Monday, December 31, 2012

Friday, December 28, 2012

Flying Artists

Today in the Los Angeles Times there is an article on the travails of airplane travel with a Chelo. It seems that guest musicians travel to various local orchestras to ply their trade and obviously their oversized instrument is part of that trip. 
Violins are a perfect size to fit in the over head compartment, a Viloa is a little more of a problem, but a Chelo or a Bass is like traveling with another person. 
If there is anyone who can have less respect than I do for the concern and efficiency of the TSA it is probably a Chelo player. If it is not the Airlines refusing to board a Chelo in the passenger compartment even when a ticket for the instrument has been purchased, it is the TSA who can damage or dismantle a multi-million dollar Chelo with a security check that is less than respectful.
I share their dislike of TSA Monkeys. Fortunately I manage to travel with the fragile, irreplaceable parts of my ventriloquist puppets padded into a specially designed case which fits in the over head, but I only get to the plane after running the gauntlet of the TSA.  To the TSA size does not matter, it is only the paranoia of some unfamiliar object coming through an x-ray. 
I don't know how the Chelo players do it but I have tried every approach to try and make the TSA job easier and my trip less stressful. I have tried being uber-nice. They don't care... they are used to being abused and are too thick skinned to understand.  I have tried to ask for special consideration due to the delicate nature of my carry on.  They don't care... you are a criminal until you can prove that a puppet is not a weapon.  I have asked if I could remove the puppet from the case for them to inspect.  They don't care... the rules are:  no one touches your stuff but them, and if you try to "help" them it is probable cause that you're a terrorist.    
Of course the Airlines don't get a perfect score on helping us traveling performers.  It is just as likely that once you have successfully gotten through the TSA inspection with a delicate carry on... Airlines Gate agents will want you to check it because all the "bin space" is taken.  The two major reasons why the "bin space" is at a premium are: 1)They charge from $25 to $50 to check a bag and 2) Just because they have charged you a fee to check the bag, there is no guarantee it will arrive with you at the same time or on the same plane.  
The only perfect solution open to the artist who travels with special instruments, bigger than a carry on size, is to Fly or at least own his own plane.  Of course how many symphony Chelo players own an airplane? I'm not sure that I can think of one. So what is the answer?
The answer is really a universal one but it involves a change in human behavior.  No one trusts anyone, anymore. No one values service or courtesy in the work place, especially airports. Everyone is guilty and or stupid until proven other wise by an incompetent, unintelligent TSA agent.  It is not totally their fault. They are trained to catch bad people, not look for the good ones. To a carpenter everything looks like a nail, to a TSA agent everyone looks like a terrorist. 
With all the talk about arming a security force for schools after the Sandy Hook tragedy,  who do we think these "guards" will be? Harvard behavioral science graduates or minimum wage cowboys who like guns. Even if that was a good idea, think armed TSA agents at the doorway to every school.  Think power hungry wannabe cops, think a bunch of George Zimmerman's who see threats with every hoody-shirted teen ager. 
I deal with such an "element" every time I fly to work, but fortunately the TSA monkey's are not packing heat. I would hate to have the same personalities who would be carrying guns "dealing" with our kids who are trying just to go to school.  
As you were,

Sunday, December 23, 2012


I have just returned from a Cruise on the Adventure of the Seas.  Our itinerary was the western Caribbean. There is nothing that will get you into the Christmas spirit more than a group of local islanders in Calypso shirts and Santa hats playing "Jingle Bells" on steel drums in Aruba... NOT. They did not sing the words but if they did it would have sounded like this, "Jangle Balls,  Jangle Balls, Jangle all ta way, Mawn." 
Photograph at your own risk!
However, since there was no traditional Christmas to be garnered, I did manage to use my time to solve a problem that the Cruise industry has been struggling with for some time now.  I have found the source of all the contagious disease at sea.  It could only have been discovered by a guest entertainer who had read the book he brought, and run out of budget to pay for the expensive wifi fee.  With much time to consider and ponder the events I came to a scientific conclusion. The source of the health problems at sea. I took a picture of it, or should I say "him". If he was real he would be known as Typhoid Barry. Here he is.
I am sure that the ship has a name for him, to me he is just the "guy giving the finger". He is a sculpture that resides in the middle of the Promenade of the ship.  In my search to stave off boredom I would sit at the Dog and Duck pub just across the "mall" and watch as people by the hundreds would stop and pose a picture with him.  All were trying to be clever... by that I mean an attempt to have the picture go FaceBook viral.
Everyone thought they were being original by composing a picture that involved his extended right hand index finger.  I saw it go up the nose of several guests, in the mouth of others, handled, fondled but mostly abused in some suggestive way.  All this with the complete ignorance of where that finger had been only minutes before in some other person's picture.  
At every entrance to the ship and at the door way of every lounge and restaurant is a Purell dispenser and a member of the crew standing guard to make sure guest sanitize their hands.  Yet the infested sculpture stands unattended in the middle of the busiest part of the ship, steps away from two bars and the Promenade Cafe.
 I shutter to think what a swab from the finger of this work of art would reveal in a lab culture.  I am guessing the microbic life species they are searching for on other planets.  For sure it contains common germs among the exotic. Yet hundreds of guests approached the statue with smiles on their faces eager to post a "clever" pose on line that no one had ever thought to do before.  He could be the most photographed object in the Caribbean Sea. As for me after an hour watching the throngs that touched the artwork... I would not go near it. 
So... to all of you who are saying, "Oh look Doris, there is the statue in the mall of the Adventure of the Seas that we have pictures of." If this statue is at all familiar to you, my advice is to get checked immediately and do it before they can dismantle the new HealthCare system.
As you were,

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Is it Over?

Imagine my surprise when I came out of my bunker this morning only to find that the world seemed pretty much the same. Damn those Mayans and their practical jokes.  Boy do I feel stupid, but you got me. But I will never trust an extinct civilization and their calendar again.
"End of the World" Bunker for Sale.... Like new! 
I guess I better get busy and buy Christmas presents.  I don't know what I will say to my sons when they do not get the new BMW's I promised, or my wife when she finds out that I didn't tell her about the bunker.  The only good news is I think I might have a fortune in Twinkies stashed in the safe room.  I understand since I have been secreted away there has been a run on them.
One of the things I thought was interesting during the "last week till the end of the world" centered around the History Channel. It was apocalypse central, almost counting down to 12/21/12 with experts saying that the evidence of the end of time was at hand.  They backed up their research with some compelling evidence that made a very strong case.  However, between the empirical evidence that the world was ending in a matter of days, the History Channel was running ads for next weeks shows.  It tells me that even if time ends the capitalistic interests of the world will be there to sell you a prime seat at scalpers prices. 
The one thing that I never really understood was the time line of the end of time.  No oxymoron here. I knew that the end of the Mayan calendar was coordinated with the alignment on Winter solstice of the sun and our planets with the center of the universe. It was to cause some polar shift or magnetic failure or a gravitational pull on the Earth.  But celestial alignment is a precise moment and like an eclipse it aligns at a certain time and for a certain length.  All the while I was planning my escape to the bunker, I assumed that the cosmos was on Pacific Standard time.  As I anxiously waited for midnight and the beginning of 12/21/12 here in California it dawned on me that 12:00 AM GMT had already come and gone and there was no destruction.  It will be just my luck that after millions of years the Mayan clock has slowed and it is running just about a week slow. Now that I am out of the bunker, the Mayans will once again have a laugh.  You pyramid building, human sacrificing, calendar carving bastards. 

To the readers who have asked, I have not abandoned the blog. Thank you for asking and thank you for noticing. Particularly you Phil, you know who you are. But no excuses for the absence just back to business.
I have now seen a rough cut of the first hour of "The Two and Only" and I am very pleased.  As difficult as it is to watch my own performance I am relaxing a little.  For a time I thought I had produced the worlds most expensive home movie, but alas after what could have been the end of time I am feeling much more certain about the future. 
So... as the last frantic weekend of Christmas shopping is upon us, my intent is to come back to my writing.  This will be a rather low key holiday, just the way it should be.  I am thankful for so many things but mostly that I am not on a plane trying to go somewhere or get back.  I am grateful for a beautiful family and wonderful friends. Now that we know that we have a few more years to go before the apocalypse my intent is to continue to think out loud and write it down.  More later from most of these same brain cells.
As you were,

Thursday, December 06, 2012

In the Moment

The day I arrived in Pittsburgh to open my run at the Funny Bone back in the 80's, a local event took the national spotlight.  A city politician hounded by the media over allegations of misconduct called a press conference at city hall.  He stepped to the podium in front of the reporters and gave a short rambling speech about how this publicity ruined his life.  He then took a hand gun out of a manila envelope, put the barrel in his mouth and pulled the trigger. 
It was a time when such press conferences were covered by a still photographer and writer, but one of the local television stations sent a reporter and video photographer.  His camera kept filming as the gun went off and the politician crumpled to the floor against a red streak of his own blood against the wall. The videographer stepped toward the podium and moved in for a close up on the lifeless face of the man as the press conference erupted into a cacophony of screams.  The camera man kept rolling.
The station aired a version of the video up to the moment the man put the gun to his mouth. The locals asked whether the video, even the sanitized version, should have been broadcast.  Only a few questioned why the camera man continued to film instead of trying to stop the politician  from killing himself or rendering aid after the shot. His reasoning was actually sound for the time.  He said, "I am a news photographer and my job is to cover the news. I can't do my job if I insert myself into the story or stop filming."  It made gruesome sense in a way.
Today things are different. Everyone has a cell phone with a video camera, still camera, instant communication with instant sharing.  So when a thug pushed Ki-Suck Han to his death on the subway track at 7th and 50th in New York city this week,  a local man got an iPhone picture of the Han moments before he was crushed by the on coming train. That picture became the front page of the New York Post. Hundreds of cell phone pictures of the dead man flooded the Internet before the Post cover was published.  The conductor of the train said that he had never seen so many people taking pictures, and so few trying to help.
What reality are we all living in? It's hard enough to justify  the actions of a 1980's reporter's  trying to document a public event that ended in tragedy, but normal citizens taking Instagram pictures of a crisis ending in death, rather than trying to help, is unconscionable. 
I have "beefed" about this before.  When will we look up from our hand held screens and actually be in the moment we're living? Heros don't take pictures of people in need, they drop what they are doing and help.  Are these smart phones making us smarter.... it doesn't appear so.
As you were,

Monday, December 03, 2012

Feeling the Season

Our friend John Addis is senior show director for the Disneyland resorts.   Among his many mouse duties is the direction and production of the Candlelight Ceremony at Disneyland during the Christmas season.
As is the nature of Disneyland when they decide it is Christmas time, the entire park becomes a festival of decorations and lights that can only be rivaled in beauty by the original star of Bethlehem.  Their art direction and attention to detail and creativity is unequaled in my opinion.
In the past the Candlelight Ceremony has been a special event, for only a night or two. This year they will present it Thursday through Saturday from now until December 20th. It is a very ambitious program, and the logistics John has to deal with are mind boggling.  It is a combination of several choirs numbering in the hundreds, eight trumpeters on top of the main street buildings, staging, lighting, sound design, soloists, a 24 piece orchestra and a celebrity narrator who reads the traditional Christmas story from the Bible.
A group of us requested tickets to the ceremony this year to add to John's stress level, because that is the kind of friends we are.  We attended the opening of John's incredible work Saturday night.
It was beautiful. The perfect way to start the Christmas season. Surely Santa's North Pole can not look more beautiful than Disneyland decorated for the holidays.  The combination of the spectacle, reverence and tradition of the Christmas story punctuated by Christmas Songs was wonderful.

But not to be out done by the creativity of Disneyland, the Universe staged a lighting effect that only could come from a higher source.

It began to mist with rain during one of the more reverent moments of the show creating an effect  that will not be repeated during the rest of the run.  This is a picture of that moment. Although no photograph can really capture the grandeur of small rain drops illuminated by theatrical lights, even the snapshot is unique.
Later the misty crowd was entertained by a fireworks display which ended in the lighting of Sleeping Beauty's castle. Once again it took my breath away.
John couldn't hang with us because he was still on the Mickey Mouse clock.  We just got a moment to tell him thanks and try to find words that might come close to what we experienced. We will have another chance later in the month when a small group of friends get together and celebrate the season in our own personal tradition.
I guess the human species is really a pack animal. With all the spectacle and technical awe we can create, there is still nothing to compare with the company of friends. Thanks for letting us enjoy your work, John.  And...
 To John, Denny, Tommie, Nanci and Joey... Sandi and I are blessed by your companionship, but it doesn't mean that Joey is out of the barrel for the 23rd.
As you were,