Thursday, February 22, 2007



The gold standard for training producers to work Broadway, off-Broadway and at other theatrical venues is the CTI course.

CTI = The Commercial Theater Institute.

They run an annual 3-day seminar, which I attended last year, that is a superb introduction to the business of theater. They also have an even more intensive 14 week program, for which the 3-day institute is the appropriate prerequisite. Everyone interested in commercial theater either has, or should, attend this program.

The scheduled dates for this year's program are Friday-Sunday, May 4-6.

For more information, check their website at

Tuesday, February 13, 2007



According to a
report on CBS news, today (specifically, on "The Evening News with Katie Couric"), there are "75 million Americans with food-borne illnesses each year". That's a lot. (Is it really an accurate number? -- see below**!)

CBS, quoting
Dick Durban (the second ranking Senate Democrat), points the blame in part on too many agencies being responsible for food safety. The CBS report suggests that there are so many agencies, each responsible for different elements of food safety, that some aspects of safety fall through the cracks.

In one somewhat dubious assertion, they suggest that too large a percentage of money is going to unnecessary protection of meat. Citing Mike Taylor, a former food safety official, they say that because most food safety money — 80 percent — goes to the USDA, which visually inspects meat in slaughterhouses, it leaves insufficient budget to protect the millions of Americans who actually get sick from the invisible germs in produce.

It seems more likely that the current money allocated for meat safety is well spent (to the extent that people are not getting sick from meat), and that it's not the percentage allocation of money that goes to meat safety which is the problem -- we probably need every cent and more -- it's the lack of additional money to protect produce and other foods that needs to be addressed.

It's the opposite of the situation in the old joke:

A man has dinner for the first time at a friend's house. Every ten minutes the man claps his hands three times.

"What are you doing?" the man says.

"This keeps the elephants away," says the friend.

"What??? There are no elephants around here."

"See," the friend says. "it's working!"

In this case, the 80% may really BE keeping the "elephants" (sickness from bad meat) away.

Senator Durbin is introducing a bill to create a single agency to oversee food safety. That should help. But, unless it is also creating a larger pool of resources dedicated to food safety, it may only be addressing a part of the problem. (75 million is a lot of sick people!)

**Is it really an accurate number? Yes:

According to the CDC:

How many cases of foodborne disease are there in the United States?

An estimated 76 million cases of foodborne disease occur each year in the United States. The great majority of these cases are mild and cause symptoms for only a day or two. Some cases are more serious, and CDC estimates that there are 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths related to foodborne diseases each year. The most severe cases tend to occur in the very old, the very young, those who have an illness already that reduces their immune system function, and in healthy people exposed to a very high dose of an organism.



, on HBO, continues to be an exceptionally interesting dramatic study of the inside personal politics, intrigue and conspiracy behind events we only know from the outside... the gross historical record.

Most of the historical information we know consists of facts and dates. (We'll call that level one.) Better information (call it level two) includes personalities, murders, elections, victories and defeats. Rome goes beyond that (to what I'll call level three) dramatizing the details of personal relationships, the big and small acts, ambitions, intentions and even mistakes that drive the events of level two.

The amount of brutality, hypocrisy, and even evil that is attributed to the leaders of Rome is truly staggering. Yet the portrayal is even-handed, distributing vice (and some virtue) to characters on all sides of every dispute, highlighting the complexity of every confrontation.

My only reservation about the show is that the aura of reality and brutality exuded by the show, though perfectly served by the fine acting, still makes one wonder whether such thuggery should not be portrayed by sounds and language that were accurate to the time, rather than the elegant British of the fine cast.

Season 1 concentrated on the run-up to the assassination of Julius Caesar -- the part of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar that we all remember. Season 2 describes the aftermath, the wars that followed -- the last acts of Shakespeare's play that we often forget.



I found this
article from AOL / Entrepreneur very interesting. It's a summary of 76 different hi-tech issues that a business should be aware of.

I don't agree with everything in the article, and even some things I agree with do not apply to every business. Other things (like biometric identity checks) are premature for most businesses and won't be relevant for years.

Still, it's a very interesting, quite comprehensive summary of issues to be conscious of. And some things are good advice and do apply. Other things may need to be applied differently -- in particular businesses -- from the suggestions, but do need to be considered.

Saturday, February 10, 2007



Google Earth is well known, often used by TV shows as well as googlers eager to see their own house from space.

Less well known is that Google has already created Google Mars (! It opens with a topographic vista of Mars' super-mountains, and allows you to roam around, clicking on hyperlinks to identify the surface features.

Click on about Google Mars for more information about the images.

Thursday, February 08, 2007



As part of its
Future Week, The Science Channel showed a film about recent developments in manipulating physical objects by thinking.

The video was unusually informative about how the process works:

A fairly simple tap of electrical activity in the brain -- gathering electrical signals from, in some cases, as little as 16 different points around the scalp -- provides enough information to correlate specific changes in these signals to specific thoughts by the subject. A computer monitoring the brain waves then creates a physical action -- for example, moving a robot arm, selecting a letter, making a sound, or controlling a computer to play Pong -- when it recognizes the corresponding signal.

Even more remarkable is that when the subject sees or hears the results of their thoughts, they can adjust their thoughts to move the object more precisely. And they don't even have to be human to do that: a chimpanzee can manipulate its thoughts well enough to move a robot arm to grab food and put the food in its mouth. (Who says apes/monkeys can't use tools?)

The implications are spectacular for people with paralysis. Christopher Reeve would likely have been able to restore his mobility, using mechanical body parts, when this technology is further refined. The implications are also frightening (but I won't spell that out here). The film is fascinating!



The lineup of film series from different countries -- at Lincoln Center recently -- has been extraordinary, and now there's a new series featuring French Films, beginning later in February.

Here are the details, direct from the Film Society of Lincoln Center:

Rendez-Vous with French Cinema is presented by the Film Society of Lincoln Center and Unifrance USA. Running Feb. 28 to Mar. 11 at Lincoln Center ’s Alice Tully Hall and Walter Reade Theater and at the IFC Center , the 12th edition of the popular annual series will present the American debuts of 16 French films, welcoming a distinguished list of directors and actors to New York City to introduce their works.

Filmmaker Olivier Dahan’s La Vie en Rose will open the showcase on Feb. 28 at 8:00 p.m. at Alice Tully Hall. The film, which will also open Berlin’s prestigious film festival Feb. 8, stars Marion Cotillard in the endearing rags-to-riches story of French chanteuse Edith Piaf, one of France’s most famous stage performers. Cotillard and Dahan are both expected to appear.

Gérard Depardieu as Marcel Cerdan and Marion Cotillard as Edith Piaf in
La Vie en Rose / La Môme

Photo Credit: Bruno Calvo

Closing this year’s Rendez-Vous series is Francis Veber’s sophisticated comedy of manners, The Valet. Featuring Daniel Auteuil, Kristin Scott Thomas, Alice Taglioni and comedian Gad Elmaleh as a pair of mismatched couples, the film will be shown Mar. 10 at 6:30 p.m. at the Walter Reade Theater, with encore screenings Mar. 11 at 1:30 p.m. at the Walter Reade and at 5:15 and 7:15 p.m. at the IFC Center. Veber will be present.

Alice Taglioni as Elena and Gad Elmaleh as François Pignon in
The Valet / La Doublure

Photo Credit: Dominique Le Strat © Gaumont - EFVE Films - TF1 Films Production - Kairos
/ courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics Inc. All Rights Reserved

Isild Le Besco (center) as Jeanne in
The Untouchable / L’Intouchable
Photo Credit: Pyramide International

Other filmmakers and actors expected to attend Rendez-Vous 2007 include writing/directing team Pascal Arnold and Jean-Marc Barr, Zabou Breitman, Guillaume Canet, Catherine Corsini, Denis Dercourt, Bruno Dumont, Xavier Giannoli, Patrick Grandperret, Benoît Jacquot, Eric Lartigau, Isild Le Besco, Philippe Lioret and Sandrine Veysset.

Tickets for Rendez-Vous with French Cinema go on sale Feb. 12 and are available at both the Walter Reade Theater and IFC Center, as well as online at and

Tickets for Walter Reade Theater screenings are $12 for the general public, $8 for Film Society members and students and $8 for seniors at weekday screenings before 6 p.m.

Tickets for IFC Center screenings are $12 for the general public and $8 for members and seniors all day.

For more information, call the Film Society at (212) 875-5600 or the IFC Center at (212) 924-7771.

The IFC Center is located at 323 Sixth Ave. at West 3rd Street.

The Walter Reade Theater is at 165 West 65th Street close to Amsterdam Avenue. Due to construction work taking place around Alice Tully Hall, the only access to the Walter Reade Theater is via the West 65th Street escalator and stairs to the upper level.

Rendez-Vous with French Cinema 2007
Public Screening Schedule

Alice Tully Hall,
1941 Broadway at 65th Street and Columbus Avenue

Wednesday, Feb. 28
8:00 pm La Vie en Rose

Walter Reade Theater,
165 West 65th St. close to Amsterdam Avenue

Thursday, Mar. 1
1:00 pm The Singer
3:45 pm Dans Paris
6:15 pm The Singer
9:00 pm Dans Paris

Friday, Mar. 2
1:00 pm The Page Turner
3:15 pm Tell No One
6:15 pm The Page Turner
8:30 pm Countdown & Humbert Balsan: Rebel Producer

Saturday, Mar. 3
1:30 pm The Singer
4:00 pm The Man of My Life
6:45 pm Tell No One
9:30 pm Ambitious

Sunday, Mar. 4
1:30 pm Tell No One
4:15 pm Ambitious
6:30 pm Flanders
9:00 pm The Page Turner

Monday, Mar. 5
1:30 pm The Man of My Life
3:45 pm Flanders
6:15 pm The Man of My Life
9:00 pm Flanders

Tuesday, Mar. 6
1:00 pm Ambitious
3:15 pm Countdown & Humbert Balsan: Rebel Producer
6:15 pm Dans Paris
8:45 pm Countdown & Humbert Balsan: Rebel Producer

Wednesday, Mar. 7
1:30 pm One to Another
4:00 pm Blame It on Fidel
6:30 pm One to Another
9:00 pm Blame It on Fidel

Thursday, Mar. 8
2:00 pm The Untouchable
4:15 pm Don’t Worry, I’m Fine
6:30 pm The Untouchable
9:00 pm Don’t Worry, I’m Fine

Friday, Mar. 9
1:30 pm Murderers
4:00 pm I Do!
6:30 pm Murderers
9:10 pm I Do!

Saturday, Mar. 10
1:30 pm The Untouchable
4:00 pm One to Another
6:30 pm The Valet
9:00 pm Blame It on Fidel

Sunday, Mar. 11
1:30 pm The Valet
4:00 pm I Do!
6:30 pm Don’t Worry, I’m Fine
8:45 pm Murderers

IFC Center, (IFC = Independent Film Channel)
323 Sixth Ave. at West 3rd Street

Friday, Mar. 2
6:45 pm The Singer
9:30 pm The Singer

Saturday, Mar. 3
12:00 noon Countdown
2:00 pm Dans Paris
4:00 pm The Page Turner
6:00 pm Flanders
8:15 pm The Page Turner
10:15 pm Dans Paris

Sunday, Mar. 4
2:45 pm Countdown
4:45 pm The Man of My Life
7:15 pm Blame It on Fidel
9:15 pm The Man of My Life

Monday, Mar. 5
7:00 pm Ambitious
9:30 pm Ambitious

Tuesday, Mar. 6
7:00 pm Flanders
9:30 pm Blame It on Fidel

Wednesday, Mar. 7
7:00 pm The Untouchable
9:15 pm The Untouchable

Thursday, Mar. 8
7:00 pm One to Another
9:30 pm One to Another

Friday, Mar. 9
7:00 pm Don’t Worry, I’m Fine
9:15 pm Don’t Worry, I’m Fine

Saturday, Mar. 10
2:30 pm I Do!
4:45 pm Murderers
7:15 pm I Do!
9:30 pm Murderers

Sunday, Mar. 11
2:45 pm Tell No One
5:15 pm The Valet
7:15 pm The Valet
9:30 pm Tell No One

Monday, February 05, 2007



The sun setting over Mars, taken by the rover, Spirit,
from NASA.

The IMAX movie Roving Mars takes us up close and on a huge screen to the surface of Mars. It makes a nice companion to the book, Roving Mars, by Steve Squyers, the principal scientist for the mission. It shows visually and viscerally what it means to create a robotic cart that will roll around on Mars, and then explore this alien (next door) world.

The film could be longer (it's a short 40 min) and it could do a better job of distinguishing between images that are simulations, those that are constructed from real images but with lots of processing, and those that are taken directly by the cameras on the rovers, Spirit and Opportunity. Since the commentary is spare, the film might also be even more interesting and understandable to see after reading Squyer's book.

The great thing about this film is that it is the closest we'll get to the Martian soil for many years, and it's beautiful and thrilling!



Employee Of The Month
is fun, with a few witty ideas, many enjoyable moments, and a basically good-hearted theme, but just a few too many unpleasant bits to make a really good movie.

(Note: this is the 2006 version with Jessica Simpson. There was a
completely different movie with the same title in 2004, starring Matt Dillon and Christina Applegate, and still another in 2002 written, directed and starring Jesse Bean.)

The biggest problem -- as with so many unsuccessful would-be comedies -- is that the villain, the hero's foil, is annoying, without being funny. He's played by
Dax Shepard -- whose first film role, by the way, in Hair Shirt is credited as "Vomiter in Party".

On the other hand,
Dane Cook, and Jessica Simpson, are attractive individually, and make an appealing couple. Jessica Simpson is very good here, and does everything she needs to do as an actress for this film!

Sunday, February 04, 2007



Here's a quick guide to the best films of 2006. Different people have different ideas about what's best. Some very popular movies -- such as The DaVinci Code -- even made some lists of the worst movies of 2006; but many people chose to watch them, and we can all make up our own minds.

Each of these films was liked by some people, for some reason, and they're the cream of the crop to rent.

They're loosely organized into groups. Many films fall in more than one category, but this is just to help jog your memory when you're deciding what to rent next.

Blood Diamond
The Last King of Scotland
The Queen
The Departed
Pan's Labyrinth
An Inconvenient Truth
Flags of our Fathers
Letters From Iwo Jima
Little Children

Thank You For Smoking
Night At The Museum
Talladega Nights
The Devil Wears Prada
Little Miss Sunshine
Happy Feet
The Pursuit of Happiness

The Black Dahlia
The Illusionist
The Prestige
Sherry Baby
The Good Shepherd
Notes on a Scandal
Monster House
Days of Glory

Marie Antoinette
A Prairie Home Companion
Kinky Boots
Miss Potter
Running With Scissors
Stranger Than Fiction

Pirates of the Caribbean
The DaVinci Code
Casino Royale
Mission Impossible III
X-Men: The Last Stand
Superman Returns
Over the Hedge
Ice Age: The Meltdown
The Break-Up




Saturday Night Live
(SNL) skits vary greatly in quality. But every once in a while there is memorable small skit classic. One of my favorite is Helen Hunt's stewardess (Buh bye!)

Drew Barrymore's job applicant (Feb 3, 2006) joins the list of SNL classics.

Thursday, February 01, 2007



Here are some
interesting comments by Tim Siglin in on the news from Davos that YouTube is contemplating some form of revenue sharing with the content providers.

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