Thursday, October 28, 2004

Wicked Impressive, I Guess

Sometimes, you just have to appreciate the weirdness of it all. On Saturday, October 17, I watched the New York Yankees take a 4-3 lead into the 9th inning of Game 4 of the American League Championship Series against the Red Sox. As you all know, the Yankees had a 3-0 series lead, and the almost invincible Mariano Rivera was on the mound. To paraphrase the loony Pedro Martinez, I figured the Red Sox were about to get spanked once again by their “Daddies” and to be honest, I didn’t mind laughing at their recurring misery. Well, the Red Sox tied it up (and should have won it) in the 9th and the game went into extra innings. I lasted through the 11th, and then too tired to endure any more, I turned off the TV and went to sleep, figuring either the Yankees would win it as they usually did or even if the Red Sox won as the home team in their last at bat, there was no way to win the Series.

Well I just woke up and can you believe the dream I had?

But seriously, you’ve probably heard all you want about the Reverse of the Curse, the End of the Drought, the historic comeback, the heroic Schilling, the Foulk Hero, etc. so I won’t bother with any of that for now. Just thinking about the present day Red Sox, think about this: If they could’ve, they would’ve gotten Alex Rodriguez, who had a decent but not sensational year and whose lack of clutch hitting helped do in the Yankees. They would have gotten rid of Manny Ramirez, who won the Series MVP and may very well win the season MVP. They would have gotten Magglio Ordonez, who missed most of the season with the White Sox with injuries. They would’ve gotten rid of Nomar Garciappara before the season, got rid of him at the trading deadline to the consternation of their fans, and wound up doing much better with Orlando Cabrera, who the Cubs passed on to get Nomar. They had two ex-Cubs 3rd basemen, Bill Mueller and Mark Bellhorn, who every Cub fan will tell you they were happy to replace with Aramis Ramirez, but Mueller & Bellhorn had huge hits, in game 4 of the LCS and game 1 of the series respectively. Bellhorn, now the Red Sox second baseman, would likely not be favored by many over Todd Walker, last year’s Red Sox second baseman, who platooned for the Cubs this year. And they had the savior, Keith Foulke, who the White Sox dropped from the closer role, just back in 2002 and traded for Billy Koch who was coming off a 44 save season and completely sucked.

So while I never bought into the whole supernatural aspect of the Curse, Red Sox or Cubs variety, there is something about fate, and almosts & not quites, and luck, and team chemistry, and karma that I find somewhat fascinating. I still don’t care much for whiny Red Sox Nation; but hopefully we won’t have to hear them whine anymore. And the team deserved it. Cheers!

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

What The Dickens! A Present Surprise.

Scrooge The Musical - 10.26.04 - Ford Center/Oriental Theatre, Chicago

Going into "Scrooge," a new musical based on Dickens' A Christmas Carol, my envisioned enjoyment of the show had a lot going against it, both from a personal and universal standpoint. This was the U.S. premiere of the show, with last night being the very first performance. It supposedly was well received in London but seems to have gotten very little publicity here. It was a replacement show in my Broadway in Chicago series, replacing the far more publicized -- and personally more anticipated -- world premiere of Masada, which got scrapped. It came the night after a great R.E.M. concert, which left me both tired and somewhat wishing I could see R.E.M. again rather than attend Scrooge. The music, lyrics & book were written by Leslie Bricusse, who has some respectable credits, but nothing I particularly know. Unlike most musicals I attend, I was completely unfamiliar with any of the songs ahead of time. It was a Christmas show, which in addition to being a bit early anyhow, never much appeals to the Jew & religious cynic in me. And finally, the star of "Scrooge" was Richard Chamberlain, of whom I've never been a great fan and who seems to engender giggles when his name is mentioned.

So with all that working against it, how could it possibly be any good. I really don't know, but it was. It wasn't a masterpiece, or anything earth shattering, but I cannot deny that I found it enjoyable. Given the extremely familiar story, even to a Jew, it was executed about as well as I could have imagined. I doubt I'll be buying the Cast Recording and the music wasn't incredible or anything, but it was alright, with a few truly hummable tunes. Richard Chamberlain was good, with a surprisingly good voice. Chicago actor George Keating, who've I've often seen at Marriott Lincolnshire, was also quite good. The sets were impressive, with a few "ghostly" illusions created by a guy whose worked on the Harry Potter movies. Beyond my own personal enjoyment of Scrooge, which is slightly above middling but not overwhelming, I can really see this show as one parents can bring their kids to and introduce them to musical theatre in a worthwhile way. Far more so than Phantom of the Opera or some other higher profile shows. While it would've been so easy to pan this show with a "Bah Humbug," it really was surprisingly Merry indeed.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

East of the Mountain Third Party Call

R.E.M. - 10.25.04 - Auditorium Theatre - @@@@1/2

Now 36 and officially an old geezer, pop culturally speaking, I was oblivious to the maelstrom over the Ashlee Simpson lip synching incident on Saturday Night Live until I read about it on the Internet yesterday. Despite the fact the Internet was supposedly "burning up with discussion about Jessica's sister's humiliation" followed by news stories detailing Ashlee's excuse after excuse after PR spin, I still couldn't understand why this mattered. An at-best marginally talented singer was revealed to actually be talentless; why did this matter? Are the 12-year-olds buying her album really that discriminating? Or outraged?

But the point I'm desperately trying to get to is this: Ashlee's debut album recently hit #1 with something insane, like 400,000 copies sold in the first week and who knows how many after that. Which means she's selling a ton more albums -- and getting a ton more publicity, even for her embarassments -- than R.E.M. is these days. So as I was about to comment on the great R.E.M. show I saw last night, with a reference to the fact they're getting a bit long in the tooth, I realized I would -- and anybody else should -- happily see them until they're 100 rather than concern myself with the Ashlee Simpsons of the world.

Good setlist, as you can see below. Great mix of old & new, with the new songs sounding much better than they do on the albums. Great seat, 3rd row, about 10 feet directly in front of Mike Mills, which means I got "bass-prominence" more than I ever had before at an REM, or any, show. I didn't hear the Peter Buck's ukelele at the beginning of Losing My Religion, I heard the bass line, which was a nice change of pace. It was a pretty interesting perspective. Especially for a band that I've seen dating back to 1986. Sure they're getting a bit long in the tooth, but last night's show was a nice mix of past glories and a still vibrant -- if a bit less astonishing -- future.


Around the Sun
Begin the Begin
So Fast, So Numb
Exhuming McCarthy
Boy in the Well
So. Central Rain
High Speed Train
The One I Love
Bad Day
I Wanted to Be Wrong
Imitation of Life
Don't Go Back to Rockville
Final Straw
Losing My Religion
Walk Unafraid
Life and How to Live It
What's the Frequency, Kenneth?
Sitting Still
Leaving New York
Sweetness Follows
Permanent Vacation
I'm Gonna DJ
Man on the Moon

Monday, October 25, 2004

Here's to the Cheap Show

Yesterday, I saw The Manchurian Candidate (the new version; @@@) at the Ogden Theatre, for which I paid the whopping sum of $3. The Ogden, in Naperville, IL, and the Buffalo Grove Theatre, which fortunately for me are convenient to my home and workplace, respectively, are seemingly the last of a dying breed -- "the cheap show." Commonly known as second run theatres, these $2-3 theatres are more accurately 3rd run, as $3.50-7.00 theatres such as the Glen (in Glen Ellyn), Wilmette, Highland Park and wonderful Pickwick now provide a middle ground between the first run ($9-10) theatres and the Ogden & Buffalo Grove. There used to be a few more truly "cheap shows" around Chicagoland -- Morton Grove, and one I used to go to in Lombard, plus many of the mid-range theatres used to be really cheapos. I don't know the economics of cheap shows, but I sure wish there were more of them and I certainly wish the Ogden & Buffalo Grove don't go out of business or raise their prices like many others have. These two theatres seem to draw a nice crowd, are well-maintained, and if you're willing to wait 2-6 months after its release to see a movie, or are willing to take a flyer on just about anything for $2 or 3 bucks, they really can't be beat.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Bye George (Pt. 1, let's hope), or, Yankees Go Home

Has anyone seen George Steinbrenner lately? Or Pedro’s midget? Maybe they’re hanging out together. Anyway, while I must confess to not feeling any sort of personal joy over the Red Sox victory over the Yankees, their comeback certainly is a historic feat worthy of admiration. And don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind the Yankees losing, though an obvious defect in my character doesn’t mind, and even enjoys, heartless dominance. I liked when Tiger Woods dominated the field, and especially Phil Mickelson; likewise I got a kick of George Steinbrenner going out and fielding a team that dominated baseball, damn the whining of others. Perhaps it afforded me some sort admiration of smug arrogance that I’ve never been talented enough to enjoy in real life. But if you think about it, the Yankee mystique is somewhat gone anyway, this being the 4th straight year they’ve crumbled without winning the World Series. They’re almost becoming the Atlanta Braves. But I still don’t think I want the Red Sox winning the World Series. I know they might, and I don’t mind any specific New Englanders finally tasting the joys of victory -- though 2 of 3 Super Bowls should somewhat void the Red Sox championship void, though I know it’s not the same -- but there’s just something about the whole wretched, cursed, downtrodden Red Sox Nation that just bugs me. And they just shouldn’t win before the Cubs. It’s not right, this year’s abominable North Side demonstration notwithstanding. OK, you got me. I like the Red Sox curse and I don’t want it to end. The 1918 chant will live on at Yankee Stadium if the Red Sox don’t win the World Series, so I’d like to see Roger Clemens and the Astros beat them in Game 7 at Fenway. Some things just aren’t meant to change.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Picasso, Goya, El Greco...

...Ribiera, Zurbaran, Dali, Miro, Velazquez and Gris. Nine great Spanish artists, many or all you may have heard of depending on your level of art history knowledge. Here's a 10th for you: Murillo. Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (1617-1682) to be exact. I came across one of his works last year at the Kimbell Art Museum in Ft. Worth, Texas of all places and have subsequently seen a few others in person and done some exploration about him online. It seems much of his stuff is more religious than the ones I initially liked, but if knowing about great artists is your thing, he's one more to know about. I gathered a nice smattering of his works -- mostly of the secular variety -- and invite you to see for yourself. Copy and paste this web address in your address bar and you'll be discovering a 17th Century master in no time:

(click on each thumbnail to see a bigger image)

Monday, October 11, 2004

Weekend Reviews #1

- Thursday 10/7
- The Dresser - A Play by Ronald Harwood - at Steppenwolf Theatre
Strong performances by John Mahoney & Tracy Letts; good core theme about "the show must go on" for a troupe of Shakesperean actors in England during World War II; but ultimately not all that enthralling or enriching.

- Friday 10/8
- Love; The Zombies - Concert - Park West
Love @@@ The Zombies @@@@
Two great bands from the 60's that haven't really had much recognition combined for a concert certainly well worth the $25 price. Most people don't know Love at all; many only know The Zombies for She's Not There, but both bands drew on their rich, yet short & distant legacies for a highly enjoyable show.

- Saturday 10/9
- John Mellencamp w/ Babyface - Riviera Theatre
Another Vote for Change concert; the only one to reach Chicago. Very light on the politics. Mellencamp was once a phenomenal concert performer, but has slowed down considerably. He's also become quite crusty and at times seemingly belligerant, and a large meathead contingent made for a not so enjoyable vibe. Still, his good songs are still good and he sang most of them.

Sunday 10/10
Finishing The Picture - a New Play by Arthur Miller - at Goodman Theatre
At times interesting, largely due to the biographical context of being about Miller and wife Marilyn Monroe during troubled times on set of the movie The Misfits. Without knowing the history, the play really would've seemed lanquid, despite an all-star cast and strong performances from Stacy Keach, Linda Lavin and Scott Glenn.

Where It's @ - The Seth Saith Rating System

Every critic needs a gimmick; unfortunately I don't have one. I don't even have the ability to type stars, so for my reviews of just about anything -- concerts, albums, plays, movies etc. -- I will use the handy @ sign, with a 5 @ scale as follows:

@@@@@ = Phenomenal; don't miss it!
@@@@ = I really enjoyed it
@@@ = It was alright but nothing special
@@ = It was disappointing, or just bad
@ = Absolute garbage

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Finally ... Rockin' In The Free World

Well, I'm sure in violation of the International Blogging Protocol, having not posted for nearly a week, but quite frankly I haven't had time. And who's reading this anyway? But for those few, obviously very bored souls that might be, I thought I'd recap my rock 'n roll, Vote for Change weekend.

Saturday, Oct. 2, I went to the lovely metropolis of Toledo, Ohio for a Vote for Change concert starring Pearl Jam and Death Cab for Cutie. I didn't reach Toledo until about 3:30, so my pre-show activities were limited a half-hour in the Toledo Art Museum -- I've been there before, most recently in January. It's an excellent museum, far bigger & better than one might expect in a city of Toledo's size -- and a visit to Tony Packo's Cafe, a legendary local restaurant dating back to 1932, that had been frequently mentioned by Klinger on M*A*S*H. The concert was at the Toledo Sports Arena, an old, low slung building that looked like a roller rink. There was one-tier, 5,000 permanent seats, plus another 2,500 put on the floor (over a hockey rink you could feel through the floor boards). The show began 10 minutes before the ticketed time of 7:30 when Eddie Vedder walked onstage alone with a guitar; he played two cover songs: Steven Van Zandt's "I Am A Patriot" and The Beatles' "You've Got To Hide Your Love Away." Then he introduced "representing the other side" a supposed ex-Senator from Pennsylvania, who decried all the liberals on hand. But it was just a joke, it was really actor Tim Robbins who proceeded to play guitar & sing in a 4-piece band called Gob Roberts.

Next up was Death Cab for Cutie, an up & coming band from Seattle I was somewhat familiar with. They were okay, but nothing phenomenal. Then came Pearl Jam, who opened with "Long Road" and proceeded to play a great set -- oh, yeah, I was in the 3rd row. After an electric set, and a short acoustic set hightlighted by Elderly Woman and Black (2 different songs!), after an encore break, Eddie came out alone and introduced special guest Neil Young, along with Neil's wife Pegi. They played Neil's song Harvest Moon, then the whole band came back and played All Along The Watchtower (amazing!), Act Of Love -- at this point, Eddie introduced another special guest who was onstage with a guitar, Peter Frampton -- followed by Cortez The Killer and Rockin' In The Free World.

Boy, that was longer than I thought. Anyway, Sunday was Detroit. First the Detroit Art Museum, then the final Detroit Tigers game of the season, then the concert at Cobo Arena. First, a band called Bright Eyes, then R.E.M., then Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band with special guest John Fogerty. It was awesome. More later.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Of Winners...

I must admit to being pleasantly surprised by John Kerry's performance in the debate last night. I thought he clearly dominated the proceedings and am happy to see the polls indicate the majority feels the same. Shockingly, I didn't see a poll or results on But anyway, I'm not saying Kerry was perfect with his presentation or all his points -- he probably wasn't -- but in terms of poise and professionalism, he clearly was more impressive that the oddly smirking, stammering, tape looping president who kept saying "It's hard work" and reiterating his reference to Kerry flip-flopping about the war. It was almost like watching a subliminal message that forgot -- or didn't bother -- to be subliminal. But it seems that the public -- at least those that offered an opinion -- saw right through it for the banality it is. Now I get to celebrate, and continue the rallying, with a rock & roll Vote For Change weekend. Pearl Jam in Toledo on Saturday, Springsteen, REM & John Fogerty in Detroit Sunday. So Kerry On Wayward and keep on rockin in the free world.

...and Losers

I am writing this before Friday’s Cubs game, so technically they still have a mathematical chance to make the playoffs, but even if they somehow leapfrog the Astros and Giants, they’re still a bunch of losers. This has been one of the most disappointing seasons in memory, but not simply, or even primarily, because it looks like they will fail to make the playoffs despite having been touted as the pre-season favorites to win the World Series. No, this has been a disappointing season because the way the Cubs have acted and played this year has made me not even want to root for them. I have never observed such a bunch of whiny crybabies who can’t get the job done -- against the Mets? against the Reds? Against Aaron Harang, John Riedling, Gabe White, Jose Acevedo and Juan Padilla -- yesterday’s Reds pitchers who came into the game with an average ERA over 6.00 and who the Cubs couldn’t score more than 1 run off of in 12 innings? Now certainly the Cubs have failed before, and I and Cub Nation have forgiven them, but the way they’re failing now -- bad baserunning, failing to lay down bunts or hit the cutoff man, perpetually swinging for the fences, even with the wind blowing in -- combined with their boorish behavior -- blaming umpires, getting suspensions, berating Chip & Steve, chastising the fans, etc. really makes this Cubs team an absolute joke. There’s a slight chance they might still get to the playoffs, but really, they don’t deserve to.