Thursday, August 26, 2004

Hello, all:

As I mentioned last week, my wife and I attended the fifth annual Evening of Experimental Middle Eastern Dance performance at a place called the Electric Lodge in Venice, California. We left for the coast at about 5 a.m. Saturday and arrived after stopping for food and an emergency stop at a mall on the way to relieve myself, getting in at about 11:30 or so.

Once we found the hotel, which we did with great ease thanks to Mapquest, we decided to see if the directions to the Electric Lodge from the hotel were just as good as the directions to the hotel in the first place.

Good thing we went early. Mapquest's directions across four hundred miles were great; Mapquest's attempts at tracing a simple six-mile trip SUCKED TO HIGH HEAVEN. I finally had to ask an English-deprived member of the 7-11 family of store employees for directions; she had no idea what I was talking about, but thankfully somebody waiting in line did. Turns out Mapquest put us on the right street, but about two miles south of where we really wanted to be.

Once we found it, we realized we were moments from Venice Beach, a place I'd always heard about but had never been, so we went. Venice is where all the hippies went to die. It is a bizarre collection of new-age souvnirs, muslim clothing and trendy places to eat, with street performers to rival San Francisco. Bought a CD from a guy named Harry Perry, who's been playing his electric guitar and roller skating up and down Venice Beach for 25 years. It's pretty good. The only thing about these street performers is that they know they're odd and they want money for even the privilege of taking their picture. Fair enough, I guess.

Then it was time to dump Adam and Brendan back at the hotel and head for the show, since we now knew where it was. I got better directions on how to get back to the hotel than Mapquest had given me, and we were off.

The show's venue, Electric Lodge, is a very unique building. Open to anyone who wants to rent it, the building has a dance studio with a wooden floor and a multi-purpose presentation room with a cement floor, which is where our show was. It was "tape" night, so there were cameras about but they didn't distract. And get this: the building is ENTIRELY solar powered. They like to boast that they have collected more electricity than any show performed there will ever need. You can check it out at http://www.electriclodge.org/

The show consisted of ten or twelve presentations of various lengths by various troupes to various types of music. Everything from traditional belly dance rhythms to The Clash would be heard that night.

There were funny ones. The best of those featured three women in full belly dance regalia with their backs to the audience. Their silver skirts were remarkably sheer but you didn't notice this at first. Then the music starts: "Dueling Banjos." The ladies "duel" by flexing their buttocks to the notes of "Dueling Banjos." The woman in the middle kind of served as a referee and co-participant. It was an absolute riot, and you never saw the dancer's faces until the chord at the end of the song, when they did a "Ta-dah" move to the audience before the lights went down.

Also, a group of two ladies called "Tandemonium" appeared in two pieces, one dressed as a sultan and one as a crusader. In the first half of the show, they "fought" with "swords" to the strains of "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)" by They Might Be Giants. In the second half of the show (after a particularly intense performance which I'll get to in a minute), the two "enemies" returned to the strains of "Rock the Casbah" by The Clash.

As far as "Experimental Middle Eastern Dance" goes, some of these things were very experimental and verged on modern dance with bellydance overtones. Which was okay. Also, there seemed to be a running theme of "tell a story" or "folklore" or whatever. Two of the acts verged on "Twilight Zone" intensity. Most impressive was a presentation called "The Drowners," about a group of Muse-like temptresses of the sea who seduce a man on the shore to join them in the water before pulling him to a watery grave. It was very well done and scary as hell and about eight feet from where we were sitting.

Another sketch dealt with two marionettes (these girls were fantastic) who come to life after two human sisters have a little too much sadistic fun with them and then decide to take a nap. Bad idea. Great dance, though, and fantastic makeup.

Demon posession, either intentional or not, was also a theme for two different dances; a woman literally shimmies herself from the fires of hell into tantric bliss (at least I THINK that's what they were trying to get across) and the finale, performed by a group called Desert Sin, featured fairies and elves minding their own business until a nasty troll lures the elven king into becoming one of them, thus causing most (but not all) of the attendees to dance and debauch until the good queen comes back to save the day.

But the most impressive dance we saw, for sheer chutzpah, was a solo by a dancer (from Desert Sin) who performed a "dance on broken glass" bit. The scene opened with her dressed (from the waist down, anyway) as a mermaid. She's admiring herself with a mirror, which she smashes in frustration when she realizes that, from the waist down, she wants to be human. She tosses the shards ashore into a larger pile of glass, which we assume she's been compiling for quite awhile. Finally, she pulls her legs out of the fish half (in an interesting bit of makeup, her legs appear blood-stained, as if she actually detached herself from the fish body) and she goes ashore. She performs a nearly nude bellydance on the pile of glass, then finally sits down in the pile and then begins to roll around in it. We could hear the shards breaking and it was fascinating, erotic and surprising.

Finally, although no one in the audience made a sound (save a couple of "ewwws"), you could HEAR what what people were thinking when she rolled onto her naked chest and her nipples rolled across the broken glass: OH GOD! OUCH! JESUS FUCKING CHRIST, HOW DOES SHE DO THAT!

Needless to say, it gave everybody something to talk about at intermission.

It was a great show; we plan to go back next year, too.

On Sunday, we went to Santa Monica. I love that place. The pier, the open-air mall, the ever-changing array of athletic practitioners and plastic people. (Janice says that in Santa Monica, you get two years to make yourself beautiful, or you're traded to Oregon.) Plus, the Hooters there serves chicken wings the size of boat oars. Which is important when you have teenage boys with you.

We stayed till about four and hit the road. Took our time getting back, stopping at the same mall we'd been to the day before so Adam and Brendan could check out an anime store.

Also, the hotel we stayed at, the LA Airport Sheraton, was nice, comfy, and cheap. Booked it through Hotels.com and got a great deal. I shall use that service again.


Fiddlers Dream, where I'm on the board, has booked legendary folk performer Tom Chapin for two shows on September 24-25. He's doing an all-ages show on Friday night, then a kids show the afternoon of the 25th. Adult tickets should be $20; tickets for the kids' show (and for kids) will be a bit cheaper. Please show up! I guarantee you will enjoy this guy.

If you're my age, you probably knew about Tom Chapin before you knew about his more famous brother, Harry. Tom was the host of ABC's "Make A Wish" on Sunday mornings for about five years in the 70's. It was a well-written educational show that was literally a half-hour play on words. I never got tired of it (even though I was 17 when the show left the air) and I would imagine that I've probably picked up some of my sense of humor from the bizarre jokes that regularly populated the show.

If you have little kids, you probably know Tom Chapin because he's recorded about a bajillion kids albums over the last 20 years and every damn one of them is still in print. I remember when my kids were little, we had a sampler with one of Tom's tunes, "Billy the Squid," on it. It was funny. I liked it!

Getting Tom to play here was partly my doing, and to do so I had to move a gig of my own. I was going to do a "double-up" with Nancy Freeman on the 24th. We've now moved that to Friday, December 17th. I will be doing my usual set on Saturday night, Sept. 25th at Fiddlers' Dream in the third slot.

That's all for now until I think of something else.

Friday, August 20, 2004


Okay, I know that Beach Volleyball is new to the Olympics. I know that the players are nearly nude, just to get some ratings. But it makes sense in Greece. Greece virtually invented nudity. I've only seen one game so far, US vs. Germany, and I guess it was a toss up which side showed more skin. I do know that the US team is so good, the Germans walked off with a bunch of sand-scratches.

Also, they have to wear the skimpy suits this time because the next Summer Olympics is in China. If they even HAVE beach volleyball they're going to be clad head to toe, I bet.

Although I see where China's very first adult toy convention recently took place.
Just what the world needs--horny Chinese. Frump up another billion people and who knows? Maybe there'll finally be something to look at between Phoenix and Tucson.
"Looky there, children! It's the city of New China! They didn't have no room for 'em in China, so they set up their own place right here in the desert!'

Anyway, as the Volleyballers get nuder (and isn't volleyball the game most nudists play in the buff?) the swimmers are putting clothes on. Head to toe wet suits. "Slicker 'n skin," they say. Must be a bitch to take off.

After watching that girl gymnast whose name escapes me win her medal, I have one question: What the fuck are those leotards made out of? They look like recycled red plastic.

There are finally some girls on this year's team that are adults, so you don't have to feel weird ogling them. I guess it would be worse--although ratings would probably go through the frikkin' roof-- if gymnasts wore what the Volleyballers are wearing.

From a purely linquistic point of view, that would make sense. "Gymnastikos" means "nude activity" or "nude exercise" or something like that. But you could search for eons and never find a straight guy who could look at a nude teenage girl doing gymnastics and seriously compliment her technique. Not gonna happen.

Speaking of nudity, did you notice the dancers in the opening ceremonies who were topless, save for the bodypaint they were wearing? So visible nipples through bodypaint is okay on commercial television, but Janet Jackson's pierced and mostly-covered nipple at the Super Bowl isn't? Whazzat all about?


We're off to California tomorrow for an overnight. I'm taking my wife to see a bellydance show, which you can read more about here: www.eemed.com


Last weekend we were at a party where we were entertained by three members of my wife's troupe, Unity in Motion. They were wonderful. And tonight, I get to go watch them all again, including my wife! Busy Tom I am...


Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Strange things I've noticed:

I've never been in a bank with a public restroom.

You can't use your American Express Card to buy American Express Traveler's Checks.

The words "contains nudity" will make anything sell out.

(Well, okay--"Live at Fiddlers' Dream: Tom Tuerff (contains nudity) that might not get anybody.)

Going strictly from people I know or are related to, pregnant women get their normal shape back faster and easier if they've had a daughter.

Bobby Caldwell and Delbert McClinton may be the only American white men I know of who can sing soul music with any conviction.

The Beatles covered more songs on their legitimate releases (that is, albums released when they were together) by Larry Williams than by Chuck Berry: "Dizzy Miss Lizzie," "Slow Down" and "Bad Boy." (They only did two of Chuck's songs.)

I can only imagine that the idea of eating snails was first originated during a horrible famine.


Friday, August 13, 2004

Now Julia Child is gone. I'm not crazy about cooking shows but whenever I saw Julia Child on TV I always stopped to watch. She was hilarious.

Sometimes, she was hilarious in spite of herself. I remember back around 1970 there was an APB put out on swordfish; DON'T EAT IT. There's too much mercury in the swordfish, etc. etc.

Well, if you're old enough to remember back then, you'll remember that PBS (or maybe it was still called NET) allowed a remarkable amount of shelf life to their programs. You might see a show taped two, three YEARS before the night it aired, and they didn't really pay attention to the content of the shows, since almost nobody was watching anyway.

Well, the night of the swordfish edict, I'm flipping around and I see Julia Child is about to come on, so I sit down and she says, "Tonight, the Wonders of Swordfish! On 'The French Chef!' Then she gets into it, She pulls out a chunk of swordfish about the size of two footballs and starts cutting it into steaks, and I'm laughing my butt off as she talks about how GOOOD swordfish is. And how GOOOOD it is for you. And I'm thinking, please God, let there be visible mercury dripping out of this swordfish. There wasn't but I could always hope with the best of 'em.


So New Jersey's governor quits because he's gay. This is not a good thing. Let's be honest. He quit because he cheated on his wife with his gay lover and got caught -- not just because he's gay. And from what I've read about him, this may have been the easiest way to duck out of a bad job. He's already been hit with a couple of scandals (has there ever been a governor of New Jersey who WASN'T crooked?), he apparently had zippo in the leadership skills department and the GOP was embarrassed with the guy anyway. So maybe the revelation that he's gay was simply the easiest way out.


I don't know what it is about the Opening Ceremonies of the Olympics, but I like them. My wife thinks I'm nuts -- it's just lines of people walking. Be that as it may, it's colorful, it's interesting, and as I write this it's happening in Greece. Nine hours from now I can tape it.


Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Apparently, some of my friends are having trouble signing on--and staying on--blogger. This post is primarily to see if I have the same problem. So far so good.

I've been listening a lot to Internet Radio lately. There are thousands of "stations" put up mostly by people who just want to share their music. Today I was listening to a station that played nothing but regional 60's 45's. "Local Hits," as it were. It's amazing how many people covered "Louie Louie," you know that?

Surprise of the day: a cover of the Mothers' "You Didn't Try To Call Me" from some 60s garage band out of Gary, Indiana whose name escaped me at the moment. And it was a good version, too!


Monday, August 09, 2004

Give out a scream for Fay Wray.

Something that the news articles are missing is that until the past year or so, when her health started to fail, Fay Wray was an active, in-your-face lobbyist for the rights of the elderly. About six years ago she even testified before a senate subcommittee about things like better health coverage, lower prescriptions and all the things that senior citizens have to worry about every day.

So although it was 70 years since she last saw Kong, she never stopped screaming for help. Good for her.


A short list of some of my favorite song titles:

(All the songs are real; I know 'cause I own 'em all. Note: these aren't necessarily among my favorite songs, just song titles.)

She's Too Much for My Mirror
Mister, Would You Please Help My Pony?
Prelude to the Afternoon of a Sexually Aroused Gasmask
In the Middle of Their First Recording Session, the Fugs Sign the Worst Contract Since Leadbelly's
Hasta Manana, Monsieur
Thank God It's Not Christmas
Peaches En Regalia
Why Don't We Do It In The Road
Rainy Day Women #12 & 35
It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes a Train To Cry


Thursday, August 05, 2004

You're probably all familiar with the adage: Ask x number of (insert religious or ethnic group of your choice) a question, and you'll get x+1 opinions."

I was reminded of that when I saw this:

The Jewish Guide to shoveling snow
Ariel Sharon - "The important thing is to shovel the entire width and breadth of the driveway, regardless of what anyone else thinks."

Ehud Barak - "You must shovel most of the driveway, but the exact dimensions of shoveling will be determined in discussions with our neighbors. No wait, you can shovel only in places where snow had previously fallen, but you cannot shovel in places where no snow had fallen - wait, don't do any shoveling until you hear from me!"

Yossi Sarid - "You should not shovel any part of the driveway, since you really do not have any valid historical or legal claim to the driveway, and it will soon be given back to its rightful owners."

Artscroll Hilchos Sheleg ("Laws Regarding Snow; Ashkenaz version, chapter 5) - "First approach the snow with the proper kavanah, meditating on the concept of snow removal. Recite the "...Who commanded us concerning the shoveling of snow" benediction," then take three steps back, bend the knees slightly with feet together, then look at the snow, lift shovel and dig, turning right and then left, bend knees fully, take three steps forward and deposit snow deliberately. Repeat until done, then recite the Sheheheyanu benediction, go indoors and have a hot drink, remembering to say the Shehakol brocha (see Artscroll Hilchos on Drinking Hot Liquids)..."

Tikkun Magazine - "What right do we have to violently take snow from its rightful resting place? Snow has rights: each snowflake is a unique individual, and we have absolutely no right to do anything with it. Let the snow decide for itself what it wishes to do, and then if it wishes to be shoveled, do so humanely."

Rashi - "Snow, this is a form of solid precipitation that clings to
one's beard if you remain outside too long in the winter season. (Old French: neige). Shoveling is a Rabbinic precept, based on the verse In Isaiah 1:18 - "If your sins be like scarlet, they will turn as white as snows"

Birthright Israel - "It does not matter how the shoveling is done, but the very act of a young Jew shoveling snow for ten consecutive days, under proper supervision will have a lifelong impact on Jewish identity."

Meir Ben-Meir (Israeli Water Commissioner) - "Just shovel the snow as fast as you can, and ship it here. We are running out of water fast! Is anyone listening to me?"

Rabbi David Hartman - "Snow is a potent force in the world which
unites all Jews. It falls on us all,regardless of religious denomination and belief, and is therefore instrumental in our understanding of Jewish unity and diversity. In fact, just this week, I was explaining the significance of snow to the Prime Minister, President Weizman, President Clinton, and His Holiness the Pope, who had asked my opinion."

The Late Lubavitcher Rebbe (from an epistle to a disciple) -"Shoveling snow is a distraction from our efforts to bring Moshiach, may He come soon, when in any case there will be no snow to shovel. So leave it and let it melt. If the Messiah does not come by Shavuos, the snow will have miraculously disappeared."


Monday, August 02, 2004

Today is my wife's birthday. She is exactly nine months to the day younger than I am. I used to kid with her parents and say, "I know what YOU guys were doing the day I was born!"

I love you, Jan. Happy Birthday!


I saw "I Robot" over the weekend, and despite the fact that, like pretty much all Science Fiction movies these days, it has enough holes to drive a robot delivery truck trough, and it was a stereotypical "rogue cop who can't get any respect from the rest of the force" movie, it's a good, fun two hours. Will Smith is a great smart-ass, as we all know, and he plays the stereotypical "rogue cop" very eagerly here.

I do wish that just once, before I die (thank god I plan to live to be 106; Hollywood has 60 years to do this), there would be one rogue cop movie where the said rogue is NOT threatened with his badge if he "does it again, " and where his understanding but responsible sergeant does NOT ask him for his badge at some point, thus forcing the cop to keep investigating and solving the crime, even though he's on suspension.

Why can't there be one movie where the Sergeant says, "Now look, O'Leary. The force has had enough of your freakin' hijinks. If you get out of line just 26 MORE TIMES, I'm going to be forced to consider whether I need to take your badge or not!"

Or even better, how about one where the rogue cop is forced to turn over his badge, which he does, then he goes home and we never see him again, because he's not a cop anymore?

Last night I watched "Love and Death," one of my favorite Woody Allen films. It's one of Allen's best. My son Adam was watching it for the first time, and watching him literally fall off the couch laughing was a thrill in itself.

My next three Netflix deliveries will be The Beatles' first concert in Washington, DC, a documentary about the history of Sex in the Cinema, and "Masked and Anonymous," a film which showed up on lots of critics 10 worst lists last year.

You never heard of Masked and Anonymous? It was Bob Dylan's first starring role in a movie in 30 years, apparently for good reason! I can't wait!

(By the way, the CD for Masked and Anonymous is delightful--it's groups from all around the world covering Bob Dylan songs. "My Back Pages" in Japanese is hilarious.)

I can't recommend Netflix enough, by the way. What a great way to find those hard-to-find flix from yesteryear! If it's on DVD, they probably have it.

Well, okay, they don't have the documentary "Theremin," which I really want to see, but other than that I haven't been disappointed.


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