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Saturday, March 31, 2007

Movies: The Third Man, Modern Times

The Third Man (1949)

The plot: Upon arriving in Vienna, Holly Martins ( Joseph Cotten) learns that the friend he has come to meet, Harry Lime (Orson Welles), was recently killed in a mysterious car accident.

Film noir at its best. It's difficult for me to tell you too much about this movie without giving away a few surprises, so let me just give you my highest recommendation, and we'll leave it at that.

Modern Times (1936)

The plot: The Little Tramp (Charles Chaplin) struggles to make his way in a mechanized world.

This was the last appearance of Chaplin's endearing character, the Little Tramp, and it is a gem. I laughed hysterically at the physical comedy and comedic timing that is unsurpassed even today. I fell in love with Paulette Goddard as the gamin. I was moved by the sad but hopeful story. This is American film-making at its best, and, ironically, this is the film that led to Chaplin being labeled a Communist and ran him afoul of the House Un-American Activities Committee. A beautiful film, this is better than anything currently showing at the multiplex (and probably always will be.)

Friday, March 30, 2007

Movies: Outrageous

Outrageous (1977)

The plot: A gay hairdresser (Craig Russell) with a talent for mimicry is encouraged by his pregnant schizophrenic roommate (Hollis McLaren) to perform as a drag queen.

What seems to be a pretty strange premise makes for a very touching and humorous little independent film from Canada. While this is basically a showcase for Russell's remarkable impersonations (Judy Garland, Tallulah Bankhead, Barbra Streisand and many others), the movie manages to keep a very compelling storyline going due in no small part to the performance of Hollis McLaren as a young woman who struggles with a disease that none of us understand very well now, much less in 1977.
The subject matter may not be for everybody, but I really enjoyed this film.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Airline Humor

Air travel these days is no picnic. Luckily, there are many people in the industry with a sense of humor, and they're happy to try to keep us amused:
On a Southwest flight (SW has no assigned seating, you just sit where you want) passengers were apparently having a hard time choosing, when a flight attendant announced, "People, people we're not picking out furniture here, find a seat and get in it!"
"There may be 50 ways to leave your lover, but there are only 4 ways out of this airplane"
"Thank you for flying Delta Business Express. We hope you enjoyed giving us the business as much as we enjoyed taking you for a ride."
As the plane landed and was coming to a stop at Ronald Reagan, a lone voice came over the loudspeaker: "Whoa, big fella. WHOA!"
After a particularly rough landing during thunderstorms in Memphis, a flight attendant on a Northwest flight announced, "Please take care when opening the overhead compartments because, after a landing like that, sure as hell everything has shifted"
From a Southwest Airlines employee: "Welcome aboard Southwest Flight 245 to Tampa.. To operate your seat belt, insert the metal tab into the buckle, and pull tight. It works just like every other seat belt; and, if you don't know how to operate one, you probably shouldn't be out in public unsupervised."
"In the event of a sudden loss of cabin pressure, masks will descend from the ceiling. Stop screaming, grab the mask, and pull it over your face. If you have a small child traveling with you, secure your mask before assisting with theirs. If you are traveling with more than one small child, pick your favorite."
"Weather at our destination is 50 degrees with some broken clouds, but we'll try to have them fixed before we arrive. Thank you, and remember, nobody loves you, or your money, more than Southwest Airlines."
"Your seat cushions can be used for flotation; and, in the event of an emergency water landing, please paddle to shore and take them with our compliments."
"As you exit the plane, make sure to gather all of your belongings. Anything left behind will be distributed evenly among the flight attendants. Please do not leave children or spouses."
And from the pilot during his welcome message: "Delta Airlines is pleased to have some of the best flight attendants in the industry. Unfortunately, none of them are on this flight!"
Overheard on an American Airlines flight into Amarillo, Texas, on a particularly windy and bumpy day: During the final approach, the Captain was really having to fight it. After an extremely hard landing, the Flight Attendant said, "Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Amarillo. Please remain in your seats with your seat belts fastened while the Captain taxis what's left of our airplane to the gate!"
Another flight attendant's comment on a less than perfect landing: "We ask you to please remain seated as Captain Kangaroo bounces us to the terminal."
Part of a flight attendant's arrival announcement: "We'd like to thank you folks for flying with us today. And, the next time you get the insane urge to go blasting through the skies in a pressurized metal tube, we hope you'll think of US Airways."
Heard on a Southwest Airline flight. "Ladies and gentlemen, if you wish to smoke, the smoking section on this airplane is on the wing and if you can light 'em, you can smoke 'em."
An airline pilot wrote that on this particular flight he had hammered his ship into the runway really hard. The airline had a policy which required the first officer to stand at the door while the Passengers exited, smile, and give them a "Thanks for flying our airline." He said that, in light of his bad landing, he had a hard time looking the passengers in the eye, thinking that someone would have a smart comment. Finally everyone had gotten off except for a little old lady walking with a cane. She said, "Sir, do you mind if I ask you a question?"
"Why, no, Ma'am," said the pilot. "What is it?"
The little old lady said, "Did we land, or were we shot down?"

Monday, March 26, 2007

Movies: An Inconvenient Truth

An Inconvenient Truth (2006)

The award-winning documentary of Al Gore's slide show (as he calls it) about the negative impact of global warming has upset many. Some are upset at what the scientific findings mean for the future of life on this planet. Some are upset that the government has largely ignored these findings for years.
Another group is upset that there has been so much attention paid to the idea of global warming. They say that the Al Gore and others like him are alarmists, misleading the American public about a problem that isn't really a problem. They say that global warming is a myth. Well, I really hope they're right, because I like the idea that An Inconvenient Truth is false a lot more than I like the idea that it's true.

Watch the movie. Get upset.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Music: Hada to Hada

Pike - Hada to Hada

I will sometimes go to the "dollar bins" at music stores (both on-line and off) and buy CDs from bands I've never heard of before in order to expose myself to fresh and different sounds. Often, I don't get my money's worth. However, about a year or so ago, I picked up a compilation album of new celtic rock from's dollar bin. On that album were two songs by an Irish band called Hada to Hada. Frontman Kieran Duddy's gravelly growl evokes Tom Waits or Robbie Robertson, and the combination of traditional instruments and synthesizers create a unique and soulful sound on the two tracks, "The Oceanographer," and "Pike."
I immediately set about finding the album from which these two songs were sampled, also called Pike. I couldn't. For months, I couldn't order it, I couldn't find anyone to order it, I couldn't find it new or used, and nobody had heard of this band.
Eventually, I found the album used on after months of searching the site to no avail. Now, I've got it, and it was every bit worth the effort. The songwriting is inspired and haunting, and I must say, I'm surprised that this band is not more widely known.
I also found out that Hada to Hada has at least one more album, called My German Lover.
Here we go again . . .

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Technical Support

You know how when you call to speak to customer service, there's a recorded voice that says "Your call may be recorded for quality assurance?" Well, that's not the only reason they're recording you.
Here are a few gems I discovered on the internet. (They may not all be true, but, sadly, they probably are.):

Tech support: What kind of computer do you have?
Female customer: A white one...


Customer: Hi, this is Celine. I can't get my diskette out.
Tech support: Have you tried pushing the Button?
Customer: Yes, sure, it's really stuck.
Tech support: That doesn't sound good; I'll make a note.
Customer: No, wait a minute... I hadn't inserted it yet... it's still on my desk... sorry....


Tech support: Click on the 'my computer' icon on to the left of the screen.
Customer: Your left or my left?


Tech support: Good day. How may I help you?
Male customer: Hello... I can't print.
Tech support: Would you click on "start" for me and...
Customer: Listen pal; don't start getting technical on me! I'm not Bill Gates.


Customer: Hi, good afternoon, this is Martha, I can't print. Every time I try, it says 'Can't find printer'. I've even lifted the printer and placed it in front of the monitor, but the computer still says he can't find it...


Customer: I have problems printing in red...
Tech support: Do you have a color printer?
Customer: Aaaah....................thank you.


Tech support: What's on your monitor now, ma'am?
Customer: A teddy bear my boyfriend bought for me at the 7-11.


Customer: My keyboard is not working anymore.
Tech support: Are you sure it's plugged into the computer?
Customer: No. I can't get behind the computer.
Tech support: Pick up your keyboard and walk 10 paces back
Customer: OK
Tech support: Did the keyboard come with you?
Customer: Yes
Tech support: That means the keyboard is not plugged in. Is there another keyboard?
Customer: Yes, there's another one here. Ah...that one does work...


Tech support: Your password is the small letter "a" as in apple, a capital letter V as in Victor, the number 7.
Customer: Is that 7 in capital letters?

== =============

Customer: I can't get on the Internet.
Tech support: Are you sure you used the right password?
Customer: Yes, I'm sure. I saw my colleague do it.
Tech support: Can you tell me what the password was?
Customer: Five stars.


Tech support: What anti-virus program do you use?
Customer: Netscape.
Tech support: That's not an anti-virus program.
Customer: Oh, sorry . . . Internet Explorer.


Customer: I have a huge problem. A friend has placed a screen saver on my computer, but every time I move the mouse, it disappears.


Tech support: How may I help you?
Customer: I'm writing my first e-mail.
Tech support: OK, and what seems to be the problem?
Customer: Well, I have the letter 'a' in the address, but how do I get the circle around it?


A woman customer called the Canon help desk with a problem with her printer.
Tech support: Are you running it under windows?
Customer: "No, my desk is next to the door, but that is a good point. The man sitting in the cubicle next to me is under a window, and his printer is working fine."

And one more . . .

Tech support: "Okay Bob, let's press the control and escape keys at the same time. That brings up a task list in the middle of the screen. Now type the letter "P" to bring up the Program Manager"
Customer: I don't have a P.
Tech support: On your keyboard, Bob.
Customer: What do you mean?
Tech support: "P".....on your keyboard, Bob.

I hope you enjoyed those as much as I did.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Movies: The Ultimate Gift, 300

The Ultimate Gift (2006)

The plot: A billionaire (James Garner) leaves a unique inheritance to his grandson (Drew Fuller).

I'm always up for a James Garner film, and I'm rarely disappointed. (A Man Called Sledge is one you can skip.) The Ultimate Gift was no exception. It definitely could have been, though. It has all of the elements of a bad movie-of-the-week: a little girl with a fatal disease (Little Miss Sunshine's Abigail Breslin), her much put-upon single mom, the spoiled grandson who meets the mother and daughter in a park and falls for both, and the occasional oddly-placed religious overtone. The movie also takes a strange departure two-thirds of the way in but manages to recover and get back on track. Gift manages to overcome its potential "hokeyness" (mostly), to become a thoroughly entertaining, moving, and inspiring film.

300 (2007)

The plot: A small army of 300 Spartans manages to fend off a much larger invading Persian army.

This movie is based on a true story, specifically Frank Miller's graphic novel based on that true story. Visually stunning in both art design and fight choreography, 300 will not disappoint the blood-thirsty epic action-film fans, but it'll probably annoy a few historians.
This film, however, is not a history lesson. It is a thrill ride from start to finish. It's pure entertainment, and there's not a thing wrong with that.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Coming up . . .

I went to see Magic Moments' All This and World War II last night in Littleton, Colorado which is always a fun and unique experience. The show closes this afternoon, so I won't tease you by making a lengthy recommendation of a show that, if you haven't already, you probably won't get to see. I will add a link, though, for the Magic Moments web site, so that you can check out what this company is all about and get plenty of advance notice for next year's production.
What I can offer you is a little bit of advance notice about where some of the Magic Moments performers will be performing in the near future as I managed to corner a few of them after the show.
You can look for the strikingly beautiful and talented Michelle Merz as Martha Jefferson in Town Hall Arts Center's upcoming 1776 with fellow MM performer Ken Paul as Richard Henry Lee. Ken's wife, Michelle Paul (who is so lovely and amazing one almost suspects something Faustian on Ken's part), will be performing in Do I Hear a Waltz? coming soon to the Arvada Center.
Finally, even though auditions have not been held yet, one would be surprised not to find the distinctive Don Mauck, the congenial Alex Marin, the lovely Lucy Roucis, and the adorable Regan Linton among the cast of PHAMALy's Urinetown this summer at the Denver Center.

Now, like I've said before, I'm reluctant to recommend a show without first having seen it myself, but I have no trepidation whatsoever about recommending the above performers as hard-working and reliably enjoyable.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Movies: The Big Tease, The Devil Wears Prada

You may have noticed that I have abandoned the old "The Better To See You With" titles. This is for two reasons. First, it stopped being clever some time ago, and, second, I thought it might be more useful for the archives if the movies were named in the title. As more and more people are beginning to look at this blog, it occurred to me that some might like to look through older entries. I may go back and change some of the old titles, but . . . probably not.

I saw two movies on DVD recently. One was much better than I expected and the other not nearly as good as I'd have hoped.

Starting with the bad news:

The Big Tease (1999)

The plot: A flamboyant Scottish hairdresser travels to Los Angeles to compete in an international hairdressing competition.

This movie has been widely-hailed for some time, but I just never got around to seeing it. I’m a fan of Craig Ferguson’s late-night talk show; he’s spontaneous and witty, and I believe he was grossly under-utilized on “The Drew Carey Show.”
That having been said, this movie is poorly done.
First, the film uses the "mockumentary" style of This Is Spinal Tap and Waiting for Guffman, but not very well. In fact, just about 45 minutes in the “documentary” premise is almost completely abandoned. Just how poorly this convention is executed, demonstrates the true genius of a director like Christopher Guest. He obviously made it look easy, so The Big Tease director decided to give it a try – perhaps out of pure laziness. Not good.
Frankly, neither is Ferguson, which is disappointing. He just never seems very comfortable in the role of Crawford MacKenzie, the gay hairstylist. In fact, some of Ferguson’s better moments seem to be when he just starts goofing around and slips out of character. Unfortunately this makes for a very uneven portrayal.
There’s just not much redeeming value to this movie, so, if you like Craig Ferguson, go rent Saving Grace or I'll Be There. The Big Tease is basically a messy waste of time.
And "you're welcome" for not making any bad puns about the title.

The Devil Wears Prada (2006)

The plot: A young, "regular girl" and aspiring journalist is a fish out of water when she accepts a position at a high-powered fashion magazine featuring Anne Hathaway and Meryl Streep.

There was no way I was going to see this movie in the theater. I really didn't see myself renting the DVD, either. As much as I like Anne Hathaway (which is a lot), I feared that this movie would be like two other Meryl Streep comedies that I had seen: She-Devil, a very bad adaptation of a pretty good British novel, and Death Becomes Her, a special-effects driven shambles of a film.
If not for a friend of mine who was such a fan of both the book and the film that she immediately bought the DVD upon release and had it sitting on top of her T.V. when I was visiting, I might never have learned just how wrong my assumptions had been. This film is very smart and very funny as it both reveres and skewers the world of high fashion in much the same vein as "Ugly Betty." (Yes, I watch that show. Shut up.)
Meryl Streep is brilliant, of course. (Naturally she was also the high point of the aforementioned debacles.) Anne Hathaway gives a very solid performance as the intrepid lead, redeeming herself in my eyes for the disappointing Brokeback Mountain.
The Devil Wears Prada was a very pleasant surprise.

Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune runs through March 10th at The Phoenix.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Hungry Like the Wolf, 3/4

Friday night a friend of mine was giving an informal workshop for Macintosh users at a local coffee shop, The Press Coffee Company. As a new Mac user, I saw it as an opportunity to learn some new tricks for my laptop and to catch up with my friend, Jeff Gamet, and his wife Erica. Jeff has been in a few shows for me, and, in addition to being a talented performer, is a dependable and fearless artist. Those two things go a long way with me as a director.
Jeff also happens to be one of the sharpest Mac experts around. He writes a column for The Mac Observer and has recently published a book, The Designer’s Guide to Mac OS X Tiger, available from
After the lecture, Jeff and some of his neighbors who also attended the workshop invited me to join them for dinner at the little Irish pub next door, The Exchange Tavern.
Upon entering the Exchange, we were overtaken with the lively and fun Celtic rock of local band, Big Paddy. Mixing authentic Celtic instruments and tunes with raucous barroom blues and rock, Big Paddy is a name I’ll be watching for again.
We worked our way past the bar into “the snug” and sat with some friends who were already waiting for us there.
The impressive menu gave so many wonderful choices that I settled quickly on bangers and mash (Irish sausage and mashed potatoes) and closed the menu. Otherwise I would have kept changing my mind and never decided on anything.
I thoroughly enjoyed my bangers and mash, but was a bit envious of Zach, who had ordered the bangers and colcannon, which also looked very tasty. I’ll have to try it next time, which I hope will be soon. The Exchange Tavern’s bangers and colcannon won them an award for best specialty food item with the Denver Metro North Chamber of Commerce.
All the way around the table, though, were dishes that inspired equal envy: both Amanda and Michael had the bread with artichoke dip; Leah, who had formerly been a waitress at the Exchange, had her favorite, the green chile; Jeff seemed to really enjoy his chicken sandwich, so much so that I was afraid to interrupt him. There was also a plate of appetizers at the table called “bottlecaps” (batter-fried jalapeno slices) that were very tasty and very, very hot. Erica, who had left the workshop early to retrieve her mother (Denver theatre personality, Nita Froelich) from the airport joined us a bit later, and I discovered another great thing about this little pub: after 10:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, you can order breakfast! Erica had a delicious omelet made-to-order of which she was generous enough to let me have a couple bites.
However, much as everyone else’s dishes appealed to me, I was quite happy with my bangers and mash. I'm not an alcohol drinker (long story) but everyone at the table really seemed to be enjoying their drinks as well. All at the table apart from me are frequent patrons of the Exchange Tavern, and all raved about the food and ambiance. There is a weekly quiz show in addition to lots of live music and televised sporting events.
The Exchange Tavern is locally owned and operated by Teddi and Gary Davis. Their daughter, Thea, and son, James, tend bar, so this is very much a family-run operation. I also had an opportunity to meet the Exchange Tavern’s chef (note that I said “chef, ” not “cook”) who was introduced to me only as “Dave.” Dave is an amiable and obviously quite talented chef who is very enthusiastic about his changing menu and his patron’s appetites.
The Exchange Tavern is someplace I will be going again very soon, and I highly recommend it to anyone who lives in or will be visiting the Denver area anytime soon.
And remember to keep on the lookout for Celtic rockers, Big Paddy.

Current theatre recommendation:
Paragon’s Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune.