Category Archives: New York City

The Book Of Mormon Review

Most musicals have the same boy meets girl, boy gets girl narrative.

The Book of Mormon as a far from the traditional Broadway musical as one can get. Created by Trey Parker and Matt Stone (aka the guys behind South Park), The Book of Mormon is about two Mormon missionaries who travel to a village in Uganda to convert the locals. Elder Price (Dave Thomas Brown) is confident and secure that he will be able to complete his mission. Elder Cunningham (Cody Jamison Strand) has the required enthusiasm for the job, but his social skills are not quite up to par as his partner.

When they get to Uganda, Elder Price and Cunningham are surprised that the locals are not exactly warming up to their message. In addition to deal with an AIDS crisis, famine and oppression, they also have a local warlord on their tail. Can they convert the locals or will they fail?

I was surprised about this musical. I knew that it was written by Trey Parker and Matt Stone. I also knew that the humor can only be described as potty humor. While the first half was a little slow, the second half not only sped up, but also had the audience in stitches at certain moments.

It’s not the traditional Broadway musical, but that’s fine. But it’s also the type of show that certain audience members would find offensive.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

The Book of Mormon is playing at the Eugene O’Neill Theater (230 W 49th Street in New York City). Check the website for showtimes and tickets. 

 

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Filed under Broadway Musical Review, New York City, Television

Randy Rainbow Live Review

Most days, what’s going on in American politics is enough to make one’s head turn. But with you know who in office, my head feels like it has twisted so far that it may come off my body completely.

That is satirist and performer Randy Rainbow comes and stops the head spinning, if only temporarily. While he has been making uploading videos to YouTube for quite a while, his name and work exploded into the public consciousness during the 2016 Presidential Election.

Last night, he played the first of two shows at the Gramercy Theater in New York City.

Singing a medley of his songs while clips of his videos played in the background, what the viewer sees on the computer screen is what the audience experiences in a live performance. Sharp as a tack, funny as h*ll and pulling no punches, Randy Rainbow provides the comedic relief we all know as we try to digest that craziness coming out of Washington D.C.

This man is a political genius. He had the audience (myself included) in stitches throughout the entire show. While we were laughing, we were being relieved (if only in the short-term) of the stress and agita that has become part of being an American in 2018. It was one of the best concerts, I’ve been to in a long time.

Do I recommend the concert? Absolutely.

Randy Rainbow Live will be playing at various locations throughout the US until the end of the year. Check the website for venues and tickets. 

 

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Filed under Music, New York City, Politics, Randy Rainbow

Another Fare Hike Is Coming In 2019

Anyone who has lived and/or visited NYC will tell you that the public transit system is the lifeblood of the city. Without the MTA, New York City would not be New York City.

This week, it was announced that the cost of taking the trains and buses would be going up both next year and in 2021.

I get it, I really do. The MTA, like any organization, has expenses to pay. They have to maintain their payroll while getting their riders to their final destination in a reasonable amount of time. The subway system is more than a century old. The damage that Hurricane Sandy did to the system in 2012 is still not completely repaired.

The MTA is not the first company, nor is it the last company that will raise prices to insure that external and internal expenses are paid on time and in full.

But there is a catch here. The catch is that with the fare hike, the service improves. The MTA has been slowly raising the cost of riding the subways and buses for nearly a decade, but the service, for the most part, remains the same.

In the end, whatever the final total is on the price hike, we will pay it. We know it and the people who run the MTA know it. I just wish the quality of the service warranted the hike.

 

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Thoughts On The NYC Specialized High School Controversy

We all know that receiving a solid education when we are young sets us up for life. Unfortunately, many students, for a variety of reasons, do not receive the education they should ideally be receiving.

Recently, New York City Bill de Blasio announced that a plan was in place to change the admissions process to the city’s specialized high schools. Currently, students who wish to attend these schools must take a rigorous standardized exam to determine if they will be granted admission to the school of their choice. For some, the problem is that these schools have student population of mostly Caucasian and Asian-American students. There are only a handful of African-American and Latino students whose scores quality them for entrance.

Some officials and parents are stating the fact that the students who attend these schools get in because of their test scores. The test is fair because it creates a level playing field. These students (and their parents by extension), took the time and energy to prepare for these exams. If they qualified (based on their test scores) for admission, they got in because of the hard work they put in beforehand.

But at the same time, I understand the argument that there needs to be greater diversity in these high schools.

I personally believe that if the parents of the African-American and Latino students who want to attend these schools cannot pay out-of-pocket for the test prep needed, the city should step in. Why should these kids not have the same opportunities because their parents do not have the funds needed for the expensive test prep programs? They deserve the same opportunities to prepare for the tests as their peers whose parents pay out-of-pocket for the test prep programs.

While I very much appreciate the Mayor’s thinking outside of the box, I don’t believe that changing the admissions process is the best way to fix this problem.

 

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Ocean Wonders: Sharks Review

Unlike other predators, sharks have developed a certain reputation for being blood thirsty creatures who have a particular taste for human flesh.

The New York Aquarium recently opened their new exhibit entitled Ocean Wonders: Sharks. The exhibit not only presents the various species of sharks in a recreation of their natural habitat, but it also shows how important sharks are to the natural order.

Opening on June 30th, the visitor is greeted by an overhead tunnel of water that has been recreated as a reef. As the visitor walks through the exhibit, they are presented with the facts about sharks in a way that teaches without getting on the soap box.

Though the education aspect of the exhibit is important, it is the visuals that are captivating. If the overhead tunnel is not enough to make to excite the visitor, is the very large tank that is the center of the exhibit. Containing sharks and other marine life, it is a wonder of an experience to see these creatures living in harmony.

I absolutely recommend it.

The New York Aquarium is located on Surf Ave and West 8th Street in Brooklyn, NY. Check the website for hours and ticket prices. 

 

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Thoughts On The Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Victory

There was an earthquake in New York City politics last Tuesday.

In the 14th district, which covers part of Queens and The Bronx, there were two candidates on the Democratic primary ticket. The first candidate was Joe Crowley. He is was an established member of the Democratic party and a representative of that district for many years. The other candidate was Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, whose only political experience is working for the Bernie Sanders campaign in 2016.

It was a shock to many that Joe Crowley lost the election.

From my perspective, American voters are tired of the same b*llsh*t coming out of Washington, from both sides of the political aisle. While Ms. Ocasio-Cortez is very much a newbie when it comes to politics, she represents the future not just of the Democratic Party, but also the future of the country.  She is young, female, a Latina and knows what it is like to have parents who have struggled to ensure that their children have what they need to succeed in life.

Only time will tell if she actually wins the Midterm election in the fall. But, if I were to be honest, I hope she does. This country and this city desperately needs her.

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The Lost Family: A Novel Book Review

Our past is our past. Whether we like it or not, it will always be with us.

Jenna Blum’s new novel, The Lost Family: A Novel, starts in 1960’s New York City. Peter Rashkin is chef/owner of Masha’s, one of the most respected restaurants in the city. He is also one of the most sought after bachelors in the city.  A survivor of Auschwitz who lost his wife and young daughters in the war, Peter is not interested in dating anyone. Then he meets June Bouquet, an up and coming model who is two decades his junior. Despite the age and religion difference, Peter and June fall in love. When June finds herself pregnant, they marry. The rest of the book covers the next two decades as Peter, June and their daughter Elsbeth face not only the challenges of change, but Peter’s past.

This book is an absolute must read. What makes this book a must read is that is just so good. What I loved about the book was the human imperfection of the characters and how that played into the narrative.

I absolutely recommend it.

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The Band’s Visit Musical Review

Sometimes, fate surprises us. We learn and grow in the most surprising ways.

In the play The Band’s Visit (based on the film of the same name) a band from Egypt is scheduled to play at the opening of an Arab Cultural Center in Israel. A mistake is made and they take the bus to the wrong city.  The locals take them in for the night. The leader of the band, Tewfiq (DARIUSH KASHANI) beds down for the night with Dina (KATRINA LENK), the owner of a small cafe. What starts out as a night of hospitality turns into a friendship and a conversation about being human and the experiences we have.

I loved this show. It absolutely deserved the 10 Tony Awards that were conferred on the show by the Tony voters. What makes the show interesting is that it has the running time of a play (about 90 minutes), but it has the narrative structure and character arc of a musical (using song and dance to tell the story). I read somewhere that the show stands out because it speaks to the heart and the intelligence of the audience, instead of appealing to the audience’s baser instincts when it comes to Broadway shows.

But what makes the show stand out for me is the fact that it speaks to the idea that even when two groups of people who are known not to like each other, individuals on opposite sides of the conflict can find common ground and perhaps friendship.

I absolutely recommend it.

The Band’s Visit is playing at the Ethel Barrymore Theater at 243 W 47th Street in New York City. Check the website for ticket prices and showtimes. 

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Ocean’s 8 Movie Review

Heist films are nearly as old as Hollywood itself. The question, is, does the film standout within the genre or is it just too unbelievable?

Ocean’s 8 is the next chapter in the Ocean’s movie series.

Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock) is the sister of Danny Ocean (George Clooney), the protagonist of the previous Ocean’s films. When she gets out of jail, she gathers a crew together to steal a necklace worth millions of dollars at the Met Gala.

The crew includes Lou (Cate Blanchett), Amita (Mindy Kaling), Tammy (Sarah Paulson), Constance (Awkwafina), Nine Ball (Rihanna) and Rose Weil (Helena Bonham-Carter). The necklace is to be worn by Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway) at the Met Ball in New York City.

I loved this film. While it helps that the main cast is made up of a group of diverse female performers, it is the narrative that makes the film enjoyable. It is funny, well written, thrilling and worth a trip to the movie theater.

I recommend it.

Ocean’s 8 is presently in theaters. 

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Happiness Is a Choice You Make: Lessons from a Year Among the Oldest Old Book Review

If we are lucky enough, we will live to old age.

Old age, like anything in life, has it downsides. It’s just a question of how one views those downsides.

John Leland, a journalist by trade, spent time interviewing a group of elderly men and women in the New York City area. They ranged in age from mid 80’s to early 90’s. The  result of this experience is his new memoir, Happiness Is a Choice You Make: Lessons from a Year Among the Oldest Old. Though there was a variety in life experiences, cultures, race, religions, marital status, etc, one thing is clear. You have to enjoy life and the experience of being alive, regardless of your age.

I really enjoyed this book. I enjoyed it because underneath all these stories was an undercurrent of choice. When one gets to a certain age, it’s easy to get down on oneself. Your body and mind don’t work like they used to, your family may be far away, your finances are limited to social security and retirement funds, etc. However, that does not mean that life is horrible. Life is what you make of it, it doesn’t matter if you are 8 or 80.

I recommend it.

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