Sunday, October 29, 2006

Nothing to Get Excited About Today

Nothing much happened today.  This morning I took Lee to Cunningham Park as we usually do once a weekend.  There was a big Dog Show (4 legged :)) in the park.  It was a shame that the heavy winds made it uncomfortable for the people there.  Later on the 3 of us walked around Alley Pond Park and stopped into Dunkin Donuts for a snack. 

All of the reviews for The Times They are A Changin' were bad.  The reviewers felt that Twyla Tharp did not do justice to Dylan's songs.  This may mean that the show will close soon.

Back to work tomorrow.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Rainy morning

Since it rained hard this morning we didn't go to CW Post to see the football game.  We went to the local movie to see The Prestige.  I drove Lee to a friend's birthday party in Fresh Meadows.  I am disappointed with the poor reviews of The Times They Are A Changin'.  I guess Broadway critics are a tough bunch.  It does not mean that the show will close soon.  Many shows with mediocre reviews have done well at the box office.  I am hoping that an original cast CD of the music will be released.

Friday, October 27, 2006

New York Times Review of The Times They are A Changin'

I disagree with this review!!!.  I enjoyed it.


And now for the latest heart-rending episode in Broadway's own reality soap opera, ''When Bad Shows Happen to Great Songwriters.''

If you happen to be among the masochists who make a habit of attending the entertainments called jukebox musicals, in which pop hits are beaten up by singing robots, you may think you've seen it all: the neutering of Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys in ''Good Vibrations,'' the canonizing (and shrinking) of John Lennon as a misunderstood angel-child in ''Lennon,'' and the forcible transformation of Johnny Cash from Man in Black to Sunshine Cowboy in ''Ring of Fire.''

But even these spectacles of torture with a smile, frightening though they may be, are but bagatelles compared with the systematic steamrolling of Bob Dylan that occurs in ''The Times They Are A-Changin','' which opened last night at the Brooks Atkinson Theater.

Mr. Dylan's songs have been entrusted to the great choreographer Twyla Tharp, the woman who gloriously redeemed the jukebox genre with ''Movin' Out,'' a narrative ballet set to songs by Billy Joel. Ms. Tharp is one of the bona fide, boundary-stretching geniuses of modern dance. And when a genius goes down in flames, everybody feels the burn.

Using little more than the bodies of her dancers to tell a decade-spanning story of an American working-class generation, Ms. Tharp found unexpected depths in Mr. Joel's music. Using a whole lot more scenery, props and special effects to create a circus-themed allegory of fathers and sons, Ms. Tharp single-handedly drags Mr. Dylan into the shallows.

Among epochal popular music artists of the last 50 years, no one has matched Mr. Dylan in combining a distinctive, easily identified style with an evasiveness that defies pigeonholes. Folkie, protest singer, rock'n'roller, gospel spiritualist, symbolist poet: Mr. Dylan has invited and rejected each of these labels, wriggling out of them with Houdini-like slipperiness to reinvent himself anew.

His very style of singing -- casual, almost throwaway, yet achingly intense -- provides a remarkably complete defense system against those who would parse his lyrics into one core of meaning or belief. Divorce his words from his melodies, and pretension and preciousness rear their self-conscious heads. Most of Mr. Dylan's best songs, even his full-throttle anthems of rebellion and hedonism, tingle with ambivalence, mystery and a knowing sense of the surrealism of so-called reality.

A surrealist approach would certainly seem to have been Ms. Tharp's idea for ''The Times,'' first staged at the Old Globe Theater in San Diego last winter and extensively revised since. This songbook-driven tale of Oedipal conflict is set in a traveling circus, the sinister, down-at-heel American variety portrayed in films from the 1930's and 40's like ''Freaks'' and ''Nightmare Alley.'' But with her top-drawer design team, led by Santo Loquasto (sets and costumes) and Donald Holder (lighting), Ms. Tharp pushes the atmosphere into the phantasmagorical luridness of Fellini, with a splash of Bergmanesque darkness for shivery spice.

Sounds tantalizing, huh? The program indicates that the setting is ''Sometime between awake and asleep,'' and if Ms. Tharp had seen fit simply to keep us wandering through a shifting dreamscape, set to Mr. Dylan's music, ''The Times'' might have passed muster as a really cool head trip for unregenerate hippies in search of natural highs. This would also have allowed each Dylan fan to bring his or her own interpretation to the murky goings-on, no doubt inspiring heated postperformance debates. (''No, man, don't you see, what the little dog stands for is purity!'')

But Ms. Tharp is a precisionist in all things, and she brings to her storytelling the same exacting discipline that informs her choreography. Metaphoric images, which float miragelike when heard in song, are nailed down with literal visual equivalents. And highlights of the Dylan repertory (from ''Mr. Tambourine Man'' to ''Knockin' on Heaven's Door'') take the place of plot-propelling dialogue.

In a show like ''Mamma Mia!'' (the Abba musical) this device can be kind of a hoot. But as you might expect of Ms. Tharp, this lady's not for hooting.

The story -- or fable, as Ms. Tharp prefers to call it -- is about a creepy tyrant named Captain Ahrab (Thom Sesma, who does indeed suggest Melville by way of Tim Burton) who rules over his traveling circus with a bullwhip. His employees include a whole passel of clowns, a lovely female runaway named Cleo (Lisa Brescia) and Ahrab's son, Coyote (Michael Arden), who has the clean-scrubbed look of a sensitive high school sports star.

Will the idealistic Coyote take up his father's whip to exploit the leadership-hungry clowns? Will he steal Cleo from Dad? Will he create a more benign world order? Hint: The show begins with Coyote looking soulfully into the audience to intone, with ominousness and dewy hope, ''The Times They Are A-Changin'.''

The three principals share most of the major singing, through which we learn of both father's and son's feelings for Cleo (via a duet version of ''Just Like a Woman'') and of Cleo's lonely wistfulness (''Don't Think Twice, It's All Right'').

Ahrab's cynical huckster's world view is conveyed by his growling through numbers like ''Desolation Row'' and ''Highway 61 Revisited.''

In contrast, Coyote wonders ''how many roads must a man walk down, before you call him a man,'' and Cleo senses a kindred spirit in the lad. Coyote is soon shyly proposing to Cleo that she ''lay, lady, lay, lay across my big brass bed.'' (That I stifled a groan at this point should be honored as an act of heroic restraint.) In the meantime, the clowns are growing restless and rebel against their cruel master, who is destined to find himself ''knock, knock, knockin' on heaven's door.''

Are you still with me, brave reader? Ms. Tharp turns lyrics' metaphors not only into flesh but also into flashlights, jump-ropes, stuffed animals and new brooms that sweep clean. (If there was a kitchen sink onstage, I missed it, which isn't to say it wasn't there.) Props rule in this magic kingdom, along with charadelike annotations of images.

Just mention, say, Cinderella in ''Desolation Row,'' and there she is, center stage. When the same song refers to Dr. Filth, there he is performing surgery (on a truly amazing contortionist who provides the show with its single most disturbing image).

When Ahrab breaks his son's jeweled Cubist guitar, which he has been playing so spiritedly for ''Like a Rolling Stone,'' the mournful Cleo freezes the moment by singing ''Everything Is Broken.'' And as hedonism acquires mortal shadows in ''Mr. Tambourine Man,'' who should show up but a group of black-hooded dancers straight out of Ingmar Bergman's ''Seventh Seal.''

Of the three soloists, Mr. Arden comes closest to finding a compromise between Dylanesque twang and hearty melodiousness. But all the leading players suffer from being stranded between character and allegory. (I kept thinking of the woman in Christopher Durang's parody of Sam Shepard who looked proudly at her son and said, ''I gave birth to a symbol -- and me with no college education.'')

Perversely, the songs seem to become more abstract -- and more fixed in their metaphysical meanings -- from being linked with individual characters. The orchestrations (by Michael Dansicker and Mr. Dylan) are often evocative of the original Dylan recordings, but I will say that this is the first time that it ever occurred to me that ''Rainy Day Women No. 12 and 35'' could sound, in an instrumental bridge, like ''The Trolley Song.''

The corps de clowns includes the extraordinary John Selya, who dazzled in ''Movin' Out,'' as the circus strongman and leader of the clown rebellion. But while Mr. Selya looks as buff and agile as ever, he doesn't get much chance to strut his kinetic stuff. There are a few glorious passages of Ms. Tharp's signature, tight-muscled choreography, in which angular body tension becomes its own philosophical statement, an expression of raw existential frustration.

Mostly, though, Ms. Tharp concentrates on stylish variations on circus stunts -- including stilt walking, tumbling and tightrope walking -- some of them truly jaw-dropping. A trampolinelike surface has been built into the stage, allowing the dancers to appear to levitate.

But if the choreography at times defies gravity, the show itself may be the most earthbound work Ms. Tharp has produced. Even as the dancers seem to fly, Mr. Dylan's lyrics are hammered, one by one, into the ground.

The Times They Are A-Changin'

Conceived by Twyla Tharp; music and lyrics by Bob Dylan; directed and choreographed by Ms. Tharp; music arranged, adapted and supervised by Michael Dansicker; sets and costumes by Santo Loquasto; lighting by Donald Holder; sound by Peter Hylenski; orchestrations by Mr. Dansicker and Mr. Dylan; music director, Henry Aronson; music coordinator, Howard Joines; technical supervisor, Smitty; production stage manager, Arthur Gaffin; associate producers, Jesse Huot, Ginger Montel and Rhoda Mayerson; general manager, the Charlotte Wilcox Company. Presented by James L. Nederlander; Hal Luftig and Warren Trepp; Debra Black; East of Doheny; Rick Steiner/Mayerson Bell Staton Group; Terry Allen Kramer; Patrick Catullo; and Jon B. Platt and Roland Sturm. At the Brooks Atkinson Theater, 256 West 47th Street; (212) 307-4100. Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes.

WITH: Michael Arden (Coyote), Thom Sesma (Captain Ahrab), Lisa Brescia (Cleo) and Lisa Gajda, Neil Haskell, Jason McDole, Charlie Neshyba-Hodges, Jonathan Nosan, John Selya and Ron Todorowski (the Ensemble).


GRAPHIC: Photos: The Times They Are A-Changin' -- Michael Arden as the son of a creepy ringmaster in the Twyla Tharp musical with music by Bob Dylan at the Brooks Atkinson Theater. (Photo by Sara Krulwich/The New York Times)(pg. E1)
Going to the carnival: Thom Sesma, center, as the tyrannical Captain Ahrab in ''The Times They Are A-Changin' '' at the Brooks Atkinson. (Photo by Sara Krulwich/The New York Times)(pg. E2)

LOAD-DATE: October 27, 2006

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Bob Dylan's American Journey 1956-1966

Today the family went to the Morgan Library and Museum in Manhattan to see the Bob Dylan exhibition devoted to his formative years.  I was like a kid in a candy store viewing the Dylan memorabilia of my favorite era of his career.   For example, there were signed copies of Dylan albums from that era.  I enjoyed a booth which featured clips from the films Don't Look Back and Eat the Document.  The latter was a documentary of Dylan's 1966 tour of England.  It featured a clip of Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash singing together.  The Slutsky family is in 7th heaven when we see those two together.  There were booths for each of Dylan's albums from that era.  One could press a button and hear each song from that respective album.  There was a copy of the Hibbing High School yearbook with his picture.  For more information please see 

The Morgan was certainly a very exquisite museum suited for very cultured people.  From there we went to Mendy's kosher restaurant on 34th and Park Avenue where I had my pastrami sandwich with chicken soup.

Sounds of the Sixties was not available on the Internet this week.  Apparently the BBC had some technical difficulties, so I listening to XM's the Loft which is very similar to WFUV.  It seems I never listen to Dylan when I am writing a blog entry about him.


Saturday, October 21, 2006

I bought an HD radio today

In one of my earlier posts I described how I have been a radio enthusiast over many years.HD radio is a relatively new innovation.  The quality of AM and FM stations are significantly better.  It also allows for more than one station on a frequencey.  For example WKTU at 103.5 FM plays dance music, but there is a WKTU-HD2 station that plays country music.  NYC has not had a country music station in over 10 years.  Similarly after the morons at CBS radio flipped WCBS-FM to JACK-FM, they moved the oldies format to WCBS-FM-HD2.  Until now I was able to hear HD stations through my computer, but the sound on the HD radio is clearly superior.  When a new technology is introduced the prices are high.  Until very recently the only table model HD radio on the market cost $300.  The Accurian model that I bought today  at Radio Shack cost $175 after a rebate.  Why I am listening to XM radio when I just bought an HD radio?  The answer my friend is that the computer is in the bedroom while the radio is in the dining room :)

Friday, October 20, 2006

The Mets Lost the LCS

What else can I say.  The Mets hitting died in the LCS.  They lost to the St. Louis Cardinals 3 -1 in Game 7.  They left the bases loaded in the bottom of the 9th inning.  It is now the St. Louis Cardinals against the Detroit Tigers in the World Series.  The Mets will have to make the appropriate roster changes in the off season and create a winning team for 2007.

Monday, October 16, 2006

23rd Wedding Anniversary

It was October 16, 1983 at the Old Westbury Hebrew Congregation on Long Island when I married Karen. I was 34 years old at the time which is old for someone marrying for the first time.  In some ways it seems like yesterday, but in others it seems like an eternity.  It was a sunny and mild day when we tied the knot.  I guess I should talk about what has transpired over 23 years of marriage.  We honeymooned on Hawaii where I got a very bad sunburn.  Since then I was never much of a beach person.  At that time I worked for the big New York Public Library on 5th Avenue and 42nd Street.  Lee was born on March 28, 1988.  Time imposes changes on all of us, but Karen has been extremely resistant to any kind of change.  She is very set in her ways which has frustrated me very much over the years.  You can't have everything.  In this day and age many marriages don't last very long, so I guess ours have passed the test of time.  But my former sister-in-law Arlene who introduced me to Karen back in 1980 divorced Paul (Karen's brother) some years back after 24 years of marriage.  My parents were married for 51 years when my Dad died in 1997.


The Met Cardinal game was rained out tonight so I guess that Din G from the NJIT library will not respond to this entry. :)

Sunday, October 15, 2006

First anniversary of this blog

I won't talk about how the Mets lost last night.  It was a year ago today that I started this blog.  There have been 1600 hits, half of which must have been my own.  I do not want to do a statistical analysis of this blog.  That would be bean counting which I define as compiling statistics just to keep busy as is done all the time at work.  I'd like to thank the people who have responded to my postings:

Mike B - former NJIT colleague and Red Sox Fan

Heather H - current NJIT colleague and great advocate of instant messaging.  Last night I had a dream about getting an instant message in the library asking how automotive spark plugs work,

Din G - another current NJIT colleague and Yankee, Net and Jet fan

Mike S - from Forest Hills High School class of 1967

Some of the popular topics of this blog:

Bob Dylan

The Mets

Weekend Activities with the family.


I will keep this blog going!

Saturday, October 14, 2006

CW Post Football again today

We drove out to CW Post to see their football team bet Bentley College 14-7.  Since it was homecoming weekend there was a bigger crowd than usual.  Both teams could not mount much of an offense.  At least it was close.  The last game we saw there was a one-sided victory for Post.  You can't complain at $5 a ticket.

Sunday, October 8, 2006

A Met fan's bragging rights

There will not be a subway series this year.  The Yankees choked during the big games.  The media  is making Alex Rodriguez the scapegoat since he only got one hit in 14 at bats in the ALDS.  There is even a story in the Daily News that Joe Torre will be fired and Lou Pinnella will be named new manager.  I really don't fault Joe, but you can't fire the team.  I think the Mets can now win the World Series.  I am hoping that San Diego wins their series so that Mike Piazza will come back to Shea.  How are you doing Din?

Saturday, October 7, 2006

The Times they are a Changin"

Thank goodness for RSS feeds.  We were going to leave for Manhattan by taking the bus to the #7 Flushing line.  About 11 AM while I was surfing the web the RSS feed from WCBS-TV came up saying that a building collapse on Roosevelt Avenue necessitated the closing of the #7 train.  Luckily I was able to change my plans by driving to Forest Hills and taking the F train to Manhattan from there.  We arrived at the Brooks Atkinson theater in plenty of time for the show.  There seemed by by mostly baby boomers and even older people in the audience.  The show featured the music of Bob Dylan and choreography by Twyla Tharp.  The show was absolutely marvelous.  Most of the Dylan songs were classics from the 60s but some newer material was also featured.  I got a lick out of Like a Rolling Stone.  The dancers showed placards of the lyrics as was done in the 1967 movie Don't Look Back.  I'll never forget the opening scene with Subterrean Homesick Blues with Dylan flipping the cards while Alan Ginsberg is in the background.  The show is in previews until October 26th.  I really think this show will make it.

Wednesday, October 4, 2006

The Mets Win 6 - 5

It was announced that Orlando Hernandez, El Duque, is also out for the playoffs with an injury.  The Mets started rookie pitcher John Maine and beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 6 - 5 in the first game of the NL division series.  I brought my radio to work and started to listen when the #7 train went above ground.  When I got home I turned on the television.  It was a closed game, but with clutch hitting by David Wright and Carlos Delgado, the Mets held on for the victory.

Monday, October 2, 2006

Yom Kippur is over

Yom Kippur is the most solemn day on the Jewish calendar.  We pray for a good year.  There was an orthodox temple in my neighborhood that closed on account of changing demographics in the neighborhood.  The Mitchell-Linden area of Flushing was built up in the early 1950s and was populated mostly by Jews.  Over recent years the Jews either passed away or moved to Florida and Koreans moved to the area.  Although the orthodox temple closed, the nursing home next door allowed the congregants to pray there.  For the last 3 years we went to the orthodox services held in the community room of the nursing home.  I don't observe Yom Kippur to the letter of the law, but I did fast for 24 hours.  Best wishes for a happy, healthy and prosperous year.

John Lennon was a Red Sox Fan

Yesterday we took a short drive to the Kew Gardens Cinema to see the movie U.S. versus John Lennon.  This small theater shows many independent films that are not shown in our local multiplex.  Back in the early 1970s tricky Dick Nixon wanted to do anything to be re-elected with a big landslide.  Back then John Lennon assosciated himself with political radicals such as Abby Hoffman, Jerry Rubin and others.  Lennon was convicted of marijuana posession in England some years bag.  Nixon and his stooges like J. Edgar Hoover did everything to get John deported.  This was the theme of the movie.  There was a scene in the movie showing John and Yoko as hosts of the Mike Douglas show with Bobby Seale as the guest.  John was wearing a Boston Red Sox uniform during the show.  Hopefully this film will be shown in Prescott or Pagebyrner will have to wait until it comes out in DVD.
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