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Sunday, August 29, 2010

Please Stand By

Due to some minor technical difficulties - okay MAJOR technical difficulties - I am going to have very limited access to the internet for a little while. To simplify things for myself, I've decided to just take a short break from my blog for what I hope will not be more than a week or two.
Sorry for the short notice, but it kind of caught me off guard as well.
Okay, that's all the news for now. See you in a week or two.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Save The World Saturday: Working Class Dog

When I was growing up, I often went with my dad to visit his friend, Jerry.
Jerry and my dad had known each other since they were kids, and Jerry had been progressively losing his eyesight for many years. When I met Jerry, his sight had reached the point where he needed the assistance of a guide dog: a big black lab named Topper.
I remember thinking that Topper was just the coolest dog. He was a powerful but friendly pup who would run and chase a ball for hours, wrestle around on the ground with my brother and I, and - if he ever got near a body of water big enough - swim until he was almost exhausted. I think what impressed me the most, though, was Topper's change in demeanor when Jerry needed his assistance.
With the words, "Topper, come!" the big dog became all business. When his harness and leash were on, nothing could distract him - not a cat, a ball, or even a big lake.
Growing up on and around cattle ranches, I was no stranger to the concept of working dogs, but Topper's work ethic and training absolutely amazed me. The thing is, as special as I thought Topper was, he really wasn't. All guide dogs are bred and trained to be ideal companions for people who need them.
So, today, I want to bring your attention to an organization that helps to provide dogs just like Topper to people just like Jerry and has been doing so for years: The Guide Dog Foundation.
Check out their website for ways that you can help, and check out this cool video I found on YouTube to give you an idea of just how long this organization has been around and doing good work:

Friday, August 27, 2010

Friday Film Buff: Mai-Tais and Yahtzee

In the category of "bad movies we love" 1997's Con Air stands out as an over-the-top masterpiece. Well, piece of something, anyway. Still, we cannot help but adore this implausible prison-escape-from-a-plane movie.
This was the first film that super producer Jerry Bruckheimer made without his partner, the late Don Simpson, and Simpson reportedly hated the script and wanted nothing to do with the film. (Simpson passed away before the film was finished.)
The premise is simple: Cameron Poe (Nicolas Cage), a good ol' boy and former Army Ranger, kills a man while defending his pregnant wife and is sent to prison where he corresponds with the daughter he has never met. There, he befriends Baby-O, a good-natured convict we can only presume must be there for removing the tags from his mattresses (accidentally, of course.)
Poe is finally paroled (about ten minutes into the film), and he and Baby-O (Mykelti Williamson), who is coincidentally being transferred to another prison on the same day, are about to board the Jailbird, a plane used to transport convicts. Boarding the same plane, are Cyrus "the Virus" Grissom (John Malkovich) and other way-too-evil-to-really-fully-explain-just-how-bad (so the movie doesn't) baddies.
A few minutes into the flight, the baddies take over and it's up to Cameron Poe to save the day.
*Beware of spoilers from here forward.*
First, the good:
Great action sequences, a clever sense of humor (the whole movie takes place on July 14th - Bastille Day), and director Simon West's ability to move us from laughter to horror to tears (albeit with every cliche in the book) are what keep me watching this movie every time it comes on cable.
Now, the bad:
Nicolas Cage's southern-fried accent seems to have been gleaned from repeated viewings of the first half hour of Forrest Gump. Actually, there are a few Gump connections in this movie. Mykelti Williamson also played Forrest's good-natured best friend, Bubba. Malkovich worked with Gary Sinise (Lt. Dan) for many years at the legendary Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago. (Sinise once described Malkovich's proclivity for performing Springsteen's "Blinded by the Light" when clowning around after shows. I'd like to have seen that.)
Cage looks good. He looks great, in fact, transforming perfectly into the lean, muscular type of comic book hero of which he is known to be a big fan. This makes it a little easier to overlook the fact that his "acting" in this film consists mostly of grimacing and mumbling, but only a little easier.
Also, for a movie that claims to be about the "gray area" of crime, punishment, and rehabilitation - twice quoting Dostoyevsky himself - the characterizations are extremely black-and-white. The only character who appears to change from the beginning of the film to the end is Steve Buscemi's mass murdering, Hannibal Lecter clone, Garland Greene, who manages to not kill anyone throughout the entire movie. (This fact is changed in the unrated extended cut, which I don't recommend for this and a number of other reasons.)
Con Air is one of my guilty pleasures because there is truly very little cinematically redeeming about it. To include it among my other favorites like The Seven Samurai, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Great Escape, and The Day of the Jackal seems inappropriate and yet also wholly appropriate, because, ultimately, the quality of a movie is measured not by the finer points of its acting, script, or cinematography, but by how much it moves us, and I am always, always moved by this scene, the second-to-last in the film:

Oh, yeah, John Cusack's in this movie, so it automatically gets two "awesome" points just for that.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Theatre Thursday: J'adoube

Ah, Chess: that troublesome musical from the ABBA guys: Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson (with lyrics by Tim Rice).
The concept album was very successful (the single "One Night in Bangkok" went to #3 in the U.S.) and whetted appetites for a full production. The West End production was a financial success - running for three years - but was met with mixed reviews critically. It was re-worked for Broadway where it did a spectacular . . . bellyflop.
This was followed recently by a somewhat lackluster concert version that aired on PBS.
Chess serves as a reminder that a great musical requires more than just great music and great singers.
However, there could be good news for this musical with a re-working of the show by the Signature Theatre in Washington D.C.
Though upon seeing the video that accompanies the Washington Post article, I am still skeptical.
For me, the best version of the show still exists in my mind's eye as I listen to the original concept album, though music video versions of the songs do add a little something as their own genre.
For example, here's Elaine Paige performing my favorite song from the show/album: "Nobody's Side."

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Wildlife Wednesday: Baby Hesty

Baby Hesty is back with her mommy at the Denver Zoo and made her public debut this weekend - no doubt to lots of cooing from local onlookers. Check out the video.

I haven't been down there to see her yet, but I will, and, if you are one of my local readers, I suggest you do the same - for a couple of reasons.
First, it's not every day you get the opportunity to see a baby orangutan up close. Second, every time you visit the Denver Zoo, you are contributing to the greater conservation efforts of the Denver Zoological Society.
This is more or less true of every zoo in every municipality anymore. There was a time long ago when zoos were little more than carnival exhibits of exotic animals in cages captured for the amusement of the viewing public. This is no longer the case. The animals that we see in zoos now - like Hesty - were born in captivity. Others, like Bismarck the sea lion, were rescued in the wild and, due to injuries or other maladies, it was decided that a life in pampered captivity was better than almost certain death in the wild.
A good portion of membership and entrance fees are used to promote conservation and education of threatened species.
In short, zoos do good work. They take extremely good care of the animals that live on their grounds. Your visit to the zoo not only gives you an opportunity to see rare and endangered animals, it helps to save them.
So, go to the zoo in your town and go often.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Tuesday Tutorial: That Special Someone

No, I'm not planning to impart any dating advice. First, I don't have any - not any you'd want to hear anyway. Second, I was thinking - as I often do - about the large number of animals that wind up in shelters or on the streets every year because overzealous pet-seekers choose a critter (and I use that term affectionately) that isn't quite the right match for their lifestyle.
So, today, a video from on choosing the right pet for you.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Monday Motivator: Rudy

It's kind of easy in this economy for a person to feel discouraged or unmotivated about the future. Sometimes an external stimulus is required to keep us focused and lift our spirits. Sometimes playing a favorite piece of blood-pumping music is the thing. (Mine is David Sanborn's "Tintin.") Or maybe you need to hit the gym to get your blood actually pumping. Even just going for a walk can help get us "re-wired" correctly. There's something about the left-brain/right-brain stimulation of opposing limb movement (right arm with left leg, left arm with right leg) that really clears out the cobwebs.
Of course, one of my tried-and-true methods is put on one of my favorite films to help change my mood. There is an endless catalog of well-crafted films out there that can move us to laughter (try being depressed after laughing for 90 minutes), to tears (which can also be cathartic), or to stand right up and cheer ("Yo, Adrian!")
One of the best films in the last category is 1993's Rudy, starring Sean Astin.
Dan "Rudy" Ruettiger is too short, too slow, and too, well, untalented to play college football - as he is told by just about everyone he knows. However, Rudy has a dream to play football for Notre Dame. This adds another challenge: Rudy isn't very good at school.
Against almost insurmountable odds and with very little support from just about anyone, Rudy digs in and decides that he will reach his goal "whatever it takes."
His tenacity, his refusal to see any other possible outcome, and his ability to overcome those dark moments when it seems all hope is lost, are inspiring, to say the least.
Sean Astin is incredible in this movie as he captures all of the heart that allowed Rudy to (not really a spoiler) realize his dreams.
Helped along by Jerry Goldsmith's rousing score (which has since been used in a dozen or so trailers for other films) David Anspaugh's film will have you on your feet by the closing credits.
Being a Hollywood film, a few of the elements are fictionalized for dramatic effect, but, amazingly, some of the more incredible aspects of Ruettiger's story - particularly those in the final moments of the movie - are absolutely true.
Also featuring Jon Favreau, Ned Beatty, Charles S. Dutton, Robert Prosky, and Vince Vaughn (in his film debut), Rudy is a great DVD to pop in on one of those "grey" days.

Now that was the original trailer for the movie and, as such, didn't feature Goldsmith's actual inspiring score. Here's a little taste of that.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Sunday Wild Card: The Best Show You (Probably) Never Saw

In 1988, ABC premiered a sci-fi mystery television show developed by mystery writer William Link science fiction writer Isaac Asimov. The series starred Parker Stevenson (formerly of Hardy Boys fame, later of Baywatch fame, at that time of married-to-Kirstie-Alley fame) as the reclusive scientific genius Austin James and Ashley Crow as his perky and quirky new secretary, Mickey Castle. (Years later we would come to know Ashley as "Claire's mom" on Heroes.)
Certainly owing some of its concept to the long-running British series Doctor Who, Probe presented a "Sherlock Holmes" for the silicon age, with the eccentric Austin James solving mysterious crimes involving advanced technology with Mickey in tow - often having to provide explanation and apology for James's misanthropic style. (I think Monk owes at least a nod toward this series.)
Two months (and seven total episodes)after Probe debuted as a mid-season replacement, ABC canceled the series as it never found its place in the ratings. No mystery there. After the pilot episode, Probe took up its regularly scheduled spot on . . . Thursday nights. (In 1988 NBC owned Thursday nights with The Cosby Show, A Different World, Cheers, and Night Court.)
Still, I made a point of watching every episode (amid a bit of contention in my house as this was before DVRs), and I was sorry to see it go.
Thanks to the age of YouTube, I can re-watch some of the episodes, and I've put the first fifteen minutes or so of the pilot up here if you want to check it out.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Save the World Saturday: Scholarship America

"The school is the last expenditure upon which America should be willing to economize."  ~Franklin D. Roosevelt

Scholarship America.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Friday Film Buff: Better With Age

I'm a big Sean Connery fan. This is not some grand revelation, I know. Really, have you ever met anyone who said, "Sean Connery. Y'know, I don't care for his work."?
No, you haven't. And if you have met someone claiming such rubbish you should really check their closet for a giant pod husk. Seriously.
Everybody loves Sean Connery. While not everything he touches turns immediately to gold (The Avengers, Zardoz), Connery can pretty much be counted on to give a performance that you'll be imitating to your co-workers the next day in your best growling Scottish brogue.
While there may be some contention about who was the worst Bond, there's a pretty clear majority that agrees that the best Bond was and will always be the first Bond. Sure, some of the younger film-goers may laud Craig or Brosnan as their favorite as they are the most recently associated with the role, and I even once knew a guy who made a compelling argument in favor of Lazenby, but few can dispute that no one captured the essence of Bond quite as well as Mr. Connery. By the way, if you ever meet anyone who claims Roger Moore was the best, well, you know: Pod husk. Go check. Right now.
It was during the Moore era that Sean Connery finally felt compelled to return to the role he'd walked away from twelve years earlier to make the non-EON Bond film Never Say Never Again (a remake of Thunderball) in 1983. Some critics have poked fun at the aging Scot playing Bond again in that film, and a certain weekly magazine focusing on entertainment recently even went so far as to refer to that film as "Grumpy Old Bond" and mocked Connery's receding hairline. However, had they used the specialized journalistic tools at their disposal (uh, dudes: Google), they might have discovered that Connery has worn a toupee as Bond since Dr. No as he began to lose his hair as a teenager, and they might also have learned that the official Bond of the time, Roger Moore, is three years older than Connery.
Personally, I like Never Say Never Again. It may not stand up to a Goldfinger or even a Living Daylights, but it's a darn sight better than what EON produced that same year (Octopussy) or two years later (A View To A Kill).
This would mark the second time that Connery had been enticed to return to the role of Bond. The first was Diamonds Are Forever. Connery had said goodbye to Bond after You Only Live Twice, his fifth time as 007, in 1967, because he wanted to do other projects. During this time, he made one of my favorite movies, The Molly Maguires (1970).
After George Lazenby inexplicably decided to abandon the role after his only outing in On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969), a number of actors were considered including Michael Gambon (Dumbledore), Jeremy Brett (Sherlock Holmes), and Adam West (Batman), but, ultimately, the decision was made to return to Connery with a good deal of pleading and a hefty chunk of change. Connery agreed. (It's nice to be wanted.)
Connery famously said that he would never play Bond again after Diamonds Are Forever, and - even more famously - was told at the time by his wife, Michelle Roquebrune, to "never say never again." (She got a production credit for her contribution to the title of the 1983 film.)
During his second break from Bond, Connery added several great films to his catalogue, including Robin and Marian, The Wind and the Lion, The Man Who Would Be King, The Great Train Robbery, Murder on the Orient Express, and today's Friday Film Buff selection: Outland (1981).
Often described as "a western in space," writer/director Peter Hyams created this film as an homage to (and loose adaptation of) High Noon.
Connery is O'Niel, the new Marshal at a remote mining outpost on one of Jupiter's moons in the not-too distant future. After breaking up an illegal drug operation, O'Niel finds himself standing alone against the corrupt mining supervisor (Peter Boyle) and a group of hired assassins arriving on the next shuttle. Connery is great in this film, supported by James B. Sikking as a loyal but pragmatic deputy and the always wonderful Frances Sternhagen as the sardonic station doctor.

Cool flick. Check it out if you haven't already.
Connery would go on to play a leading man/action hero in over twenty more films - well into his seventies - before finally announcing his retirement after his difficult experience filming The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003) and that film's disappointing returns at the box office.
However, Connery has worked on a few voice-over projects recently including a return to the role that started it all, voicing James Bond for a video game version of From Russia With Love.
I do sometimes hope that we'll see Sir Connery step back in front of the cameras, but I hear he's enjoying his retirement, and I'm glad of that.
Like the saying goes: "Bannocks ar better nor nae kin o breid," (roughly: "Half a loaf is better than no bread at all") and I'll always be grateful for the "breid" that's there: 50 years' worth of great films.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Theatre Thursday: A Creative Leap

"Concept" musicals can have a bit of a tough go of it. Musical theatre audiences (more so than non-musical theatre audiences) are generally looking for the formulaic from their evening's entertainment. Subject matter or setting may not be important, but they're looking for certain things to happen in the first act and certain things to happen in the second act.
The late 80's musical Romance/Romance (Off-off Broadway in 1987 with a move to Broadway in 1988) turned that notion on its ear by telling two distinctly different tales (different settings, characters, etc.) from the first act to the second. The roles were played by the same actors, but - other than that - the only links between the two stories were the theme of romance and one musical number.
Romance/Romance achieved reasonable commercial success and considerable critical success including Tony nominations for Best Musical, and for Best Actor and Actress, respectively, for Scott Bakula and Alison Fraser in the leads.
Here they are performing numbers from both acts (with a swift costume change) on the 1988 Tony Awards. (This was not long before Bakula would land the career-making role of Dr. Samuel Beckett on the acclaimed sci-fi series Quantum Leap.)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Wildlife Wednesday: Bird's-Eye-View

The peregrine falcon is an example of a wildlife conservation success story. These regal birds were once on the endangered list, but through the efforts of bird and nature enthusiasts, the peregrine falcon is now classified as being of "least concern."
The largest population of the peregrine falcon (sometimes also known as the "duck hawk") is in the Grand Canyon. This video from shows the beautiful flight of the falcon and even imagines what one of America's greatest natural wonders must look like from their perspective:

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Tuesday Tutorial: Shake, Rattle & Roll

Season 7 winner Lauren Froderman
Well, I don't know about you, but I'm already lamenting the fact that there won't be a new episode of So You Think You Can Dance this week. I've been watching since season two, and I am a big fan of the show. Where I grew up, the opportunities to become involved in dance (particularly for a guy) were very rare, so the affection for dance as an art form came a bit later for me. As a director, I am known for working extra dance and movement into a musical production (much to the chagrin of a few producers). I just think that some feelings or conflicts are expressed better physically. As a species, we had movement before we had words, and our most visceral experiences are still difficult to fully express verbally.
I get very excited at the beginning of every new season of SYTYCD (and not just because of the lovely and amazing host, Cat Deeley), because it's a whole new slew of ebullient and talented hopefuls vying for a spot on the show.
The incredible Allison Holker
(I do wish that the producers spent a little less time in the preliminaries letting the cameras mock the enthusiastically clueless, but I suppose that's all part of the ratings.)
Like the contestants, I am anxious to get to Hollywood where we will be treated to the inspired choreography of Mandy Moore,  Stacey Tookey, "Nappytabs", former contestant Travis Wall,  Tyce Diorio, and, my current favorite, Sonya Tayeh. Week after week I am moved by the creativity of the choreographers, by the skill and the aspiration of the dancers, and by the great fondness shared among the audience, the judges, and everyone else involved for this artful expression known as dance.
Very rarely does my favorite dancer of the season take the top honors, but this time she did. Congratulations, Lauren! It was also nice this season to have my all-time favorite contestant Allison Holker back on the show dancing as an all-star.
Anyway, I thought today's tutorial should be a short dance lesson. Enjoy!

How To Swing Dance on Howcast

Monday, August 16, 2010

Monday Motivator: Don't Quit

Inspiring words from Les Brown.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Sunday Wild Card: Nerdgasm

Star Trek meets The Lord of the Rings meets the 60s meets some interesting career advice for an actor who desperately wanted not to be typecast. You know the actor: Spock!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Save the World Saturday: My Favorite Things

The slogan of The American Humane Association (headquartered right here in Colorado) is "Protecting Children & Animals Since 1877."
Honestly, what more needs to be said?
Oh, Constance Marie has something to add? I'm listening.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Friday Film Buff: Defending Dalton

With the indefinite suspension of the Bond franchise by EON due to the continuing financial woes of parent studio MGM, it seems increasingly likely that The Quantum of Solace will be Daniel Craig's last outing as the iconic Agent 007.
I thought this would be an appropriate time to revisit the earlier and much-maligned incarnation of James Bond in the late eighties as portrayed by Timothy Dalton.
I think Dalton gets a bum rap for his take on the British superspy, and I have my suspicions as to why.
First, Dalton was not the first choice, and most of us knew it. Whispers about Pierce Brosnan as a potential new Bond began almost immediately upon his appearance on American television as the mysterious Remington Steele. After Roger Moore's last turn as Bond in A View to A Kill (1985), Brosnan was a slam-dunk to strap on the Walther PPK, but NBC decided not to release him from his Remington Steele contract in case they wanted to make any TV movies based on the already canceled series. This was a disappointing turn of events for almost everyone involved, especially fans of the franchise who were anxious to see Brosnan step into the role. Dalton had the thankless job of assuming a part that many felt was unfairly kept from someone else.
Adding to fan's displeasure was the fact that Timothy Dalton is eleven to thirteen years older than Brosnan. (Strangely, there is some disagreement on the internet about the year of Dalton's birth.) Roger Moore was approaching sixty when he made A View to a Kill, and many Bond aficionados (myself included) were anxious to see a younger actor breathe new life into the role. While Dalton was certainly younger than Roger Moore, he was not as young as Brosnan. He was also older than both Connery and Lazenby had been when they had first played the dapper secret agent. (Dalton was still younger than Roger Moore had been in his 007 debut, Live and Let Die in 1973.)
For the casual Bond fan or average movie-goer, Dalton had another unfortunate cross to bear. The franchise under Roger Moore had developed a reputation for being a bit cornball and, at times, even ridiculous. Moore's light-hearted approach to the part had taken a lot of the edge off of the character, and anti-heroes like Dirty Harry, Mad Max, and Rambo were drawing at the box office. While Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson, Sylvester Stallone, and Arnold Schwarzenegger were flexing as they were blowing things up on screen, James Bond had become a bit of a joke with Roger Moore chasing after bad guys and romancing women almost all of whom in both categories were half his age.
Timothy Dalton's edgier, darker James Bond wasn't really what anyone was expecting, and, for a lot of fans, he was not who they had been hoping to see.
It was a case of bad timing. The public probably needed more of a break from the Roger Moore era of Bond, and a lot of the public's frustration with NBC's lawyers over the whole Brosnan thing was unfairly vented at the Welsh actor who got the role over the Irish actor who many thought should have gotten it.
In both of his outings as Bond, The Living Daylights (1987) and License To Kill (1989), Dalton is smooth, smart, rugged, charming, handsome, and everything that Bond should be. Gone is the smirkiness of the late seventies and eighties, replaced with a gritty (but suave) modern action hero.
The films warrant a second look and I believe that Dalton's unfortunate but common designation as "the worst Bond" is completely undeserved.
As for the future of Bond, while I am sorry that we probably will not get to see Daniel Craig return to the role (he was better than I thought he would be), I think that the best thing for the franchise would be the re-boot (the complete one) that we were all promised after Pierce Brosnan was unceremoniously fired after Die Another Day (2002).
I think that after about five years - enough time for EON to find another home for the franchise - we should be given a prequel that leads us into the story of James Bond becoming 007. I think, too, that the series could benefit from remaining in the period in which it was originally written. Imagine Mad Men meets action franchise.
Of course, that's just one idea.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Theatre Thursday: Why I Hate Curtain Calls

Now, I know that I am immediately going to ruffle some feathers with this, but I do believe that sometimes it’s not such a bad thing for feathers to get ruffled.
Today, I want to talk about curtain calls – you know, the bit of business after the end of a play or musical or ballet in which the performers return to the stage (in order of least important to starring role) to receive accolades in the form of applause from their audience and occasionally to direct the applause toward an unseen orchestra or stage technicians. I loathe curtain calls. I don’t like them as an actor, I’m not crazy about them as an audience member, and I hate them as a director.
I can already hear your objections sprinkled with words like “tradition” and “appreciation” and “synergy,” but that doesn’t change how I feel about the monster that is the curtain call.
I can distill my distaste for this traditional exercise down to three basic reasons:

Reason #1: They’re insincere.

Have you ever been to a show that wasn’t terrific, but you applauded anyway out of politeness? Have you ever joined in a standing ovation that you felt was undeserved because you didn’t want to be the only person not standing? I’m not saying that all applause is insincere or that all standing ovations are undeserved. I’m saying that enough of them are so, and that diminishes the impact of the rest.
I knew someone who told me that she would “always stand after a show” to show her appreciation for the performers’ efforts, regardless of the quality of the production. I asked her how she showed her appreciation for an exceptional show. Did she stand on top of her chair? Did she applaud with her entire forearms instead of just her hands?
Sometimes I feel that a standing ovation is motivated less by an actual appreciation of a show and more by a desire on the part of audience members to be seen as enthusiastic appreciators.
Applause has become a courtesy – almost an obligation.
Again, I’m not saying that all ovations are suspect, I’m just saying that if some are, it kind of defeats the purpose of them all.

Reason #2: They’re vain.
Get out a piece of paper and pencil and make a list of all of the professions that you can think of that receive applause for a job well done, and I don’t mean just at the annual holiday party or during the monthly sales meeting – I’m talking every time.
Take a minute and do this now. I’ll wait . . .
. . .Okay, pencils down.
Now, cross off “actor”, “singer”, and “dancer.” What’s left? Golfer?
I’m not trying to downplay the skill or effort that goes into putting on a show; it’s not easy. I’m just trying to look at this in a larger context. Do you applaud when the bagger at the grocery store remembers not to smash the bread under the soup cans? (I do, but then I use the self check-out lane.)
I realize, too, that - for many performers - applause is part of the reward of the job. However, see “Reason #1” above for what may be the real value of that reward.

Reason #3: It kills the moment.
This is my biggest gripe with the curtain call. As an actor or as a director or as a playwright, my goal is to effectively tell an affecting story. I have labored to move my audience and leave them with a powerful and lasting impression. I have sought to stir their emotions, to provoke their prejudices, to challenge their comfort zones, culminating in the final, stirring moment just before the stage goes black. This is my gift to them for their drive home, for the quiet moments after their heads hit the pillow but before they drift off to sleep. Whether the final moment is dramatically poignant, riotously comic, or rousingly musical, it is the raison d'être for the entire artistic endeavor: the feeling the audience is left with at . . . the end.
Only, that’s not the end. We still have to parade out all of the costumed characters, though now out of character even if still in costume: heroes and villains now standing together and smiling, Juliet and Romeo alive again and waving happily to the upper balcony, Helen Keller pointing in acknowledgement of spotting an old friend in attendance in the front row. (Oh please, please, let it not be the stage manager’s birthday tonight. I don’t wanna sing. I don’t wanna sing . . .)
Naturally, the impact is lessened somewhat if the show is light-hearted musical or comedy, but, nevertheless, a distinct wedge of reality has been driven into the magical fiction that was created. A bit of sensory “distance” has been placed between that final moment of the story and the audience’s drive home, and, in my opinion, no proselytizing about a "synergistic exchange of artistic appreciation" can excuse that.
However, that is just my opinion. This is called “Why I Hate Curtain Calls,” not “Why You Should Hate Curtain Calls,” and I know that the phenomena of the curtain call/standing ovation is not something that will be going away anytime soon.
I just happen to think that sometimes it’s worth raising the questions from time to time of why we do something and whether doing that something still serves us as it once did.
You may not agree.
Feel free to chime in below.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Wildlife Wednesday: Underwater POV

Check out this "critter cam" footage as it captures video from the perspective of a sea lion swimming and even catching and eating a large octopus. (It's more interesting than gruesome, don't worry.)

Monday, August 9, 2010

Monday Motivator: Tony Robbins on Clarity

This is one of my favorite anecdotal lessons from success guru Tony Robbins.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Sunday Wild Card: Not Another Baby Animal Video

Two more, in fact - both babies born at the Denver Zoo.
This aye-aye is only the second ever to be born in North America:

And this baby sea lion pup was born at the Denver Zoo in June. She's the first born at the zoo in 17 years. She's a big deal.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Save the World Saturday: World Wildlife Fund

With the latest tragic news out of South Africa about the last rhinoceros on a wild game reserve being killed brutally for her horn (warning: graphic image accompanies the article), I thought it best to focus my attention this week on one of my favorite organizations: the World Wildlife Fund or WWF for short.
For approaching 50 years, the WWF has been fighting to preserve the future of wildlife all over the globe.
WWF has a very impressive website as one of its goals is to provide education about the many different species on the planet and the threats that the flora and fauna of our world face - primarily from us.
Here is the WWF page on the rhino.
Now, my Wildlife Wednesday blog entry this week was - purely by coincidence - about a baby rhino born in a zoo in Switzerland. Unfortunately, zoos are one of the few places anymore where a baby rhino has much chance of survival in the world at all. WWF is working to change that, and you can help them by lending your support.
Never one to shy away from manipulation, I now offer you two videos of - you guessed it - baby rhinos.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Friday Film Buff: A Second Taking

The recent remake of The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3 wasn't bad, in my opinion. It was just - like most remakes - not as good as the original. (The two most notable exceptions to this rule are Ocean's 11 and The Thomas Crown Affair. The remake of 3:10 to Yuma is in a dead heat with its original counterpart. Again, though, just my opinion.)
The original Pelham was free of the faux Hollywood "grittiness" and heavily-scored melodrama. The strength of the story comes from the realism of its characters - good and bad. The film manages to mix realistic drama and suspense with a wicked sense of humor. It's one of my favorite movies.

I think there are others who agree with me on this. Take a look at CappyNJ's clever editing of a updated trailer for the original film. (Pay particular attention to the "preview" notice. Clever, clever.)

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Theatre Thursday: Scary Monsters

While David Lynch's 1980 film The Elephant Man is notable for its prosthetic make-up effects in recreating the deformities of Victorian medical sensation John Merrick (whose name was actually Joseph Merrick, incidentally), the Broadway play of the same name by Bernard Pomerance is equally notable for using no prosthetics whatsoever - relying upon the actor in the title role to convey Merrick's condition.
The role was originated on Broadway by Philip Anglim and then later played by Mark Hamill, Bruce Davison, and - in the clip below - by David Bowie.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Wildlife Wednesday: Rarer and Rarer

In case you haven't figured it out by now, I'm a sucker for baby animals. One of my Blogger apps on this site is a "baby animal of the day" at the very bottom of the page. (Scroll down.)
So, naturally (no pun intended), one of my favorite sites to visit is which updates with pictures and video on most of the baby animals born in zoos around the world.
I was particularly excited to read about Henna, an Indian rhino calf born in Zoo Basel, a nonprofit zoo in Switzerland. Not only is it great to read about a baby being born to a species that at one point had a population in only the double digits, but this baby has a very interesting "birthmark": one white leg.

Pretty cute, no? There are even more pictures of Henna at the ZooBorns site. I also dug around and found some amateur video of baby and mom on YouTube:

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Tuesday Tutorial: Easy, Big Fella

Building off of yesterday's blog on worry, I thought I'd explore another area where sometimes our emotions can give us unhealthy levels of stress.
Today, a video on calming yourself down quickly.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Monday Motivator: Worry Me Not

If you're anything like me, when times get tough (which they are for a lot of people right now) sometimes it's hard not to let your mind get caught up in worry.
I'm not suggesting that there's any value in ignoring your problems, but I do think that an unscientific estimate is that about 80% of the time we spend worrying does us no real good.
Noted author Allia Nolan Zobel shares some thoughts in an article for on "10 Ways You Can Stop Worrying."
Here is a bit more wisdom from various great minds on the subject of worry from

"Drag your thoughts away from your troubles... by the ears, by the heels, or any other way you can manage it."  ~Mark Twain

"Today is the tomorrow we worried about yesterday."  ~Author Unknown

"Do not anticipate trouble or worry about what may never happen.  Keep in the sunlight."  ~Benjamin Franklin

"If you can't sleep, then get up and do something instead of lying there worrying.  It's the worry that gets you, not the lack of sleep." ~Dale Carnegie 

"People gather bundles of sticks to build bridges they never cross." ~Author Unknown

"Worrying is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do, but it gets you nowhere." ~Glenn Turner

 "Somehow our devils are never quite what we expect when we meet them face to face."  ~Nelson DeMille

"Worry often gives a small thing a big shadow." ~Swedish Proverb

And, finally, if your mind absolutely needs to occupy itself with something silly, try giving it this: a bit of wisdom disguised as silliness.

Bobby Mc Ferrin - Don't Worry Be Happy
Uploaded by malika83. - Watch the latest news videos.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Sunday Wild Card: Must-See TV

Two of my favorite performers - Julie Andrews and Gene Kelly - singing and dancing on The Julie Andrews Show in the sixties.