28 December 2010

Can the Feast of the Holy Innocents be tragic and romantic simultaneously?

You bet.

Today, according to the calendar of the Roman Catholic Church, is the Feast of the Holy Innocents.  The feast commemorates the gospel story of King Herod's murdering of all young boys under the age of two in the vicinity of Bethlehem in an attempt to kill the newborn king about whom he had been told by the Magi on their way to pay him homage (Matthew 2:16). 

(I'm pretty sure, it's only at Christmas time when one uses the phrase "pay him homage"!  We need more homage paying the rest of the year, I believe.)

So, the tragic part of my blog's title question is pretty obvious, "but how's this in any way romantic?," I hear you asking. 

Well, on our honeymoon in late May/early June 1988, Martha and I went to the annual Spoleto Arts Festival in Charleston, South Carolina, at which one of the many excellent performances we attended was a new production by the Ensemble for Early Music of the Twelfth-Century musical drama from the Fleury Play Book," Herod and the Innocents -- in Latin -- at St. Patrick's Catholic Church!

Honeymoon memories of a wonderful trip and remarkable performances...Now THAT'S romantic!


23 December 2010

The word of the day is PRIORITIES

Sure, the tree remains undecorated, but the struffoli is made (by younger daughter and me...with excellent advice from the wife).

It's almost Christmas!

A Little Christmas Heresy

My latest blog for Blue-eyes.com...a take on Sinatra's recordings of Christmas carols

One of the best Christmas quotes EVER

...from the Head soundtrack album by the Monkees:

Frank Zappa: "That song was pretty white."

Mike Nesmith: "I'll tell you something else, the same thing goes for Christmas!

Crowd gasps.

19 December 2010

I think I've got "That Holiday Feeling" now!

     I've never understood the demise of the Bing Crosby/Perry Como/Andy Williams-type of Christmas special.  They were special (the only time all year you'd see them); they were cost-effective (a few wintry sets with fake snow and lots of candles), and they were straightforward (a hour of singing songs of the season).  They always happened in December (no matter how early Thanksgiving came!), they manged to evoke Christmas memories from kids from one to 92 (whether they had memories to evoke or not), and, most importantly of all, they signaled that Christmas was indeed coming.
      Well, just that signal has been sent by Playhouse on Park with their cabaret That Holiday Feeling that closed this afternoon.  Directed and choreographed by Darlene Zoller, with musical direction by Colin Britt, the show intentionally and successfully brought back a flood of memories of my own watching Bing and Perry and Andy with my parents in the 60s and 70s.  (Confession: I always wanted to be Nathaniel Crosby).
     Singing a wonderful collection of familiar and not-so familiar songs, the talented cast of nine performers manged to be sentimental and funny and lyrical and sweet without ever becoming saccharine (or succumbing to the times' seemingly inescapable need for irony).
               Kevin Barlowski's funny "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas"
               Dante Jeanfelix's energized "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year"
               Jenna Levitt's "River" (a song new to me, and, while not a new favorite, sung wonderfully)  
               Rick Fountain's mousy performance of "Rockin' Around the Christmas 'Cheese'" (despite not being able to sing most of his other numbers due to laryngitis)
               the male quartet of Kevin, Dante, Rick and Colin on the very witty pseudo-union-protest song "Elf's Lament"
and my personal favorite of the afternoon
          Becky LaBombard's "Christmas Stays the Same" (another song new to me but one that captured the show's ethos so perfectly and delivered with such warm sincerity that I wanted it to be reprised at program's end instead of the title song).
     These favorites should in no way suggest that remaining cast members (Carolyn Bell, Carolyn Cumming, Hillary Ekwall, and Victoria Thornsbury) somehow didn't deliver on such winning tunes as "Santa Baby," "Man Wanted," "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus, and "I'll be Home for Christmas, respectively, but, if every number's a highlight, then none is, of course.
     In sum: from start to finish, my younger daughter and I enjoyed ourselves tremendously and wished, as we were leaving the theater, that it had been snowing.  Bing, after all, would have wanted it that way.
     Here's one vote in favor of a Playhouse on Park cabaret becomes a holiday tradition.      

I wordled Sinatra!

This word cloud was generated from the introduction to Sinatra: But Buddy I'm a Kind of Poem (Entasis Press, 2008).

An Ava Gardner Cloud!

A cloud of the introduction to my anthology Ava Gardner: Touches of Venus (Entasis Press, 2010)!

17 December 2010

Let the Holidays begin!

1. Semester grading is finished.
2. Much Christmas shopping is already done
3. Two (more) holiday parties this weekend.
4. Once Upon a Mattress at Classical Magnet tomorrow.
5. That Holiday Feeling at Playhouse on Park on Sunday.
6. I have no chairing responsibilities anymore.
7. See #1 again.

Glad tidings of great joy!

13 December 2010

Sinatra: Verse versus Biography (Happy Birthday 2010)

Here's my Blue-Eyes.com blog in honor of Francis Albert's 95th Birthday!

Check out the book, David Lloyd's The Gospel According to Frank (New American Press).

12 December 2010

"It's a Wonderful Life" 2010

Zuzu Bailey (in George's arms near the Xmas tree): Look, Daddy, teacher says that whenever a bells rings an angel gets her bra and panty set.

George Bailey: That's right, Sweetie; that's right.  (Hugs Zuzu tighter.)  Way to go, Clarence!  (George winks.)

11 December 2010

Quick takes on Xmas

1. We bought our tree and got it in its stand in the house in just over an hour (a new record)!  We'll decorate it within the next week.  (Christmas is coming...)

2. I don't expect much from a Salvation Army keeper of a kettle, but, if I'm gonna put any money at all in there, I do expect a little bell-ringing and a "Merry Christmas."

3. The holiday films and music videos that Comcast has "On Demand" are just pathetic.

4. And, y'know, "Xmas" isn't taking Christ out of Christmas at all; its origins are the first two Greek letters of the name "Christ": Chi (X) and Rho (P)...which you may have seen in any number of places superimposed, as they are here:

05 December 2010

Which BLANK are you?

Paradoxically, perhaps, the more time I spend on Facebook, the less in touch with almost everything I seem.  As Fb-ers know, there are all of these little "tests" that one can take and share ("Which Beatle are you?" "Which Hogwarts teacher are you?" "Which Star Wars Episode II character are you?" "Which Stieg Larsson girl are you?", etc...), none of which I really know enough to care about...well, except the Beatles one, and then I'm either Pete Best or Cynthia Lennon, so who cares?

I wish I had whatever technical knowledge one needs to create my own tests, but then I realize mine would surely be the ones no one else would take:

Which Cotton Mather opus are you? (7 possibilties depending upon how you answer the questions): The Magnalia Christi Americana, The Biblia Americana, The Christian Philosopher, The Wonders of the Invisible World,  Bonifacius, or Manductio as Ministerium


Which minor pop performer are you?: Toni Basil, Nick Gilder, Gilbert O'Sullivan, Sanford and Townsend, the 1910 Fruitgum Company


Which Montefusco are you?: The father, the mother, the priest son, the daughter married to the non-Italian, the non-Italian...

Well, you get the idea.  For the time being I'll just keep not taking the quizzes and not making up any of my own...

well, except maybe "Which Sinatra album are you?"

28 November 2010

Re: Derek Jeter and the Yankees

Pete Rose was 37 in 1978 when he left the Cincinnati Reds as Captain of a multi-World-Series-winning team.  In 1980, he helped the Philadelphia Phillies win their first World Series. 

Derek Jeter may not be "worth" the money he wants, but the Yankees would let him go elsewhere at their own peril.

21 November 2010

"White Christmas: The Musical": A Review

If one starts with the premise that White Christmas, the movie, isn't half the film that Holiday Inn is, it's much easier to understand that any stage musical based upon the remake will have inherent weaknesses, no matter the strength of the performances.

And so it is with the production of Irving Berlin's White Christmas that just closed at the Bushnell in Hartford: many nice performances of several Irving Berlin songs (some great, some good, and some just okay) that don't coalesce into a full-bodied musical that I'd want to see repeatedly -- the hallmark, I feel, of how a musical should make one feel! 

So, I enjoyed it, but I have just a few scattered comments:

The acting was solid across the board, but the book didn't demand nor encourage much texture in the characters.  My younger daughter and I were taken most by Ruth Williamson's Martha Watson and Erick Devine's General Waverly.  ("Everyone already thinks we are married; we fight all the time and don't have sex!")  Denis Lambert's Phil Davis seemed to get to have the most fun, and he looked to be taking full advantage.

The tap dancing in "I Love a Piano" and "Happy Holidays/Let Yourself Go" was terrific.  The show could've used even more. 

The dancing of "The Best Things Happen While You're Dancing" worked, while in "Blue Skies" (perhaps the best Berlin song in the whole musical), the choreography seemed tired.  (Indeed bringing in the General, Martha, and Susan for comic relief several times in the midst of it seemed to suggest that even the choreographer realized it couldn't stand on its own.) 

Both versions of "Sisters" (first by Amy Bodnar and Shannon M. O'Bryan and then John Scherer and Mr. Lambert) were quite fun, although two short both times. 

My favorite performance of the afternoon -- the trio by Bodnar, O'Bryan, and Williamson, of "Falling Out of Love Can be Fun" was great, although I must admit to being disappointed that, when she came in toward the end of the song, the young lady who played Susan Waverly didn't prove that she was "born with it" right then and there! 

"Let Me Sing and I'm Happy" is the showstopper of the belter Williamson, and she delivered. 

Bodnar's "Love, You Didn't Do Right By Me" was less successful, however...sounding forced and not effectively torchy.

The ensemble's "Snow" played very well, as did Mr. Scherer's "Count Your Blessings."

And, ANY show that uses "I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm" (even if only for the curtain call) is okay by me.

The real downside, in my opinion, is that, having seen Irving Berlin's White Christmas today (11/2110), I guess the holiday season has begun -- even before Thanksgiving.  And THAT, no matter what the stores want us to think, is NEVER a good thing.

I want to be more excited than I am, but I take comfort in the hope that a screening of Holiday Inn is in my not-too-distant future!

18 November 2010

I can't believe this song didn't become popular again during the long ordeal of the miners...

...in Chile!

There's a free screening of "All The President's Men" (1976) tomorrow at 2 PM at CCSU...

..which brings up three distinct Watergate memories for me:

In April 1973, on a visit to Washington DC with other 6th-Graders from Guardian Angels School from Cincinnati, Ohio, while going past the Watergate Apartments, our tour guide offered, "and here's that place you've been hearing so much about on the evening news!"  [Evening news?!! Doesn't THAT sound dated?]

In the late spring and summer of 1974, coming home from school and watching the hearings with my mom, while she ironed, and cooked, and cleaned.  Committee members Ervin, Baker (my personal fav), Inouye, and Weicker I knew almost as well as Rose and Bench and Perez and Concepcion.

When the film version of All The President's Men was released in 1976, the entire student body and faculty of The Covington Latin School marched down Madison Avenue in Covington, Ky  to the Madison Theater because ATPM was deemed an important film for us all to see.*

I'm pretty sure I've seen the film several times since, but I'm looking forward very much to tomorrow afternoon!  (And my affection for the film also explains how a mid-70s film made the cut in a "classic" Fridays film series...not that great films weren't made in the '70s -- and beyond -- but, to my mind, there'll always be something special about a movie from before, say, 1963!)

*The school had done this once before for Godspell (1973) and would do it again in 1982 or '83, when I was a faculty member, when Gandhi was released (which wasn't nearly as good as either of the earlier films.  That Richard Attenborough's just overrated).

12 November 2010

My post for Blue-eyes.com (11/08/10)


My blog post for Blue-eyes.com (10/25/10)


My blog post for Blue-Eyes.com (10/12/10)


"Sisters, Sisters".... A review of "Brighton Beach Memoirs"

A theatre goer goes to Brighton Beach Memoirs for Eugene (the 15-year-old version of the playwright Neil Simon) and 1) his witty takes on the older generation, 2) his youthful love of sports, 3) his admiration of his brother, Stanley, and 4) his persistent annoyance at the preferential treatment of his "sick" cousin Laurie; and 5) his innocent lust after his cousin Nora.  One remembers BBM, however, for the relationship between the mother, Kate, and her sister, Blanche. 

As directed by Cie Peterson, and brought to life by a cast talented from top to bottom, the production that opened last night at Playhouse on Park meets those expectations fully. 

Matt Macca delivers a nicely straightforward and likable Eugene, endearing in his innocence and humor.  Jack (Robert Resnikoff) is the father everyone would want to have (or want to be): respected and loved and even heeded...a family man, who never quits, and is able to react to crises emotionally while still conscious of keeping his sights on the bigger picture.  (And, to my ear, sounding ever so much like Alan Arkin, and that's not a complaint.)  Stanley (Sam Duffy), Nora (Carolyn Cumming), and Laurie (Hollis Long) help fill out a family that we can enjoy, care about, and cheer for as the various troubles mount in this slice of 1937.

The focus, despite everything that would seem to want to draw our attention elsewhere, however, falls squarely on the sisters, played wonderfully by Jan Neuberger and Heidi Jean Weinrich.  It's hard not to feel the ties of having grown up together, having faced the early death of Blanche's husband together, and raising their children under the same small roof together.  It's hard not to feel the love, the respect, the envy, and the tension that charges their interactions, both trivial and momentous.  It suggests that the recent study connecting happiness and having a sister is undoubtedly true. 

Neuberger's Kate also has a very convincing rapport with Macca's Eugene.  She is able to convey her stern and, at times, irrational maternal insistence that Eugene "just write quietly" outside so as not to disturb his father even as she offers glimpses of the recognition of her younger son's wit and brains.

As a play, of course, Brighton Beach Memoirs is no Equus.  But any play that can offer the following line (probably misquoted here!) in a way that both provokes a laugh and the recognition of its essential, inescapable, and enduring truth is well worth any effort it takes to attend:

"Don't torment yourself, that's what mothers and fathers are supposed to do.


11 November 2010

The top five ways you can tell I'm not a hip man of a certain age

5.  I think only those who can tie a bow tie should be wear a bow tie.

4.  "When it was hip to be hep, I was hep."  ("I'm Hip" by Dave Frischberg)

3.  You say, "P. Diddy or Jay-Z," to which I reply, "I'm sorry, THE PIPS."

2.  I air-guitar to the Carpenter's "Goodbye to Love."

1.  I have a favorite Jose Feliciano song, but it's the theme from Chico and the Man.

28 October 2010

And "they" say the media doesn't influence people....

The most interesting thing I learned at the Yale Music Library today was unrelated to what I was researching.

HERE IT IS: did you know that, according to a 1969 Rolling Stone Magazine item, prior to the release of the classic 1967 Bobbi Gentry song "Ode to Billie Joe," few, if any, people had ever tried committing suicide by jumping off the Tallahatchie Bridge (mostly because it's not that high and would be fairly difficult to hurt oneself by the leap). 

After the song became popular, however, so many folks started jumping that they had to institute a fine to leapers.  As Rolling Stone put it: "If you are unlucky enough not to die, you have to pay $100."

07 October 2010

If wishes were horses...

It was the Spring of 1978, in my freshman year at Xavier University, in the required composition II/intro to lit course that I first encountered Equus by Peter Shaffer.

My having just read Oedipus the King for the same class, as well as being in the second semester of elementary (classical) Greek at a Jesuit university, amounted to pretty much of a perfect storm for being overwhelmed/attracted to/seduced by this contemporary tragedy with a classical feel and, more importantly, a classical impact.  A psychiatrist, as he tries to uncover the reason for a teen's unspeakable act of blinding six horses, uncovers just as much about himself and the high cost of normalcy.  Equus is what I remember to be the first piece of literature that, once I started it, I couldn't put it down.

I'm pretty sure that, somewhere along the way, I must have seen the Sidney Lumet film with Richard Burton and Colin Firth, but my first chance to see a staging of Equus came last night at Playhouse on Park in West Hartford.  I had to leave watching the historic no-hitter that the Philadelphia Phillies' Roy Halladay was in the process of throwing against my Cincinnati Reds in the playoffs, but, I have to admit, it was well worth it

(Quick aside: I cannot believe, as I discovered during my drive to the theatre, that the local ESPN Radio affiliate -- AM 1410 -- was NOT airing the Cincinnati/Philadelphia game, choosing instead to air its usual local sports talk show!  Oy.)

With an excellent cast, led by powerful performances by Alan Rust (Dr. Martin Dysart) and Hartt School student Mark Ford (Alan Strang), and under the strong direction of Robert H. Davis, the script that grabbed me so long ago has finally fulfilled its promise for me in this first-rate production. 

Everything clicks here: the caring judge (Nora Chester) who convinces Dysart to take on the patient, the tentative-turned-trusting relationship between doctor and patient,  the conflicted and in-conflict parents (Terry Layman and Denise Walker), the girl who never quite gets Alan -- in any way (played with a knowing innocence by another Hartt student Jill Mason), the original score/sound designed composed by yet another Hartt student Noah Kaufman, and, not insignificantly, the nuanced performances of the horses (especially Hartt student Charles South as Nugget).  There's simply not a false note struck here in the 2 1/2 hours. 

The play never pulls its punches, and neither does this production, keeping faithful to the playwright's vision with the Greek-inspired horse masks and cothurni hooves (and, yes, the nudity).  Appropriately, the Playhouse recommends this only for those 16 and older.

A beautifully written play, elegantly staged, with honest performances: it's why one goes to see live theatre. 

Equus runs through the 17th of October at Playhouse on Park.


04 October 2010

My title may be obvious, but "HOW TO" Succeeds!

The last production of the 2010 season at the Goodspeed Opera House, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, does exactly what the Goodspeed does better than almost anybody: take a wonderfully smart (the book won the 1962 Pulitzer) and eminently singable musical, and with a great cast, sharp choreography, and clever staging, bring its audience to a different place (albeit not too distant from our own).

Ambition, envy, greed, lust, vanity, stupidity, and (although it's not a "mortal sin") mediocrity run rampant through World Wide Wickets, Inc., and the audience is more than pleased to be along for the ride as J. Pierrepont Finch starts at the bottom and "works" his way to the executive suite. 

The 1961 musical may be dated in some ways (although what's still that earning gap between men and women?), the songs by Frank Loesser are as witty and tuneful as ever: the title song, "Brotherhood of Man," "Happy to Keep to His Dinner Warm," "Paris Original," "A Secretary is Not a Toy," "Been a Long Day," "Grand Old Ivy" (perhaps the best fight song of a  non-existent university ever), and, of course, "I Believe in You" (undeniably the best love song ever sung by a character to himself!).

The cast, led by Brian Sears (Finch), Natalie Bradshaw (Pilkington), Ronn Carroll (Biggley), Nicolette Hart (LaRue), and Tom Deckman (Frump), is top notch -- especially Mr. Deckman's Frump whose performance should be studied by every serious acting student.  If ever a performer took the concept that "all acting is reacting," it is Mr. Deckman, who, even in the midst of the rousing choreography and ensemble singing of the climactic "Brotherhood," continued to convey all the envy and bewilderment that the boss's nephew must have been feeling as his plans come crashing down upon him.  (The Goodspeed always has many wonderful performances in each of its shows, including this one, but this season-ticket-holder  is hard-pressed to think of a single one better than Mr. Deckman's here.)

Greg Ganakas's direction, Michael O'Flaherty's musical direction (including kazoos at one point), and Kelli Barclay's choreography all sparkle, and to this reviewer there were no missteps.  (Well, okay, one small one...did Mr. Sears's speaking voice have to sound so much like Matthew Broderick's?)

The show runs through November 28th.  Get there before it closes.    

03 October 2010

So, I've been meaning to write something more thoughtful about Josh Hilberman's...

...tap show, Heeling Powers: Rhythms of the Left Brain, that played at Playhouse on Park on 25 Saturday 2010, so here goes.

The show featured Mr. Hilberman and his remarkable accompanist Paul Arslanian, with additional support from a trio of tappers "Schwab's Mob" (Melissa Bias, Kathryn Holtzclaw, and Jennifer Williams), and their leader, Lynn Schwab, and was a true tour de force.

In the talk back that followed the performance, Mr. Hilberman referred to the show as a retrospective or a greatest hits package, and indeed the show highlighted many different styles (from the loose tap approach of Brenda Bufalino to tapping while playing the ukelele to his tapping in women's high-heeled shoes ! -- not to mention the witty talk in between numbers, which allowed him to catch a breath and change his shoes). 

The nine tap numbers featured choreography by Paul Draper/Dean Diggins, the aforementioned Ms. Bufalino, James "Buster" Brown, and Leon Collins, as well as Hilberman himself.   In addition, two of the numbers, "On the Street Where You Live" and  "Charade" were true jazz improvisations with Hilberman and Arslanian riffing off one another in call-and-response duets.  Another improvistation, with Ms. Schwab this time, on "Cappella Josh" (the basic routine of which, we understand, is HUGE in Barcelona) was equally deft in its interplay between dancers.

The show also highlighted not just different tap techniques but the vast range of feeling that tap dancing can cover -- a fact that many who think of tap only in connection with Shirley Temple tend to overlook.  While it can be brassy and frenetic, tap, as Mr. Hilberman desmonstrated impressively, can be subdued and  -- in the case of his performances of "Laura" and "Charade" -- quite moving, as well.

The tapping tyro in me paid especial attention to Mr. Hilberman's ability to slam down his toes and heels with a conviction that I can only hope one day to approximate (as opposed to my too-often dropping them for a less compelling sound). 

"Bend those knees; keep those feet loose; commit!", I hear my tap teacher saying.

The talk back was instructive (even if he couldn't really explain his show's title), but many of us in the audience did learn that tap took a hit not just with the demise of Hollywood musicals but, more significantly, when the cabaret tax was instituted and took tap shows out of the clubs in NYC.  In general,   however, the talk back was a chance for both him and Mr. Arslanian to talk clearly and compellingly about an art form to which they both have committed their lives -- a commitment for which I cannot but thank them heartily.

The show at Playhouse on Park was one night only, but, if Mr. Hilberman comes to your neck of the woods, sieze the opportunity!

27 September 2010

On this past Saturday, I had the opportunity to catch...

Josh Hilberman (tap dancer) and Paul Arslanian (piano) in Heeling Powers: Rhythms of the Left Brain at Playhouse on Park in West Hartford, CT.

Man, it was great and quite inspiring to novice tappers like me!

If you ever get the chance, take it.

26 September 2010

The REAL winner in this Christine O'Donnell race has got to be...

...Sarah Palin! 

Next to Ms. O'Donnell, the former governor of Alaska seems a veritable Winston Churchill!

23 September 2010

I hate to be one of THOSE fans, but...

...without Tiger Woods, I've little interest in the rest of the Fed Ex Cup golf tournaments.  Unless there's an absolutely unbelievable late Sunday afternoon showdown between, say, Angel Cabrera and Sergio Garcia (Are either of them even still in it?  Answer: No, I just checked.), I'll be waiting until the Ryder Cup matches in a few weeks to tune in again.  Sorry, PGA. 

22 September 2010

Mythic implications of the new McDonald's Happy Meal promotion...

Am I the only one who has noticed the rather dubious mythological implications of the new McDonald's commercials that have kids looking for Hope in the new Happy Meal boxes?

The last empty box that still contained Hope of which I'm aware was Pandora's -- and that didn't turn out well, as I've understood the tale.

Please note: I'm a big fan of Ronald McDonald Houses, as we needed to avail ourselves of the one in Manhattan many years ago, so I'm all for supporting them.  But let's be careful how we package the idea!

21 September 2010

Sometimes breaking one's bad habits means asking others to change ...

...their behavior too (even if it means to stop being nice)!

Case in point -- I've lost just about 15 pounds since the end of July by doing all the ridiculously obvious things: eating less bad stuff, eating less overall, and exercising much more.  So, during my radio show today, I zipped over to Starbucks looking for a yogurt, but the familiar faces on the other side of the counter immediately went to work on my old regular request of a medium hot chocolate.  I hadn't even ordered yet, and they were off and running.  Sensing what they were doing, I quickly had to ask them to stop their great service and just give me what I now wanted...They understood (and even complimented me on how good I looked, but I still felt like I was letting 'em down)!

17 September 2010

Farewell, great television!

As the World Turns has gone off the air.    Sigh.

Farewell, Kim and Bob Hughes (bottom)...
farewell, Holden and Lily (top)...
farewell, Lisa....
farewell, Tom and Margo (center)...
farewell, everyone...

Here's the opening I remember!

And I remember most -- watching with mom...after school (both as a student and, early on, as a teacher!)

14 September 2010

Harold Gould, RIP

Now HERE'S a part of my youth whom I will miss indeed!

I originally posted this on facebook...but worth disseminating more widely, I fear.

Gilbert Gigliotti wants everyone to say it with him: a male graduate of an educational institution is an "ALUMNUS,"  a female one is an "ALUMNA;" a group of females are "ALUMNAE," a group of males "ALUMNI," and a group of both "ALUMNI." You could also call them "graduates" or "former students" but NOT "former graduates" or "former alumni"...and CERTAINLY THE HELL NOT "ALUMNISTS"!

12 September 2010

A Great "Farewell to the Old Chairman" Party (9/12/10)

Photo by Dee Gable

A new season has begun at Playhouse on Park!

...with a very nice production of the musical revue Side by Side by Sondheim, featuring musical direction by Colin Britt and Emmett Drake, and vocal performances by Brynn Lucas, Dana Mierlak, Meg Richardson, Catherine Rogala, and Scott Scaffidi. 

A talented cast, they tackle this tribute to early (pre-1974) Sondheim with aplomb.  The revue has a very loose plot following Ms. Richardson and Mr. Scaffedi, but the real focus is on the power of the individual songs.  Among the many highlights: Ms. Lucas's "The Boy From," Mr. Scaffidi's "Marry Me a Little," and Ms. Rogala's "Anyone Can Whistle," a song that was new to me and, in the space of three minutes, has become a new favorite of mine:

I can dance a tango.
I can read Greek -- easy
I can slay a dragon any old week -- easy.
What's hard is simple.

What's natural comes hard.
Maybe you could show me
How to let go,
Lower my guard,
Learn to be free.
Maybe if you whistle,
Whistle for me.

I, after all, can't whistle...but I can read Greek.

True to Mr. Sondheim's body of work, there was a nice mix of the dramatic and the comic, the solo and the ensemble. Messers Britt and Drake have fun with "Everybody ought to Have a Maid" from A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, and Lucas, Mielak, and Rogala go all out on their rendition of the stripper number from Gypsy, "You Gotta Get a Gimmick."

Sondheim can be decidedly difficult to perform, and Ms. Lucas's performance of "Getting Married Today" highlighted it.  I could tell, due to the size of the POP space, that she was enunciating every word in the excessively fast song (while acting the hell out of it too -- with lotsa of physical comedy!), but I still couldn't hear much of it.  The singers were not mic-ed (a fact by which I am always pleased), but it made what Ms. Lucas was asked to do almost impossible.  I applaud her heartily , as did the audience, for clearly giving it her all.

And, maybe it's my age, but while Ms. Mierlak sang two wonderful songs, "Send in the Clowns" and "I'm Still Here," and sang them wonderfully well, I couldn't help but think "She's too young for those songs."

One more idiosyncratic quibble, "All I Need is the Girl" needs some tapping in its performance.  Mr. Scaffidi did some movement but a bit o' tapping would have made it all the better.

Quibbling aside, the show runs through the 19th.  If you like Broadway songs done well by professional musicians and actors who clearly love what they do, get to Playhouse on Park before it closes.

(And, if you go next Saturday, be sure to stay for the Open Mic after the performance.  Yes, you can perform your favorite Broadway hit accompanied by Drake and Britt, or sing along with everyone else, or just sit and enjoy!  Last night's was very entertaining -- with older daughter even taking her shot with "Popular" from Wicked and "Somewhere" from West Side Story.  Besides, it's a chance to spend more time at POP, and who doesn't want that?)

10 September 2010

A busy (good!) day ahead...

Latin I (Lat 111)

Early American Lit (Eng 340)

A talk with the first of several groups of freshmen visiting campus from New Britain High School

Freshman Composition (Eng 110)

The First Classic Fridays Film of the semester, The Front Page (1931)!

As the title of that James Taylor album reads, "Dad Loves His Work"

08 September 2010

So, my publisher and I thought that a perfect place for an entertaining, thoughtful, and wide-ranging Ava Gardner anthology...

...might be the Ava Gardner Museum in Smithfield, North Carolina, since folks interested in Ava would also be interested in her continuing cultural relevance.  We figured they would think visitors to the museum would want to read a book that includes what such great writers as Robert Graves, Margaret Atwood, and Allan Gurganus, not to mention many others from around the world, thought and felt about Miss Gardner.  We figured that the inspiration Ava still offers all of these artists would, if not fascinate them, then at least be a source of a little curiosity to them.

Well, we were wrong, I guess.  The Museum has chosen not to carry the book or display it at their upcoming Ava Fest because they feel it runs counter to the mission of the museum since, in their opinion, the volume too often shows Ava in a bad light and contains too much sexuality. 

Ava and sex?  Who woulda thunk it?

I always thought museums were supposed to be education institutions, y'know, organizations unafraid of art and what art can reveal about life and people.

My apologies, Miss Gardner.  I think you really would have liked the volume.

The hard (easy?) truth about not being chairman any longer:

I've been out of the office since Friday, 3 September, at 2:00 PM.  Upon returning this morning, I have not a single message on my voicemail and nothing but junk mail in my campus mail box.


03 September 2010

First day of school, 2010!

A recommendation for NEXT year's first year students' orientation...

...have them learn and sing repeatedly en masse the chorus to "Five Years," the opening track of David Bowie's landmark 1972 album Ziggy Stardust:

"We've got five years, that's all we got!
Five years, my brain hurts a lot!
Five years...
Five years..."

If that doesn't help the six-year completion rate stats, nothing will!

After one week as not chair, here's what I'm NOT doing nearly as much as I used to (most good, some not)...

1.  Answering my phone
2.  Signing my name and dating forms
3.  Being visited by students, faculty, and/or staff to sign and date said forms
4.  Making decisions about students not in my own classes
5.  Telling people no
6.  Talking to Darlene and Min   (: (
7.  Staying late in the office
8.  Teaching distracted by chair issues and, as a result, less effectively (or that's my perception thus far; my students may disagree!)
9.  Getting mail
10.Attending departmental committee meetings as an ex officio member

02 September 2010

What kind of slogan is that?!

Driving behind a DATTCO bus recently an saw their slogan:

our buses
      our people 
              & you

Now, along with actually putting the customer LAST in this list (a bad sign, no?), the slogan also focuses way too much on themselves.

I say chuck the whole thing and go, much more simply and catchier, in a different direction:

Now DATT's a bus!

If some high-powered DATTCO official sees this, feel free to use it -- free of charge -- just give me some acknowledgement in the next annual report somewhere!

The friends of "Frank, Gil, and Friends" are BACK, baby!

Look at this WFCS "Total Listening Hours" on-line listener chart from August 2010...I was on air on the 3rd, out of town on the 10th, on air on the 17th, out of town on the 24th, and back on air on the 31st.

01 September 2010

A question that came to mind while listening to it through on my 40-minute walk this PM...

...is there a more insightful -- and melodic -- depiction and critique of racism, alienation, and corruption in the South than Randy Newman's 1974 Good Old Boys album?
If there is, I'd LOVE to hear it.

31 August 2010

I know nothing about the Republican candidate for CT Attorney General...

Martha Dean, but I must admit I like her campaign slogan, "Freedom.  Faith.  Fortune.", which I noticed today for the first time on a sign in the neighborhood.  It's alliterative, which is always a good thing, but, more importantly, it's decidedly unlike most current political slogans, which stress either one's experience or one's outsider status.  Candidate Dean's, however, is wonderfully opaque and raises all sorts o' questions:
Freedom of/from what? 
Faith in whom? 
Whose fortune exactly, and is that fortune as in $$$$ or fortune as in luck/destiny? 

I guess we should find out before November.

(On a somewhat related note, I love it when states ban together to sue some big entity just so newspeople can say "attorneys general," which is even a better plural than mothers-in-law...)

Frank Sinatra's TOP and BOTTOM 10 -- "Frank, Gil, and Friends" Playlist 8/31/10

I was asked to pick and play what I consider to be the best and worst songs of Frank Sinatra on today's "Frank Gil and Friends" (Tuesdays, 8-10 AM on WFCS 107.7 FM New Britain/Hartford and www.live365.com/stations/wfcs).   The bad are bad for a variety of reasons: a bad song, badly performed, ill-suited to Sinatra, maybe all three!

Here's what I came up with in no particular order (needless to say, you may disagree):

The Worst:

I Sing the Songs
I Went Down to Virginia
Mrs. Robinson
God's Country
Satisfy Me One More Time
Tennessee Newsboy
Early American
To Love a Child

The Best:

Time after Time
I'll Never Smile Again
When the World Was Young
Don't Like Goodbyes
Angel Eyes
September of My Years
Learning the Blues
Monday Morning Quarterback
I've Got You Under My Skin

Well, that's an unexpected source!

Isn't the state of Connecticut sponsoring an "Ethics Day" akin to the famed Chicken Ranch brothel in Nevada holding an abstinence conference? 

Not that it isn't a noble idea, but the host lacks some credibility, no?

30 August 2010

The most difficult adjustment to my not being chair thus far...

...has been the dramatic decrease in email I'm receiving.  To be honest, THIS might take some getting used to.

Cue James Brown: I FEEL GOOD!

1. It's the first day of classes at CCSU.
2. I'm not serving as chairman or assistant chairman of the English Department for the first time in 12 years.
3. I'm back in a Latin classroom for the first time since 1992.
4. My two daughters are, respectively, starting the 10th and 6th grades today.
5. I've lost 10 pounds since 30 July 2010.
6. I walked two miles this morning.
7. Last week I received the 2010 CCSU Distinguished Service Award.
7. I'm wearing seersucker.

23 August 2010

And this is "Robin and the Seven Hoods" how?

So, the Broadway-bound version of Robin and the Seven Hoods has gotten rid of all the songs from the 1964 film except one -- which, I'm assuming, is "My Kind of Town (Chicago is)" and replaced them with a whole slew of other Cahn and Van Heusen songs.  This ridiculous re-write, by Rupert "The Pina Colada Song" Holmes, of all people, also means  no "Mr. Booze," "Bang, Bang", "Any Man Who Loves His Mother," "Don't be a Do-Badder," "All for One," or "Charlotte Couldn't Charleston"!

What this production should be doing is restoring "I Like to Lead When I Dance" to its proper place in the show because Frank never recorded it for the film after the production fell into a bit of chaos due to John Kennedy's assassination.

Listen, I'd go see any Cahn/Van Heusen musical (indeed what they should be doing is reviving Skyscaper!), but, if you're doing RATSH, then, by gosh, DO it.


A trio of tributes from my swell colleagues

1) In song and dance (from L to R: Phyllis, Darlene, Min, and Chris):

2) On-line:


3) In verse:

"A Classic Act"
Anthony R. Cannella

We sing the man:
his wine-dark eyes, his ties not shy,
for his blue-booked stacks, never a "Fie!"
"Bring them on," shouts he, by George.
"Of my erstwhile trade I'm naught afraid."
(Perhaps the shock is just delayed.)
Red plume in hand, brain untaxed,
he girds himself
(tho' quite relaxed)
for class upon class.
Therein work's more gruntish,
sometimes also fraught,
verily, with mighty labors bought,
in classrooms stark,
at times too light, at times too dark,
too hot or cold
for Learning's spark.
Yet will he prosper
and flourish there,
as when he ruled
from purpled chair

O, son of Cincinnati,
Of Cincinnatus too,
you led us well.
('tis true, 'tis true.)
O, chuckling Ciceronian
who, as Rumor told,
oft spake in perfect Babylonian,
(In Greek
And Roman, too.)
Classical or
'Tis no matter,
We cannot tell,
our words, our idioms scatter,
for like the Bard,
we've small Latine,
on trots, or ponies, must we lean;
yet our hearts be large
for the man who was
till now in charge.
Gil Thorpe? Gil Gamesh?
Nay, Gil Gigliotti!
With soft and silent g's,
not Gig-lee-otti.

Our wry philosophizer,
benevolent democratizer.
factions' synthesizer,
kindest sympathizer!
Heard you he has Greek?
Much he owes to Catholic U.
And much to
Cincy's Xavier, too.
But most he owes
to a sacred store,
Where, before we knew him,
before he kenned
Connecticut wit
or made his home
with his winsome three
(all four tight-knit),
a Clan of Rats he did detect,
in unformed form, of course:
just Young Blue Eyes,
no Dino, no Sammy,
no rascals choice,
but, oh,
that Voice, that Voice.
Rejoice! Rejoice!
Sweet notes galore
From sacred record store.

But what of the Mob?
"Part of the job," says
our philosopher king.
"Gonna make something of it?
Ba-da-ba, ba-da-bing.
Frank, well, he soars above it.
Why so many
pick that nit?
Why not 'stead extoll
the best of men,
e'er to spin
at 33 rpm?"
But what of Virgil,
Ovid and Horace?
"Good stuff," says Gil,
"but for Frank
just chorus."

And now the summer
bows to fall,
Sybil recedes,
cruel syllabi call.
(Had I but world enough
and time,
for both the scansion
and the rhyme,
this poem, dear people,
would be no crime.)
And now on stage,
the valiant Cohen,
our noble Steve.
We'll let him know
He's not alone.
But soft:
Look ye our man,
from limelight away,
O, humble hero,
Would you might stay.
Yet still he goes,
Yet now returns
with golden throat
and silver sword,
with whiteboard marker
and wit-dressed word.
Hush. He speaks:
"Shall I fear class --after class,
after class. after class?
Nay! I utter no alas!
And no alack,
This too will pass,
this teaching track.
These classes but be dragons
For me, in sooth, to hack."

One feature persists
'mid Fate's ebb and flow:
our hero's worthy habit,
his weekly radio show.
No class will conflict
with that weekly fix;
107.7 and its
away to Heaven,
where, of course,
fair Ava dwells.
locked in all Eternity.
Gil just smiles.
"Someone to watch over me."

And now, his toga passed,
toward class his chin he casts,
No need for props, like silver sword.
He is no chairman
Of the bored.

Not to mention plenty of public and private emails saying very nice things.

Have I mentioned what great friends and colleagues comprise the Department of English at Central Connecticut State University?  You should be so lucky!

20 August 2010

Email sent to the Department on this, the last day of my chairmanship

To all my colleagues in the English Department:

Just a (very quick) note of sincerest thanks for all your support and hard work these past seven years, while I have served as chairman. 

The one thing that, I hope, I have reiterated enough to our new chairman is that one of the real joys of his duties will be realizing what a remarkable group of dedicated, talented, and giving professionals his work will be supporting – not to mention the great support he will receive from you. 

Continue your excellent work and have a great year!

Needless to say, I’m still around (Willard 329).

Many thanks again!

Your friend and colleague,


01 August 2010

For all those who know me well, here's something you wouldn't expect!

A teaser, made with students and staff from CCSU, that aired on Sunday on ESPN before their coverage of the race at Pocono.  Written and directed by Ben Reed.




28 July 2010

Why a democracy NEEDS literature, and why colleges need general education

"Paradise Lost seeks to create 'fit readers,' not just to preach to them.  The hope is that those who pick it up will, through reading it, be able, for example, to see how tyrants gain their power and, perhaps, next time, stand firm against tyranny.  Paradise Lost therefore both demands and creates readers who will be alert to all its complexities, able to appreciate its ironies, able to share its anger and its compassion." 

-- Anna Beer, Milton: Poet, Pamphleteer, and Patriot (347-348)

My Lives at The Covington Latin School (as student and teacher)

The Covington Latin School Student Council 1973-1974

The Class of 1977

Student Council Meeting (1984-1985?)

CLS Greek Day role as stand-up comedian, Henny Neanias (ancient Greek for "young man"), 1984

18 July 2010

The greatest automatic hand-dryer EVER!

The Dyson Airblade...experienced firsthand at Marche Bonsecours, Montreal.

It works...and FAST!  I want one for home.

A Tres Ecumenical Evening in Montreal

Dinner at Chez Schwartz for smoked meat sandwiches followed by a trip to the Oratoire-St.-Joseph. 


 (Pictures: M.C. Gigliotti)

International Incident #3: "The Mass is ended, now leave."

Attended a beautiful French mass at the gorgeous Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal on Saturday evening, at the end of which there was a taped announcement in French and English, the gist of which was "thanks for coming, now please stop praying -- we've got a light and music show to prepare for!"
(Pictures: M.C. Gigliotti)

International Incident #2: What's Canadian for "Rubbernecking"?

TWICE on the trip from Niagara Falls to Montreal on Route 20 we suffered traffic delays (of 45 minutes and 30 minutes, respectively) simply because of accidents on the OTHER side of the highway.

I thought Canadians were supposed to be smarter than we!

(And, if the young lady at the concession stand at the Royal George Theatre in Niagara-on-the-Lake, where older daughter and I were attending the George Bernard Shaw Festival's production of the  K. Weill/O. Nash/S.J. Perlman musical One Touch of Venus, is any indication -- with her mis-use of a calculator to tally the purchase of a bottle of water and a box of Junior Mints, our neighbor to the north is no threat to beating the US in all that STEM stuff either).

14 July 2010

"So what part of Ohio are you from?"...

...asked the Canadian Border Patrol officer when we pulled up to show our passports, after admittedly I had noticed but ignored the stop sign (in two different languages!) and drove up almost right behind the car in front of us.

"We live in Connecticut," I responded.

"Oh, usually people who don't stop at the stop sign are from Ohio."

"I was raised in Ohio!"

"Okay, I'll take that as a legitimate explanation.  How long you here for...?