Monday, January 28, 2008

Peacock Posing in the Breeze

It has rained a lot here the past few days but I found a sunny, windy window of time yesterday morning to take my walk. And that was when I came upon the peacock pictured below. He seemed to be posing on top the wall, facing into the wind and enjoying the brisk breeze ruffling his feathers.

He seemed to be enjoying himself so much that he remained in the same position on the wall as I walked around to get a profile view of this majestic bird.

I do thank him for brightening up the start of my day!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

If at First You Don't Suceed. . .

Let's hope that old adage holds true. After yesterday's 70th birthday post, I saw the pictures but visitors (friends) didn't see them. Then I checked back this morning and I couldn't see them either.

So, I tried again and reposted them. Again, I see them. Hoefully when you scroll down, you will see them too!

Once again I face the necessity of being more stubborn than the technology. We humans must remain in control.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

7 Decades and I'm Still Here

Today is my 70th birthday. It doesn't seem like 7 decades have passed. Wasn't I a kid just yesterday? It has gone so fast. . . . And yet so much has happened.

I went to school for 22 years! When one of my brothers said that to his then 10 year old son when I completed my Ph.D. in 1965, my dear nephew responded, "What took so long? Is he dumb?" It put it all into perspective.

And then I spent another 40 years working on college campuses; teaching, conducting research, heading up a research center, running a pre-award grants office and finally directing an office of Community Service Learning. Somewhere along the way, I began doing some acting and that began my passion and it continues past my "retirement" from the campus. As I reach my 70th birthday, I am in proud possession of my AFTRA and SAG cards. Along the way, I dabbled in politics and ran internship programs for legislatures in New York and Illinois.

On a personal level, I have been married 3 times, the final time 27 years ago. When people look at me askance when I mention that, I tell them that I was trained in the scientific method; you conduct an experiment and if doesn't work, you throw it out and start all over again. Luckily, I got it right the 3rd time! My 3 "kids" (now aged 40, 26 and 24) have brought great joy to my life and the oldest one (with his bride) has added 2 wonderful granddaughters to what I call the Cohanim.

I have had a very good life!!! And, as I prepare for the opening of my 31st stage production next week, I plan for many more and better years. I wanted to blog something special for #70. [And I knew it would not be what son Bill did over at BillyBlog on his 40th when he put up 40 posts to celebrate the big year. I knew that even if I could physically produce 70 posts, it would take me much longer than a day to do so.} So I started to rummage back through the box of old family photos and in celebration of this day, I offer pictures (mostly from my youth), many of which my kids have never seen.

Actually, the first picture I should be showing was the subject of a previous post which I put up early last month. So here I will start out by "revealing all," that magic moment in every child's life when he is photographed while being toilet trained. It was most likely taken in early 1939 and was taken by my father as are most of the pictures that follow (up through 1951).

Next in July, 1940. I think I was at a neighbor's birthday party.

Now on to 1943 with big brother Jerry.

Two shots from 1951, with my father's notes on the bottom. (Yes, that is a "modern" television set at that time.)

A picture from the 1953 National Boy Scout Jamboree held at what was then The Irvine Ranch in Orange County, California. I'm seated with a legendary scout leader, Uncle Otto Hornung. This was my first trip to California and we traveled west by train pulled by steam engines.

A picture taken at Taylor's Cottages (where we vacationed for parts of several summers), on Lake Huron near Singing Bridge, Michigan (south of Tawas City), probably in 1954.

And one with my father taken around the same period (1954-55). Note: This is one of the few pictures in which my father did not have a cigar in his mouth. However, if you look closely, it is clutched in his right hand.

And now on to my high school graduation (January, 1956); a formal photo followed by my last report card.

On to college, this was probably taken in 1958 or 1959.

And finally, a photo taken when I was in graduate school at the University of North Carolina. This was most likely taken in the fall of 1962 while I was visiting my oldest brother Jerry and wife Nina at their apartment in Hyattsville, MD.

So there it is, to celebrate my 70th, I offer up photos taken during the first 25. Who knows, I might add the intervening years at a later date.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

One Week Until Opening. . .

It's just one week until the opening of Acts of Desperation, the inaugural production of The Relevant Stage at the historic Warner Grand Theatre in San Pedro. While not the best photo I've taken, I do offer the following shot of the stage taken from the back of the house last night just prior to the beginning of rehearsal. Pieces of the set are on the stage as well as three of the cast members. The screen is visible because video is an integral part of this multi-media production.

This has been a unique experience for The Ancient One because he joined the cast late and has had a much shorter rehearsal schedule than usual. But the pieces are really coming together and it should be a very powerful experience for audience members. Much of Grandpa's "stage time" is delivered via video as this production integrates on stage performance (an ensemble of 11 actors), dance (6 students from the San Pedro City Ballet), and video.

The themes of the of the production focus on bullying and the too often seen types of violence occurring in our schools in recent years An interesting article was posted earlier this week at A lot of difficult questions are raised by the performance. None of them are answered. The production's success will be measured by how well it gets audience members thinking about solutions to these major issues within our schools.

Monday, January 21, 2008

A Wee Little Rainbow Offshore .

It was cold (for L.A.) and partly cloudy as I took my daily walk this morning. At one point along the way where I can look out over the Pacific Ocean above the roof lines of a couple of houses, I spotted what looked like a small rainbow. I used my cell phone camera for the photo below:

If it's hard to see, click on the photo to see the wee little rainbow just left of center. The picture doesn't do justice to the vista but it was so unusual I had to offer it here.

A House Divided – Banners 2

If you live in the Los Angeles area and your follow college sports, it is expected that you favor either UCLA or USC; there doesn't seem to be much room for neutrality. When I married Donna 27 years ago and we came back to L.A., I clearly was part of a UCLA family even though Donna had not attended either university. And as our kids grew up, they favored UCLA too.

But for some families, it isn't quite that clear cut. For, example, the banner below was seen recently on my morning walk. It appeared just about the time UCLA and USC were about to face each other in basketball and it reflects when a graduate of one of these great campuses marries a graduate of the other (or perhaps when they have children attending each of the schools).

Ah yes, a house divided. Luckily, that wouldn't happen in our family unless some year the L.A. Dodgers and Detroit Tigers were to meet in the World Series. Except. . .in the Fall of 2006 daughter Alicia became a graduate student at USC. I just assumed that it would have no impact on campus rivalries because she never was a college sports fan. But a while back, she was visiting while I was watching the annual USC-UCLA football game. She walked in early in the 1st quarter of the game, saw me in front of the TV and asked, "Who's winning?" I told her that USC was in the lead and she quickly responded, "Good!" What! My daughter a USC fan? I guess it should be expected but it was still a shock; I had just assumed that she would ignore this rivalry.

A final aside. I would have liked to take a picture of the other side of the banner but could not do so because of its position on the house. Why? Because on that side the USC colors are on top with UCLA below. Even in a house divided, it cannot look like one side or the other is "more favored."

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

There’s Learning Lines. . .and then. . .

There's learning lines and then there's learning lines! I've only been in rehearsal for a week with Acts of Desperation and I am faced with 2 totally different approaches to preparing for my role(s). Most of Grandpa's lines are monologues (5 of them) which I worked on last week in preparation for videotaping which was done on Sunday. That task was a combination of memorization, on the one hand, and "learning" the gist of each monologue, on the other, in order that the video be a very natural conversational piece. That was important because with only 5 days for preparation before the video shoot, there was no way I was going to be able to be word-perfect on camera. Video also offers the opportunity to start and stop, do and redo, and (from an editing standpoint) cut and paste."

It seemed like a long afternoon on Sunday and it was a lot of fun. Both director Lucas Pakes and The Relevant Stage artistic director Ray Buffer felt that the shoot went well. Now we'll see how well Ray's editing are in trying to make me look good in the final product which will be shown on screen at various key moments in the running of the one-act Bang Bang You're Dead which is part of the larger multi-media production.

Now, I'm trying to learn the rest of my lines, the ones that will be delivered live on stage. I am part of a Chorus of voices that works as a closely knit unit through much of the play and in which I have some lines as Grandpa and some as a jury foreman. The use of the chorus requires more than simply learning lines; the actor basically must learn every chorus members' lines because they are generally delivered in rapid succession with each actor having short single lines scattered throughout the script. It is much easier for me to learn monologues or dialogue than it is to be part of the chorus. The rest of the cast was off-book last night; I had a "special dispensation" because I had joined the cast very late and had spent most of my first week learning the monologues. With our opening just 2 weeks from tomorrow (shudder), I hope I don't hold the other chorus members back. They have been more than generous in welcoming the late-arriving Ancient One and in helping me get up-to-speed.

Okay, back to work on my lines. But before I go, I offer the picture below (taken by Ray Buffer) of the entire cast (actors and dancers) with our director Lucas Pakes kneeling in the front. [While I don't identify cast members by name, it should be easy to figure out just where The Ancient One is standing.]

Sure is a good looking bunch of young folks!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Relevant Theatre. . .

A new company premieres its first offering at the Warner Grand Theatre in San Pedro on January 31. The Relevant Stage has an ambitious first season. It starts with Acts of Desperation (January 31-February 3); Over There, Over Here (May 29-June 1); Urinetown: The Musical (August 7-17); Bat Boy: The Musical (October 9-19); and Reinventing Eden (December 11-14). What all of the company's offerings have in common is that they are "relevant;" they look at issues that we face in society and force us to think about them and reach our own conclusions.

As it happens, I was cast last weekend as Grandpa in the one-act play Bang Bang You're Dead which is part of the multimedia production Acts of Desperation which opens the season on January 31. I started rehearsals this past Tuesday and tomorrow will be doing a film shoot for Grandpa's monologues which will be shown on screen, integrated into the live performance of the place.

Click on these links to learn more about The Relevant Stage and its mission, the opening production of Acts of Desperation and the historic Warner Grand Theatre which opened in 1931 and is now on the National Register of Historic Places.

And better yet, come on out in 3 weeks to welcome this new theatre company to San Pedro and the South Bay. I am honored and excited to be part of the premiere production.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

I Still Like Harry Bosch. . . .

I just finished reading Michael Connelly's latest (in paperback) mystery, The Overlook. It was another LAPD detective Harry Bosch novel; previously I read Echo Park. And I still like Bosch, a somewhat irascible, very human fellow who goes with his instincts and heart even when it guarantees that he ends up at odds with the FBI, some of his LAPD superiors and, as happened briefly in this book, his partner. Being a homicide detective, he insists on solving the murder rather than letting the FBI sidetrack him because they a terrorist plot at the heart of the case which, in their logic, is more important than finding a killer. Harry believes that solving the murder will determine to what degree terrorists were or were not involved.

Curiously, this paperback edition of the novel had a new last chapter that had not previously been published. If I had read the hardcover edition of the book, I would have felt cheated because this addition to the end of the case ties up a lot of loose ends that were not covered in the original ending. Finally, something other than cost justifies my underlying nature of waiting for the paperback edition of books to be published before I buy them

If you like mysteries, this is a good, fast paced read featuring a wonderful protagonist.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Blatant Self-Promotion (2)

On December 20, I wrote about a commercial shoot I had done for the 4 propositions on the February 5 California ballot support Indian Gaming Compacts that had been negotiated by the Governor. As chance would have it, that was the 2nd commercial I had done for the Compacts. I first wrote about this last April and included a copy of the 1st commercial.

For me, there was a major difference in this commercial: I had a two-word line "Senior Citizens" about half-way through. If you watch the following carefully, you will see The Ancient One's 2-seconds of fame. It started running last Thursday and will continue ad nauseum up until the February 5 primary election.

I have even gotten a few calls and e-mails from friends and family around the state who wondered if that was me. Yes, it was. That was my last non-union gig before I got my SAG card. Now on to bigger and better things! I may yet get discovered!

Snowcaps. . .A Better View

After 3 days of rain (and snow at higher elevations), I took my camera with me as I headed down the hill from Palos Verdes into Torrance this morning. I expected that I would find some spectacular views of snow capped mountains from across the Los Angeles Basin. I was not disappointed and offer up the following photograph as a vast improvement of one taken and posted about a month ago (December 10).

This above was the best of the pictures taken from my moving car. There was only one other worth saving although it is distorted by those poles and wires that are part of the reality of urban life.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

The Color Purple in L.A. – “Wow!”

We saw the stage production of The Color Purple at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles last night. Wow!! It was an incredible performance; well acted, well sung, beautifully staged. I am not one to easily give standing ovations but I leapt to my feet at the close in recognition of a wonderful, moving job by the entire cast, from the stars to the ensemble.

I know it really isn't fair to single out any performers but my favorites were Jeanette Bayardelle (Ciely), Felicia Fields (Sophia), Stu James (Harpo), and the threesome of Kimberly Ann Harris, Virginia Ann Woodruff and Lynette Dupree (as the Church Ladies). Bayardelle had a powerful voice and tremendous range and she brought down the house at the end with her powerful rendition of I'm Here.

While I was not familiar with most of the songs, as a fan of jazz and blues, I felt the music was great as was the orchestra. The set was impressive and was greatly enhanced by outstanding lighting. It was simply a wonderful performance.

There is simply nothing that quite compares with well-done, live musical theatre. Bravo!

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Our Holiday Movie Fare. . .

Our tradition since Donna and I were married 27 years ago is to go to a movie on Christmas day followed by dinner out. It’s a family day and the kids are always with us (if they are in town). And we always meet friends along the way.

So, Donna, Seth and I went to see Charlie Wilson’s War on Christmas Day. It was a lot of fun with Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts and Philip Seymour Hoffman heading up the cast.

It seems a bit strange saying that a movie focusing on how one Congressman led the fight to get the U.S. to provide funds to Afghanistan to fight off the Russians in the early 1980s was fun. I was puzzled when the film received Golden Globe nominations in the “Comedy/Musical” category. War is not funny but, in some ways, was incidental in this look at the life of a real Texas Congressman and those working with him to get the U.S. to respond, if only covertly, to soviet aggression. Yes, it was a fun, albeit not a great, film. And in some ways, I am embarrassed to say so.

We added another film outing on New Year’s Eve this year when we met some friends for a movie, dinner and a (very short) party. Actually, we saw The Kite Runner at a mid-afternoon matinee on December 31. (I’m not sure it qualifies as New Year’s Eve if it’s still daylight when the movie starts.)

One of the pleasant surprises was that this was an excellent film, based on Khaled Hosseini’s powerful novel which I had read some time ago. The cast, unknown to American audiences, was outstanding in depicting this autobiographical account. Sadly, I have seen reports that the two young boys who played the major roles in the first part of the film cannot return to Afghanistan. I don’t know the full particulars other than apparently there are those in their homeland who cannot separate the roles they played from reality and the boys lives could be threatened.

I usually do not like movies of books I have previously read. However, The Kite Runner is a must see film; a rare combination of a moving, well-written story bought to life by an outstanding cast. On top of that, it is well made with wonderful cinematography.

So that was this year’s holiday film fare. It is a rare that I see 2 movies in theatres in a week’s span. I think I should do it more often than just during the holiday season.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Coming of Age in the Navy. . .

I just finished reading Mitch Rycus' Rub Up: Musings of a Navy Corpsman. As I mentioned in an earlier post, this short novel was written by a cousin of Donna's. It was an interesting read and I enjoyed it but not because it was a work of fiction.

My problem is that I know Mitch. If we lived in the same city, he and Carol would be among our closest friends. I also knew a bit about his life before I sat started reading his book. As a result, I felt that I was reading an autobiographical account of the life of a cousin from his youth through his years in the Navy after he dropped out of high school. It is certainly to his credit that this high school dropout not only went on to college after his discharge from the service but eventually chaired the Urban Planning Program at the University of Michigan.

I guess I would describe this "novel" as a memoir in which the names were changed to protect the innocent and not-so-innocent. It truly was a good coming-of-age story. I look forward to asking Mitch about the book when I see him next July at the Rycus family reunion here in the L.A. area which Donna is helping plan.

If I'm wrong about what this book is, I'm sure Mitch will both set me straight and forgive me for my assumptions.