THE RACE FOR THE SMARTPHONE

     Last week, Apple, Inc. arguably to be the coolest electronics company on the planet, stated that they sold some nine million of their new iPhone 5S and 5C models the first weekend it became available (September 20th-22nd). These phones, both an upscale version as well as a budget line edition, sold more that what the two previous versions of the phone (5 and 4S) did when those hit the market not too long ago. This means that Apple’s creation of the phone that practically changed cell phones forever, will become the standard on how folks can communicate in all ways and means.
     As expected, folks on that weekend flocked over to the local (and perhaps not so local) retailers to grab this device. Most of its buyers were previous owners of a smart phone (not necessarily an iPhone), and this “new and improved” version were either an addition or a replacement, rather than a first time phone to have and to hold.
     Since that previous weekend, there have been stories and tales submitted through social media how these ever hungry fans were able to score that phone. (Many of Tiffi’s Facebook friends have even given their own versions on how they were now up to the minute!) And about 99% of those posted were pleased in what they paid for; $99 for the 5C model (with two year contract, ‘natch), and $199 for the 5S edition, (again, with a two year contact) available in five colors, yet!
     It seems that the older classic “do nothing” phones from not so long ago are losing their luster mighty fast. Just a few years ago (2006), the original Razr phone made by Motorola was the hottest phone around. Today, one can find this phone on sale through online sights as Craigslist, eBay, and even a number of flea markets and garage sales (off-line) for next to nothing. Even if one did buy it at a g-sale for $5.00, would the buyer use this phone of yesteryear as their primary phone? Maybe. But most folks wouldn’t bother. They would rather grab a phone that dose something, outside of sending and receiving phone calls!
      When one treks off to some public place, just about everyone present will be toting a smart phone device; Not necessarily an iPhone per se, but a phone that does anything and everything a transmitter with a brain can do. The younger the user is, the likeliness of a smart phone in action will prevail.
     Not so long ago while this writer was attending a play to review, it’s usually common for people sitting in their seats awaiting for the program to begin to play and diddle with their phones, staring upon the screen with a semi blank stare. They may text somebody, check up on e-mails received, perhaps play a game or some other app loaded within the phone’s operating system, or even engage in some kind of conversation. At this particular theater, a number of standard flip phones were being used–the kind of phones that were every common long before smartphones took over the joint. Looking a bit closer to the user of these “dumb” phones, one element was noted. About everyone using a do noting device looked to be aged sixty years and over! In other words, those not using a smart phone was a person aged roughly between retirement and death!
     This demographic of classic phone users were the last generation to embrace this kind of technology. Many of these seasoned users might have been a cell phone owner and operator not because they felt the need to have one of these devices, but somebody through that they should have a phone on them “just in case”! These are the kind of people that vividly remember a time when phones were hardwired to a cord. And if one wanted to make a call outside of the home, one would have to find a pay phone somewhere to call somebody. And if they did indeed were the first on their block to have a portable phone, it was big, clunky, and rather expensive to own and use. However, many of them felt that a phone should be used for its intended purpose–sending and receiving calls, rather than a gadget that can do anything and everything with the exception of washing your dishes. (Don’t fret, gang! There is probably an app for that function somewhere out there! Just google “dish washing app” on your phone and download it while the dirty dishes pile up in the sink!)
      So now that the new phones are out and about, give it a bit of time and tide until folks that grabbed their goods will soon tire of ‘em, waiting for the next big thing to hit! Maybe it’s that dish washing app…?
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NEWS AND REVIEWS
     Theatre 40 of Beverly Hills presents the west coast premier of Bathsheba Doran’s KIN, a dramatic comedy about a character study of a group of people that are connected to one another through acquaintance, remote connection, or just the knowledge of one another that creates a family of sorts.
     Melissa Collins is Anna. She’s a resident instructor at Columbia University who hails from Texas-a one time “Army brat” whose father Adam (David Hunt Stafford) was an high ranking officer, while her mother died years before. She meets Sean (Grinnell Morris) a young man from Ireland who is a personal trainer at a high tech gym. As they meet, they become a romantic couple-not right away, but it leads up to such. But the story is not focused upon just the two and their relationship. The premise is the people Anna and Sean  are connected to; friends, parents, exes, compeers, and others that hold a strong or mild link. Many of these people within the backdrop meet one another, while others never connect directly. It’s somewhat a tale of a romance whose behind the scene people hold a life upon its own.
     This play, told within a seven or so year stretch in time, unfolds in a non linear fashion. There are scenes that confess the tale as depicted in self contained skits, such as Anna’s grad student project of writing a book on the poetic punctuation of John Keats, to Sean’s communication with his parents, still living on the Emerald Isle-thousands of miles from the states, as well as her father affair, supposedly dying of cancer. Each one of these episodes create a sense that through these connections-friends, friends of friends, and contacts through social media, these group of people are really extended family–thus awarding the name of this stage play.
     As to the production itself, the visuals are just as basic as the story itself. Jeff G. Rack’s set design shows no sets per se; just a curtain type backdrop and a few wooden blocks painted in a muted blue-gray scheme (matching the “drapes”) that suggests virtual sets while using a minimal collection of props. Adding these notions with the lighting as designed by Ric Zimmerman, costuming (Michele Young), and even the sound design by Bill Groggatt, one has a stage piece that is fundamental while the content holds up as to a post modern episodic television drama where story lines are filled in, not necessarily trough each scene in each installment. Playwright Bathsheba Doranas was a one time staff writer for the HBO TV series Broadwalk Empire, giving her this method of writing.
     In addition to the above noted cast, this play also features (listed in their alphabetical order), Alan Aymie, John Combs, Alice Cutler, Luise Heath, Elizabeth Lande, and Rhonda Lord.
     Directed by Jules Aaron, KIN is a tight one act play that tells a story that could have been complicated, but is simple enough to follow and appreciate. It shows that there are many that stand behind a single couple that believe they are just “one”, but are not! The ‘kin’ in this case is just an extended family that mingles within time and space and without any borders and fences, even if one isn’t familiar with the poetry of Keats! (This reviewer included!)

     KIN, presented by Theatre 40, and performs at the Reuben Cordova Theatre, located within Beverly Hills High School, 241 South Moreno Drive (off little Santa Monica Blvd.), Beverly Hills, until October 27th. Showtimes are Thursday through Saturday nights at 8:00 PM, and Sunday matinees at 2:00 PM. For ticket reservations and for further information, call (310) 364-0535, or online at http://www.Theatre40.org
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     Santa Monica’s Morgan-Wixson Theatre opens their 2013-14 season of plays and musicals with Thornton Wilder’s great American classic OUR TOWN, a humble tale all about the lives of the people of a small village in New England around the turn of the 20th century.
     William Wilday serves as the stage manager informing the audience about Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire, where the folks call this hamlet “our town”. This is where the felicitous people go about within their daily lives. Among the nearly 3000 folks that reside are two families; The Webbs and the Gibbs, where George Gibbs (Patrick Clyde) and Emily Webb (Heather Barnett) start off as neighbors, eventually become lovers, and before long, the two are husband and wife. However, not everything lasts forever as the stage manager (as narrator) informs the audience that even in such a small hamlet where folks are born and they live, they too die–just as plain folks do.
     This is one of just a handful of plays created within the last one hundred years that just seem to get better upon age and through each performance presented anywhere. Within this production as seen at the Morgan-Wixson Theatre, the staging is presented as originally intended. There are no scenery viewed on stage; just a few furnishings consisting of simple period tables, chairs and related pieces. No props are used by the performers as well, as each player mimics an item used or “held” in the form of mime. This form of theater is how this play was initially proposed to be presented, creating the illusion that the period this play covers (roughly between 1901 and 1913-a dozen years) comes from a simple time where folks were not as rushed and hurried as they are “now”.
     Getting back to the Morgan-Wixson presentation. William Wilday as the stage manager/narrator presents his role as friendly and proud to where he hails. He is a wise and elder man, a bit roly-poly, but is down-to-earth just like the rest of the regular townsfolks. Patrick Clyde and Heather Barnett as George and Emily are exactly like the “kids next door”, lively and good natured–the way one would desire this kind of presence! And what’s a play such as this one where if features a rather robust group of troupers–a few in multiple roles! Those players are Dick Herlan, Evan Brodsky, Doug Kiphut, Annette Romano, Mouchette Van Helsdingen, Samantha Speer, Sebastian Schier, Tom Lasky, Jim Cox, Paula Allen, Alexander Brockhoff, Judy Rosenfeld, Raymond Donahey, Mary Ann Link, Terry Delegeane, Matthew Sheenan, and Susan Stangl. Space doesn’t allow this reviewer to acknowledge each role and its presentation, but every performer adds their own spice as depicted that makes this play just what it is; a nostalgic look of small town America. And under the guise of director Michele Gossett, the cast sets out to form this little community as the ideal place to live, work, fall in love, and yes–the ideal place to die.
     And noting on nostalgia, Ruth Talley (of Make Believe, Inc.) provides the costuming showing off the look and fashion ideas of early 20th century.
     This calendar year makes the 75th anniversary of this play’s first performance. Even way back when in the late 1930’s, people were looking back some thirty or so years before noting that times were a bit slower and even laid back comparing to the present era. In spite of the notion for the “good ol’ days”, OUR TOWN never ages one bit! Even if one has seen it dozens of times beforehand, or perhaps this is one’s premier look, it’s still a charm to see or see again! As a songs suggests, you’ll like the folks you’ll meet in out town! They don’t churn out plays as this one as they used to!

     OUR TOWN, presented by the Morgan-Wixson Theatre Guild, and performs at the Morgan-Wixson Theatre, 2627 Pico Blvd, Santa Monica, until October 20th. Showtimes are Friday and Saturday nights at 8:00 PM, and Sunday afternoons at 2:00 PM. Special audience talk back sessions where the cast discuss their roles to the audience with a Q & A, takes place preceding the performance on Sunday, October 13th, and Friday, October 18th. For reservations or for more information, call (310) 828-7519, or online at http://www.Morgan-Wixson.org
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     GRAVITY (Warner Bros.) stars George Clooney and Sandra Bullock as Matt Kowalski and Dr. Ryan Stone. They are two astronauts working on an orbiting space station far from the earth’s surface. Matt is the seasoned NASA man always wise cracking with mission control, and Ryan, a doctor by trade, is taking on her first mission in space with a near business like attitude. While in orbit outside the space station floating in the zero gravity atmosphere working on some problem with the craft, mission control warns the crew that floating space junk from a broken satellite is heading their way. Before long, the speeding space junk hits the ship and wrecks it, stranding the two into floating nothingness. Cut off from communication, the pair attempts to make their way toward a Soviet space station “nearby”. (Actually, about one hundred miles off!) Ryan barely makes it, but her companion doesn’t. From that point onward, Ryan must get back upon the crippled space station also destroyed by the same space junk, and to make it back to earth!
     This tight semi sci-fi picture is a flick that features only two on screen players (Clooney and Bullock) donning space gear set among a entire payload of special effects! The first third of this film features these two in space out of their ship with their voices heard and whatever can be seen for their faces. (Their space suits get in the way!) The second third features Bullock alone as Clooney’s character, Matt Kowalski, parishes (off screen) during the space junk episode! The final third is Bullock (still alone) attempting to save herself, getting out of one jam only to get taken into another. (She dons control of a Soviet space pod only to have that ship break up, escapes out, only to head toward a Chinese space station that may be in worse shape!!) This little scenario makes this film a Sandra Bullock movie, with George only taking second lead. The screenplay by Alfonso Cuaron & Jonas Cueron has Matt (Clooney) play the smart and sassy wise ass, while Ryan (Bullock) is the hip and somewhat sexy (wo)man in charge! As previously stated, this film is entirely a CGI special effects feature. (A good chunk of this movie could have been shot in somebody’s living room!) As for thrills, it has its moments! And with a running time of just 100 minutes, it doesn’t have the chance to drag!
     Among the few other performers (as voices only) appearing in this picture, Ed Harris plays the voice of mission control a.k.a. “Houston”, though his vocals sounds as if it’s coming out from a radio–because it is! (He’s on earth while everyone else is “up there”!)
      Directed by Alfonso Cuaro, GRAVITY doesn’t fall like a rock, but it doesn’t float along, either! However, it’s still entertaining for what it is. And it’s even in 3-D, too, although most of the feature carries on in 2-D. Ditto for the IMAX stuff, since seeing this picture on a smaller (movie) screen with still do this title justice!
     This movie is rated “PG-13” for mild cussing and minor graphic elements. Opens on October 4th at local multiplexes nationwide, along with selected IMAX movie houses.
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TIFFI’S FRIENDS SAY…
(As posted on her Facebook “wall”)
Hard night. Up early. Little Mama doing laundry and reading paper. She sees picture in Tulsa World about the Tulsa State Fair. Gymnastic act is performing and the picture shows three gymnasts in contortionist poses. She points. “Look at that. I don’t know how they do that.” I look. “Yes, I see and don’t care. Never once in my life wished I could do that,” I said. She frowns. “I’m mad at them. I hate to see them do something I can’t do.” I turned around and stared at her. Not sure that what came out of her mouth is what she meant to say, but knowing my mother, I would guess she actually meant that. She never did like to be outdone. snort.
A few minutes later she shows me the index finger on her left hand. “Look at that,” she says, all pissy again. I look. “What about it?” She frowns. “It’s all puffy and fat.” I reminded her…’Oh, that’s because you jammed it when you fell a few days back.” She looks up at me with that ‘you’re lying again’ lo…ok on her face I saw all through childhood, and announced she did not remember falling, she didn’t fall, and the reason her finger looked like that was because it was getting fat. AND… that was my fault because I fed her too much food. (Like I’m sitting there spoonfeeding it to her). I laughed and reminded her she put her own food in her own mouth, and if she didn’t want it, all she had to do was stop. She glared again. “It’s getting fat. No telling what’s next,” she said.
SO. I’ve had this fat thing all wrong in my head. When people gain weight, it appears they only gain in one spot at a time. Fingers first, I guess, then it gradually spreads. I always wondered why some people were called fat-heads. I guess they’re the ones who gain weight from the top down, unlike Little Mama, who begins at her extremities. Who knew?
One pair of men’s loafers in my front yard this morning. One upside down on the north end, the other right side up on the south end. Owner nowhere in sight. I shouldn’t complain. At least the drunk-ass owner was not passed out in the yard between them. I threw them back across the street into the party yard. I’m so ready for this semester of college to be over. Parents… I don’t care what your kids are telling you, if they’re living off campus in a house with a group of other students, the odds are that their house is party central from Friday night until Sunday afternoon, which is when they start sobering up and straggling home. They leave on foot. On bikes. In cars. They leave in pairs, alone, or enmasse. Personally I don’t care how they leave, as long as they’re gone. Oh my freaking word.
-Sharon

I slept pretty good last night!
-Ruthie
As of September 30th, Tiffi has 1,796 Facebook “friends” and counting!
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