Monday, May 22, 2006

The Fall of Troy

Watch the Trojan Nuclear Plant Cooling Tower Implosion in slow-motion here. Located on the Columbia River in Ranier, OR, the tower, owned by Portland General Electric, was part of the first and only nuclear power plant in Oregon. After closing in 1993, it has slowly been decommissioned. Complete decommission is expected by 2024. I'd seen the iconic tower a bunch of times driving on 84. Now I'll see more of the sky.

Anyway, they blowed it up real good yesterday.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Ich Bein Ein Theatergoer!

I saw this play last week (in fact I'm seeing it again tomorrow night). It was as brilliant as the review below explains. Compelling and dignified. Modest but certain in its revelations. Well cast, with an appropriately spartan stage design.

The lighting was indeed "ambitious and sophisticated in execution."

Plus, I've got a thing for the Assistant Stage Manager...

Storytelling, cast excel in play about the Lindbergh trial

by Ron Cowan
Statesman Journal
May 15, 2006

By now, cases such as the Lindbergh kidnapping trial of the 1930s seem quite familiar: media overkill, celebrities galore, a lackluster judiciary and expert witnesses by the truckload.

But the subject of John Logan's "Hauptmann," now at Salem Repertory Theatre, still takes on mythic proportions, pitting the anguish of an iconic American family against the fate of a befuddled German immigrant.

Logan, better known for writing films such as "Gladiator" and "The Last Samurai," throws in some allusions to the contrary but pretty much comes down on the side of the defendant, Bruno Richard Hauptmann (Jason Haines). Hauptmann virtually was defenseless against the world of Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh and a $1 million prosecution case.

Tautly directed by David Janoviak, with a flair for the dramatic, this is nonetheless involving entertainment, rich with the tapestry of a different era and an almost mythic mix of characters and events.

Did he or didn't he do it? It's never quite certain, though Hauptmann was found in possession of $14,000 of the $50,000 ransom for the baby and later found dead, and the prosecution had both compelling and improbable evidence.

What is more intriguing here is the touching of two distinctly different worlds, the wealth and celebrity of the Lindberghs and the impoverished, troubled life of the immigrant, automatically doubted when questions of guilt and innocence are raised.

Tormented by the police and without adequate legal support (having only an overwhelmed lawyer and $4,000 to mount a case), Hauptmann is little more than an observer hoping for the best and proclaiming his innocence to the end.

One of this play's strengths is its unconventional format, opening just before Hauptmann's execution in 1936 and flashing back to tell the story of the characters and the kidnapping, setting the scene, and then progressing through the drama of the trial.

Other than Haines, cast members play several roles, stepping in and out of characters as the play goes back and forth in time.

Haines is a profoundly affecting figure as Hauptmann, a bewildered and sympathetic man played with a German accent. He addresses the audience directly and participates in the action, letting us know he is telling his story so it can't happen again.

Another strong performer is Thomas Nabhan, particularly in the role of the determined prosecutor in the trial sequence, relentlessly berating poor Hauptmann and guiding his sometimes suspicious experts.

Peter Armetta, who plays a variety of expert witnesses and the odd Dr. John Condon, who inserted himself into the case as a go-between with the kidnappers, is particularly versatile at changing characters.

The excellent cast includes Susan Coromel, Josiah Bania, Tim Jaeger and Dawnie Drebin, all of whom elicit telling details in a variety of characters.

The set by Scott Grim, a gray courtroom/jail setting, does a lot with a little, and his lighting, using an expanded lighting grid, is ambitious and sophisticated in execution. Rebecca Turk's costumes suggest the era, without overdoing the nostalgia.

"Hauptmann" is not lighthearted fare, which has given SRT its greatest success so far, but it is the measure of a professional company that is willing to challenge and reward an audience with edgy and uncompromising theater.

Sunday, May 14, 2006


I wrote this about three years ago for my local newspaper's "Summer Fun" section. The title says it all. Maybe I should have stopped with the title, but I decided to write the whole article anyway. Earlier this month I committed the list to CD -- I think it reads better than it plays (I forgot "Blue Train" clocked in at almost 11 minutes)!


1. “California Girls” by The Beach Boys
2. “Brown Eyed Girl” by Van Morrison
3. “Dancing in the Streets” by Martha and the…

(Snore…) Splash! Oh, sorry, I think I dozed off into my mimosa! Can you imagine another boring list of the same sorry, played-out summer songs? I wouldn’t do that to you. Well, maybe I would if I needed some quick cash. But I wouldn’t do it to myself.

So I’ve decided to compile a list of songs with the word “summer” in the title.


1. “Summer in the City” by The Lovin’ Spoonful
2. “Boys of Summer” by Don Henley
3. “Summer Wind” by Frank Sinatra…

No, no, I’m joking. Anyone with access to the Internet could dredge up an equally banal roster. If I were to seriously write a list of this nature, I’d introduce songs perhaps mildly unfamiliar to the general populace:


1. “That Summer Feeling” by Jonathan Richman
2. “The Other Side of Summer” by Elvis Costello
3. “Shadowy Summer” by The Frustrations
4. “Summer in Siam” by The Pogues
5. “Long Hot Summer” by The Style Council
…and five other super cool hits for those hot summer nights!

OK, maybe that wasn’t all that exciting either. Which is why my Top Ten Summer Songs will instead exhibit those tunes I prefer to listen to in the summer. More to the point, while driving with the window down as my wintry pale hand bangs out an accompanying beat against the unwashed door of my car. Some songs, you will find, indeed have nothing to do with summer in content; a few, I imagine, you will be unfamiliar with (both song and artist); one or two you may never need to hear again. For example, Song #1: Like a Rolling Stone, which plays from 5 to 8 times a day on any given “classic” rock station. (Startlingly, when discussing my list with a contemporary, she queried, “’Like a Rolling Stone?’ How does that go?” My mimosa shot out of my incredulous fingers. “How does that go?” To me, that’s like a third-grade school teacher saying, “The Pledge of what?” Of course, I’m a bit of a “rock snob”, as they say. Oh yeah, and an incredible nerd. On with the list!)

MY TOP TEN SUMMER DAY DRIVING SONGS (with Author’s Commentary):

1. “Like a Rolling Stone” by Bob Dylan
This song has always signaled the unmuzzling of the dog days of summer for me. “How does it feel?” Liberating!

2. “Even a Dog Can Shake Hands” by Warren Zevon
Bang! The ramp light goes green. Let’s see how this baby does on the open road. Fueled by the acerbic wit of Zevon’s delivery and former R.E.M. drummer Bill Berry’s driving bellowing backbeat, the song propels me beyond the mph capacity of Black Bolt (the moniker of my sweet ride). I keep it at 55, but my mind is going, like, I don’t know, 65-70.

3. “Desiree” by Laura Nyro and Labelle
After Zevon gets me off the ground, Nyro holds me there with this ethereal gem polished by vibes and unpronounced piano and clocking in at a perfect 1:52. A summer breeze captured on analog.

4. “Sweet Thing” by The Waterboys
From their masterpiece Fisherman’s Blues, this brilliant reworking of Van Morrison’s original taps my eardrums like a twister, throwing sunlight and dark clouds in my path as I drive on deep into the day.

5. “Motor Away” by Guided By Voices
Dayton, Ohio’s Godfathers of Lo-Fi Rock blow out the windows for you with this paean to the dark American desire to get away, thus sparing you the time-consuming effort of rolling them down yourself, especially when you’ve forfeited power windows for a lower sticker price.

6. “Blue Train” by John Coltrane
Yeah, I know, almost every earnest yet unschooled fan of jazz quickly bulks up their heretofore rock-heavy music library with collections by Miles, Monk, Mingus and Coltrane. I was no exception. “Blue Train”, from his only formal collection of songs for the venerable jazz label, Blue Note, showed me the ability of an instrumental to conjure up such vivid imagery. Maybe I like it too because the main lick reminds me of the horn part in “Vehicle” by The Ides of March. Do do do do doo…

7. “Brandy” by Looking Glass
…though I thought King Harvest sang this, but their song is “Dancing in the Moonlight”, which I thought was sung by Sugarloaf, but they sang…oh, forget it. I sound like Sunday morning radio. Anyway, “My life, my love and my lady…” may not be the sea, but I’m quickly approaching the coast.

8. “Does This Bus Stop at 82nd Street?” by Bruce Springsteen
The wild poetry of his debut album finds its surest footing on this exhaust-filled noisy drive through a hot summer day. “Senorita, Spanish Rose, wipes her eyes and blows her nose…” Honk, honk!

9. “Trouble’s Braids” by Tom Waits
Closer to the ocean we drive. A voice like wet gravel under the rain-heavy eaves. African talking drum, parade bass drum and acoustic bass bouncing in my ears. Through farm and forest, past llama and Labrador. How did this quiet summer drive become a mad dash to the edge of America? I only went out for a smoothie!

What will be the 10th song? Are you anxious to know? Are you even reading this anymore? No one would blame you. You’re probably down by the pool sipping on a peach iced tea and partially tanning in the lukewarm Oregon sun. For anyone still interested, here’s the last song:

10. “Summer in the City” by The Lovin’ Spoonful
Look at me. Some kinda hypocrite, right! I practically mocked anyone who would put this song on a list. So, what do I care? I love it! Those menacing yet hopeful opening chords exploding into the hot concrete noon of New York City. The thirst for open fire hydrants through the thick sheets of humidity until…SALVATION! The fresh air and cool blue lakes of the country; the shade and shadow only found in the city at night.

I have driven down the wide urban streets and rolled over the dusty backroads. Where is summer? I see the ocean before me. I see my home in the rear view mirror. In the expanse lives summer. I see it in the hills and the backyards. I smell it in the cut grass and barbecues. I hear it in this music. I hear it in your voice.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Gimme a Minute to Think of Something...

For the love of god! Nikki Sudden died a few weeks ago! One of my all-time favorites and I had to hear about it from Rolling F-ing Stone!

Also, my mind has been lost in fairer thoughts...

Plus I'm finally reading The Davinci Code. I'm hooked. And I don't care that the writing's not f-ing Faulkner -- it's goddamn compelling!

And that completes the telling of the story of Passover.