Category Archives: Music

A.C.T.’s ‘Every 28 Hours’ Black Arts Festival

Yesterday I took a friend to the first annual Every 28 Hours Black Arts Festival at A.C.T.’s Strand Theater, located across the street from San Francisco’s Civic Center. We arrived to find the lobby set up with a helpful welcome table and vendors selling tee shirts, art, jewelry and other handicrafts. The festival made use of the two performance spaces (The Rueff and the Rembe Theater) as well as the lobby. Events were scheduled from 3 to 10pm, and I was impressed by how well the organizers kept to the timetable.

3pm Moving The Movement: An inter-generational workshop exploring hip-hop dance as an act of social justice, led by Sarah Crowell and Rashidi Omari

4:15pm Panel Discussion: Empower Your Platform: How can black artists, activists and innovators use our platforms to heal and uplift each other in our struggle for social change? Moderated by Chip McNeal

5:15pm Meditation Workshop: A healing workshop inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

6:15pm Musical & Movement Performances by Nyree Young, Dezi Soléy, and the Destiny Arts Youth Performance Company

6:45pm Musical Performance by Jessica Lá Rel

7pm a selection of plays from Every 28 Hours directed by Elizabeth Carter

8:30pm Group Discussions facilitated by Cheri Miller, Vanessa Ramos, Radhika Rao, Jasmin Hoo, and SK Kerastas

9:15pm Drum Circle with Nyree Young

9:30pm Closing Reception with food, drinks and a raffle

I learned about the festival by following A.C.T. on twitter. It was free, but I’m glad we registered online because the evening events were fully reserved by the time we arrived. We participated in all the events except for the meditation workshop. We were very sorry to miss that one, but we needed a dinner break!

The movement workshop in The Rueff was an excellent ice-breaker. Sarah Crowell and Rashidi Omari of Destiny Arts Center got us out of our chairs and into a large circle. We started with warm up exercises with breathing, clapping games, and introducing ourselves with our names paired with a movement. Then we teamed up with someone we didn’t know for silent role-playing exercises: have a conversation with movement only; act out a teacher and a student; role-play a police officer conversing with a young black man. I got a great partner, who I later found out is a middle grade teacher here in San Francisco. Next, we got into groups of four. Each person took a turn ‘sculpting’ the others into a tableau expressing racism, discrimination, healing and community. We added movements to link them together. Some groups chose to use sounds as well movement for the transitions. Once we had a bit of practice, we performed our creations for the rest of workshop. Finally, Sarah and Rashidi taught us a hip-hop dance sequence to some upbeat music. I tried a few steps but with my two left feet, I soon sat down and enjoyed the dancing from the back.

Freestyle hip-hop dancing from the back of the workshop

Moving The Movement Workshop

After a short break to rearrange The Rueff space, Chip McNeal led a panel discussion with Sarah Crowell, Regina Evans (Regina’s Door), Skyler Cooper, and Jack Bryson. McNeal acknowledged that they could only begin the conversation about healing and uplifting each other (Empower Your Platform). The hour went fast, but McNeal made sure all four panelists had a chance to speak about their work and their activism in the community. Sarah Crowell discussed working in collaboration with young people, striking a balance between letting them be creative while setting boundaries. Regina Evans talked about working with, and learning from, survivors of sex trafficking. Actor, filmmaker and activist Skyler Cooper described how being transgender means he’s experienced life as both a black woman and a black man. Jack Bryson became a community organizer because two of his sons were with Oscar Grant when he was killed by police. He said that the friends of Grant who witnessed his shooting were forgotten and wounded in their own way, as are many older folks from Bryson’s generation. He mentioned the many incarcerated adults who are now being released into a very different world. There wasn’t time for questions from the audience, but the discussion gave us plenty to think about.

We got Mexican food down the street for dinner, then returned to the lobby so we wouldn’t miss the dance and spoken word performances by Destiny Arts. Nyree Young played drum while Dezi Soléy danced down the stairs and around the lobby, interacting with the crowd. Then the talented Destiny Arts Youth Performance Company performed a spoken word piece on racism.

We all moved into the Rembe Theater for Alternative Soul singer Jessica Lá Rel. Her selections included Work Song (famously recorded by Nina Simone) as well as some new, unreleased material. She was supported by a keyboardist and three backup singers. Lá Rel has a beautiful voice. We very much enjoyed her performance.

Next up was the selection of 2 dozen one-minute plays from Every 28 Hours. From the program notes:

In April 2013, the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement reported in Operation Ghetto Storm that during the previous year, 313 unarmed Black people were killed in the United States by police, security guards, and vigilantes. This occurred at a rate of one person of color approximately every 28 hours…

In 2015, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and the One-Minute Play Festival created a project and partnership entitled Every 28 Hours, inviting American theater artists from across the country to gather in St. Louis to address the current movement for civil rights and racial justice. Participants created a compilation of 72 one-minute plays, which they cast, rehearsed, and performed as a rapid response to what was learned, heard, and experienced at the conference, with the intention of inspiring public discourse and social action.

Since that time, the Every 28 Hours plays have been presented at dozens of theaters, universities, and community spaces across the country, including A.C.T.”

The plays began with an introduction by producer Stephanie Wilborn and director Elizabeth Carter. There were about 3 dozen actors who sat at the back of the stage in two rows of chairs. They moved forward to perform, either on or in front of two platforms. The theme/title of each segment was projected onto the backdrop: Introduction, Race, Police, Community, Protest, History, Mothers, Youth, and Finale. I found many of the actors listed in the program on the current MFA student list. One of them was Micah Peoples, who we saw last weekend at A.C.T.’s play reading of Ibsen’s Ghosts. Another actor I recognized was Kavi Subramanyan from the Young Conservatory production of Homefront last summer. All the pieces were powerful. I was especially moved by Dinosaurs and Hooded Tears. For the Final Piece, the actors took turns reading the names of those killed by police in recent years, including Oscar Grant, Trayvon Martin, Philando Castile, and Eric Garner. The actors had a printed sheet of white paper for each name, which they raised over their heads and then dropped onto the stage.

Jasmin Hoo and the actors after the Every 28 Hours plays

After the performance, we broke up into three discussion groups. The black actors and audience members stayed in the Rembe Theater, people of color who weren’t black gathered in the lobby, and everybody else went upstairs to The Rueff. My friend was part of the lobby group, and I was in The Rueff, where facilitators Jasmin Hoo and SK Kerastas led us in a discussion on how to be effective allies. In small groups, we talked about our reactions to the Every 28 Hours plays and what we planned to do after the festival to stay involved. We were given a handout with a list of local ally organizations including surjbayarea.org and Asians4BlackLives.

We went back to the Rembe Theater for a drum circle with Nyree Young. There weren’t as many of us, but those who stayed were energized by Nyree’s music. She started on guitar with This Little Light of Mine, and when she moved to her drum, many of the performers danced in the aisles. It was awesome!

 

The closing reception was in the lobby. We had some wine and chatted briefly with Jessica Lá Rel. We didn’t stay long, but it was fun to mingle with the performers and organizers.

It was a wonderful festival, and we’re already looking forward to next year. Thank you, A.C.T. and everyone involved!

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Michael Lee Brown: Way It Used To Be (Music EP)

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of both Dear Evan Hansen and Matthew James Thomas. It’s no surprise that I’m enjoying the new EP of 3 original songs from Michael Lee Brown, currently the alternate Evan Hansen on Broadway. Matthew James Thomas is the producer, and he’s been tweeting about the project. The EP was released today, so I purchased the download from Amazon after listening to it on Soundcloud. (You can also get it at CDBaby, since it’s nice to support the independents.) Brown’s songs are acoustic and unabashedly optimistic. Give them a listen!

(Be sure to leave a review like I did!)

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My Year End Wrap Up 2017

Normally I approach my Year End Wrap Up with enthusiasm, but 2017 has been a very tough year. Most mornings I wake up with a sense of dread, almost afraid to open up the laptop to see what real-world horrors will dominate my morning news feed. The Stuff That Entertains Me is now more likely to be The Stuff That Keeps Me From Total Despair. Until recently, I used to ignore the news as much as possible; now I probably give it too much of my attention. I’m grateful that I can still turn to books, movies, TV and music to raise my spirits.

I began 2017 watching foreign soaps and making Chad Lowe collages. The year has ended with more reading, less television, and a bunch of new actors on my watch list. I started blogging again, although not as regularly as I’d hoped. There have been plenty of entertainment surprises along the way.

Best Books

The year started out slow, but then I finally got reading glasses! The two best non-fiction books I read this year were The Lost City of The Monkey God by Douglas Preston and Caesar’s Last Breath by Sam Kean. My summer LGBT reading project was fun, and the books from that post that have stayed with me the longest are Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin and Spy Stuff by Matthew J. Metzger. The best guilty pleasures this year were the Midnight Texas trilogy by Charlaine Harris and The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan. My ambitious Dorothy Dunnett project— reading all 14 Lymond Chronicle/House of Niccolo books—has been a great escape for the last three months. I’m finally in the homestretch! (Whew.)

Best Movies

I had a good year for seeing movies in the cinema. I saw more than usual and there weren’t any duds. Some of them may have been less spectacular than I hoped, but nothing was truly disappointing. The loudest was Dunkirk in 70mm IMAX; I enjoyed the performances from the young cast but the scale of the evacuation seemed anemic. Their Finest was a lovely film and a good companion to Dunkirk. In the superhero category, I enjoyed Wonder Woman, Spider-Man: Homecoming, and Thor: Ragnarok pretty much equally. Guardians of the Galaxy 2 was less memorable, but I enjoyed Baby Groot and the music. I went into Baby Driver thinking, I don’t really care about car chases; I came out thinking, more car chases, please! Beauty and The Beast and The Greatest Showman were visually rich and very entertaining.  Older movies included Summer Magic at the Walt Disney Family Museum and Adventures in Babysitting at the Castro Theatre. The cast of Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri was fantastic, but I had some issues with the movie itself. I’m glad I saw Star Wars: The Last Jedi before spoilers, and I love Rose, but her name bothers me. (It’s very…earthy?) Call Me By Your Name was gorgeous, and I’m now a big fan of Timothée Chalamet. I want him to be nominated for all the big awards, but I worry that winning too soon won’t be good for his career.

Best Television

This year, I was more likely to watch TV shows on DVD sets from the library. Except for Saturday Night Live, I’ve only watched one hour of network television since September. I haven’t been able to stomach the NBC Chicago Fire/PD/Med shows since they did the Ghost Ship Fire episodes without warning Bay Area folks before the broadcast. I’m still waiting for Code Black to return (what’s up with that, CBS??).

2017 was the year I finally joined the Game of Thrones craze, binge-watching the first six seasons on DVD in early summer.  I also FINALLY watched My So-called Life. The Borgias was fun, and I also enjoyed Unit One (Rejseholdet) from Denmark.

Finally, seeing the miniseries When We Rise in the cinema, with the cast, creative team, and real-life activists, was one of my best experiences of 2017.

Best DVDs

The DVD movie that had the deepest impression on me this year was The Impossible (2012). I avoided it because I don’t usually like natural disaster films, but Tom Holland was amazing. Older films I enjoyed included As It Is In Heaven (Så som i himmelen) and Saint Ralph (both from 2004). Bob Roberts (1992) is a must-see for predicting many of Trump’s campaign tactics. I ugly-cried through most of The Shack. Megan Leavey and Tanna were happy surprises. The Bronze (2016) had my favorite sex scene, and Tiffany Haddish owned Girls Trip.

Best YouTube

I’ve enjoyed the crosswalk musicals from James Corden, especially Beauty and The Beast and Hair. Broadway bootlegs have become a guilty pleasure, particularly anything with Ben Platt. Little Alfie was adorable in his brother Oliver’s coming out video.

As for my own YouTube videos, the Ed Sheeran one has gone over 1 million views. I wish I’d given it a cleaner ending, but I’m still learning to use Shotcut.

Best Tweets

My most popular tweets of 2017 were a #DuvetKnowItsChristmas photo and my Academy Award tweet about the White Helmets.

Swear Trek has given me the most belly laughs this year.

Twitter has made me angry, made me cry, made me think. I used to ‘like’ tweets to save the best ones. These days I ‘like’ tweets to show support for political opinions and causes, which means I don’t have time to go back over the whole year to find the gems. Here are some standouts from the end of the year:

Best Theatre

I went to the theatre only twice this year, to see Homefront and The Prince of Egypt. I followed Dear Evan Hansen, Ben Platt, and Matthew James Thomas from afar, and I also started reading daily newsletters from Playbill. I may not see many shows, but at least I’m better informed.

Best Music

I started listening to Ed Sheeran this year, and I also added a lot of Broadway cast albums—Kinky Boots, Matilda, Anastasia, The Band’s Visit, Bandstand, etc—to my playlist. I also listened to lots of Matthew James Thomas tracks from Britannia High and Pippin.

Biggest Time-Sucker-Upper

I’ve spent a lot of 2017 reading email news briefs from the Washington Post, the New York Times, the LA Times, and The Guardian. I’m better informed than ever before. I’m also more bitter and angry. Hopefully. 2018 will bring more activism and better ways of coping.

Entertainer of the Year

This year I was more successful than usual at keeping my interests broad and wide-ranging. I didn’t obsess too much over any one actor or entertainer. That makes it harder to choose just one Entertainer of the Year. Some of the honorable mentions: the cast of Game of Thrones, Francois Arnaud, Matthew James Thomas, Ben Platt, Jack Lowden, Sebastian Stan, Aneurin Barnard, Tom Holland, Wilson Cruz, Timothée Chalamet, Swear Trek, and Ed Sheeran. For sheer number of hours spent reading (over 6000 pages), I’m going to have to choose Dorothy Dunnett as my 2017 Entertainer of the Year. (Finally, a woman!)

Dorothy Dunnett (1923-2001)

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Ed Sheeran at 16

Most of my life, I haven’t really enjoyed mainstream music. Maybe the odd song, or a band/artist years after they stopped being popular, but rarely anybody on the charts. That’s why it always surprises me when I do like someone popular.

I really like Ed Sheeran’s mellower acoustic music. He’s pretty hard to escape these days, but I’d somehow managed it. Then he showed up on Game of Thrones, and on my Britannia High DVD behind-the-scenes documentary. But really, it was the end credits song for The Fault in Our Stars that got me listening.

Britannia High (2008) was a UK television series about a performing arts school for teens. It only lasted nine episodes before being cancelled due to poor reviews and low ratings. I bought the DVDs from the UK because I’m a fan of Matthew James Thomas (Jez in the series). Hundreds of young performers auditioned for the show in 2007, including 16 year-old Ed Sheeran. I made a YouTube video of his moments from the behind-the-scenes documentary. I’m still learning to use Shotcut, so it’s a bit rough.

Note: there are other clips from Sheeran’s audition on YouTube already, but this is clearer and has more footage than I’ve seen there.

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The PDX Broadsides & Leslie Hudson

Yesterday was one of those days when I couldn’t do anything right. I almost forgot that I had a ticket to see the PDX Broadsides and Leslie Hudson perform last night. I’m glad I didn’t miss them.
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The Booksmith on Haight Street is one of the last brick and mortar bookstores in San Francisco, and they recently opened an annex where the Red Vic Movie House used to be. Called The Bindery, it has an intimate performance/event space at the back of the store. This was my first time there. I get the email newsletter for both locations, because they always have great events.
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I’d never heard of the PDX Broadsides when I saw the listing for their performance, so I went to YouTube and listened to their Game of Thrones song and a few others. A folk trio based in Portland, they perform music for nerds. Awesome! Then author Charlie Jane Anders (All The Birds in The Sky) tweeted one of their songs. Seemed like a good omen, so I purchased an advance ticket.
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I arrived at The Bindery early, and everybody was mellow. The performance space had two old leather sofas that seated two, or three if you know each other well enough. In between the sofas were chairs, with only three rows set up, so no bad seats. The back wall has a small bar, and the drinks were reasonably priced. It’s nice that they allow food from outside. I should have used my extra time to peruse the book recommendations around the store, but I didn’t bring my reading glasses. Next time I’ll know better.
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The first up was Leslie Hudson, a striking redhead from Stratford, Ontario. She’s a storyteller, as well as a singer/songwriter with a keyboard, and I enjoyed the introductions as much as her songs. Her first song was Sisters & Sinners, about biblical women at a pub on the crossroads of heaven and hell (hope I got that right!). Unmasked is a song about Mary Jane Watson (Spider-man), while Eleven Feathered Sons is inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s The Wild Swans. Hudson talked about prehensile hair and Medusa and love songs in the key of C in the intro to Entanglement; it was lovely and probably my favorite of her set list.
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Hudson also performed a song about Batman’s Poison Ivy (Welcome to Eden) and another one called Honey. I’m currently reading When The Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore, and it’s about a girl nicknamed Honey. Her nemesis-es are four redheaded sisters, one named Ivy. What are the odds? I don’t usually recommend books until I’ve finished them, but I couldn’t help telling Hudson about it after her performance.
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The PDX Broadsides (Christian, Jessica, and Hollyanna) set up next. Jessica introduced us to her new keyboard, named after Rosalind Franklin (the double helix scientist). Christian played guitar. They had a few hiccups with the microphones, but they kept us entertained with banter while things got adjusted.
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I enjoyed all the songs they performed, mostly from their newest album, Trust Issues. Taking turns with lead vocals, the trio sang songs about Cold War spy cats (Acoustic Kitty), Westworld (Dolores), Star Wars (We Want Rey), Welcome to Nightvale (The Weather), mediocre love (I’ll Eat You Last), Japanese animated movies (Miyazaki Dreams), Conan the Barbarian (Best in Life), and Bitch Planet (Non-compliant). They made me realize that my wide-ranging interests are still rather limited, especially when it comes to comic books and graphic novels.
They finished with Jessica’s song called Nathan Fillion, and we sang along for the chorus (Please take off your pants!). The encore was Rocket Science, and then it was over too soon. I chatted a bit with Christian and Jessica before heading home. I also met Christian’s charming parents. It was their first time seeing the PDX Broadsides in person, just like me.
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I’m definitely going to keep listening and recommending them to friends and strangers. I hope both the PDX Broadsides and Leslie Hudson come back to San Francisco soon. I’ll be waiting.

The PDX Broadsides (Photo from their website, because I forgot my camera, too.)

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Life Lessons from Pippin

How to separate the drama nerds from the fantasy geeks: mention Pippin. A drama nerd will start singing Corner of the Sky.

Pippin is a Tony Award-winning musical by Stephen Schwartz, who also wrote Godspell. It’s about a young prince’s search for something meaningful to do with his life. Pippin was the son of Charlemagne, but the musical is not a faithful historical narrative. Bob Fosse directed and choreographed the original 1972 Broadway production, which starred John Rubinstein (Pippin) and Ben Vereen (Leading Player). Pippin’s grandmother Berthe was played by Irene Ryan, best known as Granny on The Beverly Hillbillies. I grew up believing the story that she died onstage during a performance of her song No Time At All. Not true, but it still makes a good “what a way to go!” story.

As a teen in the late 1970s, I was a little bit obsessed with Pippin. I knew the music and lyrics from the cast album long before I saw it onstage. A friend took me to a student production at UC Irvine in 1982, with the musical re-imagined as a futuristic space opera with loads of silver lamé. Then, in 1985, I worked with John Rubinstein at the La Jolla Playhouse (described here) which got me listening to the Pippin original cast album all over again. William Katt and Ben Vereen appeared in a filmed stage version in the early 80s, which I saw on videotape many years later.

Fast forward to 2013, and Pippin is back on Broadway. I watched the Tony Awards that year, so I was aware of the production and saw the musical number performed during the ceremony. I was also vaguely aware when the touring version came to San Francisco in fall 2014, but my budget was tight and my mind was on other things. Mostly I was busy pouting because I had to stay home while friends were at a festival in Utah.

Last summer, I finally listened to the Pippin Broadway revival cast album. My first impression was that Matthew James Thomas has a pretty voice, but it’s very different from John Rubinstein’s. I went to YouTube to see if there were any Pippin videos. And here we go, down the rabbit hole again!

I’ve now watched everything I can find with Matthew James Thomas, going back to The Bill in 1999. I was sad that he deleted his twitter account before I had the chance to follow him. I purchased his UK series Britannia High on DVD, watching it once through before my region-free DVD player packed up and died (boo). Then I actually cried when I found out that the San Francisco Pippin tour brought both Matthew James Thomas AND John Rubinstein to my doorstep, and I missed them. Thomas had given his last performance on Broadway, but he came back and filled in for the touring Pippin when that actor was put on vocal rest. John Rubinstein toured with the show as Charlemagne. Even if the tickets were beyond my budget, I could have gone to the stage door to meet the cast and see Rubinstein again. Heartbreak!

The biggest lesson learned from Pippin? Pay attention to what’s happening around me. Instead of wishing to be somewhere else, make the most of what’s right here. San Francisco isn’t perfect, and it’s way too expensive, but a lot of events are free or cheap.

(click to see better version)

Happily, Matthew James Thomas is now back on twitter. He was cast in a pilot called Shelter for NBC, but it wasn’t ordered to series. I wish him the best, look forward to seeing him onscreen again, and hope he comes back to San Francisco. (John Rubinstein, too!)

If I could have one MJT wish granted, since I can’t travel back in time to 2014, it would be to hear his Fenwick solo from the musical Diner.

Matthew James Thomas (Fenwick) in Diner. Photo by Matt Urban, Mobius New Media

Photo sources:

San Francisco Pippin tour: Review: A masterful ‘Pippin’ showcases Paulus’ bold vision

http://www.delawaretheatre.org/diner (Fenwick photo)

Screen captures made from YouTube videos, particularly from the official Broadway Pippin channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/pippinmusical/videos

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My Year End Wrap Up 2012

Another year has slipped away, and here I sit, reflecting back on what entertained me in 2012.  I always start my wrap up by going back to the beginning of the year, to see how my interests have changed.  I began the year dividing my time between British stuff and vintage television shows…and that’s exactly where I find myself now.  Only the faces have changed!

Best Books:  Might as well get the embarrassment out of the way first.  Normally I read a couple of books a week, but I went 8 months out of the last 12 without finishing a single book!  Oh, the shame.  I could blame my eyes, since I need new glasses, but the real truth is that I spend too much time online.  Making videos has also sucked up my reading time, but that’s for another category.  Of the small selection of books read this year, I really enjoyed Okay For Now by Gary D. Schmidt, Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth, and Confessions of a Prairie Bitch by Alison Arngrim.  (More about Arngrim’s book in an upcoming post.)  The biggest disappointment was Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James.

Best Television:  My television is usually always tuned to either Me-TV or CBS, except on Sunday night, when I watch Masterpiece on PBS.  I still enjoy The Big Bang Theory, but I do think it’s losing something from having too many separate storylines, with the characters spending less time gathered in the same living room.  More characters means less screen time for favorites Sheldon and Raj.  I discovered Leverage in reruns just as the show got cancelled, but at least I have five seasons to explore further.  Since September, I’ve been enjoying reruns of Emergency! on Me-TV.  Another season of Sherlock brought more delight, as well as more Inspector Lewis.  Thanks to a friend, I’m now back to enjoying EastEnders, the British serial drama, and already my life wouldn’t be complete without weekly visits to Albert Square.   This year’s favorite program was Call the Midwife, featuring new favorite Miranda Hart as the wonderful Chummy.  I can’t wait for more of this series!

Best Twitter:   I’m very picky about twitter.  Too much shameless self-promotion?  Unfollow.   Too many retweets?  Unfollow.   Too many conversations that should be private?  Unfollow.  No sense of humor?  I shouldn’t have been following in the first place!  I enjoy humor, whimsy,  and folks who don’t take themselves too seriously.   The most consistently entertaining tweets this year have come from Josh Groban.  I’ve also enjoyed following Russell Tovey.  I can count on a friend to share the best of Demetri Martin and The Onion, so I guess they count, too!

Best Theatre:  Oops.  Didn’t see any.  Never mind.

Best Movies:   I had good luck with the movies I saw in the cinema this year.  Mind you, I still haven’t seen three of the four films I was most looking forward to in 2012, so they will have to wait until 2013!  The Avengers was terrific, and I also enjoyed Life of PiThe Dark Knight Rises wasn’t a favorite, but Tom Conti and Joseph Gordon-Levitt made it worthwhile for me.   I saw my first 3D movie, John Carter, but I’m not a fan of the technology.  It was a great year for silents: Napoleon was stunning, and I also saw three films at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, with The Canadian (1926) making the deepest impression.   Shah Rukh Khan’s Jab Tak Hai Jaan had an entertaining beginning and middle, but I was disappointed by the third act.  The best new film I saw in 2012 was Argo.

Best DVDs:  I spent six months of this year with Wagon Train at the top of my Netflix queue.  They never sent me any on the discs, and my queue always said “short wait.”  I could have bought the DVDs for the money I spent on my Netflix plan, especially since I wasn’t watching the discs they sent me instead.  I cancelled my account.   This means I can’t go look at my history for this year to review, but this an easy category.  The best DVDs of my year have been the classic television western Laramie, particularly seasons one and two.  When I’m not watching the episodes again and again, I’m making tribute videos and posting them on YouTube.  I now have more YouTube followers than blog followers!   Which leads me to a new category…

Best Time-Sucker-Upper:  Call it a hobby, a passion, an obsession, a skill or an art.  But this year I started making videos, and now I can’t stop.  I’d been making slideshows using still images at animoto.com, and this summer I tried using their template program for short video clips.  It was okay, but I didn’t like their wide border which wasted space, so it forced me to try Windows Movie Maker.  I had no idea it would be so much fun!  My Laramie tribute videos aren’t very interesting to people who aren’t fans of the series, but I’m proud of my channel and grateful for all my followers.

Best Music:  Mostly I’ve listened to older stuff this year.  When Davy Jones died, I started listening to lots of the Monkees.  I love Gaelic Storm’s album How Are We Getting Home? (2004), discovered in a stack of my own CDs that I never got around to hearing.  I’m definitely going to listen to more of this group in 2013.  I’ve also been enjoying lots of Kate Rusby.  One of my favorite new old songs is “Can’t Turn My Heart Away” by Art Garfunkel.  I’m still enjoying The Book of Mormon Broadway soundtrack, but I learned the hard way not to listen to it in public.  Even with earphones, you look like a nutter snickering at the lyrics.

Best Music Video:  My choices are never conventional, but that’s what you get for taking musical advice from me!   Here’s my favorite:

Never mind that it was uploaded in 2008.  It’s still the most adorable video I’ve seen on YouTube this year!  If you don’t know it, this is India’s national anthem. [the original video was deleted, so this is an updated link.]

Best New-To-Me Software:  Handbrake for ripping DVDs, and Google Talk for saving me a fortune on phone bills.  I chat now with friends around the world, without the complications of installing Skype, and no webcam to show everyone how hideous I look through a fisheye lens.

Entertainer of the Year:  Honorable Mention this year goes to Miranda Hart.  I discovered her in Call the Midwife, and now I’m enjoying her comedy on YouTube and her BBC series Miranda.  The winner is an easy choice.  In April, I purchased season one of Laramie on DVD, and by the end of May, I was a member of Robert Fuller’s official fan group.  While my favorite role is Jess Harper in Laramie, I’ve been enjoying Wagon Train, Emergency!, and all of Fuller’s other television shows and movies.   I’ve spent hours chatting with other fans, making tribute videos and collages, and searching ebay for vintage photos.  For so much entertainment in so many different ways, Robert Fuller is my Entertainer of the Year.  Thank you, Mr. Fuller!

Jess Harper whip blog crp

Robert Fuller in Laramie

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