Wednesday, May 30, 2007
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
The president of the CTA just annouced that he would have to double fares and remove bus/ train routes if he doesn't get the money he's requesting from the state. He's trying to create panic with the ridership to pressure the politicians to approve the funding. As someone who takes the CTA everyday I think he has a lot of nerve.
First let me recognize that Chicago has a great transit system compared to some cities. I literally have a train and about 6 buslines that are close to my house. However having these different options does not mean that the CTA makes it easy to be a commuter. It often leaves you wishing you had a car.
I have virtually stopped taking the Red Line train downtown unless I am forced to. I used to take it every day but now I just can't take sitting or standing on that dirty, filthy train. There are half eaten food items on the floor, wrappers, Peanut/Sunflower shells etc and it often reeks of urine. Sometimes the train has no air and is stifling hot as well. It was so bad the last time I took the train I told my Alderman about it. No one should be stuffed into an overcrowded train spelling of urine unless you are all on your way to the concentration camps.
I decided to take the bus lines instead. What's the problem with the buses? The inability of the CTA to get these buses on time or on any schedule whatsoever. They said they were going to let riders be able to track buses on their laptops soon and my resonse is "just make them on time and people won't wonder where they are!!!" In the past couple weekends I have had the following things happen - I have waited for a 147 express bus that took 45 minutes to arrive on Michigan Ave, I waited for a 151 bus that never showed up even after waiting a half hour. Now these things happened on the weekend - not at rush hour and not even the weekdays. This should be their "easy time" but it's not. (The weekdays during work hours should be better as well but alas the buses are still late)
In the mornings the buses are not spaced out correctly so we get the "full bus/empty bus" syndrome. The first bus arrives and people are packed into it. When I say packed I mean standing and jammed in with their faces pressed against the front window. Then the second bus comes a couple minutes later and its virtually empty. This means that the first bus is obviously late or there wouldn't be that many people waiting. I know things are real bad when I go to the bus stop and there is a crowd waiting.
I usually wait for the second empty bus and laugh at my fellow commuters. I do, however, understand their dilemma. They have to get to work and not be late. They may skip that bus and the next one could be equally crowded or not show up for 20 or more minutes. You just never know what's going to happen. One time the bus was so late I walked to the train and took it instead. Of couse then the train was delayed for about 30 minutes that day and I got to work late and it didn't look good. A gamble did not pay off in that choice but you never know. (Some bus lines are worse that others - I have hardly ever waited for a 36 Broadway bus in Lakeview where I didn't wait 30 minutes and have 2 arrive at the same time)
The drivers and employees of the CTA are usually not helpful in these situations. I have seen bus drivers be rude and nasty to riders asking questions. I have seen them be unsympathetic towards riders who have been waiting long periods between buses. I had one even skip the stop I was standing at only to catch up with her by taking another bus - I asked her why she skipped all of us at the bus stop and she just shrugged her shoulders. This was in front of her supervisor who was as shocked as I was. Another one yelled at me for stepping over the yellow line at the front of the bus (a woman was standing in the way blocking my exit). The worst was a driver who was mad at people who kept pulling the stop cord before their stops. He stopped the bus and sat there to "teach us a lesson" to just pull it once. Yes there are nice drivers, some very helpful but I would say they are the exception to the rule. I'm sure servicing the public (and lots of crazies) takes a toll on you but a little kindness goes a long way.
So when I stand waiting 30 to 45 minutes for a bus to arrive and 2 of them come together. (or one so packed I can't get on it) I'm not thinking of how much money will arrive from Springfield. I'm thinking that the CTA really needs to get its act together.
Monday, May 14, 2007
I saw the trailer for a new movie called "Across the Universe" which is a musical based on Beatles' songs. What struck me right away was that the preview only showed a moment of someone singing and then lots of dramatic dialogue sequences. This is the same thing they did for the initial trailers for "Dreamgirls" and "Chicago" as well. Is hollywood trying to trick people into attending a musical? What is going on here?
It seems to be a cynical marketing ploy by the studios. They seem to say "I know the audience hates musicals but we'll get them to see this one by mistake" or "Maybe their husbands and/or boyfriends will agree to go if we make the trailer less musical" etc. I think this is insulting to the movie audience and not accurate to the tastes or wants of the public.
It is true that the movie musical isn't the powerful force in Hollywood it once was. There was a time when several movie musicals came out a year and were extremely popular with audiences and critics. The studio MGM became one of the most powerful studios in Hollywood due to their successful musicals.
By the 60's musicals were starting to lose ground with audiences and by the 70's they were gasping for breath. This was due to a lot of different factors. One was the end of the 'studio system' that whole heartely created musicals from the composers to the stars to all the magic inbetween. (Think Wizard of Oz) The studios became companies controlled by other industries or became merged with other companies. Add to that the lack of good musicals being made - for every "Sound of Music" or "Funny Girl" there were several big flops putting the knife in the back of the movie musical. (Clint Eastwood singing in "Paint Your Wagon" is a good example)
The 70's brought a whole new realism to the movies. They became gritty, tough and more real life than fantasy. (More "Godfather" than "Guys & Dolls") Movie musicals seemed almost passe in this movie landscape. Even material made for the era didn't seem to work (Like the disappointing "HAIR" musical or "The Wiz"). Even a couple huge musical hits didn't seem to save the downslde. (Cabaret & Grease)
By the 80's Hollywood had pretty much given up on the movie musical. They instead had some "dance" movies to take their place. (Flashdance, Dirty Dancing, Footloose, Fame) They had decided that America really didn't want to see musicals anymore and stopped making them. A self fulfilling prophecy. It took Disney to revive movie musicals starting with "The Little Mermaid" in 1989.
Througout the 90's movie musicals were mostly animated features. Some great (Beauty and the Beast) and some not so much (Hercules). These movies not only revived the genre somewhat but caused Disney to take these shows to Broadway. (The reverse path of the past musicals)
I think one more thing that added to the musicals demise was the "parody" factor. Musical numbers became an easy joke for an audience. Sitcoms, comedy movies, animated shows all started to have musical numbers in them. Some making fun of the genre and some reverent to it. (Think The Simpsons) This however also caused musicals to become "uncool" - or something to be laughed at.
However the success of "Chicago", "Dreamgirls", "Moulin Rouge" and other musicals shows that there is an audience out there for musicals. They just seem to be demanding good musicals that are made well. The Bombs (Phantom of the Opera, RENT) deserve to be bombs because they are not up to the standards of the modern audience. Audiences pack Broadway shows, Touring shows, and local theatre groups. There is a demand for this type of entertainment.
I read that "Chicago" got made because the musical numbers came from Roxy's subconscious and not just people singing their feelings. In other musicals the songs are coming from the stage like "Dreamgirls" or "Cabaret". I actually heard someone say "I don't like when people burst into song it's just not realistic" - Hollywood buys into this logic as well. I don't buy this at all. If audiences can suspend their disbelief that a grown man can crawl up a building like a spider don't tell me they can't imagine people singing.
There are so many great musicals that haven't been made into films yet. (La Cage Aux Folles, Les Miserables, Into The Woods etc) Here's hoping the genre can be revived and brought back to life. (Hairspray, Sweeney Todd, Mama Mia and others are going to try)
No matter what I hope the Hollywood marketing departments realize that musicals are not something to be ashamed of but to be proud of.
Thursday, May 3, 2007
When I heard Rosie was joining The View I thought that was a great idea but considered myself a moderate Rosie fan at best. I loved her previous talk show with all the Broadway production numbers etc. I was glad she came out of the closet, supported gay parent's rights. I was dismayed that she came out when her show was ending (instead of during) and proceeded to have a nasty court battle, strange hairstyle, swearing like a sailor etc. I thought it sent a message to middle america that coming out meant she was a different person etc. However I definately have changed my mind about Rosie O'Donnell this year - to say I'm a fan is an understatement.
I will admit I wasn't even interested enough to catch the first couple episodes when Rosie joined The View but after I did I was hooked. Week after Week watching the show I could not believe how honest Rosie was with America about her life and political views.
First of all Rosie opened up and talked about her relationship with Kelly and being a Mom to their kids every day. Just the normal everyday funny and heartwarming stories of raising your children, dealing with in-laws and keeping a long term relationship going. She just put her life out there as a gay wife, mother, daughter-in-law without being careful or being political about it. It just IS - as it should be.
Then there IS the political discussions which thanks to Rosie were ratcheted up to a fever pitch. Despite the myth of the liberal media there are much more right wing views than left wing in the media. (Fox news, all the talk radio programs etc) There are some "token" shows like Real Time with Bill Maher or the struggling Air America but those are exceptions to the rule.
Rosie helped bring a needed voice to the airwaves at this critical time in our history. She is Anti-War but not anti-troops and certainly not anti-American. (they used to accuse everone of being a communist now they call you anti-American) She is a humanist trying to talk about the casualties of war who are not being covererd by the mainstream media. (The mainstream media is not right or left lately just incompetent) She is bringing up newsworthy topics that no one is talking about especially on network television.
Since Elizabeth Hasselback pretty much just argues Fox Television talking points it has been fun to watch Rosie poke holes in those points one by one. Elizabeth can get agitated and dramatic trying to make her points but Rosie exposes those views for what they are. Imperialistic, inhumane and greedy. Trying to watch Elizabeth defend torturing people or excuse Iraqi civilian deaths shows how disgusting those views are. It also shows how arguing with people so Republican often does no good whatsoever as far as changing their minds.
What is also important was that Elizabeth and Rosie have remained friends. Going to the theatre together, having play dates with the kids etc. Elizabeth showed that you can be Republican and not be anti-Gay. Their friendship also showed how you can overlook someone's politcal beliefs and be their friend anyway. (finding other things that make them special to you) I have had this several times in my life especially at work and coming from a Republican small town. (I do have some issues having gay Republican friends but that's another blog)
This has also made explosive televsion. You never knew what was going to happen next. Would all of them be laughing and enjoying each other's company or yelling across the table. Seeing Barbra Walters trying to maintain the cilivity and point out that everyone is entitled to their opinion has been fun as well. It has become "don't miss" television.
Where else on TV are we getting a gay person's perspective on the news? (except for the closeted Anderson Cooper that is) It was great to see an openly gay woman telling her views on gay Marriage and other topics affecting the gay community. She also talked about pop culture items from a perspective that other celebrities would be too careful to point out. (Such as American Idol making fun of perceived mentally challenged & transgendered people)
It's amazing to me how much negative attention Rosie has gotten from the press for her views. They let that certain greedy New York land baron go on every show making fat jokes, all the right wing pundits went out of their way to attack her (again calling her fat) and the mainstream press wasn't much better. I think USA TODAY listed "Rosie's Rants" which annoyed me. How is pointing out the Catholic Church moved pedophiles from one Parish to another a rant? Thats more like a fact. Just one of the examples. I don't see people talking about the Fox news pundits weight? or any men being attacked for their political beliefs like she is.
I hope that when Rosie returns to television it is not just a celebrity interview show. (We have ELLEN for that) I want to know her thoughts and beliefs on everything in the news and in the world. We need her humor. We need her humanity. Most of all we need her voice.