Thursday, September 30, 2010

Taking What It's Worth

An aged guitar playing singer entered a New York subway car. Bundled in layers of clothes, wearing a faded, black wool cap and frayed fingerless gloves, he balanced himself with a wide stance and tore into an up-tempo version of the Beatles tune “Let it Be.” The passengers wore their usual blank expressions and avoided any acknowledgment of the musician’s presence, lest they be compelled to give him a token of appreciation. Before reaching the next stop, he walked down the aisle, hat in hand, seeking donations. All ignored him, except for a young woman. When he reached her, she looked up and began fumbling in her purse. She pulled out a handful of bills and, with a heavy accent, explained to him that she was not from here and didn’t understand “the money.” She held out the bills like an open hand of playing cards and extracted a $10 bill, asking him if that was enough.
He gave her the $10 back and withdrew a one. “That’s fine,” he said. “Thank you.”

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


"In every child who is born, under no matter what circumstances, and of no matter what parents, the potentiality of the human race is born again; and in him, too, once more, and of each of us, our terrific responsibility towards human life; towards the idea of goodness, of the horror of error, and of God."
James Agee

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


The critic Kenneth Tyman found that, the gift of talent apart, what enables one to exercise that talent is the ability to impose oneself. Roman Polanski, Karl Lagerfeld, Barack Obama and Julie Taymor are among those who definitely possess this gift; those who don't have it can't be named because, notwithstanding their immense talents, nobody knows them. How do you know if someone has it? Tyman's answer: An imposer is a person about whom one worries whether his response to one's next remark will be a smile or a snarl. Check it out yourself next time you meet a genius, if he or she is inspiring in you a need for his or her approval and a fear for his or her disapprobation.

Monday, September 27, 2010


"Movies are for pussies. Musicals are hard." That’s how screenwriter Janus "Jannie" Cercone summed up the difference between working in film and live theater when she was interviewed lately by the Hollywood Reporter Magazine. Cercone and her husband, Michael Manheim, have taken their 1992 movie "Leap of Faith," which she wrote and Manheim co-produced for Paramount, and made it into a stage musical starring Brooke Shields and Raul Esparza. Now in previews, it opens October 3 at the Ahmanson in Los Angeles, perhaps on the way to Broadway. The music wrote their longtime friend and composer Alan Menken ("Beauty and the Beast," "Little Mermaid"), who with eight Oscars has more than any other living person. A veteran of theater ("Little Shop of Horrors"), he's also has been nominated twice for Tonys. Besides, Alan is a wonderful person. I had the pleasure of working with him on two shows. He can be cruelly honest, though. "In our very first meeting," Cercone said, "Alan said, 'You know musicals take about 10 years.' I thought he was kidding. 'Yeah, right. You're so funny.' And here we are 10 years later." Yes, musicals are hard indeed.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Unsung Pop Heroe

Sound engineers are the unsung heroes of pop music. In the 1950's, young Bill Porter helped producer and guitarist Chet Atkins create the Nashville Sound that eventually became syn-onymous with Rock'n Roll and conquered the world. Bill Porter recorded several Number One singles, among them the Everly Brothers' "Cathy's Clown" and all of Roy Orbison's super hits, such as "Running Scared", "Pretty Woman" and "In Dreams". When Elvis Presley returned from his military service in Germany in early 1960, Bill Porter recorded and mixed in one legendary night session the hit "Stuck on you". He used a Telefunken U-47 microphone instead of the American RCA 77D in order to capture Elvis' unique voice. From then on the king never accepted any other mike.  Porter went on to engineer hits like "His Latest Flame", "Devil in Disguise", "Suspicious Minds" and countless more. 580 of the songs he recorded made it to the US pop charts which makes him the most successful sound engineer of all times. Bill Porter died at the age of 79 in Ogden, Utah on July 7th, 2010.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Get A Massage!

There is scientific proof now that a good massage does more than just relax your muscles. Volunteers who received Swedish massage experienced significant decreases in levels of the stress hormone cortisol in blood and saliva, and in arginine vasopressin, a hormone that can lead to increases in cortisol. They also had increases in the number of lymphocytes, white blood cells that are part of the immune system. 

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Poison Of Contentment

"There is nothing more demoralizing than a small but adequate income."
Edmund Wilson

Thursday, September 23, 2010


The American poet Carl Sandburg devoted most of his life to research the life and times of Abraham Lincoln and to writing his biography. When Sandburg passed away in 1967 he left six well-written voluminous books on the greatest American president which range still among the best books ever written about Lincoln. Nevertheless his contemporary Edmund Wilson, a literary critic and brilliant essayist, hated Sandburg. He commented: "The cruelest thing that has happened to Lincoln since he was shot by Booth was to fall into the hands of Carl Sandburg." Maybe Wilson's ire was rooted in his own inability to write epic works of that size. But then again every critic has the right to be unfair, a freedom denied to a conscientious biographer.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Creative Linkage

"The commercial and subsidized theatre are intrinsically linked. I wouldn't have had the career I have had without the opportunities I had through the subsidized sector. However, I do think, in any walk of life, subsidy for the sake of subsidy is not always healthy. Sometimes, thinking on your feet can be the most creative. Constrained circumstances can bring the best out of you. Some of the most successful shows come out of shoestring invention."
Cameron Mackintosh

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


"Intelligent or not, we all make mistakes and perhaps the intelligent mistakes are the worst, because so much careful thought has gone into them."
Peter Ustinov 

Monday, September 20, 2010


"Have you learned the lessons only of those who admired you, and were tender with you, and stood aside for you? Have you not learned great lessons from those who braced themselves against you, and disputed passage with you?"
Walt Whitman 

Sunday, September 19, 2010

One Good Reason

This happened last week: Stephanie Lazar was in a taxi, late for a doctor’s appointment, when the driver turned around and, with a serious gaze, asked if she was American. After she had told him she was, he asked if she was from New York. Again she replied in the affirmative.
“So tell me,” he asked, “what do you think of the mosque being built downtown?”
Eager to reveal that some New Yorkers believe in religious freedom and civil rights, Stephanie exclaimed, “Well, you know, it’s not just a mosque, it’s a whole community center as well, and I think it’s fine for them to build wherever they want.”
She waited for the driver's approval, but he shook his head and said, “Well, I am a Muslim, and I think it is a very, very bad idea!”
Expecting a philosophical explanation, she asked him why.
Clearly agitated, he explained, as though it were obvious: “Because of the parking situation downtown! You can’t find parking anywhere near there!”

Saturday, September 18, 2010

A Storywriter's Wisdom

"Any living thing that isn't growing and evolving can only be moving toward decay and death. That we are either moving toward life or away from it is the heart of the human drama. To stand up and fight through the conflicts, confrontations, and disappointments we all encounter is the heroic challenge. To run away, disregard, dismiss, or avoid these challenges isn't merely benign or cowardly, it's tragic. It destroys the opportunity to grow and evolve. Ultimately this path leads only to the death of hopes, dreams, ambitions, love, and all forms of interconnectedness."
Dara Marks

Friday, September 17, 2010

Other People

"Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else's opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation."
Oscar Wilde 

Thursday, September 16, 2010

A Phaedrus Fable

A dog, swimming through a river, carried a piece of meat in his mouth. He saw his own shadow in the watery mirror; and, thinking that it was another booty carried by another dog, attempted to snatch it away; but his greediness was disappointed. He dropped the food which he was holding in his mouth, and was after all unable to reach that at which he grasped.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


"Don't freak out - it's just a save-the-date."
Sipress in the "New Yorker"

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Hungry Spider

Julie Taymor is one of the world's most respected directors (and puppet designers). Her production of The Lion King conquered the world and keeps amazing audiences everywhere. Her latest work, Spider Man: Turn Off The Dark, will debut November 14 on Broadway's Foxwoods Theater. The show has already hit a record mark. It's budget went through the roof. The producers are said to have spent $ 50-60 million dollars so far. Usually a Broadway show costs between 10 and 15 million.

Monday, September 13, 2010


It is common knowledge that a Broadway flop kills a show forever. Not necessarily. “La BĂȘte”, a satire of high art versus low culture set in 17th-century France, was a record-setting flop on Broadway in 1991 — then went on to win Britain’s top theater award for best new comedy the following year. The play soon built a following across the United States, receiving 25 productions from regional theaters over the years, and became a favorite on college campuses. This summer a revival enjoyed yet another successful run in London, starring Mr. Rylance; that production is heading to Broadway this month, in hopes of proving that New York got it wrong the first time around.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

One Minute Art

The French critic André Bazin is the father of the auteur theory that is still the credo of most film and European theatre critics. It contends that the director is the artist who creates the dramatic artwork. When Orson Welles was interviewed by Bazin, he told him: "Directing is an invention of people like you. It's not an art, it's at most an art for one minute a day."

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Lyrics and Poems

A lot of people refuse to understand that a lyric is not a poem. A lyric, especially in a musical, must get its message across on first hearing, while we can and should ruminate through a poem several times to extract its essence. A lyric must also be singable, and every one knows that some of the most meaningful words are impossible to sing. A poem relies on our brain to sort out images, while a lyric depends solely on our ear and emotion. The best lyrics really call for music. They bloom in the music like those Japanese paper flowers opening up when put in a bowl of water.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Morning Mourning?

My choice of color for all my fashion needs is black, which I seem to share with a great many people. While in New York City, one laundry day created a situation where I was forced to wear a bright red T-shirt to fetch my morning coffee and bagel. Without missing a beat, the man behind the counter looked at me and said, “What happened? Did somebody die?”

Thursday, September 9, 2010


"I wonder that a soothsayer doesn't laugh whenever he sees another soothsayer."
Marcus Tullius Cicero

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Sweet Stevia

Scientific research has indicated that Stevia, a small green plant, native to Paraguay, effectively regulates blood sugar and brings it toward a normal balance. It is sold in some South American countries as an aid to people with diabetes and hypoglycemia. Since its introduction into the US, numerous people have reported that taking 20-30 drops with each meal brought their blood glucose levels to normal or near normal within a short time period. An important benefit for hypo-glycemics is Stevia's tonic action which enhances increased energy levels and mental acuity.Stevia seems to be the sweetener of the future. Because the human body does not metabolize the sweet glycosides (they pass right through the normal elimination channels) from the leaf or any of its processed forms, the body obtains no calories from Stevia. Processed forms of pure Stevia can be 70-400 times sweeter than sugar. It is not available in some countries, though. Naturally, the pharmaceutical industry making tons of money with chemical sweeteners isn't thrilled by the good news.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Wine Presser

"Music is the wine which inspires one to new generative processes, and I am Bacchus who presses out this glorious wine for mankind and makes them spiritually drunken."
Ludwig van Beethoven 

Monday, September 6, 2010

Thanks To Bad Luck

The worst thing ever that can happen to a pianist is a broken hand. The 15 year old Seiji was a Japanese wunderkind. No one played the works of Bach better than this boy. Unfortunately he had another passion. He loved Rugby games, and was one of the best in his High School Team. One day he had an accident on the lawn, spraining two fingers of his right hand. It soon was clear enough that he would never again be able to  play the piano perfectly. Seiji regarded it as the end of his life. His teacher at the Toho Gakuen School of Music however didn't give up. He started teaching the student to conduct. Seiji turned out to be amazingly gifted. A decade after his sports accident, he competed at the International Conductors' Competition in France and won the first prize. Today, at 75, Seiji Ozawa is one of the most respected conductors in the world. Who knows where he would stand as a pianist.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

So Typical

Ralph Giordano, a German Jewish writer, comments the German Bundesbank's sacking of board member Thilo Sarrazin after he repeatedly criticized the country's Muslim population and said "all Jews share the same gene" with the following words: "It's so typical of the multicultural media that we have to get worked up over how he addresses the issues instead of what he's saying."

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Here's To The NYC Bus Drivers!

Manhattan's bus drivers are a special breed. Some of them are grumpy, some are funny, but most of them are born entertainers. Just one example. One evening in July, on the M104 bus going uptown, the driver announced: “Ladies and gentlemen, due to M.T.A. budget cuts, we only have wheels on one side of the bus. So if you’d all lean to the left side, we’d really appreciate it.” Totally deadpan. Most of the passengers seemed unfazed, but a few of them chuckled for blocks. 

Friday, September 3, 2010

Good Answer

A reporter covering a breaking story was told to send six hundred words. Concerned that he might not be able to adequately cover the story within this limit, the reporter objected: "It can't be told in less than twelve hundred." - His editor replied: "The story of the creation of the world was told in six hundred. Try it."

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Top Ten Hollywood Composers

AGE: 46 BIRTHPLACE: San Diego, California
AGE: 56, BIRTHPLACE: Los Angeles, California
AGE: 77,
BIRTHPLACE: Long Island, New York
AGE: 54, BIRTHPLACE: Los Angeles, California
AGE: 58,  BIRTHPLACE: Los Angeles, California

AGE: 42, BIRTHPLACE: Riverside, New Jersey
AGE: 46,
BIRTHPLACE: London, England 

AGE: 48, BIRTHPLACE: Paris, France 

AGE: 56,  BIRTHPLACE: Amarillo, Texas 

AGE: 52,
BIRTHPLACE: Frankfurt, Germany 

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

What Meaning Of Life?

"What do you want a meaning for? Life is a desire, not a meaning."
Charlie Chaplin