Category Archives: Entertainment


Tonight we returned to the room where it happened – to see a different play.

The Pantages Theater in Los Angeles was, as always, spectacular.

It’s a 1920’s design so the bathrooms sort of suck, but you learn to live with that.

Can you say, “Ro – co – co?”

Sure. I knew you could.

The play, “Waitress,” had a cast with great voices, some great staging and choreography, and one part in particular that was way, Way, WAYYY over the top and hilarious.

Hollywood Boulevard on a Sunday afternoon with all of the tourists and buskers and hustlers and people in costume – it’s our little version of Times Square. Complete with that certain smell (stale urine) which out here is cut with that other (now legal) certain smell (pot).

I love LA!

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Someplace Special – February 28th

UC Davis, Picnic Day, Battle of the Bands

(This was a great day – not perfect, but great. Picnic Day is a fun tradition at UC Davis and I went to visit when my daughter was in college there. A parade in the morning, ball games in the afternoon, food and booths and music and the usual crap everywhere, with the Battle of the Bands next to the lake in the afternoon. It went on forever and ever with bands from Davis, Berkeley, UC Irvine (my alma mater), Cal State Sacramento, and probably another one or two I’m forgetting. It would be wonderful to go back someday when I’m not so freakin’ busy.)


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Someplace Special – February 08th

Staples Center, Los Angeles (about row ten or eleven – February 2010)

(About row ten or eleven, almost ten years ago. February 2010. Great concert, not sure that he’s capable of doing a bad one. I remember being freezing cold all night, even though we were indoors – the ice surface that my beloved Kings play on was right under us with just a layer of padding and some sort of hard flooring surface to protect it from us.

Go see a concert. Country, classical, rock, punk, whatever. Stadium seating, a big indoor arena, a place that only holds 100 with no chairs, whatever. Live music is good for the soul. Our souls can use some good these days.)

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Groundhog Day

Simple statement – “Groundhog Day” is a perfect movie.

I just realize this might be the only movie I’ve seen more than the original “Star Wars,” and I was one of those kids who saw it over fifty times just in the theater. But I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if I have seen “Groundhog Day” more times now.

Bill Murray – perfect. His every expression given the circumstances and timing. His growth and change through the movie. The ups. The downs. The enlightenment.

Andie MacDowell – perfect.

The concept – simple. The execution – eloquent.

Go ahead. Prove me wrong. Name one thing wrong, one scene that doesn’t click, one missed beat or missed step.

I triple dog dare you.

“Groundhog Day” is a perfect movie.

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No Context For You – October 27th

From the metadata, I was at the Pantages last Saturday afternoon – one can only assume that I was leaping to my feet in applause yet again and the phone came flying out of my pocket at high velocity and the “take a picture” button was hit by the elbow of someone else leaping to their feet in amazement, taking this picture as the phone flipped and spun and miraculously ended up right back in my pocket with me none the wiser!

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

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Thoughts On “Hamilton” – Part One

(“Part One” because my brain is on overdrive, processing, and I’m betting I’ll have other comments later.)

For me, there are two basic ways to see a play. (Or a movie, or television show, or whatever. This thought already has me suddenly spinning off on other connections and ideas. My brain is getting dizzy.) I’ve done both.

When I first heard the music of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Phantom of the Opera,” I listened to it a lot. “Obsession” might be too strong of a word – or it might not be strong enough. By the time I finally got to see the play for the first time, I had easily listened to the original Broadway cast recording 100+ times. Probably not 200+ times. Probably.

When I went to see “Les Misérables” and “Wicked” I hadn’t ever listened to a recording of the musical. For “Les Miz” I knew what the play was about, of course. For “Wicked,” I thought it was a straight retelling of the MGM “Wizard of Oz” with Judy Garland. (Ha!)  I knew that both had won a ton of awards and were supposed to be spectacular. I knew that there were probably a couple of songs from each that I would recognize.

The experience in seeing the play for the first time is vastly different in the two scenarios. For the record, I’m pretty sure that I saw “Phantom,” “Les Miz,” “Wicked,” and now “Hamilton” all at the Pantages, so we’re talking similar levels of production values.

With “Phantom,” I thought I knew exactly what to expect, and that was somewhat true. But I found that there were so many subtleties that were revealed seeing it live that you just don’t get by listening to the CD. There were multiple new dimensions with the staging, the lighting, the snippets of dialogue that aren’t included on the CD recording. It was the difference between seeing a picture of the Grand Canyon and seeing the Grand Canyon when you’re standing at the rim looking down into it.

With “Les Miz” and “Wicked” I was constantly surprised, delighted, and engaged. The music, the story line, the twists and turns, the incredibly clever little bits (particularly in “Wicked”) sucked me in and I had a fantastic time going along for the ride.

With all of this in mind, I nonetheless wanted to listen to “Hamilton” in advance. I had seen bits of it on awards shows, the Macy’s parade, and other promotional spots – you might have noticed that it’s gotten its fair share of press coverage. Knowing that hip-hop music isn’t something I’m normally listening to, I was concerned that I would be lost if I didn’t know what was coming. So in the days leading up to the performance we attended yesterday, I was increasingly bothered by the fact that I hadn’t had time to sit down and listen to the CD and read along with the libretto.

Folks, don’t “do a Paul.” DON’T SWEAT IT! 

If you’ve listened to the music until you can sing along in your sleep, you’re going to love seeing the play live. There will be bits that will make more sense and be better live (King George’s songs for one, they really ham it up for comedic value, MUCH more than they do on the CD) but you’ll be better able to focus on the incredible choreography and staging.

If you’ve never heard a note of it, go in with your eyes and ears open and be prepared to be swept away. The story is well laid out, easy to follow, and the fact that some of the music is done in a hip-hop style is not a factor.

One thing that struck me after all of the hype, and it didn’t occur to me until this morning, was that only maybe 30% or 40% of the music is the hip-hop. (Okay, maybe half, I haven’t timed it out.) But the rest is music that could have come from Webber or Sondheim or Rodgers and Hart.

And the story… And the music… And the acting, the singing, the dancing, the staging…

Blown. Away. As I said on FaceBook, “Now I know what the hype was about.”

Today as I’ve tried to be productive (brought home deadline stuff from the office, brought home deadline stuff from the CAF) the first thing I did was rip the “Hamilton” CDs to my iTunes and start listening to it. Twice.

Random thoughts on listening:

It can NOT be a coincidence that the line about John Adams is “Sit down, John…” That’s the opening song from “1776,” which is one of my all-time favorites and which tells the story of Adams, Jefferson, and Franklin trying to write the Declaration of Independence. (If I haven’t ranted about how much I love “1776” yet, don’t worry, I will. But not today.)

“Satisfied” and “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story” both ripped me apart again today. “One Last Time” also was a gut-punch today.

Some of the one-liners are hilarious. Hamilton’s response to Burr’s disclosure about Burr’s mistress in “The Story of Tonight (Reprise)” is particularly pithy and to the point.

One final observation for tonight – if you get a chance, go see this show! If you’re on the fence, go for it, you won’t regret it.

What a wonderful experience. I hope that you get a chance to share it at some point.


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They Crossed A Line

The Long-Suffering Wife is addicted to Hallmark Channel Christmas movies. She watches the Valentine’s Day love stories (which start about January 2nd) and the June wedding love stories (which start about February 15th) and the Halloween love stories (which start July 1st)… You get the picture. But while she watches those, she’s addicted to the Christmas movies.

This is no doubt better than being addicted to crack cocaine or heroin (I guess it’s sort of being addicted to heroine?) but some of these movies can make me question just how much better.

I end up watching bits and pieces of many (most?) of them because, while they certainly wouldn’t be my first choice for viewing, I like spending some time every night with my wife (go figure!) and I can get some work done on my phone, tablet, or laptop while relegating the movie to background noise where possible.

My issue is usually that they’re just so predictable and formulaic. I can come in during the middle of one I’ve never seen and in 30 seconds or less say, “That’s the heroine who’s engaged to the successful but stuck up rich boy toy who doesn’t stand a chance against the flannel-wearing goofy funny good ol’ boy in the small town where she’s going to amazingly find a way to find the true meaning and save Christmas while also ending up under the mistletoe with flannel boy.”

There are occasionally mitigating factors that make the viewing less stressful for me. Alicia Witt. Lacey Chabert. Danica McKellar.

On the other hand, the other night there was “Journey Back To Christmas.”

I can ignore the really lame time travel story. I’ve been reading science fiction for well over fifty years. Sometimes time travel is done really well, sometimes it’s an excuse to take a really boring story and try to make it different, and everything in between. No matter, time travel? Meh.

No, it’s the incredibly bad depiction of a comet, a key plot point, that had me ready to throw things at the screen.

Folks, you don’t have to be an astronomer to know that comets don’t streak across the sky like fireworks for two minutes and then vanish. People don’t stand out in the village square at just the right moment and “there it is!” so cue the oohs, the aahs, the awe, the magic and there it goes!

Comets are typically seen months, if not years before they’re at their brightest. Look back and see how many months I tried to get decent pictures of Comet Lovejoy. They start out dim, way out in the far reaches of the solar system, gradually brighten as they get closer to the sun and start to boil off gasses, then dim again as they move back out into the depths of the solar system or interstellar space, frozen snowballs.

If they happen to get close enough to Earth at just the right time, which can happen a couple of times a century, a comet can be big, bright, and close to Earth. It will be news. It will be front page news for about two months beforehand and for months and months afterward.

These guys stumbled across a reference to it in an old diary or newspaper…

So, to recap:

  • Huge
  • Bright
  • Flashes across sky in a handful of minutes
  • Has a tail that stretches from horizon to horizon
  • They’re the only ones who know about it
  • They only know about it because they got lucky
  • One minute it’s not there, the next it is, then it’s gone again

What utter bullshit!

Friends, if a comet comes by that catches us that off-guard, it’s only doing so because it’s doing 0.9c, traveling just in front of its light wave. Let me tell you, if something that big is coming that close to Earth at 0.9c, it had better have Bruce Willis sitting on it with a nuke (or Robert Duvall – a better movie by far) or our ass is grass.

But if it’s passing by at 0.9c, it’s going from horizon to horizon in well under a second. There’s no way it has a tail – it never lingered near the sun close enough to start melting. And there’s most certainly no way that it’s periodic and coming back in 71 years. That sucker’s going to be fifty light-years past Alpha Centauri and outbound in 71 years.

Sappy story? No worries.

Stupid plot? Okay.

Half-drawn caricatures for characters? As expected.

Actors we recognize who really, really should be getting better roles? Hey, it’s a paycheck.

Time travel? It’s different for a Hallmark Christmas movie, but hey, isn’t “A Christmas Carol” sort of a time travel Christmas story as well?

But have a huge, key, major plot point revolve around getting 3rd grade astronomy so very, very wrong that there are ten-year olds watching and yelling, “What the hell is wrong with these freakin’ idiots??!!”

That’s when they crossed a line.


Filed under Astronomy, Death Of Common Sense, Entertainment, Movies