Saturday, June 11, 2005

Bear Ass

Bear Ass
Originally uploaded by highglosshighs.
This picture may have single-handedly roused me from my blogging hibernation. Who can resist the lure of bear ass?

Thursday, June 02, 2005

It Just Ocurred to Me...

...that in the last few days the term 'felt tip' has taken on a whole new meaning.
(Or should that be "Felt tip"?).

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Back to the Starting Line - 300 lbs.

Embarrassingly, I am back to 300 lbs. (136.08 kg, 21.43 stone). I will not bore you with the reasons. On the plus side, my blood pressure continues to be good and my blood sugar readings have not gotten worse. Still, I have to do better. Much better.

I've started an online food and exercise journal. I can't promise that I will update it daily but maybe often enough to keep myself mindful of my caloric consumption...

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Weighing 293.8 Pounds

Weighing 293.8 Pounds
Originally uploaded by baslow.
133.27 kg, 20.99 stone.
I spent last week traveling so I guess it is a good thing that I didn't gain even more...but that seems very Pollyannish, given my failure to lose over the past few weeks.
I need to get on top of this.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Out of "Into the Woods"

The second and final weekend of performances of Pied Piper Children's Theater's production of "Into the Woods" was nothing short of magical. Word-of-mouth and a rave review in a local newspaper led to packed houses at every performance. The kids in both casts rose to the occasion, delivering performances of remarkable sophistication. Their hard work over the last few months clearly was paying dividends. The whole community seemed to walk on air all weekend.

At the end of the final performance the director delivered a tribute to Joel, who was appearing for the last time in a Pied Piper community performance. Joel had not been told it would happen and seemed both very happy and slightly chagrined. His performance in a small role in this production was a standout, quite funny and accomplished. The director pointed out the contrast between this role and his previous role as Hamlet, noting that it was good to see Joel get a chance to be goofy on stage.

Ruth's performance was remarkable. She just turned 14 but people who didn't know (and even some who did) came away with the impression that she was 18. Hers was a more complex, meatier role than Joel's and she really made us proud, portraying a range of emotions and singing like a dream.

More pictures have been posted and I though I would share them with you.

Ruth: (a face in the crowd)


To really get an idea of these extraordinary performances you really need to see pictures of the entire cast at work:

Omega cast:

Alpha cast:

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Weighing 292.6 Pounds

Originally uploaded by baslow.
Weighing 292.6 pounds (132.72 kg., 20.9 stone). About the hat: I figured people could use a little variety in these pictures. About the prunes: product placement.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Vampire Lesbians of Sodom Returns for a Good Cause

Pictures of what looks to have been an evening of fabulousness can be viewed at Playbill Online has a few more pictures, too.

Backsliding: Weighing 295 pounds

Backsliding: Weighing 295 pounds
Originally uploaded by baslow.
I'm not giving up but clearly I am suffering a setback here. Things have gotten very busy and somewhat tense around here (college acceptances, college finances, performances of "Into the Woods", birthday parties, Easter goodies, etc.) and I have to teach myself how to deal with those tensions. On the other hand, I have clearly made some changes that seem to have stuck: I cling to the fact that I made it to the gym four times this week. I am a little shaky right now but I'll say it anyway: Excelsior!

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Weighing 292 pounds

Weighing 292 pounds
Originally uploaded by baslow.
132.45 kg, 20.86 stone.

I had my physical yesterday. We'll know more when the blood work comes back from the lab but I seem to be doing okay, considering.
Apart from yesterday (when I was at the doctor's) I've been to the gym every morning and done 30 minutes a day on the elliptical exercisers. I burn an average of 450 calories every day that way, if the LifeFitness readout is to be believed.

Recent blood sugar readings:

03/24 - 6:34 AM - 119 mg/dL
03/23 - 3:47 PM - 127 mg/dL
03/23 - 10:19 AM - 113 mg/dL
03/23 - 7:13 AM - 208 mg/dL
03/22 - 2:43 PM - 159 mg/dL

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

The Fabulous Vampire Lesbians of Sodom Revival Press Preview

A long time ago, in a pseudo-bohemian stage far away, Baslow took tickets one night at 8BC (or was it 9BC), a club on the Lower East Side, where his friend Julie Halston was performing with Charles Busch in a little play called "Vampire Lesbians of Sodom". The show went on to become a cult favorite and an Off-Broadway legend. Now, twenty years later on March 28, a one-night-only presentation of "Vampire Lesbians of Sodom", together with an all-star extravaganza, will benefit the Actor's Fund of America. The press was allowed to take pictures of a rehearsal.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Friday, March 18, 2005

Sleep Breathing Problem Raises Heart Attack Risk

This article from Reuters, via Yahoo! News, reports on a study from Spain, published in The Lancet:

"People who suffer from an illness that disrupts their breathing while they sleep [sleep apnea] are more likely to suffer a fatal heart attack or stroke, Spanish researchers said on Friday.

"But a simple treatment that regulates breathing during the night [ i.e., a CPAP machine], reduces the risk, they added..."

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Weighing 293 pounds

Weighing 293 pounds
Originally uploaded by baslow.
About 293 pounds (292.8 pounds, to be exact, 132.81 kg, 20.91 stone. Baslow here models the mask he wears every night that delivers a steady flow of air from his CPAP machine. This prevents him from stopping breathing. The condition is called sleep apnea and it's tons of fun.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Lightening Up

Baslow has taken a sneak peek at his weight and it seems likely that he will have lost less weight, by Sunday's official report, than last week. This is to be expected but Baslow must remind himself that he is still making progress. He will leave for the gym in a few minutes. This will be the first time, that he can remember, that he will have gone to the gym for five consecutive mornings. Of such little milestones does the Great Reduction Effort consist.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Into 'Into the Woods'

Stephen Sondheim's 'Into the Woods' has been enjoying an unprecedented popularity in these parts, among organizations of performing youngsters. 'Riverdale Rising Stars' had a production a few months ago. 'City Lights' had a production very recently. Stuyvesant High School had its production within the last week or two, if I recall correctly.

In early April it will be the turn of the Pied Piper Children's Theater. Both Ruth and Joel have roles in one or other of the two casts. Ruth will play the Baker's Wife and Joel will play Rapunzel's Prince.

For weeks now, this has meant music coming from all over our small apartment. The DVD is played regularly in the living room to be studied by one or the other of our kids. Songs from the show can be heard behind bedroom doors and at the front door as the kids return from rehearsal. The music emerges from the bathroom periodically as somebody practices in the shower.

This mostly makes Baslow and Bev happy although it can sometimes be a little much. The kids are happy too, despite the rigors of the show. Mostly.

Over the weekend I heard Joel, who was grappling with a particularly Sondheimian labyrinth of melody, wonder out loud what drugs he must have ingested to have composed the work.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Weighing 294 pounds

Weighing 294 pounds
Originally uploaded by baslow.
294.2 pounds (133.45 kg, 21.01 stone) to be precise. Not bad but I can't yet see much of a difference. The numbers show enough of a change to be encouraging, however.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Snowy Inwood Tuesday Morning

Bev took these photos around our apartment house and on the 215th St. steps up from Broadway last Tuesday morning.

Snowy morning - Bev

Some Things You May Not Know About Baslow

1. Baslow has been a vegetarian since 1979. He is an ovo-lacto vegetarian. He claims no principle whatsoever in this. He just gags on meat, fish, fowl.

2. Baslow cannot drive. He never learned. He never wanted to learn. This has insured that Baslow can live in only a very few areas in the United States.

3. Baslow cannot swim. He used to have a thing about water on his head and face. Took only baths, not showers, into his late teenage years. He's over it now but he can't say he likes water even now.

4. Baslow has a "bad stomach". Do not be surprised if, in his presence, you hear a liquid gurgle every now and then or catch a whiff of...well, never mind.

5. Baslow has been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.

6. Baslow has a herniated disc in his lower back. It happened when he was in graduate school in Austin, where he first got fat. Baslow was in the habit of wandering, absent-mindedly, along the sidewalks of Austin. Unfortunately, Austin occassionaly presents the ambulator with curbs that fail to meet the level of the street by six inches, nine inches, even more. The absent-minded ambulator can find himself stepping off a curb and coming down hard. This can have bad consequences for the shock-absorption parts of the body.

7. Baslow is an atheist. He is not an atheist activist but he does not believe in any supernatural beings. Baslow can be considered a Bright.

8. Baslow deeply regrets not having finished graduate school and doing research in Sociolinguistics. He imagines that, if he had done so, he would now be working on issues pertaining to conversational interaction within Cognitive Science.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Baslow's Politics

Baslow has kept his politics almost entirely out of this weblog. That does not mean, however, that he has kept his politics out of weblogs. His wife was instrumental in starting, a few weeks ago, a political discussion group which is being called, for now, "The Inwood Progressives". Baslow has undertaken to provide them with, among other things, a Weblog. They are a tentative bunch when it comes to the Web, however, and almost all of the postings so far have been Baslow's. He has restricted himself until now to posting links with brief summaries. This seemed to be the best way to get people comfortable with blogs. He is contemplating, however, jumping into editorializing, in the hopes that other members of the group will, in turn, post THEIR opinions online. Any suggestions as to how to goose lurkers into actually contributing will be studied carefully...

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Baslow's Dirty Little Secret

Baslow has always thought of himself as a shy, a very shy, person. For the most part, deep down, it is true. He did, after all, refuse to attend his own fifth birthday party, locking himself in his room and letting his mother entertain all the invited five-year-olds for two hours.

He has never quite acknowledged to himself, however, the degree to which the opposite is also true: Baslow wants attention. He wants lots of attention. He'll go to some lengths to get attention. He will let you know that he wants you to attend to him. He just hasn't let himself know it.

Once Baslow seized upon the idea of posting what, to his shyer self, seemed like a damn-near-naked photo of himself for the purposes of demonstrating his morbid obesity he began to have to come to terms with what he will do to get attention. He will do things other people would not (they have told him) consider doing. He has startled his wife. He has baffled his children.

Yet it seems to be working, so far. It doesn't work perfectly but it seems to work well enough. Baslow envisions an audience, a public, to whom he is now accountable. When he woke up this morning to see the ground covered in five inches of snow he did not, as he has done so many times, pull the covers over his head and sleep another half an hour. He grumblingly got out of bed, went through his morning preparations, and made it to the gym. At the cafeteria he recognized that he was restraining himself so that he wouldn't have to report a lapse to his "public".

He will have to find ways of making this all new enough, over and over, for a long time to pull himself through the long haul that is major weight loss and, more importantly, weight maintenance. He suspects that Baslow-fatigue will set in rather quickly among people who wish him well but really don't want to hear every time he has lost two pounds.

Still, it is a start. Perhaps it is enough of a start to provide him with the momentum he will need to follow through.

A New Globe Theatre For New York City?

Playbill is reporting a proposal to convert a fort on Governor's Island into a New Globe Theater.

"British architect Norman Foster and Barbara C. Romer, a former management consultant at McKinsey & Company, are pushing a plan for New York Harbor's Governor's Island which would make the isle Manhattan's version of Elizabethan London's East End—that is, a place where citizens sail to see a play.Foster and Romer see the defunct Castle Williams, a stone fortress built in 1811, and now in a state of advanced disrepair, as another Globe Theatre (which they, indeed, intend to call The New Globe Theatre). He has designed a version of Shakespeare's famous theatrical home that would employ the old, cylindrical building, which once served as a prison."

Monday, February 28, 2005

Our Story So Far

Well, boys and girls, yesterday's exciting adventure left Baslow resolved to undertake a Major Life Change in order to Get Much Healthier. Here is a report on his efforts so far:

a) Baslow took a long walk, camera in hand, around his neigborhood;
b) Baslow received much encouragement (and, so far, no ridicule) from Web well-wishers.(He is not certain whether the preceding link will work for people who are not registered users --- but try it and see);
c) Baslow had his son haul out the aerobic step platform while the family was gathered in the living room to watch the Oscars and spent twenty minutes slowly (anaerobically) stepping on and off the platform. His knees hurt a few times, causing him to stop for about half a minute here and there but he regards this as a good start;
d) Baslow made sure to go to bed by 11 PM (before most of the major Oscar winners were announced) in order to get seven hours of sleep by six A.M.;
e) Baslow awoke at six AM, did his back exercises, briefly checked his email, had a breakfast of microwaved frozen fruit (unsweetened), multigrain flakes, and skim milk, initiated his BalanceLog food diary on his PC and synced it to his Handspring Visor; performed his bathroom rituals, dressed, and headed for the health club by 7:30 AM.
f) Baslow arrived at the health club at 8:30 and drew quizzical stares from members of the staff who'd thought he had died, since it had been so long since they'd last seen him. He changed into a fetching outfit of gym shorts, tee shirt, gym socks and training shoes and headed for the elliptical exercisers;
g) He managed to maintain an average of 60 RPM for 28 minutes, until the cooldown period. The workout summary on the LifeCycle indicated that he'd consumed 490 calories and covered 2.6 miles during his session. He showered and headed to work;
h) At about 10:30 he had a bowl of fruit, fresh cantaloupe, strawberries, pineapple chunks, and grapes. He also had his first (and, he hopes, only) cup of caffeine for the day;
i) His blood sugar level at about noon was 126ml/dL;
j) For lunch, at 12:30 PM, he had a salad, a cup of skim milk, 12 ounces of water, and a whole-wheat roll with half a pat of butter (an indulgence, he knows). The salad had greens, red and yellow peppers, broccoli, tomato, mixed chickpeas and kidney beans, some roasted vegetables in a balsamic vinaigrette, and a bit of white bean salad;
k) He forgot to use the stairs rather than the elevator getting back to his office.

"Grab Your Camera and Start Walking"

I posted the current picture of me at my most obese on at about the same time as I composed the previous entry "Weighty Matters". Someone sent me a list of sensible suggestions, including "Grab your camera and start walking". So I did. This tour of my neighborhood, just before and during dusk, was the result.

Goose 07

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Weighty Matters

Weighing 300 pounds
Originally uploaded by baslow.
So begins the public humiliation/exhibitionism diet. Seeing the scale hit 300 lbs. (136.08 kg, 23.43 stone) is the latest wakeup call. I have to change the way I eat and I have to excercise regularly. I've tried these things before and enjoyed moderate success but I've always gained the weight back (and then some) over time. Perhaps if I invite the whole world to egg me on I will succeed in taking the weight off and keeping it off.

Note, 3/2/05: I seem to have perpetrated a miscalculation. 300 pounds is 21.43 stone.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

"The Assyrians May Have Been a SCREAM"

Last night the assembled multitude that is the Baslow family attended a lecture on comedy by the estimable Julie Halston presented at the T.Schreiber Studio. The lecture was entertaining, educational, and a very valuable experience for aspiring performers. Among the things we learned:
a) The Assyrians could very well have been a very funny people but we will never know. They left their pots for us to study but not their comedy;
b) The Greeks knew a lot about what makes things funny. Aristotle was a Greek. therefore, Aristotle knew a lot about what makes things funny;
c) Jews are funny. We know this by making a list of funny people and noting how many Jews are on the list;
d) Joan Crawford was funny (but not, as far as we can ascertain, Jewish) -- we are just not sure how intentionally funny she was;
e) Rosalind Russell exhibited a mastery of the kind of intelligent and intelligible fast talk that made Thirties comedy fly;
f) Intelligent and intelligible comic fast talk has almost disappeared from the face of the earth. One of the few consistent contemporary authors of such dialogue is Charles Busch.
g) Standup comedy is a talent apart. Masterful, multi-talented stars of Broadway have expressed to Julie their envy of her comedian's ability to get the kinds of laughs she gets;
h) You can't teach anyone to be funny but you can teach them to be funnier;
i) Julie Halston is smart about being funny.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Snowy President's Day Morning

It started snowing last night and seems to have continued through to the morning. We all slept late and when Bev got up she immediately set to work making waffles. Ruth was up a little later and planted herself at the kitchen table to do a crossword puzzle. I prowled around taking pictures. We awakened Joel when the waffles were ready, gathered in the kitchen and had a boisterous (although somehow also cozy) breakfast. We all pitched in with the crossword puzzle and failed to compliment Bev adequately for the the delicious waffles.

We are ever more conscious that our time living together as a family is drawing to a close. I think that consciousness heightens our appreciation of the times we get to simply hang out with each other.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Music Theory

Music Theory 04
Originally uploaded by baslow.
On a cold February morning Ruth worked on her Music Theory homework.

A sequence of photos documenting thie epic event can be found here.

You can even view the whole thing as a slideshow, if you want.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Ruth's Grand Slam

Yesterday we received word that Ruth had been accepted into both The High School of American Studies at Lehman College and into Bard High School Early College . Her scores in the SSHAT were high enough to have gotten her into Stuyvesant High School, had she listed it as her first choice (rather than Lehman).

There was a second night of celebration in the Baslow household last night. We are very proud of our Ruth.

Now she has to decide which school she actually wants to attend.

You go, girl!

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Ruth was accepted at LaGuardia High School!

Ruth - LaGuardia Acceptance Letter
Originally uploaded by baslow.
We are very proud of our girl! There was much excitement in the Baslow household last night. Calls of congratulations came in every few minutes. Ruth has applied to several other high schools so we will wait for their responses before Ruth makes her final decision. This is, in any case, wonderful news and a terrific affirmation. This is one talented girl we have here.

Here is the website of LaGuardia High School.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Harvard vs. Joel

I accompanied my son down to The Harvard Club Saturday morning for his college interview with the venerable and esteemed institution represented by that establishment.

We had not given much thought to Harvard when reviewing college possibilities. It seemed to be a larger place than Joel really wanted to attend and, furthermore, too steeped in tradition and too closely tied to "Establishment" values to be a good fit with Joel's personality.

We were, however, encouraged to reconsider our first instincts and to be more open-minded about Harvard by a recent graduate who called as part of a telephone sweep of high-SAT-scoring high school seniors. She told Bev, who took the call, that she had found Harvard to be a much different place than she had expected from what she'd heard about it. So Joel ended up applying to Harvard with, however, very little expectation that anything would come of it.

An interview appointment did come of it, though, and we found ourselves getting up earlier than usual Saturday morning to make it to the meeting at 10 AM. Joel has been getting less nervous, more assured, as he has weathered his college interviews. He approached this one with little of the trepidation attendant upon his first interview, with Brown, a couple of weeks ago. The fact that he doesn't have fervent hopes of getting into Harvard eased his mind.

Up until the time we walked up to the front door it hadn't occurred to me that we were going to be visiting the Harvard Club. All we had was an address and I hadn't thought about it much. Entering the place I had the impression of entering another era.

I am old enough (and bourgeois enough) to have been reared to have an immediate, almost Pavlovian, reaction of deference in the presence of old-style displays of wealth and power. I offer in evidence Exhibit A, an early photograph of me in "perfect little gentleman" mode. Joel, as far as I can tell, has no trace of such deference, much to his credit. The Harvard Club, built over a hundred years ago, seems very much an expression of wealth and power. I was cowed. Joel was not.

Although we only considered this later we were not dressed up to code. We were both wearing jeans. Joel was weaing Army-surplus boots. It was apparent to me that other kids who had shown up for interviews had given more consideration to their wardrobes. I saw ties, dresses, shined shoes. Joel was oblivious.

Everyone who spoke to us was unfailingly nice and pleasant. I detected no condescension or distance from anyone in the building. It wasn't the people, it was the architecture and the decor that made me feel as if I had to walk on eggshells.

I waited for Joel in a room that reminded me of the "Gentlemen's Clubs" I'd seen in period movies. After about forty minutes Joel emerged from his interview with two alumni and we headed out the building. I waited until we were half a block away before I asked him how it had gone.

He had done pretty well, he thought. He was relaxed, even cracked a few jokes. He was surprised, though, that they hadn't asked him why he wanted to go to Harvard; every other school interview had included that question. It was understandable that his interviewers had not heard of Bard High School Early College but they seemed not even to have heard of Bard! When they had asked him about BHSEC he told them about the college-level seminars he had taken, citing a class in Latin American History for which he had written a paper about Liberation Theology from the 1960's to the 1990's. This didn't seem to register with them, either. From Joel's description of their reaction I wonder if they knew what he was talking about. At another point in the interview they needed Joel to explain to them his references to John Cage's 4'33" (a subject, by the way, about which Joel can be very funny) and then to explain to them who John Cage was. Joel was surprised. I was surprised.

"Joel, did these people tell you what they do?" I asked.

"Yeah, they gave me their cards. They're investment bankers." Joel answered.

We can't judge Harvard simply by these two people, of course. In the event that Joel is accepted we will visit the campus, talk to any students and faculty we can find, do our research. It is clear to me, though, that whatever impression of Joel Harvard has garnered from this interview it did not enhance Joel's opinion of Harvard.

I'm sort of surprised.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Julie Halston Speaks!

Jim Caruso's Cast Party features a long conversation with Julie Halston. She now speaks of herself as, gulp, "a woman of a certain age". The discussion covers her time with Charles Busch's "Theater in Limbo", her stint in Gypsy, her roles in "Hairspray", her television appearances in "Sex and the City", and her various Broadway acquaintances. She assures us that there is "more to come". There damned well better be.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Gem of the Ocean

Gem of the Ocean
Originally uploaded by baslow.
Friday night the family went to see "Gem of the Ocean" by August Wilson. It was a remarkable play, mixing down-to-earth dialogue with magical historical ritual. It touched on topics such as allegiance and betrayal, being in touch with your history versus being ignorant of or alienated from it, and the handing down of values and traditions from one generation to another. It was frequently funny and often poignant. The performances were, each and every one, marvelous. Unfortunately, recent weather dealt the play a financial setback from which it could not recover and it closed on Sunday.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Secret History of the Credit Card

This website, about the Frontline program, "Secret History of the Credit Card" is a great resource. You can watch the entire show online, read a related New York Times article, and read some very useful supplementary material that will provide you with practical tips on managing your credit.

We're On The Money

The Big Penny - Study
Originally uploaded by baslow.
Tom Otterness here depicts the people at the top, sitting atop the Big, Big Penny which can be seen on Broadway and 91st St. until March.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

The Marriage of Real Estate and Money

Tom Otterness' sculpture is on display on Broadway until March. This cheerful couple can be found around Broadway and 91st St.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Mr. Baslow's Neighborhood

Inwood, New York, the place that Baslow calls home, figures prominently in this report from "Marketplace", a business and economics show from Public Radio International. It is official: Baslow lives in a "cheaper area of real estate".

Monday, January 31, 2005

Like Father, Unlike Son

Saturday morning Bev and I drove Joel down to Joralemon Street in Brooklyn Heights for his interview with Brown University, his first college interview. We left the house at around 7:30 AM for the 8:50 AM meeting since we didn't know exactly what kind of traffic and road conditions we might encounter along the way. Both were quite favorable, as it turned out. We had plenty of time to spare so we repaired to the Starbucks at the corner and had coffee and biscotti.

Bev and I sat on a bench in a corridor of the Packer Collegiate Institute while Joel was interviewed, Bev doing a crossword puzzle while I played Scrabble on my Handspring. Joel emerged at 9:25 AM and told us that he thought the interview had gone well.

We made it back home by 10:15.

The whole trip, between driving time and Starbucks time, gave us a more extended opportunity to talk to Joel than we ordinarily enjoy these days. Some of the time we talked, of course, about the interview. Other topics were covered, however.

At one point I told Joel that when we bought him a laptop I would like to get him a notebook webcam, so that we could conduct video Internet Messaging sessions every week or so. Joel didn't say no but he didn't seem entirely comfortable with a once-a-week schedule so I revised the request to "every so often".

In the car on the way home Joel said that he thought he would have gotten into computers more if I hadn't been a techie. Likewise, he thought he might have watched more classice movies and listened to more jazz had these not been enthusiasms of mine.

He wasn't expressing hostility to me, he said. I believe him. It is more a matter, I think, of Joel having to clearly define himself within our family constellation.

I've noticed, as I've watched him grow up, many similarities between the raw materials Joel and I had to work with at the outset of our childhoods. What has been fascinating has been to see how differently from me Joel has made use of those raw materials.

For example, I seem to have been born with very little athletic instinct. I used to joke, starting in my teenage years, that I was planning to open an embassy in my body . I have never engaged in sports, have never exercised much, have never been in shape. I don't even swim or dance. Joel does not seem to have been born with much athletic instinct either but he exercises regularly and has mastered some elaborate choreography for his stage productions. He may have, in some sense, started where I started but he has taken it in a completely different direction.

I believe I have had an influence on Joel's development but I don't believe that my influence has been at all straightforward. I have, after a long delay, begun reading Judith Rich Harris' book, The Nurture Assumption, and I've been thinking about these matters a lot, lately.

Friday, January 28, 2005


This is one of the photos I posted to the "Pictures With Stories" group at today. I originally posted it without comments but that didn't really comply with the rules of the group. I needed to add a comment, to make the picture into more of a story. The story I added was about how this particular comment had made me think of my childhood.

" I thought that this comment was funny...and apt. We did, all of us, have to find some way to cheer up.

When I was a boy, attending Jewish religious schools, I was taught by a number of survivors of the Holocaust.

Some of them barely showed signs of the horrors they had withstood; only in a wince here, a comment there, did they reveal those experiences.

Others were ghosts, zombies. They seemed to be dragged down by too many bad memories to be able to function fully in the present. They were never happy.

As a youngster, barely understanding the source of all this pain, I thought that they needed to cheer up."

Thursday, January 27, 2005

The Buzz on Julie Halston has published a long interview with my friend from college, Julie Halston, ranging over her very early days as a performer to her present role in 'Hairspray'.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

A Picture of Ruth

I've just discovered this picture of Ruth in Pied Piper's Interns and Apprentices Showcase this summer. It was taken by Fred Murphy. Ruth is the one on the left.

A Series From the BBC World Service - The State of the Union

In a four-part radio series from the BBC World Service, 'The State of the Union' reporter Owen Bennett-Jones travels the American Heartland talking to ordinary people. attempting "to get a better understanding of what preoccupies and motivates ordinary Americans, now the dust has settled after the election."

In the course of the series he visits Minnesota, Arizona, Texas and Ohio. Two of the episodes have already been posted to the Web, with the others to follow in the next week.

We Went to See Hairspray Friday Night

Hairspray Autographs for Ruth
Originally uploaded by baslow.
The whole family went to see Hairspray last Friday night. The kids had seen it, albeit standing at the back of the theater, once before. It was the first time for Bev and me.

My friend Julie Halston (whom I've known since my college days at Hofstra University) has stepped into the roles previously played by Jackie Hoffman, Prudy Pingleton, Gym Teacher and Prison Matron. Sabrina Reitman, with whom the kids had participated in some Pied Piper Children't Theater productions, had stepped into the role of Little Inez. They both did remarkable jobs, as did the whole cast.

The show is a high-energy singing, dancing, comedy experience from the opening to the very last note. The night was quite a cold one; New York was getting ready for the blizzard to come. You wouldn't have been able to tell in the Neil Simon Theater, however. Everyone turned in hot, high-voltage performances.

Shannon Durig substituted for Carly Jibson as Tracy Turnblad. She made the most of the opportunity throughout her performance, singing and dancing her heart out. Bruce Vilanch, as Edna Turnblad was simply hilarious. Mary Bond Davis, as Motormouth Maybelle, riveted the audience several times in the course of the evening. Chester Gregory II, as Seaweed Stubbs, was terrific. Todd Sussman, as Wilbur Turnblad, had a genial, loopy, slightly off-kilter delivery that very effectively led into his number with Edna, "Timeless to Me" and provided and effective counterbalance to the antics going on all around him. Tracy Miller, as Penny Pingleton, was a hoot and a half, all awkard gestures and dim-bulb delivery that make it all the more satisfying (and funny) when her light begins to shine.

Julie was marvelous. She was prudish (and discreetly racist) as Prudy, butch as the gym teacher, and no-nonsense tough-cookie as the prison matron. She was very, very funny as all three.

Sabrina Reitman was a wonder. She is (or will soon be ) eleven years old but she has the delivery (and the pipes!) of a twenty-one year old. She danced and sang up a storm, holding her own with the older performers and taking her turn in the spotlight like a star.

We got to talk to Julie and Sabrina backstage after the show although I was in a state of near-speehlessness, still coming down from the high of the performance. We talked about Hairspray all the way home.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Movies Viewed

Forever Amber -- is not a great movie. It is not terrible, however. There is a certain amount of spectacle. Some of the supporting cast -- most notably George Sanders as Charles II -- are marvelous. There is a scene set at a performance of "Romeo and Juliet" which is fascinating. This was an early Technicolor film and the print that I saw seems not to have aged well.

The Clearing -- is a thriller, but not really. The movie is really interested in illuminating its characters through the unfolding of its events. It is not interested in providing little shocks along the way, in "thrilling" you. Nor is it interested in tying up anybody's life in a nice, manageable package. Robert Redford, Helen Mirren and Willem Dafoe all seem to appreciate the opportunity afforded them by this film; they turn in admirably subtle performances.

The Postman Always Rings Twice -- I'm going to have to watch this movie again. It is almost universally acclaimed as a top-notch noir but, after my first viewing, I merely liked it. It didn't grab me the way I felt it should have. John Garfield does a very good job and Lana Turner does as good a job as I've seen Lana Turner do. Hume Cronyn and Leon Ames are standouts. Cecil Kellaway does a number of interesting things which, however, don't quite add up to a coherent character for me. The motorcycle cop (I cannot identify the actor) was a small role that bugged the hell out of me. He seemed to be too dumb by half. The movie as a whole seemed softer, glossier than I wanted it to be. Some intriguing ideas seemed to get buried and some (perhaps inevitable) implausibilities seemed too much at the fore. I much preferred Double Indemnity, Out of the Past, and about fifteen other noirs I can think of. Still, James M. Cain himself seems to have liked the movie and I've read some glowing reviews. Maybe I just wasn't in the mood. Like I said, I'll have to give it another chance...

Boogie Nights -- Paul Thomas Anderson reminds me of the Robert Altman of M.A.S.H. and Nashville or the Spike Lee of Do the Right Thing. He likes to gather a bunch of people together around some activity and show us all the interactions. This film is about a group of pornographers in the late 70's and early 80's, just as videotape began to rise to prominence as the preferred medium. Interestingly, although it is a very different movie (and a very different sort of movie), Paul Schrader's Auto Focus is also concerned with the impact of videotape on the production of pornography -- in particular, amateur pornography. Anderson is very sympathetic to these people, whose talents are modest but whose ambitions propel them forward. Unfortunately, in just about every case, they have had to ignore some aspect of the situations they are in. In the course of the movie they will have to come up, hard, against realities for which they are poorly prepared. There is surprisingly little nudity and virtually no salaciousness in this film. I wouldn't have thought that I'd ever call a movie about the demimonde of pornography a sweet film but, well, this one is...