Friday, September 27, 2013


Drive-in movie theaters are -- maybe -- coming back ...

My family, when I was growing up, did NOT go to drive-in theaters. On Saturday night or Sunday, we went to the local movie theater. But all of us (my two sisters and brother, Mom, and Dad), piled into the car, and the Saturday night movie was a family tradition.

I'm borrowing specific nostalgia from a Time Magazine article "Summer evening, the white of the screen against the rose of the sky, the incandescent glow from the concession stand, kids tossing a football as they wait for the show to begin, the smell of bug spray, the rows of cars with patrons draped across the roofs...

Gee, it's sort of like what I experienced at the local theater, just more so.

When something "typical" disappears, it means the country is changing. Is the resurgence of drive-ins the result of our pinched economy? The cost of seeing a movie at a drive-in is defintiely less.. $8 for an adult $6 for a kid, or thereabouts.

Going to a regular movie theater these days continues to get more expensive. George Lucas, the guy who made "Star Wars," referring to the cost of going to the movies, said, "It's going to cost you  $50, maybe $100, maybe $150.” (Lucas and Steven Spielberg were discussing the fact that producers making mega budget movies have to make more money at the box office in order to survive.)

It's 80 years since Richard M. Hollingshead Jr. secured a patent for a "novel construction, whereby the transportation facilities to and from the theater are made to constitute an element of the seating," and opened the first drive-in theater, in New Jersey.

Audiences (called "ozoners" or "outdoorers") proliferated in car-loving North America. Movies such as "Grease" remind us, even if we didn't experience it ourselves, what fun it was.

There were 4,063 drive-ins back in 1958. In the mid-eighties and nineties (maybe with the development of the computer and Internet), there was a wave of closings; during the past decade, the number of outdoor theaters has dwindled further -- now it's down to about s 357 survivors.

One reason maybe be the film projector. Theaters, nowadays, have digital projectors. Production studios don't offer film prints anymore -- they're offering "digital" prints.  "Cinedigm," a digital-cinema company, and the "National Association of Theatre Owners," have worked out a fee arrangement for movie theaters and drive-ins that helps theater owners repay the cost of the $70,00 projector that each theater needs. The studios, using money they save by not having to print film, are actually loaning money for the projectors, and helping  theaters re-open.

Gee, I find this hopeful.

With what's in the news about race prejudice, immigration, heatlhcare, impeach Obama, and the ever-rising cost of everything we need -- negative news is piling up higher and higher, along with our guys still dying in Afghanistan, and now an enormous black dark wave -- we know chemical weapons have been used, and may be used again.

If drive-in movies -- things like that which we used to enjoy, that were  once a part of family life -- if that sense of family is coming back and  getting more important ... well ... maybe we're hanging on to being part of  the family of man, and attached, we're anchored in a way that keeps us from  drowning, a way that buoys and keep us afloat.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


 Hey are you adventuresome? Want to do something important with your life -- blaze a trail or extend our boundaries and make the world larger?  

Mars One, a Netherlands group, is planning to fly teams of four astronauts to Mars -- yes, the Red Planet -- and establish a human settlement.

A first landing is slated to occur -- note the date -- in April 2023.

You don't need to have a technical background. You have to be more than 18, but there's no maximum age limit. Any nationality, religion, gender or language is okay. Candidates will get seven years of training, testing, and exercises, including living in mock Mars colonies while still on earth, and learning English, if they don't speak it already.

What would it cost to sign up? There's a small fee for submitting an application ($5 to $75 based on your country's national income). The cost for an American is $38.

Think about these specifics on the schedule: 
          July, 2015, Mars One plans to have selected its top 24 astronauts. They already have about 10,000 emails from people interested in applying. The selectees will be grouped into crews of six, out of which finally, four guys will actually travel.

          2016 -- Initial test launch to Mars to check out landing technology.

          2018 -- Second mission will deliver a robotic rover to scout out landing sites.  

          2020 -- Second rover will be launched to begin assembling some of the first settlers' equipment and habitats, which will be ready and waiting when they land.

           2022 -- The first crew will leave earth.

The trip to Mars will take about seven months.

Who's paying for this? Netherlands' Mars One corporation is raising the $6 billion it will cost to send the first four inhabitants to Mars. $4 billion dollars will be needed to launch each subsequent crew. Mars One plans to raise money via a reality television show. They've already got a producer for the show that will follow its astronaut selection and training process.

You'll travel in a capsule being developed by "SpaceX," the Space Exploration Technologies Corporation. Mars land rovers and habitat modules will be designed and built from the ground up based on existing technology. Mars One has hired the Paragon Space Development Corporation to design the essential life support technologies needed for the mission.

Is it something YOU might  consider doing? You'd have to say goodbye to all your family and friends, as the deal doesn't include a return ticket. Back in your school days, when you were learning about families in covered wagons determined to find homes in the west, did you ever picture yourself doing that?

Back in my touring days as a dancer -- returning from the far East, South America, Australia and New Zealand -- oh my God, I was so glad to be home -- as I proceeded through Customs into the USA area, where my husband was waiting for me, I wanted to kneel and kiss America's ground.

Former astronaut John Grunsfeld said, "It is not just a scientific challenge -- it is essential for man's survival."  Steven Hawking said, "The human race shouldn't have all its eggs in one basket on one planet. Should nuclear proliferation, shrinking resources, a growing population, and climate change, or a visit by hostile aliens, threaten humankind on earth, a colony on Mars could serve as a lifeboat to keep the species going."

Take a look and picture yourself emerging from a land rover "covered wagon," and creating a home for yourself here.

Click this link and see What life looks like on Mars.

Monday, September 23, 2013


Newsha Tavakolian is a 32-year-old Iranian writer, reporter, photographer, whose photos -- a group of them entitled "Look" -- are now being exhibited in various prestigious galleries.

The photos, that can also be seen in Tavokolian's documentary, "Look," are dark, dimly lit -- a sad-faced woman sitting by herself -- a man alone who's smoking -- another with his head in his hands -- a girl alone staring at her birthday cake.

Each photo is just one person, doing nothing really, but
thinking. Quite a few of the photos feature a sad-faced woman, who resembles or is, in fact, Newsha Tavokolian herself.

A recent Daily Beast article explained that "Look" is portraits by Tavokolian of young Iranian men and women -- mostly family and friends -- visions through the various windows of a large concrete apartment building that is Newsha's home in Tehran.

'Newsha told the reporter, "I wanted to bring to life the story of a nation of middle-class youths who lack hope for the future and are constantly battling with themselves in isolation. Everyone hides this moment of insecurity through social conformity; you’d have no indication  of these private moments of doubt were you to walk through the streets  of Tehran.”

It's hopeful news, that a female Iranian artist in present day Iran, can find a way to get her photographs seen. Despite severe restrictions on women (and men), and censorship, she's found a way to express her feelings with photographs in which she seems to be dramatizing, un-dramatically -- aloneness, futility, the lonesomeness of life in Tehran.

Isn't this something all of us, at some time or other, have felt -- a sense that you are isolated while surrounded by people on a crowded sidewalk, by others in the line at the supermarket or people seated with you in the row as you're staring at a film?

Hey, I've been there. When I was 20, I created "Haunted Moments," a choreography to sound effects that included a cheering New Year's crowd. I reached toward them, and  slowly walked from upstage to the downstage edge of the stage, reaching, reaching to make contact, but being alone, couldn't.

"Haunted Moments" got raves and launched me. I was expressing what I felt very strongly -- isolation -- intense loneliness in a crowd.

As you are starting out in the arts, the things that move you pierce you like an arrow in the heart; they almost crush you with the weight of what you feel. You are sure that what you feel is felt by many others.

Looking back on how this early work launched me, I understand that photographer Tavokolian is expressing what she's feeling -- searching, but unable to shout what she feels. 

Now that Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has been officially replaced, and there is a new president, Hassan Rouhani, perhaps life will change for Iranian men and women, who have not been able to express resentment, despair, anger -- who need to rebel, and have had to quash all rebellious instincts.

Even so, Nashwa, working as an artist since her early twenties, has covered wars, natural disasters and events in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Yemen. She has been published by major news magazines including.Time, Newsweek, Le Figaro,  New York Times Magazine, Le Monde, and National Geographic. Her photos have been shown at The British Museum, The Victoria & Albert Museum, LACMA and The Boston Museum of Fine Arts.

I bow to all that.

I can't bow to "Look" -- I am not moved by this collection of photos she's has been taking for about three years, though I am very interested to see where Newsha's heading artistically.

A playwright friend of ours, John Bishop, (he wrote "The Trip Back Down" that was presented off and on Broadway), advised us when we were re-writing the negative ending of one of my plays before its opening night: Bishop said, "Go for what hurts. You have to find a way to  express the very worst of what you don't want to say because it's too  painful."

We were seeking success -- we wanted a positive, applause getting ending to my play -- we didn't go for what the play was really saying.

I think, after you see this Tavokolian's video, you will also be wondering with me, what Newsha Tavokolian's next projects will be -- hoping that she'll be bolder, much bolder and  more daring, and be able GO FOR IT.