This stunning song is perfect for Memorial Day. The entire album, “Revival,” by Radney Foster is one of my favorites.
And while we’re on the subject of memorials, this month has not been kind to entertainment and sports icons from my childhood. In the past two weeks, we’ve lost:
• Tim Conway: Oh, how you made us all laugh. Especially Harvey.
• Doris Day: Que sera sera. The TV shows. The movies with Cagney, Hitchcock and especially Rock Hudson. And that day in 1985 when a terribly ill Hudson appeared on your show, finally bringing a national spotlight to the AIDS crisis.
• Bart Starr: A class act on and off the field.
• Bill Buckner: 22 years, 2,715 hits, and a botched groundball that lives in infamy.
File this under the miscellaneous people who walk into your life and (thankfully) stay there.
When Ben was in “Billy Elliot” on Broadway, one of his child wranglers was Todd Montgomery. Ben and Todd quickly bonded over music and the fact that our youngest son thought he was generally “pretty cool.” (He is, BTW.)
One night, Todd introduced me to his wife, Carole, and described her as the “funny one” in the family. Literally, because as it turns out, Carole has been a successful standup comedienne for decades.
In addition to being two of the best and kindest people I’ve come across, Todd and Carole are a great testimony to making marriage and a partnership work. They helped take care of our son as if he were their own at a time when we truly needed the help, and for that alone, I’m truly grateful. I’m also eternally thankful for their no b.s. approach to friendship and family as well.
At some point, Carole mentioned a project that she was working on, a show featuring women all over the age of 50. The project has taken off in comedy circles, and has resulted in a special being taped for Showtime. The special airs on March 23 (plus additional dates, I’m sure) and promises a full hour of honest and sincere belly laughs.
That it’s been made possible, and nurtured, by a person I’m proud to know makes it all the more special. So, to all my friends in their mid 50s, as well as those a decade younger and older, I hope you will take the time to watch “Funny Women of a Certain Age.”
Sometimes your children do things that make you swell with pride, with the realization that these humans you’ve known since they were in the womb have become mature, thoughtful and caring adults.
This is an example of that.
Emma graduates at the end of April from Point Park, finishing in three years (plus some summer work) with a double major in dance as well as sports and entertainment management. She submitted a concept to PPU's dance club and was chosen to choreograph it, on top of her already full course load.
The project, which she titled “Perpetual Mental Battle,” was inspired by Emma’s sister Kate, who struggled with bipolar throughout childhood and adolescence. Emma, in her description of the dance, admits that she “never really understood” what Kate goes through and notes the disorder is “often misinterpreted by others in society as well.”
“I created this work aiming to physicalize the feelings and emotions experienced by someone with bipolar when they are going through a manic- depressive episode,” Emma writes. “It is simply meant to shed light on the internal conflict occurring that others never see, and usually fail to address in an appropriate and healthy way.”
In developing the dance, Emma talked to Kate frequently to “ensure it was an accurate representation of her personal experiences.”
“This piece is very timely for Kate's journey as she is finally in a mentally stable place,” Emma writes. “She has a wonderful job working at a preschool and is thriving in other aspects of life. She has become one of my biggest supporters, and I only hope to be able to provide her with the same love and support.”
Wow. Just wow.
Thanks to the dancers who did such a lovely job of performing Emma’s piece on Saturday night at PPU, including two (Lauren Michaels and Kyra Smith) who she has known forever from her days at MSA. The other dancers are Mariah Barajas, Hanna Eidson and Sara Ekern.
• This weekend I saw the headline, “Mystery man buys $540 in Girl Scout cookies to get girls out of the cold,” which gives new meaning to the phrase “I want ALL of the Thin Mints.” Of course, given that no story seems to have a happy ending these days, the man was arrested the next by the DEA in a massive drug bust.
• Favorite comment I've seen about the performance by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper at the Oscars: "I watched their performance, and I’m pretty sure I’m now pregnant. With twins. ... And I’m a guy."
• One of the best headlines on the “blackface” scandal currently roiling the state where we live: “State Capitol Janitor Frank Surprised to Find He’s Virginia’s New Governor.” It’s actual “fake news” that’s both funny and sad at the same time.
• Nothing brings out the dumbassery in human kind quite like driving in the snow. Sadly, the intended recipients of this post won't see it unless they're texting while driving in the snow, therefore qualifying them for PhD's in said dumbassery.
• I watch this everytime it pops up.
• This column is a month old now, but it remains relevant. When I start nodding my head and agreeing with George Will, you know one of two things: 1. We are in far worse shape than anyone thinks. 2. Sanity has a remote chance of prevailing.
Last week, I spent four days in San Antonio shooting the annual Association for Career and Technical Education Conference. At the end, I produced a 3-minute slideshow that was presented at the final general session and then updated it to provide an overview of the conference.
The conference featured a keynote speech by Jenna Bush Hager on Nov. 29, the day before her grandfather, former President George H.W. Bush, passed away at the age of 94.
The cast of "Mean Girls" performed the song "Fearless" during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade amid record low temperatures — 17 degrees with a strong windchill, to be exact. Here is the performance.
And right after, we all found our way to a bar. Because, of course, this is how our family rolls on a frigid Thanksgiving morning.
Oct. 3 is big in Mean Girls lore, so the show had a number of things lined up to celebrate the day, starting on Monday with the appearance on Late Night with Seth Meyers and continuing with a supersized media blitz.
First up: My son can certainly tap a pencil.
A feature was posted on Broadway.com featuring photos and biographical information on the show's 15-member ensemble. The idea behind the feature was "a take on OG mean girl, Marie Antoinette."
Here is a behind-the-scenes video that includes a brief interview with the boy toward the end:
Meanwhile, another video from the MathLit trio was posted in honor of the Oct. 3 celebration, featuring a special guest appearance. It's hysterical.
And finally, before last night's show, the cast was joined by Tina Fey and Jonathan Bennett, who played Aaron Samuels in the 2004 movie to unveil West Fetch Street to the world.
Such a beautiful song. I will never forget seeing Christiane Noll and Robert Petkoff perform this the night that Ben made his Broadway debut in the Ragtime revival. It brought — and still brings — tears to my eyes. Wish I had seen Marin Mazzie and Peter Friedman do this in the original production. RIP, Ms. Mazzie.
A few random thoughts as I try to organize my brain so I can work on several freelance assignments due this week:
• My right hand is useful for the following: Shaking hands and dialing telephones. Society has required me to teach it to work a wireless mouse and a pair of scissors, although I still can't cut a straight line. That said, I'm happy to celebrate Left-Handers Day, throwing in a special shout out to my mom and first-born son, two of my favorite southpaws in life.
• The Washington Nationals have been maddeningly inconsistent all year, losing games they should win and winning ones they shouldn’t. It’s one reason they’re mired in third place in the National League East now.
Nothing illustrates this more than last night’s 4-3 loss to the Chicago Cubs on a ninth inning, walkoff grand slam that followed two Cubs players being hit by pitches. At this point, my allegiance to my other team — the Astros — has never been stronger, even though Houston is struggling to repeat its World Series miracle right now. Either way, we’ll still root for the Nats in what could be Bryce Harper’s last season with the team.
• Very sad to read this morning that Aretha Franklin, one of the true greats, is "gravely ill."
• To me, this is one of the most beautiful pieces of songwriting ever. A wonderful tonic for the soul.
• Another music note: If the Dixie Chicks are recording (as has been rumored), I wish they would cover "Young and Angry Again" by Lori McKenna. It’s a great song they could do a lot with off of her new album, The Tree.
• Tweet of the Week from Mark Harris, writing about the Academy Awards’ creation of a new “Most Popular” category: It truly is something that in the year “Black Panther,” a movie made just about entirely by and with black people, grosses $700 million, the Academy's reaction is, "We need to invent something separate ... but equal."
Anyone who knows me — well or not — knows I'm a huge music fan. I love nothing more than discovering new artists, revisiting established ones, and learning what makes writers and creators of some of my favorite sounds tick. Here are two videos worth your time, with memories of my own attached.
This is one of my all-time favorite songs, part of a live album that came out a couple of months before my dad died. "For Jack Tymon" by Scott Miller is a song that tells the story of my love for Nick, Kate, Ben, and Emma in a mere 2:59. Definitely worth a listen.
Somewhere around the one hour, 13-minute mark in this recording, Paul Westerberg makes my all-time favorite live show a classic. At the end of "Love You in the Fall," a song from the animated movie Open Season, Tommy Stinson talks about the project and tries to give a nonessential piece of The Replacements canon a boost.
At which point Westerberg says, "This one's better," and launches into "Can't Hardly Wait." 15,000 fans roared and sang along. It was a moment I will never forget.
(BTW: The photo on this video is one I took, which makes it even better.)
Each Scott Miller release has a number of great songs on it. I've been a huge fan since the V-Roys days, and have everything he's done. Looking for a song to get stuck in your head? Check this one out...
To the members of Congress who stubbornly refuse to believe climate change exists, I'd like to have you over for dinner at my place tonight. We can all sit in my 86-degree home and expose our beliefs while the floor fan struggles to keep up.
Conference photography is a growing — and highly enjoyable — part of my business. Earlier this month, I shot the APMP Bid and Proposal Conference in New Orleans and the Graduate Management Admission Council’s annual conference in San Francisco. I already have three more conferences scheduled in November and December and am bidding on several others.
The best conference photos, in my opinion, tell stories using visuals rather than words. Nothing bothers me more than the photographer obstructing the views of both the speaker and audience, so I try to remain as unobtrusive as possible. Unless it is absolutely necessary, I do not use flash during sessions, because this has the same disrupting effect on the speakers and audience at a live performance or show.
APMP, which serves professionals dedicated to winning business through proposals, bids, tenders, and presentations, holds a three-day professional conference for its members. More than 900 attended this year’s June 13-15 event, the largest in the association’s history. Over three-plus days (including preconference sessions and portraits for the board of directors before the meeting started), I shot and edited more than 600 photos, completing the task before leaving New Orleans to visit family in Texas.
This marked the fourth time I’ve shot the GMAC annual conference, held June 21-23 in San Francisco. Each time, I cull through the edited photos to produce a 2- to 3-minute slideshow of highlights that is aired during the final general session.
An aspect of my journalism career — working on deadline — also has helped in my approach to conference photography. I carve out time during breaks and in between sessions to dump and edit what I’ve shot. Typically, you shoot three to five photos for every one you keep, so this approach gives me a running tally of what I’ve got, and allows time for more shooting if necessary.
This year, for the first time, the slideshow came as close to real time as possible. I had a backup from the first two days already completed, but wanted to see if I could push the envelope. I took photos from the final morning of presentations, went out, picked the best, and edited them. I then shot photos at the start of the 90-minute final general session, edited the best, and added those to the slideshow as well.
When the slideshow — see below — aired, audience members saw about 15 photos that had been taken that morning. In that respect, the photos told the whole story of the meeting.
A few from the “It’s Not Spring Yet (!) Random Thoughts” file….
• Welcome, my friends, to the day that never ends. All I want to do is go outside, go outside...
• Spring-like weather. Spring-like allergies. And then the temperature drops 60 degrees. It’s a rollercoaster ride that never ends.
• Why I don't like Duke basketball...
• Professor Chris Poulos touts a word he learned at a dinner in 2013: exhaustipated — too tired to give a crap. (Courtesy of my friend Mike Clark)
• The new PP: Potty Police.
• I interrupt this political commentary hiatus for a moment to note a contradiction. Our president puts his name on everything ... everything. And yet, he doesn't seem to want the health care bill to bear his name. Of course, as another friend noted, the phrase "Trumpcare" is an oxymoron in and of itself.
• And finally, you gotta wonder if Steve Earle would be on Jeff Sessions' iPod...
I’ve always enjoyed the music of X, which straddled the world between punk and country and remains incredibly relevant. They were part of the great Sire Records roster in the 1980s that also included Lou Reed, Talking Heads, The Replacements, The Blasters, and Los Lobos, among others, and X’s first four albums are considered classics.
As much as I like those albums, which featured the original lineup, I’ve always had a soft spot for “See How We Are,” the 1987 album that includes Dave Alvin’s “Fourth of July” and the terrific title track. In the wake of the election, “See How We Are” has become my earworm.
Recently, on Facebook, I decided to ask my friends which hit song best describes the Cold War flashbacks we’ve been having since January 20. My suggestions were R.E.M.’s “It’s the End of the World as We Know It” and Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” but they came up with a fascinating playlist that includes:
• Sting: “Russians”
• Billy Joel: “You May Be Right” and “Big Shot”
• Gary Jules: “Mad World”
• Gus Black: “Today is Not the Day to F--- With Me”
• Eurythmics: “Sex Crime”
• The Clash: “Rock the Casbah”
• Nena: “99 Red Balloons”
• Tears for Fears: “Everbody Wants to Rule the World”
• David Bowie: “This is Not America”
• Talking Heads: “Life During Wartime”
The more I thought about it, I realized X had another appropriately titled song — “I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts.”
Each winter, the Workhouse Arts Foundation holds its Collectors Showcase exhibition and fundraiser, featuring donated pieces from each of the 90-plus studio and the Arches Gallery artists. Last year, one of my photos was selected as “Best in Show” by Sarah Newman, an independent curator with past exhibits at the National Gallery of Art and Corcoran Gallery of Art.
As a result, I was invited to have my own exhibit at the entrance to this year’s showcase, which will be held at 7:30 p.m. on March 4. The exhibit, dubbed “Road Show,” features 12 photographs taken during 2016, a year in which I traveled to 18 states and three countries.
All 12 photos are for sale, with 30% of the proceeds benefitting the Workhouse’s art, education and history programs. This teaser video gives you a sneak peek at the show, which was installed yesterday. I also will feature selected images from the show — with the stories behind each — in upcoming "Daily Photos" here and on my blog.
Starting this weekend, you can see the photos for yourself during the gallery’s regular hours (11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays, noon to 5 p.m. Sundays) and at the second Saturday event on Feb. 11.
For more information about the Collectors Showcase and art lottery, visit www.workhousearts.org. And stop by Building 9 to see three more of my photos and the work of the other Arches Gallery artists.
Ben and Josh Burrage performing "Unemployed" to the music of "I'm Alive" from Next to Normal during Sunday's variety show at 54 Below in New York. The boys, who are roommates, wrote the lyrics to the tune.
With only thirtysomething days until the election (thank goodness), I guess it’s not surprising that this edition of “Random Thoughts” is heavily tilted toward politics in some way. So here are some observations from the past month or so.
• Pronoun Trouble: As the son of a middle school history teacher, I think I've finally figured out one of our country's biggest problems: We have pronoun trouble.
Every time I try to make a seemingly rational comment about this election, or one that at least merits more discussion, I get lumped into the "you people" group. But if I remember my history lessons correctly, "We the people" is how it should work.
• What Matters: Several weeks ago, I made a "mistake" when I said "all lives matter." And while I believe that to be true (as we all should), there's no question that the antagonism and, at times, outright hatred that folks in power display toward African-Americans is just wrong.
Just because you have an itchy trigger finger, or are afraid of a person just because the color of their skin, religious affiliation, or sexual orientation frightens you does not give you or anyone else the right to do what is done over and over and over.
Put the damn guns down. Stop this uninformed hatred. Take 60 seconds and use the brain you were given before you hit "Post."
For God's sake, this has to end now. Please.
• Wise Advice: Courtesy of the Internet, here are some things to think about:
• Drop the Mic: No matter how you feel about the issue, this is campaign ad is one of the best I've seen in years.
•Dear Former Gov. Perry: Charles Durning did it better. Sincerely, Cast and Crew of "So You Think You Can Dance"
• Mr. Breathed Continues to Hit it Out of the Park: Rather than watch the first presidential debate, Jill and I went to watch a somewhat meaningless major league baseball game. What did you do?
• Post Debate Observation: Fact averse (n., adj.): Epidemic affecting voters across the nation.
• And finally…: Perhaps my eyes deceive me, but doesn't Kathy Bates look like she's auditioning to play David Bowie's role in the "Labyrinth" sequel?
Beautifully done. Never thought I'd call myself a John Cena fan, but between Trainwreck and this wonderful #WeAreAmerica ad, I'm a convert.
So Jill and I spent our wet and humid 4th in the best, most celebratory way possible. She had her bottle of wine, I had my beer, and we watched several episodes of "Justified" together in the living room.
Guy Clark leads an all-star cast in a performance of his "Desperadoes Waiting for a Train" on the Letterman show. Clark, the de facto songwriting leader of so many people I like, died Tuesday following a long illness.
And the world just got a little smaller ... again.
For some reason, I’ve been having trouble writing about the death of Prince. So many words have been said and so much purple ink spilled that there really isn’t much more that I can contribute.
But damn, that dude was talented. All you have to do is watch his Super Bowl halftime show.
No matter what you thought about Prince, he was a visionary in the music world. Like David Bowie, he mixed fashion, androgyny, funk, and throwback rock and roll into an always fascinating stew.
The results pushed the entire music industry in directions it did not anticipate; who would have thought he could almost turn Tipper Gore into a Republican? (If you don’t believe me, look it up.)
I wish 2016 would just let up when it comes to the deaths of people I’ve admired and appreciated as a fan of music and the performing arts. If I was a popular performer in the 1970s and '80s, I'd be more than a little scared. (Unless my name was Keith Richards, of course.)
Here are some excerpts from a Rolling Stone interview with Paul Westerberg after Prince’s death. The two were acquaintances who played the same clubs in Minneapolis; Westerberg also recorded at Prince’s studio, Paisley Park, after The Replacements broke up.
• He was like a ray of light in a very cautious place. He was a star. He made no bones about it. He was glitz to a place that wasn't used to it. I remember a little scuffle broke out in front of the stage one night and Prince said, "Stop fighting, you'll mess up your clothes."
• People like to paint him as a reclusive this or that; I think he was genuinely truly, truly shy. But one thing says a lot about him: I was there making a solo record a few years later, and I got a message that said that my friend had just died. I was truly rattled, and the next time I went back into the studio, he had filled it up with balloons. Now I'm gonna cry.
• I've spent more time with Bob Dylan, and I've got to say that I was more in awe of Prince. I can't think of anyone better – an all-around composer, musician, guitarist, star, showman, the whole package, anyone better. If Elvis wrote all of his songs and played guitar, it still wouldn't quite be there.
• When I got word today, I was trying to write a song. I put it down. I found myself walking up to the store, and I bought myself a handful of colorful clothes. I was just drawn to do something that he would have done.
My favorite post on this topic:
If you give us back Prince, Merle Haggard, David Bowie and Alan Rickman we will gladly give you the top 4 presidential candidates in return.
An appropriate song, given the type of year we’ve been having.
Anyone who has ever struggled with weight or been ridiculed for not fitting in should smile at the outcome of this story about the "Dancing Man." It definitely made me tear up and have middle school flashbacks...
Here is a 25-minute documentary that tells the story in more detail. Incredibly inspiring.
In a continuing quest to show — from afar — the process of rehearsals for "Tuck Everlasting" (and the boy who is in it), here's a short video on the unveiling of the marquee. The show opens in previews on March 31, with opening night set for April 26.
Jordan Roth, CEO and founder of the Culturalist website and president of the Jujamcyn Theaters chain in New York, went behind the scenes for an hour to watch the creation of the opening number of “Tuck Everlasting.” You can watch the video here.
A bonus: A screenshot of the video makes it on to the Tony Awards Twitter feed, and look who's front and center...
Jill is featured in this video with Tim Gunn and others discussing domestic violence and teen dating abuse. The video was put together as part of Liz Claiborne’s “A Time to Talk Day,” which was focused on the company’s “Love Is Not Abuse” curriculum available to schools. For more information, go to www.breakthecycle.org.
New York has almost 40,000 homeless people — the population of my hometown — living in shelters around the city. After seeing a number of people sleeping on benches at the entrance to the Staten Island Ferry, I decided to see what I could do to chronicle the state of the homeless here.
As New York becomes more and more expensive to visit, much less live, the number of panhandlers continues to grow. You can’t walk down the street without seeing someone asking for money.
But you can help. Got two minutes? Have $1? Then take a look at the website, www.doyouhaveonedollar.org. It's a philanthropic social challenge to see if 1 million New Yorkers can give just $1 each to help the homeless, poor, and hungry of NYC in 40 days, 11/22/2011 to 12/31/2011.
I donated these and other photos to the cause, and several are featured in a video promoting the project (see below). Please consider a donation of your own.
Members of the "Newsies" cast celebrated "National Dance Day" the best way they know how — by going to a rooftop in Toronto and dancing to their version of "Shut Up and Dance." They also celebrate the tour's 300th performance this weekend.
So very freaking proud of this young man, covering Snow Patrol's "Chasing Cars." Part of a weekly series of videos that Elon University's Vital Signs group is posting to promote its Member Highlight Monday series.
The group has worked on the project since January to highlight the individual talents of current members and alumni. Each group member covered a song of his/her choice and filmed a video to go with it. The videos will be released each Monday for the next 15 weeks.
To check out more videos, go to Vital Signs' Facebook page here and give them a like!
This is pretty freaking cool. Check out the boy tapping in this cover of "Shut Up & Dance," performed by members of the "Newsies" tour cast as part of the Disney Playlist Sessions. The session was taped during the tour's stop at the Smith Center in Las Vegas last week.
In case you're wondering, yesterday was pretty special. Jill out did herself in planning a wonderful 50th birthday celebration — from breakfast and a cake to a personal trainer session to a massage to a lunch and nap followed by a celebration with friends at a nearby bar.
I am truly grateful to her, my mom (who came from Texas as a surprise) and the kids. And thanks to everyone who took the time to post and send messages. It's a little overwhelming.
This 50 thing is a little overwhelming, too, not because of fears of growing old, but because it's hard to believe I've spent a half century on this earth. Twenty years ago, right around this time of year (and in the prehistoric era of fax machines-voice mails-AOL-and this thing called dialup Internet), I had what I called my one-third life crisis. No such thing as a midlife for me.
Now that I'm 5/9ths on my way to the ripe old age of 90, I can safely say that many things did not turn out as I would have expected. In fact, few things have turned out the way I would have predicted 20 years ago. But I'm reminded daily of how lucky I am, and am anxious to see what's in store for the next 40 or so years.
It’s been a big day in Newsies promotional land. Today, Disney Theatrical released a video that will be used in promoting the tour, plus the tour’s own program, featuring a certain kid we know.
This type of promotion is somewhat unusual for national tours, but shows the commitment Disney has made to giving audiences the Broadway version of one of its biggest hits. It’s another reason we’re so proud to have Ben be part of this experience.
One last plug for "Footloose." This was a huge undertaking — shooting and editing more than 2,500 photos taken over four days. The pictures are available for purchase and/or download in low- and high-res format at my e-store.
If you'd like to take a visual tour, check out this video that I compiled of stills from the Sunday performances. I think you'll enjoy it...
Metropolitan School of the Arts' production of "Footloose" had an unprecedented number of boys participating in the annual production. These stills, set to a video slideshow, pay tribute to their performance.
You can purchase these photos at my e-store. Photos are priced at a reasonable $2 each for 4x6 images, plus shipping, and 5x7, 8x10, and 8x12 prints are also available. You also can download low-res images suitable for sharing on social media as well as high-resolution images.
Standing outside in the freezing, drizzly weather this past weekend, I watched a group of teenage girls and boys come together under a Washington, D.C. bridge and “put on a show.”
The purpose was not to save the orphanage. In the spirit of 21st century DIY entrepreneurialism, it was an attempt to market and sell T-shirts made by a sophomore at Lee High School.
The story goes something like this: Many of the teens — all Metropolitan School of the Arts students — have known and/or danced with each other for years. But one particular group, infused with some students new and/or returning to the studio, has become really close since last summer.
Sam Cornbrooks, one of the new kids, started his own line of “Subzero” T-shirts in his basement to raise some extra cash and asked his friends to help market them. Sam also is an aspiring photographer/videographer and wanted to put together a video promoting his work.
His friends, which include Ben and Emma, offered to help. Nine put together a dance and, on the only day this spring that all were available, braved the still-frigid late March temperatures for the shoot. I went along to chronicle their work.