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Monthly Archives: November 2011

@ Work :( TTYL

Have we all heard just about enough about the dangers, both physical and evolutionary, of texting?  Do we need another article haranguing against smart-phones on dinner tables?  Isn’t it crystal clear to us all that “living in the moment” is now only a behavior for which we pay thousands of dollars to experience in a spa? Technology has changed our orientation to the world around us.  But I don’t particularly care about all that right now.

What I do care about is personal phone calls at work.  (Quaint, isn’t it?  That sentence conjures up visions of Judy Holliday at the switchboard.)  For reasons which allude me, the technology of a “phone call” has obscured the intent of the call.  The fact that people needn’t speak to communicate, or use a telephone belonging to an employer, seems to have blurred the lines for many.  Show of hands, how many times has the clerk at your checkout register been tapping his/her acrylics onto a phone?  Have you ever entered a boutique and not heard the shopkeeper on a personal call?  The last time you frequented a restaurant with a host/hostess, were they looking down and squinting, behind their station in the dark?  There are work situations in which personal communication is not only permissible, it is probably encouraged.  I was recently on a film shoot at which the principals (waiting upwards to 15 minutes between takes) typed away, happily passing the time.  But those particular employees were not actually working while making their personal calls.  Their attention was not expected to be anywhere but on themselves.

Now here’s where the rant builds up steam.  I have lost count of how many of New York’s finest I have seen texting or making personal phone calls while working.  I suppose the traffic officer would argue; “Hey, I can give tickets and text at the same time.”  Perhaps, but you’re in uniform and; a) it is unseemly to be engaged in personal activity, and b) you are an officer, and if you’re not seeing something and saying something, why should I?  I have also seen “beat” officers, standing and texting on a corner, officers in squad cars (thankfully, the passengers not the drivers) texting as well.  Now unless that is how the police department now communicates with its officers (and for all I know, it is) I find this truly distressing.

I am not suggesting that we all don’t have personal emergencies that need attention.  But what I’ve witnessed is far more lackadaisical than an emergency would ever suggest.  Somehow, because we have the technology, we’ve decided that rules of the workplace and common decorum need no longer apply.  I’m no techie wonk, but I’m willing to posit, that we’re only going to get more little sexy toys with which to play.  Perhaps we should engage, now, in the real face to face conversations about what is appropriate and what is not.  Maybe I’m just an old fashioned gal, but I enjoy being looked in the eye, be it by a police officer or dinner companion (or one and the same, if it’s Tom Selleck in Blue Blood.)

 

 
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Posted by on November 21, 2011 in Cultural Critique

 

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Private Lives – Review

I’ve never been a fan of Noel Coward’s Private Lives.  I suppose I have found the play to simply belabor the issue.  A little voice in my head starts declaring; “very well then, get on with it will you.”  Don’t get me wrong, I am not immune to the charms of a well delivered; “Don’t quibble Sybil,” I just find the premise does not warrant a full length play.  However, nothing was going to stand in the way of seeing Paul Gross on stage.  Mr. Gross (Slings and Arrows) is a delicate actor who is a master of comedy and quite simply is dreamy.  There, I’ve said it.

So it was Mr Paul Gross who got me to the Music Box to see the newest (via London’s West End and Toronto) production of Private Lives.  Directed by Richard Eyre, and originating in London, the cast speaks in British accent.  I found this far less distracting than did others in the audience.  Mr. Gross (Elyot) and Kim Cattrall (Amanda) are clearly not British but the supporting cast; Simon Paisley Day (Victor) and Anna Madeley (Sybil) are.  There is a lightness, or perhaps a gaiety to this production which I have never before seen.  Ms. Cattrall plays Amanda as a lovely ephemeral good time gal.  While Mr. Gross relishes his role as Elyot, giving the character subtle and overt humor.  It is very easy to see why they would be besotted with each other.  Yet, the actors seem to be anything but.  Independently, they are quite wonderful.  However, there really is no chemistry between them.  Their kisses are awkward and somewhat embarrassing.  Yet, even seen as interlacing monologues, their scenes are enjoyable.  The production is at its best when all four actors are on stage together.

There are some technical issues with this production that left me scratching my head.  This Private Lives has joined the ranks of age-blind casting.  Always such a baffling endeavor in a play which announces everyone’s age.  I suppose it should not be surprising today when people dress and inject themselves to remain forever young.  But people in their fifties playing people who are 30 will always seem strange to me.  I am not a fan of changing a playwright’s words to suit a director’s agenda.  So I will have to declare this play simply miscast.  There were some technical issues with the set as well.  This is at least the third staging of this production, yet some of the set (Rob Howell) struck me as a bit community theatre.  During intermission, two stage hands came out to the apron with a hand-held drill to dismantle the balcony.  In Act II, several props pooped out and the fish tank terrified the actors (I’m guessing something very very bad had happened recently.) The canned music coming out of the piano being “played” by Mr. Gross was just bizarre.  Adding to that the curtain delays and missed light cues, I was left wondering what the story was.

Ms. Cattrall does a lovely job with Amanda’s dialogue, delivering her lines on the top of her voice and also looking divine.  However she is terribly uncomfortable with the physicality of the role.  There is a mental metronome in her head that is very distracting to the audience: “Step two three four. Light cigarette two three four. Place glass on ledge two three four.”  The “fight” scene in Act II was painful to witness.

Yet for all of these bumps in the road, of a play I don’t really care for, I am terribly pleased I had the opportunity to see Mr. Gross stake his claim to the Broadway stage.

 
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Posted by on November 20, 2011 in Theatre

 

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Cotton Club Parade – Review

Last night I stepped into a magical way-back machine and found myself at The Cotton Club in the 1930s.  The Duke Ellington’s Cotton Club Parade is a phenomenal collaboration of Jazz at Lincoln Center (JALC) and City Center Encores.  These two organizations, on their own, produce some of the finest arts experiences in New York City.  Together, they have created an astounding evening.

The newly renovated N.Y. City Center was a packed house dotted with celebrities and what appeared to be audience members from the actual Cotton Club’s opening night.  The crowd’s reaction was equal parts stunned silence and pounding ovation.  Warren Carlyle directed the evening, with an old fashioned show biz sensibility.  Two dozen numbers were performed by the Wynton Marsalis Orchestra and a powerhouse cast of singers and dancers.  Lighting and one portable set of five steps were the only devices in play.  The voices were pure and perfect and the dancing was simply not to be believed.  I relished my fourth row view of tap dancing feet, which reinforced that yes, these men really were defying the laws of physics.

All the numbers had Mr. Ellington’s fingerprints on them (either through composition or arrangement) and some were recognizable classics.  Even more enjoyable however, were the new (to my ears) numbers that rarely receive play anymore.  The interplay between orchestra, singers and dancers was lovely and organic.  I was at times reminded of the show Black and Blue (1989) a revue of the music of Paris in the 1930s.  From the very first note, I longed to be seated at a cabaret table sipping champagne.  My feet tapped the rhythm uncontrollably and my fingers drummed the melody as I itched to bound onto a dance floor.

Like all Encores productions, Cotton Club Parade has a very limited run.  There is a bitter-sweetness about seeing this production.  It is a jarring reminder that excellent theatrical experiences can be created, if people so chose.  Shows with nary a gimmick, a video projection, an engineered voice or a television personality can sell out and be enthusiastically received.  I do hope that this JALC and Encores collaboration is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

 

 
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Posted by on November 19, 2011 in Theatre

 

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Sugar & Spice and Dressing for Vice

Mama Rose, Gypsy, Baby June

I have long ago accepted that clothing retailers consider children a very profitable market.  No longer are unwilling children dragged to a department store, up to the poorly lit, dismal fourth floor and forced into practical school clothes and durable outerwear.  Entire chain stores and boutiques are now available to cultivate pint-sized consumers.  One need only flip through an advert or catalog, or walk past a store, to discover that utility is the furthest thing from the “designers” mind.  Much of the apparel is trendy and costumey, not intended to last to the next season, let alone to the next sibling.

Yesterday, I walked through the GapKids section (remember when the Gap sold Lee and Levis?) due to a remodeling of the adult section (remember when “adult section” meant something else?)   I was somewhat prepared for the barrage of pink.  Only somewhat.  If I was a child today, I would be cross-dressing.  I have never enjoyed pink.  My mother tacked a pink bow on my head once (for a family function) and even the black & white photos from that day, prove I am not a “pink” gal.  Like most women in their early twenties, I made some mistakes.  One was in the form of a Perry Ellis sample sale double breasted silk coat dress, in pink.  In my pathetic defense, it was beautiful fabric, very well made and cost $10.  None of that prevented a co-worker from nicknaming me “Pepto.”  Pink has done me wrong.

But enough about me.  What I was not prepared for in the mass-marketing mecca for children’s hard earned money, was the Vegas/Burlesque line of apparel available for sizes 3-14.  One-third of the girl’s section was reserved for the merchandising of black sequined clothes.  There were little black sequined tops, dresses, skirts, shrugs (shrugs?!) and of course shoes.  I had to do a double-take AND pick up and investigate what appeared to be a pair of black sequined shorts in size 4.  I’m not sure I even understand sequined shorts for grown women.  To top it all off there were lovely fake fur white jackets, (a la Taxi Driver) for the little girl left out in the cold.  I suppose it goes without mention that there were no equivalent tarty clothes for the little boys.  Not a single Huggy Bear outfit in sight.  We all know that little girls are becoming more sexualized and objectified every day.  What I hadn’t entirely grasped, was that they are doing so at the hands of the adults who clothe them

 
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Posted by on November 18, 2011 in Childhood, Style

 

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The White Hood Of The Web

There have always been people crouching behind barriers and throwing stones.  In an actual battle, this strategy is in fact prudent.  But when the stones are being thrown at unwilling participants it is abusive, and when the abuser is shielding him/herself it is bullying.  (Bullying is by definition an abuser preying on a weaker person.  Hiding offers protection, exposure leaves one weaker.)

Since the dawn of time, or since there were enough people on the planet to adequately ostracize some of them; people have bullied other people.  Often groups decide that someone, or groups of someones are a threat to the status quo.  The group itself gives rise to an enthusiasm and sense of protection for the abusers.  Persecution of women in Salem, backlashes to integration and voting rights, gay bashing; we have a rich national history of bullying,  And it’s getting worse.

We are in a time of economic uncertainty, political polarization, political correctness pressure and the internet.  People have not become more or less decent, they just may feel more threatened.  Nothing gets the bully’s goat like threat.  But what brings the simmering increase of abuse to the boiling point is the rise of technology.  Blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and countless website comment sections, have allowed for a new form of white hood.  There is a vile cocktail of exhibitionism and hatred that litters the comment sections of legitimate news outlets.  For some reason web editors and/or executives are allowing their brand to be a platform for hate groups.  These posters use tragically uncreative screen names to hide behind, while rabidly posting.  The unsuspecting reader is affronted with spewing from people calling themselves by war criminal’s names.

I am willing to concede, that just like wildly offensive television programming, the viewer can avoid the offensive material pretty easily.  But I am concerned about the news outlets sense of responsibility and integrity.  Offensive and abusive comments on Facebook and Twitter can easily be blocked and ignored as well.  Even bloggers can block nasty commenters with ugly agendas.  But where does this leave us?

The fact that we can protect ourselves from these high tech hooded thugs, doesn’t address the real issue.  Why are we allowing people to hide in plain sight.  Newspapers have long made it de rigueur to only publish letters from individuals with confirmed identities.  Make no mistake, I am not advocating restraints on free speech.  Far from it.  But surely we have the technology to expose these people?  The rest of us non-software engineers, should ignore the comments (versus engaging) and not patronize sites whose management allows for this behavior.  People are entitled to be as dark and hateful as they desire, but civilized societies should not allow for them to do so in disguise.

 
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Posted by on November 16, 2011 in Cultural Critique, Media/Marketing

 

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