Monday, March 23, 2009


Joey is in the rear. Not the greatest picture, but I am so proud of him.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


In the morning, I shall create
a new daddy
not tired from folding five loads
picking up dozens of legos
dozens of ball bearings,
dozens of g. i. joes
hiding in the corners.
Untangling gamecube cords
and electric cords
and dvd player cords.
And why is there half-eaten sandwich
under the couch!
There will be no morning struggle
And, NO, you can’t take the gecko to school
and wait, wait. . .here’s your homework.
Why is my son wearing an orange shirt
with green pants, and socks of different hues?
Oh well, we don’t have time,
Get in the car.
Stop fighting. I said, stop fighting.
Ok, have a good day, I love you both.

Monday, March 16, 2009


Here is a link to a really short video (stolen from my ex-wife when she placed it online) of Joey dancing two years ago. There is another of him online, a little longer.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


This past Friday the Columbia Classical Ballet presented OZ. Directed by Radenko Pavlovich and choreographed by Simone Cuttino, the company continued its record of fine dancing in the pursuit of providing Columbia with quality ballet. The night performance was sold out (I think, or nearly so), which is quite an achievement when considering all the competition available for the entertainment dollar. Yet, I was a little disappointed in the show, probably the first time I could say this about any CCB production I have attended.

First, in the spirit of openness, I admit that I am not an experienced ballet reviewer, so my criticisms come from a rank amateur. I also am awed by the ability and physicality of these dancers (standing offstage watching them dance is an amazing treat), and I really enjoy attending the dances. My son has danced for Pavlovich for several years now, and this was his second appearance in this particular production (having also been part of several Nutcrackers and Robin Hood). I like Pavlovich personally and recognize his value to the community and to the young dancers he brings under his wing; I support efforts of the company to the best of my ability. Furthermore, I enjoy and have gotten to know many of the dancers. CCB provides a great stepping stone for many careers.

The dancing in OZ, of course, was inspirational. Kaleena Burks, as Dorothy, was wonderful throughout the production. I especially liked her open-armed twirls, such as when she came onto the stage in Scene 3. Peter Matkaicsek and Zoltan Boros were very good as the Scarecrow and Cowardly Lion, respectively. I thought young Journy Wilkes-Davis was excellent as the Tin Man---I suspect he has a great career in store for him. Oleksandr Vykhrest is quite impressive as Oz. Akari Manabe, besides being beautiful and a very nice person, is a wonderful dancer. . .she practically beams when she is on stage. She was Glinda; and she looked great in orange (in the rainbow scene) too. My friends Waldilei Goncalves and Renata Franco (in several roles each) were wonderful as well. I think this was one of the best performances put on by Waldilei since he has been in Columbia; he soared in several scenes (and he is not the tallest dancer). Lauren Frere is simply too pretty to be the Wicked Witch! (She just doesn’t seem "mean" enough, but she sure dances well). There were a lot of other good performances, too many to mention----Kaori Yanagida is great.

Act One was much stronger of the two parts. I wish that they could have dressed one of those little tykes in a doggy suit and let him/her run across the stage a few times with Dorothy a-chasing; Toto is totally missing (other than being alluded to with the basket and collar) in the production. The opening scenes are solid and colorful and inviting. The visionary/conman aspect of Professor Marvel does not really come through, but Vykhrest is expressive and playful in his dance. One thing that somewhat bothered me was the sense that they really didn’t know what to do with Marvel/Oz. . .it seemed they wanted to make his relationship with Dorothy a love affair.

Something was just a little off in the Muchkinland scene. There should have been a bit more "happiness" and movement. The outfits were beautiful, though. The last Nutcracker had a lot more motion in their use of the kids. The little bumblebee captured the most "ahhhs" from the audience. I realize that this portion is where the company shoehorns younger members into the production in hopes of giving them time on the stage and to showcase a little of what they have been working at, largely to keep the parents happy. I wasn’t too happy, though, with my son’s role. [Parent Alert!] The only person on the stage who had fewer dance steps was the Wicked Witch of the East, and she was dead flat on her back.

The "poppy" dance was my favorite scene. The red dresses were eye-catching. One minor quibble, however---the Tin Man and Scarecrow did not fall asleep in the poppy field, as best that I can remember. It would have made more sense if they had run off to get help from Glinda, or danced around in trepidation.

Act 2 seemed to start off badly and went downhill from there. Supposedly the Dorothy entourage arrives at Emerald City, but the backdrop indicates that it is actually far off in the distance (all of the backdrops, however, were very nicely done). They are supposed to be joyously, or at least happily, greeted in a colorful, wondrous way, but one does not get much sense of this. I am not sure why (possibly financial), but the fairies are all dressed in pink and tan outfits. . .where is the sparkling color? I expected that there would be lots of greens (somewhere along the visually attractive poppy scene) and spakling shininess. And then we also come to that section where Oz and Dorothy "feel an instant connection". Excuse me, but. . . .isn't that the slightest bit creepy to anyone?

The attack of the flying monkeys is nicely danced, though the outfits looked a little too much like mice, and were "cute" rather than menacing. Further troubling to me were the splashes of white attached to the dancers' bottoms, which in the darker scenes and against the black costumes (at least from where I was sitting) made the monkeys look more like mice/rabbits, since the eye immediately went to the white (well, maybe it was just my eye). I was told that this was intentional so that people could see that the monkeys had tails, but I just don’t buy it. It looked as if the tails were coming loose and stuffing was popping out. In the next scene the Wicked Witch tries to transform herself into Dorothy (yuck. . .was that in the book? I can’t remember). Then a fight ensues in which Dorothy slays WWW as she is trying to kill Oz. Returning to the Emerald City (or not to the city, depending on how it appears) there should have been raucous joy. . .but there really isn’t.

I was also a little put off by most of the music, too (except for the choice for the rainbow scene). I especially didn’t like the use of the sorcerer’s music from Mickey Mouses’ Fantasia (as you can see, what a classical music putz am I, but what do I know?). A few more props, particularly in the EC scene, possible off to the sides, would have helped. Maybe if they had been able to have some false buildings off to the side in the Emerald City scenes.

Overall, though, I thought OZ was a nice performance and the dancing itself was great. Now, I know most people are familiar with the movie version, while still others still read the books. And dance is a different art medium, and much leeway has to be given to artistic interpreatation. Still, it bothered me when I heard a couple of little girls turn to their mother/chaperone and declare, "I didn’t like it." How can anyone not like OZ? Maybe some tweaking is in store for a future presentation, because clearly the Columbia community was willing to come out to see it and support ballet.

Monday, March 9, 2009


Cowbird was widely disliked. Dishonest, lazy, egotistical, and an embarrassment; he refused societal rules, stole and schemed, drained society. He bullied neighbors, battered mates, and bruised offspring. Nevertheless, he thought himself genius, lived off weaker companions, deluded himself. He directed his eggs be deposited in other nests. After chicks hatched, were raised, and took wing, Cowbird trumpeted fatherhood despite having contributed nothing but seed. Once he spied a cozy nest and had an egg added. Weeks later he was astonished to discover the nest abandoned. Cowbird asked around, animals just sneered. A year or so later he heard mockingbirds gossiping. They sang about an unusual cowbird who was a delight, polite and helpful, an upstanding citizen. Cowbird was alarmed that any self-respecting cowbird would be described so, and determined to see for himself. He was dumbfounded when he discovered the story was true. The fledgling was his! He trumpeted his "rights" to have him returned. Surprisingly, though, a host rose up and blocked him. Cowbird protested loudly, but they refused to budge. Frustrated, he flew off, with laughter and derision following his retreat; still, he declared he would prevail. But his every scheme was rebuffed and the youngster grew up a responsible, contributing fowl. Cowbird obsessed about his failure. One day he noticed a blackbird smirking. Angrily, he insisted he speak his mind. Raven obliged: "Next time, don’t put your egg in Owl’s nest."

Thursday, March 5, 2009


I was watching my son playing on the computer, as I picked up Neil Gaiman and Michael Reave's InterWorld. For some reason I decided to start reading it aloud, possibly in the hope that he might listen. Boy, did I nail that one. I had not read much past the first chapter (to which he was obviously listening) when he was sitting on the end of the bed, and not much more before he was reading the lines on the pages as I spoke them (even correcting me a few times). About halfway through he commented, "Boy, this Gaiman is really a good writer." From then on into was no chore to get him finished with necessary things in order to read the next installment. I wonder if I am doing the right thing, steering him deeper into the fantasy/sci-fi world, but I want to engage him and continue to keep him reading.

I enjoyed the story almost as much as he did. Joey Harker discovers that there are an almost infinite number of earths, and that he (and numerous alternate versions of himself) plays a cental role in the fate of the universes. He has a special ability that draws a host on nasty villians down upon him, and he struggles with some of the normal concerns a teenager might have, especially if under major stress. The story is a bit egotistical and fantastical, but it is delightful nonetheless. Gaiman employs some elements from other books, such as the flying pirate ships (I still chuckle when I think about the turn De Niro had as a cross-dressing sky pirate in the movie version of Gaiman's Stardust). I don't think this book is his most challenging, but it is very good for a youngster. I must admit that I had some trouble with the science and wording at times. I will also add that I got the feeling that the editors let the authors down, because there simply were too many grammatical and spelling errors in the latter 1/4 of the book; it seems that whoever was responsible for that fell down on the job. Still, the minor errors were easily passed over. I believe that there will be a sequel. No doubt my son would love that too. I am wondering if he can handle some of the stronger stuff Gaiman writes. I am going to read his recent Graveyard book and see if it will be appropriate for Joey. I hope so.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


This afternoon, flying high on the thermals rising (no doubt from the political oratory) from the state capitol building, a huge hawk circled and floated. Occasionally some smaller bird would flutter its way up and harass the larger foe, but the hawk just floated a bit higher, as if not to be bothered. It was an enormous bird, larger than any other I have seen around here. You often spy hawks throughout Forest Acres and along the river, but this one would have rivaled an eagle in size. He seemed to glow like burnished bronze, though sometimes the sun went right through his wings (lighter brown). He didn't appear to be hunting, though no doubt he is a scourge upon the squirrel population on the grounds of the capitol and nearby university. They are majestic, beautiful raptors and I love to watch them.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


On Friday last I took the boys to see a University of South Carolina production of the experimental play, Action, performed at Longstreet Theater. It was their first time in the facility, with its theater in the round. I had been there before, but don't recall the seats being that small. They hemmed and hawed about being dragged to a play ("boring," Joey insisted), but after some arm-twisting, and a little speech about the importance of being exposed to many different styles of art, they relented. In the end, they said it was "so-so", but they did pay attention and they even laughed at some of the material, so I took it for a victory. I really want to take them to a musical.

Since the playwright, Paul Zimet, prefaced the show by noting that the presentation was a work in progress, I will give him and the company a little slack. The play promises action, and there was a pretty good deal of that, but overall I was not that impressed. However, I thought the actors and musicians did a good job. There were some nice and humorous moments, but I tend to like a story narratively told, rather than a mismatch of scenes. Why use kitchen bowls and grill rack as instruments, when small ship bells would have been more condusive to the nautical theme? A judicious use of a foghorn would have helped, I think. The premise that the ship overbooked and forced men and women to bunk together was a bit weak. The song that keeps popping up was catchy. The theme of using the "words" (such as erase, unpack, crumple. . .), I think took away from the flow of the story. The projections on the backdrop (which to me looked more like the outide of the ship, rather than the inside) did not often mesh well with the story, as in the section visualizing the woman on a balcony, and weren't effective. More effective, for me, was the beach scene. The audience, and my sons, really enjoyed the dancing scenes. They, and I frankly, were confused by the use of the balloons, but it was comical. I think they also need to find a smoother way to change scenes. The "bad day" scene was interesting, but seemed somehow out of place, although it preceeded the overall really bad day for the crew and passengers. If this is truly a South American cruise, the playwright might also consider casting some Latin Americans, perhaps as crewmen. I liked the use of the plastic to simulate the female passengers in the water. I also might suggest the inclusion of a "floating body" as a means to convey the seriousness of the situation. The man in the black plastic bag in one scene (a harbinger perhaps) really threw me off. . .what was that about?

So, I would say, that there is promise, but also much work to do to make this a truly appealing work.