Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Broadway Sets Sales and Attendance Records With Tourism Boom - NYTimes.com

Broadway Sets Sales and Attendance Records With Tourism Boom - NYTimes.com:

'via Blog this'

An incisive (and rare) analysis of the numbers just released by the Broadway League. To read their press release, you'd think that Broadway was a problem free and wonderfully easy place to make profits by putting on shows.

The historical average of shows that recoup remains at around one out of five. Premium priced tickets and a huge influx of tourists are credited with the record revenues posted in the year just ended.

If you could postulate that premium priced tickets can continue to rise in price, and that the tourists will continue to come in numbers that will continue to increase, then the future looks quite rosy. However, if anything were to jar these trends off their upward trajectory, the results will look starkly different.

The fact that Disney and it's imitators are sopping up the largest chunks of revenue does not portend well for any shows that might not fit neatly into that formula. Well received shows such as Side Show, Honeymoon in Vegas, and The Visit that could not find an audience will school producers to avoid stepping out of the narrow Disney defined parameters, or having mega stars, or a veddy British imprimatur.

With Broadway having sold its soul to the tourist trade, and the road, the sophisticated New York City soul of Broadway has been expunged. The future promises a pablum filled menu of interchangeable shows designed for audiences tethered to their smartphones and sippy cups.

Painted Ladies (NSFW)

It's almost summer in Times Square, 2015. While the nifty pedestrian malls are swollen to over capacity, there's always room for a new exhibit in the Human Zoo. Joining the groping Elmos and the Naked Cowboy(s) and Cowgirl(s) are the latest "performance artists", the Painted Ladies.

Image result for painted girl times square

                                                      So Patriotic!

At first blush, it may look like the ladies are wearing revealing but seasonal outfits, but actually, they are only wearing a hat, a thong, and shoes. The women are topless and are covered in red, white, and blue body paint.

As with the other characters in Times Square, pedestrians are encouraged to take pictures of them for a small fee or tip. They appear to be quite popular, they draw crowds like nobody's business.

News stories about the girls indicate that it is legal to go topless in the city. They have a distinctly non-family friendly mien in the Disneyfied Times Square ecosystem.

Ah, well. Let's just call it a few more laps run in the ever quickening race to the bottom.


Monday, May 25, 2015


                                         Image result for adventureland ny

What better way to spend a beautiful Memorial Day than with several thousand people at Adventureland, the iconic Long Island amusement park? This year we bought the kids season passes, so with lovely weather and everyone off, it was a good day to make those passes worthwhile.

I grew up in Queens, so I never got to Adventureland until my late teens, when I was well equipped with a car and the bug to explore. I recall the park being fun, though it was small. It was downright tiny when compared to other amusement parks in the region.

My mother was a big fan of Coney Island, she'd take me and my brother to the southern tip of Brooklyn via the F train from our home in Jamaica. The lengthy two hour subway ride was something I always enjoyed, especially when the train would emerge from underground into the light of day on the elevated tracks in Brooklyn.

I've taken my kids to Coney Island, by car. After falling into horrible disrepair over the years, they've built Coney Island back up to being a nice and more than serviceable amusement area. About the only thing left from when I was a kid is the Cyclone rollercoaster, what all other coaster used to be measured against, but these days, the extreme coasters in the big amusement parks make the mighty Cyclone seem quaint and tame.

My days of riding the rides are long over, but I love to bring the kids and let them get a taste of all the rides. They are both old enough and tall enough to get on just about any ride now, and they bravely conquer all challenges. I guess it's a belated gift from their grandmother, and I'm happy to confer it to them.

When I was old enough to make my own way to new and different amusement parks, I would go to all I could. In Queens, there was Adventurer's Inn (gone now), a small amusement center not to far from Shea Stadium. Rockaway Playland (also gone now) was always a favorite on the boardwalk in southern Queens. Rye Playland in Westchester was a terrific place to go, and I enjoyed going there many times, once on a memorable  school trip. They had a lovely lake with rowboats and paddleboats that always seemed like such an exotic thing to do.

When I was very young, my father drove us all to the old Pallisades Amusement Park, just over the river in New Jersey. They closed it down shortly thereafter, and my young mind could not wrap itself around the notion of "why would anyone close down an amusement park?"

Eventually, as time passed, I inevitably branched out to Six Flags, Hershey Park, and finally, Disney World. It's different as an adult in an amusement park, fun but not so exciting. Bringing my kids to these parks allows me the chance to relive the excitement vicariously through them.


Of course, it's easy to overdo it sometimes....


Easy fella, we've all been there...

Culture of War


A military air show is always a popular event. Often held on patriotic holidays like Memorial Day or July 4th, they always draw huge crowds of people to watch daring maneuvers of high tech military fighter jets and sometimes vintage aircraft as well. The technology is amazing and the skills of the pilots are impressive.

The ear shattering noise of the jet engines is other worldly. Whenever I hear those jets go by (I live near to where air shows are often held), I can't help wondering how those sounds are perceived in a war zone. Those sounds are quite likely the last sounds that people hear before they are obliterated. It really puts a whole different spin on the proceedings.

I get that people want to see what their tax dollars are paying for, and it might as well be done in an entertaining way. But how different are these shows than those May Day parades that the old Soviet Union would hold in Red Square, with tanks, troops and missiles hauled out for the home crowds to gawk over? Is it different than what we see in creepy films of North Korean Army battalions goose stepping in front of the maniacal cabal of dictators there?

We pride ourselves on our love for peace, but half of our economy is dedicated to financing the largest war machine in the history of humanity. Yes, the world is a dangerous place, but poverty, oppression and religious zealotry can not be effectively fought with a military inevitably designed to fight the last war. Other methods, diplomacy, foreign aid, international cooperation will ultimately be the tools that will most effectively lead humanity to a peaceful future.

Love of country is a virtue. Patriotism, so easily twisted and manipulated, has proven itself to be a very dangerous, and very different notion. The former can lead to a better world, the latter too often provides justification for war and immoral profiteering.



Saturday, May 23, 2015

Ireland votes to legalize gay marriage in landslide - Newsday

Ireland votes to legalize gay marriage in landslide - Newsday:

'via Blog this'

While voting on granting human rights is problematic, the wave continues.

I hope this means that we never have to hear about the "controversy" about gays being excluded from the New York City St. Patrick's Day parade.

If the entire country of Ireland has no problem with gays (ok, the roughly 60% that voted in the affirmative), the Ancient Order of Hibernians, the Raccoon Lodge, or the Boy Scouts of America should have no problem with it either.

(At least Robert Gates has started the rehabilitation of the Boy Scouts. That was an embarrassment for the ages.)


Image result for scanners

No, wait! I don't mean "Scanners", the creepy horror movie from 1981.

                                                                     Not This!!!

I mean the scanners that read the barcodes on theater tickets. Those little machines that beep and boop as they process the codes as people enter the theater. It's already oldish technology, much of the equipment in use today is quite obsolete.

Those of us of a certain age recall tickets being torn in half and stubs dropped into a lockbox to be counted up and examined over the next day. It was a quicker entry into the theater, but dealing with the ticket stubs was quite labor intensive, and storage of stubs was a pain. Theatergoers today wonder why there are lines to enter theaters these days, but the scanners currently in use now are slow. The tickets, or home printed sheets of paper, must be held just so, that the readers may accurately register the printed barcode.

What can we expect from the next generation in ticket scanning technology?

Hopefully quicker and more accurate scanning. Getting people into the theatre quicker so that more ancillary purchases are made is something theater owners and producers would clearly have an interest in. Everybody to the bar and the concession stand!

In a world dominated by social media, I'd certainly expect a new level of interactivity to be part and parcel of any new system. Could there be more info embedded in those barcodes that could be shared and used by the shows or the theater owners? All the marketers would surely salivate at that prospect.

There is one other aspect that, while it sounds like it would be progress, would actually be a big step in the wrong direction, in my view. That would be scanning tickets directly off of smartphones or tablet screens.

This technology exists now, and is in use in other areas like airline or movie theater ticketing. People seem to make use of it, and like it. One less thing to carry, or to lose. Even now, at all Broadway theaters, there are folks who believe that the PDF on their phone can and should be able to be scanned and are clearly annoyed when they are denied entry and are sent to the box office to get their bits printed out on a hard copy that can then be scanned.

Sometimes there are times when logical minds ought to realize that just because something can be done, doesn't mean that it would be a good idea to be done. Scanning Broadway theater tickets from smartphone screens falls into this area.

Ringtones and glowing lights are major distractions in Broadway theaters. All patrons are typically advised to turn off their phones during pre-show announcements. Flash pictures taken by phones are a bane to theatergoers and performers alike. An actor breaking character to admonish a boor misusing their phone during a performance is becoming a too frequent occurrence and it ruins the experience for people who have paid way too much for their theater tickets.

Turning a smartphone into the conveyance for entry will only serve to exacerbate all the problems of smartphones in Broadway theaters, and add a few new ones.

How might a group of people or a family quickly enter if all the tickets are on a smartphone?

Let's try one possible scenario.

Will the person with all the tickets on their phone have to swipe left once, twice, thrice and again while hoping that each PDF is scanned? Oops, what if one gets missed? Wait a minute, which one was missed, anyway? Umm, better start over. So much for quick and easy entry.

Well, let's say entry has been achieved. Now, finding the seats. Maybe this will go smoother. Once seated, I guess it's okay to turn off the phone, except someone has just showed up and you are sitting in their seats. Accidents happen, no malice intended. What to do? Better boot up the phone, have to get back to those PDFs, but that darn phone takes thirty seconds to a minute to spring to life.

The show is about to start, just as the glow from your phone radiates brightly. You sat in the wrong row, so sorry, so now it's off to the right seats. The lights have dimmed but your very bright flashlight, I mean phone, is lighting the way for you, and unfortunately for everyone else too.

Well, the show has started, you only missed a bit, and those around you may be getting over their hatred of you, and thank goodness. These tickets cost anywhere from $150.00 to $250.00, and who can blame anyone for becoming aggravated at a smartphone slinging theatergoer for disrupting their enjoyment of the show? That's when your phone starts loudly vibrating, damn!, you thought you silenced it.

Must..turn..off..phone..now! Ignore the death stares from the other audience members, don't look them in the eye.

Intermission! A great first act, but now it's time to turn on the phone again and check email, tweet to your followers, take a few "illegal" photos and use the theater provided free wifi,which also enables the producers and theater owners to collect marketing info. Uh oh, your wife or husband has gone to the bathroom, but they don't have a copy of their ticket, it's still only on your phone. Hmm, hopefully they'll find their way back, but there's no choice, when you gotta go, you gotta go. If you get split up, you can always meet up after the show is over. Yes, it's your anniversary, but you can't talk during the show anyway, right? That's what the guy in the box office told you when you asked about better seats that were singles, right?

Oh no...no the phone's battery is running out. You went to the bar to get a drink, and now the phone just blinked off and you have no access to your tickets at all! You get back to where you think your seats are, but someones sitting there! How can you prove that they are in your seats?? No juice, no way. As the lights dim for the second act, on your anniversary, you have no idea where your wife or kids are, and you know that like you, they will be freaking out wondering where you are, and what in the world is going on?

You make a desperate appeal for help from an usher who directs you to the house manager. All that can be done is that you can sit in a partial view seat, because the second act is well underway, and it doesn't matter that you've paid over $1000.00 for your tickets, this is your only remaining option.


Now, you may think that this particular scenario may be somewhat atypical. I will tell you right now, don't be so sure. Much of this happens already, but with scanning directly off of smartphones, there is no doubt that situations like this will become dishearteningly more common.

You may wonder, what happens when, for whatever reason, the ticket scanning system were to malfunction? What happens then?

Well, the tickets are torn in half and the stubs are sent to be counted and stored over the course of the next day.

Image result for scanners

Friday, May 22, 2015

Welcome to Prozac Theater

Here we have several oldies that will definitely require healthy doses of mood elevators after a session of aural masochism.






From rxlist.com:

Major Depressive Disorder

Initial Treatment
Adult — Initiate PROZAC 20 mg/day orally in the morning. Consider a dose increase after several weeks if insufficient clinical improvement is observed. Administer doses above 20 mg/day once daily in the morning or twice daily (i.e., morning and noon).The maximum fluoxetine dose should not exceed 80 mg/day.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Spring Cleaning


The other day I cleaned out some boxes of old computer parts that I've had for far too long. Old modems, optical drives, routers and other ephemera, discs and manuals for ancient computers, long gone and almost forgotten. It made more storage space available for what will likely be a new stockpile of scavenged parts that are extracted from computers as they get replaced.

It's amazing how all this stuff used to be cutting edge and so highly prized. But, as the next generation of electronics comes out, the old stuff just gets pushed to the side, or packed up in boxes "in case I need it sometime".  The problem is, I rarely ever do need it again.

I hate to think of all the old smart phones and cell phones sitting unused. They still work, but have zero value and are mostly unsupported by modern wireless networks. It's hard to throw them away, maybe we could used them as repurposed mp3 players? Yes, but we don't. They just take up space.

I won't ever be able to get rid of all the old electronics. I mean, what if I want to watch a low resolution VHS tape some time?

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Someone Left the Cake Out in the Rain


This song is just so...majesterial.

Clearly, they simply do not write them like this anymore. Some may say that's a good thing, but not me. It's just great.

Inequality For All

                                     Image result for inequality for all

This movie, a documentary and a call to action with Robert Reich, former head of the Department of Labor in the Clinton administration, is a fascinating and depressing tale of income inequality in the United States.

It's been around for nearly two years, but I never sat down to watch it before, not because I had any issue with the movie, only that I already was in full agreement with Reich and didn't feel the need to watch it. I'm already in his camp.

I had some free time this past weekend, so I finally watched it. Yes, Reich was clearly spelling out what I've heard from him before and from his writings. It is entertaining for a documentary, not dry at all. Like I said, though, it is depressing.

It's depressing because he illustrates the economic trends in this country for the past thirty years, the decline of the labor movement, the destruction of the middle class, and the increasing accumulation of wealth by those at the very top of the heap, those one percenters.

Truth be told, there's nothing really new here. Even the outrage that accompanied the Occupy Movement has dissipated. Banks have been bailed out and are bigger than ever. Nobody has paid for the economic crimes that brought the world to the brink during the financial meltdown of 2008.

The hardest thing for me to take from the movie was a scene where Reich is at a meeting of workers discussing whether or not to unionize. The utility in question, Calpine, is reducing worker benefits and downsizing it's workforce. In the tense meeting, he is exhorting the workers to unionize, that being the only way for workers to have a voice or to protect their salaries, benefits and livelihood.

There is a misguided worker who speaks up. He feels that the company has always "treated him well", and that he understands why the company needs to do what it is doing. He says that if he were "smart enough, but I'm not", he'd be on the management side. To him, the workers are entitled to nothing more than what the company says they are entitled to.

This sad exchange totally captures the world we are living in today. A world where huge swaths of people have been convinced, brainwashed, into sheepishly acting and voting against their own self interest because they totally believe the lie that Saint Ronald foisted upon them, that "trickle down supply side" economics works and is a morally superior system. They unquestioningly believe that one day, they too will own a mansion on the hill and bask in the glory of modern unregulated capitalism.

The movie is a call to action, with it's attempt to rally support for corrective policies and initiatives. Reich himself claims to be optimistic about being able to start the ball rolling on these changes. I hope he succeeds, and I'll be voting for every progressive program that comes down the pike.

I just don't feel optimistic about it. The big trends are big for a reason, and there are too many ignorant people allowing these trends to continue.