FEBRUARY 16, 2010

OMG. Found Amiel again. Loved her Round and Round which I got months ago on a random JP playlist. Some dudes included her on a video parodying the universal usage of 4 chords, so I looked up the song they quoted and its actually a really good song. What was weird was that she was signed to Ministry of Sound, which I thought was purely house/prog/electro type stuff... so I looked her up to find out why they signed her. Turns out her last name is Daemion (super cool) and she was one half of Addicted to Bass, a drum and bass song I've been crushing on for years. A few years ago they remixed the song and filmed a Mad Max tribute as the music video. Hot. She also did Meet Me in the Red Room from Moulin Rouge. The stupid part comes next. Apparently her CDs were released in Japan by Sony, and so Australia, where she's based out of, actually had to import her initial releases. Other than Addicted to Bass, of course, which did some major selling in Australia but wasn't her solo stuff. I (as a potential customer myself) looked on Amazon and a few other major music websites and found out that I can only buy imports. They don't make her stuff easy to get and at reasonable prices here in the States, not for CD purchase or download... bah. So fingers crossed... it only took Amazon one whole year to get Ladyhawke over here - and that was with some major publicity work from her end. I don't think Amiel's been that pushy.

Janelle Monae at Johnny Brenda's March 18. No David Hasselhoff concert?

Official videos from Fall 2009's Company. Enjoy.

FEBRUARY 3, 2010

Guestbook at the Altes Museum: yeah, trampolines.

Show cast and rehearsals started. Yay!

so this carbon trading BS... was reading this one example of a company who was using some green method to make their products which would have cut down usage of carbon by a whole shitload, so they took those offsets and packaged them to sell to other companies who wanted to pollute more and would pay for it. its packaged in 5 year quantities so they were selling 20 years worth, and its valued at $100 million. now understand that these carbon offsets can only really exist if the company actually makes products and then saves that carbon.

So next part of story: company goes bankrupt, no more orders, they shut down factory. BUT theyve already sold the offsets through carbon trade exchanges. so they net $100 million for not making or selling their products, the company or companies who bought it can use the carbon offsets to pollute more, and the go-betweens make tons of money. and the final result? instead of zero extra carbon being generated, there's now that much more carbon polluting the atmosphere.

The story was focused on the futility of carbon trading as a basis for cleaning up the environment. That nations will set their own baseline for acceptable carbon levels whenever they want to, that the people who test for carbon emissions have their own agenda and a virtual monopoly on the business so that they can warp their conclusions to increase their bottom line (and which they have, to get paid more), that the reasons for carbon emissions are different so carbon trading doesn't really work (eg. reducing number of cows on a farm is way different from shutting down half a factory), that it's a shell game that makes it look like stuff is being done when it actually isn't. And might actually be MORE harmful.

My take on all of this was something a bit different: the Kyoto protocol and other political environmental conferences have done nothing but create new types of securities. As these carbon offsets can be manipulated into all kinds of complicated packaging, it's like those crazy derivatives being sold by the major investment banks that were also anchored on nothing, or toxic instruments. In this case, it's real toxic instruments. One day, the world will be much worse off than it is today and a) we'll realize the earth is still in trouble and b) that the carbon offsets being sold have negligible value since no one will be able to agree on what they represent once times get tough - and that's when the markets collapse on them, and the bubble bursts. We never learn. We shouldn't fool ourselves that we're saving the planet when we're only figuring out ways to look good making it worse.

The Shutter Island soundtrack is pretty great. Creepy music, mostly classical selections. The most listenable one is the one I posted above. It's a remix of an orchestral score and Dinah Washington's Bitter Earth... and it's just so sad. Tear, tear.

JANUARY 19, 2010

Two treatments of Don't Stop Believin. I'm almost tired of the song, even though it's so great. And I think I may not watch Glee when it comes back... I'm tired of that show already!

Just returned from Vegas. As usual, I stayed at the Wynn. Unlike 2 years ago when they gave me the 2nd-largest suite available in the Tower Suites, I just got a normal room but on the Encore side. Too bad. Though the room is of course really nice, with its large bath and spacious office and soft sheets and long entrance hallway and automatic curtain and lighting... blah blah blah par for luxury hotel. I am a creature of habit, and as usual, I went to dine at Bouchon while there. That place is freakin amazing. I love the salmon crevettes, as well as the monkfish cheek and the mussels in white wine, mustard and parsley. Their cheese selection is wonderful, and the wine list is usually very good. I'm crap with labels but the Pinot Gris I got was amazing, as was the Fonseca 20-year Tawny I got after dinner. Mmm. I also got a bite in at Bartolotta, another old standby. With the discounts and Wynn credit and of course the baby clams and lightly charred sea scallops (always on), I got served. Yeah. Amazing dessert with figs, and the Italian-Polish server with the smile that looked like it was gonna break her face after having it on so wide for a whole hour.... hot potato man. She could suggest you jump off a bridge and you'd do it just to see her crack an even bigger smile.

I was in Vegas for Affiliate Summit West, and work definitely got done. Lots of meetings with old colleagues and business partners, and lots of introductions with new ones. The Meet Market and Exhibit Hall seemed smaller than usual (less vendors) but the amount of people attending was much higher than last year. Is that a good sign? It doesn't prove that business is necessarily better. My hypothesis is that companies are being cheaper than usual which would explain lesser vendors, but companies also need to generate more sales and they can't do that without exposure, thus necessitating sending more staff (or even attending if they haven't before) to scour the crowd for new leads and opportunities. This theory is backed up further by the quality and number of parties. Overall, there were less parties, and aside from one exception, all the parties were at the cheaper venues and didn't require hiring celebrity guests. The one exception was COPEAC blowing immense cash on a night out at Tryst at the Wynn and then XS for latenight at the Encore. Luckily for me, I was able to get to the hottest parties: Tryst was nice, as were the Neverblue and Epic Ads private parties at different suites at the Palms. The Epic Ads party was in the Hugh Hefner suite, a pretty nice two-level residence with its own elevator, a rotating bed (upon which several hot hired models lay around in boob-enhancing Playboy bunny costumes all night, and were the subject of long lusty stares from us guys and at least one vengeful stare from a wife that happened to come along (bad idea, dumbass). Lots of pictures. The brunette... damn. There were lots of actual affiliate marketing hotties, but there were these two that were hanging on each other for a whole hour, shakin their booty in the glass elevator and running up and down the stairs drunk off their ass. The blonde made a return appearance in some REALLY nice haute couture dress (kind of out of place for a club-type party) and then made a big exit with her brunette pal - with a big wink to me, as I was definitely watching them leave. The bouncer made an "ooooh" face. For realz. Though Erin from Epic got me on the guest list for that one, it took some slick moves to get past the downstairs bouncer. I got some drunk dude to vouch for me, and then at the actual suite, I got a wristband from Guppy so I could slide past the actual party bouncer since guest list dude was off getting some action. Getting in was even more gratifying after seeing the party, and then seeing all these people that I knew NOT get in (perhaps if they thinned out their huge crowd of guys...). Since we spread our action out among many, many different networks, we're not the highest rollers that the parties are meant for (ie. exclusively bringing traffic to only one of these networks), so I really appreciate being able to get into all the private parties. Connections are key, and yes, that's for business, but it makes all the diff when you're in Vegas and need something to up your PR ante above the bullshit spouted by all those other guys ("yeah had an awesome time last night with some hookers that were like ballet dancers and then some hot action at the tables"... read, horseface motel hoes and down $8k at the Hard Rock poker tables against some podunk tourist with no actual bluffing skillz).

JANUARy 16, 2010

Getting into New York on Friday was hellish. The ride took 3 and a half hours, with 20 minutes spent going approximately 2 blocks by Penn Station. There were a couple Glee Clubbers on board who, after rushing down to Hunter College, were unable to make it on time and had to go on second act. Club sounded good on Friday, aside from a generally weak performance of the Soldiers' Chorus from Faust. They had enough people for a grander sound, but what came out was weak and sounded more like a high school chorus doing it like they didn't really wanna do it (which is not good, obviously). Also, accompanists need to be in shape! Practice, practice! Lachrymosa was nice and depressing, and the second act was generally impressive. After the show, we went up to Dan Pincus' new apartment. Amazing place, huge square footage in the West Village, and neighbors who were all amazingly rich. Apparently the neighbors had the same apartment but over two or 3 floors, sometimes without the ceilings - meaning so much "wasted" vertical space. The huge bay windows must have been amazing with the view and all... one dude owned a triplex as his residence, and then the entire 2nd floor as a private art gallery. Yeesh. Pincus does something in biotech? It was a little uncouth to ask further since he seemed a little reticent to answer questions like "how much did the place cost" etc. But through Eduardo, I learned he bought the place off the previous tenant, a supposedly unlikable Syrian. I noticed the mezuzah book on how to bless the house and secure doors in the traditional way. Though the doors didn't all quite have the equipment yet, I noted it down and then identified the blessing sticks on all the doors in Reuven's apartment. Getting into Reuven's place was a bit of an adventure. We had trouble finding the apartment number, so it took us an extra 20 minutes to get that. And then once we were upstairs, we had trouble getting in! Thankfully, I got skillz with keys. A bit of levering and listening, and we were in (after everybody had already tried the keys and another 20 minutes later).

Blake, Feldman, Hayward and I at the Glee Club Fall Show 2006.

In the Heights is an amazing show. Hadn't listened to the music previously, and knew pretty much nothing about it other than its composer's name, who I also knew nothing about. The lighting guys did a kickass job, and the pit was outstanding. I went with Glee Club and apparently Club used all its connections to wrangle us a onstage pass and time with the cast. House time with the cast was arranged through David Vaughn, a GC alum that manages all the Nederlander theaters, and Eduardo Placer apparently worked with Doreen Montalvo (Abuela, Daniela, Camila) in a show in DC a few years ago. In any case, we got 30 minutes with that day's Benny, Piragua Guy, Abuela (Doreen) and many of the dancers. We got in a couple good questions. Having been around since the first reading, Doreen had most to say about the show development. Nina used to have a brother, Vanessa used to have a more present mother and there were about 60 songs that were in the show at some point which didn't make it into the final version that debuted off-Broadway. These songs were used in a cabaret they did last year, entitled "Junk in the Trunk" and referring to these 60 songs that went in a trunk after being tossed from the show. The composer had started the show during his sophomore year at Wesleyan and of his initial version, only the musical phrase "In Washington Heights" remained. I was looking up a fact about the show and ran into a tidbit about Universal adapting it into a movie musical to be directed by the guy that directed all the HSM movies. I don't know if that's good... but the composer is starring in the movie, so how far from his vision could it be? Release is hopefully this year. I learned about tracks and the guys that help coordinate the tracks - this is the path that all cast and crew must follow on and off the stage, including all actions they must complete and routes they must take to inconvenience the least amount of people. I'm sure physical awareness is an absolute MUST.

JANUARY 14, 2010

I am music-directing Quadramics' production of Sweeney Todd playing the weekend of Spring Fling. I'm pretty excited - it's a tough musical that calls for an extremely talented and versatile cast and a top-notch orchestra to go along with it. Hopefully I get both... personally, I prefer a more operatic show (since it fits so well within that style) but a pure-Broadway take on it is fine as well. EJ Baker is directing and Steven Mendoza is producing. Casting starts next week, and first rehearsals begin in February.

Saw Nine with Jess yesterday. Interesting movie, but problematic in certain ways. 1) Some dud songs... Nicole Kidman's song? And what's with her not sounding like her but like an octave-lower her? 2) Plot. There is none. Plot isn't necessary but emotional arc should be sustained, which it isn't. Nicole Kidman scene has no point. 3) Hot steamy sexual provocativeness is great and all, but it doesn't work if it distracts from the point trying to be made. Unless hot women is the point. Which then makes it really shallow, and I might as well be watching porn. 4) Stop using Guido Contini and Italian/Italiano as lyrics. Those words are used so often, you remember nothing else. 5) I'm sure EVERYBODY was in love with Guido Contini. I guess it could be argued that Marshall was trying to display how vain Contini was, and that he should get over it? But the point is not strongly made, so this conclusion is not well-supported. In general, the "real" scenes were just as fake-feeling as the "fake" scenes, so this interweaving of dimensions doesn't have any particular poignancy. I particularly liked Marion Cotillard (modeled after Audrey Hepburn perhaps? She's almost a body double!), as she was the only real woman in the movie. Judi Dench was great but her character is purely standing on the sidelines - Marion has two great songs, and her striptease song (unlike all the other ones in the show) actually has a really strong point. It hurts. Supposedly the Broadway show made more sense than the movie did... for example, people complain that Marion's "My Husband Makes Movies" song has much less pathos than it could have, because the original lyrics make the song more about her life rather than just her husband. But I guess it's an artistic decision, focus it all on Guido, that egoist.

Avatar was as awesome as I thought it was going to be. Beautiful movie, and I think it was a compelling story. Yes, it was a little Pocahontas-like, but that may have been purposeful. The other stuff made the movie what it was though: clear characters with strong motivations, a mystical story that has some basis in science, a compelling conflict (with a good dose of moral indignation), and DRAGONS and MECHWARRIORS. Oh my god, I wanna be one of those hunter dudes with their extreme athleticism and daredevil flying through the floating mountain-filled-skies. And hot Navi chicks... what a nerd thing, of course. Can't help but lovin those sexy aliens. That coincidentally have breasts and navels, humanoid features and modest coverings. Of course they're 3 times as big as a human being, so any one of us would look like a baby in their large but slender arms. I want to see it again, in IMAX 3D. Would have seen it this time, but stupid IMAX was sold out. A small sidebar: Hooters before the movie. Wings were great (Malibu Beach and TMI are a good combo), the beer was fizzy and the chicks had something to grab and get arrested for harassment for(a notch up from last time). Yeah for misogynists.

A busy weekend ahead: Glee Club tomorrow, In the Heights (and backstage tour!) on Saturday, then Vegas on Sunday - Monday. I'm already tired just thinking about it.

Frankfurt, near the Stadel Museum.

JANUARY 9, 2010

Family New Year's shot: eggnog in dark chocolate cups, with Fassenberg & Rausch chocolates to take off the taste.

If you're a student in the Netherlands, you get an allowance of 300 euro a month if you live with your parents, and 550 euro a month if you live by yourself. If you don't graduate, you have to pay it back. Fortunately, its a debt that doesn't count against your credit ratings, but it is something that the government can hire a debt collection agency for. Dutch law gives more rights to the tenant than the landlord: if a place is sold over to new owners, the tenants remain on the rate of their previous rent contract. There's very little profit in apartment rentals. If you squat in a building, the landlord can't kick you out (though I'm sure there are some economic punishments that might result just so people don't start protesting rents and not paying everywhere)... a person I met pays 100 euro a month rent in a large space in a building located in a metropolitan area, just so the owners won't have junkies squatting in an otherwise commercial space building that's not actually for apartment tenants. Rent in some Amsterdam buildings are 300 euro a month, and we're not talking crap ghetto buildings either. It's really affordable, and you can't get kicked out... why would you ever buy a house? Probably why housing inflation in the Netherlands is almost non-existent.

JANUARY 9, 2010

A full work week and I still haven't caught up with everything yet! So much left to do.

I started watching Defying Gravity (nothing to do with Wicked) and Misfits today. The first was a CTV show that aired on ABC and was cancelled after 8 episodes, despite being a good show. It happens to too many of my shows, and this one was actually quality. Not a soap opera, not a nerd show, not filler, with some good writing and a 3-season arc to the storyline that (to me) had great potential. Too bad it won't happen. It's about 8 astronauts going on a mission to Venus, and its tone is more character drama than scifi. The major dramatic relationship is that between mission control and the astronauts: what is communicated is based on what one thinks the other needs, and how mission control takes care to remove all psychologically troubling factors from view of the astronauts. For example, one character has a husband who drives his car into a girl, putting her into a coma. Mission Control covers it up and puts him back on post, ordering him not to say anything to make sure these stressors don't affect the astronaut on board the ship. It's a practical consideration - if an astronaut becomes unreliable, it's 10 trillion dollars plus 7 other people's lives on the line. The other dramatic relationships are the fodder to most dramas - husband and wife, man and girlfriend with ex still hanging around, the rude sexist nerd who may have a gentler side, struggles in faith within the devout, guilt issues with war and loss and secrets... Of course, there is the more scifi end, which revolves around the premise that there is a secret reason for the voyage other than the usual "explore X planet" and "one giant step for mankind" and all that. It's not discussed till much later in the show, but apparently an alien being of some sort was found on Earth and all subsequent attempts to explore space after that point were to discover more things about the alien being. The alien being, however, is not visible to everybody and so those who don't see it somehow feel cheated of some spiritual experience and alone in this feeling. This loneliness is compounded by being 30 million kilometers away in space with people who can't possibly sympathize.

Defying Gravity.

On a less positive note, I want to offer a general criticism to scifi nerds. Scifi nerds don't like dramas: they like lots of aliens, lots of phasers, little subtlety, and lots of hot alien chicks (versus hot human chicks) to see gratuitous love scenes with (as long as it's not accompanied by the, ugh, emotions that go around that sort of thing...). The show got called Grey's Astronomy by some smug scifi asshole and that's just insulting - the fact that it has actual drama in it doesn't immediately discredit the show. I read up on the torrent site forums and there's so much hating going on. For example, comparison to Virtuality. It is slightly similar in that it's on a spaceship with few people, but that one had a crazy AI doing psychotic stuff in VR (to keep the astronauts occupied during long travel). Other than that, there's hardly anything to parallel. Yes, it was Ron Moore but that's not an immediate in: I am looking forward to Caprica as that preview movie they made was exciting, but the Virtuality pilot was really boring - and probably why it didn't get picked up by any network at all. Also, for some reason, I'm bugged by Clea DuVall.

The other show is on BBC4 and as yet, I've only watched the pilot episode. It follows 4 juvenile delinquents in the UK who are doing community service unwillingly and then get hit by lightning in a freak storm. The superpowers they get after that are not necessarily useful, and there's almost nothing redeeming about any of the kids - so them ever being heroes is something extremely unlikely. It's British TV so they're loose with the Puritan morals. They have sex, they swear and they talk in thick enough accents that network TV producers would never allow. The casting is actually brilliant too, as is the costuming. The drugged up wanksta (who dies and is stuffed in a locker) totally fits the bill, as does the ugly chav slut (not as derogatory as it seems, as the characters refer to her as ugly, a chav and a slut), the arrogant little pissant that thinks he's the shit but whom everybody hates and always will, a hot piece of ass that doesn't know she otherwise boring as shit, a withdrawn type that could be emo or nerdy but falls short even in those regards and finally the black dude that was about to go to the bigtime with the Olympics but has regressed to being a nobody in juvie after getting caught with some blow. These 4 (living) characters have a lot of potential as they've already been assessed and found wanting even before they've actually done anything. These are characters that have a lot to prove to everybody. I like that, since a lot of shows have characters that are too high up in the socialization scale to count as real people. Sure, those shows include stereotyped losers that are there as comic relief, but they hardly ever risk enough to have all the characters there. So far, the invisible guy gets invisibility (which is already sadly affecting before they demonstrate it), the black dude can rewind time (which can't be proven to anyone else, but he knows), the chav slut can hear what everybody is thinking (which is usually about her being a chav or a slut... even her dog) and the arrogant pissant knows he should have something but doesn't actually seem to have a power yet. Maybe he never will. Like Kids (great movie btw), it's pretty blunt and in a realistic style. It's not over-dramatic as a Nick or Disney channel show about teens is, and it's definitely not soap-opera social hot button drama like Degrassi. I like that kind of thing.

Other new entertainment things? There's a live-action film adaptation of Beauty and the Beast the musical. Chuck is returning, Heroes is probably gonna get dumped soon (even though it's the most downloaded show based on torrent volume... what a conundrum for TV economists when their most popular show is also their least popular show... on the bright side, American Idol has no resale value), White Collar is back as is Southland (on TNT, as NBC just makes bad decision after decision in relation to shows... nice going with the Jay Leno thing!). I hope Raising the Bar comes back, because I REALLY enjoy that show. I like shows that make me get really strong opinions.

Zuke just sneezed.

JANUARY 4, 2010

Happy New Year! I just got back from my 2 week jaunt to Europe and man, am I tired. My trip took me through Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Berlin and Hamburg, all of which I did by rail and with my family. My dad went to the University of Delft, Holland's oldest technical university, and he has a lot of family and friends in and around the Amsterdam area. We spent a lot of time doing visiting. We had lunch with Uncle Tom and his wife/girlfriend at Bistro Pompa, the tomato soup place I found last time I was in Amsterdam. It was still good. We also had many dinners with random sides of the family, some of whom are feuding with others, making it impossible to have a joint hangout. Some complicated property dispute or something, it wasn't really polite to ask. One of my second aunts, Hoon, likes to take solo driving holidays to Morocco - driving from her place in Slotermeer all the way down through Belgium, France and Spain and across the ferry to Tangier. That sounds pretty awesome to me, though apparently she's a crazy driver. Which shouldn't stand out too much in Spain... Her daughter Francis is learning network management at a Dutch college in Amsterdam and is going out with a Surinamese dude with dreads and gold teeth who raps and sings. She spent a day showing Christine and I around Centrum, eating some awesome Dutch pancakes, waffles and poffertjes (ridiculously good baby pancakes). She was also going to pack a bowl and cook for us IF we had more time. Too bad. More good Dutch food: croquettes and pommes frites with mayo. Also lamb-burgers from BurgerMeester. Topped with jalapenos and red onion roulade, they are super-lekker.

Sunset over the canal.

During our other Amsterdam days, we trolled the Rijksmuseum (Dutch still lifes are the shit), the Heineken Experience (BEER. And NICE souvenirs.), the Hermitage Amsterdam (exhibiting dresses, suits and other ornaments of Russian courtly life during the Romanovs time... sounds dry but the exhibit was pretty awesome), the Rembranthuis (I learned how his engravings were made!), De Oude Kerk, Our Lord in the Attic (How could you not catch such a large chapel?), the red light district (with my dad, my girl 2nd cousins and their dad showing the way... how's that for a nice respectable family outing?)... Speaking of the red light district, my 2nd cousin Denise did a sociological review slash marketing research on brothel customer needs/wants for her high school graduation (final project?). Apparently, customers like pictures most of all as souvenirs, and this would actually represent a large revenue stream since none of the many brothels had any picture postcards or picturebook items of their girls (and cameras are not allowed, to be broken by big bouncer dudes if they see your tourist ass). Though the girls don't necessarily belong to the brothels and any picture item sold would have to have some sort of complicated revenue-sharing agreement with each girl... the girls rent the rooms for certain timespans on certain days, so it's not like they're in any way owned by any brothel (though I'm sure there's illegal shit going on too). It is their responsibility to get the most money they can out of any passerby and then pay the brothel owner the agreed upon rental price. The showrooms have all kinds of girls (and almost-girls) and there's even another district where you can find old women and fat women for cheaper. Regular rate is around 50 euros a go but the old fatties supposedly go for half or less (I nixed going to that district and couldn't verify the price on those). No coffeeshops this time around. Shrooms are now illegal in the Netherlands so the shroom shop disappeared. Too bad.

A sociological observation: there are a lot more mixed couples in the Netherlands than I see here. A lot of interracial kids, with some mix of Dutch, Chinese, Indonesian and Surinam-ese. Apparently, the Dutch colonizers really took to mixing with the natives. On a sidenote: I went to the Dutch Resistance Museum and learned a lot about the effects of WWII on the colonialist policies in Indonesia. Having been subjugated to such a degree, many Dutch individuals didn't want to serve their time in the Dutch army to put down the Javanese resistance movements that were starting up due to Japanese influence. In fact, the Dutch that did go and serve in the armies that put down these rebellions were seen as traitors or were considered suspect by other Dutch even though they were serving their country in their national army. We met a Dutch lawyer who was allowed to forego 2 years of military service in Indonesia in favor of many more years in the civil service - he commented that it was still an ongoing issue that the Dutch government refuses to recognize 1941 as the year of Indonesian independence (which is the year Soekarno had set as the start of the resistance movement) and instead places 1945 as the actual year, which Indonesians refuse to acknowledge. He remarked that it was silly, seeing as the Dutch had no effective policy or governance in place during 1941-5, and so the quibble over dates was very pointless. On the Indonesian side, they were initially seduced by the Japanese into combating the Dutch (placing many Dutch into concentration camps for many years, which, despite some violent massacres, were not anywhere near to Russian or German concentration camps) and then allowing more and more Japanese influence and structures into Indonesia. After the Japanese started opening their own concentration camps for Indonesians who weren't following the party line, the Indonesian rebels had to fight the Dutch and the Japanese (and eventually, just the Japanese).