Thursday, November 29, 2007

Theatre notes

Yowza! It's busy time again. But I did want to say hooray for all the folks who are now back working on Broadway. For all the juicy strike details, go to The Playgoer, a great source for what's happening in NYC theatre. I'm glad to hear the stagehands got hefty wage increases. The cost of living in NYC is beyond anything I would want to face on a per month basis.

Another theatre note before I say adieu for the weekend -- for those many of you who don't indulge in reality television programming. The Wednesday episode of Kid Nation found the four districts challenged to set up schools and learn some Bonanza history. Bonanza is the name of the made up old west town the kids have been living in for over 30 days -- billed as "without adults" except for those behind the cameras and running the production. There was a big uproar about it to begin with, but so far it has been quite fun.

The kids set up their schools and a couple of them played hooky. One bright girl in the Green district suggested that they use drama to retain their history lesson. She'd heard the research that drama as an experiencing art form increased retention of information. At the reward challenge, Green team won! Go drama education! Yay!

Speaking of which, I'm out of here for a junior Thespian weekend. See you soon.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A Morphine Song for Charity Hospital

Continuing with a song by song review of Ray Davies' Working Man's Cafe. Tonight we present Track 4: Morphine Song

How do you deal with getting shot in the leg? You write a song to go along with the rhythm of the morphine drip in your arm.
Listen to my heartbeat
Yeah all fall down someone help me off of the ground.
We are on a ward at the Charity Hospital in New Orleans, with a trad jazz band playing in the morgue. The pain killer doesn't stop the patient from observing the scenes around him. There's Star his nurse and Nelson his attendant:
Nelson and Starr
He's got ten grandkids, she's the third missus
He grooves around intensive care, strutting his stuff
He's got a perfect mullet hanging down his back
And Starr walks in, gives a little wiggle
Makes old Nelson grin
He tucks me in, touches my feet
"Hey buddy, you know you got a slow heartbeat"
And across the way is Brenda the alkie:
...the bed beside her is full of cables and leads
Nobody visits, nobody grieves.
She's a junkie and in pain but she's not the one getting the morphine so she cries:
"If I don't get better, I'm gonna die
I'll go cold turkey till I'm clean
I'll go to jail but you get the morphine"
The music plays with the rhythms of the slowed down heart and is supported with a charming traditional New Orleans style horn section backing a simple yet affecting acoustic guitar lead. Two voices teeter along in a child-like harmony on the "yeah all fall down" chorus.

It's a song that works on a lot of different levels at the same time. There's the surreality of the song writer finding himself on the ground and shot, then transported to a ward in Charity Hospital. Ray has said that one of his first thoughts while recovering at the hospital was to write a song to get through it.

Ray had been spending a lot of time in NO, was shot there in 2004, and his recovery was quite long. Just as he was getting up and about again, Katrina blasted away the hospital along with so much devastation and loss of life and homes.

The mournful jazz procession winds through a morgue in a hospital that no longer exists. Sure hope Nelson and Starr made it out OK. Glad you got through it, Ray.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Dreams and Nightmares

Turns out I wasn't dreaming about Kucinich welcoming Ron Paul onto a shared ticket. Yellow Dog Sammy tracked the item down here.

Would that the news I heard on Olbermann tonight was just one big nightmare of a dream I could wake up from tomorrow. But alas, it turns out that in reality the White House has done an end run around your elected officials in order to bind the US to Iraq for many years to come.

This so-called US-Iraq Declaration of Principles and Friendship and Cooperation means that the US has effectively taken sides with al-Maliki's faction and will be committed to fighting his enemies in order to build "democracy" in Iraq. TPM Muckraker has the details.

And for the ultimate eyeball popping keep you up all night sweating news, check out this report on global water shortages and just try to think to yourself "it can't happen here."

WMC US release Feb 19

From today's Billboard online, news that New West/Ammal has snapped up the rights to Ray Davies Working Man's Cafe for a Feb 2008 release.

Looks like I'll be spending even more money as Billboard reports:
For the New West/Ammal release, the new album will be available in standard form as well as a deluxe CD/DVD with live performances and a video interview. A vinyl edition is also in the works.

Look for Davies to tour North America in the spring.
Time to start a savings fund so that I can catch a few of the US stops! Ah! Reason to go on living!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Nobody for president

The primary season ever so slowly approaches. Yesterday, I took Dennis Kucinich's logo (did anybody notice?) off my blog because I thought I had read that he was saying he'd consider sharing a ticket with Ron Paul. Then I tried to find the reference and couldn't.

Maybe I dreamed it. Or maybe I'm tired of trying to defend him when I know he's not going to make any headway. Ditto for Mike Gravel, although I am going to keep his banner up because he is the only candidate that I have made financial contributions toward. At this point, I don't even know if he's going to appear on the ballot here in Ohio, or whether my vote in the Ohio primary will have any significance whatsoever.

It was easier back in my no voting days. Nobody for President, because after all, nobody represents me better than anybody else. As each day passes on this endless slog toward actual primary voting, my antipathy toward all the candidates grows stronger. I don't trust any of them because they all are taking huge hunks of money from all kinds of special interest groups. They all court and promise and cuddle up so much that it doesn't seem possible that any one of them will be able to "lead" without being beholden to a whole lot of people with more money than I can ever dream of making in my lifetime.

Once the voting and adding up of delegates is all over, I wouldn't mind seeing a Clinton/Obama ticket. That was my day-after-the-Kerry-loss reaction and I created bumper stickers to put on my vehicle with those names emblazoned -- just to annoy all the jubilant Repubs driving cars with Bush/Cheney stickers.

Hillary is not a leftist, this is true. However, since we've swung so far right I predict the voters will want to go back through the center before they are moved to the left. And maybe with maturity, Obama will himself feel emboldened to take a more progressive turn. Well that's my current electoral fantasy.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Just say no to plastic

Fake Plastic Fish blog is the blog I wish I were doing. Blogger Beth Terry is trying to lower her plastic usage. Her blog is an outstanding resource for ways to avoid plastic. For example, she recently purchased a soy milk machine to avoid the plastic caps that comes with every brand of soy milk on the market.

Reflecting on all the plastic in the world makes one realize that it is pretty near impossible to live life plastic free in our society today. Plastic is everywhere, animals are choking on it and our landfills are comprised of stinking piles of leeching toxic plastics. So little is recycled.

I have a container I am filling with plastic caps from various bottles. I'm thinking I can do a wall mosaic with them some day. I've stopped buying any kind of plastic wrap or bags except for trash bags. Too many plastic bags come into my house without invitation, even though I'm using cloth bags for shopping all the time. They are foisted upon us without thought and we take them mindlessly home. Produce, pasta, bulk foods, even socks and underwear come in plastic bags. It takes determination to find ways to purchase goods without the attendant plastic.

At Fake Plastic Fish, I learned that most tin cans these days are lined with plastic. And glass jars come with lids that also contain plastic . You just can't win, when trying to avoid the stuff. What I admire most about this blogger's project is that she mails back packaging that she cannot recycle to the manufacturer with a request they switch to something biodegradable.

If I were young and just starting out in life, I'd be trying to invent compostable packaging that can be manufactured sustainably. Whenever I travel along Kenmore Boulevard, I imagine all the store fronts and small buildings filled with green businesses based upon sound environmental science and sustainable practices. Imagining a Kenmore Boulevard in a society that does not move in this direction is too horrifying to handle.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Do the Right Thing

As you know, this is International Buy Nothing Day, a great idea that needs to happen more than once a year. Could we have a weekly Buy Nothing Day and still survive? How about a weekly Drive Nowhere Day? Or a Use No Plastic Day?

But, but...there will always be exceptions, won't there? What if you have to buy medications for a sick cat or you have to buy a part to make your toilet work? Or in my case today, what if you find out one of your students got hit by a van and is in the hospital?

I packed up some kid books and headed over to Children's Hospital today. I didn't know whether my student would be in any condition to read or to be read to, so I stopped in the gift shop -- even though I knew full well it was Buy Nothing Day. I found a stuffed lion to represent an African play my student had appeared in recently.

Up in the room, the patient was pretty miserable with a broken leg bone at the hip, and other damage. He's going to be all right eventually, but right now there's some major pain to get through and a whole lot of healing ahead. The books will come in handy in a few more days, but right now all the patient wanted to do was to hug the toy lion and smile out a thanks to me for being there. We had a good visit, and that lion stayed nestled in the crook of his good shoulder all the while I was there.

I don't know if there is a moral to this story. The stuffed lion was probably not a fare trade item made in a factory where workers are fairly paid and have medical coverage. I should have stopped at The Market Path to look for a gift. That would have meant a slight detour in my trip to the hospital. But like most people, I didn't think ahead and just went with the impulse. Good intentions are so easily lead astray by what is convenient and what is not.

To make up for my transgression, I will Buy Nothing tomorrow. Here's why:

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving at the Working Man's Cafe

I was going to post a re-run of Ray Davies singing Thanksgiving Day, with the thought of it becoming an annual tradition, but alas -- the footage is no longer available.

But while searching -- hooray! From the BBC Electric Proms concert, here is Ray singing his new instant classic. For everybody who grew up with a greasy spoon, rather than a silver one. Access the lyrics here, and sing along!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

"World peace begins in the kitchen..."

...reads the manifesto underneath VegiTerranean's logo on the menu. Chrissie Hynde's new restaurant in Akron finally opened last week and I was fortunate enough to get a reservation for a late dinner tonight.

One week before the restaurant was to open, management decided to make it exclusively vegan rather than the announced vegetarian format. How thrilling! I plan to go there a lot and explore my way through the entire menu.

Tonight I had a pizza on special. It featured mushrooms and squash. Since going vegan last summer, I admit to having had the occasional strong longing for pizza with cheese toppings. My pizza had whole wheat crust and was topped with wild mushrooms and a sauce mixed with squash. They also offer a pizza called "The Ghoulardi" with banana peppers, olives, mushrooms, red onion with spicy marinara.

The menu includes appetizers, soups, salads, pastas, the afore-mentioned pizzas and entrees made with something called Gardein, garden grown protein. My meal tonight didn't include any meat substitute, but I can tell you the soy cheese on the pizza was deliciously melted and tasted great.

Finally, a place where soy cheese and other plant-based forms of protein are the norm, not the unattainable. The restaurant is open evenings from 4 - 11 and will begin serving a lunch menu this Friday and continue Mondays through Fridays. They will eventually be open for lunch on weekends as well, and then plan to be open for breakfast hours with vegan pastries -- yum!

The ambiance was stripped down and sleek at the same time. What a great gift for Akron! Thank you Chrissie! Wonderful job chef J Scott Jones and the wait staff!

VegiTerranean is located at 21 Furnace St on the ground floor of the new Northside Lofts. That's the building at the foot of Luigi's off of old Howard Street. Phone for reservations: 330-374-5550. You will need them -- the place was hopping! It was great running into old friends and former students in town for the holidays. If you have guests coming in over the holidays, there is now some place very special to take them.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Congratulations No Impact Man!

On this day in 2006 one man and his family began to live making zero impact upon the planet. They ate vegetarian and bought local. They biked, walked and scootered their way around town. They took the stairs instead of elevators. They did without a laundry machine and a refrigerator. On the rooftop, one small solar panel powered Colin's lap top.

Colin Beavan blogged it all, and today marks the end of his experiment and the beginning of making many decisions about how he, his wife, young daughter and dog choose to live on the island of Manhattan.

His end of year post is a must-read. Looking forward to the book!

Congratulations Colin. Your comments are heart-felt and honest -- I'm so glad to read that you plan to continue blogging. It will be interesting to read about how your family adjusts to the temptations of comfort and convenience.

We all have seven years to lower our carbon emissions or learn to live on a greatly altered planet. If we don't start making a lower impact, the day will come when we will be living in perpetual drought with water a scare resource, surrounded by ever growing pollution in air, water and earth.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Grim news but no headlines

UN scientists released a new report over the weekend, one that should have achieved screaming headlines around the world. The end is nearer than you think, especially if you don't put much trust in your leaders and your fellow human beings to cease releasing carbon into the atmosphere. Since 2000, the earth has heated up 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius). In a follow up story in Sunday's Washington Post:
To avoid heating the globe by the minimum possible, an average of 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, the world's spiraling growth in greenhouse gas emissions must end no later than 2015, the report said, and must start to drop quickly after that peak. By 2050, carbon dioxide and other atmospheric polluting gases must be reduced by 50 to 85 percent, according to the estimates.
What happens if we don't meet that 2015 emissions goal? It doesn't look pleasant:
But if the world misses that target and does not stabilize carbon dioxide emissions until 2030, for example, the planet's temperature will increase by as much as 6.3 degrees Fahrenheit above 2000 temperatures, the report said. That level of warming would result in widespread extinctions of species, a slowing of the global currents, decreased food production, loss of 30 percent of global wetlands, flooding for millions of people and higher deaths from heat waves.
2015 is just around the corner. With billions of human beings crowding the planet and scrambling for resources, things are not looking very positive. Americans, for the most part, are still living a mindless disposable lifestyle, without bothering to think about what life will be like for their children and grandchildren.

This latest UN report makes it plain: those of us alive in a mere 7 years, are going to experience the sad decline and rapid downfall of the human race that could not save itself from its own compulsion toward comfort and convenience at any cost.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Do something useful -- Buy Nothing on Nov 23rd

As the holiday season approaches, ask yourself what do we, as a species, really need? More stuff? More calorie laden foods? More automobile exhaust on the freeways and in the parking lots of America's malls?

Or maybe we really need to stay home and clear out our junk. Donate the things that are usable to people who could really use them. Recycle items that otherwise clog our landfills.

On Friday, November 23rd, as the mindless masses head off before dawn to wait in line at Walmart and other big box stores, I'll be sleeping in. I won't be driving my vehicle that day, instead I'll be using the day off from work to put on some music and dance around the house. I may read a book or write a few emails, and maybe go for a walk with Oberon if the weather allows it.

What I won't be doing is spending money on stuff I don't need or stuff that others don't need. I hope you will consider joining in this coming Friday. Buy Nothing and blog about what you didn't buy!

For more information, visit the incredibly creative group known as Adbusters.

Friday, November 16, 2007


Yes, it's been days since I posted. The fall production took over everything this past week and it will take a few more days until I catch up on who is ahead in the polls, what the Democrats are still not accomplishing, and a huge pile of blog postings captured in the Village Reader. All that and the house needs cleaning and still more winterizing.

The leaves finally decided to fall this weekend. I fill up my composting bin with them, then use the rest to top off various flower beds and other areas in need of a good mulch for the winter. I've got a box of spring bulbs waiting to go into the ground before it freezes.

It looks like I won't be getting to that full out review of Working Man's Cafe until the long Thanksgiving weekend. So for your Friday night musical entertainment, here's another selection from the BBC's Electric Proms of 2007. Thank you for the days, Ray Davies!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Now that you've found your Shangri-la

We are way too busy for anything other than listening to Ray Davies and the Crouch End Festival Chorus performing Shangri-la at the BBC's Electric Proms. "Proms" is short for promenading, which is what people liked to do at the original classical music festival from which the Electric Proms drew its inspiration and name. Ray was a featured act this past Oct 28th. Thanks to the person who got this up on YouTube so quickly. Let's have the rest, please!

Come on then, everybody sing along:

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Local TV anchor to appear on stage and on PBS 45/49

From a Weathervane press release regarding Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat:

Eric Mansfield of WKYC-TV3 will be taking a few nights off from the News on Channel 23 to make his stage debut at Weathervane! He will be singing and dancing his way across the stage as Joseph’s father, Jacob.

The show goes up Nov 23 and runs through Dec 15th.

For all the details, check Weathervane's web site.

And don't forget to watch Eric's first documentary, to be aired on Local PBS station 45/49 (cable position 10) tonight at 10 PM. In "Reporting the War -- the Journalists' Perspective," Eric will be interviewing local print, radio and television journalists on how the war has been covered by the media. Go here to read a press release.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Stagehands Local One on strike

Pictured here, a sub level of Radio City Music Hall, a domain of New York City stage hands.

Riding on the subway to see a show at the end of this past September, I listened in on a conversation between two stage hands. They were discussing a potential lock out by the Theatrical Producers on Sunday, September 30. That didn't happen -- just another bluff, but tensions have remained high and negotiations were going no where. So today, the stagehands walked and many Broadway shows are shut down.

According to Local One:

We are professionals and unashamed to state that we are defending good middle class jobs that pay our mortgages, feed our families and allow our children to attend good schools.

The producers' numbers, so widely distributed, are misleading at best and often bogus.

Their press release celebrated an offer of 16.5% increase in wages. But the producers failed to mention their offer was accompanied by a 38% cut in jobs and income.

We are the caretakers of the theatre, the protectors of the workplace. We keep it safe for all of us. Six days a week, sometimes seven, we are the first to arrive and last to leave.

What are the strikers fighting for? Shockingly, the producers want to get rid of the job of the flyman/woman. This is the person responsible for any piece of scenery, object or person hat "flies" into the performing area.

The producers' attack on flymen is ignorant to the basic safety concerns in any theater. Without a flyman, who would be addressing safety problems over head? Who would be checking rigging eight times a week? Who is the first line of defense against any fire in the fly space?

Why do you think there are still fire hooks and extinguishers, by law, located on the fly floors? And, if there were not a flyman on the grid, how long do you think it would take for someone on the stage to reach that fire-fighting equipment?

Automation? We've long embraced it. Local One is more productive thanks to automation. We've modernized along with the newest technology. We build, install, manage, and repair all of it. We operate safely tons of scenery moving around in the dark and at breakneck speed without injury to you or us.

And they do an excellent job of it too. There's something sublime about watching Broadway scene changes -- not a second wasted, and it is all live -- happening like magic before your eyes, not something made of pixels and digital tape.

So what about Broadway ticket pricing? Ticket prices these days amaze the heck out of me -- as I stand in line to pay $60 to a hundred bucks for 2 1/2 hours of entertainment? I'd feel a lot better if I know the actors and the technicians are making a decent wage and can afford to live and raise a family in the city where they work.

The producers will also fail to tell you and the press that Local One labor over the last few decades remains 8% of the overall cost of producing a Broadway show. We get raises only when negotiated, but the producers raise ticket prices with every new hit, not to mention $450 premium pricing.

Last year, the League announced Broadway box office grosses of $939 million. Secret is the income from licensing, secondary rights, film rights and the hugely lucrative merchandise sales.

The biggest secret of all is the producers' real profits.

The producers are also insisting on cutting minimums for load-ins/outs. A load is much more than unloading trucks. It is heavy work and it is also highly technical as scenery, lighting and effects are unloaded, set up in a new space and configured to work safely and according to plan.

The Village Green salutes the stage hands on Local One and stands in solidarity with them. I had been thinking about shooting up to NYC over one of the upcoming breaks. There were some shows I wanted to see that are now dark and shuttered. I'll gladly go Off and Off off B'way to satisfy my play going needs. I'm thinking the strike won't go nearly as long as the writers' strike as the theatres will be dark without any possibility of re-runs or reality programming!

Hang tough, stage hands:

In these negotiations, we put everything on the table except the safety of the stage crew and everyone entering the theater. The producers' attack on minimums is an attack on the safety and efficiency of the load-in of shows. It is also an insulting failure to recognize the size, the scope and the technical difficulty of the work we perform and the industry that is our life.

We stand ready to resume negotiations at any time and we stand ready to defend ourselves from the implementation of unsafe, unsound and unacceptable work rules that the producers are threatening to enact.

We are Local One. We are all under attack.

Respectfully and Fraternally,

The Membership of Local No. One

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Peace in our time

Working Man's Cafe is the only music I'm listening to these days. Just over and over until I can sing along with each song. I don't have time to write the all encompassing review yet and can't promise to get it written until the fall play is up and running.

So tonight I'm contemplating this song that might be an anthem addressing global conflicts, but instead is a wry take on a relationship:
Hey girl, let's begin again and try to help ourselves
We're like weary warriors who just came back from hell
You can keep your territory, I will stay in mine
Carefully negotiate and leave this battle behind
Then the mighty chorus with a magnificent build:
All we deserve is some peace in our time
Unconditional love is better
Peace in our time
The phrase "Peace in our time" makes me consider how many years of my life on this planet have coexisted with some kind of ongoing war being waged. The background and soundtrack to my life: wars in Korea, Vietnam, Panama, Nicaragua, Grenada, Iraq. Wars in the ghetto and wars against poverty and drugs.

And at home behind closed doors, wars with a significant other:
The two of us can't take it
Gotta have a truce so we can start
To put it together
Otherwise we're gonna fall apart
The singer is one who has been down this road before:
It really doesn't matter
'cos the world keeps going round
just like a roller coaster
If you let it, it will crush you down
The song maintains its interest by the continual interweaving of the personal story with the imagery of global conflicts, and then ending with a gut-wrenching image:
I'm tearing up the bunch of
Angry letters that you sent
Peace in our time

Monday, November 05, 2007

Voting to tax myself

Tomorrow's election will probably be a big snooze for most Summit County voters. In Akron, there are only a couple of contested races, and none in my ward. It's going to be cold and rainy, just the kind of day most people will choose to go home and turn up the furnace rather than go out to the polls to vote to increase their taxes.

Children's Services and the Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Board are seeking citizen approval of continuing funding so they can provide services to those who need society's help in order to survive. It seems like a no-brainer to vote for these two issues.

Issue 20 (ADM) would increase the monthly cost per tax payer from $3.50 per month to $7.53 (on a property valued at $100,000) while Issue 21 (Childrens' Services) would increase our taxes on average of 90 cents per month (likewise on property valued at $100.00).

This seems like chump change to me -- certainly nothing that's going to make me cry out in pain on pay day. And considering the work these agencies do for our citizens most in need of protection and assistance, we all need to make the effort to stop by the polls and give our support by voting Yes on both issues.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Not your normal Autumn Almanac

Autumn is slow getting to the Village Green. Look at my maple tree photographed yesterday -- not a yellow gold leaf to be seen.

There were no leaves to rake yet. Instead, I toured round the garden.
Two nights of frost have yet to have any effect here. My gardens, back and front, are sheltered somewhat, with a micro-climate that continues to produce roses, nasturtiums, zinnias, and snapdragons.

In the vegetable garden, I found a lone bee visiting a neglected stalk of broccoli. All the carrot seeds produced about 6 plants, only one of which I've pulled. That carrot was about 1 inch in diameter and one inch in length. I need to study up on my carrot gardening for next summer. The tomatoes are long gone , but I found a large sturdy pepper hiding nestled near the herb bed.

Inside, the transition from screens to storm windows is complete. This weekend, I installed some bamboo window shades, and replaced the summer curtains with heavier ones in preparation for the winter to come, as it will eventually. It is the season to patch and seal, tidy up and put away the warm weather clothing, the garden tools and furniture.

It feels like I'm on time, but the leaves are not on deadline. Off in the distance, a hazy patch of yellow paints the the green trees on Kenmore's great cliffs that overlook Summit Lake, hinting of splendid displays to come.

The weatherman predicts possible snow on Tuesday. We are prepared here, with all cracks caulked. The energy efficient furnace will not have to work too hard and hopefully, the gas bill won't be too outrageous.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Preservation Out Take

This is a hoot -- for those few folks who have ever heard the Kinks Preservation Acts I and II. Thanks to Neil of the Kinks Preservation Society for passing this along.

Some clever person came up with this rare "out take":

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Medea at Actors' Summit

My life is overwhelming me right now, with mega deadlines and other craziness. However, I would feel derelict in my duties as Village Town Crier, if I didn't encourage my local readers to check out Medea at Actors' Summit this weekend. It's gotten rave reviews, and deservedly so. Sally Groth is a sensational Medea and you really ought to see this performance.

Cameras and camcorders are fairly recent innovations and we are limited to only a little bit more than a century's worth of moving images from the past. However, when you go to see an ancient Greek drama or comedy, you are transported back through 2,400 years where you meet up with characters who are startlingly familiar. Jason -- what a bastard! It is difficult not to side with Medea (at least until the gory end of her two children) -- what a powerful woman, and at the same time a monster.

Medea is playing through Nov 4th. If you haven't seen any Euripides lately, this is your chance!