Tag Archives: Wikipedia

Lena Hall Makes It Home

27 Apr

April 24 and 25 Lena Hall appeared at the Nikko Hotel’s Feinstein Room, presumably to capacity crowds both nights. I managed a reservation for Saturday buying Viognier and some cheese for what seemed a modest price to listen to one ninety minute performance of Lena and four musicians. She
appeared with her musical director, Watt White, plus three locals, piano, drums and guitar whom she praised for a first-time Thursday night rehearsal of her set.

For those of you unfamiliar with her name, Lena Hall won a Tony recently for her appearance in Hedwig and the Angry Inch, plus a two-week gig at New York City’s Carlyle Hotel. Behind her were leads in Kinky Boots, Tarzan and a good stretch in Cats, the musical in which she made her first professional appearance in one of its traveling ensembles. She was just twenty when I saw her in Cats in San Jose.

There she stood for ninety minutes in a two-piece nearly total silver sequin outfit, (fabric unadorned from mid-back shoulder to waist), and an ingenious left hand, middle ring finger through wrist set of crystal beads accessory and pumps with their current fashion of extra high wedge, belting out songs I never heard of nor did I find particularly captivating. (You need to realize that mine is the Frank Sinatra, Perry Como generation for popular music choices; Elvis Presley, Janis Joplin or the Beatles were mostly lost on me.)

What mesmerized me was the strength of the voice emerging from Hall’s slender body with the possessor’s command of impeccable American Southern takes on the English language. It was little surprise Hall helped herself to sips of water from a plastic bottle frequently. Via a Southern-born maternal grandmother, I am attuned to a drawl and the softness of tone, while surprised at the punch of Hall’s delivery and her sustenato in the final line of the lyrics.

Hall was received with deafening applause. Next to me was Jared Kassof, a young executive from Sephora, who had seen her on Broadway and had become a good fan of hers; he said he had obtained the last seat available for this show.

During the ninety minutes Lena provided introductory comments to most, if not all, the songs she had selected, Led Zepplin was familiar to me, but the names of Eric Clapton, David Byrne and Tori Amos sent me to Wikipedia to expand contemporary musical education. I found Clapton’s use of a French phrase, je’c’est ca, plus “fa,fa,fa” an intriguing foray into that funny mixture fo English and French which can appear so affected, but in song, okay. Lena’s comment that “for her generation” Tori Amos was like Chopin was equally provocative, taking Wikipedia’s info to understand.

Mid-way through the concert, Lena talked about herself, mentioning her Tony and a benefit concert for Elaine Stritch at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre where the Carlyn Hotel management approached her regarding a gig. Lena remarked, “But you know I’m not a sweet ballad style,” or words to that effect. The management said they wanted to attract a younger crown and to do “whatever you want.” Her gig there included Bynre’s “Psycho-Killer” and the use of a tambourine. Lena also disclosed growing up in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco, mentioning the colorful interior of the family home.

Periodically a man in front of me rose enthusiastically, after Lena had finished either head and torso forward or arched backward, all depending on the nature of the lyrics. At times the atmosphere, despite the glowing scarlet draperies, mike and musicians, seemed a tad like a carnival with Hall as the sideshow barker, edgy though free of tawdry qualities.

All this, plus the many times her face at an angle displayed the same jawline of her mother Carolyn, a quality in her smile part of the smarts her mother had given her which Lena had cheerfully accepted as part of her heritage of talent. Carlos, her father, said Lena’s ear had always been acute and that she had picked up Chopin on the piano without lessons, simply by hearing the tones and replicating them on the keys.

The intimate crowd provided a standing ovation at the conclusion of Lena Hall’s set. She stood outside, obliging fans with photographs, poised, friendly. Carlos greeted Lena’s former classmates at SOTA, the Ruth Asawa School of the Arts, while Carolyn and I shared impressions about the facial similarities. As Carlos Carvajal likes to say of his daughter, born Celina, “From Manila to Broadway in four generations.”

A New Tughra Belongs to Al Jazeera

20 Oct

The word tughra is usually associated with the Ottoman Turks and refers to a monogram or signature rendered in Arabic calligraphy. In an Asian Art Docent study group I became familiar with the term and its connection with Sulieman the Magnificent. Wikipedia has a working drawing showing its parts. While imparting, information, a tughra is a wonderful swirl of Arabic script; it would be an individual impervious to visual form and line to fail to be impressed.

While in La Union, the southern most of three Ilocano provinces on the island of
Luzon in the Philippines early this October, I encountered a second example of a
tughra, this time belonging to the television net work and news channel operating out of Doha on the Persian Gulf, Al Jazeera. I was startled and thrilled a) to see it and b) to recognized the form, plus c) to observe how broadcast manipulation could form the tughra from various prospectives, the most impressive was solidifying water images before appearing in its final form in blue.

Secondarily, it was a valuable exposure and different perspective, after seeing CNN broadcasts from a hotel room in Manila. The broadcast equipment is shown on Al Jezeera, but minus the chunks of color and the flashes of TV. Al Jazeera, after all, is closely owned; while it does have some advertising, the images are evocative with some nature scenes.

The network is, from what I saw, essentially a news channel, and probably is available in the U.S. from subscribers to Al Gore’s former TV channel, and to
subscribers to a channel service; I am not.

The information changes little over a twelve to sixteen-hour span; for some that would be highly repetitive. But the coverage of the Kabane conflict and the Hong Kong strike was extensive and thoughtful. A Baghdad representative appeared frequently;the Dallas Hospital handling of the Ebola victim was given its share of the commentary.

Periodically Al Jazeera provided small documentaries. There was a two-part study on Manila slums and the prospect of the population removal from a flooded area, targeted for demolition. Another dealt with the abortion issue in Texas, including comments by the unctuous anti-abortion leader. Yet another discussed young boys lured into the Myanmar military, and yet another about the efforts of an eleven year old Chinese girl to be eligible for soccer training, a route out of poverty. The death of her grandfather has kept eligibility on hold. A final documentary concerned the trials of the deaf in Gaza, and a glimpse into their remarkably well organized network, managing in the face of the prolonged
Gaza-Israeli conflict.

One final comment on the calibre of Al Jazeera’s coverage. The women anchors,
drop dead gorgeous, make Al Jazeera equality emblematic and easy to watch.