Sunday, March 23, 2008

Glass Houses

Unbeknownst to most of my blog junkies, I appear to have unwittingly spawned an enormous controversy.

My article, "Who Will Speak for Me?," about the strong focus of Israeli drama on the Palestinian situation, was selected to run in the May/June issue of AMERICAN THEATRE magazine, the national publication of the Theatre Communications Group. I felt honored that they selected it, and it is a significant feature article.

Senior Editor Randy Gener decided to augment it with commentary about the cultural boycott against Israel advocated by some Arab nations and others, soliciting opinions from a diverse group of theatre practitioners, among them Ari Roth, artistic director of Theatre J in Washington DC.

Ari sent his commentary to his entire email address book, it seems, prompting many more comments.

I first learned about the cultural boycott commentaries from Najla Said, the daughter of of the late Palestinian intellectual Edward Said, with whom I met recently about a project I'm involved in: producing South African Yael Farber's staging of "King Lear" with Palestinian and Israeli actors, with her executive producer Tommy Kriegsmann. Najla told me she had been solicited to send in a written commentary.

I've become a sort of master of the adage "no good deed goes unpunished," and my well-intentioned piece about how Israeli theatre artists (most of whom are left-leaning, human-rights protecting advocates) seem to be promoting the cause of Palestinians under their nation's occupation, has exploded into something much bigger and more portentous.

We'll all have to see the issue of AMERICAN THEATRE to see where it lands initially, and then the following issues for the repercussions.

Until next time...


PS--many thanks to my friend Deborah Leiser-Moore of Melbourne, Australia, who took the photo from which I ripped off my nice new headshot!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Boneyard Redux

Alison told me the other day she saw it in a sattelite image on, and brother Bob just told me it's visible on Google Earth at the following address: 777 Las Vegas Blvd N, Las Vegas, N.V. 89101.
If you paste that into G.E., you will see from quite high altitude the large skull from Treasure Island casino. This image is not totally up to date, as it shows the parts of the La Concha motel lobby disassembled near the skull. That has now been rebuilt and placed to the northwest portion of the site. So even though I'm "prohibited" from posting photos of the neon signs there, you can check it out anyway!

Until next time...


Monday, March 17, 2008

Neon Boneyard

Last weekend in Vegas, we finally did something we've heard about for a long time...we visited the "boneyard" owned by the nascent Neon Museum on Las Vegas Blvd. north of downtown in what is emerging as a sort of cultural district. (Yes, yes, "culture" and "Vegas" seem like an oxymoronic combination!)

On a gusty, sandstorm of a day, we trudged with about 20 people around two multi-acre fenced-in lots with a member of the museum's staff for about an hour.

Unfortunately, you're only allowed to take photos if you sign a form saying you won't post them on the web or sell them. That seemed a bit strict, but it was explained that some of the signs in the boneyard are old ones from existing casinos that fear trademark violations. So, they only donated their old signs under these conditions.

My Mom's favorite casino, Stardust, was demolished this year to make way for a new casino development, and the boneyard contained its old sign. One thing I never knew about that sign was that the image was supposed to seem like a nuclear bomb mushroom cloud--commemorating the n-tests 70 miles outside of Vegas! Back then they thought it was something to celebrate. Its futuristic lettering and diamond-like stars seem so cliche today--almost like watching "The Jetsons."

Alison & I had a favorite sign that we used to drive by north on the "Strip" going towards downtown, but that hotel was torn down quite some time ago. Imagine our delight to see the "Tam O'Shanter" hotel sign in the boneyard--complete with the 3 foot diameter illuminated "tartan tam" that sat atop a tall pole and revolved. It was so kitchy, you just had to love it!

Until next time...


Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Not a Cross Word in the House

I've always enjoyed doing the occasional crossword. Once a week, tackling the Sunday New York Times puzzle, which I rarely completed, was typically all I would do--except when traveling and completing the puzzles in the in-flight magazines the airlines publish.

For months now, though, I've been beginning my day with the daily NY Times puzzle, and picking up three puzzles on Sunday from the LA Times website to supplement the NY Times magazine puzzle.

As any junkie knows, the more you do, the more you need to do, and I've now supplemented my puzzle completion with daily LA Times and daily Washington Post.

I can't start my day reading the paper until I've finished the NY Times puzzle, which I usually am able to do except on Friday and Saturday, when even consulting's marginally helpful crossword solver application won't make the critical difference. Mostly, though, I do complete the Sunday NY Times puzzle these days--a rarity in my earlier years.

(By the way, there's a puzzle fanatic and creator who posts daily to his blog the answers & thoughts behind the NY Times puzzles--sometimes praising them, sometimes critiquing them.)

But there is a knack to crossword puzzles, and no matter who writes them (and there are many different creators), they seem to rely on the same playbook at times. For example, can someone tell them to stop using Stephen Rea's last name? How about Mel Ott?

Then there's the trick of clues that state "Log beginning"--it's usually "ana" or "dia", but you spend precious minutes thinking about where does a log begin? Is this about a tree?

It's emblematic of how crossword puzzles rarely are that difficult in the words within them, but their real difficulty is figuring out the clues, which are written in the most obtuse fashion to throw you off the scent.

Of course, many puzzles these days follow "themes", usually stated in the title of the puzzle. This is where they are typically more fun and clever. I did one today from the Washington Post in which the stated theme was "The Naked Truth" and you had to solve an "observation" (as it was characterized) which wound up being "Men and women in nudist camps can air their differences" over three long lines in the puzzle. Not bad.

I'm determined to take some time to compose a few puzzles of my own--and you can be sure I'll make every effort to avoid the "stock-in-trade" words that other puzzle writers seem to rely on. We'll see if I can be successful.

Until next time...


Saturday, March 1, 2008

How to Build a Nuclear Bomb (or Bathe a Cat)

A friend called me "brave" for saying I had bathed my cat, Bob, the other day. (That's not Bob in the photo--I would have needed an extra pair of hands to take a picture.)

Let's just say it's about as challenging as building a nuclear bomb.

Until next time...