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Pop culture junkie, native of Las Vegas, not really a writer.
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Monday, August 31, 2009

Robert Frank - Photographs

Photography by Robert Frank - many of these photos are from his seminal book, The Americans published in 1958.

Political Rally, Chicago 1956

Cafe in Beaufort, South Carolina 1955

Elevator, Miami Beach 1955

Indianapolis 1955

U.S. 285, New Mexico 1955

Coffee Shop, 1956

Parade, Hoboken, NJ 1955

Funeral, St. Helena, South Carolina 1955

Movie Premiere, Hollywood 1955

Chattanooga, Tennessee 1955

Sante Fe, New Mexico 1955

U.S. 90, en route to Del Rio, Texas 1955

Rodeo, New York City 1954

4th of July, Coney Island 1958

San Francisco 1956

Charleston, South Carolina 1955

Trolley, New Orleans 1955

Ranch Market, Hollywood 1956

Public Park, Ann Arbor, Michigan 1956

Chicago, 1956

St. Francis, Gas Station, City Hall, Los Angeles 1956

Reno, Nevada 1956

Friday, August 28, 2009

This is so tragic.

R.I.P. Reading Rainbow

from NPR.org:

Reading Rainbow comes to the end of its 26-year run on Friday; it has won more than two-dozen Emmys, and is the third longest-running children's show in PBS history — outlasted only by Sesame Street and Mister Rogers.
The show, which started in 1983, was hosted by actor LeVar Burton (If you don't know Burton from Reading Rainbow, he's also famous for his role as Kunta Kinte in Roots, or as the chrome-visored Geordi La Forge on Star Trek: The Next Generation).
Each episode of Reading Rainbow had the same basic elements: There was a featured children's book that inspired an adventure with Burton. Then, at the end of every show, kids gave their own book reviews, always prefaced by Burton's trademark line: "But you don't have to take my word for it ..."
"The series resonates with so many people," says John Grant, who is in charge of content at WNED Buffalo, Reading Rainbow's home station.

The show's run is ending, Grant explains, because no one — not the station, not PBS, not the Corporation for Public Broadcasting — will put up the several hundred thousand dollars needed to renew the show's broadcast rights.
Grant says the funding crunch is partially to blame, but the decision to end Reading Rainbow can also be traced to a shift in the philosophy of educational television programming. The change started with the Department of Education under the Bush administration, he explains, which wanted to see a much heavier focus on the basic tools of reading — like phonics and spelling.
Grant says that PBS, CPB and the Department of Education put significant funding toward programming that would teach kids how to read — but that's not what Reading Rainbow was trying to do.

"Reading Rainbow taught kids why to read," Grant says. "You know, the love of reading — [the show] encouraged kids to pick up a book and to read."
Linda Simensky, vice president for children's programming at PBS, says that when Reading Rainbow was developed in the early 1980s, it was an era when the question was: "How do we get kids to read books?"

Since then, she explains, research has shown that teaching the mechanics of reading should be the network's priority.

"We've been able to identify the earliest steps that we need to take," Simensky says. "Now we know what we need to do first. Even just from five years ago, I think we all know so much more about how to use television to teach."
Research has directed programming toward phonics and reading fundamentals as the front line of the literacy fight. Reading Rainbow occupied a more luxurious space — the show operated on the assumption that kids already had basic reading skills and instead focused on fostering a love of books.
Simensky calls Reading Rainbow's 26-year run miraculous — and says that its end is bittersweet.
Reading Rainbow's impending absence leaves many open questions about today's literacy challenges, and what television's role should be in addressing them.
"But" — as Burton would have told his young readers — "you don't have to take my word for it."

***I loved to watch Reading Rainbow as a kid and I would write down the book titles that kids reviewed at the end and look for them at my school or public library. I think it's tragic that this wonderful show can't find the funding it needs to continue to try to instill in children a love a reading rather then simply teaching them how to read. My three year old niece loves books and I'm sad she won't get to grow up watching this show.***

Avatar vs. Hitler

If you haven't yet, watch the Avatar trailer:

And then watch this and die laughing:

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Flashback Features - Regal Cinemas

Regal Cinemas is continuing their Flashback Features this fall. There aren't as many in this go round that really interest me, but there are a few that really excite me. Of course the very first show is the one I'm most excited about but I will be in Toronto when it plays!! Oh well. Small price to pay to visit Mo! All shows are at 6:30pm and cost $5! Hit me up if you want to go!

Roman Holiday, Monday Sept. 7, Aliante - I will be out of town :(

From Here to Eternity, Monday Sept. 14, Aliante - Monty Clift on the big screen! Yes please.

Spaceballs, Wednesday Sept. 16, Texas - This is a maybe for me, if others really want to go I may join them.

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Monday Sept. 21, Aliante - Yes! Those colorful dance sequences are meant to be seen on a big screen!

Raiders of the Lost Ark, Wednesday Sept. 23, Texas - Absolutely! Get the bad taste of Crystal Skull out of my mouth.

Citizen Kane, Monday Sept. 28, Aliante - eh

Ghostbusters, Wednesday Sept. 30, Texas - Sweet!

Jailhouse Rock, Monday Oct. 5, Aliante - This movie is practically unwatchable. No.

Annie, Wednesday Oct. 7, Texas - My dad took me to see this for my 5th birthday and he let me sit in the front row! I may have to repeat that experience.

Rosemary's Baby, Monday Oct. 12, Aliante - I've never seen it! Yes!

Gremlins, Wednesday Oct. 14, Texas - Nah

The Birds, Monday Oct. 19, Aliante - I just saw this on the big screen over the summer. No need to see it again.

Pet Cemetery, Wednesday Oct. 21, Texas - Nah

Frankenstein (Boris Karloff), Monday Oct. 26, Aliante - This could be good Halloween fun!

The Exorcist, Wednesday Oct. 28, Texas - This movie traumatized me as a kid and I don't do too much better with it as an adult. No thank you.

White Christmas, Monday Nov. 2, Aliante - Yes, and I'll take my mom!

Planes, Trains, & Automobiles, Wednesday Nov. 11, Texas - As a tribute to John Hughes, yes.

From Blip.fm - Mashup Heaven

Song of the Day: Mashup of The Gossip and Elastica! Sweeeet! ♫ http://blip.fm/~ceyra

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


R.I.P. Dominick Dunne

You can check out the archive of his major Vanity Fair articles here.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Kings of Leon - The Joint - August 19, 2009

Saw Kings of Leon, a sold out show at the new Joint last Wednesday with my friend Shanda. Not only was it sold out, some of the security were complaining that it was OVER SOLD, and we could tell, it was ridiculously crowded. It took us forever just to maneuver the line to get in the damn place. Once we got in the first band, The Whigs (never heard of them, didn’t really get a chance to get a sense of what they’re all about), were already playing so we immediately hit the long line for beer. Only had one beer all night because after making it through the line once, there was no way I was ever getting back in it!

There was an interesting crowd at Kings of Leon, now that the band has broken through to the mainstream and become a "boy band." There were lots of girls dressed in next to nothing with ridiculously high heels. Really, why would anyone go to a three hour long, standing room only show in four inch heels? Even more odd, there was also a lot of straight boy love for KOL. There were pockets of frat-like "bros" so super psyched for the show that they were dancing emphatically (that’s the best way I can describe it), shouting towards the band, throwing their arms around each other, really, REALLY into it!! I pegged them as boys raised on hip hop and pop who didn’t know rock and roll could be like this. It was like they heard Kings of Leon on the radio and suddenly their penises reacted primally to the sound and they were converted to rock and roll. Those boys were hysterical to watch! Not surprisingly a lot of the crowd was there strictly for the radio hits and once Sex on Fire was played they cleared out. No loss there.

The band put on a great show as usual. This was my fourth time seeing them live and they are always top notch. You can tell that they have more money now because their production design is really cool with lots of video screens and lights. Lead singer Caleb Followill did have a bit of a hissy fit during the show when it appeared that his monitor wasn’t working. At one point he slammed down his mic stand after a song and had some very heated words with the stage crew. He went on to sincerely apologize to the audience making sure we understand that when he gets angry at technical issues it’s because he wants to ensure we have the best experience possible. I thought that was quite nice.

They played a good mix of new and old tracks, the highlight for me being Four Kicks, a great song to dance to! There were a ton of people taking pictures and even filming the show. I’m posting all my photos here (taken with my iPhone) and also various video I could find on youtube. Enjoy!

Slow Night, So Long:


Caleb chatting: “The best fans in the whole world”:

More Caleb chatting: “Want you to have the best experience”:


Sunday, August 23, 2009

Kseniya Simonova - Sand Animation

This artist apparently won Ukraine's Got Talent with her sand animation. It's absolutely incredible and moving and has to be seen to be believed. Watch this.

And of course, not only is she beyond talented, she's beautiful too!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Once more unto the breach, dear friends!

Southern Utah University (SUU) in the pretty little town of Cedar City, Utah is home to the Tony award winning Utah Shakespearean Festival every summer. It’s only a two and a half hour drive from Las Vegas but despite its nearness, I’ve been shamefully neglecting it for years. I rectified this sad error over the past weekend by driving up to see two plays: Henry V and The Secret Garden (they put on six plays per year, a mixture of Shakespeare and classics/contemporary).

I do love the short drive up to Cedar City. You get to travel through the Virgin River Gorge which is one of the most expensive parts of interstate highway every constructed due to the blasting that was necessary to get through the rock. It consists of several miles of twisty road with the canyon walls towering over you in shades of red, tan, brown, and pink. Although the colors to be seen in the daytime are impressive, it’s even better to drive at night when there is little traffic and you can ignore lane dividers and cruise right through it!

I drove up Saturday morning in time to arrive for the 2:00pm performance of The Secret Garden. It’s a musical adaptation of the beloved Frances Hodgson Burnett children’s classic. It was one of my favorite books growing up and I still read it every few years or so. The production design was spare, with minimal sets and props but beautifully painted backdrops to evoke India and the gardens at Misselthwaite Manor. It required you to use your imagination but also allowed you to focus more on the dialogue and lyrics. There is an interesting device used throughout the play where the ghosts of the dead characters appear as a sort of “Greek Chorus” to propel the action of the play along. There were some significant changes from the book to create more dramatic tension between the characters but it worked. The acting was excellent, especially the children playing Mary and Colin, and the songs were delightful.

After that play I went and checked into my hotel and then decided to get some dinner before seeing Henry V that night. I used Yelp.com and found a restaurant only blocks away from the campus called The Garden House. Fitting, no? Even though I was only one person, there was a wait to be seated. It seemed like a pretty popular spot for festival attendees to dine and it was a Saturday. As I was waiting, a party of six came in and I was surprised to see the actor Brian Vaughn who had just performed as Dr. Craven in The Secret Garden amongst the group. I was surprised because I knew he was playing King Henry in the performance of Henry V that I was going to be seeing in about two hours! It’s amazing to me that these festival actors who perform several days a week, often two plays in one day, can have the energy to go out to dinner with friends in between! Brian Vaughn has been performing in the festival for over fifteen years. He actually attended college at SUU in the early 90s while I was in high school and once my theater department attended a Thespian Conference at SUU where I got to see him play Billy Flynn in the college’s production of Chicago. As we all waited for our tables, I fell into conversation with the group and relayed that anecdote while he shook his head in disbelief. That was so very long ago! They were a very nice group of people and I enjoyed chatting with them before finally being seated for dinner.
After dinner I made it to the festival grounds in time to catch the tail end of the Greenshow that goes on each night before the main performances. It’s bawdy good fun and I bought a few lollipops in the shape of Shakespeare’s head from the “wenches” that walk around with baskets of goodies on their arms.

At 8pm was the performance of Henry V. I chose this play because it was being performed in the Adams Memorial Shakespearean Theatre which is an open air replica of the Globe Theatre. Cedar City is at an elevation of 5,800 ft so it’s considerably cooler than Vegas. Seeing a play outdoors there at night is gorgeous, although bring a sweater because once the sun goes down completely, it can get a little chilly. Henry V was great to see live. Again it’s all about the imagination in this one, with the narrator urging you to follow with your mind as the actors journey from England to France, “Think, when we talk of horses, that you see them printing their proud hoofs i’ th’ receiving earth; For ‘tis your thoughts that now must deck our kings, carry them here and there, jumping o’er times, turning th’ accomplishment of many years into an hour glass.” Brian Vaughn played King Henry with great command but with a delightful twinkle in his eyes that imparted the presence of the younger and playful Prince Hal that must still dwell somewhere within the now powerful King. The side characters were equally charmingly played and the hours spent in their midst, under the stars, went quickly.

The next morning I woke early, checked out of my dumpy cheap hotel and drove 40 minutes out of my way up to Cedar Breaks National Monument. I had breakfast at the lodge and then visited the monument itself, standing on the precipice as a cold bracing wind tried to blow me back from it. I didn’t have the time to spend hiking the myriad trails, but I enjoyed the view for a while and then started on my journey home.

After rediscovering the festival over such a lovely weekend, I’m going to be sure to keep it up in years to come. Next year they are doing Much Ado About Nothing and Pride & Prejudice! Let me know if you want to join me!

I took lots of pictures with my iPhone camera. Here they are uploaded for your viewing pleasure.

This first set of five photos are from my drive through the Gorge. Yes they are shot through my windshield, while driving, that's why they are kind of crappy. No I was never in any danger. I'm an excellent driver.

This shot was taken from my seat at The Secret Garden before the play began. I really loved the white bouquet sitting on the empty stage with the blue lit curtains behind.

Flags flying over the festival.

Falstaff! Who wouldn't want to have a drink with him?

I took these next three shots of the Adams Theater in the afternoon.

This is a gnome in the garden of The Garden House restaurant.

The clock tower on the SUU campus at dusk.

These next two shots are of me entering the Globe Theater replica for the 8pm performance of Henry V.

And these two shots I took during the intermission, it is full dark now and the lights are so pretty outside the theater.

And now here are two shots of Cedar Breaks. Completely worth driving out of my way for - but COLD!