LGBT rights could decide NY Senate race

Harold Ford
Harold Ford

The race for the Senate seat in New York could hinge on a very usual issue — gay rights. But not in the way we’ve come to expect.

Incumbent Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has been at the forefront of repealing Don’t ask, don’t tell. Gillibrand was appointed by Gov. David Paterson (New York’s liberal governor who issued an executive order to recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere and submitted a bill to the legislature to legalize same-sex marriage in New York).

Gillibrand was appointed to fill the unexpired term of Hillary Clinton when Clinton became Secretary of State.

Former Tennessee representative Harold Ford is thinking of running to replace her. The problem is that Ford may be too conservative for New York on issues including LGBT rights.

While in the House of Representatives, Ford voted for the so-called Defense of Marriage Act and was against repeal of DADT. But now that he’s thinking of running from New York, he says he’s changed his mind.

Ford’s argument is that the only way we win marriage rights is with votes from people who have changed their mind and now support us. But, so far, New York’s LGBT community isn’t buying it. Ford is being booed at every stop. The New York Daily News reported on a recent visit to Greenwich Village.

And the obvious problem that would sink a campaign in Texas — that he’s from another state? That isn’t usually a problem in New York politics. Clinton moved to New York to run for Senate in 2000. In 1964, Bobby Kennedy resigned as Attorney General to move to New York, where he also successfully ran to represent the state in the Senate.

—  David Taffet

The three horse men

By ARNOLD WAYNE JONES | Life+Style Editor jones@dallasvoice.com

As they prepare an historic main-stage production at the Kalita Humphreys, the stars of ‘Equus’ consider the meaning behind a landmark play

HOLD YOUR HORSES A psychiatrist (Rick Espaillat, left), a disturbed young man (Max Swarner, center) and his horse Nugget (Daylon Walton, right) engage in a dark pas de trois in ‘Equus.’ (Photos by Mike Morgan)


PONY SHOW (NO DOG)
Kalita Humphreys Theater,
3636 Turtle Creek Blvd.
Feb. 26–March 21.
UptownPlayers.org.

Nearly everyone associated with Uptown Players’ production of Equus has a different opinion about what the play means and who it will speak to, but the chorus is in unison on one point: It is far more than the play where Harry Potter showed off his magic wand.

Equus was written nearly 40 years, but the landmark play — it ran for three years on Broadway, won the Tony Award and the film adaptation was nominated for three Oscars — was rarely revived until 18-year-old Daniel Radcliffe announced he would appear in a production, including the play’s requisite nudity.

"I tell people the play has the notoriety because of the nudity, but if you come away from it and that’s all you remember, we haven’t done our job right," says Daylon Walton (Nugget), echoing a sentiment expressed firmly by his castmates.

"I first read [the play] when it was announced Radcliffe was doing it and I thought, ‘Surely there had to be more substance than just walking around showing your penis,’" says Max Swarner, who plays the Radcliffe role in the current production. (It opens tonight at the Kalita Humphreys Theater.)

Everyone agrees on the general play. A young man named Alan Strang (Swarner) is sent to a mental hospital after blinding six horses with a metal spike. His psychiatrist, Dr. Dysart (Rick Espaillat), tries to unravel the psychosis that would lead to such a horrifying act. Beyond that, things get murky — and much of the richness of the story is revealed slowly through the characters.

So, without giving too much away, here’s what the principal male actors have learned from the show.

At 19, Max Swarner is already a long-time veteran of Dallas stages. He started at age 4 but didn’t really enjoy theater until he hit middle school, eventually being cast in Dallas Summer Musicals’ abortive production of Casper with Chita Rivera. ("It lasted four cities," he laughs.) Although he’s now a vocal performance major at SMU, acting in a shows like Equus is his passion. It’s a change of pace following stints in shows like Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

"Roles like Equus are very few and far between — roles are not as meaty [at my age]," he notes. "I enjoy doing plays more than musicals because they take me out of my comfort zone."

HORSE SENSE Walton spent seven weeks getting in shape to play Nugget, a horse blinded by a disturbed boy (Swarner). (Photo by Mike Morgan)

Certainly the nudity contributes to that discomfort.

"It definitely requires some fearlessness and made me more fearless," he says. "I haven’t done anything like this before. And it’s not just the nudity but the nature of the role and what the character has to go through."

Swarner is the same age as the character he’s playing, although his own life isn’t nearly as dramatic (he’s lived in the same house his entire life). That lack of personal experience both intimidated and inspired him to try out for the show. (Virtually everyone else who auditioned for Alan was older.)

"Yeah, it intimidates me, but the journey that Alan takes is so incredible. I don’t necessarily agree with everything that happens in the show but it’s something that you can get lost in."

Swarner’s knowledge of Equus is more recent than Barack Obama’s national political career; for Rick Espaillat, the opportunity to do the show was a long-simmering dream — although the dream has morphed over the decades.
Espaillat first learned of the play when he was in high school — much nearer to Alan’s age than Dysart’s. He imagined playing Alan one day. But 35 years in the interim have made the role of Dysart all the more poignant to him.

"The sum total of the life experience I have accumulated in that time means that I get Dysart. So many of the lines and speeches in the show are very, very personal to me — I’m invested in this show," he says.

A lot of roads that converged to make this production special to Espaillat: Equus marks the first production on the Kalita stage not produced by the DTC; it’s Uptown’s first show in space, and there was the play itself. "Those things combined with my love for the material and that I have wanted to do this show for so long, so that the stakes are incredibly high for this production," he says.

Espaillat targeted the production as soon as it was announced. He grabbed the dog-eared copy of the play he bought in the 1970s and began doing line analysis.

"As I got closer to audition time, I actually started to memorize the text. I was more prepared for this audition than any show I’ve ever done."

Getting cast, though, filled him with a mix of elation and dread.

"There was this feeling of ‘Now what?’" he says. "Because I wanted it so badly I want to do it justice. And when you’re onstage [at the Kalita], it’s hard not to be swept up in the history of it and the energy of everybody that has come before."
But right now, Espaillat can’t think too much about the historic significance of the show. He’s concentrating instead on puzzling through the questions it raises, and how he can convey those ideas to the audience.

"For me, Dysart is asking the question, if you could take away someone’s nightmares but in the course of doing so you would take away their dreams as well, what would you do?" he says. "I really appreciate that in this play there aren’t any absolute answers. I think everyone who sees this show will have I different opinion."

Swarner might not be overly concerned about the nudity, but Daylon Walton is fairly obsessed about his physique in the show. First there are the physical demands of the role: As Nugget, the central horse, Alan "rides" him. And the physicality is important for other reasons. You might not think playing a horse who only snorts would entail a discussion of "character," but it is the title role.

"All the other guys [playing horses] are in their 20s; they have metabolisms like hummingbirds on Ritalin," Walton says. "I represent the old guys. I still need to drop a couple of pounds. My character’s motivation? Everyone else is hard and 500 people a night will be seeing me. If’ I’m gonna be a half-naked horse-god I want to look the part."

But joking — and vanity — aside, portraying a completely non-verbal character that is also a kind of god to Alan brings a certain weightiness to the role. Walton and several other horse actors went to a stable to observe actual equines in order to accurately mimic their movements.

"It would be criminal to make light of it all," Walton says. "The material’s definitely not High School Musical. I was trying to explain it to my mom because she’s used to seeing me in Beauty and the Beast." The best I can do is, it’s about a disturbed young man and his dynamic relationship with horses."

That relationship certainly creates a sense of homoeroticism that has fed much of the controversy around the play. But Walton says his experience with director Bruce Coleman and for Uptown producers Jeff Rane and Craig Lynch calmed his concerns that it would be anything but a serious enterprise.

"Uptown takes chances. Living in a Red State, they do shows that are a little outside the spectrum. And Bruce is so damn good at what he does, that this is not a play about naked people — that’s one aspect of the story."

Walton perhaps oversells its broad appeal — "It’s good clean Christian fun. Bring your whole family!" he chuckles — but at one level he does believe that the play needs to reach as many people as possible. And it doesn’t require Harry Potter to make it soar.                         

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 26, 2010.

—  admin

From grand to Grand Guignol

By ARNOLD WAYNE JONES | Life+Style Editor jones@dallasvoice.com

Whether ‘Don Pasquale’ or ‘Phantom,’ some grand nights for singing

FACE TO FACE | ‘Phantom’ camps out at Fair Park for three more weeks. (Photo by Joan Marcus)


ARIAS ABOUND
DON PASQUALE at the Winspear Opera House,
2403 Flora St. Through March 7.  DallasOpera.org.
THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA at Fair Park Music Hall,
901 First Ave. Through March 14.
DallasSummerMusicals.com.

I must confess, I never "got" The Phantom of the Opera as a romance, especially by the end, when the Phantom has become a sad, deformed man-child, like Leatherface in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre but without the family dynamic. And it’s easy to attack Andrew Lloyd Webber for his theatrical bombast: The musical is both a parody and recreation of a stuffy, self-important opera, and Webber shoots his melodic load in Act 1 — there’s no place for it to go.

That said, the current tour, which is reportedly the last, is elevated by fine singing by the entire cast (though the actress who played Christine at press night has since left the show). The show is, its flaws aside, still entertaining and filled with hummable songs (despite synthesizer effects that seemed dated almost as soon as they were introduced 20 years ago). If you haven’t seen it, it would be a shame not to catch it now, if for the kitsch value alone.

A more serious stab at opera — but also much funnier — is now at the Winspear. The Dallas Opera’s new production of Don Pasquale has such a contemporary feel (thanks the Candace Evans’ lively direction) that it could convince skeptics that opera can be energetic and fun.

The plot is classic opera buffa: A curmudgeonly bachelor (Donato DiStefano) decides to marry and disinherit his nephew (Norman Shankle), but his physician (Nathan Gunn, as dashing as Rhett Butler) connives to create family unity and see true lovers united.

Donizetti’s gorgeous score is performed, across the board, by gifted bel canto interpreters (though Adriana Kucerova, in her American debut, is the most dazzling) who are as good at acting as singing, but everything clicks. From the sets to the costumes to the comic precision, this is Dallas Opera’s best show of the last season. Maybe two.    

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 26, 2010.

—  admin

Don’t drink the water

By STEVEN LINDSEY | Contributing Writer stevencraiglindsey@me.com

Remake of ‘The Crazies’ plays on still-relevant fears (with a little beefcake)
 

CLUB THY NEIGHBOR Two Iowa lawmen (Joe Anderson, Timothy Olyphant) fight a plague in a deliciously scary horror remake.

3.5 out of 5 Stars
THE CRAZIES
with Timothy Olyphant, Joe Anderson, Radha Mitchell.
Rated R. 100 mins.
Now playing in wide release.

…………………………………………..

A small Midwestern town. A middle-aged woman riding in circles on a child’s bicycle, singing church hymns. A full-service automated car wash.

Yep, all the classic elements are in place for one helluva scary movie.

In a glut of horror remakes — some good (Texas Chainsaw Massacre), some not-so-good (Friday the 13th) and some yet to be seen (Piranha 3-D, anyone?) — The Crazies is a solid reinterpretation of the often-overlooked 1973 George A. Romero film. When the citizens of Ogden Marsh, Iowa start acting a little off their rockers, it’s not immediately apparent why (though lack of a good sushi bar and Nordstrom could be partly to blame).

When the sheriff (Timothy Olyphant) discovers that the good townfolk are becoming crazed killers due to a biological weapon that has leaked into the water supply, it’s a race against time to stop the contagion. The cop’s pregnant wife, town physician Judy (Radha Mitchell), her assistant Becca (Danielle Panabaker) and his deputy (Joe Anderson) band together to escape once the number of crazies increases. Then the military invades the town and goes on its own murder spree in an attempt to contain the outbreak, as well as cover up its responsibility for it.

What makes the movie so much fun is that it’s not just a game of cat-and-mouse, but cat-and-cat-and-mouse. Not only are the sheriff and his gang warding off their demented neighbors, but the U.S. government personnel as well. And then there’s the part about becoming infected themselves. All I know is, I probably would’ve given up to the guy with the penchant for the pitchfork-poking and called it a life. Escaping from killers requires too much cardio.

A fair motivation for seeing The Crazies is the faint hope of Olyphant having to strip naked as the only way to prevent infection, but alas, the writers missed an easy way to further justify the R rating and guarantee the gay man/straight woman box office dollar. However, he does rock that police uniform, and what is that, a 28-inch waist?

Happily, there was more to the movie than simply being a vehicle for possibly satisfying my unrealistic fantasies. It did exactly what it (and any horror movie should) set out to do: shock, scare and create new everyday locations to dread.

Many moviegoers developed a fear of water thanks to Jaws, Japanophobia because of Godzilla and a flat-out refusal to trust Jennifer Aniston after Leprechaun. But we now have The Crazies to thank for bringing terror to the car wash. In the film’s greatest and most intense scene, a car wash becomes a symbol of claustrophobic helplessness while the culmination of everything at stake becomes abundantly clear to our beloved protagonists.

The timing of the movie’s release couldn’t be better, with fears of pandemic outbreaks still fresh in people’s minds and the ever-present, "what if?" scenarios of biological weapons deployment against the United States. The fact that the movie has a hint of this-could-really-happen makes it more frightening than if the people were possessed by demons instead of a manmade toxin. Even if the movie itself doesn’t scare you, the concept behind it is enough to leave you at least a little bit shaken.

And at least for the time being, I’m getting out the bucket and hose and washing my car in broad daylight. Just in case.   

…………………………………………..

‘The Ghost Writer’
A European celebrity accused of a terrible crime risks trial and imprisonment if he steps foot in his favorite country. Is that the plot of The Ghost Writer or the story of its director, Roman Polanski? Part of the brilliance of the movie is, it’s both. This crackling, pensive thriller about a biographer (Ewan McGregor) hired to pen the memoirs of a British P.M. (Pierce Brosnan) is a moody bit of movie magic, full of long shadows,  eerily quiet beaches and misdirection. Echoing Polanski’s The Tenant and Frantic, it’s the smartest suspense film in ages, one you can’t look away from.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 26, 2010.

—  admin

Size doesn’t matter

By ARNOLD WAYNE JONES | Life+Style Editor jones@dallasvoice.com

Sangria’s streamlined menu of small-plate dining revitalizes Uptown tapas

MEDITERRANEAN MADNESS | Sangria reinvents itself with a broad-scope approach to tapas, with tangy items like the seared scallops on tomato confit.

3 out of 5 Stars
Sangria, 4524 Cole Ave. Open daily 4 p.m. 214-520-4863. SangriaTapasyBar.com.
With Mediterranean influences shading traditional Spanish tapas, Sangria combines a continental sophistication with Middle East items.

Food: 3.5 out of 5 Stars
Atmosphere: 3 out of 5 Stars
Service: 3.5 out of 5 Stars
Price: Moderate

Singing the value of  "fresh food" doesn’t always refer to how recently the vegetables were picked or the meats butchered; sometimes, it involves gussying up a menu with new ideas.

Sangria has served Spanish-style tapas at its Uptown location for three years, but as that niche has grown — Stephan Pyles’ newest, the James Beard-nominated restaurant Samar, is itself high-end small plates culled from three continents — it has found new life with a new executive chef, Jeff Moschetti.

Moschetti’s Dallas career has had peaks and valleys. He opened the Moroccan-themed Dragonfly (with Pyles, who served as consulting chef) nearly a decade ago; but Pyles’ influence seemed to dominate — you could always tell when Stephan was in the kitchen, because the entire staff upped its game. Moschetti went on to Ferre, where he served sometimes great/sometimes not Italian cuisine.
It now seems that Spain beckoned all along. It was just a matter of working his way to the right country.

To be fair, despite its name, Sangria has a pan-Mediterranean style. Moschetti imbues Middle Eastern elements throughout … not a stretch, as the Moors deeply influenced Spanish culture. It’s most immediately noticeable in the dip appetizer ($10), a trio of Arabian favorites: Labneh (creamy white and tangy), fava bean hummus and the top of the lot, baba ghanoush. It’s a good starter while you’re negotiating with your dining companion about what else to sample — tapas are always best shared. (Other non-Spanish starters include sagnaki — Greek fried cheese — and a Syrian salad.)

A distinguishing characteristic is how even the simplest, most traditional tapas items are bursting with creativity. There’s an unexpected but welcome crunch to the Sangria salad ($5.95), owing to pomegranate seeds and spiced walnuts tossed among organic greens; and the smokiness of the grilled pears provides a depth to the dish. I had a similar reaction to the warm spinach salad ($6.95).

Despite casting a broader net, Moschetti has essentially tightened up the selections. Sangria’s menu once exerted a tyranny of choices: page after page of interesting-sounding items, and only so much time to try them. The a la carte options have now been streamlined, with enough choices that you can still explore but without requiring a mnemonic device to remember what you enjoyed last time.

It’s easy to remember the calamari ($6.95), which is marinated for 24 hours and gets packed with flavor, just as the salty zest from the capers in the veracruzana sauce rounds out the seared scallops ($11). Sweet and savory meld spectacularly in the tomato confit and avocado aioli on the cured tuna ($10.95).

The preparation of the beef tenderloin ($14) impressed me; small pieces of meat can often be fatally overcooked, but this was just right — served an exquisite medium rare, and glazed with a red wine reduction. The doughy gnocchi ($6.50), despite a creamy béchamel-pistachio sauce, was bland, while the chicken tagine ($10.95) was appropriately subtle with its liltingly-seasoned couscous specked with medjool dates.

As successful as the entrees are the desserts. Don’t miss the Catalan specialty, torrija — a bread pudding soufflé with a caramelized top a la crème brulee, and served with vanilla gelato — or the egg roll-style baklava or flourless chocolate cake. Trust me, you’ll want to find the room. 

………………………………………….

TASTING NOTES

You no longer have to drive to North Dallas to get your Pinkberry fix. The second local purveyor of the WeHo frozen yogurt chain opened earlier this month in the West Village.

The sixth annual Savor Dallas comes to Downtown March 5 and 6. The events, developed by local food expert Jim White, includes seminars and tastings on Saturday, but the two main events are the Arts District Wine Stroll on Friday and the International Grand Tasting held at the Sheraton on Saturday, with chefs from 60 restaurants serving their signature dishes. Chefs in attendance wil include Billy Webb of Opio, Joanne Bondy of Old Hickory at the Gaylord Texan, Blythe Beck of Central 214, Doug Brown of Dish, Sara Johannes of Five Sixty and Jorge Cruz of Hector’s on Henderson.  Tickets are available at SavorDallas.com.

Billy Webb is staying busy. The same weekend as Savor Dallas, Kindal’s Soul
Fusion Cafe, for which Webb served as the consulting chef, is set to open. The menu combines African-American comfort food with Asian dishes — "soul-shi," they are calling it.

Right around the corner from the Wine Stroll, Tei An is opening its rooftop lounge, which will serve cocktails and light bites.

— Arnold Wayne Jones


This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 26, 2010.

—  admin

I feel like dancin’

By RICH LOPEZ | Staff Writer lopez@dallasvoice.com

Despite one toe-tappin’ fool’s attempts at gate crashing, the Once in a Blue Moon dance is still strictly for women

DANCIN’ FOOL! | Despite oozing all this charm, it’s looking like this author will have to sit out this dance. (Photo by Arnold Wayne Jones)

I’ve spent many a year revving it up on the dance floor. I’m not a bad dancer if I may say so (and I do). How could I not have some skills, growing up in the age of Michael Jackson and graduating to hip-hop with just the right amount of Broadway choreography? Trust, people can’t help but look when I’m on the floor. Ask my mom.

So when I heard about the Once in a Blue Moon dance every month, my ears pricked up and my foot began to tap. Dancing in the club is great but busting a move in a ballroom? That’s too good to pass up.

Then I glanced the card over and saw the fine print: "A social gathering for women only."

Curses.

I was going to get to the bottom of this. I called Cynthia Schepps who hosts the event every month at DanceMasters in Lake Highlands. I was gonna fight for my right to dance.

"Blue Moon is for women only," she says with no hint of caving in. "The crowd is predominantly lesbian and some straight women come out. Mostly women are 35 and up and it’s a laid back crowd."

With a mix of country, disco and salsa, ladies come to the ballroom (really a dance studio in a strip mall) the second Saturday of each month to sashay, chat, drink and just hang out. That’s all Schepps could hope for.

Blue Moon is more about socializing than hooking up, although she says many relationships have started among the attendees. And newcomers shouldn’t be nervous about coming in — I wasn’t, but then again, I was also shot down for showing curiosity. Just give Schepps a call and she’ll take care of you like a teacher handling a new student.

"Some women are just coming out or new to the area. They might be nervous and wonder what to wear or if it’s all couples. I just say wear what you’re comfortable in. We have people in blue jeans to feather boas. I’ll introduce you around. I’ll sit and talk to ‘em a little bit. And it is a lot of couples but I’m planning to meet up with singles groups soon."

Come June, Schepps will celebrate her decade as head of the monthly dance event. And even though I can’t edge my way in, it’s for good reason. She’s strived to provide a night out that’s both an alternative to the lesbian nightlife and a friendly and safe place for any woman just wanting to let it all out on the dance floor.

"In my opinion, being out of the Oak Lawn realm is a good thing because it’s so crowded," she says. "We’re off beaten path and it’s so safe out here away from all the other stuff. And some women don’t have to worry about being outed."

I was digging the BYOB part the most. I have visions of my fave beer in one hand, Cheetos in the other and a mad line dance happening beneath my feet.  Reality set in and Schepps had to go and pull the sentimental card.

"Everyone jumps in on the line dances. It’s great. I like to sit and just watch although I love to dance. There is nothing greater than seeing a huge group of women having fun."

Total defeat. It all sounds so good that I’d just be a tool to try to satisfy these boogie shoes on their dancing oasis. But the good thing is, she’s not entirely opposed to dancing men. Just not on Blue Moon night.

"I would do it for men. I’ve had men ask me to do it, so there is that possibility," she admits.

To which I say, Get on it, sister.  

Once in a Blue Moon Dance at DanceMasters Ballroom, 10675 E. Northwest Highway, #2600 B. Second Saturday of each month. Next event: March 13. 7 p.m.–midnight. $10 Once-In-A-Blue-Moon.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 26, 2010.

—  admin

Generations apart

By RICH LOPEZ | Staff Writer lopez@dallasvoice.com

Sade and Selena Gomez occupy opposite sides of the pop music spectrum

4 out of 5 Stars
SOLDIER OF LOVE • Sade • Epic

Buzz is big over Sade’s comeback and after a decade away from her last album, Lovers Rock, she returns with her classic sound in Soldier of Love. She may be one of the few artists who can thrive without much change in style: Soldier is textbook Sade, but that doesn’t make it less thrilling.

The album eases us into it with "The Moon and the Sky." It sounds as if you could find it on any previous Sade disc, but that serves only as her message to listeners not to worry — she hasn’t strayed far from familiar territory.

The title track does add some nice drum layers to her delivery with the slight marching band drum action shining under the heavy bass and her sultry voice.  Her songs typically groove along but it ends with a hypnotic drone that almost lets you soak in the song after taking in the high points.

"Morning Bird" and "Long Hard Road" are both sleepy tunes waiting to be played on a lazy afternoon. This is where Sade excels. Even with an almost monotone delivery, she can still create engaging mini-epics in less than four minutes.

RETURN OF A CLASSIC | Despite a decade-long absence, Sade brims with confidence to stick with her signature style in ‘Soldier of Love.’

"Skin" is the CD’s most interesting song, and it’s sexy as hell … but perhaps one of the cruelest breakup songs ever. She spares no mercy with lyrics like "Now as I begin to wash you off my skin / I’m gonna peel you away / ‘Cause you’re not right within." She aims for the heart and not only stabs it, but twists the knife.

Earlier in the album though, "Babyfather" is a sweet ode to a child. With a reggae groove, Sade touches tenderly on the love between a father and his daughter. (She should consider writing greeting cards during her long lapses between albums.)

Sade though saves her sexiest for last with "The Safest Place." It’s more romance when she sings of lonely warriors and heaven’s eye but it has foreplay written all over it. The song stands still but it keeps its sensuality without boring the listener.

The magic of Sade is she knows how not to misstep yet she never feels calculated. These songs unfurl like a like an ornately constructed rug. A rug that you’ll then want to lay on while taking in Soldier of Love.

1.5 out of 5 Stars
KISS & TELL • Selena Gomez and the Scene • Hollywood

Selena Gomez is a Disney product right out of Los Angeles by way of Dallas. The Mouse House machine is hocking her as the next Miley Cyrus and her debut Kiss and Tell may do just that for her.

The album is full of the expected pop confections and opens with the title track complete with suburban rebel girl guitar riff and boppy beats. It’s a disorienting song with its lack of sensible construction. Clearly this song is supposed to have Gomez crashing out of the gate like a hard rocking pop tart. Instead, she trips and falls.

Gomez finds some redemption in "I Won’t Apologize," an earnest bubblegum tune that’s enjoyably listenable. (It’s also the one song on which she’s listed as a co-writer. Maybe this girl has potential as a well-rounded artist as opposed to being a mere product.)

The album is flavored with similar tracks that aren’t too hard on the ears, but they are suffocated by Gomez’s attempt at being a pop-rocker chick with erratic high-energy songs echoing the title song. When the album abruptly finishes with "Tell Me Something I Don’t Know," you feel relief after the battering of candy-flavored music that tastes like Sour Patch Kids, minus the sweet surprise.

POP ROCKS | The Disney machine churns out another pop starlet but Selena Gomez has homework to do before catching up with the likes of seasoned Disney diva, Miley Cyrus.

Gomez is not the greatest singer — she’s nowhere in the Christina Aguilera realm — but at 17, she may be too young to fairly judge for that. Her coos on "The Way I Loved You" display some range, but by the end of the CD, it’s a forgotten thought.
The album will play well for automaton ‘tweens, which is what it’s geared for, but as for whether Miley’s up late at night, Disney has some work to do before Gomez becomes the next anybody.     

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 19, 2010.

—  admin

An artistic vocabulary

By ARNOLD WAYNE JONES | Life+Style Editor jones@dallasvoice.com

Gay conceptual Britarist Michael Craig-Martin writes words with images in a new exhibit at the Goss-Michael

SEAMLESS ART | A salon in the Goss-Michael Foundation is dominated by a single custom sheet of wallpaper featuring images that Britart mentor Michael Craig-Martin, above, has culled over the decades; three years ago, he introduced letters to his repertoire. (Photo by Arnold Wayne Jones)


PARADE OF IMAGES
Michael Craig-Martin at the Goss-Michael Foundation,
2500 Cedar Springs. Exhibition on view through April 20.
GossMichaelFoundation.org.

When you enter the current exhibit of Michael Craig-Martin paints now on display at the Goss-Michael Foundation, it becomes a categorical impossibility to divorce yourself of the first two images you see — a pair of handcuffs and a urinal — from the history of the gallery’s co-owner: Hasn’t George Michael had more than his share of legal run-ins not too far from a public toilet? The symbolism of these items in the pubic life of a couple cannot be lost on you … nor, for that matter, on GMF’s management, or the artist himself.

So it might seem unlikely that Michael Craig-Martin, the artist responsible for the images, did not paint them with George Michael in mind; the meaning is purely coincidental. Or the irony might be what caused Michael and Goss to start collecting Craig-Martin in the first place.

Certainly many have. Craig-Martin — born in Dublin, reared in D.C., educated at Yale and now based on London — had straddled so many cultures, it’s no wonder his work has influenced a generation of English conceptualists (known collectively as the Young British Artists) that include Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin.

Like Marcel Duchamp, his early style often consisted or "readymades" (or "found art") artfully configured, although he’s best known now for his oversized, colorful use of recurrent images, a style that calls to mind pop art of the 1950s and ’60s … except to Craig-Martin himself.

"I never thought of myself as a pop artist," he says, during the opening of his exhibit earlier this month (it runs through April 30). "But the accessibility is something I like about pop art. Your mind all closes off to the things that aren’t relevant. Too often, you can look but not see."

Like his late friend Andy Warhol, Craig-Martin repeatedly employs everyday objects in his paintings (like handcuffs and urinals), sometimes overlapping and silhouetting them. But Craig-Martin has taken his ethic even further.

"I never draw the same thing twice," he says. "Images are like words or letters — we rearrange the element to create new meanings." Thus, his art is a form of modern-day hieroglyphics where the juxtaposition of familiar things suggests a deeper meaning.

Recently, Craig-Martin has done something previously unknown in his work: Expanded it to include letters. In paintings like OK, letters and objects combine, with a tennis shoe representing the "O," a pail the "K." Craig-Martin is spelling with household goods.

"I started doing that three or four years ago," he says.

The innovations continue in the GMF exhibit. The center gallery features some of his older works in the private collection of Goss and Michael; the right gallery some of his newer works (the ones with the letters). But it’s in the salon where Craig-Martin really goes to town.

Decorated like a sitting room, the space is dominated by a custom designed seamless sheet of "wallpaper," that unites numerous themes in his repertoire in a massive, overlapping sea of silhouettes. (The piece was tailored for the space, with whimsical touches, such as the image of a watch sitting directly above the fireplace — a nod to the traditional "clock on the mantel."

Another wall is dominated by two cartoonish electronic portraits of Michael and Goss that constantly rotate colors in an algorithm so that you never see the same picture twice — an Andy Warhol silkscreen of perpetual motion.

"I think Andy would have liked all the technology," Craig-Martin says.

He’s not the only one — the rest of us think it’s pretty cool, too.       

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 26, 2010.

—  admin

Drawing Dallas • 02.26.10

By MARK STOKES | Illustrator mark@markdrawsfunny.com

Local drag star Ivana Tramp is many entertainers in one
 

The Lady is a Tramp

Name and age
: Ivana Tramp

Occupation
: Entertainer/celebrity female impersonator.

Spotted
: Saturday night drag show at Hungdinger.

Project runway
: Who would have suspected that someone originally from Lubbock could become fabulous as so many different women — without being a woman herself? Raised in Arlington, Ivana has delivered flawless and captivating performances for 17 years, channeling the likes of Tina Turner and Taylor Dayne.

More than just many pretty faces: A giving person by nature, Ivana contributes her energies to many charities, including Hospice, AIDS Arms’ LifeWalk, Resource Center Dallas and the Food Pantry. When not onstage in North Texas, she loves to travel — and perform — across the U.S.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 26, 2010.

—  admin

So, what kind of judge did Ellen turn out to be?

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When Ellen DeGeneres was announced last fall as the new permanent judge on American Idol, replacing spacey, perpetually upbeat Paula Abdul, the cry went out that Ellen (a) wasn’t a singing expert and (b) would be an even softer touch than Paula. That has turned out not to be true.

Last week when Ellen had to make cuts during “Hollywood Week,” she showed she could be harsh, but that could have been because she really needed to parse the finalists by 70 percent. Surely once the live performances began, with the judges not making any decisions but only offering opinions, she would be perky.

Not so much. Over two days this week — first 12 women, then 12 men — Ellen seemed to agree most often with Simon. She wasn’t afraid to express her disappointment with a performance and point out pitch problems or colorless stage presence. 

She had good reason. Most of the performances this week were listless, deer-in-the-headlights failures that tried too hard to mimic current pop artists. (Randy continued to prove himself useless with advice that criticized both too MANY chances or NOT ENOUGH. He and Kara also seemed preoccupied with their ability to sell a singer’s style more than their substance.)

But ultimately, the week proved that Ellen has her own style and has added a dimension to this nine-year-old series.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones