Friday, January 29, 2010

J. D. Salinger - (1919 - 2010)

"What I like best is a book that's at least funny once in a while...What really knocks me out is a book that, when you're all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn't happen much, though."

- Holden Caulfield (The Catcher in The Rye)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

I Gotta Feeling

The Grammy Awards are coming up this weekend, and I've got a feeling what the Album of the Year will be.

At least I know which one of the nominees SHOULD capture this honor.

"The E.N.D." from The Black Eyed Peas is unquestionably the best album released in 2009.

Fergie and the fellas have been making great pop music for years now, and this is their best effort to date. While this may not fit everyone's definition of a 'concept album', it nonetheless has a beginning, a natural progression, and an end (pun intended), all united by a common theme.
That underlying theme here is the expression of youthful energy in a modern technological society.

The CD features 15 cuts and there is not a dog in the lot, even when the fun borders on silliness. ("Ring-A-Ling" may be a sly wink to the emerging ring-tone market, but what is not to like about a song whose subject is that 2am 'booty call'.)
Fergie is at her finest on "Meet Me Halfway" and at her baddest on "Imma Be". In the former she channels an early 80's Madonna with the 'borderline' chorus. I listened to this song many times before realizing she was not sampling the actual song by that title.
Other cuts on this CD such as "Boom Boom Pow", "Party All The Time", "Rock That Body", et al are quite simply some of the greatest party tunes you are likely to hear.

And on this best "Album of the Year", you will experience what ought to be the Grammy's "Record of the Year", "I Gotta Feeling".
This song sums up the theme of youthful energy and even those of us who are not so youthful cannot listen without dancing and singing along.
This song inspired one of the best viral videos of the year. Seldom does a fan-created video surpass that of the original band, but this one does just that. Created by a group of students in Montreal, it was supposedly filmed in just one take with one continuous camera shot. I have watched it dozens of times, and I bet you can't watch it just once!

If you are having a party, be sure to put "The E.N.D." on, and if you are not, put it on anyway.
The party will surely follow.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

- Theater Review - Playwriting Festival

The Corn Stock Winter Playhouse has a deal for you.

Not one.
Not three.
Nor even five plays.

Their currently running "Playwriting Festival" features EIGHT plays for one admission. These short one-act plays are first run performances presented as a competition for budding playwrights. These eight plays are the products of five different writers. I had assumed that all of the playwrights were local and was somewhat disappointed to discover that most are not. It is intended that this will become an annual event, so hopefully, there will be more local writers entering next year's competition.
The audiences decide the competition by voting for their three favorites.

The eight plays are:

"When Jason Was In Kindergarten" by Carey Daniels
Jason's prison guard father shows up on career day to regale the kiddies with tales of the big house, including the difference between a shiv and a shank, the intricacies of prison sex, and the grisliest crime he knows of.

"Janitor and Grad Student" by Gordon Petry
A sweet romantic tale about a chance encounter that explores assumptions about class, gender, and career aspirations.

"Catch and Release" by Carey Daniels
An unsettling story about an abusive father who takes to heart the adage "Give a man a fish and he eats for one day, teach him to fish and he eats for a lifetime." You can bet his kids will indeed remember this lesson for the rest of their lives.

"Shoot" by Neal Ryan Shaw
A somewhat puzzling short about a photographer who asks an author friend to photograph him for his book jacket. He has photographed her for her jacket photo previously and now the tables have turned.

"Optimism" by Patrick Mark Mullowney
Grandma Crenshaw plots world domination, but only if she can sell the grandkids into white slavery.

"You Don't Remember Me, Do You?" by Gary Hale
A man celebrating a new home purchase with a friend encounters a waitress whom he can't quite remember, although she implies their past involvement was much more than casual.

"No(ah) Complaints" by Gordon Petry
Noah along with his wife and three sons delivers some Old Testament shtick.

"Red, Blue, Whatever" by Gary Hale
A scathing yet hilarious indictment of Republican and Democratic strategists from 1994. Red state, blue state, they're all the same, and the players are all dogs!

Although the choice is tough, my three votes go to:

#1 "You Don't Remember Me, Do You? - clever, funny and the most perfectly cast of the entries.
#2 "Janitor and Grad Student" - some might say too schmaltzy. I say charming, simple and sweet.
#3 "When Jason Was in Kindergarten" - funny and irreverent. The actors capture their inner child perfectly (especially Jeff Craig).

This festival is a great idea. There are ample opportunities in the area for aspiring actors and many opportunities for aspiring directors. Now we have an event offering recognition to aspiring playwrights.

Eight great plays for only ten bucks!?
Don't miss out on this deal!
And take your friends along to the upper Bradley Park theater next weekend.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

- Theater Review - Rain

The most recent offering from the Peoria Civic Center Theater's Broadway Series, like the LAST offering from the Peoria Civic Center Theater's Broadway Series, ain't really theater!

This is a simulated concert by Beatles impersonators.

Since there are countless people who can convincingly imitate the vocal stylings of the famous, I think any impersonator should approximate the physical appearance of the impersonated. This group gets this part half right. The Ringo and George characters are passable. The other two fail miserably. John Lennon had many looks over the course of his public life. None of these involved pudgy.

Also, the impersonator should stick to the catalog of the impersonated. While I enjoyed hearing "Imagine" and "Give Peace a Chance", these are NOT Beatles songs! They belong to John and Plastic Ono. (Thankfully, no Wings numbers were included).

The show was accompanied by a video recreation of the Beatles career and the decades of the 1960s and 1970s. Since this was a "tribute to the Beatles", I wished they had used the actual photos and memorabilia, rather than photo-shopping the impersonators into every frame.

Having said all this, I will admit that this show was much more enjoyable to me than the previous "gymnastics exhibition". As a self-professed aging hippie, I lived through the Beatles experience. I love the Beatles, and I am thankful to have experienced that era.

As I looked around at the enthusiastic audience, I was reminded of the impact these four men had on world culture. There were many in the audience who already knew the answer to that age old question "Will you still need me...when I'm 64?" And there were also pre-teen youngsters dancing and singing along with lyrics they knew by heart.

For a brief couple hours, yours truly was transported back to the 1960's and secure in the knowledge that when all is said and done, all we REALLY need is love.

What's So Great About Peoria?

Well, for one thing there's


Located in the RiverFront Arts Center Building at 305 SW Water Street in Peoria, the Contemporary Arts Center is a true city treasure.

While Peoria is home to countless artists of exceptional ability, as a community we are extremely fortunate to be home to an artist of the caliber of Preston Jackson. Mr. Jackson is a world-class artist who could have been successful establishing a gallery in New York City or in Chicago where he continues to teach at the Art Institute. Instead, Preston chose Peoria as the location for his Checkered Raven Gallery in 1995.

That gallery has since evolved into the Contemporary Arts Center, which is a wonderful and extensive urban arts center. It consists today of three separate galleries (two on the second floor and one on the third floor of the building) featuring regular exhibitions of art, often by local or regional artists. The building is also home to many artists' studio spaces and classrooms. In addition to visiting the galleries, the public is encouraged to visit the studio spaces where art in many forms and media can be observed in various stages of creation. Often, there are artists present who are eager to show off and discuss their work.

Aside from showcasing the visual arts, the main gallery is also the location of "Live at The Five Spot" every Friday night. Here one can enjoy some of the finest live music to be found locally, and enjoy drinks and great food from the Rhythm Kitchen Restaurant on the first floor.
Also, on the third Thursday of the month there is poetry reading and written word sharing.
On the last Sunday of the month, there is a Gospel/R&B event.
Besides all these regularly scheduled events, there are many special and unique cultural events held here as well.

There are many people in the community who label themselves as Preservationists or as New Urbanists. Well Folks, this is how it is done!
The Contemporary Arts Center is a prime example of how to reuse an historic building in a way that benefits the city and enhances the quality of life for the entire community in an easily accessible manner.

You can visit their website here. But please, do yourself a favor and visit the galleries in person Tuesday through Saturday down on Water Street.
Tell 'em Paul sent you!

And please consider a CAC membership to support an institution that helps to make Peoria a great place to live.