Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Holiday weekend pictures

We spent the Memorial Day weekend at the family beach house. Our special guests were four people who did the English Coast to Coast hike with us last summer. We couldn't spend the whole time just eating and drinking. We did do a couple short hikes at Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve and Point Lobos State Reserve.

Pajaro Dunes
Pajaro Dunes
Ed cutting the cheese Eddie making cocktails

eating and drinking

Old barn at Elkhorn Slough
Flowers in bloom at Elkhorn Slough

Friday, May 26, 2006

Time out

There is an annoying new trend in Bay Area theatre that needs to be nipped in the bud. Several local companies are passing off “one act plays” as a full theatre productions. It is like fast-food theatre… in and out in about an hour. Since the first of the year, we have seen four such shows.

One was the God awful “Slava’s Snowshow”. To be fair, this show usually runs about 90 minutes but the mid-week performance we saw was only 65 minutes including a 20 minute intermission. I think Slava said “Screw it; I’m watching American Idol tonight.” He turned on the snow fan early and blew out the audience as quickly as possible.

Another play was “In On It” by Daniel Maclvor at Encore Theatre Company. The performance got great notices. It was a humorous, thought provoking and challenging play. We enjoyed it but it was barely an hour long. Was it worth the 45 minute drive to the City, find and pay for parking, have dinner and drive 35 minutes back home?

A NumberThe worst offender has been American Conservatory Theatre (A.C.T.). A.C.T. is one of the premier regional theatres in the country. E has been attending their productions for two decades. We bought season tickets to it this year. Two of the shows this season were barely an hour long. The first was a dated and pointless production of David Mamet’s “Sexual Perversity in Chicago” that played in January. The second play is their current one, Caryl Churchill’s “A Number”. Churchill’s play is fascinating look a cloning and identity but it is only 50 minutes long. It seemed silly for actors to do even a curtain call. The two actors barely broke a sweat. I’m pissed at A.C.T. And don’t get me started about how they butchered “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” this season too. We are not going to renew our season tickets there.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Cars and plays

new carWe came home with a new car on Sunday. The lease on E’s previous Lexus was running out and it was time to trade. The old car was the sporty Lexus IS. This time we decided to switch to a roomier Lexus Sedan ES. This change also supports us becoming a one car family. The sports car didn’t have enough room to comfortably haul everyone and everything around. A couple months ago we discussed the possibility of getting rid of my old Ford Taurus and just having one car between us. My work is very close and I don’t drive to it. It is very rarely we need to have two cars. Then fate stepped in. Our oldest daughter’s car was totaled at the beginning of the month when she was forced into the center divide by an uninsured motorist. (She is OK, thank heavens.) I gave her my old 1996 Taurus to have.

Saturday was opening night of New Conservatory Theatre Center’s production of “Valhalla”. This hilarious play is by Paul Rudnick (Jeffrey, I Hate Hamlet). This comedy has two overlapping and intertwining stories. One is about the mad 19th century King Ludwig of Bavaria; the other is two buddies coming of age in rural Texas in the late ‘30s. The play explores the connections between beauty and passion and the cost involved in the wild pursuit of either. We enjoyed the show immensely. Mr. Rudnick was there for the opening but he must have had a lot on his mind as he was not very friendly.

AchillesEarlier in the week we went to see a modern dress version of “Iphigenia at Aulis” by Euripides at San Jose Repertory Theatre. It had a great cast of actors and excellent production values but all this good work was undone by an amateur chorus. The chorus was a women’s modern dance troupe (San Francisco Dance Brigade). Their choreography was appropriate but they did not have trained stage voices. And the chorus had a lot of lines. When they spoke it was like listening to a half dozen people trying to recite the pledge of allegiance in unison and failing.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Published again

I continue to challenge local newspapers to stop printing gay hate mail. We have progressed as a society that recognizes that the media no longer needs to print letters or give voice to wackos that attack blacks and Jews and other minorities. I rarely see white supremacists or KKK penned letters published. (Although, some recent letters about the immigration/boarder debate come close.) Yet, newspaper editors think it is fair and balance to give voice to gay bashers. Here is the latest round. There has been lots of local controversy about a Pride Parade in Los Altos, California. Below is a letter the Palo Alto Daily News (owned by Knight-Ridder) printed. The Daily printed my letter this Friday morning in all their regional editions.

Gay Pride Parade
Dear Editor:

As a Los Altos native who attended UC Berkeley, I rode BART and the bus home on weekends to find refuge from the in-your-face radical, homosexual movement. Now that refuge is diminished.

The Los Altos Gay Pride Parade is an anathema to my cherished upbringing, in which my parents sacrificed to afford to raise our family in the best place they could in Los Altos. It’s the gay pride’s supporters who are “bigoted and narrow minded” for spending public money to fund their narcissistic agenda in one of the last family-friendly towns in the Bay Area.

Most view the strengthening of the traditional family as necessity to ensure the prosperity and the survival of our society. The majority does not embrace homosexual behavior nor does it accept the radical homosexual agenda that strikes at the heart of the traditional family structure that has incubated in Los Altos for over 100 years. This will hurt, not help, homosexual acceptance.

The proud are indeed fools as I am not alone in taking personal offense to their attack on my hometown heritage.

Name removed
San Jose

Gay bashing appalling
Dear Editor:

I am appalled and disappointed to see that the Daily News feels that it is important to print letters that bash other Americans (‘Gay Pride Parade’, letters, Tuesday). I don’t understand why the Daily News believes that giving a forum to gay bashers is a benefit to the community.

Would you print similar letters that attacked and question the legitimacy of African-Americans, Asians, or Hispanics? Would you give editorial space for writers making anti-Semitic or racist comments? Try replacing the letter writer’s word, “homosexual” with “Jew” or “Black” and see how bigoted and hateful his letter is.

I expect a higher standard of the Daily News than pandering to controversy for controversy sake.

Ed J-------
Palo Alto

I wish my letter was better written. I would like it to be more compelling and forceful. But at least I got the point out there.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Civic responsibility

The last two evenings we have attended programs on “Marriage Equality” and “Escape from Slavery”. Quite a swing in topics.

Tuesday evening was a panel discussion on the Jewish perspectives on marriage equality. The panel featured a straight Conservative rabbi, a lesbian Unitarian Universalist minister, an activist from Marriage Equality and a same-sex couple involved in Immigration Equality. Out comedian, Heather Gold, provided some queer humor at the start of the evening. California Assemblyman, Mark Leno, made a surprise appearance. He vowed to re-introduce a Marriage Equality bill next session. (The California legislature passed a bill this last year but Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed it.) The discussion focused on the status of civil marriage and the importance of it for the GLBT and Jewish communities. Suggestions were also made about what steps you can take to advance marriage equality in California.

Wednesday evening we met and heard Francis Bok speak for two hours. Today he is an activist committed to combating world slavery. When he was 7 he was carried away by Sudanese militia after they butchered all the men in his village. For 10 years he was a slave to a farmer in northern Sudan. Mr. Bok was expected to tend the family’s vast herds of livestock. He endured daily threats and beatings, slept with the cattle, and eat rotten food. Finally, at 17, he escaped.

Mr. Bok is committed to spread awareness about modern slavery across the world. Slavery didn't end during the Civil War. Today, 27 million men, women and children around the world endure brutal working conditions, for no money, under the constant threat of beatings, torture, and rape.

This presentation was the third in a series exploring issues of civic responsibility. Previously, we saw Paul Rusesabagina, the Rwandan hotel manager who rescued more than 1,200 refugees from certain death during the Rwandan genocide in 1994 and South African Justice Albie Sachs, a civil rights lawyer and activist that struggled against apartheid since the 1960's. He gained world recognition for his role in creating South Africa's new constitution.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Regarding Broadway

Guydads are coming to New York City. Does anybody have any other show recommendations or things to do? We don’t have too many open slots left. We arrive on July 1 and leave on July 9.

Plays we have tickets for thus far:
- Pig Farm (July 1, 7:30 pm)
- Sweeney Todd (July 2, 2 pm)
- Jacques Brel is Alive and Well... (July 2, 7 pm)
- Spamalot (July 3, 8 pm)
- The History Boys (July 4, 8 pm)
- The Lieutenant of Inishmore (July 5, 2 pm)
- Faith Healer (July 5, 8 pm)
- The Color Purple (July 6, 8 pm)
- Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (July 7, 8 pm)
- Spring Awakening (July 8, 2 pm)
- Drowsy Chaperone (July 8, 8 pm)

Current Plays we are not seeing because we already have or because they are playing in SF next year:
- Altar Boyz (to be seen in SF)
- A Chorus Line (to be seen in SF)
- Doubt (to be seen in SF)
- Jersey Boys (to be seen in SF)
- Light in the Piazza (to be seen in SF)
- Avenue Q (seen)
- Hairspray (seen)
- Lestat (seen...yuk!)
- Lion King (seen)
- Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me (seen)
- Spelling Bee (seen)
- The Producers (seen)
- Well (seen)
- Wicked (seen)

Plays we are not interested in seeing:
- Caine Mutiny Court-Martial
- Tarzan
- The Wedding Singer

Monday, May 15, 2006


The Giants won some games and lost other. Barry Bonds didn’t hit a home run. That’s my sports report for the weekend. You will have to talk to my husband or youngest son if you want real sports details or stats.

We were at the Sunday afternoon game. It was a beautiful, warm, sunny day at the ball park. Lots of good looking guys had their shirts off. But I have no pictures of them to post. Instead, this is a picture of the most interesting person working in the stadium. I declare him to be the “Worlds Best Concession Seller™”. He has a voice that fills the stadium. “Sack-a-nuts” he belts out. I can hear him all the way across the ballpark. "Saaaaaack-a-nuts." I can even hear him at home on the radio or TV. His voice has great projection. I’ve seen him work all over the Bay Area; at 49ers games, San Jose Giants (minor league “A” baseball team), Stanford stadium. He is a great one.

Friday, May 12, 2006


This has been a baseball week. We were hoping to see Barry Bonds tie and pass Babe Ruth's home run record (714 home runs). E and I went to games on Tuesday and Wednesday night. E went again on Thursday afternoon. So far, no home runs.

We are not going this Friday and Saturday. Instead we are hosting back to back dinner parties. We will be back in the stadium on Sunday afternoon.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Previews and workshops

Last week’s theatre attendance consisted of a pre-Broadway tryout and a new works festival.
Martin Short is doing a pre-Broadway tryout of his new show called “Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me”. It is scheduled to open in New York in August. It is a very amusing and entertaining show. The format is a sketch and revue comedy in the "Carol Burnett Show" style. The running gag is that Martin Short has put together a “one man show”. He then parodies everyone else’s show: Billy Crystal, Elaine Stritch, Bea Arthur and others.
The production has a talented cast of four top performers; all trying to steal focus from him. Brooks Ashmanskas (Little Me), Mary Birdsong ("Reno 911"), Capathia Jenkins (Caroline, or Change) and Nicole Parker ("Mad TV") upstage Mr. Short every chance they get. Marc Shaiman, the musical director, also hams it up on stage. Shaiman and Scott Wittman (Hairspray) wrote the music with Mr. Short. The book was penned by Short and Daniel Goldfarb.

The two funniest numbers showcase Ms Birdsong and Ms Jenkins. In the first, Birdsong and Short do a song and dance number that could have come from a Canadian production of “The Wizard of Oz”. Ms Birdsong, dressed in young Dorothy gingham, performs the song in an over-wrought, late Garland manner with the stilted hand movements and body gestures. It is hilarious.

The other number comes two-thirds the way through the second act. Ms Jenkins addresses the audience and says that all successful musicals have a number in the second act where the big black woman comes out and sings a song the stops the show. She then proceeds to do a rafter shaking, diva number called "Stop the Show" . It is a rousing gospel/blues number that commands an ovation. Way too funny!

Our local repertory theatre, TheatreWorks, has a deep commitment to developing, staging and producing new works, especially musicals. For the last five years they have offered a writers retreat, staged readings and workshops as well as presenting new works on their main season stage.

Last week we saw five of the seven staged readings. The best and most polished of the works was “Emma” by Paul Gordon (Jane Eyre). It is a chamber musical based on the novel by Jane Austen. It is the story of a young and beautiful matchmaker that meddles in the love affairs of others but is clueless about her own romantic feelings. It is elegant and witty adaptation. I would be first in line to see a fully staged version of it.

Second most interesting was a bittersweet play called “Mezzulah, 1946” by Michele Lowe (String of Pearls). It is a soaring drama of the last woman working in a Boeing plant after the men come home from WWII. Choices and changes are confronted when her cousin arrives in town looking for a job and the only one available is hers. Hot topics of diversity, equality, bigotry, minority rights vs majority rules are explored in this period piece. City Theatre in Pittsburgh has already added this show to its season next year.

The most humorous and witty reading was “Asphalt Beach”. The writers, Andrew Lippa, T.C. Smith and Peter Spears, describe it as musical comedy on the edge. The plot is sort of a mashup of "Wicked" and "Grease". Two girls from the opposite sides of the tracks must set aside their differences to fight a common evil at Our Lady of Suppressed Desire Academy for Rambunctious Girls. It appears this work is headed to the screen. Mr. Lippa is a TheatreWorks favorite, having worked several of his other productions here including “A Little Princess”, “Jerry Christmas” and “Betty Boop”. An interesting connection: His “Jerry Christmas”, a funny Jewish Christmas musical, is a show that Mr. Lippa wrote with Daniel Goldfarb (Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me).
The final two readings I thought were still in early stages of development. Hopefully the writers got enough feedback to what is needed. The shows were: “Big Red Sun” by John Jiler and Georgia Stitt. The program describes it as big band boogie and bugle boy blues. A well intentioned but flawed story of a man searching for his father and learning about anti-semitism. “Something's Wrong with Amandine” by Lance Horne and Winter Miller. This show is a challenging musical play that explores the life of an intersex person, Amandine, living in an isolated convent in 19th century France.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Dads and kids

Super Monkey Ball
The young ones enjoy entertaining themselves with video games. While we read the Sunday paper the kids have a great time playing "Super Monkey Ball". But it was too nice to say indoors.

Flower gazingAt noon we packed a picnic and went to the park. We found a nice picnic table under the trees. We snacked on string cheese, crackers, peanutbutter, tortilla chips, salsa, fresh pineapple and soda.
After the kids found some hiking sticks to use for the day, we set out on a three mile hike in the foot hills. Everything was all green and in full bloom. It was a beautiful afternoon. In another month all the flowers will be gone and the grass will be brown.

What a view!

Friday, May 05, 2006


All over campus these ugly bugs are dropping in my hair and on my clothes. It has been going on for over a week. I am constantly flinging them off. I’m starting to feel ghost bugs on me. I think I feel something crawling on me but when I look there is nothing there.

When I walk outside I can hear them munching on leaves in the trees above. When they have their full, they rappel down on a thin, silky line or they just drop on me. I think they look like sweater clad earwigs. The paper says these bungee jumping caterpillars are the prelude to the oak moth and tussock moth. I am not looking forward to the moths to come.
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