Thursday, September 30, 2010

Night And Day As I Go Away

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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Love It Or Leave It

São Paulo is not very smoggy and the beaches are all 3-4 hours away by car or 45 minutes my plane; of couse, one of these beaches - one with a 10 million metro area attached - is Rio! Imagine if L.A. were a 45 minute flight from New York, and you begin to get an idea. São Paulo, of course, is a state of mind, and is Brazil's center of everything from business to the arts; you won't get bored, there, particularly if you are fortunate enough to speak Portuguese.

In one breath São Paulo is and isn't walkable. It is, because there sidewalks and trees and the few huge freeways like 9 de Julho (pictured left) don't really block access. But since SP sprawls every which way, the distances are enormous. While walking the city is as physically possible as in London, another sprawling city, SP's charms are both more elusive and less varied.

I truly love the place, but I understand why it's not among the top Brazilian places a foreigner would want to visit - you'd be more dazzled by Rio's spectacular beauty, the Afro-Brazilian flavor of Bahia, the Amazon, Iguaçu Falls, the Pantanal marshlands, and the perfectly preserved colonial cities of Minas Gerais; and that's only the absolute show-stopping highlights - in the world's 5th largest and 5th most-populated country, the possibilities are nearly endless...

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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Viewed From Green

São Paulo's gleaming modern sprawl is sudddenly quite breathable and lovely as viewed from a patch of park...

My conference started yesterday. Santander's building is way, way over by the Pinheiros river highway, an up and coming business area that's less walkable than my previous digs up by Avenida Paulista..

The hotel's about 15 minutes up the highway by van. This means I'll be up with the roosters to catch the van.. I'll have wall-to-wall company presentations from 8:30 to 6:30 followed by a long, relaxing dinner with my investor guests. It's going to be a busy week, indeed...

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Monday, September 27, 2010

Sweet Freedom

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In Your Head A Long Time

Give today's song a listen or two and it'll stick with you for nice spell. 'Stop For A Minute' is a well-constructed pop gem that pired British quartet Keane with Somali-Canadian singer and rapper K'Naan that surprisingly didn't do as well as their earlier material. Adored in their native UK, inexplicably unknown here, their music is just too pretty to dismiss as 'Coldplay-lite..'

They are classic purveyors of piano-driven pop-rock ballads and midtempo confections - they weren't aiming to be poets or geniuses, just to touch your heartstrings, and touch they do...

Also, Tim Rice-Oxley has vocal range and soulfulness that Coldplay's Chris Martin can only dream of...

Originally named The Lotus Eaters, they renamed themselves Cherry Keane after a family friend of pianist Tom Chaplin who encouraged him to follow his dreams, and later died of cancer. They later shortened the name to just 'Keane...'

Here's the irresistible 'Stop For A Minute, ' I like how K'Naan's rap (a verse & a half after his excellent singing) doesn't at all take away from the song's pop sweetness

Here's 'The Lovers Are Losing,' a live version with excellent sound quality. The official video has been blocked by their record label... Happily, they sound terrific light and don't need heavy instrumentation or production...

Keane broke through in the UK with a string of major pop hits in 2004-2005... It's very radio-friendly, easily digestible light pop..

My favorite song from their debut album, here's 'Bedshaped' live, putting the finishing touch on a concert...

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Sunday, September 26, 2010


That's 'welcome' in Portuguese - I should be arriving in São Paulo early this morning.

Here's one of SP's many sleek modern buildings, as lovingly photographed by my friend Emerson Gibin(i) as part of a Flickr set fittingly titled 'I Love São Paulo.'

Hey, it's the kid's home town. I love it, too, actually, it's sunny, exciting, cosmopolitan, and the people are both lovely and smart.

I'll be featuring, pre-posted, Emerson's São Paulo photos all week, adding my comments here and there when I have a brief moment...

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Saturday, September 25, 2010

A Tale of Two Countries (Off I Go)

Tonight I'm off to São Paulo, Brazil for my first business trip with Santander, hosting my first Investor Conference since September 2008, at the edge of the 2008-2009 global financial crisis. Brazil, like many large emerging countries, has rebounded brilliantly from the downturn, growing at 7%+ and continuing a 15-year hot streak unlikely to end in the foreseeable future; 30 million Brazilians joined their middle class in the last decade. It's a panorama Americans can only envy. Also, in eight days Brazil will choose their new President after a remarkably intelligent and genteel campaign. A landslide for Lula protegée Dilma Rousseff (pictured left) is widely expected.

Anyway, the conference will be in São Paulo from Monday to Thursday with a day in Buenos Aires on Friday; I fly home from Argentina overnight Saturday and arrive in the wee hours Sunday.
For those who care, this will be my 124th foreign trip, my 74th in Latin America, my 42nd in South America, my 27th to Brazil, and my 22nd to Argentina. Only Mexico has seen my sweet face more (28 times). This will be my 79th foreign business trip.

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Friday, September 24, 2010

Explore Fanny

Seminal. Groundbreaking. and vanished into obscurity...
Heck, I hadn't heard of them until my honey scarped a gem from the bottom of his Casablanca Records barrel. Fanny was perhaps the first self-contained all-female rock group signed to a major label (Reprise), on which they just barely scarped the top 40.. They did, however, play live on Sonny & Cher... and yes, that's a very young-looking Phyllis Diller playing Cher's straight woman in the final 10 seconds...

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Brother! (It's A Wild Love...)

For the past few weeks JP and I have been enjoyed the very early-50s-noirish first season of Adventures of Superman, a fireworks display of character acting and anchored by indelibly archetypical Clark, Perry, Lois,
and young, wide-eyed, 'golly, jeepers' Jimmy Olson. Well, it turns out that Jack Larson, the actor who played Jimmy, is a brother! After a romance with Montgomery Clift, he found long-lasting love, 35 years of it, as the life partner of director James Bridges (pictured right, with Larson and their dog, Max); Larson gave up acting in the early 60s, totally unable to escape typecasting, and became a successful playwright, director, and producer..

Here's Jack Larson interviewed in July of this year! He's 82 and doing just fine..

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Thursday, September 23, 2010

This Is Transylvania!

Emerson's been there. Emerson's been everywhere! Emerson had dinner with us here in Chelsea last night. Emerson's joining me for dinner in São Paulo on Sunday.
Where in the world is Emerson Gibin(i)?

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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Eternal Mindshine Of The Spotless Sun

Autumn swept into town with a series of impossibly pleasant, resplendent days of abundant sunshine and skies of deepest blue. Monday found me walking through the intensely bright streets to attend a roadshow presentation at Essex House on Central Park West.

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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

What The Financial Analyst Saw

IMG_0004On Sunday we saw 'What The Butler Saw,' Joe Orton's 60s-era British farce, in Park Place at the Gallery Players.

Influenced by Feydeau, the Marx Brothers, and perhaps Ionesco, it's was sheer madness delivered with ye olde British serious composure.

The American cast rose to the occasion and elicited a two-hour long grin, if not out-loud laughing..

I wish I could show you a bit of the play, and this one-minute preview from an (English-language) German production does convey the flavor...

Another cute preview, one-minute, from California..

This British version may be too sedate for the material... Check it out nonetheless..

Finally, a 1967 TV interview with Joe Orton, the brilliant, mad, and quite gay playwright...

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Monday, September 20, 2010

Scottish and Sharp, Act Two

Today's musical offering, 'Mouth To Mouth,' is indie pop inflected with folk, sometimes in a 70s AM radio kind of way. It's the happy and unlikely revival of Scottish indie-pop quintet The Vaselines, which made interesting but little-heard music from 1986-1990 and finally reformed just two years ago. Nearly unknown outside of Scotland in the late 80s, they caught the attention of Nirvana's Kurt Cobain, who once called Vaseline's core couple, Eugene Kelly and Frances McKee, 'his most favorite songwriters in the world,' surprising since they're so mellow and Nirvana rocked hard. Cobain even covered three Vaselines songs on Nirvana albums, and the broken up band gained a huge coterie of admiring critics and music fans.

"Mouth to Mouth" is not the single actually, so our video offering is the title track of their new album, 'Sex With An Ex,' a lovely guitar-strumming 60s folk-pop sing-along, that's much warmer and less racy than its title implies..

Here's 'Molly's Lips,' one of the three early Vaselines songs Nirvana covered.

Another Nirvana-covered track, the lovely 'Son of A Gun'

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Sunday, September 19, 2010

All Right Now, Baby It's A-All Right Now

"The Kids Are All Right" is surely among 2010's finest, most satisfying and honest films, and if you haven't seen it, run, do not walk, to your local cineplex!

You've probably heard it's that 'lesbian couple with kids meet the sperm donor movie,' which is like calling Gone With The Wind 'that southern chick lives through war and gets married three times film.' The one-sentence premise doesn't do justice to the depth and quality of the film, and in any case, a good film transcends its premise. I got past the idea of 'female boxer' flick and 'gunman avenging mutilated whore' picture to see the terrific Oscar-winning films 'Million Dollar Baby' and 'Unforgiven,' respectively..

'Kids Are All Right' is the triumph of a director/screenwriter (Lisa Cholodenko) who doesn't flinch at likeable but messy characters, and at the frictions and frustrations in the sinew of even the closest families. It's also a wonder of perfect casting and chameleon-like acting by veterans Annette Benning and Julianne Moore, who so completely inhabit the harder and softer halves of a lesbian couple that you could forget that the former is the female that tamed Hollywood's most notorious bad-boy womanizer (Warren Beatty). Mark Ruffalo is pitch-perfect as the laid-back dude who explores sudden parenthood when his sperm-donated-offspring seek him out..

But Kudos to 'Kids' wouldn't be complete without hosannas for the accomplished newcomers who play the couples' college-bound daughter and high-school-sophomore son, Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson. Both create authentic, indelible and very specific characters while perfectly capturing the awkwardness, tensions, and ambivalence of their age - she's bright and restless but shy and demure; he's not yet comfortable in his own skin, and hungering for some fatherly attention, the spark of curiosity that upends this family's existence, altering their dynamic and bluring their boundaries. Oh, just see it. Oh, and the music's terrific, too! Go Vampire Weekend and MGMT!

Watch the trailer...

Here Julianne Moore and the younger cast members discuss the film in an interview at last year's Sundance festival..

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Saturday, September 18, 2010


After twelve years, I jettisoned the green monster and went with JP's striped blue lovely futon sofa-bed...

DSC07849It's perfect for perusing DVDs, sipping morning coffee, or lying back with an e-book on the iPod...

It's Saturday night, and darkening weather altered our hiking plans with Christi, as we opted instead for a film ('The Kids Are All Right,' details to follow..) and a meal (back to Chennai Garden, with even more interesting pictures, details to follow)..

Tomorrow, I must work a few hours in the morning ahead of a big conference I'm running in Brazil the week of September 27... But in the afternoon, we're seeing a Joe Orton play with our friend PJ Carlino...

We saw many good previews before the film, and I'll have comments on those in a bit..

Hope you're all having a pleasant and restful early autumn weekend...

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Friday, September 17, 2010

Someone To Watch Over Me

I may work long, demanding days but my honey keeps my tank full of tasty and nutritious morsels..
Wednesday night I came home to this delicious repast of pork loin, applesauce, broccoli, and brown rice, with a delicious fruit-laden salad. Pieces of apple, orange, and grapefruit add such a kiss of sweetness to a bowl of greenery...

nobody quite like my baby...

And here's the referenced song,
rendered by Ella Fitzgerald with a fan video by Astrid and Walter...

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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Sculptors of Tomorrow

I love these shots of brothers and budding sculptors Karl and Bruno... Note the sharp focus on the clay and soft focus on the artists. Looks like fun - I should get some clay to amuse myself with. I wish work had an arts & crafts break.... 'Frenetic' doesn't even begin to describe my work week...


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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Presidential Palace Pretend

Again, my pictures posted before I had a chance to add comments. Could this be a trend. Morning, a picture to guess at.. Evening, the solution. R.E.M. had a song back in 1989 called 'World Leader Pretend,' and that phrase captures the vibe of Saigon's erstwhile South Vietnam Presidential Palace, now the 'Reunification Palace' museum...

The decor combines 60s post-modern with Asian sparsity... It manages to be be slightly gaudy without being lavish or even busy.. Holy Chinoiserie...

It's a poor Asian cousin of Brasilia or even Reykjavik... Later on I'll post shots of this building's antiquated 60s security and communications infrastructure...

Special bonus: live version of REM's 'World Leader Pretend..'

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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Buddha in a shop window to radiate peace, but down come the iron gates, changing the intended vibe from peacefulness to menace or at least irony. This picture, which I took Saturday night on 23rd St, posted itself automatically this morning, before I had a chance to comment. Life moves faster since I started my new job. Giant golden Buddhas were my favorite aspect of Bangkok, and I promise you a Buddha-rama coming soon, to a blog near you..

Buddha Behind Bars


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Monday, September 13, 2010

Do I Hear Four?

Four for 'The Like,' the distaff Angeleno foursome that brings you today's musical pleasure, and four for me, launching a fourth year of Songs of the Week.

That's right, today marks 3 years I've been doing this weekly, without fail, and the provocatively-titled "He's Not A Boy" will be song #157...

As one critic noted, The Like find 'an exquisite balance between the 60s girl group/British invasion sounds they adore and an impossibly modern lyrical point of view.' Think Bangles, but smarter, tighter, and more 21st century...

The Like was formed a decade back in Los Angeles by two teenage daughters of music industry veterans - their delightful names are Elizabeth 'Z' Berg (vocals and guitars) and Tennessee Thomas (Drums). Over five years they pieced together 3 EPs - named 'I Like The Like', '...And The Like,' and 'Like It Or Not,... ' and gained a bass player and an organist.

I somehow missed their debut five years back, but this year's 'Release Me' is a perfect 10 bulls-eye that's hard to ignore... 'He's Not A Boy,' the song that got my attention, isn't at all what it sounds like - it's even better, deft lyrics, unforgettable hooks, and a subject matter road not often taken... this clip is black-and-white bliss...

Here's another black-and-white clip: 'Wishing He Was Dead,' is a catchy, organ-driven, mid-tempo relationship anger song..

The Like's title track, 'Release Me,' rendered live in Rolling Stone's studios... shades of Tracey Ullman?

From their forgotten first album, the very promising rock-inflected 'What I Say And What I Mean..'

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Sunday, September 12, 2010

Bigger Than Your Head

Hey all, I spent most of this quiet weekend resting and trying, successfully, to get rid of a headcold. We watched two great films on DVD, more on those later...
Saturday night we treated ourselves to a vegetarian South Indian dinner at lovely Chennai Garden over in Gramercy Park.. I had a Chennai combination, the centerpiece of which is a dhosa bigger than your head...

Dhosas are crisp, savory pancakes with vegetable filling -in this case ground potato and spices.
There are several dipping sauces including coconut chutney and sambar, a tangy spicy lentil broth. Under the dhosa is Utthappan, a spiced lentil and rice flour pancak. Finally, malai kofta, a vegetable fritter in a rich, creamy sauce..

All gone! If only I didn't eat faster than a speeding bullet... It wasn't very expensive, either.. Only a little more than the corner diner...

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Saturday, September 11, 2010

Digital Keepsakes

Hey there, feeling under the (spectacular) weather, but still I blog. Today's thought: one man's sweet memorabilia is another's clutter. I once read that if you save physical objects for their nostalgic value, you might just as easily photograph them and discard them.

In this spirit, I took long-delayed pictures of some lovely party favors from the baby shower of our friends Janice & Marco back in June..
The handouts that day included commemorative cappuccino pouches each with a stirrer (above)...Special chocolates were created for that occasion... I ate this one right after photographing it, about an hour ago...

The baby, August Henry Diaz, arrived in three weeks later.. Here he is, next to the baby shower invitation.
IMG_1010 DSC07832

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Friday, September 10, 2010

No Can Do

History and wonder surround us, and we trudge by, deafened and blinded by pedestrian, workaday concerns! Perhaps I exaggerate, but a hundred yards eastward lies to Chelsea Hotel, where much Great 20th Century Literature was penned...
This includes Arthur C. Clarke's '2001: A Space Odyssey,' as I learned from one of the numerous plaques that adorns the venerable hostel's façade.

I wasn't at all aware that Clarke was a scientist invented communications satellites, that his 1952 book was used to convince President Kennedy to shoot for the moon, or that the Queen had knighted him... Reminder to open my eyes and ears, as overworked and congested as they may respectively be... Below, Kubrik's classic, chilling rendering of computer Hal's 'No Can Do' decision, referred to on the above plaque, much to the dismay of Kier Dullea's 'Dave'..

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Thursday, September 09, 2010


Long, intense hours, but interesting work. Makes for a sleepy Aaron. I hope Bruno (pictured below) is appreciating his considerable slumber opportunities...


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Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Mad Money

When the subject of money arises my favorite TV series, the early 1960s-based Mad Men, amounts sound surreal and I feel a bit lost. No more! I've found an on-line inflation calculator that translates 1963 prices into present-day dollars.

In last night's episode (really last year's, on DVD), we learn that Polaroid film cost an outrageous $3! In today's money, $21.37.

Earlier, characters sometimes referred to their salaries. Slippery, insecure Pete Campbell told his wife he made $75/week, that would be $534 today. Could he mean after-tax? It would add up to $27,768 per year in 2010 dollars, surely not an junior ad man's earnings. But this show's such a stickler for period detail I can't imagine them messing this up... Hmm.. Secretary-turned-copywriter Peggy Olson asks for - and gets - a $5/week raise from Don Draper, from her base of $34/week. In 2010 dollars, a $34/week raise from $242/week - I sure hope this is after-tax. Finally, executive Harry asked Roger for a raise from $200/week - $1,424/week today, now that's more like it. As the series hurtles toward 1964 and 1965, I'll keep my ear peeled for more prices from my kindergarten years.

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Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Nästen Normål

Next to Normal is resonating abroad in its first foreign production, in Norwegian at Olso's Den Norske Teatret..
There's a clip below, but first, a look at the cast and their groovy version of the set...

Rehearsal of number just 'Just Another Day...'

Belting out 'I'm Alive.''

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Monday, September 06, 2010

The Next Level

Expectations are the challenge, and sometimes the curse, of brilliance. Show promise, and you raise the bar.. Today's song, the anthemic 'Ready to Start,' comes from a group that showed great promise and steadily delivered, the critically acclaimed Montreal-based indie rock septet Arcade Fire.

Born in Montreal's lofts and art galleries and fronted by husband-and-wife duo Win Butler and Régine Chassagne, the group's panoply of instruments adds violin, xylophone, glockenspiel and accordion to the mix, on top of excellent guitar, bass, drums, and vocals.

Arcade Fire have painstakingly crafted three memorable concept albums, 'Funeral,' 'Neon Bible,' and 'The Suburbs,' each of which is diverse, lyrically sharp, and musically adventurous.

The group's sound somehow manages to be energetic and passionate despite being dark and downbeat; the result is full of life, with all its chaos and mixed emotions.

The rewards of vision and uncompromising ambition have been an intensely loyal following and a cartful of awards and nominations, including Meteor and Juno wins plus a 'Best Alternative Album' grammy nod.

The 'Ready to Start' video clip is a concert performance artfully filmed in black and white...

Let's walk through their sonic and filmic journey, starting with their 2004 breakthrough 'Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels),' from a debut album that also contained songs named Neighborhoods 2, 3, and 4!

From their second album, their now-classic 'No Cars Go'...

'Neon Bible,' title track of their second album, is a quietly lovely...

One last visit, to 'Neighborhood #3 (Power Out),' the song that first grabbed my attention...

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Sunday, September 05, 2010

Road Marker

This week JP and I unearthed, at David's recommendation, the long-forgotten time-capsule/collage/bumpy-road love story that is 'Two For The Road.' This 1967 outing paired Albert Finney and Audrey Hepburn as passionate but combative lovers, largely due to his egotism and limitations, against a cornucopia of mostly French countryside scenery. The film's narrative is told out of sequence, shifting back and forth through time using common threads connecting scenes. This allows us to slowly piece together the emotional puzzle of this relationship.

I'm not sure why this film isn't a well-known classic. It takes a mature, un-romantic view of relationships, with serious issues and even extra-marital affairs. This project wouldn't have seen the light of day even five years earlier, and is a road marker of changing times and mores. It shows the final erosion collapse of the US Motion Picture Production Code that, from 1930 until the late 1960s, banned sexuality on screen, basically sacrificing honesty for wholesomeness.

Indeed, this is arguably Audrey Hepburn's first film as a sexual being, since most of her career was in the 'code era,' and because she was typecast as a naive waif. Even her iconic turn as party girl Holly Golightly in 'Breakfast at Tiffany's' is oddly sexless for a character that was a prostitute in the original source material. (To be fair, the same could be said of Giuletta Masina in 'Nights of Cabiria' and of Shirley MacLaine in its US version, 'Sweet Charity'.)

The film is fun despite its combativeness, and this trailer plays up this angle...

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Saturday, September 04, 2010

Unflinching and Unforgettable

Two weeks ago, I saw 'Next To Normal,' an intense, unflinching look at a bi-polar Mom's tortured world and collateral damage, boldly rendered 70% in song, which in the cast's capable hands enhances rather than diminishes the play's many values..

I'll avoid spoilers and cut to the chase: this really works well, making something compelling and universal out of a difficult subject (bipolar disorder). Hey, plays win Pulitzer prizes and Tonys (best score) for reasons. It packs an emotional wallop, and a killer narrative twist. Insightfully written, brilliantly sung and acted, this play really gets under your skin. It made me feel - and understand - the difficult emotional reality of this woman tripped up by a toxic cocktail of faulty internal wiring, genuine tragedy, and mid-life ennui.

The magnificent cast blew me away, and have won wide acclaim, even though they are not the original cast. It's led by Marin Mazzie as the troubled mom; Mazzie brings decades of Broadway and cabaret acumen to the table. She also brings her real-life husband, Jason Danieley, to play her long-suffering but ever loyal and hopeful spouse.
The lyrics are sharp, the music is good and all over the place - from show tunes to rock, soul, and singer/songwriter confessional, it all works, and sounds great, but you're so deep into the play and its characters that you can almost forget they're singing.. The stunning sets render this family's home as a frame of black poles and grids with few boundaries and a luminous blue-purple background. The musicians are built into the dark corners of the house, seen but not seen. I hope I've intrigued you enough to check out the clip below...

Here's a great scene that gives you a flavor of the show's delicate balance of stark realism and occasional sardonic humor..

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Friday, September 03, 2010

Dilma and Lula!

It's as if my parents are running Brazil - in a good way! Yesterday's lady with the smile and the big arms is Dilma Rousseff, widely expected to become Brazil's first woman President in a landslide next month... Dilma is the protegée of 'Lula', nickname for the most popular President in Brazil's history, incumbent Luis Inacio da Silva.

Lula for some reason reminds me of my Dad - I mean that as a big complement, and Dad would certainly take it as one, as Lula was a factory worker who became a union leader and tried 20 years until finally elected President. He's presided over the second consecutive decade of Brazil's rapid growth and increasing prosperity - 20 million people joined the middle class!

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