Winter Holiday Diversions
The egg nog is almost gone, the new Wii games seem a bit repetitive and you are wondering what’s next. Here is an eclectic (random?) set of activities which you can enjoy with your family.
The Dead Sea Scrolls
San Diego Natural History Museum
I brought the family to this exhibit as part of a weekend excursion, and it was marvelous. Balboa Park is a gorgeous oasis on the edge of downtown San Diego, and is worth a day trip by itself. The Natural History Museum is one of the many jewels in Balboa Park. The Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit starts out a bit like an Indiana Jones adventure in the midst of a geography lesson, but we were quickly swept up by the huge historical significance of the exhibit. It is the largest and most comprehensive exhibition of Dead Sea Scrolls ever assembled. A total of 24 Dead Sea Scrolls will be shown over the course of the exhibition, ten for the first time ever. Currently, the museum has 15 Dead Sea Scrolls on display, including the oldest manuscript containing the Ten Commandments and a section of the Copper Scroll, the only scroll written on copper. An audio tour is added to the second half of the exhibition, adding depth and perspective. This is a monumental exhibition, assembled with huge international finesse. Don't expect to catch this show anywhere else; the Museum is certain the exhibition will not travel. It has been extended through January 6th, so head south with haste.
Powerhouse Theatre (310.396.3680)
When we told the kids we were going to this show in Santa Monica, they groaned in unison, “Not a boring magic show.” They are still talking about it days later. Michael Gutenplan performs his one man magic show with deft. After a few traditional and obligatory card tricks, he moves into some wonderful deceptions. My wife autographed her $20 bill and it was found later, dripping wet inside a freshly cut lemon. The best tricks involved a phone book (the number chosen at random by an audience member was already written in an envelope held by my daughter) and a dream sequence. Discount tickets are available through the show’s run, so book early. He sold out Off Broadway last winter.
The McCartney Years
If you can sit your kids down for any part of this lengthy career-spanning compilation, you will be able to show them what all the fuss has been about for the last 35 (post Beatle) years. Set one after the other, the videos evince a wide variety of styles, nearly all successfully mastered. Even when the imagery is dodgy, the music is evocative.
Two of the three discs are comprised of music videos, ranging from early 70s ("Maybe I'm Amazed" and "Heart of the Country") to far more recent cuts. Several of the tracks are time capsule live performances, but most are larger productions which often only loosely track the song's lyrics. "Say Say Say" is an expensive production, showing a happier time with Michael Jackson. The pair play fun loving criminals, scamming the locals with elixir. In "Coming Up" Macca plays each performer of an eight piece band, but for LInda's role. The band is called The Plastic Macs, a backhanded reference to Lennon's Plastic Ono Band.
Two different video versions of "Mull of Kintyre" are presented. At one point it was the biggest selling single in the UK; 100,000 copies a day were selling in the middle of the punk era. Never again shall anyone shift as many units. After watching the 44 music videos and 8 bonus tracks, I discovered that many of the selections include commentary from Paul. As far back as Hard Day's Night he had theatrical intensions (some would say pretensions), so the idea of revisiting his work via commentary is appropriate. The perspective he provides is generally insightful and self-effacing. He eschewed any commentary on the gooey "My Love;" his mullet speaks for itself.
In a great extra, from the South Bank Show, he explains the genesis of "Eleanor Rigby." Written when he was 25, it was about what he might be able to do when he reached 30 and moved away from pop to classical music. At 40, he revisited the song and added 8 minutes of Brahms-like orchestration. A bucolic lakeside picnic (with a hirsute Ringo) lays out the themes, albeit in a rather disjointed storyline.
The third disc pulls together two dozen concert tracks from half a dozen shows. The Rockshow section is from the 1976 extravaganza US tour, and captures well the fullest blown incarnation of Wings. Unplugged presents four performances from the 1991 limited release. The biggest chunk of live performances is from Glastonbury, where McCartney shows that he can hold his own against all the young dudes and upstarts. Also included are performances from Live Aid and Super Bowl. What could have made the collection entirely compleat and superb would be a clip from his stunning Amoeba show this past June.
The collection is clearly an homage to Linda, her influence pervades the videos and the packaging. Their kids pop up throughout your collection, and it is a nice way to spend time with the family.
The second video for “Mull of Kintyre” was shot in a studio.