Tuesday, December 31, 2019

State of the Blog

Wow, it has been a long time since I talked about the Blog itself. I have been on this for over 15 years now, and still don't have anything worth saying.

The landscape has changed. Blogging is regarded as a bit old-fashioned in the face of newer tech, sort of like the fate of CB Radios and HAM stations. Not quite dead media, but really subdued. Everyone has gone over to the Facebookery and the Tweeter accounts, but I like blogging. It forces me to organize my thoughts a bit better, and to create a meaningful narrative through-line. Facebook is a great place for that one-off bon mot, and I use it that way, along with "hey, look at this link". But that in itself steals some of the utility I used the blog for.

And I use Facebook like I used to use Google+ for increasing the bandwidth for what is here on the blogspace, and that's OK as well. Occasionally something blows up big and I get hundreds of hits, but most of the time it is a fairly comfortable amount of reads and reblogs. I'm really not doing it for the popularity, but for me (though the rest of you are welcome to tag along).

Ditto for the Facebook. It is for me, and have no problem unfollowing problematic people I know IRL and unfriending outright bozos, who are usually strangers. I have a wide variety of people on the Facebook spanning the political spectrum, but have avoided the ones that repost Russian memes and write in all-caps. And as a result, my Facebook is pretty stable and positive - I have not had to bounce anyone for spoiling Rise of Skywalker before I saw it. Thanks, folks.

I miss Google+ by the way. I used it to line up all of the other blogs that I followed, and had a good mix of posting. MeWe isn't doing it nearly enough for me. A friend got me a twitter account (grubbstweet), but I rarely remember to cross-post to it.

My biggest limitation is a lack of spare time. I may have mentioned this elsewhere, but it is about an hour drive to the day job nowadays, and that leaves precious little time to do anything else. I get home, do a few chores, have dinner, crash early, get up early to start the process again. It gets in the way of other things, and when I DO have the chance, I read, play games on the iPad or watch comfort-videos (Great British Baking Show, of course).

And there are things that I have always posted about and will probably continue to post about - collectible quarters, local elections, books, theater. As we move into the presidential election year, there will probably be more of that, though it is a grisly task and most folk know where I lean already. I'd like to do an overview of American Presidential Elections, and how each one was the WORST ELECTION EVER. I'd like to talk about the weird histories of our holidays (I would start on March 1, which SHOULD be the first day of the year). I'd even like to post some actual honest to god gaming content here, but that's unlikely given the rest of my life at the moment.

And that's about it. Happy New Year, folks, and see you around.

More later,

Monday, December 23, 2019

Season's Greetings

A Merry Christmas, a Joyeux Noel, and a Happy, Safe, and Reflective Holiday Season from Grubb Street.

Rest on the Flight into Egypt, 1879
Luc Olivier Merson 

More later,

Monday, December 16, 2019

Free Verse

A found bit of poetry. Picture this being read in a basement coffee bar in front of a brick wall, accompanied by bongos:

Bahamas, Frisco
Celebration, New Mexico
Cure, Boca Raton, Camellia
Las Vegas, New Orleans
Independence, Quick Lane
Military, Pinstripe
Texas, Holiday, Cheez-It
Camping World
Cotton, Peach, Fiesta
First Responder
Music City, Redbox
Orange, Belk, Sun
Liberty, Arizona
Outback, Rose, Sugar
Birmingham, Gator
Idaho Potato
Armed Forces, Lending Tree
CFP Championship

Anything is free werse if you throw enough line breaks at it.

More later,

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Theatre: Roundup Edition

Shout Sister Shout by Cheryl L. West, Created by Randy Johnson & Cheryl L. West, Directed by Randy Johnson, Seattle Repertory Theatre through December 22nd
Head Over Heels The Musical, Conceived and original book by Jeff Whitty, Adapted by James Magruder, Directed by Matthew Wright. Arts West,  Through December 29th.
The Great Moment by Anna Siegler, Directed by Braden Abraham, Seattle Rep through November 17th (yeah, it's closed)
Sunset Baby by Dominique Morisseau, Dire ted by Valerie Curtis-Newton, Arts West through October 20th (Yeah, I've been pushing thing off that long)

I have been busy, and let even the barest minimum of this blog slip - to wit, the Theatre Reviews.

This is perishable fruit, because who wants to read reviews of shows that have long since slipped the surly bonds of matinee performances and moved on?  Yet I'm going to do a bunch of them, just to keep things up to date. And two of them are still playing, until the end of the month.

Shout Sister Shout is still going on, and well worth attending (There, you can skip the rest of the page if you want). It is a bioplay (a biopic for theatre) of the life of Sister Rosetta Thorpe, the Godmother of Rock 'n Roll. A foundational African-American performer, mostly forgotten today, more popular in Europe than in Jim Crow America. I know, it sounds like the play about Nina Simone last year, but it has a heartbeat and a verve all its own.

The entire play encapsulates the life and times of Sister Rosetta Tharpe, played incredibly well by Carrie Compere, The actress goes from child prodigy to elder stateswoman with all stops in between. A gospel singer by upbringing, she wanted to bring the music of the Lord forward to the masses, at the cost of rejection by her own congregations for hanging with the heathens. The play portrays Tharpe as no saint, acceding when she should have stood up, or taking the money when offered, but in the end creates a well-rounded picture of this pioneer. We name check the other performers of the era, from Cab Calloway at the Cotton Club, Dizzy Gilespie, and Little Richard, as the story barrels forward, including her relationship with Marie Knight.

Compere, as Stone, is pretty much fantastic, with a wonderful voice and a great guitar chops (the Little Richard Strut? She did that first). It's common to see a performance built around one great voice, but Shout Sister Shout gives us two. Carol Dennis, as Stone' mother and the pivotal other figure in the story, matches her note for note and hearstring for heartstring.

Performances are great, stagecraft (a scrim decked with white guitars) is excellent, and the music top-notch. Go see it.

Hear Over Heels is also very good, but in a different weight class. Arts West, in a renovated department store in West Seattle, is a smaller, more intimate venue, both in stage space and audience. I expected smaller plays in this space, but it goes all out, with a cast as large as Shout Sister Shout that packs the stage and avoids collisions.

The play itself is a celebration of the Go-Gos. OK, I have trouble separating the Bangles from the Go-Gos, but they had about four recognizable greatest hits, all which get their time (hint for those confused between the two - the Go-Gos got the beat, the Bangles walked like an Egyptian). They merge the music with the Countess of Pembroke's Arcadia, from the 16th century, which is ... quite frankly much MORE confusing and darker than the pared-down plot presented here.

Here's the simple version: The King gets a dire prediction from the Oracle at Delphi, but conceals it from his Queen and schemes to foil the predictions. The shepherd, who is in love with the royal younger daughter, masquerades as an Amazon warrior to be near her. Both King and Queen fall for the Amazon. Plus the older daughter rejects all suitors, and comes to terms with her own love of her maidservant. Yeah, its a lot about sexuality and gender preference, with a huge heaping of misunderstandings, layered with 80s pop. Whackiness evolves with a 9 principles and huge supporting ensemble. Not nearly as deep as Shout, Sister, Shout, but impressive in what it attains.

And the cast is uniformly strong. No standout voices, (OK, back me against a wall and I'd say Ann Cornelius as Queen Gynecia is really good (No, I am NOT making up these names)). Serious packed with wall-to-wall music, light and bouncy, and a feelgood production. Even if they don't play "Hazy Shade of Winter".

Sunset Baby was the first play of the season at Arts West, and fits much more within my expectations. It is a simple play with a single set and three actors. Nina (Aishe Keitaa) is the daughter of civil rights warriors and is Bonnie to her boyfriend's Clyde.  Mom's dead after a disastrous decline, Dad has been in jail for years. Dad is out and wants letters that Mom wrote him but never sent. Nina (again, a call-back to Nina Simone) has become hard-shelled and transactional over the years and has the letters. That's pretty much it.

Sunset Baby is an early work by an author who has done things more notable later works (see also: In The Heights). To be frank it shows - the characters are not speaking to each other as much as they are playing to the audience - their dialogue didactic as opposed to engaged. It is noticeable and a warning for my own writing.

The Great Moment is another earlier work, this time from the author of Photograph 51, which I loved to pieces. Again, it shows weakness in the script and promises of better work to come. She keeps the unmoored in time concept, but applies it to a domestic situation and the ruminations on time and mortality. But the author also breaks the fourth wall with an Ellen DeGeneres sort of perkiness, and is an autobiographical character (maybe not one-to-one, but enough to make one uncomfortable). Not a bad production, but still weaker than normal Rep fare.

There - caught up. Now bring on the next batch!

More later,