Brighter Than The Sun, et al.

The Museum of Broadway

The Off-Broadway play Brighter Than The Sun was why my daughter and I took the 10:05 a.m. Amtrak train down to New York City on Wednesday, January 10.

The 10:05 to NYC was delayed. So was the 8:25. Though no one told us why, I had a sneaking suspicion about it, confirmed by some folks on Facebook. The tracks run very close to the Hudson River, and the torrent of rain south of Albany made running the trains in either direction impossible. This meant the trains running to Montreal and Toronto, probably from NYC via Albany, were likewise suspended.

Then, just before 11 a.m., they called the 8:25 folks to board.  A lot of them had left the terminal, with some deciding to take the bus or to drive, though I heard there were some difficulties with the driving in the Mid-Hudson as well. (Flying was no better.)

Then the 10:05 people got to board (yay!) but we didn’t take off for nearly an hour (oh, well). But we finally left only two hours late. There were park benches near the Mid-Hudson Bridge in Poughkeepsie that were half covered by the river.
We walked to our timeshare, Club Wyndham on 45th Street near 3rd Avenue, where my sister Leslie and I stayed in June 2022.   Soon, we headed to a casual restaurant where we met Alexa, the general manager/assistant director/co-producer/chief bottle washer of Brighter Than The Sun, and not incidentally, one of my daughter’s cousins. She was there with her twin sister, her mother and father (one my wife’s brothers), who also came from out of town.  
After dinner, we headed to the Chain Theatre / 36th Street Theatre, 312 West 36th Street, a 99-seat theater which is a requirement of an Off-Broadway production. The show is “an autobiographical, anecdotal musical that analyzes the relationship between a young man and his grandmother, as it takes a collective glance at both of their upbringings in South Georgia. The narrative is a simple, yet incredibly evocative tale of broken dreams, familial ties and the concurrent cycles of birth and death that compose everyone’s story.” 
The performers were amazing. A standout was Amber Mawande-Spytek, a great singer. It turns out that I had seen her before, in Godspell at the Mac-Haydn Theatre in August 2023.  There are some good songs, and while the dialogue could be trimmed, the playwright shows promise. It’s playing through January 21. 
The next morning, we went to the Amish Market. From the website, it would seem it was sold prepared foods. In fact, it was fairly well stocked with fresh fruits, vegetables, and the usual grocery fare. 
The Museum of Broadway
After we made breakfast, my daughter and I went to the Museum Of Broadway, which is, to use the technical term, really cool. After one watches a four-minute video of NYC theater – it moved uptown from the Wall Street area because the land was cheaper – we went up to the third floor. 
The top two floors contained items from various shows, plus videos. They included Showboat, Fiddler on the Roof, Oklahoma, Hair, Company, West Side Story (you are in the corner store), Rent (pick up the pay phone receiver and hear about Jonathan Larson from those who knew him), Phantom of the Opera (that’s the Red Death costume below), Hamilton, Wicked, and the special exhibit for Six. 
It was great, but someone wanting to go into theater should spend ample time on the first floor. “Go behind the curtain into the making of Broadway show with a special exhibit honoring the community of brilliantly talented professionals – both onstage and off – who bring Broadway plays and musicals to life every night.” Everything from costumes to choreography, makeup to marketing, is addressed in the videos by people who have done so. 
I spent a lot of time watching the video about the swings, the unsung heroes of theater.  Later that day, my daughter and I would see Alexa and her family again, and I recommended that Alexa go to the Museum if she had time. 
On our way back to the Wyndham, we walked through Bryant Park, which had several vendors and many ice skaters. And we saw the trees near Grand Central Station, as pictured above.
The last day
Our checkout was 10 a.m., so I ran the dishwasher and we packed. We could leave our luggage at the Wyndham while we ate breakfast across the street.
We went a couple of blocks to the United Nations and attempted to identify the members’ flags, which, fortunately, were arranged alphabetically. It wasn’t very windy, so it was difficult to see them fully.  It’s good that it’s Cote d´Ivoire and not Ivory Coast because that flag and Ireland’s are a LOT alike. I had forgotten that some countries had changed their names: Swaziland to Eswatini, e.g.
We returned to the hotel, retrieved our luggage, then ordered an Uber that arrived in less than a minute. The 1:20 train left on time. We took the 114 CDTA bus home. 

First is important; “can’t count” is better

Nine is enough

Margaret Chase Smith 1950I’ve long had this rule of thumb about progress for groups who have been traditionally underrepresented in an area. The person who is first is important, of course, indeed vital. But real equality takes place when one can’t count the number without looking it up.

So it’s excellent that Sarah Thomas is the first woman to referee a Super Bowl game. And there are plenty of other firsts in sports in recent years.

But “‘What is really going to excite me is when this is no longer aberrational or when this is no longer something that’s noteworthy,’ said Amy Trask, who in 1997 became the Oakland Raiders’ chief executive and the first woman of that rank in the N.F.L. Few have followed in similar roles.”

Once I knew all of the female spacefarers. Now that there have been more than five dozen, I look at the list and not recognize some of the names. And THAT is a GOOD thing. Too many to keep track of is the point of the exercise.

US Govt

There are currently 24 women in the US Senate and 58 all-time. That’s not nearly enough. Still, I can no longer name all of the current female Senators, which I could do as recently as the early 1990s. (Margaret Chase Smith, R-ME, was the ONLY woman in the Senate the year I was born.)

I’m looking forward to the point when I can’t name all of the women who have been on the US Supreme Court. (Hint: there have been five of them, and three are on the court presently.)

The late, great Ruth Bader Ginsburg had a great quote about this. “When I’m sometimes asked ‘When will there be enough [women on the Supreme Court]?’ and I say ‘When there are nine,’ people are shocked. But there’d been nine men, and nobody’s ever raised a question about that.” Amen.

Of course, I needed to get my calculator to count all of the women who have been elected President or Vice-President of the United States. I can’t count that high. Lessee, there’s one…

United Nations

UN Women announces the theme for International Women’s Day, 8 March 2021, as “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world.” It calls for “women’s full and effective participation and decision-making in public life, as well as the elimination of violence, for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls…

“The majority of the countries that have been more successful in stemming the tide of the COVID-19 pandemic and responding to its health and broader socio-economic impacts, are headed by women.

“For instance, Heads of Government in Denmark, Ethiopia, Finland, Germany, Iceland, New Zealand, and Slovakia have been widely recognized for the rapidity, decisiveness, and effectiveness of their national response to COVID-19, as well as the compassionate communication of fact-based public health information.

“Yet, women are Heads of State and Government in only 20 countries worldwide.”

Refugees, a poem by Brian Bilston

The world can be looked at another way

For United Nations Day, I decided to post a poem entitled Refugees by Brian Bilston. I came across it on Facebook in 2018, though the author first posted in March 2016. It was buried in my email until now.

It is used with permission of the author. As he says, “Please bear with it.”

They have no need of our help
So do not tell me
These haggard faces could belong to you or me
Should life have dealt a different hand
We need to see them for who they really are
Chancers and scroungers
Layabouts and loungers
With bombs up their sleeves
Cut-throats and thieves
They are not
Welcome here
We should make them
Go back to where they came from
They cannot
Share our food
Share our homes
Share our countries
Instead let us
Build a wall to keep them out
It is not okay to say
These are people just like us
A place should only belong to those who are born there
Do not be so stupid to think that
The world can be looked at another way

(now read from bottom to top)

UN Day

Here’s the Secretary-General’s Message from 2018;
United Nations Day marks the birthday of our founding Charter – the landmark document that embodies the hopes, dreams, and aspirations of “we the peoples”.

Every day, the women and men of the United Nations work to give practical meaning to that Charter.

Despite the odds and the obstacles, we never give up.

Extreme poverty is being reduced but we see inequality growing.

Yet we don’t give up because we know by reducing inequality we increase hope and opportunity and peace around the world.

Climate change is moving faster than we are, but we don’t give up because we know that climate action is the only path.

Human rights are being violated in so many places. But we don’t give up because we know respect for human rights and human dignity is a basic condition for peace.

Conflicts are multiplying – people are suffering. But we don’t give up because we know every man, woman, and child deserves a life of peace.

On United Nations Day, let us reaffirm our commitment.

To repair broken trust.

To heal our planet.

To leave no one behind.

To uphold dignity for one and all, as united nations.

  • António Guterres

See also the Refugee Rights section from the Human Rights Watch page.

Neil Simon, Marie Severin, Russ Heath, Kofi Annan

Marie Severin was one of the most delightful, funny and talented people who ever worked in comics

Marie-SeverinNeil Simon was a writer whose work I appreciated in several media: He penned the screenplays of movies such as The Sunshine Boys, The Goodbye Girl, and California Suite I saw in the 1970s. His plays such as Brighton Beach Memoirs and Biloxi Blues in the 1980s I watched on local stages.

But it was the TV adaptation of the play Odd Couple (1970-1975), starring Tony Randall and Jack Klugman, that was my introduction to Simon. I only caught the 1968 movie considerably later. I even watched the short-lived 1982 TV remake with Ron Glass as Felix Unger and Demond Wilson as Oscar Madison.

Of course, the career of Neil Simon goes back to the early days of television. Simon’s hits on stage and screen made him the most commercially successfully playwright of the 20th century — and perhaps of all time.
Marie Severin was a name I first knew as the main colorist at Marvel Comics in the 1960s while also doing the occasional penciling job. But she started as a colorist back in the late 1940s “when her older brother, comic book artist John Severin (1922-2012), asked her to color one of his stories for EC Comics.”

As a penciler, she also worked on Marvel’s parody comic book series, Not Brand Echh. And she co-created Spider-Woman in 1976, designing her iconic costume. Plus, everyone agreed that Marie Severin was one of the most delightful, funny and talented people who ever worked in comics.
Russ Heath was one of the great comic book illustrators of the field. “Because he veered away from super-heroes and more ‘commercial’ genres, he often did not get the respect he deserved.”

Most people – my wife, for instance – know who Roy Lichtenstein was. Most folks who aren’t comic book fans don’t know Russ Heath. This This piece explains part of my loathing for Lichtenstein:

“One day in 1962, Lichtenstein walked down to the corner newsstand near his studio and bought a copy of DC Comics’ All-American Men at War #89, took it back to the studio, threw it on the overhead projector, and cranked out about a half-dozen paintings based on (swiped from) panels in that comic book, which he then sold for millions of dollars each.” Heath got nada.
Gary Friedrich, best known as the co-creator of the motorcycle-riding Ghost Rider character for Marvel, died at the age of 75. He had been suffering from Parkinson’s Disease. He had a legal tussle with Marvel that was only partially satisfactory.
Kofi Annan is dead at 80. He came to embody the United Nations’ deepest aspirations and most ingrained flaws.

For some reason, keeping track of UN Secretaries-General – there aren’t that many – has long fascinated me. And I wanted the first one from sub-Saharan Africa (Ghana) to do well, a subject of much debate, despite his Nobel Peace Prize.
Every time I see that an older person of note dies, I read comments such as “Was he still alive?” They always seem astonished. For me, it’s totally the opposite. If I discover that a noteworthy person, in the realm of my interests, passed away in 2010, and I somehow missed it, THAT would surprise me.

W is for Water worries

The calculus is whether the short-term economic gain is worth the long-term ecological loss.

“In December 2010, the United Nations General Assembly declared 2013 as the United Nations International Year of Water Cooperation (Resolution A/RES/65/154). In reflection of this declaration, the 2013 World Water Day, which will take place on 22 March 2013, also will be dedicated to water cooperation. Therefore, UN-Water has called upon UNESCO to lead the 2013 United Nations International Year on Water Cooperation…”

For years, I’ve been hearing that the wars of the 21st Century will be fought, not over oil or precious metals, but over H2O. I was distressed to hear from the Nestle CEO that water is not a human right and should be privatized, which is already happening in Canada. This has energized the forces calling for a boycott of Nestle products.

As the UN reports note, climate change and other human activities are messing up the planet’s “hydrological cycle,” leading to more droughts in some parts of the earth, and devastating flooding in others. The only year in the last five that the Red River did NOT flood near Fargo, ND was when there was a drought in the region; talk about all or nothing.

My concern over a process called hydrofracking, which, according to many opponents, “uses significantly more water than conventional drilling, as well as a ‘slick water’ mixture that is pumped into the shale to fracture the rock and release the [natural] gas,” is largely based on the use and potential abuse of precious water supplies. “There is an increased potential for toxicity and its long-term impacts, [as well as] the environmental impacts of the drilling: surface and subterranean damage including forestland loss… [and] groundwater and surface water contamination…” Where will the toxic fluids go is a large and seemingly unresolved question.

Fracking is a highly charged issue in New York State because the financially depressed Southern Tier region (Jamestown to Elmira to my hometown of Binghamton) is sitting on top of part of the Marcellus basin deposit which could be a boon to the area. The calculus is whether the short-term economic gain is worth the long-term ecological loss.

On a planet of about seven billion people, more than one billion are suffering from lack of ANY clean, potable water, and twice that cannot get to “any type of improved sanitation facility. About 2 million people die every year due to diarrhoeal diseases, most of them are children less than 5 years of age.”

Read more about water policy HERE.

One does NOT want to be quoting Samuel Taylor Coleridge:
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.

ABC Wednesday – Round 12

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