Monday, December 25, 2006


I've seen quite a lot of movies this holiday season, so here are some brief reviews:

"Deck the Halls," directed by John Whitesell, starring Danny DeVito and Matthew Broderick, released Nov. 22- Not as horrendously bad as one might have guessed, this silly tale about a man who wants his house to be seen from space might be worth watching on video, if everything else is checked out. Still, it has its moments, thanks mostly to the always enjoyable Kristin Chenoweth.

"Unaccompanied Minors," directed by Paul Feig, starring Lewis Black and Wilmer Valderrama, released December 8- An amusing pre-teen movie about a group of unaccompanied minors snowed in at the airport on Christmas Eve. Although the ending is predictably sentimental, this feel good film has enough bite to make it one of the better Christmas movies of its genre (especially compared to last year's "Cheaper by the Dozen 2").

"The Holiday," directed by Nancy Meyers, starring Kate Winslet, Jack Black, Cameron Diaz, and Jude Law, released Dec. 8- Due to a shortage of romantic comedies this holiday season, this film will have to do. Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet switch apartments for the holidays in attempts to escape the men in their lives. Diaz still can't act and Law fails to humanize his perfect man of a character, but Black is surprisingly charming and Winslet is a believable everywoman. Cameos abound in some pretty clever scenes about the film industry.

"Night at the Museum," directed by Shawn Levy, starring Ben Stiller, Dick Van Dyke, and Robin Williams, released Dec. 22- This original story about a museum that comes to life at night is a great family film because it teaches children (and adults) the importance of history and museums. Noteable performances among the able star-studded cast include the spunky Mickey Rooney, Ricky Gervais as a David Brent-esque (but kinder and G-rated) museum director, and Owen Wilson and Steve Coogan as two hilarious miniatures.

"Pursuit of Happyness," directed by Gabriele Muccino, starring Will Smith and Jaden Christopher Syre Smith, released Dec. 15- Although there is already Oscar talk for Will Smith in his turn as poverty-stricken Chris Gardner, his son Jaden Smith steals the show as his on-sceen son. His chubby cheeks and sweet smile are enough to cause any Grinch's heart to grow three sizes.

"Dreamgirls," directed by Bill Condon, starring Jamie Foxx, Beyonce Knowles, Eddie Murphey, and Jennifer Hudson, released Dec. 25- This musical extravaganza is not without its faults (most notably the sometimes confusingly placed musical numbers), but the performances make it the best holiday film that I've seen this year. The buzz about Hudson's unfortgettable turn as Effie was founded as she has a powerful voice and can act on top of it (unlike Knowles). But if anybody is going to get an Oscar for the film, I'd predict the already established Murphey who could have a future in musical theatre if his comedy career falls through.

Sunday, December 17, 2006


Read my review in PopMatters of Ricardo Arjona's Theatre at Madison Square concert (just to clarify, the Theatre at Madison Square Garden is not the same as Madison Square Garden, it's an error on PopMatters, which I'm sure will be fixed shortly).

Here is my original version (I like this lede better):

Outside of the Hispanic community, few people have heard of Ricardo Arjona, but in Argentina his popularity is a phenomenon that can only be compared to Beatlemania. Forty-two year old Arjona (the artist’s more frequently used moniker), a Guatemalan singer-songwriter who has yet to break the North American market, is quickly becoming one of the most popular artists in Spanish-speaking countries. When he arrived at Ezeiza airport in Buenos Aires last September, he was mobbed by fanatics. His 34 shows at the theatre Luna Park in Buenos Aires sold out in just hours, breaking all ticket sale records in Argentina.

Arjona is currently in the middle of his most expansive North American tour to date. He has been selling out fairly large venues, including the Theatre at Madison Square Garden in New York City on Friday, Nov. 24 and Saturday, Nov. 25.

Arjona’s success can be attributed to the fact that his groundbreaking music, often lumped together with “Latin pop” or “world music,” characterized by political statements, sweeping orchestral ballads, songs about women and love, metaphoric language, and clever lyrics, transcends what people normally think of as “Latin music.” The Ricky Martins and Shakiras out there have great rhythms, but Arjona has something to say.

Born in Antigua, Guatemala, he learned guitar at a young age. His first career path was as a schoolteacher, but he began recording in 1988. Since then he has recorded over 11 albums, but it was not until approximately the year 2000 that he started to get noticed.

Although he has been successful on the Latin Billboard charts, his only albums to chart on the Billboard 200 were “Galeria Caribe” in 2000 which peaked at 136, and “Adentro” in 2005 which peaked at 126.

The New York concert on Nov. 25 proved that Arjona’s unprecedented popularity could translate to a North American audience. The concertgoers knew every lyric and were glued to their seats (except when they jumped up for their favorite songs).

The stage was set up like a subway station, giving the concert a theatrical look. At the beginning of the concert, images of a subway train flashed down the three screens over the subway platform. Arjona’s voice was heard offstage singing a haunting version of “Iluso” from his latest album, “Adentro” (which incidentally won the Latin Grammy for best male pop album). He was nowhere to be seen, but the screams from the audience were deafening.

His band came onstage one by one, but Arjona knows how to work a crowd and he built momentum by waiting until the second song, the ballad “Para Bien or Para Mal” from the same album, to arrive on a moving walkway.

His music is powerful and extremely personal, but it is easy to relate to, especially for the immigrants that made up most of his audience. He engaged in dialogue with his fans, speaking only in Spanish. He said, “Buenas noches, Nueva York,” and proceeded to address all the locations where concertgoers might have come from by saying buenas noches to every Spanish speaking country. His fans cheered when their home countries were named. He told his enraptured audience that he would play everything they wanted as well as what he wanted, and he delivered a comprehensive set list representing different stages of his career.

Throughout the show, he spoke about being poor, remembering when his dad bought a car. “Ustedes se acuerdan de esas cosas, verdad? (You remember these things, correct?)” he said. Images of President George W. Bush appeared on the monitors to jeers from the audience as he launched into “El Mojado,” a song off “Adentro” about illegal immigrants. He then sang “Si El Norte Fuera El Sur (If the North was the South),” from the album of the same name, a politically charged song dealing with the internal conflict between wanting to be in America and hating what it stands for, with lines like “Tienen todo pero nada lo han pagado (They have everything but they paid for nothing).”

Then there is his sex appeal. He has a ruggedly handsome face which he seldom shaves and a short ponytail, but women are most attracted to his lyrics. Although many of his songs are about being scorned by women, he obviously respects and loves the opposite sex. During “Desnuda (Naked)” off of “Sin Danos a Terceros,” the females in the audience almost swooned as he sang about how there is nothing more beautiful than a woman’s body. During his ode to older women, “Senora de las Cuatro Decadas (Woman of Four Decades),” off of “Historias,” he chose a woman in the audience (much to the jealousy of half of the rest of the audience) and sang the song to her as she wept.

Arjona’s poetic turns of phrase transform even the most basic statements into something profound. For example, in “Tu Reputacion (Your Reputation),” he sings, “Tu reputacion son las primeras seis letras de esa palabra.” That means, your reputation is the first six letters of that word, which are re puta (big slut). This does not come off as insulting as the lyrics proceed to say that if the past taught her to kiss him like that, blessed are the men who came before him.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Arjona has a song off of “Santo Pecado” called “La Nena (The Girl).” The song is about a kidnapping of a young girl. When he sang it, he sat on a bench and stared at the floor, singing with mesmerizing passion. The images shown on the screen of a tied up girl were horrible to witness, and yet this was one of the most moving moments of the concert.

If his success in Argentina and the audience response at the Theatre at Madison Square Garden is any indication, Arjona has the potential to be the “next big thing.” Although his political messages might not sit well with some American audiences, many of his themes are universal.

Friday, December 08, 2006

So that's what all the fuss is about...

I'm a little slow on the internet bandwagon sometimes. I didn't download Napster until halfway through my freshman year of college (not that I ever downloaded music illegally, of course). I didn't even have my own e-mail address until college (before that I shared with my parents). So I've stayed away from the whole YouTube phenomenon except when we watch YouTube clips in popular music studies or when I have to pitch stories about YouTube for magazine editing. But I finally understand why it's so popular--they have everything you could ever want to see.

I had been thinking fondly about the PBS show "Ghostwriter" which ran from 1992 to 1995 and wishing I could watch it again. I did a YouTube search and I found several clips and some episodes. It was just as brilliant as I remembered and I also discovered that Samuel L. Jackson played Jamal's father. How crazy is that?

"Ghostwriter" was a show about a group of kids who solve mysteries with the help of their friend, Ghostwriter, who only they can see. Ghostwriter can't hear or talk, he can only read and write. As in any good show aimed at middle schoolers, there is plenty of G-rated romance and teen angst in addition to the educational value. An added bonus is the 90's slang.

For anyone who still remembers "Ghostwriter," here's something to whet your appetite:

Friday, December 01, 2006

Not Quite Practically Perfect, But Good Enough

Cameron Mackintosh, the mega-producer of such hits as "The Phantom of the Opera," "Cats," and "Les Miserables," and Disney, a powerful producer in its own right with "Beauty and the Beast" and "The Lion King," joined forces to co-produce the stage production of "Mary Poppins." It was sure to be a blockbuster, but it could have very easily become every stereotype of a big-budget, over-the-top corporate musical. The results turned out to be pleasantly surprising.

"Mary Poppins," directed by Richard Eyre, opened on Nov. 16 at the New Amsterdam Theatre, former home of the "Lion King" (now moved to the Minskoff Theatre). It originally opened in London two years ago and is based on the Disney musical film as well as the book by P.L. Travers.

For those unfamiliar with the story, Jane and Michael Banks are two well-intentioned children who get into mischief while trying to catch the attention of their father. They have trouble holding onto their nannies, much to the frustration of their parents, until Mary Poppins arrives to discipline them with the help of magic and sing-alongs. The musical is slightly darker than the film, with the marital troubles of Mr. and Mrs. Banks playing a more central role and the inclusion of a backstory about Mr. Banks childhood with a cruel nanny.

The star of the show is the Banks' house on Cherry Tree Lane, brilliantly designed by Bob Crowley with intricate details and a roof that rises to reveal the childrens' room and falls for the chimney sweep scenes.

Ashley Brown, plays the other star, Mary Poppins. She could never replace Julie Andrews, but the girl can sing. Her gentle, sweet voice is never forced or shrieky.

Even Brown was not as dynamic as Gavin Lee, direct from the London cast as Bert. As lanky and silly as Dick Van Dyke, he steals the show when he climbs the walls and dances upside-down in the toe-tapping number, "Step in Time."

Delaney Moro played Jane and Alexander Scheitinger played Michael in the Saturday matinee I attended (three children rotate in each role) and it was refreshing to see adorable children who could sing on key and act naturally.

Many of the classic songs by Richard and Robert Sherman, such as "Chim Chim Cher-ee," ""Feed the Birds," and of course, "A Spoonful of Sugar" were adapted for the show, and new ones were written by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe. The enchanting lullaby "Stay Awake" and the political "Sister Suffragette" were inexplicably left out, as was the character of Uncle Albert and the amusing "I Love to Laugh." One would think that the scene of characters floating in the air due to laughter would be a sure crowd-pleaser that Disney and Mackintosh would not have been able to resist.

Although most of the numbers were successfully brought to life with Bob Crowley's colorful costumes and Matthew Bourne's eye-popping choreography, "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" fell flat. The clever lyrics were changed and the number took place in a strange shop run by Mrs. Corry, who does not appear in any other scene and has nothing to do with the rest of the show. The scene then unfolds into a lengthy spelling lesson.

The new numbers do fit in nicely with the originals. The best and most interesting is "Temper, Temper," in which the dolls come to life and rebel against the trouble, adding a much-needed aspect of creepiness amidst all the sugar.

Children and adults are awed by the final moments when Mary Poppins flies away on her umbrella. "Mary Poppins" may not be perfect, or even practically so, but it has enough jaw-dropping moments to amuse even the most cynical theatre-goers.

Another Novelty Eatery

Manhattan has the answer to any comfort food craving. In the mood for a peanut butter sandwich? Try Peanut Butter and Co. Like Macaroni and Cheese? Dine at S'MAC. Looking for a cupcake? Magnolia and Billy's Bakery are just a few options. Can't get enough rice pudding? Take a pilgrimage to Rice to Riches, located on Spring St. between Mott and Mulberry.

Rice to Riches is an ultra chic eatery that sells 18 flavors of rice pudding (the flavors change depending on the season).

Good luck trying to make a decision. At least the employees are friendly and patient, allowing customers to try as many flavors as necessary to make a final decision. I tried the sweet "secret life of pumpkin," the slightly disappointing "i'll take eggnog for $200 Alex," the heavenly "stubborn banana," and the deliciously rich "take me to tiramisu," before finally settling on "gingerbread joyride" with a hefty dollop of whipped cream. The winning feature of "Gingerbread joyride" was the pieces of gingerbread mixed in.

The treats are fairly pricey, ranging from $5 for an individual serving (plus extra for toppings) to $35 for a 10 person serving, but they are filling enough to be a suitable meal.

During the winter when it's too cold for ice cream, a nice bowl of rice pudding might be just the ticket.

For more information, visit the website

Monday, November 27, 2006

Broadway is Not Dead Yet: "Company" and "A Chorus Line" are Both Worth Reviving

Reports of Broadway's death have been greatly exaggerated for years. In "A Chorus Line," which originally opened in 1975, the characters discuss whether or not Broadway is dying ("I hope not," one character replies, "I just got here.") Thirty years later, people are still going on about the death of Broadway, complaining that the only shows on Broadway are revivals or musicals based on movies. But some musicals do bear revisiting. Maybe it's too soon for "Les Miserables," which only closed 3 years ago, but "Company" and "A Chorus Line," both from the 70s, were about due for another look.

Stephen Sondheim's "Company" is currently in previews at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre and will open on November 29. The original production ran from 1970 to 1972 and it had a brief revival in 1995.

Although "Company" was written in the 70s, it does not feel dated. The subject matter of a bachelor, Bobby, with married friends trying to set him up is relevant in any time period. The problems that the couples have in their relationships and the loneliness Bobby feels is also timeless. The Dolce and Gabbana suits hint that the story has been placed in the present time, but the musical does not require being grounded in a specific time. The place is slightly more important, as it would be hard to imagine the upper middle-class urbanites living anywhere but Manhattan.

As in most Sondheim shows (he wrote the music and the lyrics), there is not much of a linear storyline. The individual scenes and what they reveal about human nature are much more important than the plot.

Such a show lends itself to John Doyle's direction. Last year Doyle revived another Sondheim show, "Sweeney Todd," and had the cast double as the orchestra, which earned him critical praise as well as a Tony. This technique works just as well here, as does the minimalist set (the major set piece is a piano). The musical does not require anything but gifted actors to deliver Sondheim's thought-provoking score, which this show definitely has.

Even the most accomplished singers will probably tell you that Sondheim music, characterized by its complex changes and intricate harmonies, is not easy to perform. The 14-member cast had the added difficulty of switching between multiple instruments. Actors sang while playing the violin or moved across the stage with a double bass with relative ease. The cast is such a talented entity that it is hard to pick out a few of the performers, but it makes sense to start with Raul Esparza, who plays Bobby.

This is the show that is supposed to turn Esparza into a star, and it's about time. Broadway fans have adored him for years. Although he lucked out in that he doesn't have to play any instruments except the piano in one scene, he doesn't work any less hard. He puts everything he has into the emotionally-charged finale, "Being Alive." He is so charismatic that it is easy to see why all the characters love him and his performance has Tony written all over it. There was a fascinating profile on him in the New York Times, which suggested that many elements of the play hit close to home and makes his performance that much more powerful and real.

Heather Laws as Amy does well with the difficult impossibly fast-paced, "Getting Married Today." She also plays french horn, trumpet, and flute. Barbara Walsh as Joanne, looking like Bebe Neuwirth but far more talented, would make Elaine Stritch proud with her biting rendition of "The Ladies Who Lunch."

Although most Sondheim fans are familiar with the music from "Company," many, especially the younger generations, have never had a chance to see the show. The revival allows fans to hear the music in its context. The past several Sondheim revivals have not had long runs, so Sondheimites would do well to see it as soon as possible.

"A Chorus Line" in its initial run was far more successful than "Company." It was at one point the longest running musical on Broadway. It ran from 1975 to 1990 and is considered one of the most groundbreaking musicals of all time. The late Michael Bennett told the story of dancers trying to make it into a chorus line through his brilliantly expressive choreographer. The stories of the dancers were based on real life stories that the original cast told to Bennett.

The revival, now playing at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, makes it possible for a new generation to see "A Chorus Line." Director Bob Avian, who co-choreographed the original production, did well keep the story in the 70s and not try to modernize it.

Many say that this story is not relevant anymore, that there are more important things going on in the world, but as long as there are still dancers, as long as there are people who have passion for anything, there are people who can relate to this show. Besides, how many musicals are "relevant"? Are stories about Grinches, beasts, and wedding singers that much more pertinent to our times?

From everything I've read, the show stays pretty close to the original. The story of dancers at an audition, the costumes of leotards and tights (except for the glittery gold outfits that appear at the end), the mirrors at the back of the stage are all there to recreate a historic show for the audience.

Like the members of the original cast, many of the actors are making their Broadway debut. The show would not work as well any other way and it makes sense that the two veteran actors, Michael Berresse and Charlotte D'Amboise, play Zach, the director, and Cassie, who had a shot to be a star but now wants nothing more than a chance to be in the chorus, respectively.

As a whole, the actors are better dancers than singers, but that is true of the characters they play as well (there is even a song about that, "Sing!"). Performers to watch include Jeffrey Schecter as dance-happy Mike, the adorable Jason Tam as the vulnerable Paul, Diedre Goodwin as the strong-willed Sheila, and Natalie Cortez as the spunky Diana.

The best singer sadly had a very small solo--James T. Lane displayed a breathtaking falsetto as Richie.

With music by Marvin Hamlisch and lyrics by Edward Kleban, the pop-inspired score still contains some of the most memorable songs in Broadway history, including the hit ballad "What I Did For Love."

For every "High Fidelity" and "Wedding Singer," Broadway needs a "Company" and a "Chorus Line," so that new generations of theatre-goers can get a glimpse of what Broadway was like when it was great and what it still could be.

*Correction: I said that Raul Esparza was wearing a Dolce and Gabanna suit in "Company," but the New York Times said it was Armani. The belt was clearly Dolce and Gabanna, but the suit itself was apparently Armani.*

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Finally, a Mascara I Can Get on Board With

I don't wear a lot of make-up. I don't understand make-up. I can barely spell make-up (should it be with or without a hyphen?). But my friends recently talked me into trying a brand of mineral make-up called i.d. bareMinerals (part of Bare Escentuals).

The line includes foundations, lipsticks, and blushes, but my favorite is the bronze Beautifully Luminous Lashes Mascara. I usually don't wear mascara because frankly, I don't really need it, but I love this product because it adds just enough sparkle without being too obvious. It can be worn alone or for a more striking effect, over regular mascara.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Miracle on 34th Street

I woke up at 6 a.m. after three hours of sleep to go to the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. You'd think after looking outside and seeing that it was pouring out, I would have gone back to bed. But no, the night before I had found out that Julie Andrews, Brian D'Arcy James, John Tartaglia, and Miley Cyrus were going to be among the performers.

I arrived at 7 a.m. and sadly, there was no room left near the performance area, so I settled for a spot in front of Macy's on 34th street close to 7th Ave. next to a lovely family from Ohio. They were very kind and even though they got there before me, they made room for me in the front so I would be able to see. They made the two hour wait in the chilly rain go by much quicker. What I love about the parade is that it brings out the best in people. Usually crowded New York streets have the opposite effect, but it's been my experience in the two years I've gone to the parade that people are just happy and excited. Maybe it's because of the audience is mostly made up of tourists.

I give the NYPD, the Macy's staff, and everybody involved in the parade credit for keeping everything so organized despite the weather problems. The balloons made it all the way to the end. All the entertainers, even those in the skimpiest of outfits kept smiling and shouting, "Happy Thanksgiving," despite the fact that they were obviously freezing and uncomfortable.

It was disappointing not to be able to see the performances. Seeing a celebrity wave as they pass by on a float is kind of silly. It would be nice if they could perform throughout the route so all the spectators could enjoy the music.

But I can't complain too much. The experience was a nice (albeit wet) way to usher in the holiday season (although malls across the country did that months ago). For anyone who has avoided the parade in the past due to fear of crowds, it's really not so bad. I didn't have any trouble hopping on the subway afterwards.

Only in New York City

When I am on vacation, it usually doesn't take me long to scope out the best public bathrooms. I've been to New York City enough times to know that the Marriott Times Square has some of the cleanest bathrooms in the midtown area (When I worked at the Virgin Megastore in Times Square, sometimes I would go across the street to the Marriott to use the restroom). But not everybody feels comfortable going to a hotel just to use the restrooms. For them, Charmin created a set of 20 restrooms that also doubles as a tourist attraction.

The restrooms, located on 46th and Broadway, were a gift for New Yorkers and tourists for the holiday season (what will happen to the restrooms after the holiday season remains unclear).

When I walked in, the first thing I saw was a long escalator. Fun music played as I rode to the top, and I felt as if I was riding into a Charmin commercial. And I basically was. When I reached my destination, one of the employees asked were I was from. This was for the website, which boasts how many tourists have visited from each country.

The line for the restrooms was so long I wondered if there was an amusement park ride next to the toilets. No, I was told by an employee, it's just that clean and free restrooms are hard to come by in the city.

For those who are looking to hang out, there are plenty of white couches. The walls provide a comforting atmosphere with decorations of cuddly Charmin bears. Music videos play for those who want to dance and there are also, of course, photo spots.

I never got a chance to see the actual bathrooms because I was too impatient to wait. Instead, I went to the Marriott.

For more info and photos, visit this website.

Friday, November 17, 2006

The Newest Frat Packer?

Jack Black and Kyle Gass don't need cameo appearances from aging rock stars and famous actors to sell a movie, but they don't hurt. Black and Gass have quite a following as the awesome rock duo, Tenacious D.

In Tenacious D: The Pick of Destiny (due in theatres Nov. 22), Black and Gass rock hard with the help of David Grohl and Meatloaf. Ben Stiller (who is also executive producer of the film), SNLers Amy Poehler and Fred Armisen, and Tim Robbins also make appearances. But one appearance almost goes unnoticed and is in fact uncredited: John C. Reilly.

Reilly would be unrecognizable in his five-minute performance as Sasquatch were it not for his voice and eyes. But these five minutes are quite touching in the pull-at-your-heartstrings way that Reilly excels at. Sasquatch is sort of a father figure to Black in the scene.

Reilly has a reputation as a character actor, but lately he's proved himself as quite the comedic actor, adding a touch of reputability to Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, starring Will Ferrell. Ferrell is a member of the so-called "frat pack" along with Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Vince Vaughn, Jack Black, and other funny men who can't seem to get enough of each other. One can only hope that Reilly is the newest member.

Reilly would make an excellent addition to the frat pack as he has the ability to elevate the performance levels of those around him without upstaging them. It must be the Mr. Cellophane quality.

The only fault of Reilly's performance was that he didn't sing. Maybe Black didn't want to be upstaged, but I don't think he had anything to worry about.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Not Enough Disney Magic: Tarzan the Musical Disappoints

My final review for class at 600 Words:

Something was lost in the translation of Tarzan from the movie to the Broadway stage—its heart. Tarzan is visually stunning, but after a while an attractive surface can’t compensate for a boring script and an average cast.

Tarzan the Musical, adapted from the 1999 Disney animated film, adapted from Edgar Rice Burrough’s book, began performances at the Richard Rodgers Theatre (46th and Broadway) on May 10, 2006. The original cast is still performing save one of the two boys who alternate in the role of Young Tarzan.

The musical tells the all too familiar story of Tarzan (Josh Strickland, in a surprisingly decent transition from the American Idol stage to Broadway), the ape man. Baby Tarzan and his parents are stranded on the West African shore after a thunderstorm. His parents are killed by the leopard, Sabor. Kala (Merle Dandridge), a gorilla, finds Tarzan and raises him as her own despite the objections of Kerchak (Shuler Hensley), her husband. Tarzan grows up never understanding who he is, until he meets Jane Porter (painfully annoying Jenn Gambatese). Of course, they fall in love and Tarzan is torn between two worlds.

Many of the faults in the production come from David Henry Hwang’s book. The stale dialogue does not provide adequate build up to the songs. The jokes are seldom funny and the conversations are awkward.

The saving grace of the show is its design. In the impressive first scene, when Tarzan and his parents are shipwrecked, Natasha Katz’s lighting dazzles the audience with her thunderstorm effects. The scenery changes in a matter of minutes from a sinking ship, to the majestic underwater, to a sandy shore, to a tree house in the jungle.

Although the jungle set on its own is not much more than a bunch of bright green vines, Pichon Baldinu’s striking aerial choreography enlivens it as apes frantically swing through the air.

Bob Crowley does triple duty as director, scenic designer, and costume designer, but his strength lies in the costuming. His gorillas sport unruly dreadlocks and have enough hair on their shoulders and lower bodies to make them look ape-like while still retaining their human features.

Phil Collins penned 10 new songs in addition to the five originals from the film. His score is irresistible (despite excessive use of synthesizers) in its saccharin melodies and lyrics and jungle rhythms. The songs are more effective in the film, as Collins pop sensibilities are more suited to the performance style than most of the actors.

In the entire cast, there are only two exceptional performers. The stand-out performance was given by Shuler Hensley in the role of Kerchak, Tarzan’s father. He not only embodied the movements of a gorilla, but he gave his character more depth than the script called for. In “No Other Way,” he sings in a rich baritone about having to send Tarzan away with pain and conflict, but never going over the top.

Chester Gregory II’s Terk (Tarzan’s best friend) is completely different from Rosie O’Donnell’s film version, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, except that the stage Terk is stereotyped as a black badass. Gregory does his best with the role and even accomplishes the tricky feat of singing upside down.

The problem with the musical can be exemplified by one scene. When Tarzan introduces Jane to Kala, he says three words, “She’s my mother.” It is a beautiful moment in the film, with the emotions of the characters perfectly conveyed in the animation, but on the stage those lines are thrown away and the incident is as unmemorable as the show itself.

Prices range from $51.25 to $111.25 with performances every night except Monday and Tuesday and matinees on Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Ob-la-di Ob-la-da

It should not come as a shock to anybody that I love the Beatles. I don't even know if love is the right word. They are so much a part of my life that it is hard to explain to anybody who doesn't have that with a band or musician. They are pretty much the reason I love music and the reason I first wanted to write about music, but I've always tried to get away from writing about the Beatles. It seems like there is a new book about the mop tops from Liverpool every month, and really, what is left to say? What new insights could I bring, considering I was not even alive when they were together.

Then Tim Riley, author of "Tell Me Why," came and spoke to our class, and he changed my mind. He told me to read everything that's been written about the Beatles and find an approach that nobody has taken. I do plan on reading his book and others that he recommended and I've been thinking about what I would even write about.

I've always been fascinated by the idea of Beatles music as children's music, especially the White Album. I could not get enough of that music when I was young (actually I still can't). Although the content is very adult, the music definitely has a childlike quality to it. I think I was actually mentioning this to somebody the other day, so I was surprised to find this article in PopMatters

It is more about the humor of the Beatles, but it also deals extensively with their appeal to children. I was pretty disappointed that somebody beat me to the punch, but I wasn't too impressed with the article, and I mean no disrespect to Iain Ellis. He had some good points, but I'm not sure he expands on them enough to make them original. There were also a few fact errors which somebody already commented on.

Anybody who has seen clips of the boys in their early days knows how charismatic and funny they were. The article touches on various points in the band's career and as a result, does not delve deep enough to offer any new insights. Yes, the Beatles (mainly Sir Paul McCartney) were influenced by music hall variety shows, but so what?

The article is an excerpt from a book from PopMatters/Soft Skull about "rock-related artists who use(d) humor as a primary instrument of rebellion," so perhaps the book will deal more extensively with these issues. I also know that I shouldn't criticize too much because frequently in my own writing I notice that I try to tackle too much and in turn do not say enough (but hey, I'm still learning).

This is Halloweentown?

Halloweentown, released in 1998, had all the elements of a successful Disney Channel movie--charm, close family ties, cute children, and Debbie Reynolds. Halloweentown was followed by Halloweentown II (2001), Halloweentown High (2004), and most recently, Return to Halloweentown.

In Halloweentown, 13-year-old Marnie discovers she is a witch and her grandmother, Aggie (Reynolds), takes her to Halloweentown to train her. Now Marnie is in college, unfamiliar territory for Disney Channel. Witch U. seems less like college and more like boarding school, with the Sinister sisters as the token bully girls.

The effervescent Kimberly J. Brown played Marnie in the first three installments. The slightly chubby Brown was a refreshing change to the blonde beauties Disney Channel usually employs. Brown always looked like a normal kid. She has since been replaced by the bland Sara Paxton, who is, of course, blonde and thin.

Lucas Grabeel, still riding on the coattails of High School Musical, plays Marnie's love interest, Ethan. He appeared in Halloweentown High, although there was never any palpable sexual tension between him and Marnie (Marnie's a bit of a harlot, making eyes at a different male in each film). He barely even in the preview for Halloweentown High, but now that he is a "star," the marketing for Return to Halloweentown was all about him, overshadowing J. Paul Zimmerman (he stuck with the series for all four films as Marnie's brother).

Reynolds is only present in two short scenes and Marnie's adorable little sister (who has been steadily gaining weight in each installment) is mysteriously missing.

The scenes seem unconnected, with various subplots that never get fleshed out. The relationship between Marnie and her mother, Marnie and her grandmother, Marnie and Ethan. As a result, the heartwarming scenes, as when Marnie says, "I love you mom," are not believable.

The film is nothing more than a vehicle for new Disney Channel stars. This would be fine, if it only had a heart.

Don't Need No Credit Card to Ride This Train

The title is misleading, this is actually a posting about the new Harry and the Potters album, "The Power of Love," as you can clearly see from the photo. The album was released when I was in Boston (you can pretty much only find it there and online) and I didn't buy it as I'm a poor grad student, so I e-mailed the band and told them that I was an arts journalism student and I asked them if I could have a copy, and they sent me one. I like this arts journalism thing. I am reviewing it for Jerk Magazine, but the reviews there are short, so I was limited to 150 words. I don't think it will appear until the December issue, but here is a preview:

Harry and the Potters and the Power of Love [Charming Records, Sept. 2006]

A band that only sings about Harry Potter may seem like a passing novelty, but two Bostonian brothers have kept it going since 2002 as Harry and the Potters.

The Power of Love, Paul and Joe DeGeorge’s third album, is based on the sixth book in the Potter series. With so much material in the novel, there is no excuse for any weak songs, like space-fillers about rocking, which seem to be a product of laziness.

The boys can be forgiven for their oversights with fun songs like the danceable “(not gonna put on) the Monkey Suit” and clever observations about teenage angst and budding relationships. Surprisingly, the best tracks are not the humorous ones, but the touching violin and cello heavy “Dumbledore” and the anthemic “Phoenix Song,” in which the boys carry the pain of Potter in their vocals.

After the seventh book is released, Harry and the Potters have one more shot to make a great album, and they just might have it in them.

The album can be purchased on the band’s website,

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Your Ticket Should Say Urinetown

Here's my 4th review for class. This one was 700 words, which proved to be a challenge after the 300 word review. At first I thought I wouldn't have enough to say, but then as I started writing, I realized I had more than enough to say, too much, in fact. Anyway, here is what I came up with:

A bad title and bad subject matter can “kill a show pretty good” according to the opening song in Urinetown. The macabre musical comedy has both, but that didn’t stop it from winning three Tony Awards in 2002 for best director (John Rando), best original score (Mark Hollman and Greg Kotis), and best book of a musical (Greg Kotis). It may be about bodily functions, but Urinetown was a Broadway hit, and now it’s being tackled by Syracuse University drama students.

Urinetown, directed by Syracuse University faculty member Marie Kemp, opened on Oct. 13 and is playing at the Arthur Storch Theatre until Oct. 22. An appropriate choice for a college audience, the show appeals to those who love musical theatre as well as those who despise it, as Hollman and Kotis embrace the history of Broadway while simultaneously making fun of its traditions.

As the audience members waited for the overture to start, a man wandered through the back of the packed house, trying to find a seat. Two police officers who were clearly actors dragged him into a jail-like structure on stage right where the orchestra was waiting. The man turned out to be Nathan Hurwitz, the conductor, who stayed in character, reluctantly taken up his baton to lead the musicians in the horn-heavy overture.

In the Brechtian opening number, “Too Much Exposition,” Officer Lockstock, perfectly cast Eric Bilitch, and Little Sally, the disappointing Amy Walsh, welcome the audience to Urinetown the musical. The town is suffering from a water shortage and private bathrooms have become obsolete. The only types of amenities are pay as you go and those who can’t pay get carted off to Urinetown, a “mythical place filled with symbolism and things like that,” Lockstock tells us in his deep announcer-like voice.

The narrative banter between Lockstock and Sally would be more effective if Walsh stayed in character. She fluctuated in and out of her childlike voice and she lacked the comedic timing that Bilitch excels at.

Urine Good Company (UGC), owned by Caldwell B. Cladwell (Adam J. Wahlberg), controls the public amenities. The hero of the story is Bobby Strong, played by Dan Scott, who looks the part with his “sweet face,” but has a voice too feeble for such a major role. His microphone often sounded muffled, making his quiet voice sound even more unintelligible. His love interest is Cladwell’s daughter, Hope (Colleen Fee). Their relationship comes out of nowhere, as is often the case in musical comedy. As Officer Lockstock tells Sally, “He’s the true hero of the show, she has to love him.”

Set designer, Maria Marrero, a professor at Syracuse University, and costume designer, junior Megan Moriarty, create a look not bound to a specific time period. The minimal and dreary set of the town that makes excellent use of ladders and raggedy costumes are indistinguishable from the Broadway production.

The scenes at the UGC are quite a contrast. Wahlberg, the most talented in the cast, is as thin and dapper as Fred Astaire, which is fitting as the elegant office decor and pin-striped suits could very well be taken out of a 1940s musical. During “Mr. Cladwell,” the sophisticatedly dressed employees caress his ego in a song and dance number recalling “I Think I’m Gonna Like it Here” from Annie.

The music pokes fun at many different traditions. “Act One Finale” satirizes Les Miserables in all its operatic grandeur and includes a hilarious slow motion running gag.

“Snuff That Girl,” a brilliant send-up of West Side Story’s “Cool,” complete with finger snaps and “Bangs!” and “Booms!,” gave the supporting cast a chance to shine, thanks in part to Erin McDowell’s evocative choreography.

Although the mic problem was not fixed by the second act, Scott redeemed himself and delivered a rousing performance along with the ensemble cast for the memorable gospel number, “Run Freedom Run.”

The final lines in the show are, “Hail, Malthus!” in honor of Thomas Malthus, the political economist who believed that human populations will increase until checked by natural limitations. A happy ending it’s not, but as Little Sally says, “The music is so happy,” and theatergoers leave the theatre humming, having been thoroughly entertained for the past two and a half hours.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

I Love... Michael Ian Black

When you ask a C-list celebrity out to drinks, it's probably a good idea to know what you're going to talk about beforehand.

Tonight Leah, Bob, and I went to the Michael Ian Black comedy show. Black is best known for his commentaries on the VH1 I love the ... (insert decade here) shows. He has also appeared in movies including Wet Hot American Summer. I was debating whether or not to go as I had class until 8:05 and wasn't sure if I would make it, but I decided the $3 ticket charge would be worth the risk. I did make it and Leah kindly saved me a seat up close.

Black wearing an orange sweatshirt (he obviously did his SU homework) and performed a routine he knew would go over well with college students. He joked a lot about college and sex. His show was billed as "The Awesome Life with Michael Ian Black," chronicling life as a C-list celebrity and giving audiences a peek inside the Hollywood food chain, but he did not speak on this topic and stayed away from the pop culture commentary he is so known for. Although he did reference Suri, Maddox, and Mel Gibson.

He was animated on stage and bantered back and forth with the audience, tolerating questions like, "Boxers or briefs?" and, "When was the last time you shit your pants?" in good humor.

After the show, there was a reception at the Hillel center. We decided to go and I think we were the only ones there not active in Hillel, although I am Jewish, so it's ok. He seemed bored, tired, or both. He hardly smiled, but he was amicable to everyone who asked for a picture or autograph. First Leah and I wanted his autograph, but we didn't have anything to sign. I did have a copy of Entertainment Weekly so I thought it would be kind of cute to have him sign that since it's all about popular culture and Leah had him sign a magazine that she had. I'm not exactly sure what he thought of us at that point (I can't say I'd be too impressed if I were him).

We stuck around, snacking on free food, and decided we wanted to talk to him more. We had to wait around for the undergraduate Hillel girls to ask banal questions about summer camp, and then he noticed that Leah and Bob look alike (I don't see it) and asked if they were brother and sister or dating (the answer is neither). Then I brought up the fact that we are graduate students in arts journalism and he started asking us about that and I asked him if he wanted to go for a drink with us. To my surprise (and delight), he said yes.

The Hillel president was going to escort him to the Sheraton, but he said he would walk with us there. Along the way, I started to wonder what the hell I was doing or what to say to him. I would have loved to discuss popular culture, but I could tell he didn't want to do that as he pretty much said that he doesn't care to talk about I Love the '80s or '90s.

I lost the nerve that I had in the second it took to ask him for drinks because at the bar, I was straining to come up with things to say that wouldn't make me sound like a stupid fan or an idiot. Bob pretty much saved the day, talking about movies and Halloween in Des Moines.

On TV, Black seems so funny and dynamic, but in reality he is very mellow. It might have to do with the fact that he was tired after the long drive, but I think that's just his personality. He is a normal guy, a husband and a father who takes his children trick-or-treating. Being funny is his job, but I kind of like that he wasn't putting on an act for us.

We talked a bit about journalism and he said he doesn't like to answer questions, so that made it kind of difficult to know what to say. But he is a very kind and generous person. This is all kind of blur to me now, so I'll have to think about this some more to make sense of what just happened, but it was a nice way to kick off my birthday.

Michael Ian Black, if you ever google yourself (which he claims to do quite a bit) and come across this posting, thanks for hanging out with us.

P.S. I know I'm supposed to keep this blog professional, but I can't resist, if he wasn't married, I'd totally want to marry him.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Thursday Style

I loved this illustration in the Thursday Style section of the New York Times today and I had to share it. The article about Andy Warhol was also quite interesting. Apparently, everything Andy Warhol is in right now. I've read quite a lot of articles lately about various cultural art forms coming back into style. In the New York Times Style Magazine on Sunday, there was an article about the resurgence of the grunge scene of 1993. In the Daily Orange today, there was an article about classic rock bands like Led Zeppelin having a following on college campuses. But bands like Zeppelin and icons like Warhol always have a following, so is it really fair to say they are back? Perhaps I'll post more thoughts on this at a later date when I have more time, but for now enjoy the picture.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Burgers and Cupcakes

The brown awning with orange and pink lettering seems out of place on the stretch of Ninth Ave. between 35th and 36th in Manhattan. Mitchel London's restaurant, Burgers & Cupcakes, is trendy (in that it's so kitschy it's cool), but on a Saturday at lunch, there were plenty of tables. Perhaps it's the location, or perhaps word hasn't spread, because New Yorkers will wait any amount of time for some good burgers or cupcakes, and Burgers & Cupcakes has both.

As the name suggests, there are few food options besides burgers and cupcakes, but there is a breakfast menu. At $5.95 and $1 for each additional toppings, the tiny burgers are not cheap, but the veggie burger was one of the best I've ever had. Toppings include different types of cheeses, vegetarian chili (which they were not serving that day, much to my disappointment), pizza, and cranberry sauce. Burgers come with pickles not fries, but it's worth paying a little extra if you like your fries salty.

The cupcake display is the first thing you see when you walk in and it will taunt you all through your meal, so it's impossible not to get one. Small cupcakes cast $2 and large cupcakes cost $3. There are traditional cupcakes, vanilla and chocolate, and some more unusual like carrot with cream cheese frosting. The blueberry with buttercream frosting is delicious (you can't get that at Magnolia). The frosting is piled high on all the cupcakes, but it's not too sweet and just the right consistency.

With such a winning combination, Burgers & Cupcakes probably won't stay a secret for long, especially since they deliver. If there's anything New Yorkers like more than burgers and cupcakes, it's free delivery.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Find a Box to Put BK Inside

After the Ben Kweller concert Friday, Oct. 20 at Webster Hall in NYC, an audience member who had never even heard of Ben Kweller before the show said, "I would have paid $100 for that show."

Ben Kweller played his best tracks from all three of his albums. He chose some fan favorites and some that had sentimental value to him resulting in a concert with a personal touch that was more than worth the $20 ticket price.

He made his NYC audience feel like family by dedicating "My Apartment," which is about his Brooklyn home, to them. He also dedicated "Family Tree" to his proud parents who were in attendance.

During "Thirteen," Kweller stopped mid-verse claiming he had a hair in his throat, but it seemed pretty obvious that he was choking up. He has said that "Thirteen" is his favorite and most personal song and before he began he dedicated it to his wife and baby. The mishap did not faze the audience who cheered as Kweller recomposed himself.

On My Way, Kweller's second album, is his weakest, but he chose the strongest tracks to represent it-- the pensive "On My Way," the amusing "Hospital Bed," and the "The Rules." "The Rules" is not a standout on the album, but Kweller always rocks that number live, dancing around the stage like a teenager.

By the time Kweller played his second encore, the popular "Wasted and Ready" from his debut album, Sha Sha, everybody was singing along. Even when the lights came on, fans were waiting around, hoping he'd come out again for one more song.

Orthodox Rocks

I had an article published in the New Times last week previewing Matisyahu's performance in Syracuse. The article is not available online, but if you live in Syracuse, you can pick it up until Wednesday. My original article was much longer and I really like some of what they cut (although I can understand why they did and I was happy with the published piece), so this is my original article:

Reggae artist Matisyahu is a musician, but it is rare to hear about his music. He gained attention from the fact that he is a Hasidic Jew and the buzz followed. He has been described as a novelty and criticized for using his yarmulke, tallis, and payas as a gimmick.

Matisyahu is playing at the Landmark Theatre on October 18 as part of an international peace summit hosted by Syracuse University, and if you are going to spend $32 or $52, you should go for the music. If you’re interested in Lubavitch Judaism, the strict sect of Orthodox Judaism to which Matisyahu belongs, take a pilgrimage to Crown Heights or go to a Chabad House.

Matisyahu’s latest album, Youth, reached gold status and is a blend of reggae, beatbox, rap, rock and traditional Jewish music. Youth is not without its faults, mostly in Matisyahu’s unpolished voice. But the songs are catchy and easy to dance to, which should translate well to the stage and make for an entertaining concert.

Album highlights include the rocking rap-inspired hit “King Without a Crown” which includes the choice line, “Crown Heights Burning Up.” The rebellious “Youth” and the Zionist “Jerusalem” are the rallying cries he is most known for, but lesser known songs like “Dispatch the Troops” and “What I’m Fighting For” offer a melodic change of pace. There is even a love song in the form of “Unique is my Dove.”

Matisyahu is not the only artist to mix reggae music with the music of other cultures and he believes that both the music and the subject matter of reggae account for its versatility.

“The first thing that jumps into my mind is the content of the music,” he says, “A lot of time it is borrowed or inspired by the Old Testament. It’s something that all religions stem out of.” He says that universal ideas like unity, hope, and redemption come from the Old Testament.

He describes the music itself as “soft music.” “All cultures relate to it. It’s not like hard rock,” he says. He adds that reggae music is in the same vein as rock and roll music in that a lot of types of music are born out of it.

As a teenager growing up in Westchester, Pa., Matisyahu, then Matthew Miller, was not religious. At that age it was hard for him to relate to Judaism, he says, and was certainly not interested in Orthodox Judaism.

His first connection to the devout sect, not surprisingly, had to do with the music. Reggae music connected him to Jewish ideas. Songs like Marley’s “Exodus” painted scenes that young Miller could relate to. However, the life changing moment occurred when he visited Israel for the first time at the age of 16.

It was Simchat Torah (sometimes pronounced Simchas Torah), a holiday he was not yet familiar with. Simchat Torah is a festive holiday which involves dancing around with the Torah. Matisyahu recalls hearing drumming in the backstreets of Jerusalem. He approached an ally and saw a group of Hasidic men banging on a table and drinking wine. It was a “whole different world” he had never seen before. Seeing Orthodox Jews “happy and celebrating and joyous” juxtaposed his idea that they were always serious.

Matisyahu’s music reflects this celebratory spirit.

Matisyahu will perform at the Landmark Theatre on Wed., Oct. 18 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available at Ticketmaster and are $32 and $52.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother

My brother, David, sent me this review he wrote about the Roger Waters concert. Since I love embarrassing him, I'm going to post it here. He is a senior in college and he is studying film (journalism is just a hobby). It's not perfect, at times he sounds like a fan who will enjoy anything Roger Waters performs, and this takes away his authority. When I was discussing the concert with him, he did have some criticism (mostly that Waters doesn't have a good voice and the new work was not very good), but this didn't make it into the review for some reason. In any case, there are some really good things in this review, especially the way he describes the crowd. I really feel like I was there, though sadly I wasn't, but he did call me during "Wish You Were Here."

Waters Shines on the Dark Side

As I stepped into the Hollywood bowl, the usual smells of marijuana and beer filled my nostrils. I immediately glanced over at the stage, too anxious for my own good, obsessed with what was to come. From my seat in the Promenade section, I could only make out what looked like a giant glass in the center of the stage. On the left, there seemed to be an equally large bottle of some sort of alcoholic beverage. Behind all this seemed to be an old radio. I took my seat and waited, for I knew it was only a matter of minutes before Roger Waters, the bassist and lyrical genius of Pink Floyd, would make his way onto the Hollywood Bowl stage. It was Sunday, October 8, and I had been waiting for this night since early August.

The lights went completely dark and the now overcrowded venue was drowned in cheers. A large hand appeared, pouring a bit of the contents of the bottle into his glass. The hand fiddled with the radio, giving the audience some jazz and Elvis to listen to. At one point, the hand switched to a station and the synthesized beginnings of an all too familiar Abba song were heard. The station was quickly switched, met with laughter by the audience.

This unordinary introduction was soon over and the lights went dark again. In a flash the spotlight was on him. The crowd got to its feet in honor of Waters, who was smiling and ready to jam, bass in hand. And that he did, performing "In the Flesh," from Floyd's celebrated The Wall, complete with sounds, lights, and pyrotechnics that brought the Bowl to life. After this, Waters continued with another hit from the same album, the semi-autobiographical "Mother."

Without a break for even the shortest of breaths, he jammed right into "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun" from Floyd's second album, A Saucerful of Secrets. All the while I was immersed in surround sound and special effects, allowing me to step into the songs and be one with the music. I had not taken part in something so intense since the time I stepped into the movies at Universal Studios.

Now the crowd was pumped full of rock, and the arena turned to dark once again as I heard the space-like opening of "Shine on You Crazy Diamond." The stage was transformed into the universe; planets, stars and comets rushing past. The audience, now spacemen, flowed through space, listening to the ingenious keyboard intro. The guitar soon joined in and a rush of drums and the other instruments got the crowd up, applause filling the air. This was exciting for me, my favorite Pink Floyd song, performed to its full potential. The song was written by Waters for his childhood friend, Syd Barrett, the badly fated, doomed musical genius and original creative force of Pink Floyd. Due to his schizophrenia and innately insane mind, Barrett was forced to leave the band early on. "Shine on" is the first song in an album dedicated primarily to Barrett, Wish You Were Here. Sadly, Barrett recently died in July, at age 60. As I watched Waters perform the song, I could feel his mixed feelings of love and loss pouring out of him for Barrett, as pictures of him played on the screen. When the first lyrics were sung, "Remember when you were young. You shone like the sun," the crowd cheered and joined in for the chorus, "Shine on you crazy diamond." There could not have been a better farewell for Barrett, a filled Hollywood Bowl in perfect unison, ensuring that he will forever shine on.

I was thrilled to see the commemoration for Barrett continue as the band played two more numbers from Wish You Were Here. First, "Have a Cigar," amazingly performed exactly as in the album, right up to the crescendo jamming at the end of the song with a sudden sharp decrescendo transition to the same tune, only softer and lighter in feel. I remained in awe at how Rogers conceived this transition on stage. In a flash the band was gone, and the hand returned, turning the radio volume down. The best was yet to come. The hand began to tune the radio to different stations as something sounded vaguely familiar to me. My suspicions were accurate, the hand stopped its fiddling, and the ever recognizable opening riff of "Wish You Were Here" began. The crowd went a little insane at this point, many unable to contain their excitement for the highly lovable ballad. The song, originally Waters' cry for Barrett who could not share in the band's success, now lived on as a remembrance of the talented musician.

The concert could have ended at this point and I would have gone home happy. But Waters did not stop here. He went on to perform more Floyd favorites from their 1983 album, The Final Cut, "Southampton Dock" and the gorgeous, soft "The Fletcher Memorial Home." I was also exposed to some of Waters' solo work which was previously unknown to me, such as "Perfect Sense" and "Leaving Beirut."

After this, the recognizable opening of "Sheep," a huge success from Floyd's 1977 Animals rang in my ears. This song had some great special effects, with pyrotechnics and lights galore. On stage was a screen showcasing a three dimensional view of the building, familiar to Floyd fans from the Animals album cover. I nearly jumped from my seat as I noticed a giant pink pig rising from the stage. The pig made its way throughout the entire crowd. On closer inspection I noticed graffiti had been marked on the animal, including "Impeach Bush" and "Don't be led to the slaughter."

The evening was going great when Waters spoke into his mic, "Ok, we're going to take a 15 minute break, and when we get back we're going to do Dark Side!" As the lights came on, the surround sound echoed of nature's finest noises. Soothing waterfalls and birds filled the crowd's ears, which remained until the end of the break. I could not have been more pleased with Waters endurance and ability to put on such a lengthy show, full of great hits. I rushed to the bathrooms and chatted with some overly stoned Floyd fans. I also realized that there must have been some sneaking in, as the place was packed, even for Hollywood Bowl standards. Fist fights were also taking place; the security guards definitely had their work cut out for them this night.

I rushed back to my seat and anxiously awaited the second half of the concert. Waters came on stage and to everyone's great pleasure introduced Nick Mason, Pink Floyd's original drummer. As a drummer myself, I was elated to see one of my most favorite percussionists live on stage. Waters announced that usually The Dark Side of the Moon begins with the beating of a heart. However, the sound effect was not necessary at this point. The audience being so anxious to hear Dark Side, we were able to provide a sufficient heart-beating soundtrack. Waters could not have been more correct.

The rest of the background noises blasted on the surround sound speakers, my neighbors lit up their various joints and pipes and The Dark Side of the Moon officially began. Waters and Mason performed superbly. All of the background noises and special effects from the original album remained intact and reigned over the audience. Of course, "Time," "Money" and "Us and Them" dominated as crowd favorites. The lady who sang "The Great Gig in the Sky," my favorite song from the album, put on an outstanding show. The song is quite difficult, with many high and long notes. The album shined even more than usual with live special effects reminiscent of Pink Floyd concerts of happier times past.

The greatest moment was when we reached the zenith of "Brain Damage," the second to last song of the album. At this point the triangular prism, decipherable to all Floyd fans from the Dark Side album cover, rose high above the stage. I was amazed, as were my neighbors, probably more affected in their non-penetrable state of highness. A white light shone and hit the prism, allowing a rainbow of colors to shine through on the other side. The audience cheered wildly; here in its paramount glory stood the sole symbol of Dark Side, rising above Hollywood.

In a flash, "Eclipse," the last song of Dark Side was played and the album was over. The crowd cheered as if it was to save their very lives. The band bowed, Waters and Mason shared an affectionate hug. But Waters was not about to end here, and once again I smiled at his will to go on and please his fans. The band ran away for a bit, as most do during this point in any given concert, but soon came back to a variety of cheers, whistles and yells.

In a beat, the familiar sounds came of an airplane overhead as the band struck up "The Happiest Days of Our Lives" and "Another Brick in the Wall, Pt.2," arguably Floyd's most popular song. The entire crowd remained on their feet at this point and sang along the infamous words, "We don't need no education. We don't need no thought control. No dark sarcasm in the classroom. Teachers leave them kids alone. Hey! Teachers! Leave them kids alone. All in all you're just another brick in the wall." The crowd became one, a joyous moment for all present.

Next, to everyone's great delight, Waters performed both "Vera" and "Bring the Boys Back Home," from the same album, The Wall. The crowd immediately recognized the opening of the next number, "Comfortably Numb," from the same album, a legendary piece in its own right. This was naturally the last song of the night and as the words "Hello, hello, hello" reverberated in our ears, bright lights and videos shone on stage. The song ended with fireworks ablaze, towering over the Bowl in perfect synchronization with the music. Beautiful.

Although saddened that the evening was over, I remained in a state of constant bliss throughout the rest of the evening. I walked back to the bus, dodging some of the stammering fans who had a bit too much for their own good. When one rather drunk woman asked me if I had ever tried it with a 55 year old, and if I would like to tonight, I honorably declined the offer. She stumbled away and seemed to pass out by some nearby trashcans.

All in all, the night could not have gone better. Waters has announced that he is planning on touring again next year. I highly recommend to those who missed him this time around: plan on seeing him next year. You will not be sorry, and a splendid time is guaranteed for all.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Don't Read This Review

You will probably only get that reference if you read Lemony Snicket. And likewise you will probably only get this review if you're somewhat familiar with his work. This is my 300 word review:

Daniel Handler is a marketing genius, which here means a children’s book author with the ability to entice readers to buy his books. Lemony Snicket is not just his cool sounding pseudonym, but an enigmatic character as interesting as the Baudelaires, three orphans who are the central characters of his A Series of Unfortunate Events.

Snicket’s latest book, The Beatrice Letters, is a companion to A Series of Unfortunate Events and capitalizes on the intrigue surrounding his relationship with Beatrice, to whom every book is dedicated. Letters was conveniently released a month before The End, the final installment in the series, to be released Friday the 13th.

The Beatrice Letters is prettily packaged—a large hardbound book which opens like a file and contains a poster and the short book of letters between Snicket and Beatrice. The book itself can be read in less than half-an-hour.

The letters include clues to the mysteries laid out in the previous books. The most revealing is the fact that Beatrice’s last name is Baudelaire, but we also learn that there are two Beatrices and it is unclear whether the Beatrice who is writing to Snicket is the same Beatrice he is writing to. The fact that the letters are probably not in chronological order (no dates are given) adds to the confusion.

If it wasn’t for Snicket’s humor and clever use of the English language, this book would be nothing but frustration. But Snicket’s volunteer job as assistant obituary spell-checker at The Daily Punctilio where he corrects headlines like “Duchess of Winnipeg is Deaf” and other anecdotes are there to mitigate the pain.

The Beatrice Letters may be a clever marketing ploy which provides readers with more questions than answers, but it will satisfy Snicket cravings for those anxiously awaiting The End.

Revised Kweller Review for Class

Here is the updated version of my Ben Kweller review, which proved to be very difficult:

Ben Kweller’s third solo studio album, Ben Kweller, is unmistakably Kweller with his boyish voice, innocent lyrics, and piano driven power pop. Yet this album is more mature than his previous attempts. Not only does he play all the instruments, including the glockenspiel and the xylophone, but he no longer sings nonsense like “sha sha sha do” as he did on his first album, opting instead for heartfelt, autobiographical lyrics.

For those not familiar with the 25-year-old singer/songwriter, he was in the band, Radish, at the young age of 15. Radish was touted as the next Nirvana, but its initial success soon fizzled. Kweller released his first solo studio album, Sha Sha in 2002 and since then has retained a dedicated fan base, but he has yet to hit it big in the mainstream.

Ben Kweller, released Sept. 19 by ATO records, opens with the upbeat and catchy piano and tambourine intro of “Run.” The lyrics are reminiscent of a nursery rhyme—“Over hills, over dales, I’ll run with you”—but also deal with Kweller’s rock star on the run life as a teenager. The piano and tambourine hook, killer bridge, and overdubbed instrumentation result in a feel-good pop symphony. With “Run,” Kweller excels at a polished sound, a contrast to 2004’s raw On My Way, which was recorded with his band using no headphones or overdubs.

“Sundress” begins with restrained pensive vocals over the slow piano motif and gradually picks up speed with the addition of the guitar, leading into the carefree chorus. The infectious harmonies are trademark Kweller.

Kweller has written plenty of piano ballads and love songs, but he seems to have mastered this genre in “Thirteen.” Musically, the song is fairly simple, driven by a repetitive piano melody. The listener is left with nothing to focus on but Kweller’s vulnerable voice. Without the presence of an intro or chorus, the lyrics sound like a stream of consciousness about his wife with lines such as, “I kissed your dry lips/We jumped off the high cliffs and splashed down below/Skin to skin in the salty river.”

The bluesy “Red Eye” sees Kweller successfully experimenting with a sound he has never attempted before. His voice, usually shaky and somewhat screaming, is more controlled, even in moments of desperation.

Ben Kweller succeeds in improving his sound by holding onto his youthful charms. And that is what makes him so Kweller.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Saturday Night at the Mall

This summer I wrote my enterprise story on the Carousel Center's parental escort policy. Anybody under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult on Friday and Saturday nights in order to shop at the mall. A few weeks ago, Kathleen posted this on her blog:

"Saturday afternoon, probably around 5 pm, I'm wandering through Carousel Center Mall chatting away on my cell phone with my parents, when a tubby, acne-ridden teenage mall employee, complete with red vest and walkie-talkie, gestures to get my attention and says something to me. Realizing that he is in fact addressing me, rudely ignoring the fact that I am mid-conversation, I look at him inquisitively, at which point he firmly repeats what he just said.
'Miss, you are aware that the under-18 policy is in effect right now?'
'The under-18 policy is in effect.'
'Uh, yeah. I'm 23.'
'I'm gonna have to see some ID.'

When I read this I felt Kathleen's rage, but I was also kind of amused, and then it happened to me. I posted her description because it is almost verbatim my conversation last night. I was on the phone with my family and it must have been the same kid because he didn't look 18 himself and he asked the question in the exact same way. The only difference is I offered my I.D. and he made me whip it out. Did he really think I would say I was 23 and offer to show him my I.D. if I couldn't prove it?

The other thing that I find ridiculous is that the policy is meant to keep groups of teenagers from causing trouble, but I was by myself with a shopping bag so I was obviously there to shop.

Speaking of ridiculous, I overheard this on the bus on the way back from the mall:
Girl 1: How do you spell ridiculous?
Girl 2: R-E-D...
These girls go to Syracuse. They were also trying to figure out what year to put on their fake I.D.s in order to be 21. Then they wanted to go to a "sleazy seventies" party and they were trying to figure out what to wear. One girl suggested hippy outfits and the other girl said that everything about the seventies was sleazy.

Needless to say, my ride home made up for being carded.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Things of Note

Here are a few things that caught my attention recently:

My favorite city:
I don't know how I found this because it's a few months old. I must have been googling something and came up with this. It's an article from Slate about Buenos Aires. It is mostly about Argentine film and I haven't seen any of the films referenced so I can't comment on those, but there is some amazing stuff (besides dulce de leche and alfajores) that comes out of that country and it's nice to see some recognition. If anybody is interested in Argentine cinema, check out Nueve Reinas.

I also loved the sidebar on things you need to know before you go to Buenos Aires, especially the part about the pizza (it used to make me ill, but I've grown accustomed to it).

Drinking Pancakes, Yum:
Starbucks has done it again. Following its success in the New England market, maple flavored drinks are now available at Starbucks nation-wide. If you've always wanted your coffee to taste like pancakes, this drink is for you. The maple latte is pretty tasty, but I'd recommend less pumps (ask for 2 for a tall instead of 3) otherwise it tastes too much like drinking syrup. Don't be fooled by the maple macchiato, it's really just the maple latte with the shots on top. The drizzle on the top is the same as the syrup on the bottom (the caramel macchiato uses vanilla syrup on the bottom and caramel sauce on top). It's better if you get caramel sauce on top instead of maple drizzle.

A Message for Ben Kweller:
Please stop making music videos. Has the giant strawberry from "Wasted and Ready" taught you nothing?

You can view his new video for "Sundress" at It's cheesy and it takes away from the song. Kweller's no actor and he should stick to what he does best.

Syracuse Hates Film:
So I'm not in the film concentration here, but I do enjoy me some independent films every now and again. But it is next to impossible to find these here in Syracuse. There are a few exceptions, but you'd think in a college town, there would be more opportunities to view something other than Snakes on a Plane or a frat pack movie (not that I don't love those).

Most of the movies I want to see are fairly mainstream. I'm not talking totally obscure movies (although those are good too), I'm talking about films like The U.S. vs. John Lennon which was released a few weeks ago in select cities and this week nationwide (I guess that excludes the 'Cuse). It might take a few weeks (that's what happened with Trust the Man which turned out to be a disappointment, but I'm just asking for the opportunity to see it).

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Torrance, the home of... teenage gambling?

When I tell people I'm from Torrance, I always preface it by saying I'm from a suburb of L.A. It's not that it's a very small town, but I never expect anybody to have heard of it. So I was surprised to see an article about Torrance in Time Magazine. Well, it wasn't about Torrance, it was about parents who let their children play poker.

I wasn't aware that this was a trend in Torrance or anywhere else and I wonder why the author went to Torrance to write this. I don't have much to say about it, I just thought it was interesting.

A Bittersweet Homecoming

I'm not sure why they call it homecoming. Tufts may have been my home once, but it's not anymore, and it will never be again. So when I went back to Tufts for homecoming last weekend, I wasn't really going home. I didn't really belong there anymore.

It was nice to be back at Tufts and see my old haunts, but I was looking at everything as an outsider.

Some things were just as I had left them. South Hall, where I spent three years of my college life, still looks more like a castle than a dorm. But I no longer have a Jumbo FOB to let me in. I watched the students coming in and going out with a little bit of jealousy.

South, once the newest, cleanest, and most modern dorm, is now upstaged by the new dorm, a modern looking building with huge windows and fun, colorful furniture. The new dorm was not the only addition to the campus.

The new music building, promised for so long, is finally almost finished. Aidekman, the old music building, is still there and the new building will connect to it. I spent many happy hours postering for the music department at Aidekman. The pictures on the walls next to Balch Arena are still of productions from when I was a student, which made me feel like it really hasn't been that long. Then I went downstairs and saw the completely redone basement. The dingy, cockroach infested basement was done up with state of the art practice rooms.

I had to stop by Dewick, the dining hall where I worked for four years, but I drew the line at going in and eating, no matter how badly I wanted a piece of white pizza. I did, however, say hi to one of the ladies who worked there who claimed to remember me (she could have been being polite) and she informed me that the dining halls are shockingly now opened to 9 and that fewer students are TUDDING (working in the dining hall). The full time workers are not happy.

Perhaps the biggest shock of all was 154 West Adams Street, my off campus home before I went abroad. It actually looks like a nice place to live now. Everything gets better after I leave.

Homecoming itself was an interesting experience as I'd never been even while I was at Tufts. I didn't go to the football game (I am told that there was actually a game), but I did learn that Tufts has a marching band and a cheerleading squad. Who knew?

I opted instead for tailgater's village where college graduates from as recently as a year ago to as long ago as say 50 years ago (that's not an accurate number, just a guess) can get together to relive their glory days.

Reconnecting with people I didn't care enough about to stay in touch with in the first place seemed superficial. It's a little tiring to have to explain to people what arts journalism is (I stupidly assumed it would be self-explanatory), especially when I know they don't care/I won't see them again until the next reunion I choose to go to.

This sounds pretty pessimistic of me. Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of people who meant a lot to me in college and those are the people that made homecoming worth it (the free food helped although it was not of Dewick quality).

Graduating from college was hard for me. I really love Tufts and I do still miss it. But I know that I have to let go. So going back home was really a way to say goodbye.

This doesn't have to do with Tufts, but the T (the Boston subway) is finally getting rid of tokens. The "Charlie cards" as the new entry cards are called are so much more convenient and you can finally pay with credit cards. The drawback is that the new machines are not available in all the stations yet so if you arrive in Boston and load up a card full of money, you might be stuck having to buy tokens on top of that.

He's So Kweller

My second review for class. I was limited to 400 words which proved to be a bit of a challenge. I'll have to revise it after my classmates critique it:

Ben Kweller’s third solo studio album is unmistakably Kweller. Maybe that’s why it’s self-titled, but he pushes himself further than he has before. Not only does he play all the instruments Paul McCartney style, but he goes from singing nonsense like “sha sha sha do” to heartfelt, autobiographical lyrics.

For those not familiar with the indie rocker/power pop singer/songwriter, he was in the band, Radish, as a young teenager. Radish was touted as the next Nirvana, but its initial success soon fizzled. As a solo artist, Kweller has retained a dedicated fan base and he has been compared to everyone from Tom Petty to the Beatles, but he has yet to hit it big in the mainstream.

The album opens with the upbeat and catchy piano and tambourine intro of “Run.” Kweller recently became a father and the song could have easily been written for his son. The lyrics are reminiscent of a nursery rhyme—“Over hills, over dales, I’ll run with you.” This is not to oversimplify the song. The aforementioned hook, killer bridge, and emotional vocals create a sound that combines the best of the pop and rock genres.

He goes from “Sundress,” the infectious music that Kweller is best known for to the guitar infused rock and roll number, “I Gotta Move,” to the beautiful “Thirteen.”

Kweller has done plenty of piano ballads and love songs, but he seems to have mastered this art in “Thirteen.” Musically it is fairly simple, driven only by a repetitive piano melody, but he breaks with tradition by not including a chorus. Kweller’s boyish voice and innocent lyrics are two of his trademarks and they are still present here, but his words expose him. In this stream of consciousness, he honestly speaks about his wife with such sentiments as, “I kissed your dry lips/We jumped off the high cliffs and splashed down below/Skin to skin in the salty river.”

The bluesy “Red Eye” sees Kweller in another departure, experimenting with an R & B sound he has never attempted before.

The last song on his albums is usually reserved for a power piano ballad, but Kweller surprisingly closes with the rocker “This is War.”

There is not a bad track on this album, which is rare in the pop music world. Kweller may never fill stadiums, but he can take comfort in the fact that he’s created his best album yet.

Monday, September 25, 2006

I Have to Care about the Internet...

On Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, one of the actors from the sketch show was reading a blog. The blogger said negative things about the show. Another actor asked why the first actor would even read that. He said that nobody cares what the blogger has to say. The first actor said that the next day the New York Times would quote the blogger to show that it is not an elitist paper. He then said, "I have to care about the internet because everybody else does."

Sorry I couldn't do a better job of describing that scene. I don't know the names of any of the characters. I like that scene for two reasons. One, it explains why I blog and why I try to read other blogs and online publications, even though I fought it for a long time. Two, I think the show does a good job of addressing the way media is changing. You probably couldn't tell in my description, but it was a pretty funny scene as well.

Studio 60 is a pretty astute show and a lot funnier than SNL, and I have to get back to it because commercials are over.

Friday, September 22, 2006

David Brent is still my favorite boss

I just read this interesting article about the difference between different versions of The Office. I didn't know that in addition to the British original and American version, there are also French and German incarnations. The author, Liesl Schillinger, addresses why the British version doesn't work in other countries.

The point that workplaces are different in each country and viewers find humor in what they recognize is a valid one. Why then do I love the British Office so much?

It's because it's hilarious-- David Brent saying how awful sexism is while degrading women, Brent helping a girl in a wheelchair down the stairs during a fire drill and then leaving her halfway down because he's too tired, Tim's tricks on Garrett. It's because of the human element-- the desire for something more out of life from Tim, the sadness of a man who only wants people to think he's funny, the unsatisfying relationship that Dawn is stuck in.

I refuse to watch the American version so I know it's not fair for me to criticize it, but whenever I hear people explain to me why the American version is different from the British, I don't get it. It sounds the same to me.

According to the article, the American boss, Michael Scott, tries to maintain the appearance of a serious workplace, but David Brent does not. The example of this is Scott's "misguided motivational lecture." Brent gives motivational lectures as well and while comedy is his main goal, he also thinks he is productive.

The relationship between Dawn and Tim seems to be mirrored by Pam and Jim (couldn't they think of a name that doesn't rhyme with Tim?).

Schillinger writes, "In the British version, nobody is working, nobody has a happy relationship, everyone looks terrible, and everybody is depressed." I disagree. Tim and Dawn do not look terrible. They're not beautiful, but they look like average people and are certainly not ugly. The show is depressing, but it's in large part because the characters don't know how unhappy they are. Also, the British are not living outside of the office. They may go out to the pubs after work, but they always go with people from the office.

I will admit that I am stubborn. I am strangely protective of the British Office. I actively promoted it when I came back from England. It was hard enough to get people to watch it without the American version. I appear to be fighting a losing battle. Maybe this is just proof that I'm a Brit at heart and I'll just leave it at that and quietly take comfort in my DVDs.

I hope I didn't offend any fans of the American Office. While I don't think I'll ever watch it, the article did open up my eyes (although it's hard to tell from my rant).

Monday Night Television

Thanks to CBS and NBC, Monday night might be the new Thursday. I didn't get to catch the premiere of "The Class" because I was in class, although I was curious if David Crane could produce another hit after "Friends." Here are the two shows I did get to watch:

"How I Met Your Mother":
Although the new season of "How I Met Your Mother" has some major plot changes, the show seems too similar to the first season, and not in a good way.

Ted keeps promising his children that he will tell him the story of how he met their mother, but she has yet to appear. The new season starts with Ted finally getting together with Robin, but he told us in the very first episode that she is not the woman he marries. It is hard to root for a couple that you know is not going to last. It is common in the show for Ted to tell us what is going to happen before it happens, so it makes watching the show pointless.

The only reason to keep coming back is that one day, the mother will be revealed. But it is doubtful whether this will be enough to keep viewers intrigued for more than another season, if that.

The show has its highlights. Neil Patrick Harris does his best to make Barney more than a one-dimensional stereotype. And for every 10 lame jokes (or maybe for every 20), there is at least one good one. In any case, there is still hope for "How I Met Your Mother," at least for now.

"Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip":
I didn't take any notes on this and my memory of television is not as good as my memory of film for some reason. I suppose I could look up information about the show, but I'll just make this a few of my initial reactions:

Saturday Night Live is no fun to watch anymore, so who would have thought that a show about the behind-the-scenes of a sketch comedy show could be so enjoyable. Aaron Sorkin (best known for "The West Wing"), apparently, and he was right.

The episode starts at a taping of the sketch comedy show, also called "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip." The guests are Felicity Huffman and Three 6 Mafia (Oscar winners, as they don't fail to mention) in what one can only hope will be the first of many delightful cameos.

The executive producer, Wes, played by Judd Hirsch, is trying to get a sketch on the air, but the censors won't allow it as it makes fun of Christians. During the show's opening (the fake show, not the real one), Wes interrupts a Bush sketch to rant about the state of television and the world in general in a scene that openly pays tribute to "Network."

This occurs on Jordan McDeere's (Amanda Peet) first day as network president. To make a long story short, she hires Matt Albie (Matthew Perry) and Danny Tripp (Bradley Whitford) to save the show, and there we have the premise for the season.

The show has a lot of things going for it-- sharp dialogue, an interesting plot, and a solid cost. Perry and Whitford are the clear stars. They can partake in the humorous buddy banter while still sweetly portraying the close relationship of these two men without it feeling too sappy.

The only mistake in the first episode was not to show the sketch that was cut. After talking about it so much, viewers would inevitably be curious. Maybe they'll open with it next week.

Monday, September 18, 2006

The Mix

This is my article that appeared in The Mix, an insert in the Sunday Post-Standard. Everybody in my program wrote an article about something relating to arts and culture and Syracuse. This is mine. If you click on it, you can enlarge the image and read the article.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Another stab in the heart from Disney

Ashley Tisdale (High School Musical and The Suite Life of Zack and Cody) has a new music video of "Kiss the Girl" from The Little Mermaid which is now played regularly on the Disney Channel. I don't know who gave this girl the idea that she could sing, but Disney Channel should stop encouraging it. Her high-pitched, shrieky voice sounds unnatural. In the music video, it seems that she is trying to imitate Hilary Duff's style and facial expressions. Ashley Tisdale, you are not a sex goddess. You can't sing. And "Kiss the Girl" is a classic that should not be covered by anybody, especially you. I was so excited about the two-disc Little Mermaid DVD that comes out just in time for my birthday (the sound on my videotape is ruined from so many viewings), but I'm really hoping this music video isn't on it.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

This is the true story...

I don't have a burning desire to have my whole life taped or to live with six strangers (or is it seven?) and yet I auditioned for the Real World today. If you can call it an audition.

I was working at Starbucks all day and the fine people at MTV were hosting Real World auditions at a restaurant close by from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. I wasn't scheduled to get off work until 7:15, so I went on my ten minute break to check out the auditions. It was less crowded than I had anticipated, but there was still a couple dozen reality show hopefuls filling out application forms outside. They looked pretty young, I'd assume they were mostly undergraduate students, but I can't be sure of that. I told the casting people that I had to get back to work but I asked them if I would be able to audition during my half hour break. They said ok and gave me an application.

The walk to and from the restaurant and my talk with the casting people took up pretty much my whole 10 minutes so I had to fill out my application in between ringing people up and making frappuccinos. Here are some samples of the insipid questions:
"What was your most embarrassing moment?"
"What would your closest friends describe as your best/worst traits?"
"What is something unique about you?"
"Describe your relationship with your parents."

I went back to the auditions during my half hour break with my barely legible form. As promised, they let me audition right away, but it was not what I expected. I thought it would be a video-taped one-on-one interview, but instead one of the casting directors interviewed a group of us at once. There were too many of us so I couldn't hear what was going on half the time. We were at a long table and I was at one of the ends. If you ask me, it would have made more sense if we were in a circle, but they didn't. First we all had to go around and introduce ourselves and say something unique about ourselves. Then the casting director asked us questions about why people our age don't vote and what we think about the casting of the Real World. I left early on in the process because half-an-hour goes quickly when you're taking part in such intellectually stimulating conversation. Or something. I was surprised that people were not going out of there way to impress the casting director. Everyone seemed pretty boring.

When I left the casting director thanked me and said if I was chosen for a call-back, they would call me tonight. I knew I wouldn't get a call-back because I didn't say that much during the interview and there was nothing about my application that would really stand out considering I filled it out in about five minutes and I'm not anorexic or manic deppressive or anything else that might appeal to the fine people at MTV. I almost did want a call-back because that's when they do the one-on-one interviews that they videotape and that's the only reason I went to the audition in the first place. I thought it would be fun to create a new persona, but since we weren't being taped, it hardly seemed worth the effort. All in all, my Real World auditions were disapointing, even more so than the time I was on TRL.

In Starbucks related news, I listened to parts of the new Bob Dylan album, "Modern Times," at work today. It sounded awesome, but I'm not sure if I should buy it. Apparently, partners now get a 50% off discount for CDs until the 24th, which is a nice incentive. But the only Dylan CDs I have are "Highway 61 Revisited" and a greatest hits. I think I should get classic albums like "Blonde on Blonde" or "John Wesley Harding" before I get his newer stuff. There is this section in Nick Hornby's book "31 Songs" were he talks about Dylan and I wish I had the book with me because I don't want to misrepresent what he said. He was saying that he likes Dylan, but isn't a huge fan, but he listed everything he knew about Dylan, things that even the most casual fans know (he was born Robert Allen Zimmerman in Duluth, Minnesota), and I think he made the comment that it was more than he knew about a lot of people. I too categorize myself as a casual fan, but I feel like there are certain Dylan albums I should own.

Some of my co-workers were looking at CDs and contemplating buying some, but I don't think either of them did. Right now I'm leaning to the conclusion that most people don't actually buy CDs at Starbucks, they just think about it a lot.