Tuesday, January 31, 2006
Sunday, January 29, 2006
Arguably one of Sparks' best albums, 1974's Kimono My House finds the brothers Mael (Ron wrote most the songs and played keyboards, while Russell was the singing frontman) ingeniously playing their guitar- and keyboard-heavy pop mix on 12 consistently fine tracks. Adding a touch of bubblegum, and even some of Zappa's own song-centric experimentalism to the menu, the Maels spruce up a sleazy Sunset Strip with a bevy of Broadway-worthy performances here: As the band expertly rev up the glam rock-meets-Lloyd Webber backdrops, Russell sends things into space with his operatic vocals and ever-clever lyrics. And besides two of their breakthrough hits (the English chart-toppers "This Town Ain't Big Enough for Both of Us" and "Amateur Hour"), the album features one of their often-overlooked stunners, "Here in Heaven." Essential.
Wednesday, January 11, 2006
Monday, January 09, 2006
Saturday, January 07, 2006
Friday, January 06, 2006
A play for a small room.
SCENE: The green room of a theatre. A small table has three coffee makers on it, various mugs and coffee necessities. A small basket of bagels sits next to the coffee makers. Leaning against the table are DALE and HARRY. DALE is tall, handsome, and overly-confident dressed in a suit circa the fifties. HARRY is smaller and dressed not-so-fittingly in a police outfit circa the same period. As the audience enters, DALE and HARRY are running lines together in preparation for tonight’s opening performance. The actors improvise a dialogue between their two respective characters, something attributable to their costumes, flat and speedy in delivery but over-the-top in subject matter. When the audience is standing at the ready (no sitting), DALE suddenly turns around and begins to make himself a cup of coffee.
DALE: Skip this part.
HARRY: (Looks at DALE, suddenly nervous.) What?
DALE: Skip this part.
DALE: I don’t know my lines here.
HARRY: You...still? Tonight’s…
DALE: (Interrupting.) Yeah, yeah, tonight’s opening. Whatever. (Sips coffee.)
HARRY: My mom’s in the audience tonight.
DALE: Let’s skip to the bat bite scene.
HARRY: But there’s a lot of stuff between here and there. (DALE begins the unambitious rattling off of more improvised “lines.”) Wait.
DALE: (Snapping out of lines.) What?
HARRY: Where are you? Is that the bat scene?
DALE: Yeah. I added a few lines.
DALE: (Puts down the coffee. Speaks to HARRY with fake sincerity.)
DALE: Harry. Right. Did I say thanks for spotting me last night for the pizza?
HARRY: Um. No. I don’t think…
DALE: Harry, this is your first show, right? (Does not wait for an answer.) Let me give you the fruits of my knowledge, (With a big brother smile.) rookie. Let me ask you a question: why did you start acting?
HARRY: I auditioned.
DALE: No, no, why did you start? Why did you want to audition?
HARRY: There’s this girl…remember? Last night? I told you. The girl at the pizza shop. I like her, but she’s dating an actor. So…
DALE: Oh yeah. Yeah. Right. The…ass girl, right? Ha! How common! You started acting to get chicks, did you? I should have known.
HARRY: Well…at first. But…I dunno, it’s pretty fun. I thought it’d be difficult, but there’s something in the majesty of …(Realizes DALE is not paying attention but rather looking at him in an anticipatory smile.) what?
HARRY: Well what?
DALE: It’s customary, when asked a question, to ask the same back. How are you? I’m fine, how are YOU? (HARRY does not register this but looks at DALE in amazement.) You’re supposed to ask why I got into acting.
HARRY: Oh. Sorry. (Pause.)
DALE: Ask me how I got into the theatre.
HARRY: Oh! How did you get into the…
DALE: To change people’s lives. To delve into the psyche and darkest parts of myself and use myself to expose the humanity of man. And that’s with a capital “h” and “m,” my friend. To…to put myself in that danger of not knowing what comes next.
HARRY: If you knew your lines, you’d know what comes next.
DALE: Ha! What? A script? Please,
DALE: A script is only a road map, my uneducated friend. It shows you the destination, you know, how everything should turn out. But a real actor knows how to get there. How to get there through the intimate knowledge of his character, regardless of “lines.”
HARRY: What if you don’t get there?
DALE: Ah! See? That’s the majesty! The danger! The adventure of acting. Of creating! Of making something new and fresh for the audience every single night!
HARRY: So you’re going to improvise?
DALE: Improvise? Improv? What am I, an amateur? Imp…please! Don’t make me laugh. Improv is for people who can’t act. It’s not an improvisation when you are another person. Let me ask you. Do you know how to be you?
HARRY: (Pause.) What?
DALE: When you go out and do whatever it is you do, do you know how to do it?
HARRY: I…I don’t know.
DALE: When you go to the grocery store,
HARRY: (Immediately) Harry.
DALE: (Immediately but without breaking his stride.) Harry, do you know what you’re going to get? Do you know what you’re going to act like when you get to the post office? Do you know which laundry machine you’re going to step to when you get to the Laundromat?
HARRY: I suppose so.
DALE: See? So. If I’m playing you, I would do the same. Exact. Thing. I should get, as an actor, so lost in the “being you” that I can make those decisions in a way that even your mother would recognize. And that’s why I got into theatre. To experience humanity.
HARRY: But what if I go by my script?
DALE: Don’t worry. Give it a few plays, and you won’t care about lines either. It’s about danger…it’s about not knowing what the performance has in store, how your character will react from moment to moment but knowing that you’re so in control as that character that you’ll end up where the roadmap – that laudable “script” – wants you to be. If you know Hamlet, if you really, really get yourself tuned into Hamlet, then you’ll end up king just like he did. With a black wife. Or. Whatever.
HARRY: I thought he died.
DALE: (Ignoring him, DALE is looking out into space confidently.) And tonight, my little newbie fledgling actor friend, tonight I’ll take that journey of the unknown, and we’ll all – you, me, the audience – will find out just who Johnny Swanson, 1950s bookseller, is. I’ll tune in, I’ll be another person, (DALE moves into audience and grabs an audience member by the shoulders and shakes them gently.) I’ll grab the audience and show them art! How real actors can be! (DALE steps back to the table.) And how often do we get to see art, true art these days? In a time when Broadway is infested with plays based on television shows, when theatre feels the only way to attract the Nascar dads is to have Frasier or Friends star as characters in plays written by minds that have surpassed the droll drudgery of the cheap television laughs those “little actors” are accustomed to. They’ll look me in the eye and see someone else! I’ll be someone else. I’ll expose the humanity and show people that…thing Copernicus said, “Ah, that is he.” (Pause. He leans against the table and hangs his head. Grudgingly.) And that’ll show her.
HARRY: (Who had been mystified by his commanding speech but now drops his jaw.) What?
HARRY: (Again nervous.) What did you just say? Who’s “her?”
DALE: (Pause.) Brandi.
HARRY: Brandi? As in…the girl in our play Brandi?
DALE: Yes. Bitch. Bitch Brandi.
HARRY: Does she know her lines?
DALE: Let me tell you something, buddy. Never – this is from Artaud, great, great theatre mind – never date your fellow cast mates.
HARRY: You’re not dating her. She’s dating…she doesn’t like you.
DALE: Ha! Yeah. Hmph. Sure. Did you see us last night? At the pizza joint?
HARRY: She was there with Donald. I know he knows his lines.
DALE: See? Her dating that Neanderthal has everything all fucked up.
HARRY: Do you mean your not knowing you lines?
DALE: (Pause. DALE gives a slow burn to HARRY.) All right, let’s run more lines. Get to the bat bite part.
HARRY: (Actor begins to improvise his “lines.”)
DALE: Where are you? Is that the bat scene?
HARRY: Yeah. (Beaming like a proud student.) I added a few lines.
DALE: Wait. You can’t do that.
Thursday, January 05, 2006
Wednesday, January 04, 2006
by Kate Dailey, Men's Health
1. If your throat tickles, scratch your ear. When you were 9, playing your armpit was a cool trick. Now, as an adult, you can still appreciate a good body-based feat, but you're more discriminating. Take that tickle in your throat; it's not worth gagging over. Here's a better way to scratch your itch: "When the nerves in the ear are stimulated, it creates a reflex in the throat that can cause a muscle spasm," says Scott Schaffer, M.D., president of an ear, nose and throat specialty center in Gibbsboro, New Jersey. "This spasm relieves the tickle."
2. Experience supersonic hearing! If you're stuck chatting up a mumbler at a cocktail party, lean in with your right ear. It's better than your left at following the rapid rhythms of speech, according to researchers at the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine. If, on the other hand, you're trying to identify that song playing softly in the elevator, turn your left ear toward the sound. The left ear is better at picking up music tones.
3. Overcome your most primal urge! Need to pee? No bathroom nearby? Fantasize about Jessica Simpson. Thinking about sex preoccupies your brain, so you won't feel as much discomfort, says Larry Lipshultz, M.D., chief of male reproductive medicine at the Baylor College of Medicine. For best results, try Simpson's "These Boots Are Made for Walking" video.
4. Feel no pain! German researchers have discovered that coughing during an injection can lessen the pain of the needle stick. According to Taras Usichenko, author of a study on the phenomenon, the trick causes a sudden, temporary rise in pressure in the chest and spinal canal, inhibiting the pain-conducting structures of the spinal cord.
5. Clear your stuffed nose! Forget Sudafed. An easier, quicker, and cheaper way to relieve sinus pressure is by alternately thrusting your tongue against the roof of your mouth, then pressing between your eyebrows with one finger. This causes the vomer bone, which runs through the nasal passages to the mouth, to rock back and forth, says Lisa DeStefano, D.O., an assistant professor at the Michigan State University college of osteopathic medicine. The motion loosens congestion; after 20 seconds, you'll feel your sinuses start to drain.
6. Fight fire without water! Worried those wings will repeat on you tonight? "Sleep on your left side," says Anthony A. Star-poli, M.D., a New York City gastroenterologist and assistant professor of medicine at New York Medical College. Studies have shown that patients who sleep on their left sides are less likely to suffer from acid reflux. The esophagus and stomach connect at an angle. When you sleep on your right, the stomach is higher than the esophagus, allowing food and stomach acid to slide up your throat. When you're on your left, the stomach is lower than the esophagus, so gravity's in your favor.
7. Cure your toothache without opening your mouth! Just rub ice on the back of your hand, on the V-shaped webbed area between your thumb and index finger. A Canadian study found that this technique reduces toothache pain by as much as 50 percent compared with using no ice. The nerve pathways at the base of that V stimulate an area of the brain that blocks pain signals from the face and hands.
8. Make burns disappear! When you accidentally singe your finger on the stove, clean the skin and apply light pressure with the finger pads of your unmarred hand. Ice will relieve your pain more quickly, Dr. DeStefano says, but since the natural method brings the burned skin back to a normal temperature, the skin is less likely to blister.
9. Stop the world from spinning! One too many drinks left you dizzy? Put your hand on something stable. The part of your ear responsible for balance—the cupula—floats in a fluid of the same density as blood. "As alcohol dilutes blood in the cupula, the cupula becomes less dense and rises," says Dr. Schaffer. This confuses your brain. The tactile input from a stable object gives the brain a second opinion, and you feel more in balance. Because the nerves in the hand are so sensitive, this works better than the conventional foot-on-the-floor wisdom.
10. Unstitch your side! If you're like most people, when you run, you exhale as your right foot hits the ground. This puts downward pressure on your liver (which lives on your right side), which then tugs at the diaphragm and creates a side stitch, according to The Doctors Book of Home Remedies for Men. The fix: Exhale as your left foot strikes the ground.
11. Stanch blood with a single finger! Pinching your nose and leaning back is a great way to stop a nosebleed—if you don't mind choking on your own O positive. A more civil approach: Put some cotton on your upper gums—just behind that small dent below your nose—and press against it, hard. "Most bleeds come from the front of the septum, the cartilage wall that divides the nose," says Peter Desmarais, M.D., an ear, nose, and throat specialist at Entabeni Hospital, in Durban, South Africa. "Pressing here helps stop them."
12. Make your heart stand still! Trying to quell first-date jitters? Blow on your thumb. The vagus nerve, which governs heart rate, can be controlled through breathing, says Ben Abo, an emergency medical-services specialist at the University of Pittsburgh. It'll get your heart rate back to normal.
13. Thaw your brain! Too much Chipwich too fast will freeze the brains of lesser men. As for you, press your tongue flat against the roof of your mouth, covering as much as you can. "Since the nerves in the roof of your mouth get extremely cold, your body thinks your brain is freezing, too," says Abo. "In compensating, it overheats, causing an ice-cream headache." The more pressure you apply to the roof of your mouth, the faster your headache will subside.
14. Prevent near-sightedness! Poor distance vision is rarely caused by genetics, says Anne Barber, O.D., an optometrist in Tacoma, Washington. "It's usually caused by near-point stress." In other words, staring at your computer screen for too long. So flex your way to 20/20 vision. Every few hours during the day, close your eyes, tense your body, take a deep breath, and, after a few seconds, release your breath and muscles at the same time. Tightening and releasing muscles such as the biceps and glutes can trick involuntary muscles—like the eyes—into relaxing as well.
15. Wake the dead! If your hand falls asleep while you're driving or sitting in an odd position, rock your head from side to side. It'll painlessly banish your pins and needles in less than a minute, says Dr. DeStefano. A tingly hand or arm is often the result of compression in the bundle of nerves in your neck; loosening your neck muscles releases the pressure. Compressed nerves lower in the body govern the feet, so don't let your sleeping dogs lie. Stand up and walk around.
16. Impress your friends! Next time you're at a party, try this trick: Have a person hold one arm straight out to the side, palm down, and instruct him to maintain this position. Then place two fingers on his wrist and push down. He'll resist. Now have him put one foot on a surface that's a half inch higher (a few magazines) and repeat. This time his arm will cave like the French. By misaligning his hips, you've offset his spine, says Rachel Cosgrove, C.S.C.S., co-owner of Results Fitness, in Santa Clarita, California. Your brain senses that the spine is vulnerable, so it shuts down the body's ability to resist.
17. Breathe underwater! If you're dying to retrieve that quarter from the bottom of the pool, take several short breaths first—essentially, hyperventilate. When you're underwater, it's not a lack of oxygen that makes you desperate for a breath; it's the buildup of carbon dioxide, which makes your blood acidic, which signals your brain that somethin' ain't right. "When you hyperventilate, the influx of oxygen lowers blood acidity," says Jonathan Armbruster, Ph.D., an associate professor of biology at Auburn University. "This tricks your brain into thinking it has more oxygen." It'll buy you up to 10 seconds.
18. Read minds! Your own! "If you're giving a speech the next day, review it before falling asleep," says Candi Heimgartner, an instructor of biological sciences at the University of Idaho. Since most memory consolidation happens during sleep, anything you read right before bed is more likely to be encoded as long-term memory.