Sunday, November 25, 2007

One of those heinous 'why I'm not posting' posts

My blogging record has been pretty bad the last few weeks -- even for me! Let me explain: I'm never home. And that won't be changing anytime soon.

Between business trips, a choral retreat and holiday visits with family members, I've figured out that I will be actually sleeping in my apartment a grand total of 15 nights for the rest of this year. I'm sitting in Texas right now, in fact, about to go to bed so that I can wake up and fly to Budapest tomorrow. If I can get out, that is. The weather in Houston really bites this weekend.

So expect my blogging to be more sporadic than usual the next few weeks. But at least know that when I do write something, it's because I really have something to say.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

My holiday sanity guide

At this point, I've already had all the Starbucks holiday drinks -- even the fat, fat fatty eggnog latte -- the wreaths are up at Penn Station, and, thanks to preparations for the NYC Gay Men's Chorus holiday show, I've been singing "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" since September. But that's OK with me. I'm a pretty damn cynical person, but I still get caught up in the whole holiday thing.

It's largely because of the music. Yeah, I'm one of those annoying people who doesn't mind mixing in a little holiday music on his iPod shuffle year-round. But I'm convinced the people who hate holiday music are those who don't listen to it right. They either get stuck on on of those all-holiday radio stations that play the same flat versions of the standards over and over again -- Just what IS so funny to Bruce Springsteen at the end of his "Santa Claus is Coming to Town"? And don't get me started on the cruddy Christmas shoes song, or the one where Dan Fogelberg drinks beer with an old flame in a supermarket parking lot -- or, even worse, they just judge by department store holiday muzak.

Nay, I say! Here's 10 holiday songs that I can't live without, in no particular order:

"That's What I Want for Christmas," as sung by Nancy Wilson
The radio leans toward the Dixie-Chicks-lite group sheDAISY's version of this song, but there's no holiday song around that's better suited to the sultry Miss Nancy.

"Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," as sung by Doris Day
The Judy Garland version is just too obvious, so Day's is a nice alternative. And, unlike most non-Garland versions, this one sticks to the original, depressing lyrics. Oh, crap. I'm going to get that "speaking of Judy Garland..." message in my comments now.

"Jingle Bells?," as sung by Barbra Streisand
This one gets a little radio play, but not much. Absolutely hilarious and a wonderful reminder that Barbra doesn't ALWAYS take herself so seriously.

Ding Dong Merrily on High," as sung by Julie Andrews
The recording is kind of hard to find now, Dame Andrews' Christmas album -- given away at Hallmark more than a decade ago -- is one of the best. This is probably the most showy piece for her on the album.

"God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," as performed by Linda McKechnie
McKechnie isn't well-known outside of the church musician circle, but she's really quite a fun arranger. Her usual gimmick is to take a classical work and wrap a hymn tune around it. It's stunning how well they intertwine sometimes. This is one of those cases, in which the old carol is mingled with "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies."

"Gloria," as performed by the Boston Pops
I didn't know this Randol Bass composition until last year, when I performed it with the chorus. Quite a fascinating piece, using a lot of irregular meter, actually. Of course, it's also available on the chorus' "Holiday Homecoming" album. Plug!

"Do You Hear What I Hear?" as performed by The Carpenters
I'm hard-pressed to pick just one song of The Carpenters' holiday canon, as those are THE holiday albums for me. While everyone might gravitate toward "Merry Christmas, Darling," I prefer this standard in all its Carpenter cheesiness.

"I'll Be Home for Christmas," as performed by Connie Francis
She sings it just like she sang "Where the Boys Are." And, uh, pretty much everything else. 'Nuff said.

"Please Come Home for Christmas," as performed by Anita Cochran
Again, the song itself its in fairly regular rotation on the radio. But they play only the dull-as-Dishwalla version by The Eagles or the version by love-him-or-hate-him Aaron Neville. Listen to a country-fried version, though, and you'll never want to hear it any other way.

"What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?" as performed by the O'Jays
It's probably blasphemy to pick their version when both Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald have versions. But this is shrieky doo-wop at its best, folks.

There you have it. Most of these are on iTunes, except for Julie Andrews, I think. Still not convinced? Perhaps as December gets closer, I'll put together the 10 absolute worst holiday recordings I know.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

What wine should I serve with roach crap?

Here's a tasty bit of irony. Last week, Upper East Side tourist magnet Serendipity 3 unveiled its latest in opulance: a $25,000 chocolate sundae, using numerous exotic chocolates, served in a gold goblet wrapped in a diamond bracelet with edible gold -- does that even digest, or is it like the morning after drinking Goldschlager? -- and accompanied by an exotic truffle. The owner bragged to the media how he knew that wealthy Saudi princes would be flooding the dessert eatery picking up a couple to impress their wives.

This week? The place is shut down by the health inspector. Sewage problems, live mice, tons of cockroaches -- you name it, they found it. Nummers.

Honestly, even if I were a Saudi prince, I can't imagine myself eating these overpriced publicity gimmicks. Remember the famed $1,000 pizza from earlier this year? The one with six kinds of caviar, fresh lobster, chives and creme fraiche on it? Way, way too busy. Your tongue wouldn't even be able to distinguish the different caviars. The common cook's rule of limiting your pizzas to about three ingredients is there for a reason.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Weekend review roundup

Well, actually, uh...I was going to see either "August: Osage County," "The Seafarer" or "A Bronx Tale" this weekend, but obviously, that didn't happen. And I'll spare you guys another Duran Duran post. Instead, I'll try to respond some common things I've been reading and hearing regarding the strike. I might not have intimate knowledge of the parties involved, but I have covered my share of labor negotiations in the past.

Lazy union people. I wish I could just not show up for work when things don't go my way.

Guess what? You can! Not in a union? Try to organize a wildcat strike. Or better yet, why not just use one of those wonderful sick days, personal days or vacation days you've no doubt been accumulating? You know, one of those things you probably wouldn't even have had unions never existed? You'll even still get paid!

If people don't like their job, they should just go find a new one instead of whining about it all the time.

Yeah. That's really easy to do. Everyone who makes this argument hereby loses the right to ever complain about any aspect of his/her work again. And that would make them one of those people who just prattle on about how wonderful his/her job is. And nobody likes those people.

It's pretty selfish for them to go on strike considering how some people have planned trips in advance to see shows.

Yeah, um, if there wasn't any hardship, it wouldn't be a very effective strike, would it? Sad to say, but all travel planning entails some risk. Whether it's Hurricane Bertha canceling your Caribbean cruise or Grandpa Gus having a massive stroke the day before your flight to Tripoli (I just learned Americans can go there again. Cool!), crap happens. Hell, when I went to Yellowstone, it rained the whole time, and I didn't get to ride a horse for the first time. I cried. Of course, I also was 9 years old. At least in this case, you get almost a full refund.

And on the other side:

The media spends far too much time talking to tourists with canceled tickets and not nearly enough time talking to the people this strike is really affecting.

Yes, because those angry tourists are easy to find and usually more than willing to talk. I once covered a strike in which a certain party complained that their side wasn't making it into the stories -- and then would provide me a one- or two-sentence canned statement to state its position. Simple entropy, folks. The loudest and most accessible people will always get the best coverage.

In New York, $150,000 a year barely qualifies as middle class.

Then I am beyond poverty stricken.

You insensitive jerk. I really do have a Grandpa Gus, and he just died last week.

Oops. My condolences.

Friday, November 09, 2007

One more Duran Duran video

I can't resist, so here's one more. I actually shot one more, but the video quality is so bad, I'm too embarrassed to post it. Yes, it's possible to shoot with worse video quality than what you're seeing here!

At any rate, this was during the electronica set of the concert, a performance of "Skin Trade." Sorry the camera moves around so much, but I was dancing at this point. You also get a fab view of the video camera the girl in front of me was using.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Breaking the law!

Ushers were oddly complacent during Duran Duran's performance at the Barrymore Theatre. They made sure nobody brought beer back to their seats, but in regards to photography, it was a free-for-all. The girl in front of me had an actual video camera out for the entire second act.

Well, when in Rome...

I'll have more on the show later, but here's a little video I shot from the rear mezzanine. Enjoy it until YouTube inevitably takes it down.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

A vision of the Claymates in the year 2050

As was alluded to in the comments, it was a rather fun people-watching experience at the Steve & Eydie concert the other night 4 p.m. in the afternoon. Let's just say it made us feel quite young! But nothing compared with the crew behind us.

It was a crew of typical er, mature Long Island ladies. I couldn't really describe their appearance because I didn't look behind me too often. But I could pick any one of them out of a lineup if they opened their mouths.

Even before the dazzling duo appeared onstage, the opening clip montage was enough to provoke squeals of delight. It was kind of like the dead people reel during the Oscars. Who could get the biggest gasp? Steve Allen? Judy Garland? Bob Hope?

Nay, but that nothing compared to the nonstop chatter once Steve and Eydie started the show. I swear, it was like Hannah Montana herself was up there and I was a Brownie den mother. Or whatever they're called. Each song was followed by shrieks of "I LOVE YOU STEVE! YOU'RE FANTASTIC EYDIE!" And so on. Meanwhile, the songs themselves provoked orgasmic ohs of delight. I was expecting a pair of support hose or a bladder pad to fly past my head toward the stage at any minute. This was their Woodstock, dammit. And as seemingly annoying as it got, my companion and I agreed that it was just too funny to be truly annoying. Hell, I hope I keep passion for something...anything...going that long into my life.

Speaking of which, I just realized I've been quite neglectful in adding said companion to my link list. I've rectified that now.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Weekend review roundup

Rock 'n' Roll
How current is this? I'm actually writing about a show on the day it opens, just like a real reviewer! Yeah, and my ego needs the boost, because once again, Tom Stoppard has made me feel woefully inadequate. But here goes anyway. Rufus Sewell is absolutely stunning in his journey as Jan, a Czech native who returns from his studies in England with a love for the rock music the increasingly oppressive Communist regime finds dangerous and subversive. Brian Cox also is a powerhouse as Jan's mentor Max, who clings to the Communist party in England even as he sees the worldwide execution of the political philosophies' ideals betrayed by those who are spreading it. Both master Stoppard's usual delicious language. Yet, the stories that surround them just left me a little cold. Like "The Coast of Utopia" trilogy, Stoppard runs through the vignettes in Max's and Jan's lives at breakneck pace. This worked in "Utopia," in which we were dealing with historical figures. Here, however, these characters are all the invention of Stoppard, while the actual historical figures--Syd Barrett and Vaclav Havel the most prominent--largely remain offstage as catalysts to their development. The play too often feels like bullet points painting the life of two fictional characters. Beautifully written and acted bullet points, but bullet points nonetheless. Still, there are worse things to sit through than a Tom Stoppard Power Point presentation. And this one comes with really cool musical breaks in between scenes.

Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas
I missed this little spectacle last year, but--in my quixotic quest to see everything that opens on Broadway this year--I decided to give it a visit. And, to no fault of its own, it had two strikes against it before I even planted myself in the seat: I've been out of the target demographic for this show since Ronald Reagan left the presidency, and it's a bit difficult to get into the holiday spirit one day after wading my way through the Halloween parade crowds in the village. Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, the show didn't give me quite the toothache I was expecting. Sure, adults will be checking their watches from about the first time sweet Cindy Lou Who ballads the first crack in the Grinch's crusty facade. But as the title character (that's the Grinch, not Dr. Seuss), the grumbling, growling Patrick Page is just about enough savory to counteract the gooey sweet that was inevitable in fleshing out the Whos enough to make a 30-minute TV special stretch to and hour and a half worth of material. In fact, it might even be enough for you not to complain too much about getting the foamy snow stuff blown into your hair at the end.

Steve & Eydie at the North Fork Theatre
"You're not old enough to remember Steve and Eydie," one patron remarked to me as I walked into the snappy duo's concert this afternoon in Westport. Well, yes, madame, I'm also not old enough to have known Giuseppe Verdi personally, but that doesn't stop me from going to the opera. What's more, I lived in Atlantic City for more than a year, so I saw my share of casino billings that had me asking, "They're still alive?!" And I've seen my share of faded acts that just made me sad. Listening to Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme, however...well, if I closed my eyes, I could have sworn I was listening to one of their old recordings. Gorme's knee problems made it a little more difficult for her to get around, but she can still perform "If He Walked Into My Life" with the best of them. And Lawrence, good heavens, looks and sounds no different than he did on the variety show clips from decades ago that they showed prior to the performance. Add in an incredibly lush orchestra to put in that extra pizazz, and you have more than enough reason to justify having to trek out to Long Island. Yes, my name is Mike, I am an old soul and I had a fantastic time this afternoon.