Entries from July 2008 ↓

Now THIS is satire!

In a strictly tongue-in-cheek jab at their sister publication at Conde Nast, the editors of Vanity Fair have satirized the controversial New Yorker magazine cover depicting Barack and Michelle Obama. It will only appear on their website, but you have to admit it’s funny.

Vanity Fair McCain cover

The Vanity Fair cover similarly reflects stories that have swirled around McCain and his wife Cindy, seen here cradling vials of pills while the Senator leans on a walker. The American flag isn’t burning in the fireplace; instead it’s the U.S. Constitution. In place of a portrait of Osama bin Laden, a likeness of President Bush hangs on the wall.

Flying Through Hell

There is a reason people on the east and west coasts call the middle of the country, “the fly-over states.” Yeah, it smacks of elitism (Is that a bad thing?), but the truth of the matter is, it’s hard to get to cities in the Midwest, and unfortunately not a whole helluva lot there once you do.

I travel a lot for my job, to parts of the country I might otherwise never visit. This past weekend I had to go to Des Moines, Iowa to conduct a training with our affiliate there. Needless to say, there aren’t a lot of flights between New York City and Des Moines, but there are connecting flights that go through the air transportation equivalent of a black hole, otherwise known as Chicago’s O’Hare Airport.

I left my apartment at 1:15 PM ET on Saturday to head for LaGuardia, where my flight was to leave at 2:59. The first in a long line of unnecessary delays occurred when I approached the dreaded security area. A much-younger-than-me TSA nazi checked my boarding pass before entering the maze, then pulled me aside and told me I had to check the width of my carry-on against the metal frame they use as a guide. I “politely” protested, knowing that my bag has made many trips and fit many an airplane overhead. But this post-adolescent insisted despite my pleas. Frustrated as I was, I complied and although my bag didn’t fit the frame (it did fit the overhead compartment on the plane), I convinced him to let me through.

Boarding went as scheduled, the plane filled and they closed the doors to leave. That’s when the captain informed us of the weather-related delays at O’Hare, that were keeping planes headed there from taking off all over the country. We weren’t going to leave for another two hours, he informed us. But we’d stay on the plane!

I swear it seemed like we were out for a leisurely drive around the airport. For two hours, the pilot took us somewhere, but nowhere near a runway. I had time to take a complete nap and wake up again. Eventually we did take off, whereupon the pilot and flight attendants apologized for the delay and thanked us profusely for our patience. Then the flight attendant announced they’d be coming down the aisle with snacks, all for a fee. Two hours of waiting and not even a free bag of nuts.

As could be expected, by the time we got to Chitown, my connecting flight to Des Moines had left. A good two dozen of us on the New York leg had missed connections and the airline had a representative at the gate with a list of replacement flights for all of us, the frequency of airline delays makes them old hat at this sort of thing. O’Hare is no small place so I had to hustle my ass to the new gate and get re-ticketed. It was scheduled to leave at 7:20 PM CT, maybe an hour later from then. I sat down and rested for about 20 minutes before they announced the flight would be leaving from a new gate. Up I ran for a short jog over there, where shortly after settling down, a sign change revealed the flight would now be leaving at 7:45.

It did finally leave, and I did finally arrive in Des Moines some time after 9:00 PM. I called the hotel for their shuttle van and went out to wait for it and just as I did, a torrential downpour arrived. You remember the storms and flooding that recently hit the Midwest? Think a slightly smaller version. An hour and a half of waiting for the shuttle that never came and I realized I’d better find a cab. I did and this big ole fearless Iowa farmboy of a driver plowed through flooding that would have been up to my calf had I been walking. We literally couldn’t see past the front hood, but he kept on driving until we got to the hotel. Yeah, he got a big tip.

I won’t bore you with how the hotel restaurant was closed by the time I checked in or how long I had to wait for essentially snack food at the bar (while old Lionel Ritchie and Bee Gees hits played in the background), but I didn’t get to bed until close to midnight local time. And that was just the trip out.

My training was actually a piece of cake by comparison. Good work with some challenging, but good people, who do reinforce the image of Midwestern kindness. I apologize for my Eastern snobbery. I was also delighted to see so many Obama lawn signs and bumper stickers in such a predominantly White community.

But delays were again the order of the day for the trip home Monday, again thanks to O’Hare. Another two hour delay departing Des Moines, another delay in Chicago, another late arrival back in New York. As several of us on these various flights remarked to one another, the sad part is we’ve all come to expect this. There was next to no grumbling or complaining, just the resignation that this is the sorry state of commercial air travel in America. And it’s probably never going to get any better.

Summer In The City

New York City is always a cultural oasis and the summer time seems to be when arts and entertainment events, or the announcement of future happenings, are in abundance. With gas prices being what they are, and “staycations” the new, less expensive way to enjoy time off, venturing around town seems the best bet.

Here’s a peak at some upcoming entertainment options:

The Tony Award-winning choreographer Bill T. Jones will direct and choreograph a new musical about Fela Kuti, slated to open in September.

“Fela!” was written by Jim Lewis along with Jones, who won a Tony last year for his choreography of “Spring Awakening” and who is also artistic director of the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company. The play is based on the life of the legendary Human Rights activist and Nigerian Afrobeat musician, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, who died in 1997 of AIDS-related illness. Fela spent years as a political prisoner after founding the political party Movement of the People, and is known for bringing huge bands to the stage, including many singers, dancers, percussionists, brass musicians, and guitarists. His music, which blends jazz with African beats and lyrics that demanded change and equality in his country, will be performed in the show by the Brooklyn group Antibalas.

The show will run at the 37 Arts theater in Manhattan from September 4 to September 21.

Joe’s Pub, the intimate nightclub performance space at The Public Theater, is celebrating its 10-year anniversary with an unprecedented 300 shows from September through December. During that time, Joe’s Pub will welcome back many of the artists who have had their US debuts at Joe’s Pub, recorded live albums there, or got their break in the music industry through showcases at Joe’s Pub.

Among the returning stars is one of our favorites, Billy Porter, who will do two shows there, December 7 and 8. Porter calls his show The Contemporary American Standard, and will do songs made famous by Stevie Wonder, Anita Baker, Donnie Hathaway, Oleta Adams, John Legend, Bonnie Raitt, James Taylor, India.Arie and others.

10th Anniversary tickets go on sale Thursday, July 17, 2008.

Ntozake Shange’s powerful mid-’70s “choreo-poem,” for colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf, is getting a Broadway revival at the Circle in the Square Theatre. Previews start August 19, with a scheduled opening on September 8. India.Arie is set to star and three time Tony Award winner Hinton Battle will choreograph this play which dramatizes the struggles and journey toward self respect experienced by black women in America.

Another 1970’s black theater revival, The First Breeze of Summer, by playwright Leslie Lee, is being staged by the Signature Theatre Company, August 5 to September 28.

Signature Theatre is celebrating the historic Negro Ensemble Company, which originally staged this play in 1975 on Broadway. The show takes place over the course of one sweltering weekend in June, as the struggles of three generations of the Edwards family collide. Gremmar, the Edwards family matriarch, recalls her past and considers its legacy for her children and grandchildren as they confront the choices that will define their futures. Leslie Lee’s Obie-Award winning play is a timeless portrait of family bonds and coming of age. Ruben Santiago-Hudson will direct.

Although a long way off, another revival of another classic theatre piece was announced this week, to some considerable interest. A new Broadway production of the landmark musical West Side Story, directed by librettist Arthur Laurents, will begin previews Feb. 23, 2009. This production will introduce the unprecedented element of selectively weaving Spanish throughout both the book and songs.

Laurents, who earned solid reviews (and a 2008 Tony nomination) for staging the current Broadway run of Gypsy, stated, “This show will be radically different from any other production of West Side Story ever done. The musical theatre and cultural conventions of 1957 made it next to impossible for the characters to have authenticity. Every member of both gangs was always a potential killer even then. Now they actually will be. Only Tony and Maria try to live in a different world…”

West Side Story has music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and a book by Laurents. The staging will retain the original choreography of late director Jerome Robbins, who conceived the project by transposing Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet to the turbulent streets of the Upper West Side in 1950′s New York City.

Casting information and on sale date for tickets will be announced later.

If eating out is more your style, New York City Restaurant Week—which is actually two weeks–runs July 21 through August 1. Over 200 restaurants will offer three-course prix-fixe dinners for $35.00 and lunch at $24.07.

Finally, jazz trumpeter Jeremy Pelt has released a new CD, November on the MAXJAZZ label. Possibly the most cost effective staycation you can have. Just stay at home and listen to music.

Emmy Nominations: The Wire Overlooked Again

Clearly the Hollywood contingent of the television industry has no respect for the non-formulaic, innovative and just absolutely-superior-to-their-crap-in-every-single-way cutting edge production that was taking place in Baltimore for the past five years. The Emmy Award nominations were announced this morning and once again, The Wire, the best show on television, got shut out.

The final list of nominees was determined with the help of some sort of bullshit blue-ribbon panels that screened submitted episodes for the top vote-getters.

Nominees in the top categories were announced at the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences by Kristin Chenoweth, Neil Patrick Harris and TV academy chairman John Shaffner.

The Emmy ceremony will be held Sept. 21 and broadcast on ABC. Other Emmy honors, including those for technical achievement and guest actors and actresses in series, will be given at the creative arts ceremony on Sept. 13.

The same old list of tired, boring network shows I’ve never had any interest in watching list of nominees follows:

Outstanding Drama Series

Boston Legal
Mad Men

Outstanding Comedy Series

Curb Your Enthusiasm
The Office
30 Rock
Two and a Half Men

Outstanding Miniseries

The Andromeda Strain — A&E

Cranford (Masterpiece Theatre) — PBS
John Adams — HBO
Tin Man — Sci Fi Channel

Outstanding Made for Television Movie

Bernard and Doris — HBO

Extras: The Extra Special Series Finale — HBO
The Memory Keeper’s Daughter — Lifetime
A Raisin in the Sun — ABC
Recount — HBO

Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Series

The Colbert Report — Comedy Central
The Daily Show With Jon Stewart — Comedy Central
Late Show With David Letterman — CBS
Real Time With Bill Maher — HBO
Saturday Night Live — NBC

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series

Tony Shalhoub, Monk
Steve Carell, The Office
Lee Pace, Pushing Daisies
Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock
Charlie Sheen, Two and a Half Men

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series

James Spader, Boston Legal
Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad
Michael C. Hall, Dexter
Hugh Laurie, House
Gabriel Byrne, In Treatment
Jon Hamm, Mad Men

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie

Ralph Fiennes, Bernard and Doris
Ricky Gervais, Extras: The Extra Special Series Finale
Paul Giamatti, John Adams
Kevin Spacey, Recount
Tom Wilkinson, Recount

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

Julia Louis-Dreyfus, The New Adventures of Old Christine
Christina Applegate, Samantha Who?

Tina Fey, 30 Rock
America Ferrera, Ugly Betty
Mary-Louise Parker, Weeds

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series

Sally Field, Brothers & Sisters
Kyra Sedgwick, The Closer
Glenn Close, Damages
Mariska Hargitay, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
Holly Hunter, Saving Grace

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie

Catherine Keener, An American Crime
Susan Sarandon, Bernard and Doris
Dame Judi Dench, Cranford
Laura Linney, John Adams
Phylicia Rashad, A Raisin in the Sun

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series

Jeremy Piven, Entourage
Kevin Dillon, Entourage
Neil Patrick Harris, How I Met Your Mother
Rainn Wilson, The Office
Jon Cryer, Two and a Half Men

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

William Shatner, Boston Legal
Ted Danson, Damages
Zeljko Ivanek, Damages
Michael Emerson, Lost
John Slattery, Mad Men

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie

David Morse, John Adams
Stephen Dillane, John Adams
Tom Wilkinson, John Adams
Denis Leary, Recount
Bob Balaban, Recount

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series

Kristin Chenoweth, Pushing Daisies
Jean Smart, Samantha Who?
Amy Poehler, Saturday Night Live
Holland Taylor, Two and a Half Men
Vanessa Williams, Ugly Betty

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series

Candice Bergen, Boston Legal
Rachel Griffiths, Brothers & Sisters
Chandra Wilson, Grey’s Anatomy
Sandra Oh, Grey’s Anatomy
Dianne Wiest, In Treatment

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie

Eileen Atkins, Cranford
Ashley Jensen, Extras: The Extra Special Series Finale
Alfre Woodard, Pictures of Hollis Woods
Audra McDonald, A Raisin in the Sun
Laura Dern, Recount

Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series

Shelley Berman, Curb Your Enthusiasm
Rip Torn, 30 Rock
Will Arnett, 30 Rock
Steve Buscemi, 30 Rock
Tim Conway, 30 Rock

Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series

Stanley Tucci, ER
Glynn Turman, In Treatment
Robin Williams, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
Robert Morse, Mad Men
Oliver Platt, Nip/Tuck
Charles Durning, Rescue Me

Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series

Polly Bergen, Desperate Housewives
Kathryn Joosten, Desperate Housewives
Sarah Silverman, Monk
Carrie Fisher, 30 Rock
Edie Falco, 30 Rock
Elaine Stritch, 30 Rock

Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series

Ellen Burstyn, Big Love
Diahann Carroll, Grey’s Anatomy
Cynthia Nixon, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
Anjelica Huston, Medium
Sharon Gless, Nip/Tuck

Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program

Jon Stewart, 80th Annual Academy Awards
Stephen Colbert, The Colbert Report
David Letterman, Late Show With David Letterman
Don Rickles, Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project
Tina Fey, Saturday Night Live

Outstanding Host for a Reality or Reality-Competition Program

Ryan Seacrest, American Idol
Tom Bergeron, Dancing With The Stars
Howie Mandel, Deal or No Deal
Heidi Klum, Project Runway
Jeff Probst, Survivor

Media Matters

The blogosphere and mainstream media were all abuzz today over the controversial cover on the latest issue of The New Yorker. Illustrator Barry Blitt has done a number of provocative covers for the magazine, but his latest shows Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama in the Oval Office, adorned in Muslim attire, a photo of Ossama Bin Laden on the wall and a burning American flag in the fire place, giving a “terrorist fist bump” to wife Michelle, herself decked out like a ’60s-era Black militant.

The picture has drawn stiff criticism from the Obama camp and even condemnation from Republican presidential hopeful John McCain, but the magazine is defending its decision, saying it is just another example of the type of satire Blitt is famous for.

The picture is satire, designed to draw attention to many of the ridiculous rumors that have swirled around Obama since he announced his candidacy. No one with any intelligence would take it seriously. But America is full of people lacking in basic intelligence or the ability to discern the truth from concocted lies and deliberate distortions. Many are just gullible enough to believe every single one of these and other rumors. And they vote.

The New Yorker article does go into great detail about the calculated rise of Barack Obama.

While that controversy brews, another flew in under the radar. This past weekend, syndicated television commentator John McLaughlin of The McLaughlin Group, asserted that Obama “fits the stereotype blacks once labeled as an Oreo — a black on the outside, a white on the inside.”

The watchdog group, Media Matters, wants McLaughlin to publicly apologize and has created a campaign to raise public awareness.

Finally, David Simon, executive producer of the critically acclaimed television series The Wire may be off on his next great adventure. Simon, who already produces the HBO miniseries Generation Kill, set during the Iraq War, has just gotten the greenlight from that network to produce a pilot about life in post-Katrina New Orleans. “Treme,” named after the New Orleans neighborhood where many musicians live, will film its first episode sometime later this year. The show promises to take a critical look at life in the city itself and if it gets picked up, production could start in 2009. Former “Wire” star and New Orleans native Wendell Pierce is one of the first names attached to the project.