Forget it, Jake, it’s China[town].

Film · Language & ideas
Robert Towne’s great line was my mantra on the recent China trip. At least one time every day, there was good reason to say it. Not one of the 20-something dancers on the bus knew the meme — or the film reference.

Mao & Gu: twins separated at birth?

Language & ideas
In China for three weeks, the only television I watched was the dramatic series about the founding of the Chinese Communist Party. Airing nightly around 11 pm, the show stars an actor named Gu Yue, uncanny as a Mao Tse-tung lookalike. I enjoyed my daily dose of communist propaganda … a nice way to cap-off ...

Jiaxing party animals. Yes, *that* Party.

Dance · Language & ideas
Arriving in Jiaxing, we remember our Chinese Communist Party (CCP) history. The party was founded under the guiding eye of Comintern agent, Grigori Voitinsky, in Shanghai’s French concession. It was July, 1921 — China’s summer of love. The first party congress had 53 attendees. Immediately feeling the heat from the Kuomintang authorities, the group transferred ...

arts·meme reaches ripe age of three

Language & ideas
On May 24, 2008, two things happened: 1) arts·meme went live, and 2) I stopped having time to watch television. Happy birthday, arts·meme, three years old. Now give us a little smile, sweetheart! My sincere appreciation to arts·meme creative collaborators: mark levine (technology) kent bulza, kamil muzylo (connectivity) elizabeth zimmer (editorial) chris green (brand) doug ...

She did the mash, she did the monster mash

Language & ideas
Most delighted by Arts Editor Kimberly Brooks’s banner headline fashioned for my story on today’s The Huffington Post. It’s a typical father-daughter tale, only it concerns two Karloffs: Boris and Sara. [click on the image for a better view …] You can also read this story on artsmeme.

What a guy! Ehrich Weiss, a.k.a. Harry Houdini

Language & ideas · Theater
The absolutely fabulous “Houdini: Art and Magic,” which opens tomorrow at the Skirball Center along with its equally wonderful companion show, “Masters of Illusion, Jewish Magicians of the Golden Age,” injects fun, mystery and gamesmanship into the ether — right when we need it most. Jewish guys dressed in turbans and tuxedos, waving wands, and ...

Lorenz Hart taught Balanchine English 1

Dance · Language & ideas · Music
Chatting by phone with George Balanchine’s longtime assistant, Barbara Horgan, I learned an amusing story about the great expatriate choreographer. “Balanchine was rather reserved,” noted Horgan. “But he adored Lorenz Hart [the brilliant but troubled lyricist of Rodgers & Hart songwriting team]. “Balanchine always used to say that ‘Larry taught me how to speak English.'” ...

What a piece of work is Hamlet!

Language & ideas · Theater
I am attending “The Trial of Hamlet” this evening to determine the competency of the defendant to stand trial for the murder of Polonius. United States Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy will adjudicate this mock trial of Hamlet, Crown Prince of Denmark. The trial takes place tonight on the USC campus. [Justice Kennedy was nominated ...

Happy 70th birthday, Captain Beefheart

Language & ideas · Music · Visual arts
Guitarist Gary Lucas‘s Captain Beefheart symposium was already in the works when he received a text message December 16 that Beefheart, aka Don Van Vliet, was no more. After years of suffering from multiple sclerosis, the enigmatic rock vocalist and musician, who had long forsaken music for painting, died at 69. Speaking to a theater ...


Film · Language & ideas
The world is one-one-one-one today. Happy birthday world.