The Living Revolution Continues!

Comrades, remember my Kommunalka resurgence post from Palo Alto, San Francisco and other areas in the tech corridor of CA?

Well there is a juicy update my fellow workers.

Sob!  Poor Widdle Zuckerberg is barred from knocking down a whole neighborhood of houses that he purchased near his home.  It seems he cannot turn this neighborhood into his own private mega-estate.

Oh the feels!

Comrades, You are just not moving into your shared rabbit hutches fast enough!  You are failing to exult in the glories of communal living and repudiate the concept of private property.  This is getting in the way of Zuckerberg and friends from knocking down your old homes!  This can not do.  This will not do!

Go, Californian Comrades to your shared living spaces NOW!


Wichita Lineman - Glen Campbell

It is finally starting to feel like Fall now, my favorite time of year.  And it gets me into the mood to look back, remember, refresh then renew.  Ever since I was little, Fall always felt like the natural beginning of the new year.

The trees haven't turned yet but I can't wait for colored leaves.

This Glen Campbell song takes me back to my childhood and Fall seasons past in Alaska and Canada.  It reminds me of trips on the AlCan highway.  Talk about gorgeous, vast and sometimes a bit spooky.  Maybe one day I will see it all again.


Stranger Things

There was buzz about this Netflix show long before it even aired earlier this summer.  Netflix cannily marketed it as a Winona Ryder comeback vehicle since she was the 80s/90s go to face of the moment.  And that of course could only help a project that was paying "homage" to 70s, 80s, and 90s conspiracy films.  So the excitement was mostly about seeing her in a starring role.  Not to mention the fact that it was also a horror, science fiction, boy's adventure series.

When I was younger, I would have been all over this show.  But today, it took me awhile to finally getting around to watching it.  I binged watched it yesterday...all 8 hours of it.  So I'm a bit frazzled and can only give my quick, off the bat impressions of it.  But on the whole, I quite liked it.

Ostensibly the stars of the series were Winona Ryder and David Harbour with a big cameo by another 80s/90s "face" Matthew Modine.  Yes, Ryder has a large part but she wasn't the driver of this story.  The kids were the ones who were connected to everything.  They initiated the action.  Luckily the kids were well cast and acted well.

I think it is important to note that this show is not a period series like Mad Men.  It isn't about the culture of the 80s.  What it is, is an attempt to create a film or television show that could have been made in the 80s.  This is at the heart of what makes the series so enjoyable and yet at the same time so annoying.  All the actors (adults and kids) rise above the over used material to really make something of their characters.  However it gets to the point where it seems the show is just ticking off a list of greatest scenes to copy from older cultural landmarks.  Off the top the show copies/plagiarizes scenes from Carrie, The Fury, A Clockwork Orange, Halloween, Alien, Carpenter's The Thing, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Eraserhead, The Shining, Creepshow, Videodrome, Scanners, The Dead Zone, IT, Nightmare on Elm Street, Poltergeist, Gremlins, Stand by Me, Goonies, The Parallax View, E.T. (of course, of course), The Fog, Fright Night etc., etc.  It even calls to 90s fare such as X-Files and Twin Peaks.  The 00's weren't left out since it throws in a bit of The Ring.  Also to add into the overflowing kettle of call outs, the series quotes video games such as Doom, Resident Evil and Silent Hill.

I could add so much more copy bot stuff from other projects.

After awhile it can make you wonder if this show was original or really just a clever rehash of different scenes from different films.  I'm still trying to figure that out.  Hopefully since a second season was just announced, the series will now strike out on its own and leave behind the emulation tricks.

Still I have to admit, I had an enjoyable time watching it.  It captures the nuance of 70s/80s adventure films.  It has the same goofy logic mixed in with some hard action and sometimes thought provoking ideas.  It also had elements of horror that is perfect for the upcoming Halloween season.  I'm not going to touch on the conspiracy theory aspects such as MKULTRA etc.  There are better essays around the internet on that factor.  But I will say there is a lot of Alchemical imagery involved.

Is it worth subscribing to Netflix for a month or two to watch it?  YES.  Even more so if you were a kid of the 70s/80s.


Sarah Lane - Sleeping Beauty

A video posted by Sarah Lane (@sarahlaneps103) on

If you are in Paris during ABT's Sleeping Beauty run, do not miss Sarah Lane's gorgeous interpretation.  She is the only dancer who is period correct to the reproduction style.  See her dance on September 10 at 2:30pm at the Opera Bastille.


Conjuring 2

I have always been in the only person in my family and friends who loves horror films.  I've loved them ever since I was a kid even though I would scare the heck out of myself and end up hiding all my scary toys, records and pictures before I went to bed.  At one point, I would have bad dreams because of my childhood horror habit.  Then I learned how to fight my dream monsters.  It was loads of fun.  In my dreams I was a pint sized superhero fighting off zombies, werewolves, vampires, demons and ghouls.  To my great disappointment the loads of fun I was having ended abruptly because I stopped suffering nightmares.  It was only years later I learned the term for that kind of dream, it was called "Lucid Dreaming."  I never experienced it again in such a vivid way.  I dearly missed the ability to turn into any kind of person or animal I wanted to be in order to fight off monsters.  No longer did I have the cool ability to pick up useful objects out of thin air that I needed in my personal dream quests.

Anyway, I still love horror films and "Conjuring 2" did not disappoint.  I really enjoyed the first film as well.  In fact when I heard about the sequel, I just rolled my eyes.  There was no way they could exceed the first film.  But they did to my amazement.  This film matches its predecessor and many times tops it.

The film begins with a snippet from one of the Warren's investigations.  The first film intro was about the possessed Anabelle doll (a demonic looking Victorian porcelain doll in film but just a pedestrian Raggedy Ann doll in real life).  In this film we get a glimpse of the Amityville Horror in which the Lorraine Warren character reenacts the DeFeo crime while in a trance state and meets up with a demon.  James Wan and crowd cannily tie up the Anabelle story, the first Conjuring story, the Amityville segment and the Enfield case into one overall story arc.  I found that very impressive.

Moving on, the family in peril is living in England.  One of the first film's greatest strengths was how well it captured the 1970's time period.  More in particular the American 1970's.  Unfortunately, the filmmakers really don't know a great deal about the British 1970's experience.  To make up for that, they put up a hackneyed montage of 1970's moments from British television.  Which really convinces no one.  So at the beginning of the haunting story, all I could focus on was how phony and staged everything seemed.  The Enfield interiors/exteriors are almost entirely on a sound stage not on location.  If you want sprawling London set pieces ala An American Werewolf in London go elsewhere.  Fortunately, they had a large cast of talented adult and child actors, so I was quickly pulled into the story.

This film is decidedly darker in tone than the first.  The family in the first film was well adjusted and rather happy.  So what happens to them is a shock.  However the fatherless and working poor family in this film are in danger regardless of supernatural stalkers.  I've read one review that the series greatest element was the Warren couple and how much they love one another.  I agree, these films work because the Warrens are so likable and so in love.  It is this mutual love that protects the lost family in this film. Another great factor of these films is how leisurely they set up the scene.  There is no rush to ghost monsters but a slow buildup of occurrences until no one involved can explain them away or ignore them.  This also helps with characterization.  The audience knows the characters very well and are allowed to actually care for their safety.

Are there some cheesy missteps in the film?  Yes, there were some elements that took me out of the story.  But nothing that destroyed the film as a whole.  I think the horror is well done, a lot of good creepy scares and images to keep you awake at night.  I recommend it and look forward to the next installment of the series.


Late Season Mix

A few tracks that I'm listening to during the waning summer season.


Sarasota Ballet - Joyce Theater

I had purchased my ticket to see Sarasota Ballet months ago.  But I never thought that I would have to travel on one of the hottest days of the summer.  It was brutal and I seriously considered just missing the performance.  But this company has received such lovely notices for their appearance at the Joyce this week that I felt I would be missing something special.  So I slogged my way into NYC and braved the heat wave.

Sarasota Ballet has found a niche for themselves as the foremost interpreters of  Sir Frederick Ashton's ballets.  They specialize in forgotten gems that don't see too many performances.  Hence their program at the Joyce consisted of Aston's Valses Nobles Et Sentimentales, Tweedledum and Tweedledee, The Walk to Paradise Garden, Jazz Calendar/Friday's Child, Sinfonietta/2nd Movement and Facade.

Valses Nobles Et Sentimentales was beautiful and dreamy.  It brought back the mood of the 1940s when it was choreographed.  It had a lot of signature Ashton moves that the company danced beautifully.  Everyone was fully classical, no over extensions, with lovely expressive bodies.  There times I thought I was watching dancers from the golden age of RB when Fonteyn and Shearer were still dancing.  Sarasota has many beautiful female dancers who have the looks and style of mid-20th century dancers.  The ones who stood out were Nicolle Padilla, Elizabeth Sykes and the lead Victoria Hulland.

Tweedledum and TweedleDee was a short piece that was mainly a duo for two male dancers.  It was sweet and light.  Maybe a bit too frothy compared to the rest of the program.  But I enjoyed it.  The two main dancers, Sam O'Brien and Kyle Hiyoshi  acted the parts wonderfully.

The Walk to Paradise Garden was lovely if a bit of a wet blanket among the pieces danced.  A tone poem on Romeo and Juliet, it was about star crossed lovers who are ultimately separated by death.  It was gentle and sensual.  Ryoko Sadoshima was lovely in the lead part.  Ricardo Rhodes partnered her beautifully.  Rhodes is one of those dancers who embodies the 21st century style, lean, long with gorgeous extensions.  Usually these dancers have a hard time with pas de deux because their physiques don't have a lot of upper body strength.  But this was not a problem for Rhodes.  The tricky lifts in this ballet posed no problem for him.

Jazz Calendar/Friday's Child was pure 1960s and it showed its age.  But that didn't mean I didn't like it.  The late 60s to the 70's was the world of my babyhood.  So watching this ballet was like peeking into my childhood a bit.  This ballet was more of a vanity piece for Rudolf Nureyev.  So many of the steps had both the male dancer and female dancer mirroring steps.  There was a lot of sexuality to it as well.  Amy Wood and Edward Gonzalez danced this very nicely with perfect jazzy looseness in their bodies.

Sinfonietta/2nd Movement had a lot of influence of Monotones.  This was another piece that seemed a bit out of place with the other offerings.  It was spare and rather intellectual compared to the rest of the ballets.  There was no warmth to it.  There was a note in the playbill that it was supposed to remind the audience of birds.  I suppose this was because the female dancer hardly touches the stage.  She is maneuvered around by a series of lifts between 5 male dancers.  However the music was rather sinister and the dancers didn't remind me of birds.  The piece reminded me more of a Queen insect with her drones.  But there were very memorable images from the ballet.  At one point the female dancer is swung by her male partners over the audience.  The dance forms are also strictly classical.  I was glad to see the Sarasota performers not trying to make much of the simple steps but just letting spareness reveal its own beauty.

Facade, the one ballet in the program that is regularly performed all over the world was extremely fun and the dancers acted their parts well.  My favorite dancers of the previous works, Nicole Padilla and Elizabeth Sykes had larger parts.  Sam O'Brien and Kyle Hiyoshi were back as a team but this time dancing the roles of dandies.  Kate Honea and Ricardo Graziano were a very funny Tango team.

I was so glad that I was able to see the Sarasota on their NY tour.  I'm hoping they will be able to come back with more Ashton treasures in their repertoire.  My only complaint was that the Joyce stage was just not large enough for them.  I think many of their pieces needed a bigger space.  Plus being so close to them during performance broke the mood of some of the works, Valses Nobles especially.  Many of the pieces need the female dancers to look serene and distance plus space creates that impression.  When you are face up close as you are at the Joyce, you can see the dancers' muscles working, straining and quivering.  You can see the sweat on all the dancers.  Maybe this sold out run will convince sponsors to put the company up on a bigger stage next time they visit NYC.