“Telling It Like It Is”: The Alley’s “A Night With Janis Joplin” Rocks the House

“Telling It Like It Is”: The Alley’s “A Night With Janis Joplin” Rocks the House

 

A few years ago I saw “Love, Janis” at The Alley Theatre.  It was one of the best things I had ever seen there, and I didn’t want it to end. The actress channeled Janis Joplin and her songs with aplomb, and it was one of the most successful runs in the history of The Alley.

Now, The Alley offers the stellar “A Night With Janis Joplin,” and although I don’t know how it is possible, it is even better. As in, about six standing ovations before the end of the show better.  From the minute the show opens with a rock band, dancing backup singers, and lighting that makes you feel like you really are at a Janis Joplin concert, the atmosphere is electric, and that excitement level never wanes.  You immediately plunge into Joplin’s deep pool of emotion and creativity, and you begin to understand how she was able to create music that was never imitative and wholly revolutionary, yet still connected to the musical predecessors that she so admired. It is easy to see how, for her, “Music is everything.” Continue reading

The Revenant: A Savage Grace

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As a child I felt the call of the wild.  Jack London’s book sat on my bedroom bookshelf and every so often I would take and read.  Or rather, I would drink it in, as I did all of my favorite books, living moment by moment Buck’s eerie transformation from favored pet in sunny Santa Clara to wolf fiend of the Arctic.  Why did I love the tale?  Its cruelty held no charms for me, but its stark beauty captivated me.

One day my friends and I found a small, hurt animal – mouse, bird, I no longer remember what.  When one girl wanted to rescue it I spoke frostily of the law of club and fang until she protested, “Well . . . jeepers!”  That gentle “jeepers” sank its fangs into my soul.  Why would a Christian girl love The Call of the Wild? I decided I had overdosed on wolfish creatures (“They were savages, all of them . . . ”) and read London no more.

This past Christmastide I heard an NPR review of Alejandro Iñárritu’s The Revenant and knew that I had to see it.  I had a professional motive, besides.  As a history professor specializing in the early nineteenth century, I did not want to be mauled by a student who had seen this film when I had not.  So, one fine Friday before the spring semester hit, I took myself to see The Revenant. Continue reading

H-Town Diary: The Pathways of November

I know it seems like civilization is falling to pieces, and that we cannot agree on anything, and that uncertainty can fill up a little too much real estate in your head.

And that even though Houston seems far away from Paris and Beirut and Tel Aviv, that things are so terrible all over, and that perhaps more turmoil is heading our way.  It seems that chaos and pain are as close as a television, or a radio, because in a way, they are.

But sometimes, you can have an adventure, take a break from the debates in our heads, and allow the people who are doing good take center stage, distract you from the tragic, take your breath away.  Fate can lead you upward—it does not always bring you to your knees.

This is what happened to me, in November, when so much pain was in Paris, Beirut, Tel Aviv, well, all over.

So first of all, the weather sent us a message:  that it can be cloudless and sunny and 65 in November, a reminder that we can’t mess up everything here on earth.  Sometimes, things are gorgeous and fantastic and we haven’t done a thing to deserve it.  But we are grateful for the gift.

So I turned off the talking heads, turned off my radio, accepted an invitation to remember that while terrorists get so much press, there are quiet deeds going on all around us in Houston, Texas, America, and we need to make sure those get enough air time to sustain us, let us breathe. Continue reading

Thankful for My Travels in India

Thanksgiving will be here in a couple of days. At this time of year I like to reflect on what I am thankful for. When it comes to my international experiences, I am grateful for the various opportunities that I have had over the years to visit India for academic conferences and travel. Of all of the places I have been, India is one of the few places that still affects all of my senses: sight, smell, sound, taste, and touch. Why? Because India is an amazing land of adventure, architecture, and artistry.

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When experiencing adventure, probably one of the greatest adventures that my husband and I embarked upon was our camel safari in the Great Thar Desert in northwestern India. For 5 days we traveled through the parts of the desert in the Indian state of Rajasthan. We visited the ancient cities of Bikaner, Jaipur, Jaisalmer, and Jodhpur. We camped out in the desert as well. My camel and I became fast friends. I nicknamed him “Pokey” because he plodded along slowly while my husband’s camel thought he was running a race to the finish line every day. Riding a camel is not for the faint of heart. It takes some skill to get in the saddle and stay on it as your camel gets up on four legs. They also do not have a uniform gate like a horse. And…they like to spit at you when they are upset.

color negative: KODAK GOLD 200 Gen 4. SBA settings neutral SBA on, color SBA on

India has amazing architecture as well. The most iconic building is, of course, the Taj Mahal. This white marble mausoleum was built in Agra from 1632-1648 by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan for his wife Mumtaz Mahal. It is decorated with flowers and leaves made of inlaid precious and semiprecious stones. When viewed in just the right sunlight, they look almost like live plants. There is also an outer courtyard with gardens and reflection pools. (You’ve probably seen the famous photo of Princess
Diana sitting on a bench in this area.) The Taj Mahal is a UNESCO Heritage Site as it is considered the best architectural achievement in Indo-Islamic culture.

color negative: KODAK GOLD 200 Gen 4. SBA settings neutral SBA on, color SBA on

And then there is the artistry of the people of India. Their artistic works have stood the test of time. Amazing paintings and carvings are everywhere you look. Exquisite fabrics and beautiful pottery can all be found. Of course there are traditional dance schools and music venues as well. One of my favorite things to do is go to recitals at these schools when the students graduate. India has a long history in the arts that stretches back to the third millennium BC. It is a multicultural mélange of the various groups that have inhabited the country for thousands of years.

In conclusion, I challenge you my dear readers, to reflect on your own experiences this Thanksgiving. Which ones are you the most grateful to have had?