I'm just saying into the air that I wish the nostalgia and sense that they're dead would diminish.

It makes me aware of my age and my time -- the sands in the hour glass that are going, going ...

I'm intensely aware that my mother, my father, my younger brother and older sister, and others whom I loved and worked with are gone.

This sense of growing older, and older isn't good for dancing through each day -- nope -- I do better putting away what's gone, and just living in the moments of now.

Sunday, January 9, 2011


Installing their new fax machine, has taken hours on the phone with HELP people who weren't helping.

After more than eight hours of trying to make it work, the Cullums packed up the new machine and returned it.

Today, when a new machine arrived, they went to work again on installing it (without HELP).

They tested the fax mode. It worked until someone phoned them, and throughout the conversation, the fax beeped unmercifully.

Now what? Send back the new machine? Call HELP again?

The Cullums have decided that they'll advise anyone who wants to fax them, to phone them first. Then, and only then, will they turn on the new machine.

The Cullums say, "New appliances are helI!