Wednesday, August 31, 2005

New Orleans

I wanted to post something, considering the devastation that's occurred; It's all just awful....

Here's what I've got; it's a fond, funny memory I have of one of my rowdiest trips to the city. I don't know how appropriate it is to share given the recent events, but consider it a tribute. My other tributes went to Red Cross, and the Episcopal Relief and Development. Okay....

So Imagine me, a fragile, closeted, 23-year-old mess of a depressed failure of a special ed teacher in the Houston Independent School District, heading to New Orleans for a Teach For America summit that was meant to energize the corps members and allow them to network and share ideas. And spend all night out on Bourbon Street, of course.

I think I skipped just about every speech, every rally, every workshop, and did nothing but hang out with my other disgruntled special ed TFA corps members that weekend. We special ed teachers were so disgruntled, myself especially. Towards the end of that school year, if the words "workshop" or "lesson-planning" or "corps building" "staff meeting" were attached to any description of a function I was supposed to attend, I was nowhere to be found.

On our first night at this summit/excuse for a long weekend in New Orleans, I sat in sped teachers S.'s and A.'s hotel room, watching them smoke a bowl between them while they did their hair for a night on the town.

Once we finally made it out to where the action was, they became obsessed with the notion of going to a girly bar. You can imagine a fragile, closeted, 23-year-old mess like I was would probably resist such a suggestion, and I most certainly did, but they couldn't get in without having a male escort to provide the cover. Little did the bouncer know how bad a tipper I would be.

So of course we were seated right next to the stage, and my one source of entertainment was watching A.'s and S.'s objective appraisals: "oh, she's good." "Look at her; I like her moves." "What about the one in the glasses?" "Glasses, where? Oh that's an inspired choice!" "Yeah, she's a class act, you can tell."

So right about the time this banter is going on, I, eyes lowered, shoulders hunched, trying to make myself as invisible as I could, begin to notice the four-eyed stripper heading toward us. Seeing only one man at the table, she zeroed in on me as she began her approach. As she was coming, A. said "I want to tip her. She deserves a tip. Kyle, tip her for us!"

I was mortified by this. And just so you know, I was not sitting at this table waiting for the whole room to figure out my claimed heterosexuality was a complete sham; it's all a bit more complicated than that. I was just...uncomfortable. I didn't really know where I was on the whole Kinsey spectrum at that point; I just new that sitting in a strip club with a couple of my female friends was not the ideal way to spend an evening. So here I am, sitting in this bar while a girl-who-wears-glasses lowers her ample chest just above my head. This was all just too embarrassing for me to endure. I did not obey the girls' commands; I just said, "You think she deserves a tip, you tip her!"

A. shrugged and stood up, dollar in hand. Throughout all this I did have the good sense to think she was being a little cheap, but I digress. She put the dollar bill in the woman's garter belt and, with a pat on her thigh, said, "Nice work, babe."

The stripper just smiled and turned her back to all of us, continuing to work the crowd. I breathed a sigh of relief as my companions allowed us to leave the premises for the less intimidating scenes of bacchanalia to be had elsewhere in the Quarter. I must say, though, that A.'s coolness factor grew by about 200% with that little thigh-pat of hers. Now that, that was a nice touch.

I think that was the last time I ever went to New Orleans. It must've been 1999. I had been twice prior to that, having fallen in love with it one muggy August before I graduated from college when some friends of mine and I road-tripped down before starting up our fall semesters. Regardless of the heat and the humidity (and I still maintain that it's impossible to truly understand A Streetcar Named Desire unless you've been to New Orleans in the summertime) or the drunken tourists, its rich history, celebratory spirit, and easy southern demeanor are to be cherished. It's impossible not to fall in love with that city, even if you get goaded into going to the wrong strip club.

Getty Round-Up, part umpteen!

Thanks again to Tyler Green for pointing out the new BM piece in the LATimes -- it's a column by Steve Lopez, and it's loads of fun. I'll post a bit below.

Barry Munitz, the Getty Trust boss whose unrepentant spending prompted a U.S. senator to recall "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous," just keeps raising the bar. In an interview with the Times of London, Munitz was asked about his penchant for traveling first class, and he had an answer that put the "C" back in hutzpah.

"You have to understand life in L.A.," he said. "People find it embarrassing to travel commercial class."

I headed straight for the Burbank airport to see if I could find anyone in steerage who wasn't too ashamed to answer a question or two. Jim Bain, a Van Nuys bloke who works in a recording studio, has never flown first class but said he thinks he can live with the shame....


Beth Wilson, who divides her time between Los Angeles and Oregon, was boarding a flight to Oregon on Alaska Airlines.

Wilson is on medical leave from a management job for the YMCA — a nonprofit — and she was holding a coach ticket.

"Budget is always a concern at a nonprofit," said Wilson, who always flew coach for the Y. "You always had to find the cheapest way to fly."

With that attitude, she won't hear the pop of a champagne cork next time Munitz sails the Dalmatian coast on a chartered yacht.

Dead End

Excited to see this in previews this weekend. They've got thuh whole dang Ahmanson Theatre orchestra pit fulla water! What'll them wacky theater folks think of next? Oh, by the way, is it futile of me to hope that cast members Tom Everett Scott and Jeremy Sisto might do a little of that East River-frolicking that Sharon Waxman so delights to recount in her article?

Here's a bit of the article -- a quote by director Nicholas Martin:

"It's conceived in a very muscular, real way; it's not just a fictional notion. And the way I conceived it is really as a spectator sport that the audience can participate in." He likes that the front rows get splashed. "I thought, Well, that's a great metaphor: wake 'em up," he said.

I don't know where my tickets are, but please let me get halfway back, at least!

Oh, and Rob Kendt links to the article, too; it's at the bottom of his post about the new LATimes theater critic, Michael McNulty. Just kidding, it's Charles McNulty. That was a joke for my fellow CMUers. Anyway, he points out Richie's continued bar-raising with an enjoyable amount of smugness. So...enjoy!

UPDATE: JW just read the NYTimes article about Dead End and said, "I'm confused...did Jeremy Sisto just admit to playing a cliche?" That tickled me.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Surfergirl sounds off

on Entourage here. And let me just say thank you Surfergirl! I didn't think I was crazy. Granted, I only saw a few episodes of the first season and maybe it's evolved this time around, but I never really got the show. Frankly, I was always a bit bewildered by the lack of complexity, nuance, even story that the show has. Plus, it's a little too chick-happy-boy's-club for my taste.

Regardless, here's my favorite quote:

Watching Vince and his cohorts choose among multimillion-dollar projects and fawning starlets is like watching a spoiled child at Disneyland, deliberating between the pink and the blue cotton candy.

She goes on to offer script-doctor suggestions that I think are pretty strong. But here's my suggestion: Put it all in jeopardy! Constantly! Fame is fleeting and so is youth and beauty, and all are things these people rely on. So why is it always so effing easy? I know it's fantasy, but can't it be a fantasy I'm at least the slightest bit concerned about whether the characers are going to be able to maintain it?

Twin Cinema Update

I know you're all waiting with baited breath to hear what my final pronouncements on the new New Pornographers album are. For you five readers who haven't shrugged and clicked back to some Gawker media website or a game of solitaire or something, I'm pleased to report that I'm officially obsessed. Nonstop listening for close to a week now. The title track and one of Dan Bejar's turns at the mic, "Jackie Dressed in Cobras," are current faves. Can't wait for their show next month, especially since Destroyer, Dan Bejar's other band, is opening.

I was so excited to go to this show I figured I'd get two tickets and just offer the 2nd to whoever, and I loaned my friend Matt the first two CDs and he said, "ehh, they're too happy, but I guess they'll be fun live."

Well, just to allay any happy-paranoia, Twin Cinema isn't entirely happy. There's one Dan Bejar song ("The Jessica Numbers"? I'm not sure) that I even find kinda melancholy and sadly regretful ("But Contessa!!!"). I get a bit teary.

But even if they were all happy...I like happy! As long as it ain't dim-witted and happy. And these folks could never be accused of that; they have songs named "Jackie Dressed in Cobras" and "My Slow Descent Into Alcoholism." They're surreal-happy and ironic-happy, at the very least!

Question

Why has Scarlett Johanson's career taken off and not Thora Birch's? Surely there's an explanation for this. It just seems so unfair....

Monday, August 29, 2005

Sunset Junction

SATURDAY:
I got a late start on Saturday, not getting there until close to 8pm, and just in time for John Cale's set. The sound was dreadful, so sad, he deserves better, etc. Brandy and I were there -- celebrating our 3rd Junction wandering around Silver Lake together -- and we met up with friends Jessica and Mike, going back and forth to Akbar for its bathroom. Rilo Kiley seemed unremarkable as we were passing through the masses to get to and from Akbar for said bathroom visits, especially considering the hype they get. Don't quote me on that; I only know a couple of songs, and was more concerned about not getting burned by stray cigarettes as we passed through the shoulder-to-shoulder throngs near the stage.

SUNDAY:
Much more eventful, as JW and I arrived around 3pm and met up with friends Dale and Tom and promptly headed to Good's beer garden in search of shade and refreshment. Friends Richard, Jenny, and Jessica (sans Mike) arrived. Dale and Tom left. Ron Livingston was spotted, confirmed by J&J, who fled to restrain themselves. Was a chore to remind JW who the heck Ron Livingston is (ME: He's in Pretty Persuasion. JW: Oh, that movie we hated, right.). Once we sorted that out, JW remained unconvinced; he and Richard said it was a look-alike. I protested, and was vindicated by the two blondes asking to have their picture taken with him. Yes!

JW, Richard and I took off to see Eagles of Death Metal's set, and they kick ass, especially the female drummer. She was pulling some serious stick-twirling moves and rocking out! Even JW liked them. I was just going to check them out for a second, but he kept inching up further into the crowd to see better! What a champ. Jack Black hopped onstage for a song because it was his birthday, and they also did a fun "Stuck In The Middle."

Richard departed, leaving just JW and me. Oh, but not before I saw Geoffrey Rush. Not kidding...Richard and JW didn't believe me, but they're WRONG. JW and I retreated to Good for bathrooms and to kill a little time until New York Dolls made the stage. On the way spotted David Cross; JW didn't know who that was, even after I reminded him that we watched the entire first season of Arrested Development on DVD together.

Back at New York Dolls, I chuckled a bit when some guy next to me shouted "Buxter Poindexter!" when David Johanson took the stage. They were pretty good, but after about thirty minutes I got a little bored and had to debate whether it was worth it to wait til the end of the show to hear them do "Personality Crisis." JW was a total sport, but I suggested we bail. Almost ran smack into David Cross trying to get out of the masses assembled to watch the punk nostalgia. JW -- still no clue.

Post-Mortem -- little sunburned, little exhausted, contemplating Brandy's suggestion that David J's long locks are a wig, but overall, it was another great year at the SunJunk. Can't wait til the next one. Just hope it's not so damn hot. One can hope, right?

New York Reader Alert!

Here's the latest in my irregularly recurring theme-post, a whimsical attempt at making all my countless New York readers go to the shows I'd attend if I lived there. Etc.

This notice came from, of all places, the Friendster Bulletin Board. My friend and former classmate, Sloan MacRae, has a new play going up in a couple of weeks. Details below.

Hello, my NYC friends:

Just wanted to spread the word that Epiphany
Theater Company is producing my
play "Pennsyltucky" this September.

It opens September 10 (preview on September 9)
and runs until September 24.

It's gonna be damn good. Amy Singer Kaissar is
directing.

Pertinent info can be found here:
www.epiphanytheater.org.

I hope you can make it! Sloan


I saw a reading of this last summer, and if the title alone isn't enough to make you go, take my recommendation as well. So go give Sloan an audience, would ya?

Getty Round-Up

Tyler Green does it again. He's got a fun Monday Getty post, revisitng the Jill Murphy departure, among other things. Check out his post; it has links galore, including an interview in the UK Guardian with new museum-head Michael Brand. He links to the article to point out a typically obnoxious quote from Munitz, but I got a kick out of some of Brand's statements, too. Let's just say he seems a little, uhm, optimistic about what that place is going to let him do:

So what does he want to buy with this fantasy cheque book? “I don’t know exactly. I haven’t been doing the rounds of the Old Masters market in London. If I start naming things, the price might go up.”

But when the question is repeated, he cannot help himself: “How about a Leonardo?” he replies. “Any other museum director could not afford it but the Getty could use one . . . That is one of the exciting things about the job — you can aim very high.”


Good luck with that, Michael Brand, you crazy dreamer, you!

Big Weekend

Sunset Junction!! More on that later.

I got substantial writing done on both Saturday and Sunday, I'm happy to report. That's right, folks; I'll be a professional before you know it!

Oh, and Two Gents at Barnsdall Art Park from Independent Shakespeare. Hamlet it ain't, but the production was fun. They found a nice, light tone for the play; seeing it reminded me of the college production I performed in; as Thurio I was such a peripheral part of that production I barely remember it. The visiting director didn't have much interest in creating a cohesive ensemble; he mostly just wanted to hit on our Sylvia. And our Julia. And our prop-mistress. Etc.

I was amused by Ben Brantley's review of another production of that play -- a revival of a musical adaptation of the play that just opened in NYC:

"A graffito written across a classic play" was Clives Barnes's felicitous phrase for "Two Gentlemen" when he reviewed its Broadway opening in The New York Times. And "Two Gentlemen of Verona," like "The Comedy of Errors," is one of those lesser Shakespearean works it seems perfectly permissible to scrawl upon. A tale of tangled romances and breezily broken vows, the play is downright jolting in its reversals of tone and character, especially in its portrayal of a fickle young swain named Proteus.

Yeah, that's about right!

Friday, August 26, 2005

Twin Cinema

So I think this one's going to be a slow burn. My favorite song so far is track 8, "Sing Me Spanish Techno."

Oh no!

Poor August Wilson!

Thanks to Ernessa for this link.

Another One Leaves The Getty

The story is here. Thanks to Tyler Green for the link.

Jill Murphy, the controversial chief of staff for J. Paul Getty Trust Chief Executive Barry Munitz, disclosed Thursday that she will leave her post by the end of the year.

Murphy, 33, announced the departure to her staff in the afternoon after describing her plans in an e-mail to The Times. In the e-mail, she summarized a letter written in November to Munitz, saying that they had agreed on a plan for her exit.

Murphy's designation as chief of staff is an unusual one in the nonprofit world. But her title reflects the scope of her authority at the world's richest art institution.

Her broad power and sometimes brusque management style have drawn complaints from current and former Getty employees, who blamed her for internal tension and low morale.

Their complaints reached Munitz, who acknowledged her "sharp elbows" in a November interview.


I can understand why she might need to go. One has to be careful with one's sharp elbows, what with all that fragile artwork around!!

Thursday, August 25, 2005

The whistle bout to blow!

Thank ya sweet Jesus for bringin 5:30 to me every day!!

And today's payday my friends, so along with paying the car insurance and the cell phone bill, I get to stop by Aron's Records on my way to JW's and pick up The New Pornographers! Can'twaitcan'twaitcan'tWAIT!

Lord, I'm tired, though. My spirit's gonna need the lift from those clever Canadian purveyors of powerpop!

New blogs in the links section

I added a couple to my links section; they're good and they link to me, so I'm sending the love back.

Feminary
Center Square

Feminary is particularly overdue for a link from me, so everybody flood her site with hits to make up for lost time!

Back in business

So I'm back to work with only a mild cough and a touch of congestion. Thanks Mr. NyQuil!

I better be in tip-top shape for this weekend...and it starts tonight, kids, with Paul Taylor Dance Company tonight at the Bowl. Then there's Two Gentlemen of Verona back at Barnsdall Art Park with the Independent Shakespeare Company tomorrow, then Sunset Junction all weekend, which JW has cleverly nicknamed "SunJunk."

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Stayed home today

And slept a lot. And read a couple of plays. Feeling a bit better; hopefully I'll be back to my old blogging self tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

New Playwright Blog

My friend Ernessa has taken the bait and started her own bit of bloggery. You can find it here. She's also in my links on the right.

This post is at least partly for Sheila, as she has often lamented the lack of Chick Playwrights on the blogosphere. Enjoy!

Okay, enough with the crabby

because The New Pornographers new album, Twin Cinema, hits the stores today.

Over the weekend I saw a review in Entertainment Weekly for the album, then I saw an ad in the LA Weekly about a Tower Records appearance they're making in the L.A. area in the near future along with a picture of the new album and the sale price listed, and then I panicked. Did I miss the release date? I remembered it was August, but could I have let such a momentous occasion pass me by? I went on a desperate search of both Aron's Records and Amoeba before finally realizing that it's not in available until today. And of course, instead of saving my "hard-earned" dollars for today's purchase, I picked up a couple of used Deerhoof and Mae-Shi albums. Now I'm freaked about money again and feel inclined to wait until payday to get Twin Cinema. And now I'm crabby again. Thanks.

Oh well, we should all be so lucky to have such problems, right??

Executions in Iran

As you may have gathered by reading my blog, I'm not the most political in the sphere -- unless it involves talking trash about Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, but I've been surfing this morning and my it got my dander up a little, plus I'm sickly, so I'm a little crabby.

Doug Ireland writes on his blog here about two more gay men on their way to being executed in Iran this week, in addition to the two teenagers who were hanged last month for gay sex and trumped up, even fictitious charges of assaulting another teen. Here's a quote from his post:

According to multiple Iranian gay sources -- both exiles I spoke to in France, Sweden, and the Netherlands who have been in touch with their friends in Iran, and some in Iran who have communicated directly by e-mail -- there is an enormously heightened climate of repression and surveillance of same-sexers and homosexual activity in the wake of the hangings of two gay Iranian teens in the city of Mashad on July 19, previously reported in GCN. Even gay Iranians outside Iran are afraid of having their names used for fear of reprisals against their families and friends. As someone who made frequent reporting trips to Eastern Europe before the fall of Communism, I can say that the fear I have encountered reporting the Iran story these last weeks surpasses by far anything I encountered covering dissident movements behind the Iron Curtain.

As worldwide protests against the hangings of the two Mashad youths grew in both intensity and number, these Iranian sources suggest, the Islamic Republic -- under its new, recently-elected, ultra-nationalist president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (right) -- has decided to show that it will not bend or knuckle under to foreign pressure on behalf of Iranian gays by stepping up its legal actions against same-sexers, including more executions. Iranian scholars who followed the presidential campaign tell me that the Western press failed to grasp the degree to which Ahmadinejad”s “morality” crusade -- which included denunciations of imported Western “decadences,” like homosexuality -- was just as crucial to his electoral victory as his populist economic appeals.

I've been aware of the teen executions for a little while now, but these new ones, along with the statements above, are pretty awful and should be condemned, to say the least. Ireland's posts are full of links to other sources, and other writing he's done on the matter, so you can check that out if you like.

Here's the letter the HRC sent to Condoleeza Rice regarding last month's executions. Ireland suggests that we should all send her personal letters as well, and he states the following in his original post about the two executed teens (which you can find here):

If you want to protest directly to the Iranian government, be aware that, while the U.S. has no diplomatic relations with Iran, there is an Iranian embassy in Canada. You may write, telephone, or fax the Iranian ambassador in Canada:Ambassador Seyed Mouhammad Ali Moosavi, Embassy of Iran, 245 Metcalfe St., Ottawa, Ontario .K2P 2K2 Canada Telephone. (OO1-613- 235-4726, 233-4726; Fax, 233-5712

I don't feel good!

All my blogging activity yesterday must've worn me out. I've had this drippy in the back of my throat since yesterday afternoon. I've drunk so much tea this morning I'm surprised it hasn't given me a tan.

Monday, August 22, 2005

I have a baby niece!

Born Saturday night, all reports are good so far, no name yet, although my dad said my brother was waiting for the next full moon so he could climb up on a hilltop and hold the baby over her head and shout her name down to all the assembled villagers. He had to explain his joke to me, as I'm too young to have seen Roots.

Hitch

I took my sister to see this movie when she was in town for her work, and I didn't anticipate liking it much. But I kinda did, even though I recognized how syrupy pop and silly the whole thing is.

Don't get me wrong, I often like syrupy pop and silly, as most readers of this blog would know. However, syrupy pop romantic comedies are not my favorite form of syrupy pop. Root beer tends to satisfy me more.

Some of the dialogue in Hitch is so fake, the exchanges so self-conscious, it all makes my skin crawl a little. But then I look in Kevin James' blue eyes and.... Woah, wait a sec.... Not so fast....

Seriously, there's something about the plotting of the movie that I admire. It's like a little machine...even when I see everything coming, I find myself impressed with how I've gotten there. And then I feel like a chump for falling for it. And I do think it's carried off as well as it is by how charming all the actors are.

It's strange, though...I saw the movie months ago, and rather quickly dismissed it as a bit of mediocre fantasyland, but then I found myself recommending it to a friend who's working on a screenplay, and then I put it on Netflix and found myself a little meserized when I was looking at it yesterday. I was getting whiplash from all the ambivalence I was feeling..."damn, that line's awful...oh, that's a nice sequence...that's so fake...could Eva Mendes be any cuter?...this movie's a lie...this movie's so sweet!!"

I'm a sucker.

My friend Janet and I

were feeling guilty for laughing about something that happened at work today, and she emailed me and said something that strikes me as priceless:

"I'll save a booth seat for you in the underworld. Think of the costumes we can finally wear!"

Disfarmer in the NYTimes

Philip Gefter writes here about a famous American photographer who just happens to have lived and worked in the town where I went to high school -- Heber Springs, Arkansas.

New York reader alert! There are apparently a couple of exhibits devoted to his prints in your area. Read the article to find out more and go see them!

Here's a bit from the article:

Mike Disfarmer, formerly Mike Meyer, was viewed as a maverick. To drive home his individuality, he adopted a contrarian surname. (In German "Meier" means dairy farmer.) Farmland surrounds Heber Springs and farmers make up the majority of the local population.

As a bachelor, loner, atheist and the only person in town to practice studio photography, Disfarmer was in fact very different from most people there. Notice of his name change appeared in the local paper under a headline, "Truth Is Stranger than Fiction," which included Disfarmer's account of his origins - something about being delivered on his parents' doorstep by the winds of a tornado....

His images, with their stripped-down, no-nonsense quality, focus directly on the individual as specimen. In that era, of course, self-consciousness was less about how to play to the camera than about the shyness of posing in front of it. With his outsider's eye, Disfarmer captured that awkwardness, and provided a record of people from a particular time and in place in America.

Report from the Fringe

I'm a member of a Gay Theatre Yahoo Group and someone posted a link to this article by playwright Peter Morris. Thanks to whoever posted it; I deleted the email or I'd go find out who you are. Anyway, my favorite quote is below:

Waiting for the show to begin, I get a phone call from the boyf. He couldn't fly over from New York, he has a real job. He wishes me luck, then asks if I'm behaving myself. I made the mistake of letting him read the diary I kept from my last Fringe. Now he thinks that I go to Scotland as a sex tourist to prey upon undergraduates.

I explain to him sweetly that he needn't worry, these days the kiddies can easily outrun me, and I have no idea where to find Rohypnol. I tell him that my diary this time will be fairly dull, a cross between Bridget Jones (compulsive overeating) and Anne Frank (sense of doom combined with strangely plucky optimism).

Distracted

I've been distracted lately, over loads of things -- too many to recount, really -- and I feel like I've neglected you, dear readers. I will do my best to repair whatever is broken between us. I swear it. I'll stop settling for the easy Getty link-pasting, I promise. Although, while I'm on the subject, did you read yesterday's LATimes editorial?

I saw no plays this weekend, sadly, but I've become a little obsessed with the movie Hitch. It's all very strange. More on that in a bit.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Friday afternoon

I was going to post a link to the interview Tyler Green had with the new head of the Getty Museum, Michael Brand, but it's Friday and I'm preoccupied and it's not nearly provocative enough to hold my interest right now. For those with any interest, the link's on the right.

I just want to start the weeeeeeeekend. And I want snap my fingers and have my apartment, car, and clothes be cleeeeeeeean. And then I can go to the beach. Thanks.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Spam in my comments!

Blecch! It's back, so I'm disabling the comments section for a bit. So save the rants up if you've got them and post 'em later....

The latest Getty business

I know it's late in the day, but just in case you haven't found this article yet, here's LATimes art critic Christopher Knight's take on the Getty pick for new museum head. And below are some of the good bits:

[T]he big test Brand will face concerns something else entirely — something demonstrably disturbing to the museum field in Los Angeles and beyond. With a $5-billion endowment and $4 billion in other assets, the Getty Trust is the third-largest foundation in the country, after the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Ford Foundation. Despite this enormous wealth, however, the Getty has thrust out its hand for contributions....

As one angry and influential person sputtered to me after declining an invitation to write a $10,000 check, "The arrogance!" Every dollar raised from a private individual or a corporation for the putative "world's richest art museum" is a dollar that cannot be raised by one of the other four major art museums in the city, never mind the numerous smaller institutions. Twenty-five "friends" could be supplanted just by the $250,000 paid by the Getty since February to a crisis-management firm hired to manage the public relations fallout of the mushrooming scandals....

One puzzling inconsistency: Since he became president, [Getty Trust Chief] Munitz has more than doubled the amount of money the trust gives away in grants — more than $20 million in 2003 versus $10 million in 1997 — while annual acquisition expenditures have fallen by one-third. Why give away more money if, simultaneously, the Getty sees a pressing need to fund-raise?

The search for outside funds also looks bad when management issues are drawing attention from the state attorney general's office, not to mention Congress. Extravagant spending on executive compensation, travel, gifts, spousal privileges and other silk-stocking perks do not signal need.

Radio Golf

Saw August Wilson's new play at the Taper last night. This one's a good one, benefiting from a more compact cast of five than the last one I saw (and the only other one I've seen staged), Gem of the Ocean.

I will not hesitate in saying that I was bored to tears by Gem of the Ocean, and I felt some anxiety upon taking my seat for Radio Golf. For the first half of the play I was contemplating what would require me to stay past intermission, but, while the act-break revelation isn't normally the kind of cliffhanger that would do it for me, I still found the experience pleasant enough to stick around.

Radio Golf reminded me of Chekhov, Ibsen, Miller, and Brother Will Faulkner (all in good ways). I was more engaged than unengaged, enjoying some of the jokes and the performances, especially two of the supporting cast members. Anthony Chisholm is commanding and comic at the same time as Elder Joseph Barlow, and John Earl Jelks, who has the less showy role, blew me away a little as Sterling Johnson. I could watch him lots and lots. Oh, and the play made me really miss Pittsburgh.

Still, I'm three plays into Wilson's big cycle, and I'm not convinced he's the next Great American Playwright the program notes claim he is. But heck, the program notes don't claim Thornton Wilder is a great American playwright, so what do they know? As for Wilson, he's certainly important, interesting, and often really powerful, but I'm not totally persuaded. And I know, I haven't read or seen Fences or The Piano Lesson yet, so I'm certainly no expert. I have to say my best Wilson experience to date comes from the reading of Ma Rainey's Black Bottom in grad school. I can only imagine how much fun a performance of that would be; I was moved and delighted by the script when I read it in grad school.

Seeing Radio Golf made me admire Wilson's achievement and respect his contribution, but it didn't challenge my perceptions about the potential of theater or present me with a bold new way of telling a story, as most of my favorite playwrights do. Perhaps one could argue that his cycle as a whole does that, but still.... I do appreciate the allegorical substance of the play, though. This seems to be the most sophisticated element of the script -- subtler than it might've been, and confidently executed. Oh, and Harmond Wilks reminded me of The Crucible's John Proctor a little, which is certainly not a bad thing.

Overall, I guess last night was a nice surprise. After Gem of the Ocean I was scared. When I saw that I swear I only woke up for Felicia Rashad's scenes. She was good, but not good enough to keep me awake when she wasn't onstage!

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Monday, August 15, 2005

Pretty Persuasion

I was hoping for a nastier Heathers, but I just got slow, not that funny, and a plot that hinged on adult characters abandoning all reason in unbelievable ways. I wanted to like it, but aside from the very pretty Evan Rachael Wood, I was unpersuaded. Still, she is watchable and focused as a performer. A little good diction might help, though. It took me a while to get used to her speech enough to understand her dialogue; I couldn't tell if she was doing some lazy California drawl or if she just never learned to pronounce consonants.
Come to think of it, she sounds a little like Scarlett Johansson did in Ghost World -- minus the self-conscious depressive quality Ms. Scarlett has in that one. So maybe it is par for the course for young women playing southern California teenage girls to talk rather softly in bland, disinterested, or condescending near-monotones and avoid pronouncing consonants. Maybe a little prep-school eavesdropping is in order, just to confirm. Nah, on second thought, I'll just staple my hand to my desk. That sounds far more enjoyable.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Is it actually possible

that we could have as our next president a man who wrote a book entitled Quit Digging Your Grave with a Knife and Fork? Sorry to dwell.

Oh, and FYI, I removed the one comment on yesterday's post, not because it was criticisizing me or mean-spirited or anything, but because it was spam. How weird is that? Spam in the comments section of a blog? And it was about investing in timber or something bizarre like that. Talk about missing your target audience....

I'm guessing it's the start of a trend, though. I was reading a blog the other day and saw an advertisement for some dating hotline in the comments section. Blogger, help!

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Huck This!

Check this piece by Gina Bellafante out from yesterday's NYTimes. Sample:

By the end of last year, [Arkansas] Governor Huckabee, who is considering a bid for the presidency in 2008, had achieved his goal, shedding more than 100 pounds, a journey he chronicled in his new 162-page memoir and lifestyle admonition, "Quit Digging Your Grave With a Knife and a Fork" (Center Street, $19.95).

To quote a friend of mine, "He's running on a weight-loss ticket! I can't stand it!"

Aside from that absurdity, check this excerpt out. He and Bellafante were having lunch at a Little Rock restaurant near the Capitol building, which prompted this aside:

Governor Huckabee ordered a Tuscan chicken salad (which in Arkansian translation seems to take shape as a Cobb salad from which only the bacon has been exiled).

For starters, Gina, the word is Arkansan. Arkansian is just a touch 19th century and not commonly used. Oh, and thanks for the condescension, as well as the mental image of downtrodden slices of bacon banished from their cobb-trying-to-pass-as-faux-Tuscan homeland, huddling together for warmth. Oh, that poor exiled bacon! The tragedy!

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Sorry Blogroll

So the blogrolling didn't last long. I think I like it better the old way. I added a couple of pages, too, so check them out if you want.

The downside is I can't figure out how to get the word "Links" un-hyperlinked to the blog above it. Any thoughts? I'll keep messing with it....

Night of writing

Oh, last night was most unproductive. I got my cup of decaf at The Coffee Table and settled in to continue reading a friend's screenplay only to realize I had been reading it online earlier so I wouldn't have to download it and Coffee Table has no WiFi. So then I decided to work on the new screenplay idea I'm kicking around, which lasted all of about five minutes. Then the rewrite ideas for Customary Monsters went nowhere, since I needed a hard copy to mark up and all I had was the file on the computer. Then as a last resort I tried to read a play for my coverage gig, but the formatting was all weird and I couldn't get past page two.

So basically, I didn't want to do anything. I suppose I should start figuring for evenings like those in my short-term-goal-setting, huh?

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Ripley's Game

This is a commendably evil little movie. I got it from Netflix and just finished it last night. For those who don't know, it's a Tom Ripley (The Talented Mr.) story from the character's later years with John Malkovich as a delightfully nasty Tom. The guy admits to having no conscience, does terrible things throughout the film, and I freaked every time he was in harm's way. How does he do that?

Just as a side-note, I've always been a fan of Mr. Malkovich, but he does this thing when he's playing tense moments (or playing a simpleton -- see Of Mice and Men) where his lips pucker into a sort of doltish O shape. I remember it being on display quite frequently in In the Line of Fire as well. This drives me a little nuts. I thought I was going to get through this whole movie without having to watch him do it, but it shows up towards the end when he's creeping around with a gun. So close, John!

Regardless, my favorite exchange from Ripley's Game, or an approximation thereof, is as follows:

TOM'S LADY FRIEND (who's name escapes me)
The man has terminal leukemia, you know.

TOM
Is drunken pomposity a syndrome?

TOM'S LADY FRIEND
No. He's English.


No offense to my British readers (if I actually have any). But that's funny. Oh, and the movie has mantraps. What's not to like about that?

Blogroll

I'm taking a cue from Mr. Grote and trying the Blogrolling thing, so the links on the right are going to be weird and repetitive for a bit. I'll get it all cleaned up shortly. I know...if I hadn't pointed it out you wouldn't even have noticed!

Monday, August 08, 2005

Hamlet at Barnsdall Art Park

For those of you who may not know, my new play, Customary Monsters, deals with Hamlet a bit, so when Independent Shakespeare Company's staging got such nice reviews everywhere I thought I'd check it out. I've never seen it staged, unfortunately; I've only had the many stupid movie adaptations to go by, although I refuse to see the Brannagh.... Other than that I don't really like the filmed versions I've seen, including a teleplay version with Kevin Kline that I'm sure would've been great if I'd seen it on stage, but on video it's just cheesy. Although, there is the Ethan Hawke version, which I'll admit to thinking is rather endearing. He does the "To be or not to be" speech in the Action section of Blockbuster; that still tickles me. And Liev Schrieber's in it. Nuff said.

But I digress. I LOVE Independent Shakespeare's Hamlet. It's sharp and focused; it's efficiently staged, with only curtains and handprops for sets; and it's often really funny. For such a "serious" play, it's a delightfully good time. Everyone is great, but especially David Melville, who does Hamlet like I never would've imagined him. He brings loads of buoyancy and humor to the role, and he's full of surprises. Ophelia's mad scene is nicely creepy, too...and if you know me, you know I love a good mad scene.

This is the way I like my Shakespeare -- clean, simple, unencumbered by fuzzy production concepts or awkward sets and staging. The focus is on the text, no time is wasted, there's an appropriate amount of levity and play in the playing. I'm definitely going back to see at least one of their other two shows. They're also doing Two Gentlemen of Verona (I was Thurio in college, thank you very much), and Richard III. Aside from the high quality of performance here, I really admire the spirit of the company. The atmosphere of the playing space is welcoming and tolerant -- helicopters loom overhead on occasion; a kid might be doing somersaults in front of the stage; people might come and go a little, but no matter. Plus, it's free, for goodness sakes! And don't worry, I happily donated. Just dress warmly. It gets cold up on that hill.

I was only disappointed by the fact that they cut the line that gave me Customary Monsters' title! Oh well, they apparently cut Fortinbras too, but I didn't miss him. Go Go GO!

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Margo Jefferson is not playing around!

She writes about the Center Theatre Group's cutting of new play programs in today's NYTimes here.

Mr. Ritchie insists the doors are still wide open to minority writers. "The difference is, it's one door," he said.

In an ideal world there should be just one door. In the real world, though, that door usually isn't wide enough for minorities or women to pass through until labs and workshops devoted to their work become part of an institution.


Read the article, seriously. I have absolutely no opinion on this except to say that Margo Jefferson is not playing around!!

Friday, August 05, 2005

I love Wong Kar-Wai!

I could not be more excited about seeing his new movie, 2046. All the reviews are great, In the Mood for Love is stunning, it's a...what? It's a sequel to In the Mood for Love? Get me to the Nuart NOW!

Thursday, August 04, 2005

I'm obsessing about

Palindromes. I just read an interview with Solondz -- you can find it here. I had originally posted a long quote and some ideas about the Sunshine family's religious hypocrisy (which he comments on in the interview), but I deleted it, mainly because I don't really think he's investigating religious hypocrisy or the abortion issue at all; the movie's too thematically single-minded for that. It might be better and richer if he took these issues seriously, actually.

I also found a smart review of the movie here that makes some good points I hadn't thought of. I'm not sure I agree with him totally about all this, but it did make me think.

What's opaque is Solondz's attitude toward Aviva herself. On the one hand she's the kind of hypersensitive child you fear for in life because she has a desperation for experience without the shrewdness or toughness to avoid the most obvious pitfalls in gaining it. (She's literally and figuratively the cousin of Dawn Wiener in Solondz's first feature Welcome to the Dollhouse (1996).) At the same time, however, Solondz makes Aviva nearly impossible to identify with, notably by casting seven actresses and one actor of different races, ages, and body types to play the role by turns. He unifies their performances by having them speak in the same hushed, whiny tone and carry themselves with the same downcast air, which only makes Aviva less open to us.

In addition, about half the actresses who play Aviva are overweight, one of them obese, and Solondz puts them in midriff tops and hip huggers, their soft bellies and rolls bulging. (Will Denton, the adolescent boy cast as "Huckleberry" Aviva, is the only conventionally pretty girl among them.) Solondz thus makes Aviva pitifully unself-aware, exposes her to the harsh world, but does not by these strokes make her sympathetic. The urge toward compassion is invoked but constantly defeated by the fact that Aviva has no admirable or enviable qualities, either obvious or innate, which makes her more grotesque. Solondz's protagonists are always bigger losers than even irony requires, as if he were afraid that a too-ready identification would prevent him from getting where he wants to go.


The funny thing is that, as much as I disliked this movie and felt myself starting to turn on Solondz, when aforementioned critic arrived at this point...

It is thus a problem that he doesn't seem to know where it is he wants to get to--he just knows what style he wants to arrive in. And yet, to be fair, the sense of experimentation is part of what makes him interesting.

...I found myself agreeing with him. I HATE when that happens.

Gilbert and George

I just finished this article in the NYTimes and I'm so tickled by these guys. I knew nothing about them before I read this, but they make me think of the great Joe Orton and his Kenneth Halliwell, without the off-the-deep-end and the murder-suicide part, of course. Here's a quote:

For more than three decades Gilbert and George have made a profession out of being naughty. Their art has dealt with politics of all types: economic, social, sexual. Combining photography with performance, they have embraced pornography, pandemic diseases like AIDS, vaudeville and scatology.

On a recent summer day, dressed in nearly identical suits and ties (in contrast to their early days, they are now careful never to dress totally alike), the artists managed to serve tea brewed in their kitchen: a space with no stove or refrigerator or sink, but enough antique china to serve 150 at a sit-down dinner.

Like Cher or Halston or Madonna, Gilbert and George dispensed with their surnames. This happened after they met at St. Martin's School of Art in London in 1967. (According to the Dictionary of Art, they are Gilbert Proesch, born in 1943 in the Dolomites in Italy, and George Passmore, born in 1942 in Devon, England.) Gilbert is the shorter and more loquacious of the two; George is taller, chain-smokes and tends to finish Gilbert's sentences.

Palindromes

I went last night to the New Beverly Cinema for the 2nd half of their Mysterious Skin / Palindromes double-feature. I love that old place and don't get there often enough, but I was kicking myself for letting Mr. Solondz' latest pass me by, so my friend Brandy and I went to check it out. The more I think about it the more I wished we'd gone to the first half of the double-feature and skipped the second. I didn't really want to come to this conclusion, but I think I've gradually come to loathe this little movie.

Some questions for Mr. Solondz (and there are spoilers, so beware):

1. Can you really go for faux-melodrama, almost campy laughs after one of your main characters has shot and apparently killed a little girl? Is that a wise goal to strive for? Granted, I know you've already set the bar pretty low, what with making him a statutory rapist and all, but still, one has one's limits....

2. Must you, as writer and director, cast an actor who bears more than a passing resemblance to you, and write him a last-act monologue that basically explains much of your script's thematic interest?

3. If you must do so, can you at least not insult our intelligence by actually creating a movie with enough thematic complexity that such explanation might actually be merited?

The movie's tone is nasty, mocking, and finally insulting. He might as well have scrawled his ideas with a big magic marker and posted the sign on the movie theater for all the subtlety the film has. That would've saved me 1.5 hours. And the whole abortion/palindrome business reminded me of Choire Sicha's appraisal of J.T. LeRoy's Harold's End: "Golly, metaphor." As you can tell, the more I think about this movie, the more it irritates me.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Attention New York readers!

Good play ALERT!! George Hunka posts the Atlantic Theater season on his blog here, and the first play of the season is the last play that turned me into a blubbering mess. Actually, it might be the only play that's ever turned me into a blubbering mess. I saw Rolin Jones' The Intelligent Design of Jenny Chow at South Coast Rep a couple of years ago. I don't want to build it up too much, but let me just say that it is not to be missed. Here's the description:

The Intelligent Design of Jenny Chow, "An Instant Message with Excitable Music," by Rolin Jones, directed by Jackson Gay: Jennifer is just an average girl who re-engineers obsolete missile components for the U.S. Army from her bedroom. Afraid to leave her house, yet desperate to find her birth mother in China, she uses her technological genius to devise a new form of human contact. Atlantic is thrilled to present this hilarious and poignant new play from extraordinary young writer Rolin Jones.

Really good stuff. I may have to make an excuse to go to NYC and see it again!

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

New Getty Dirt

I'm finishing up my vacation, so I'm late to the party on this, but there's a new LATimes article about the state looking into Getty spending. I haven't even had a chance to read it yet, but man, am I ever excited to do so.... For some reason I'm hyperlink-challenged today, so I'm going to post the link below.

http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-getty2aug02,1,680633.story?coll=la-headlines-california&ctrack=1&cset=true

Monday, August 01, 2005

"So I got this modeling job"

I just finished my last meal with my parents before they headed back to the Natural State, and because we hadn't had any Mexican food yet, I suggested Alegria in Silver Lake. Being so close to Tex(-Mex)as, the mere idea of fish tacos kinda shocked Mom and Dad, so it seemed like a good fit. Sitting next to us at a table was a family who had brought one of their daughter's friends out to dinner -- perhaps the start of some slumber party or something -- and this girl, no more than 8-years-old, started a conversation with "so I got this modeling job...."

She goes on and on..."there's this one director who really wants me to work on his movie, and a producer saw me in the play I'm doing, and he really wants me to be in his movie, and James Franco's doing it too, so that would be really cool."

I could barely stifle laughter. The girl was missing baby teeth and she sounded like she should've been sipping a cocktail in some club on the Strip I'd be able to namedrop if I'd read Defamer in the last three-to-four days instead of playing tour-guide for my parents. Eight years old! The whole conversation could've been lifted from the cutting room floor of Annie Hall. It would've fit right into the Hollywood sequence.

The best part was the parents, who were listening intently, nodding, involved...the dad finally says to her, "Sounds like this play's really working out well for you." I wonder if he slips her a manuscript over end-of-slumber-party pancakes tomorrow morning.