BLUE MAN GROUP: THE MIME TROUPE IT IS OK TO LOVE

I’m cured!

I faced my fear of mimes and attended one of the weekend’s sold-out performances by the Blue Man Group at San Bernardino’s California Theatre of the Performing Arts.

I liked it!

I’m all better now!

I’m happy to report that the Blue Man Group represents a new kind of mime. These performers are not like the old-fashioned mimes, the scary ones, who always seemed to find themselves stupidly trapped in imaginary boxes.

Frankly, I always was relieved to see them trapped in those boxes. I hoped they wouldn’t get out.

The Blue Man Group, on the other hand, is not trapped in a box. No, these guys definitely think outside the box.

Drumroll, please.

For one thing, these Blue Men make plenty of noise. They aren’t like the creepy mimes of yesteryear who never made a sound, who just stood there rolling their eyes and making hand and arm gestures, trying to communicate in some infernal secret language that only they could understand. I used to want to scream at them, “What? What? I can’t HEAR you!”

Like mimes of old, members of The Blue Man Group don’t talk or sing, but they do raise one heck of a ruckus. They bang on drums, they play on improvised instruments, they pound on things, they stomp up and down, they throw stuff around.

It’s like a rock concert, almost. Only noisier.

I admit, I had some nervous moments. A few times the Blue Man Group came out into the audience, grabbed innocent spectators, and dragged them onstage to participate in various bits, some of them involving copious amounts of paint.

I ducked down in my seat during these dire times, hiding myself, until the crisis had passed.

Honestly, though, the audience was so much into the show, and there was so much laughter and applause, it was impossible to remain apprehensive for long.

The Blue Man Group sold out six shows on three consecutive days at the California Theatre. I can’t think of another act that has done that. Ever.

Above and beyond the obvious popularity of the Blue Man Group, I think what is happening here is that this venue is bringing a lot of fantastic entertainment to San Bernardino and the public is responding. I am all for that.

Upcoming attractions at the California Theatre include such legendary performers as Chuck Berry, Mannheim Steamroller, Amy Grant, Brian Setzer and Michael Bolton, as well as such theatrical blockbusters as “Riverdance,” “My Fair Lady” and “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.” Check out the whole schedule at www.californiatheatre.net or call 909-885-5152.

You know, I’m looking forward to all the shows. More so than the last. I admit, I was terribly dubious about the Blue Man Group. That’s why it was such a surprise to end up liking it so much. I was just buzzing about the show after it was over. (Of course, beforehand I had steeled myself with a strong drink in the California Theatre’s Will Rogers Room … and it’s possible I still was buzzing from that.)

There was a tense moment at the very end. The Blue Man Group came out into the lobby, after the show, to mingle with patrons and pose for pictures.

It was a little close for me.

I got out of there as fast as I could.

Yes, it’s true, thanks to the Blue Man Group, I have conquered a lifelong phobia.  I’m in recovery now.

But I don’t want to take things too fast.

HERE’S THE DEAL ON THE BLUE DUDES

    Culled from the Internet, here is a treasury of trivia about the Blue Man Group, which is the first act I can recall to sell out six shows on three consecutive days at San Bernardino’s California Theatre.

  •   It takes a Blue Man approximately one hour to get in costume for the show. The Blue Men wear grease paint over latex bald caps on their heads. The paint never dries. This effect allows the Blue Men to maintain that wet gooey look throughout the show.

     

  •  Concerts can be messy. There’s plenty of paint and other material being thrown around. Spectators are urged to dress casually. Those in the first few rows are given protective ponchos to wear. It’s called the “Poncho Section.”

  • The original three members of Blue Man Group  are Chris Wink, Matt Goldman and Phil Stanton. Today there are more than 60 members of the Blue Man Group, who appear in shows around the world.

  • Not all members of the Blue Man Group are men. Some are women.

  • The performers never speak, sing or make any vocal sounds on stage. The shows include backup musicians, and many pop stars have taken a turn, including Tracy Bonham, Dave Matthews and Gavin Rossdale.

  •  The group once appeared in orange paint instead of blue, in a commercial for a soft drink called Mirinda.

  •  The trio achieved widespread visibility when it appeared in an Intel advertising campaign for Pentium III and Pentium 4 CPUs as well as Centrino technology.

   

  •  The Blue Man Group once appeared in local TV ads for the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team.
  •   In 2003, Blue Man Group played both days of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio. They are still the only act to  play multiple days of the festival in the same year.   
  •  On July 4, 2007, Blue Man Group performed with the Boston Pops Orchestra.

   

  •  The Blue Man Group organization has licensed two different musical instruments for kids, manufactured by Toy Quest, based on existing Blue Man creations: “Blue Man Group Percussion Tubes” and “Blue Man Group Keyboard Experience.”

   

  • The Blue Man Group has appeared on TV’s “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” “Live with Regis and Kelly,” “Arrested Development” and “The Drew Carey Show.” In 2004 the trio appeared in an episode of the drama “Las Vegas” in the Blue Men trashed a casino hotel, shooting money from PVC pipes in the lobby.

  • The group is a favorite on TV’s animated “Simpsons” series. The trio was parodied on a “Simpsons” episode titled “Jazzy and the Pussycats,” where Bart threw a ball into one member’s mouth in a church. Also, they appear in a couch gag in the episode titled “The Old Man and the Key.” In the 12th season episode titled “Trilogy of Error,” Homer describes the Blue Man Group as “a total ripoff of The Smurfs.” Also, in “The Ziff Who Came to Dinner,” Homer — on the verge of being arrested — desperately pleads, “Don’t tell my kids I’m going to jail. Tell them I joined the Blue Man Group. I’m the fat one!”

   
   

THE TOP 10 PIRATE NOVELS OF ALL TIME

In honor of “On Stranger Tides,” the 1987 novel by San Bernardino author Tim Powers upon which the latest “Pirates of the Caribbean” novel is based, I have put together a list of my favorite pirate novels. Yes, “On Stranger Tides” is on the list.

Treasure Island (1883) by Robert Louis Stevenson. Thrill to the adventures of Long John Silver and Jim Hawkins in the pirate tale by which all others are measured.  

Red Rover (1828) by James Fenimore Cooper. An agent of the Royal Navy gives chase to a feared pirate in this pioneering sea saga.

Cup of Gold (1949) by John Steinbeck. Seventeenth-century pirate Henry Morgan vows to conquer Panama and steal the “cup of gold” from the Spanish in Steinbeck’s only work of historical fiction.

On Stranger Tides (1987) by Tim Powers. John Chandagnac, on a sea mission to Jamaica to recover stolen money, becomes Jack Shandy when he is forced to join a pirate crew in a quest for the Fountain of Youth.

Captain Blood (1922) by Rafael Sabatini. The story of Peter Blood, a gentleman doctor turned pirate captain, inspired the 1935 movie of the same name starring Errol Flynn.

Sandokan: The Tigers of Mompracem  (1900) by Emilio Salgari. The notorious pirate Sandokan leads his crew in battle against the colonial empires of  the Dutch and British.

Pirate Latitudes (2009) by Michael Crichton.  Set in 1665, Crichton’s last novel tells the story of Captain Charles Hunter, a privateer who is hired to steal a Spanish galleon and its cargo of gold.

Peter Pan (1911) by J. M. Barrie. Neverland seems like an OK place until our heroes encounter Captain Hook and his crew.

Birds of Prey (1997) by Wilbur Smith. Privateers and pirates battle for the interests of the British and Dutch along the coasts of Africa.

The Pyrates (2003) by George MacDonald Fraser. The author of the popular “Flashman” novels pens an entertaining sendup of the pirate genre.

A TIM POWERS BIBLIOGRAPHY

San Bernardino’s Tim Powers is the author of 12 fantasy novels, including “On Stranger Tides” (1987), the inspiration for the new movie “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides,” starring Johnny Depp and Penelope Cruz. Two other Powers titles, “Last Call” (1992) and “Declare” (2001), were winners of the World Fantasy Award. Here’s a chronological list of his novels:

The Skies Discrowned (1976)
Epitaph in Rust (1976)
The Drawing of the Dark (1979)
The Anubis Gates (1983)
Dinner at Deviant’s Palace (1985)
On Stranger Tides (1987)
The Stress of Her Regard (1989)
Last Call (1992)
Expiration Date (1995)
Earthquake Weather (1997)
Declare (2001)
Three Days to Never (2006)

SHAKESPEARE’S TOP 10 PICK-UP LINES

In honor of this year’s Redlands Shakespeare Festival, themed “Season of Controversy,” now under way at Redlands Bowl (www.redlandsshakespearefestival.com, 909-335-7377), here’s a list of Shakespeare’s Top 10 Pick-Up Lines, culled from the Internet. These are real quotes from Shakespeare’s plays:

The very instant that I saw you did my heart fly to your service.
   
When you do dance, I wish you were a wave o’ the sea, that you might ever do nothing but that. 
   

Who ever loved that loved not at first sight? 
   

If love be rough with you, be rough with love.
   

Did I ever love til now? I never saw true beauty until this night.
  
 I would not wish any companion in the world but you.
  
 
I love you with so much of my heart that none is left to protest.
  
Your heart’s desires be with you!
  

Come woo me, woo me, for I am in a holiday humour and like enough to consent
   

I have not from your eyes that gentleness and show of love as I was wont to have.

THE WORST COMMERCIAL ON TELEVISION

Well, I think it’s the worst one, anyway. I know there are many from which to choose.

It’s the one where the guy is sitting in his chair, doing nothing, staring into space. Suddenly he remembers he needs to conduct a banking transaction. He stands up, grabs his jacket, then realizes, hey, he can do his banking business online, using his pocket computer. He presses a button and presto … all done! He didn’t have to go anywhere! He didn’t have to do anything!

He hangs up his jacket and takes his seat in the chair again, with a satisfied expression on his face.

So, this is the ideal now, apparently. Sitting in a chair, doing nothing, staring into space.

Yes, the future looks bright for the human race.

READERS WRITE: SHOPPING CART PROBLEM SOLVED!

Received many responses to a recent column about the neighborhood blight caused by stolen, abandoned shopping carts. Here are some of the best …

From Steve Portias of San Bernardino:

I’m not sure what grocery carts cost today, but 25 years ago they were about $175, so I’m sure much higher now. If you or I walked into a Stater Brothers and walked out with $175 worth of steaks or food we would be arrested.
 
Plus, the cost the grocers pay for a cart recovery business to go out and retrieve them all adds up on the bottom line of the cost of the grocer doing business and is reflected in the cost of our grocery bill….we pay for it. The consumer is not responsible for providing a homeless person with a $200-$400 shopping cart.

                                                          

From Barbara Brazz of Big Bear City:

You will be happy to hear that someone has actually solved this problem.  There is a 99 Cents Only store on E street in San Bernardino, almost directly across from an entrance to Inland Center.

There are yellow dots painted around their parking lot. If you cross over the line, the wheels lock and the cart just goes in circles. It takes a special tool to unlock them.

I was there 2 years ago, so I can’t speak as to whether they still have the system in place. It’s possible they abandoned the idea, due to people like myself, who went over the line just because it was a hoot to see the carts go in a circle.  Perhaps the cost of a cart now and then did not add up to the cost of a full-time person to unlock them.

Anyway, thought you might be interested. I read your column whenever I have time to read the paper. Good job, Mr. Weeks!

From Jerry Hampton:

In reading your article on the weekend about the shopping cart problem, I am prompted to write. 

In many visits to Germany I have noticed that they do not have a problem with their carts at all.  There are no carts being used by the homeless and there are no carts all over the parking lot or around the neighborhoods.

Each of their shopping carts has a coin slot and a chain.  When a customer wants a cart, they go to the cart rack and deposit a coin (in this case it is a Euro) or store token into the handle of the shopping cart.  This pushes the chain out and you can then use the cart.  When you are finished with it, you take the cart back, put the chain back in and it pushes the coin out and you get your coin or token back.  Even if someone didn’t take their cart back, someone else would return it and get the coin or token.  The German people take it for granted that if they want a cart they get it from the proper place and when they are finished with it they take it back and get their coin back.

No one needs to collect carts from all over the lot and the stores don’t have to pay a company to go around the neighborhoods to find them.  No cart wheel locks are needed and no alarms are necessary.

I know that to put this type of plan into effect would require retrofitting many carts, but the stores spend quite a bit of money now on an ongoing basis.  At least with the retrofit, it would have to be done only once. Of course it would also take getting the public to go along with it.  The public should be willing because it doesn’t cost them anything as they use the same coin or token over and over again. 

After all, the proper thing to do is take the cart back. Evidently we just need a reason to do it.
This seems like such a simple solution.
 
                                                                                                            
From Ann of San Bernardino:

We remember well being in northern France and grocery shopping with relatives.
Seems that the shopping carts were located in the parking lot adjacent to the store,
and tucked nicely into a rack.  For a few coins, we were able to access a cart and
use it in the store, carry our purchases to the car, return the cart to the rack, and
retrieve those coins; similar to baggage claim areas in airports or train depots.

Seems like some of our reputable grocery owners might give this a try to see if
such a plan would work in CA.  It worked nicely in France.
Thanks for letting me respond.

                                                                                                                     

BIG CHANGES FOR THE LOS ANGELES DODGERS?

John Longville punked me good. The former state assemblyman, Rialto mayor, and current trustee of the San Bernardino Valley College Board sent me an email reporting the sale of the Los Angeles Dodgers to the government of the Philippines.

My jaw dropped farther and farther as I read each paragraph. I almost reached for the phone to call the sports editor to ask, “Have you HEARD this?” And then I came to the last paragraph, which contains the best punchline I’ve heard in a long, long time.

Here’s his entire text:

Dodgers name and franchise to
change?

by John Longville

The Los Angeles Dodgers, the first major-league baseball
team to be based on the West Coast, are about to expand the baseball world
again, according to major league sources who asked not to be named because they
are not authorized to speak publicly.

If all the necessary legal arrangements can be worked out –
and that’s still not certain, apparently — the team will continue to play home
games at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, but officially will be franchised in
and owned by the government of the Philippines. 
Included in the deal will be four exhibition games each year in Manila,
one of which tentatively will be played against a Japanese team. And the
profitability of the team will be enhanced by a major increase in the value of
international television broadcast rights, although a small part of that new
money is proposed to be diverted to a new fund to assist teams in smaller
markets.

The pending deal began coming together early in April. Former
Texas Rangers president Tom Schieffer contacted Commissioner Bud Selig on the
first day of the month to inform him of a rumor that representatives of the
Philippine government were interested in purchasing the Dodgers, and already had
been quietly in negotiations with team owner Frank McCourt. Schieffer developed
close contacts in the Philippines when he served as U.S. ambassador to
Australia. All three nations were members of the now-defunct Southeast Asia
Treaty Organization (SEATO) formed under the Manila Pact in 1954.

Baseball became popular in the island nation during the
1950s and ’60s, when millions of young American sailors (over 4 million in 1967
alone) spent time at the massive U.S. naval base at Subic Bay. Those were glory
years for the Dodgers, and Filipinos became ardent fans of the first baseball
team to share the Pacific Ocean with them.

The Philippine government is about to acquire a
multi-billion-dollar windfall as international banking authorities conclude the
allocation of funds that former dictator Ferdinand Marcos had deposited in
secret Swiss accounts before his government was overthrown in 1986. Bankers
indicate that the total sum to be returned is substantially higher than earlier
estimates, prompting one government official to suggest an effort to buy San
Francisco Giants ace pitcher Tim Lincecum, the most valuable Filipino baseball
player in history, to boost the Dodgers’ prospects.

Schieffer, who was named Monday by Selig to take control of
the Dodgers before owner Frank McCourt could further damage the team, declined
to comment on reports that a sticking point in the negotiations is the proposed
new name for the team:

The Manila Folders.

CITRUS PSYLLID IS ONE BAD BUG

Are we going to allow some lousy little bug to destroy what’s left of our Inland Empire citrus groves?

Heck, no. We are going to fight the Asian Citrus Psyllid, and we are going to fight to win.

“The best way to protect California citrus is to inspect for
the pest,” says Ted Batkin, president of the California Citrus Research
Board.

The Asian Citrus Psyllid carries the fatal bacterium that
causes Huanglongbing (HLB), also called citrus greening disease. Trees
infected with HLB develop symptoms that include stunting, loss of
foliage, mottled leaves and excessive fruit drop. The diseased trees
produce hard, lopsided fruits that remain green, or partly green, with
bitter juice and flesh.

There is no cure.

“This could be the death knell for our citrus industry,” says
Bob Knight, founder of the Redlands-based Inland Orange Conservancy.

Since 2005 the insect has ravaged millions of acres of groves throughout Asia and the Middle
East, the Caribbean, South and Central America, and the southern United
States from Texas to Florida. Indeed, Florida’s citrus industry is
threatened with total extinction, as the insect has invaded every citrus
growing portion of the state.

In July 2008 the insect hopped the Mexico-U.S. border at Tijuana
and has advanced into Southern California. Quarantines are in effect in
Imperial, San Diego, Orange and Los Angeles counties.

The Inland Empire is seen as the last line of defense in terms
of preventing the insect from overwhelming all of Southern California’s
groves and threatening what still is a $1.2 billion annual citrus
industry in the state.

Experts stress that the Asian Citrus Psyllid is just as likely
to appear somewhere among the hundreds of thousands of citrus trees in
the yards of homeowners as among the orchards of commercial growers.

“We have what we call `party trees,’ where an infestation of
insects of all ages and stages of development are clustered in a single
tree,” Knight says. “Any single tree can become that tree. Any single
tree in anybody’s back yard can become the `Typhoid Mary’ tree that
wipes out our citrus industry.”

Homeowners are urged to inspect their citrus trees regularly.
The Asian Citrus Psyllid is a brownish, aphid-like insect that ranges in
size from one-eighth to one-sixteenth of an inch in length. It feeds on
bud shoots and the undersides of leaves, and while feeding it adopts a
distinctive tilted stance, with its head down and its rear lifted at a
45-degree angle.

The insect deposits waxy tubules of waste as it feeds, and
also emits a mist of so-called “honeydew” that encourages the growth of
sooty mold on leaves. The females lay their eggs, almond-shaped and
yellow-orange in color, on the tips of growing shoots and in the folds
of leaves.

If you think you have spotted an Asian Citrus Psyllid, act
fast. Call the California Department of Food and Agriculture hotline,
800-491-1899.

MY MEMBERS ONLY JACKET

When the Fedco store on Mount Vernon Avenue in San Bernardino was about to close in 1999, I went to check out the fantastic savings. I bought a black Members Only jacket for $10 and thought it was the deal of the century. I bragged about it to my friends, all of whom told me, gently, that Members Only jackets had gone totally out of style and that nobody with any fashion sense would be caught dead wearing one.

Not wanting to reveal publicly that I have no fashion sense, I forlornly put my brand-new Members Only jacket on a hanger in my entryway coat closet and left it there until this day. I never wore it. Ever.

You remember Members Only jackets, don’t you? They were all the rage for awhile. They had all sorts of unnecessary straps and buckles and grommets and buttons. Very Michael Jackson-ish. But then they stopped being the rage, evidently. I am very suspicious that it happened the very day before I bought one at big savings.

Fortunately, this very sad story has a wonderfully happy ending.  Recently I wandered through the Urban Outfitters store at the Victoria Gardens shopping mall in Rancho Cucamonga. This is a very hip, young, trendy shop, filled with hip, young, trendy clothes and accessories for hip, young, trendy people.

I admired all the cool stuff as I moved through the store in a counterclockwise circle that brought me back to the entrance. As it turned out, the very last thing I saw was a display case right near the front door. And there, in that case, featured in all its glory, I saw it … a Members Only jacket.

I’m not sure, but I think the store suddenly was bathed in a heavenly light. I heard music. Bluebirds may well have been flying in a circle above the display, carrying garlands and banners in their beaks.

Obviously, Members Only jackets are back! And, obviously, I am a genius for hanging on to my own Members Only jacket for more than a decade now … waiting … waiting …

Baby, that jacket is coming out of the closet!