Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Coming out all over again

Going to my 10-year reunion, I knew I had been a feature in the local rumor mill ever since my graduation. Near the end of my senior year -- a matter of days before prom, in fact -- I told my girlfriend of two years that I thought I might be gay. She almost made good on her promise not to tell anyone, but as anyone from a suburban-to-rural area knows, all it takes is one person for the rumor to catch fire. I had no idea how widespread it was until I finally came out to my mother at the age of 21, when she informed me that my fifth grade science teacher, of all people, had told her about me years earlier.

I didn't know if it would be an issue at the reunion, however. While I might be just a little flamboyant, my style has always been, at least while in Texas, to release that information only if asked. And for the first few hours of the family picnic portion of the reunion, no one did ask. Then, as I was about to leave, it happened. I started talking to someone whom I rarely talked to in high school, and in the course of the usual small talk, we had this conversation:

Him: So, what about you? Are you married? Do you have any kids?
Me: Lord, no.
Him: So, what? Are you gay or something?
Me: (I just laughed)
Him: Well, are you?
Me: Yes.

In this case, it wasn't the rumor mill. Apparently, the earrings gave me away. But not having been forced to have that conversation with anyone in a long time, it felt kind of good to have it again.

A few others mentioned it later at the cocktail party that evening, but to my surprise, it turned out to be a non-issue. I even had some wonderful conversations with some classmates with whom I'd never really associated before. And it was quite nice to catch up with those with whom I had.

I know a lot of people blow off their 10-year reunions, but I'm glad I didn't. One classmate and I mentioned how small our old elementary school looked whenever you went back inside as an adult. I know now that the same thing will happen to those demons from the past.

With that greeting card moment behind me, I also lost two more contenders for a theme song during the trip: "I Get A Kick Out Of You" and (sob) "Move Your Feet."

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Back through the looking glass

I just got back from subUrbia, the new Eric Bogosian play showing at Second Stage Theatre. Even though it was very typical of the angry suburbian young adult angst and anger plays that are a dime a dozen nowadays, my overall impression was positive. I'm not, however, going to review it any further. It's closing Sunday, and a full review at this point would be a little stupid. I will say, however, that someone needs to find another project for Kieran Culkin as soon as possible once this one is over. He was phenomenal.

The show itself also was a nice segue for my trip tomorrow. Yes, for the next four days, I'm returning to my old stomping grounds of Brazoria County, Texas for my high school reunion. I'm sure it should provide plenty of blogging fodder and incriminating photos over the weekend.

A few other housekeeping items before I go:

i've added one more link: mambopalace. he's the South Parkiest of Republicans and almost got me fired today by making me laugh out loud in front of my boss at a joke about a crowd of people being birthed from rush limbaugh's belly. you had to be there. yes, i know there are no capitals in this paragraph. visit, and you'll see why.

And, in a theme song update, "Get Busy" and "You Are The Sunshine Of My Life" both came up in the last few days, and therefore are off the list. Go Junior/Senior!

Nanny McFab

Audiences were more than kind to the first long-term tenant at the New Amsterdam Theatre after its opening in 1997, with "The Lion King"doing healthy business until its recent move to the Minskoff. I'm predicting a similar shelf life for its second tenant, the long-awaited "Mary Poppins."

The film was always one of my childhood favorites, and the stage version was able to appease my nostalgia while offering a few nice surprises. There are a few variations from the movie plot that make it a little darker, such as the appearance of the ghastly former nanny of Mr. Banks in the second act. Overall, however, it's a fitting complement to the Oscar-winning Disney favorite.

Ashley Brown is a delight as the title character, even in the more than practically perfect shadow of Julie Andrews. With enough surprise entrances to make Penn Jillette jealous, Brown is a radiant presences as she prissily struts the stage with a constant warm smile. The standout, however, is London import Gavin Lee, reprising his role as Burt from the original London production. The word triple threat is thrown around a bit too casually nowadays, and this isn't exactly the show to show off his best acting chops, but his ability to tap dance upside down on the ceiling -- as seen in the frenetic "Step In Time" number -- gives him enough bonus points to earn the designation for now. Plus, it's nice to hear a Burt with an actual Cockney accent. I think even Dick Van Dyke himself has admitted how awful his accent was in the movie.

Rebecca Luker makes a welcome return to Broadway as Mrs. Banks, a character who has been altered slightly from the movie. No longer is Mrs. Banks Glynis Johns' determined suffragette. This Mrs. Banks is a former actress who now doesn't quite know what to do with herself, stuck throwing tea parties for people she doesn't even know. The fleshed-out role gives the proper moments to Luker's soprano. Daniel Jenkins ably plays the two sides of the stuffy Mr. Banks.

Ruth Gottschall, as AntiPoppins Miss Andrew, leaves the strongest impression among the supporting cast.The rest fare well. The adorable Mark Price gets to reprise his clumsy Lefou schtick as servant Roberston Ay, although the slapstick seems a little out of place.

Although there are no giraffes walking down the aisle, there are plenty of great effects and stage tricks to dazzle the kiddies. Mary's anticipated flight at the end doesn't disappoint, but there also are some great visual tricks during the "Practically Perfect" number with a seemingly bottomless bag, and Burt's upside-down tap dance was almost a show-stopper.

One scene that receiving a lot of pre-show buzz is the "Temper, Temper" number near the end of Act I, when the toys in the Banks children's nursery rise up against their naughty owners. Some contend that it's too frightening for children. Nonsense. If they could survive the creepy Childcatcher in last season's "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang," this should be no problem.

I don't know what the critics will say about this show. My love of the movie might be coloring my opinion, but at the same time, it's nice to see a show that successfully married the family-friendly formula and quality. Chitty was just too soulless, and while I haven't seen "Tarzan," I think I know enough to deem it an overall mess. Mary Poppins, however, is a spoonful of sugar that happily did not leave me with diabetes.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Profanity, old people make great dance mixes

Didn't make it to the Streisand concert? No worries! Coming, I hope, soon to a dance club near you: a dance mix of of her infamous outburst. This was put together by a protege of Marc Shaiman, the composer of the South Park movie and Hairspray musical fame (they're both now working on Martin Short's show), and it's fantastic.

I've adored campy mixes ever since I first heard Crystal Waters' "Come On Down" set to scenes from "The Price is Right" at Rich's in Houston years ago. I could make a whole playlist out of these things. I'm also quite fond of the mix made to the ranting "God Warrior" woman from "Trading Spouses" as well as the babbling Janet Parshall's "La-la-la-la, I can't hear you moment," set to Outkast's "Hey Ya!" Diva moments are great, but of course, cheesy TV commercials can be just as much fun when put to music.

There's a whole cult on YouTube built around Wilford Brimley's Liberty Medical commercials and his mangling of the word "diabeetis." Of course, this includes some dance mixes. But they still don't beat my favorite...this classic from the early 90s.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Who are the people in your neighborhood?

This blog is now just about three months old -- still a baby, I know -- but I finally think it's mature enough to start dating other blogs. That's right. My HTML-illiterate self managed to figure out how to add links even though they are a part of virtually none of the Blogger templates.

Like my music taste, my taste in Web sites is quite eclectic, and the list might cause anyone who actually knows me to say, "What the hell...?" For one thing, this is certainly not an exhaustive list of my daily read. But really: Do I think that somebody is going to stumble onto this blog and say, "Hey, Ma! I just found this site where this fella's talkin' about Barbra Streisand and absurdist theatre, and he has a link to this thing called the 'New York Times.' Ever heard of it?" No, to me, links are more of a self-observation than a reader service. With that said, here are the sites I have chosen to link for now:

Confessions of a Southern Boy in Yankee Land
Eric is my most faithful commenter, so he gets the top slot. Although he's lived in Manhattan much longer than I have, we've found it rather odd how parallel certain experiences have been. And, his fabulous site has just been featured on Best Gay Blogs.

Pam's House Blend
I've been a long-time follower of Pam Spaulding's Research Triangle-based blog and have watched it grow into one of the leading LGBT blogs. Pam braves the sewers of AgapePress, FreeRepublic and other spots to bring to light some of the most horrifying viewpoints out there. Her "best of" links truly fit the bill.

Andrew Sullivan
My favorite conservative. I know people on both sides of the aisle have issues with him, and that's why I love him even when I disagree with him.

I grew up with both Kevin and Mike in Texas. Kevin, like me, is now in New York, and Mike is still in Texas, but both have great blogs and far superior computer skills to mine.

I've been following John Aravosis since the StopDrLaura days, back when I had a writing gig with the Texas Triangle (now called TXT). John's best known for breaking the whole Jeff Gannon thing wide open, and I've had the pleasure of hearing him speak at a few journalism conventions.

Lone Star Times
As I said a few posts down, I'm not usually in agreement with these guys, but they do some solid work, and it's a good way of keeping up with the goings-on in Texas without actually having to read the Houston Chronicle's difficult online set-up. Plus, all the Kinky Friedman news I could ever want!

The Facts
My old employer. As someone who has been on the inside there, I can say--even though usual newspaper turnover has made it to where few of my contemporaries are still there--they are the most dedicated and hardest working newsroom I have ever seen. And there's no other way to keep up with Brazoria County...

The Brazosport News
...except for this guy. Banjo Jones, one of the pioneer bloggers. He kept me on my toes when I worked for The Facts, although I had the privilege of being mentioned by name only once on his blog.

The Comics Curmudgeon
Daily comics today are almost never funny. They're mostly groan-inducing, ink-wasting pages of corn and treacle. Start reading Josh, though, and you'll find enjoyment of these comics in a whole new ironic light. He's even got me following Mary Worth. Also, this is one of the rare sites where the wit in the comments is actually almost as good as the wit in the original posts.

Michelle Malkin
Wha...? Yes, I'm linking to Michelle Malkin. Look. I find it informative to read from all viewpoints, and while there is little for me to agree with on her site, the rare occasions when there are can be a special treat. There are several uber-conservative bloggers I could have chosen, but she won out because I was impressed with her coverage of the Foley situation. She held the right people accountable and did not once resort to the easy choice of gay-bashing.

Media Matters for America
They listen to talk radio so I don't have to. Read the outrageous comments from people like Bill Donohoe or Michael Savage in full context. And any enemy of Bill O'Reilly is a friend of mine.

AKA -- the snake pit. My bitchy home away from home, but aside from that, a great place to dogpile all news Broadway.

That's it for now, although I'll certainly always be open to adding more as I go along. Or, if any of the chosen do not want to be associated with me...

Friday, October 20, 2006

Your reviewing powers are of no use here

Lyle Lanley: Y'know, a town with money is a little like the mule with a spinning wheel. No one knows how he got it and danged if he knows how to use it.[everybody laughs]
Homer: Heh heh heh... "Mule."

I had every intention of writing my thoughts on "Birth And After Birth," Tina Howe's new old work (she wrote it in the early 70s, but it's just now making its New York premiere) at the Atlantic Theatre Company. But I just can't. I cannot review absurdist plays.

I've always had a strange relationship with absurdism. I enjoy it, it makes me laugh, and it makes me think, but somehow, I don't think I quite understand it. I've read Pirandello. I've seen Pinter. I just feel like I'm missing a piece of it. It's like I've been smoking pot and find something really funny in the moment, but if you asked me to explain the joke the next day, I could never do it. I mean, I could read the other reviews to see what I'm supposed to think, but somehow, in a post-Julia Sweeney world, that just doesn't seem right.

How to explain this show? Bill (Jeff Binder, whom I last saw hanging upside down in "The Lieutenant of Inishmore") and Sandy (Maggie Kiley) are celebrating the fourth birthday of their son, Nicky (Jordan Gelber, whom I last saw, uh, not wearing underwear in "Avenue Q"). Yes, Nicky is played by an enormous, middle-aged man, who bulldozes through the scenery like...well, analogies fail me. Bill's a pathetic soul intent on capturing every manufactured moment on videotape, Sandy is a physical wreck with sand-textured dandruff and shedding hair and Nicky is every horrific child who has ever sat next to me on an airplane. That is, when he's not donning masks of former presidents Reagan, Lincoln, Carter and Nixon to recreate their famous speeches or playing the cello.

Later, we meet the childless relatives, Jeffrey (Peter Benson) and Mia (Kate Blumberg). See, Jeffrey and Mia are anthropologists who travel the world looking at exotic children in far-flung regions, but much to Bill and Sandy's confusion, they have no desire to have one of their own.

As is standard in absurdist comedies, characters have conversations on-stage that seem to be independent of anything else going on. Bill rambles about changing his name while Nicky and Sandy play a game in which they pretend to be children. Jeffrey shows slides while Mia talks about a tribe of tailed tree people they encountered. Nicky wants grape juice. With ice. Mia ends up simulating birth on the floor and passing out, and...

OK. I get the general premise. Women face a certain pressure to have children. The show made me laugh, the acting was solid and, quite a feat, the device of having an adult play a child did not grate on me once. But if I had to write a thesis on this? I'd fail.

How to get out of this gracefully? Oh! While waiting for the R train on the way to the show, "Christus, der uns selig macht" came up on my iPod. So, my theme song choices are now down to nine. Now if you'll excuse me, I could use some grape juice.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

My kindred spirit is Pat? Who knew?

One of my more memorable moments in college -- while in class, at least -- came during the first semester of my freshman year, when all of us honors students were forced to take a class called "The Human Situation," a daunting philosophy/literature class that immediately threw all of the greats at us. The second assignment was the books of Samuel in the Bible. One of my classmates, an atheist, objected to the professor that she now, yet again, had to read the Bible after having it forced on her all her life. The professor explained that she was looking at it the wrong way. After all, we had just finished reading "The Iliad," and she certainly had no problems reading about Zeus and Athena while not believing they existed, right?

It was then I realized, for the purposes of the class, that I was reading the Bible incorrectly. I started reading it not as a religious document but as a historical text. I started looking at it beyond the usual Sunday School parameters -- and wow. I realized how little I actually knew about the Bible--and how little so many nominal Christians probably have read it, too--because there's a lot of messy things to resolve when one really looks at it.

There's the contradictions. The implausible or horridly gory stories: men living inside whales, men being asked to sacrifice their children, bloody massacres and talking snakes. Is it literal? Allegorical? How far should faith really eclipse reason?

Little did I know that I would later find a kindred spirit in that journey: Julia Sweeney. Yes, that Julia Sweeney, who used to play Pat on Saturday Night Live. I caught her show, "Letting Go Of God," at the Ars Nova (aka...the ends of the freaking earth in Manhattan) tonight, in which she details her spiritual journey that began when two Mormon missionaries come knocking at her door. Having never seen "God Said, 'Ha!'" I had no idea what an insightful evening it would be.

Her journey started when the Mormons began explaining the founding story of their beliefs to her. Hearing it for the first time, it sounds just about as wacky as the South Park explanation of Scientology. Yet, it caused Sweeney to step back and look at her own Catholic upbringing, and she realized that the basics tenets would sound pretty wacky to someone else hearing it for the first time.

Knowledge is a dangerous thing, though. The more she found out--crawling out of Plato's cave, if you will--the less she found to believe in. Whether it was the vengeful God of the Old Testament, the lingering rigidity in the New Testament, the latent oppression in Buddhism, the heartlessness of nature and the fallacy of intelligent design, the more she looked for God, the further away he seemed to be.

This isn't some faux Hollywood spirituality story. This is the absolutely fascinating story of someone discovering critical thinking. While Sweeney might have ultimately come to a different conclusion than I did--she's now comfortably an atheist, while I have found a comfortable merger of reason and Christianity, albeit one that Jerry Falwell might not like--I loved reliving her journey with her. And in an age where religion is increasingly used to justify absolute stupidity and ignorance, it's a story more people need to hear.

I should add that the pre-show and intermission music chosen for this show was absolutely perfect as well. Cher's version of "It Ain't Necessarily So," Nellie McKay's "Inner Peace," and a somber country version of "In The Garden" -- superb.

My sophomore year, I decided to take a class to examine the Old Testament in its entirety. One guy in the class was always getting into an argument with the professor, arguing for a literal interpretation for everything. He refused to believe that Adam and Eve, while certainly a interesting myth from which we can glean some cultural lessons, might not have really been prancing around in a garden 5,000 years ago. He failed every test. And I'll bet God said, "Ha!"

Sunday, October 15, 2006

My theme for my 29th year

I enjoy goofy, randomly decided stuff that means nothing--as long as Diebold is not involved--so I'm letting my iPod decide my theme song for Mike's fiscal year 2006, which runs from (my birthday) Aug. 25 2006 until Aug. 25 2007.

Day-to-day, I almost always listen to my iPod on random shuffle for the nice eclectic mix that is my taste, and I've decided that the last surviving song with my birthday as the last-played date will be my theme for the year.

About 20 songs played on my birthday during the subway ride to and from work, and that's already been whittled down to 10 from the other songs showing up on shuffle since then. Fortunately, Reba McEntire's "For My Broken Heart" and "The Internet is for Porn" from Avenue Q have already been eliminated, but here's what's left:

"Get Busy" by Sean Paul (knocked out Oct. 24)
"Move Your Feet" by Junior Senior (knocked out Oct. 30)
A really schlocky Ferrante & Teicher version of "You Are The Sunshine of my Life" (knocked out Oct. 23)
"Christus, der uns selig macht" from Bach's Passion of St. John (knocked out Oct. 20)
"Our Children" from Ragtime, as performed by Marin Mazzie and Peter Friedman (knocked out Nov. 3)
"Sail Away" by Jessica Molaskey (knocked out Nov. 10)
"I Get A Kick Out of You" by Frank Sinatra (knocked out Oct. 30)
A remix of "Total Eclipse of the Heart" by Bonnie Tyler
"Let Mt. Zion Rejoice" by a rather shrill choir that I won't name (knocked out Dec. 21)
The "Get Happy/Happy Days Are Here Again" duet by Barbra Streisand and Judy Garland (no Bush tribute artist in sight)

I rooting for "Move Your Feet," myself. It's my kind of theme song -- peppy and just a little sugary. The Barbra/Judy duet is just, well, too obvious. As much as I love Bach chorales, I don't really think that's me, and likewise with Mt. Zion. I hope not to be sailing away anytime soon, unless that means there's a cruise in store for me, and I certainly don't want any children. "Total Eclipse of the Heart" is the only loser-in-love song left, so I'd like to see that one off the list as soon as possible. Sinatra and Ferrante & Teicher might have good intentions, but who wants an easy listening kind of year? No comment on how appropriate "Get Busy" would be.

Oh, and about the post title: This was an annoying little fact my father always has to bring up on everyone's birthday. You see, even though you're a certain age, you're actually in the "nth year" of one higher number. Get it? For example, when you're born, you're not considered to be a year old until your first birthday. But until that birthday, you're in your first year. So after your first birthday, you're in your second year, even though you're one year old. And since I'm 28, that means I'm in my 29th year. Now do you get it?

Of course, my dad also probably would tell me this is the dumbest thing he's ever heard. Sigh. Engineers.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Le odd duck: A review of 'Mimi le Duck'

Note: I saw the first preview of "Mimi le Duck," now playing at New World Stages, on Thursday. The show opens Oct. 31.

Paris has always been a source of inspiration for artists, but the colorless Mormon life in Ketchum, Idaho must be particularly draining, because it seems that only the technicolor Paris of a Pepe le Pew cartoon could snap one of its natives out of the artistic doldrums.

When we meet Miriam Sanders (Annie Golden), she knows precious little about Paris other than what she’s seen in a Gene Kelly movie, and her art is limited to paintings of the same duck with different backgrounds, which she sells on QVC. Husband Peter (Marcus Neville), of course, is oblivious to her ennui, even though it’s affected her so badly that she’s ready to stick a shotgun in her mouth.

Fortunately, Ketchum was also a favorite spot of someone else who knows a little about that suicide method, Ernest Hemingway, and his ghost appears in time to convince Miriam that a better answer might be to go to Paris and check out his old digs, where inspiration is supposed to come in the form of a green flash.

Yes, Hemingway’s ghost is a character in this show, and one of the more grounded ones, at that. Once Miriam makes it to Paris, sans Peter, we meet a host of characters who will now be her new neighbors. There’s Claude (Robert DuSold), the oyster shucker who harbors a strange fetish for Miss Marple. There’s Clay (Candy Buckley), the eccentric sculptress whose work looks as complex as the bottom of a lava lamp. There’s the faded chantreuse Madame Vallet (Eartha Kitt…who else?) and former lover Ziggy (Tom Aldredge), the owner of an empty, bird-themed nightclub. Strangest of all, there’s the con artist gypsy (Ken Jennings) who welcomes Miriam with a purse-snatching flourish.

Fortunately for Miriam, there’s no need for the American consulate after such a crime, because the denizens of Rue Danou seem perfectly happy to bend over backward to accommodate her. Vallet gives her Hemingway's old room, and Ziggy gives her a job in his club. Despite his warnings that the pay is tips only and it hasn’t seen customers in years, Miriam—now renamed Mimi—seems to make do (and it’s not exactly explained how).

"Mimi le Duck" is a bizarre little show that vacillates between some very lovely moments and some moments of almost "In My Life"-esque oddity. The windows and doors in the house at 22 Rue Danou sing, as do the portraits of Claude's oyster-shucking ancestors and we get to see Tom Aldredge glide around the stage on a scooter. And did I mention that Ken Jennings is playing a Spanish gypsy?

Annie Golden has always been a delight, and she doesn’t disappoint here. Miriam/Mimi is certainly endearing in her earnestness and naivety, but Golden doesn’t let it descend too far into aw-shucks foolishness. Despite the trite set-up, she and Nevelle have some nice moments in the second act.

Eartha Kitt is, well, Eartha Kitt, and no one should have gone in expecting any less. She’s obviously going to be the major draw to this show, and the audience lapped up her every purring syllable. She was nominated for a Tony for virtually the same performance in The Wild Party, so obviously, she’s doing something right.

The rest of the strong supporting cast does what they can, but the characters are so broadly written--they're all given a Cliff's Notes back story--that it seems almost laughable when they’re supposed to elicit sympathy from us. The plot twists among their storylines are either glaringly obvious, like Clay's, or somewhat pointless, like Vallet's big revelation at the end. But it's not their story, and the show does better when it remembers that.

The songs, by Brian Feinstein, are hit-and-miss. Some of the lyrics, by Diana Hansen-Young, are fairly repetitive and cliché-laden. Somehow, I doubt if Hemingway's ghost were singing today, he would be performing songs that boil some of his most famous works down into trite advice about "A Thousand Hands" ready to help out a stranger in need. Kitt has a nice lament onstage alone with "Everything Changes," as does Aldredge in the second act, with his wooing "The Only Time We Have Is Now." The fact that Aldredge does not have a beautiful voice and really sounds like an amorous octogenarian makes it work. Most of the second act songs, in fact, are far superior to the disjointed first act.

There were a few technical glitches last night, and some of the set changes were rather clunky, but they certainly can be chalked up to it being the first preview. One moving set piece proved particularly unstable, and I thought Aldredge was going to knock Golden to the ground every time he mounted it.

I left really not sure what to make of the show. I found it endearing, yet far too schizophrenic between the wackiness and the too-heavy pathos. The audience reaction was certainly mixed. One group of girls beside me laughed at it for all the wrong reasons, but the woman in front of me was moved to tears for the right ones.

When it comes down to it, I guess I would tentatively recommend the show just for the overall excellent cast—especially Golden—and for some parts of the lovely, albeit somewhat forgettable, score. With some work to the book, I see the potential for a good show. Perhaps, in time, this duck could be a golden goose instead of an odd bird.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

My evening with Barbra

Worth every penny, I'm happy to say. I largely agree with the New York Times' review of the concert: There were a few misfires throughout the evening, but they in no way detracted from the exhilerating whole.

Barbra's voice hasn't lost much over the years. There's an ever-so-slight rasp to it now, but the songs from "Funny Girl," "Starting Here, Starting Now" and especially "(Have I Stayed) Too Long At The Fair" are as brilliant as ever.

Yes, I could have done without the presence of Il Divo. I suppose there's a base somewhere for four tenors who can sing songs like "Unbreak My Heart," "My Way" and "Unchained Melody" in a variety of romance languages, but I don't happen to be a part of it. Actually, their solo portions in the show weren't too bad, but the four of them were far too overpowering to sing with Barbra on "Somewhere" and "Music of the Night" (her version is about the only version I will listen to of that overdone number nowadays).

The Bush sketch was much ado about nothing. Yes, it dragged a bit and wasn't terribly funny, but -- perhaps because it's been cut down in response to criticism -- it didn't take up too much time. It certainly wasn't overly nasty to Bush. At the end, in fact, Barbra showed a photo of impersonator Steve Bridges with Bush and remarked that she admired his ability to laugh at himself. Outside of that sketch, there was nothing really political about the evening at all. Some people just go to these things waiting to be offended. To put in in perspective, the lady sitting next to me was visiting from Israel and remarked before the show that there are virtually no entertainers in Israel whose political stance is unknown.

Meanwhile, Barbra seems to have addressed the other criticism of the bit, in that some felt it was inappropriate to recreate her legendary duet with Judy Garland using Bridges in Garland's role. Last night, Bridges left the stage and Barbra did "Happy Days Are Here Again" as a solo.

I also wish she had never pointed out the Teleprompter. Fortunately, the one facing me was on only when she was sharing the stage with Il Divo, but it really showed how perfectly scripted the entire show was. Every syllable of the fawning exchange mentioned in the Times' review came up on the screen, which I could read clearly through my binoculars.

My seats were not bad at all. I was on the third level of Madison Square Garden, but not too far off the stage, so I could see the trademark Barbra mannerisms -- the finger run-through of the hair, for instance -- without the binoculars. And I couldn't help but laugh at the poor schmucks not more than 15 feet down from me who paid nearly four times what I did.

I'm usually terrible at spotting celebrities, but through my scan of the floor I was able to find Bill and Hillary Clinton, Rosie O'Donnell, Regis and Joy Philbin, Sondheim and someone whom I'm 90 percent sure was Barry Manilow. There were a lot more there -- Sarah Jessica Parker, Lauren Bacall and Bebe Neuwirth among them -- but if I don't know whom I'm looking for, I'll never find them.

All in all, it was a night I'll never forget, as I know it was probably my last chance to catch one of her shows. I'll definitely be getting the inevitable CD when it came out.

The above photo, I should note, is lovingly stolen from BroadwayWorld's photo coverage of the Monday night concert. Speaking of Broadway, to which Barbra indicated that she has no intention of returning, I was reminded of seeing another legendary Barbra, or Barbara, in concert earlier this year: La Cook. Even though she has a few years on Streisand, Barbara Cook didn't need no stinking Teleprompter. Of course, that also meant that she had to start "Not A Day Goes By" about four times so she could get it right for the recording, but still...

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

My constitution isn't evergreen

I buckled today. Because of the outrageous pricing, I had no intention of going to see Barbra Streisand at Madison Square Garden. But I got an offer today that I couldn't resist. Yes, it's still far too much considering that I will be sitting in the nosebleeds. It was well within my budget, however, so I decided that this might be my only chance to see a tiny blur sing "Unusual Way." One who isn't Laura Benanti, that is.

So I'll get to see the much maligned Bush sketch in person tomorrow. Really, the reaction to this has been laughable. Come on. It's Barbara Streisand. Just as I would expect plenty of chest-beating and overly patriotic zeal if I were to attend a Toby Keith concert, anyone who goes to a Barbara Streisand concert -- especially one billed as a fundraiser for progressive causes -- should expect to hear her speak her mind. This isn't exactly a Dixie Chicks vs. the C&W-loving populace story, folks.

Also laughable is the hand-wringing over her "shut the fuck up" response to a heckler last night. Dick Cheney, after all, has already set up that the f-bomb is perfectly acceptable in forms of self-defense.

It should be noted that the Bush impersonator appearing with Babs is the very talented Steve Bridges. Bridges is the guy who often appears on The Tonight Show to play Bush, and he's even appeared with Bush himself at the White House Correspondents' Association dinner. Not only does he also claim to do a great Clinton, but one of the articles linked to his site also identifies him as a Republican. So who says Babs can't be bi-partisan?

At any rate, I'll post my thoughts tomorrow. I'm also catching an early preview performance of Mimi le Duck -- a new off-Broadway musical starring Annie Golden, Eartha Kitt, Tom Aldredge and Ken Jennings (of the original Sweeney Todd fame and not the Jeopardy! guy) -- on Thursday, so I'll actually have some theatre to write about for the first time in a long time.

Or anything at all, for that matter. I haven't posted since last Wednesday? How embarrassing!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

All it needs is a backward-talking dwarf

Moving away from politics and back into the shallow end for a while, I must get this off my chest: I just don't understand Manhattan Storage's ads. Ever.

The latest campaign is the one here. I know it's tiny, as I had to snap it from a distance. Basically, it's a couple of mullet-headed trailer park dwellers sitting on patio furniture with a big ice chest and an 80s-style boombox outside of a house, with the warning: "You're just not meant for the suburbs."

OK, first of all, who is "you" supposed be? The frightening people in the photo? If so, that's a New Yorker stereotype I'm not really familiar with, although presumably it could be about Staten Islanders, I guess.

Or is this supposed to be the suburban hell that awaits me if I leave my Manhattan paradise? Well, I hate to tell them, but if that's the best neighborhood I could find, the $29 a month for storage is probably going to be too steep for me.

Admittably, this campaign makes a bit more sense than their last one: A man who looks one of the above guys' uglier brother forlornly clutching a teddy bear with the title: "I wish I could quit you." Now obviously, although the quote is somewhat butchered and the subject would look like Heath Ledger only after a few sandpaper and acid baths, it was a reference to Brokeback Mountain. But why? Is the poor guy so heartbroken that he's going to rent an entire storage unit to save his teddy bear and perhaps a button-up shirt that reeks of a lost love?

I guess Manhattan Storage is just too abstract for me. And remember: This criticism is coming from someone who adored "Mulholland Drive."

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Foley's poison apple sale

Let's get one thing clear, bloggers, mainstream media, pundits, politicians et al: Mark Foley is not gay. He might be homosexual, but he's never wanted membership in the club, and he's not going to get it now. He represents nothing more than a mentally ill, deranged constituency of one.

Unlike many of my fellow progressives, I did not rejoice when I heard about the Foley scandal. I knew exactly where they were going to take this, and sure enough, it's been taken there. We're in full-on blame-the-gays mode.

Let's begin with WorldNetDaily columnist and professional twat Linda Harvey. This braindead harpy seems to think that Foley's problem indicates that all gay men should be locked up and castrated. She says:

Open or suspected homosexuals should never be elected. The problem with homosexuals is that they frequently don't have common sense and don't acknowledge appropriate boundaries. Weird sex, public displays of "affection" and nudity, and sex with youth are built into the "gay" sub-culture. Witness any pride parade, stroll around any predominantly "gay" neighborhood, or visit "GLBT" websites and you quickly see the problem.
Next up, let's take a visit the Lone Star Times blog. Quoth one of the commenters:

People used to fear us a year ago they were scared to death of us! We have let that happen in our allowing deranged boy blind faggots and wimp bastard retreatists get their hands on the reigns. I read in the paper this morning that Foley wasn't outed because we were afraid of offending gays!
Wow! So somehow, the Iraq quagmire is the gays' fault, as demonstrated by the Foley scandal. What analysis! Never mind that Mark Foley is one out of hundreds of Republicans, most of whom would just as soon see the homos sent to the gas chamber if they thought it would please the cracker electorate as represented above.

Well, unlike some underarm hair of Joseph Farah's or some 297-pound unemployed redneck from the greater Houston area (just making a guess, based on my experience there), I have had a bit more exposure to gay men than some 1950s PSA and reruns of The Match Game. Let me make this clear: Not only does every gay man I know have no interest in underaged boys, they also abhor and ostracize the small minority of them who do. So you folks shut the hell up and take responsibility for your party's own mess, and stop trying to place the blame on me, Barney Frank, some disgraced congressman from 30 years ago and Bishop Gene Robinson.

Oh, and a special message for Mark Foley: If you're thinking of having some contrite, James McGreevey "I am a gay American" moment, don't. No one wants to hear about your alcoholism, your supposed abuse at the hands of priests or whatever. Just go find some dark corner where you can masturbate to the pre-teen section of the JC Penney catalog and Degrassi episodes and vanish.

Update: To be fair, LST blogger David Benzion (as noted in the comments) has deleted the comment I quoted, and the LST people have done a good job historically of deleting or calling out people on such comments. I wouldn't read the blog otherwise.