Sunday, October 30, 2016


When I saw an advance workshop production of "Hedy! The Life and Inventions of Hedy Lamarr" the whole audience laughed so hard, so often, and the show won an award! So now it's being produced for two shows only. The November 9th performance is sold out! This is under United Solo/Theatre Row.

An extra performance, Friday November 11th @7:30pm has been added and there are a few seats left. Telecharge dot com or : 212-239-6200. It may be under date and time rather than by title.

Can you believe that a Hollywood star co-invented technology used in missile guidance and cell phones?

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Humor, magic, history

And now, my friends, gather round for some moments of wit from  a book that, more than any other, changed my life, The Illustrated History of Magic by Milbourne Christopher. I read it first when I was twelve, in "the big people's" section of the library. And now some humor from its discussion of the 1800s :

For political reasons, the press of the day referred to President Martin Van Buren as "The Little Magician". Entertainer Signor Antonio Blitz joked that the politician was a colleague, because both "so successfully deceived the public." Van Buren pointed out that he was retired from politics, and would therefore cede the title to Blitz. Good humor. (p106)

And this from mid-century magician and pianist Robert Heller:

     Shakespeare wrote well
     Dickens wrote weller
    Anderson was _____,
    But the greatest is Heller!

Or at least the most modest.

Anderson, by the way, is the Barnum, Houdini, Trump of early/mid-century conjuring: successful in part because he went to extremes in his advertising and did not suffer from modesty, either. He allegedly put his face on pats of butter and on the pyramids of Egypt! (p 111)

At least one critic complained that Anderson relied too much on his props:
"I don't mind a man's pulling wires, but he should have the politician's skill of keeping them out of sight." The critic was comparing Anderson unfavorably with Compars Herrmann, whose greatness lay in part in his reliance on his technical skill, minimal props required. (p187)

In November of 1861, Herrmann performed at the White House. Asking President Lincoln to participate in a card trick, the President demured, passing the deck to his Secretary of War with the quip, "This gentleman shuffles the cards for me at present."(p187)

And just for fun: what magic did these magicians perform?
*Anderson was an early performer of the rabbit from a hat
*two of the magicians performed the dangerous trick of appearing to "catch" a bullet.
*two of the magicians performed "second sight" telepathy with an assistant

Last year I went back to my hometown for the first time since childhood, went to the library, and found the same copy of The Illustrated History of Magic, first edition, still on the shelf. Wow!

Of course my favorite magic quip might be too recent to be in the first edition, that of off-Broadway magician Peter Samelson: "Magic is a crime because it breaks the laws of nature."

News Policies

Knowing which candidate's policies I like better would be easier if the news covered them.

Neither presidential candidate's political positions were discussed on the NBC Nightly News tonight.

Trump laid out specific executive orders he would enact in his first hundred days. Specific ones! What were they? I don't know, the news only said that he said them, not what they were. Trump got better coverage than Clinton: from her the news only quoted a campaign slogan.

If this were an anomaly, I'd give it a pass. It's a weekend, and I'm not saying that slogans and personality don't have their place in Presidential selection. But spending more time on personality and slogans than on policy analysis is the norm for the NBC Nightly News, not that ABC or CNN seem much better.

Isn't it the JOB of the news org to go out into the world and examine the implications of a particular policy proposal? "Candidate says x. Everyone agrees that x would mean such and such, but they disagree about whether x would cause y." I'm not asking for a detailed long story, I'm asking for any coverage at all!

If the news orgs have the staff to cover every personality trait of the candidates, why don't the news orgs cover the policy positions and past records more?

It's not like the issues are life and death. Oh wait, they are!
*would a no-fly zone be practical and helpful to the people living under it?
*how many US cities are in near drought conditions?
*what percentage of Americans are at or below the poverty line, and what policies will help it?

What do Trump and Hillary propose about each?
I don't know, the news didn't cover it.

Yes, I'm angry. Lives are at stake!

Dark Nights

Batman gave me nightmares and brainstorms about reality.

Last week I finally saw The Dark Knight, the Christopher Nolan film about Batman starring Christian Bale and the late Heath Ledger. The murderer and terrorist played by Ledger reminded me more of ISIS or Ted Bundy than of any comic book character.

Yes, the Joker as the villain robbed banks while wearing a clown suit, but his henchmen shot people in the head and the back--including their own partners-- and on-screen. And the Joker's monologue about preferring to kill or injure people with knives rather than guns was bone chilling.

So Gotham City turned to a vigilante to save them: a billionaire dressing up in a superhero costume with the mind of Sherlock Holmes and physical skill which is also barely human, and wealth to afford tech that even the police don't have. But the outlandishness of this premise was toned down in favor of the question: is a vigilante who, by definition, ignores laws, the answer? Is it justice?

A Wall Street Journal article compared Batman to Bush's War on Terror: a brave man saving us, ignoring a few civil liberties for the greater good.

Take away the few comic book conventions the film has left and the story could be reshot with ISIS or a real serial killer. Fewer explosions, smaller scale, but core issues the same:

*do people who murder and terrorize do it without regard for money or power? Where does that leave deterrence and negotiation? Should someone who only commits a crime in a heat of passion, or in desperation, be treated the same as one who does so from psychosis or lack of empathy?

*if the police are corrupt, does that open the door to a vigilante?
(in the film a police officer abets a kidnapping for cash to pay for health care for an uncovered loved one. In real life, what is happening to police salaries?)

*more than once, the evil-doer revels in forcing victims to fight amongst themselves: "either you all die, or one of you picks who lives." That is disturbing! Does it really happen?

*In the movie, a good guy gives up and becomes a bad guy. Do you hear about police officers being asked, or ordered, to work overtime?  So they are less alert when asked to make a split second decision on civil liberty versus safety? Is it a wonder that some cops drink, or even commit suicide?

*In the Dark Knight, there is panic after terrorism in Gotham, which has a limited number of exit bridges & boats. Thankfully, we don't have any cities like that in real life. #sarcasm.

Yes, The Dark Knight is Hollywood. But some of the issues it raises are anything but. It's not for nothing that I slept poorly that night, reminded of when I was mugged, worried about terrorism.

Have you ever seen seemingly unrealistic fiction that spoke to real issues?

Friday, October 14, 2016

Friends & shells

Tonight I did more than make a friend. An acquaintance called, we discovered that we had more in common than I thought we did. So I feel like he's a friend now.

But enjoying our conversation also helped me get out of my shell. Laughing on the phone inspired a joy of people. I'm naturally an introvert. My preferred activity is studying, after which I like to relax by--- reading. In my spare time there are solo household chores to do.

But while my brain requires quiet time to function well, and reading energizes me, I am in some ways also a recovering introvert. I'm learning that, in the right doses, friends are like needed medicine: too little and I'll be lonely (sick), too high a dose is toxic. But at least some time with friends is good for me. I've known for a while that being with people can be "good for me."

What I got reminded of tonight was that it can even be fun!

Thanks, Andrew.

[edit: it happened again. Thank you, Sara]