As the so-called “Holiday” shopping ritual continues, many folks are out at the malls doing their best to keep the economic system going at a decent clip. Malls have already extended their hours so folks can still grab the goods that are part of what makes this season bight.
     Over the past twenty or so years, there have been methods to obtain goods as gifts or otherwise through various means. Perhaps the biggest influence of them all is the shopping online thing. During the final five or so years of the twentieth century, it was quite possible to obtain goods through the marvelous system called the internet, where many dedicated web sites sprang up to offer items via internet connection, as well as having the shopping experience as long as the shopper held a valid credit card number able, willing, and ready to use.
     Since those days, a number of these web sites came and went. The ones remaining were doing a rather brisk business. For many of those early years, the only method to shop online at home or where there was a computer system hooked up to an internet connection, was through a fixed computer connected to the ‘net. If one was at home, at their place of employment, or at library or an internet “bar”, one can shop to their little heart’s content. It was easier than going to a physical store. However, there were a few road blocks linked to this method.
     For starters, one had to be at a physical computer connected to the ‘net. When laptop devices became practical and were able to connect to the ‘net, one can shop that way but still couldn’t necessarily get around. (No real WiFi existed!) One was anchored to a location that was off site to the actual store or where the goods were located. One can shop online for the same or related goods as well–assuming that they even existed. (Many shoppers during Ebay’s glory time was paying for goods sold from afar from sources not necessarily known to the buyer, only to discover that the goods didn’t exist, long after the seller grabbed the cash!)
     But something changed around the late ‘00s. Smart phone devices that used its functions through an internet based connection, allowed people to search web sites that offered goods. There were even dedicated applications (or “apps”) where folks can use their phones not only to shop, but to compare prices, find retail outlets, or to buy the goods with their credit card. Perhaps the best notion to use their phone was the ability to visit a store, do the matching pricing, and make their right moves to get the best deal around. And if one was at the store, one can have the opportunity to see the goods in person. Of course, once they looked at the goods, they could buy the items either at the store or through other outlets. This method is called in the retail biz “showrooming”, where one visits a store to see the item, ask salespeople too many question on the merchandise, only to leave the store to find the same goods somewhere else for a much better price.
     But when it comes to shopping with one’s phone, one becomes used to performing within their buying habits. Their usage becomes so great, not only it’s the preferred method to conduct this task, it becomes an obsessive assignment, down to a point where it’s a dedicated habit. Perhaps to some people, it’s a vice!!
     Not to long ago, the news service MediaPost that reports about marketing trends to an industry that engages this sort of business, conducted a report asking woman who were mothers of kids that were non adult age, to not use their smartphones for a seven day period.
     The report, called appropriately enough, the 2015 Mobile Mom Report, asked participants not to use their phones outside of the basic functions of sending and receiving calls; That is, to not use the many apps that are part of the smartphone system. The research team followed the group of mobile-deprived moms via webcam videos, online discussions, and daily journals, listening to their observations and feedback throughout the week And the result was that living without a phone device became more stressful than living with one, especially when it comes to shopping.
    Some of the comments from these mom-types who participated in this experiment were rather interesting. One person stated, “Honestly, it was the most stressful shopping trip I have had in a while…I just wanted to get in and out as fast as possible.” Another mom described the retail store as a “torture chamber” noting “Finally arrive back home and swear we will NEVER DO THAT AGAIN!”
     So what was the reasoning behind this shopping hell? These women complained that they couldn’t compare prices or read reviews while they were in the store, and said they resented having to juggle paper shopping lists and coupons! They also longed for a device to distract their kids when they got bored or irritated.
     So what does this reasoning speak for? Perhaps its overall rundown is that folks are totally obsessed over the usage of technology in order to shop no matter what time of year it is! As recently as ten years ago, it was quite possible to shop the “classic” way while at a retail outlet. Ten years beforehand, folks has to reply upon flyers and those Sunday supplements to get the word on what’s on sale when and where.
     So take the above notions as a warning or just as the new normal way of life. In the meantime, one can still grab the goods just in time for the moment where gifts are exchanged to one person or to one’s self. After all, there is an app for that!
                                              NEWS AND REVIEWS
     Theatre 68 presents the west coast premier of WHO KILLED SANTA?, Neil Haven’s  musical murder mystery about the bumping off of St. Nick at his own Christmas party, and the cast of characters what may have dunnit or not!
     The setting is the North Pole where Santa (Thomas F. Evans) is throwing his annual holiday bash for the year, in spite of the fact that his elves are in an uproar because of working conditions and slave wages. In fact, they are not invited to the party! The characters that do show up are Frosty the Snowman (Jonathan Bersnson and Peter Osterwell), Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer (Marissa Fennell), Tiny Tim (Katie Zeiner), Steve, the Little Drummer Boy (Jotape Lockwood), and a new one of the bunch, Chastity, the Little Drummer Girl (Rebecca Rose Phillips). Apparently, Santa was the one that wound up on his own naughty list, bring drunk at his party and bringing in Chastity, all dressed up as a stripper! In spite of the elves being up in arms, so are the rest of the clan at his bash! Although tempers start to get a little hot, as well as the tooth fairy not being invited since she isn’t a Christmas character (and neither is Frosty for that matter), Santa is found with a candy cane stabbed in his back! Now with the big guy murdered, somebody is going to have to fess up on who killed Kris Kringle! It will take the skill of the North Pole homicide detective, Mrs. Santa, as well as the theater audience to solve the murder!
     This comical play with music isn’t just a comedy consisting of a group of human actors playing their roles, it resides with a majority cast of puppets! All characters described with the exception of Santa, the police detective, and Mrs. Santa as portrayed by Thomas F. Evens, are depicted as full fledged puppets. The folks playing the puppets are seen on stage in full body while donning black clothing–a method used in theater meaning “we ain’t supposed to be here”! The puppeteers go through the motions of animating the puppets and making them talk, using the same method of puppetry made famous by the late Mr. Henson. This method of employing puppets an the main characters creates an “animated” feel to this tale. Libby Letlow built , designed, and “coached” the puppets based upon original designs by Dan Katula, using comical likenesses found on these wads of stitched felt, velcro strips, and foam padding. The Frosty puppet resembles a classic artistic drawing first designed by artist Paul Cocker, Jr.. Rudolph and Tiny Tim are rather stock in their resemblance (Tiny Tim is a bit grotesque looking, but so what?), while Steve the Little Drummer boy is dressed as a member of a heavy metal rock band, complete with frizzy hair, “Metallica” t-shirt, and tattoos covering its arms. Chastity resembles a sleazy gal dressed in a mid drift. All of the facts and descriptions means that this show is not for the kiddies! Ronnie Marmo directs this program that has its comical moments, while Ed Cosico is the musical accompanist on the keyboards and guitar, providing the tunes when the cast does break into song–not really as a musical per se, although the human cast as the puppets can carry a tune!
     Theatre 68, a theater company that has in recent months called the intimate stage found at the NoHo Arts Center its home after concluding its connection from their previous stage space in Hollywood, desired to present a unique production for the Christmas a.k.a. “Holiday” season. This showpiece was first showcased in an intimate theater in Milwaukee, Wisconsin a few years before. Now it’s presented in North Hollywood (as well as in the state of California) for the first time, and perhaps in additional years to come.
     For those that are seeking alternative seasonal entertainment that doesn’t consist of folks blaring out tired sounding Christmas tunes older than the hills, or seeing yet another stage adaptation of Charles Dickens’ greatest hit–and this writer isn’t referring to A Tale of Two Cities, then WHO KILLED SANTA will fit that Christmas/Holiday stocking! That’s why this time of year comes around once a season! (Ho-Ho!)

     WHO KILLED SANTA?, presented by Theatre 68, and performs at the NoHo Arts Center, 11136 Magnolia Blvd. (at Lankershim), North Hollywood, until January 2nd, ‘16. Showtimes are Friday and Saturday nights at 8:00 PM, and Sunday evenings at 7:00 PM. Special performances take place on Thursday, December 10th and 17th, and Thursday, December 23rd at 8:00 PM. No performance on Friday, December 25th.
     For ticket reservations or for more information, visit the website at
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All rights reserved. The views and opinions are those of the writers, and not necessarily of the staff and management. ‘Nuff said!  


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