We DO Need Some Stinkin’ Badges!

That’s if you want to get into the cool places. With nothing all the special left on the horizon of December, here’s my top three of the year.
(Notice it does not include the Rio Olympics; even if I remembered what happened to it, it would not have made the cut.)








Music Review: Lindsey Stirling’s Brave Enough

For those people who don’t know—and should know better—Lindsey Stirling is a violinist who fuses classical with modern music, such as dubstep and other forms of EDM. She also happens to dance while playing, which is a huge part of the draw, but for me first and foremost is the fact she’s a great composer. As I mentioned in a previous blog, one of the songs on her last album, Take Flight, if it was stripped of everything except violin and piano, could be considered one of the best classical compositions of the last fifty years.
In addition to that, this lady is just fun. Besides her amazing music videos—she was a film major in college—she has another YouTube channel of behind the scenes and tour stuff, where you get to know her so well you think she’s been your buddy for years. She’s a lady who personifies the term “adorable badass.” In fact, it might have been invented for her.
On to the new music. As should be expected, the top two songs off this album are the ones released early, which I’ve already reviewed. That feels like so long ago that I was a bit disappointed in my first listen of this album, thinking there was nothing that really slammed me until I remembered the previous two. Usually it takes a while for a song to really worm into my heart—okay, that’s a disgusting metaphor—which is why I decided to take some time, almost a month and maybe a hundred runthroughs, before writing this review.

Lost Girls
Gentle plucking gives way to a soft romantic theme, real purty. Then a completely unnecessary vocoder wastes a few seconds before the song bursts into a fast Celtic melody that would not be out of place in Riverdance. This sequence repeats a couple of times. I imagine this is a song Lindsey and her dancers will enjoy doing live; with the right choreo and background this could end up being as much fun as Roundtable Rival.

Brave Enough ft. Christina Perri
Christina’s voice is not bad, although nothing special either. But then I’m not really here for the vocals. One of those reasons is the penchant for a lack of respect to the art of rhyming; too many of these attempts don’t come close.
The music is so much better. I love when the violin plays the vocal melody, reinforcing it. This solo also sounds Celtic, and is the best part of the song. I wish it didn’t end so abruptly into the next verse, though, but at least the outro continues that deliciousness.
And when you realize exactly what the lyrics are about. . . it’s heartbreaking.

The Arena
Already reviewed here. Best song on the album.

The Phoenix
The easy opening goes a little too long before hitting the main melody, which is soft and beautiful as it climbs. A minute later it’s at full power, with a clashing of drums that feels like a gift to Drew, who will go crazy playing this live. There’s a lot to like here, especially the violin, though with so many different parts it feels a little uneven/unfocused to me.

Where Do We Go ft. Carah Faye
Right off the bat, gotta say I’m not liking this singer’s voice. She certainly has the talent, but the tonal quality. . . it sounds like she has a cold. It’s distracting, but I find the more I hear this song the less it bothers me, it’s that good.
The chorus, while simple, is powerful. “Where do we go when our prayers are answered but the answer is no?” In a way it’s almost a perfect song: simple in execution, deep in meaning. As good a “message” song as you’ll likely find.

Those Days ft. Dan + Shay
I was a little wary when told this would be country, but the opening sure didn’t sound like it. In fact, nothing here sounds country at all, to my everlasting relief; no twang in either the vocals or instruments. The music makes this sound like a romantic jaunty non-ballad, but it’s not, if you pay attention to the lyrics.
As always the song shines when we get to the instrumental solo, with Lindsey playing off the melody with much more enthusiasm than between the vocals. Nothing spectacular here, more of a cute interlude. I like the cut ending better than had it faded out.

Possibly the most electronic/techno song, with a fun melody amongst all the other stuff layered in here. In fact, there’s so much here it makes it hard to describe. This is the kind of song where each person could invent their own dance moves for it, but since I’ve seen it live, I can’t get the image of Lindsey shaking her booty out of my mind. . .

Hold My Heart ft. ZZ Ward
A dramatic start gives way to dramatic vocals and violin melody. It’s somehow playful and heavy at the same time. The theme of being a strong woman who still wants love is powerful. On a personal note, there’s more of my pet peeve of misfiring on rhymes, which lessens my enjoyment.

Mirage ft. Raja Kumari
I have a love/hate relationship with Indian music, as I much prefer a sitar to vocals. The violin opening is wonderful, and Lindsey does make what I’m assuming is Excalibur sound like a sitar at times. I’d like to see this in concert just to find out if that’s her doing the extremely fast picking in the middle. The vocals are more melodic than atonal, thankfully. There’s a playful part where it seems the voice and the violin are having a discussion. But even though it’s playful it doesn’t get much further than cute.

Don’t Let This Feeling Fade ft. Rivers Cuomo & Lecrae
Hate rap, hate autotune. Best for me not to attempt a review of this.

First Light
At first glance this is an instrumental reminiscent of previous songs that were fun but didn’t make as much of an impression, for example Heist and Night Vision from the last album. But somehow this one is better. Chalk it up to experience; less frenetic, more polished. With alternating slow verses and heavily syncopated chorus, this is an amusing and enjoyable jam.

Love’s Just a Feeling ft. Rooty
This lady has a wonderful bluesy voice, and the violin is delicious. The chorus slows to showcase the vocals, and after it comes the inevitable bigger dance section, all fitting together very well.
With that said, this would get a higher score if the attempts at rhyming weren’t so atrocious.

Something Wild ft. Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness
Already reviewed here. Second best song on the album. Lovely. Speaking of the video, I love how Lindsey filmed Andrew doing the rhythmic clapping. And that’s the first time I’ve seen Lindsey in jeans. . .

Gavi’s Song
For those of you not aware, Gavi was Lindsey’s best friend and keyboardist, who passed away last year, just before the start of recording this album, of complications from the chemo that treated his lymphoma. And it happened after he’d become cancer-free and everything was optimistic, which makes it all the harder.
This may be a simple violin piece with gentle piano under, but that’s what makes it so lovely. Lindsey has said she began writing this with Gavi, so it obviously had a different meaning to it at the time, but as a dirge—only the second I’ve ever liked—it’s spectacular, a fitting remembrance of one of the most important people in her life.
At the end the melody is played as if far away, coming through an old radio or gramophone; I choose to believe this is her interpretation of how it would sound in heaven. . .

Target Exclusives
The title does not lie. The start is all violin, leading into electronica supporting the melody as it swirls around the dance floor. Feels simple, but there’s more involved here than is first apparent, soaring in the same way Beyond the Veil does near the end.

This is as old-school new age as I’ve heard from Lindsey, with a touch of techno. It’s so playful—reminiscent of Electric Daisy Violin—that I can see dance students using this for their performances. It’s too bad there’s little chance this’ll be played live, as I imagine it would be a ton of fun for Kit and his keyboards.

This has another dramatic beginning, but by the time it settles to just violin and fingersnaps it’s nothing but fun. After that the violin melody feels subtly Arabic, not as much as Yeah! but still noticeable. At some points there’s a bubbly playful keyboard, which somehow manages to fit right in, along with the high female vocalization reminiscent of Take Flight.

Forgotten Voyage
at the start this sounds like a continuation of the previous, then jumps into a slightly techno version of a Riverdance-style tune. Lindsey has mentioned that she thought “Space pirates!” about this one, but I don’t hear it.
Can’t help but point out that the extras were more vintage Lindsey, the more playful side of her musicality.

Entire album: 8.5/10

Bonus: The Only Pirate At the Party audiobook
Since I’ve already reviewed her book, this will only involve the vocal version, which I braved even though audiobooks usually put me to sleep.
Right away—I mean at the very start—it shows why in some limited cases this version can be better than the written: music! Not one of my favorite of her songs, but it proves its point. Another of the few ways audiobooks can be better is the way she yells “Scarfman!” with such joy, or the voice she uses when playing her alter-ego Phelba.
But as fun as that is, it can also be painful. When you read in the book “I hope I never have to hire another keyboard player,” it’s hard enough, but to hear her voice breaking as she reads it aloud. . . it’s heartrending, even more so at the end with a special page dedicated to Gavi.
But in general this is more fun than reading it, simply because you can hear the joy in her voice as she remembers certain good memories, as well as her sometimes hammy attempts at accents. I’m heartened to know that, as crazy as I might get, I won’t be the craziest person in the room; there’s a certain freedom to it. (As Lindsey says in her concerts, “Crazy in a good way!”)
BTW, if there’s a sequel it should be called The Only Pirate With a Pedicure.


Book Reviews: Art and Oddities

The tattoo sealed the no-deal.

Photographs from the Edge
Travels To The Edge is most likely my favorite travel show, in no small part due to the awesome theme song (still waiting for it to be released. . . someday. . . just sayin’). More importantly, as a travel photographer this show gives me ideas where to shoot next, as well as fond memories of previous shoots. But this book is even better at that, as most of these shots are from places not visited by the TV show. Art Wolfe’s philosophy is that he wants to shoot places that haven’t been photographically exploited before, which is hard to do nowadays, considering it doesn’t take long to reach any spot on Earth in this modern world.
Each photo comes with a description of how it came about: camera and lens, f/stop, exposure, ISO. The fact he took the time to document all that while shooting, especially back in the film days, makes my head hurt. Each page also has a photo tip, which in a book this large is an astonishing number of tips. One of these says his workhorse lens is an 80-200; that’s the one I use the most too, so I had a momentary geek-out. (But I’m feeling much better now.)
On to the important stuff. The first image is of an arctic fox, and it’s beautiful, a perfect opener. Another shot that stayed with me was of a small house and some trees looking amazingly tiny as a mountain looms straight up behind them. I also learned more about hyenas than I ever expected. And as much as I know I shouldn’t laugh at his scare on Easter Island. . . I laughed. There are hundreds more, and while it’s impossible for all of them to be awesome, considering everyone’s taste is different, this is a stunning and fitting document to what I consider an underappreciated modern photographer.
For fans of his show, think of this as a “best of” episode, told chronologically. I read this with his voice in my head.

Circles of Delight: Classic Carousels of San Francisco
In this photo book three vintage carousels in San Francisco are photographed, with a format of a general photo on one page, followed by a close-up. Each merry-go-round gets its own chapter, with the figures further divided into jumping, standing, and chariot.
Of the first carousel my favorite was the tiger, the sculpture and color so beautiful. I don’t know much about these devices, so I have no idea if giraffes, ostriches, pigs, deer, and even bunnies are common, but these made me smile.
The second carousel is housed in a glass building, which makes it so much brighter, especially for photographs. Unfortunately its pieces weren’t as lovely as the first one’s, so that was a bit of a letdown.
The third has the most dramatic drawings on the horses, and even features a unicorn and a sea dragon, plus a tiger with a mermaid on it. The camel looks amused.
There’s no doubt both the craftsmanship and the photography is gorgeous, but it takes a serious merry-go-round buff to make it through the whole volume in one sitting without losing focus.

Anatomy of a Song
Interviews with the people involved in the writing and recording of many hit songs. This is by no means encyclopedic, as there were quite a few tunes I thought merited attention, but perhaps it’s as simple as not being able to get interviews. One of the artists mentions their 2015 tour, so this is definitely up to date.
Most of the articles were pretty standard, which made one in particular stand out: not only was Joni Mitchell interviewed, so was the guy she wrote “Carey” about, a trip down memory lane that takes us all the way to the Greek Islands.
The thing is, not being a musician or a sound tech meant there was a lot here I didn’t understand. But what I did understand, I liked. Too bad there were so few songs I got excited about, but of course that’s in the ear of the beholder.

Atlas Obscura: An Explorer’s Guide to the World’s Hidden Wonders
I have a friend on Facebook who constantly posts articles from this website, and since I usually found them interesting enough to click through, I felt the same about this book, though from the times I checked it out on the internet it felt like a tonier international version of Roadside America.
As expected, each page contains a strange destination, with some filler blurbs of other interesting places that didn’t make the cut for their own article. Interspersed with the locations are a few articles on the places, or the science—or bogus—of the contraptions that make the place interesting, and so on. I found “Constructed Languages,” playing off the Esperanto museum in Vienna, the most interesting of the articles, along with “Everything’s bigger in Australia.”
While I was reading I was anxious to find places I’d been to, but to my chagrin I topped out at about three dozen (a surprising number of them in Austria, Munich, New Zealand, Mexico, and Scandinavia). In the London extras there was a mention of the Temple of Mithras, which I’d been hoping would get a page, so that was disillusioning. I was simultaneously disappointed and relieved when there was no photo of Archie the Giant Squid, though from the drawing it may be too big to capture in one shot. One of the nicer photographed entries is Skellig Michael, though I have to wonder if this book was in the planning before the new Star Wars movie, as that would seem like an automatic mention. Another highlight for me was that John Frum, Tom Navy, and Prince Phillip—all our favorite cargo cults—are mentioned near the end.
There’s not much else to say. If you like to travel and visit weird museums and locations, this is exactly what you’ve been wanting.


Book Reviews: Music and Sci-Fi Shorts

Drowsing after sex
“I’m almost afraid to get off this bed, for fear it really is Cloud 9 and I’ll fall back to earth.”
I truly am a romance ninja. . .

Punk Rock Princess
Can’t help but think this title would have been great for an outside-the-box romance novel, but thankfully it’s not that. Instead it’s an autobiography of a clean-cut suburban gal who turns her love of punk rock into a journalism career, chronicling her college years and how she met so many now-famous musicians, and the interviews she did for publications after that.
If you have a picture in your head of how a punk fan looks like, brain-scrub it, because the photos in this book are completely opposite of what you’d expect. It’s actually a bit hard to believe this teen was in the clubs headbanging and such, and later went face to face with some of the biggest egomaniac jerks in the music world, but that just makes it all the better. The stories are fascinating, especially when you find a musician you’re familiar with whom she describes as a nice guy, contrary to their reputation.

Dark Murder
I’ve reviewed this same author recently, two books out of three in a series about a group of English cops. This new entry follows a character introduced in the last one, with his own squad and mysteries to solve.
Liked this a little less than the others; perhaps it’s due to the writer needing to include a lot of background on the characters; I haven’t read the first in the other series, so who knows if that happened there too. What I did find here is a lot of extraneous material, for example a scene featuring a long talk between a suspect and his girlfriend, for no reason I could discern. The characters here simply aren’t as likeable as the other squad’s, except for the female detective with the kid.
There’s nothing wrong with it though, and without the previous readings I might have liked it a little more.

Anthology I
A very common title for a collection of eight uncommon science fiction short stories of varying levels of quality.
In the first entry, a teenage girl’s consciousness merges with a ship; something other than hilarity ensues. Okay, she merged when she was younger, but she’s teenaged when this story takes place. This one was really good, 4.5/5
A being not quite human and not quite android does a film noir first person monologue—wait, that’s redundant. Also good, 4/5.
15-year-old girl and dad flee London for the Scottish Highlands to escape a gambling debt, or so he says. At one point I wondered if she was a robot, only to find at the end that I was half right. (If you read this story, you’ll find what I just wrote hilarious.) Good story, but not enough meat on it. 3.5/5
In a Muslim country, albeit a permissive one, in the future, a girl runs away from her rich upbringing and telepathic control. Not sure what to think of that one.
A telepathic hunting hawk is shot, its owner wants revenge, but ends up leaving the killer alive. Unless it was making a point about mercy, this one didn’t have much to it.
There’s an entry told from the point of view of a magic wand. Now THAT’S how you write a story! 5/5
Didn’t care for the next story from the start, with golf, rich old white guys, and then tribes of pygmies. 2/5
The last one. . . don’t even remember reading it.

The Record Store of the Mind
The owner of an independent record label reminisces about some of his favorite musicians, mostly those he’s worked with and reissued on his label. There’s some intriguing stories about how he meets them or is introduced to them, and if you follow on his website he’s got a playlist of the songs he mentions.
After the first chapter I have to say this author’s musical tastes are way different than mine. He talks about modern singer-songwriters lacking “authenticity,” whatever that means, but so far I find his selections lacking spirit. He calls his choices “simple” like it’s a good thing. Our tastes in vocals also differ. It’s different when he’s talking about more famous people, the first—getting his own chapter—being Eric Clapton. He makes Syosset, Long Island with Billy Joel and Lou Reed sound like Jersey must’ve been with Springsteen. There’s also a piece on his friendship with Judd Apatow.
Throughout the book I had to keep reminding myself that I wasn’t going to review his music picks; just because his taste is different than mine, especially in vocalists, didn’t mean this isn’t a great book full of reminiscences about real musicians, those who make music rather than a spectacle on stage. Still, I had been hoping to make some discoveries, but since I didn’t, I forced myself to concentrate on thinking of this as a biography. For instance, there’s a hilarious note about the author with a musician visiting a dilapidated venue where he’d played over 50 years ago. When they see an old bathroom they muse “Elvis likely pissed in there.”
There are some chapters at the end that might be better described as appendixes. When he’s talking about concerts he’d attended and reached the indie part, I was hopeful he might mention some I knew; didn’t happen. I did find some commonality on more famous acts we’ve both seen live, like Rush, The Police, Tom Petty, and U2. And I happen to be wearing an Alice in Chains shirt when he mentions working with them. . .
There’s a great chapter at the end on why you should—really shouldn’t—have your own label. He’s also a huge proponent of naps.


Book Reviews: Hot Vampires, Cold War, Porn, and Heavy Metal Romance

To a donkey, straw is more valuable than gold.
(Though there’s some mention that it might have been Heraclitus.)

Subtitled: A Sociologist Explores Sex, Society, and Adult Entertainment, and as one would expect from that, I came into this book thinking it would be a sociological study on the porn industry. It isn’t; I suppose one would read her doctorial dissertation for that, but once I adjusted that expectation, I found myself liking it more. What it turned out to be was a collection of stories about how she did her research, some of them hilarious, some gross, some both, all intriguing. If you look at the author’s photo, where she comes off as incredibly serious, you would not expect her to be in all these situations, but that belief is shattered by the stories of her childhood and college days, and of course her time on porn sets and award shows. If her goal was to prove that those  who have sex on camera for a living are people too, mission accomplished.

Vampirella Feary Tales
If ever there was a graphic novel you shouldn’t take too seriously, this is the one.
I’ve heard of this character, and might have glanced at a previous edition, but other than her glam looks and tiny costume I knew nothing about her. In this book she inherits a castle after killing a family member/bad guy. While checking out her new digs she finds a strange book called Feary Tales, which she promptly and literally falls into. Like Gumby, she becomes a part of the feary stories and must make her way through to the end to escape.
If you love puns, you must go out and get this immediately; even if you don’t, this is still chuckle- and groan-worthy enough to be fun. The running gag is that she can hear the narrator, who makes her quickly sick of the puns; in one story the guide takes it to another level by rhyming, which really ticks her off. At one point the narrator cooes, “Welcome back, gentle bleeders.” A lot of the humor is only chuckle-worthy, nothing huge, but there’s enough of it to make me enjoy it, kinda like an Airplane/Naked Gun movie.
The stories include Cinderella, featuring a Prince Charming with a gogo boot fetish, Snow White—snow way to treat your mother!—and Goldilocks and the werebears. There’s a Western with a mermaid, where she’s severely overdressed. . . Vampirella, not the mermaid. In Big Red Riding Hood, Grandma’s House is a strip club.
Despite being a full fledged vampire with witchy powers, half the time she uses her wiles, a different kind of magic. She’s full of snark, which takes the edge off her harsh demeanor. The descriptions of her are in a similar vein: voluptuous vampire vigilante, pulchritudinous protagonist, buxom beauty from beyond with vivaciously voluptuous assets (Remember, alliteration makes everything better). Considering how she’s dressed and the situations she gets into, you’d expect at least a kiss if not full-on sex, but I guess it’s not that kind of story. She’s definitely just drawn that way. . .

The Shadow: Midnight In Moscow
Some say The Shadow is the spiritual father of Batman; not having seen anything but a couple of movies about the character, just from the atmosphere and tone I can see why that’s said. That spirit continues in this graphic novel, to the point where I can hear the narrator’s voice in my head, as though this was a radio show, with dialogue appropriate to the time, for once. The artwork is just as stylized; I feel like I’m watching a film noir.
The plot really gets moving when The Shadow announces his retirement, though considering his nemesis is still alive—maybe—after not-so-killing him at the beginning, I didn’t buy it, especially since Moscow is in the title and he’s still in Noo Yawk.
Always a bit surprising when the well-dressed lady walks by the drug deal and then turns to put a bullet in the dealer’s brain. The snark is on at full power; my fave examples: “Simpson’s in the Strand has been a London landmark for over a centery. And like most culinary landmarks in the city, it’s never been any good.” And “London successfully defended itself against a nightly barrage of bombs from the Luftwaffe. . . while Paris rolled over and took the German invasion like a cheap whore.”
From Noo Yawk The Shadow and his lady friend go to London, then Paris, Berlin, and Moscow, as the title implies. Part of the plot deals with miniaturization; wish they’d done the same with this novel. It feels like a deliberate choice of style over substance. When they get to Moscow there’s a change in font, where they use Cyrillic letters in English writing. Whatever the idea is here, it doesn’t work. It feels like in trying to evoke the time and atmosphere of the original works they went overboard, so I didn’t like this as much as I would have otherwise.
I will say what happened to the bad girl at the end was delicious!

The Insider
Innocent—as in still a virgin—reporter gets a gig writing a behind-the-scenes story about a metal band, with seemingly everyone against her. By the end of the first day she’s no longer a virgin, so yes, this is a modern-day romance.
There isn’t much plot here, simply the bass player and the reporter apparently falling in love while he teaches her about sex. Even though she’s been pretty sheltered growing up, Toni is spunky and doesn’t mind being teased, once she realizes that’s what everyone’s doing. It’s that same naïve demeanor that ingraciates her with the cynical musicians and their assistants. Once she’s comfortable with that she gives as good as she gets, and her sense of humor is scintillating. And as expected she’s more open and fun in her journal entries, where she shows she can have no filter.
Truth be told, as much as I liked the romance—when they weren’t being idiots; every time he says something sweet, he follows it up by being an ass—and the erotica, the part I found most fascinating was the BTS look at the makings of a rock concert, as well as the stories told by the band members, showing them to be more human than their fans will ever credit them. I can only imagine the author had an experience similar to her heroine—I don’t mean sexual—to get that kind of info; according to her website she’s got plenty of previous stories about rock stars. The most amazing scene for me was the sound check; I know a few guys who do this for a living with whom I have to share this part of the story. But that scare near the end wasn’t right!

The cover of this short tome shows Einstein in front of a chalkboard with his famous equation over his head in small letters, while he points at “LOL=Laugh out loud.” Which is not an equation, but a translation. The author calls himself The Professor, which he certainly could be, but it’s not like he’s THE only one.
In the introduction it states that the average six-year-old laughs 300 times a day, while the average adult is between 15 and 100. So the basic premise here is everyone should laugh more.
The idea is wonderful; the execution, not so much. The problem: I hardly ever laughed. The only time I ever actualled LOL’d was the story about the guy who wanted his pants cut. I more often groaned, and not in a good way, at the cheesiness of the jokes.


Top 15 Dire Straits/Mark Knopfler songs

In keeping with the weirdest top lists I can possibly come up with, and in honor of buying my ticket to see Mark Knopfler in concert this summer, here’s my list of favorite songs from both his solo and Dire Straits days.

15 Sons of Scotland (Shot at Glory)
Who else could make Scottish soccer interesting? (Don’t answer that!)

14 Your Latest Trick
That amazing sax sells it. . .

13 Skateaway
I can picture Rollergirl so well. . .

12 Going Home (Local Hero)
Hardly anyone remembers this movie for anything but this song. . .

11 Private Investigations
Film noir music. . . I think that genre–if there are enough examples to call it a genre–was invented here.

10 Portobello Belle
I think I saw this girl at the famous market once. . .

9 Boom Like That
If you hate McDonald’s, this is the song for you.

8 Once Upon a Time–Storybook Love (Princess Bride)
You love the movie, you love the song. . . now you know who does it.

7 Sultans of Swing
“When he gets up under the lights to play his thing. . .”

6 Romeo and Juliet
Make sure you get the fingersnaps in the right place.

5 Brothers in Arms
Ah, that guitar outro. . .

4 Silvertown Blues
This is how all songs should be crafted. . .

3 Telegraph Road
14 minutes of sheer awesome

2 Tunnel of Love
When’s the last time a guitar solo broke your heart?

1 Sailing to Philadelphia
Even without James Taylor this song would be the most amazing tune ever. . .


Travel Thursday: A Quick Recap of the Weekend

I always thought the best definition of serendipity was one used on the Max Headroom TV series: “Digging for worms and striking oil.”
But here’s an even better one: “Serendipity means looking for a needle in a haystack and finding the farmer’s daughter.”
Oh yes, please. . .

Okay, Saturday found me in Pasadena’s imposing main library. Thankfully all I had to do was walk two blocks to catch the bus that left me right in front of the library, which was good because as usual it was late and I got there just before Marina V went on stage, barely enough time to get my camera out and hope the new faster lens could deal with the strange lighting behind her. . . though obviously it did well enough, as you saw from the photos two blogs ago. . . yeah, go to the bottom of this one, skip the poem, and there they are.
Set list:
1 Ghost Wandering This Earth
2 I’ll Be All Right
3 You Make Me Beautiful
4 Run
5 Neil Diamond in Russian
6 Say Hello
7 Stand
8 Light Up the Dark
9 Speak

1 Ghost Wandering This Earth
Haven’t heard this one in years, seemed longer than usual. Marina teased Nick about being a blonde with a master’s degree. “You don’t see that often.” To which he promptly replied, “You didn’t say what it was in!”
2 I’ll Be All Right
I don’t remember now why she mentioned it, but she did say she was wearing sports shorts under her relatively short blue dress. No further comment necessary.
3 You Make Me Beautiful
This usta be my fave, before the next one came along.
4 Run
Yay for little cameras with video capabilities and relatively steady hands!

5 Neil Diamond in Russian
Not a fan of his in any language. Nuff said.
6 Say Hello
This one took a while to start, as they were confused as to location of the tambourine, which was supposed to be in the bag. . . except Nick had already taken it out and put it under the piano. And conveniently forgotten. Marina also mentioned how cushy the seats were, “like grandma’s couch.”
7 Stand
For being overly dramatic I still like this one.
8 Light Up the Dark
Pretty sure this is my first time hearing this one live.
9 Speak
I think this has become her official closer.
Didn’t stay long, still having stamina troubles after the nose surgery.

Just like the last time I attended a performance at A Noise Within, the bus came late and I actually arrived at the back door after it was scheduled to start. On the other hand, going to previews, which are a lot more relaxed as far as time is concerned, mitigate that a little, so I had time to go to the front and pick up my ticket and even go to the restroom. . .
Today was Julius Caesar day. . . as in the play I was going to see, not the Ides of March. Despite being a Shakespeare fan, I don’t think I’ve seen this since we performed it in English class my junior year of high school; I still remember how a friend had written “Assinated” instead of “assassinated” in his notes. Good times. . .
The opening music was so overly dramatic I instantly hated it. Here it was a little justified as people walked around the stage handing each other cardboard signs, which at a predetermined point where placed before chests, bearing the names of the characters. This description was hardly worth how amazingly cool that moment was, but on the other hand the music did not get better. The industrial design, with plenty of scaffolding, didn’t do much for me either, though as the play went on I saw how ingeniously they used it and decided it was okay. The costuming left me mystified, though; those long fur coats weren’t enough for me to know exactly what time period this was supposed to be set in. . . and as usual I’m gonna keep on going to keep that participle from dangling off the cliff, since it’s afraid of heights.
Took a while for me to get into it; hesitate to admit it, but I might have nodded off for a few moments there. But at the assassination scene things picked up, and I didn’t lose interest from them on. As much as I had against the design and music, the lighting was incredibly effective, especially the handheld lamps. Another effective part was their use of the open area atop the seats, as well as the ramps between sections; this is the fifth work I’ve seen here, and all have featured actors walking or running through the audience, but this time it worked even better.
As expected, but even more so here with the acting, Mark Antony’s speech was the highlight. Later in the Q&A a lady mentioned she was a Brutus fan, but this performance put her squarely in Marcus’s camp. {The actor did seem to appreciate it.}
One thing I noticed all the more here than in other performances: the actors help move the scenery. No divas here; even in high school productions you don’t usually see that. I think it’s a nice touch for a company I have rapidly grown fond of, for much more than just the quality acting.
This being the first preview there was an after-show discussion, from which I remember these tidbits:
Iambic pentameter allows you to memorize easier, like when you listen to a song over and over and suddenly realize you know the words, or as I like to call it, osmosis.
This play brings out the absurdity of politics, even more relevant now. And this production’s based on Mean Girls, according to the chiefs’ daughter.
The best way to memorize lines, according to one of the actors, is to whisper them, so you don’t get any inflection on them when you haven’t yet decided how you’re going to play it. But the most important acting point is you have to love your character. . .
All topped off by a very late lunch/early dinner at Hook Burger. Yummy!