March, 2001, LOS ANGELES - Since 1991, I've been working from time to time with a gifted symphony conductor, David Warble, on a project that has become increasingly fulfilling. He asked me then to provide the narration for a symphonic composition by Johan de Meij inspired by the great Tolkien classic, "The Lord of the Rings." It was an intriguing offer. The trilogy is an epic adventure of imagination. But how can that complex heroic fantasy be summarized in a musical narration? This was, I rationalized to myself, to be in concert with orchestral music. That should help bridge the inevitable gaps in the narration. More out of curiosity, mixed with a dash of actor's audacity, I agreed to do it.
The concert was to be performed with the California Wind Orchestra at the Orange County Performing Arts Center, a dazzling new cultural complex south of Los Angeles. The venue, too, was an attraction. Performing there would be a prestigious addition to my credits.
At the rehearsal, I heard the music for the first time. I was blown away! It was soaring. It was dark. It was rousing and lyrical. Altogether, it was richly complex. At that instant, I realized what an extraordinary privilege it was to be working with Dave Warble on this project. The music embodied the splendor and the intricacies of the classic story. The concert was a great success. Since that presentation, I have been performing with him and the glorious music of Johan de Meij all over the country.
Last month took us to Long Island, New York, to perform with the Long Island Philharmonic at the Tilles Center. This time, Dave, the crafty showman that he is, built the evening around symphonic music that have their source in science fiction. The program opened with Gustav Holst's "The Planets." There was John Williams' music from "Star Wars: Episode One-The Phantom Menace." And, of course, "Star Trek" with the works of four composers, Alexander Courage, Jerry Goldsmith, Jay Chattaway and Dennis McCarthy who contributed to the body of "Star Trek" music. The final number on the program was "The Lord of the Rings." The evening was a sell-out success -- in no small part because of the huge turnout of Star Trek fans. After the performance, I visited with many friends and long-time fans.
Thanks to the concert, I had the opportunity to spend some time in the greatest performing arts center in the nation, Manhattan. As I am addicted to doing in New York City, I lived in the theaters. I was finally able to catch up with "Kiss Me Kate," a show I had attempted to see many times before and been disappointed because no tickets could be had. It was a wonderful production, great fun and well worth the tenacious effort to get the tickets. "Dirty Blonde," with Kathy Najimy was both hilarious and moving. The most surprising was "The Full Monty." In the face of the obviously sexually suggestive title, playwright Terrence McNally had written a moving drama of the devastating impact of unemployment on marriages, on a father-son relationship and on one's sense of self-worth. And the music was terrific. It's the best transposition of a popular movie to the musical stage that I have seen. At the Public Theater downtown, I saw a powerful drama by Jessica Hagedorn titled "Dogeaters." Her inspired metaphor for the tortured recent history of the Philippines was soap opera with all its over-the-top emotions and gravely extravagant morality. This edgy drama was galvanized by razor sharp performances by gifted actors like Alec Mapa, Hill Harper, Mia Katigbak and Jo Jo Gonzales. Every production I saw on this visit was -- each in its own way -- superb.
This Manhattan sojourn also gave me the chance to get together with New York friends. A special treat was having lunch with Pat Suzuki, an actress who I worked with some time ago in New York in a production of "Year of the Dragon." This vivacious singer/actress made her splash on Broadway as the star of the original production of Rogers and Hammerstein's "Flower Drum Song." The Japanese American National Museum will be honoring her with the Lifetime Achievement Award next month so I was able to share our plans for the event with her. But without discussions of awards and honors, lunch with Pat is always an entertainment in itself. These were the delightful bonuses I got from travelling to New York for the concert version of "The Lord of the Rings" -- so, thank you Dave Warble.
I gave myself another bonus last week - a weekend in another lively theater city, San Francisco. I saw a marvelous production by the American Conservatory Theater of the award winning British play, "Goodnight Children Everywhere." When I see an American play in London, I'm always impressed by the British actors' amazing ability to do American accents so credibly. Well, the cast of "Goodnight Children Everywhere" does American actors proud. The British accents of these American players were not only astonishingly convincing but specifically south London and one fine actor, Jesse Pennington, even captured the subtle influence that his character having lived in Alberta, Canada, for five years had on his south London accent. The drama was about the resilience of and the heavy cost to children who were moved out of London during World War II to avoid the Nazi air bombings.
The other play of the weekend had enjoyed great success all over the country, in part, I supposed, because of it eye-catching title -- " The Vagina Monologues." I discovered the title to be an absolutely precise description of an evocative play, a passionate assertion of women's sexual individualism. And it was blessed by a company of marvelous actors; Kathleen Califant, who was superb in the prize winning drama, "Angels in America," Lorri Holt, a fine San Francisco actor, and Jill Eikenberry, whom I loved in the television series, "L.A. Law."
Some of the best bonuses though are serendipitous. Just by chance, I happened across one of the people that make San Francisco such a wonderfully unforgettable town. It happened on a trolley.
Almost equal to my love of theater is my passion for all modes of public transportation. And San Francisco is the quintessential city of public transit. It has subways, buses, ferries, light rail and, of course, the fabled cable cars of song and legend. I love riding them all.
San Francisco just added another reason for me to love it more. They installed a new trolley line along the bayshore from the old Ferry Building to the fisherman's wharf area where the ugly Embarcadero Freeway used to be. The freeway had been torn down after the devastation of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, opening up the beautiful bay to the city. A silver lining can be found even in the awful rubbles of an earthquake. Not only that, but San Francisco, true to its style, placed on the new tracks a system of historic trolley cars. They searched the world over for old trolleys and found them in places like Buenos Aires, Paris and Sydney, Australia. They even bought up the streetcar named Desire from the city of New Orleans. The new trolley route along San Francisco Bay is lined with stately palm trees. A stylish and urbane city has become even more enchanting.
A red trolley came rattling down Market Street. It looked like the kind I used to ride in Los Angeles as a boy. I hopped on and tried to slide my dollar into the fare slot. "My god," the conductor shouted at me. I thought I'd done something wrong. "You're Sulu! Captain Sulu!" he shouted with delight. Immediately, I realized that I had been recognized -- even with my sunglasses on. He stopped me from pushing my dollar in and insisted, "This ride is on me. You've given me some wonderful rides on Star Trek so this one is on me." He absolutely wouldn't allow me to pay my fare. I thanked him and sat down in front near the conductor. From that point on, he regaled not only me, but the entire car with the history of the new trolley system, his love of his job, his passion for San Francisco and his long-time devotion to Star Trek. He told us about his little daughter who he takes with him to the sights around his beautiful city. He had everyone on his car smiling. Then he asked me to sign a piece of paper. I was more than happy to reciprocate for his joyful hospitality. I asked him for his name and he told me it was David Sparks. What a perfect name, I told him, for such a sparkling personality, the sparkplug of the trolley and the spark that lit up the spirits of his passengers.
This city is the captivating city that it is because San Franciscans love San Francisco. And David Sparks is the quintessential San Franciscan. Thank you, David, for a memorable trek in your unforgettable city.
Love is crazy. I've finally come to that conclusion. And marriage, you take your life in your hands and just throw caution to the wind in hopes of survival with that step.
When love falls apart, things can get real messy, real fast. And I've always been stunned by people's behavior when love subsides.
More often than not, it's like they become different people. Sometimes people are beset by tragedy and grief and sometimes people smile wide and move on. It's a coin toss.
But my favorite post divorce personality has to be the sudden super villain. Oh honey watch out for them!
Redditor u/hyperyog wanted to hear all the tea from the divorcees out there by asking:
Divorced Redditors, what is the craziest thing you or your former spouse did after divorce?
I once had a friend who burned her ex's house down when he wasn't home. He had started seeing someone almost immediately, so she thought, lemme set their sparks. Yeah, she wasn't well. Whatever happened to just a quick goodbye?
Swipeddean winters crying GIF by MayhemGiphy
"She removed the retaining clips for my windshield wipers, but put the wipers back on the arms. First storm after I got my car back from her, driver side wiper flew off the car on Interstate 40. Good times."
"He wrote suicide notes and put them in my kids backpacks for them/me to find. Then he turned off his phone and went to a coworkers house to play crib and have drinks.. all the while knowing I would be freaking out searching for him thinking he was in danger or worse. Thankfully my kids didn't see the notes and didn't know what was going on. This was just one of the many, many crazy things he did. Two years out and he just recently stopped showing up at my work and driving by my house at night."
A Sad End
"Died of a drug overdose. To be fair, her drug addiction was the reason for the divorce, so maybe that isn't too crazy."
"That's so incredibly difficult to have gone through. I unfortunately know the depths of this kind of pain, and while I'm sure the circumstances surrounding it are different, the loss that still happened is a tragedy. My condolences."
"Stalked me for 5 years. Would make fake social media profiles to try to follow me (which I would block endlessly) and would try to find where I worked so she could talk to me. This lady cheated on me with 7 different men 2 months after we were married. I kicked her a** to the curb and made her sign the court papers."
"When we had our day in court she cried in the judges office while I just wanted to get this crap done. After, my dad was with me and he threw 50 dollars at her and told her to "change your freaking last name." Good guy Pops. I haven't seen or heard from her in about 5 years, thank goodness."
Take it All!skin care spinning GIF by Primal Life OrganicsGiphy
"I had an ex-boyfriend go through my apartment and take back every gift he had given me that he could find. Then he went in my bedside table and took the condoms. And the vibrator he had given me."
See now, when I'm out... I'm out! I don't want to see you, hear from you or know you. I wish you well in life, but please live it far from me. Anyone agree? Clearly not the people here. Let's continue...
For the Boybicycling father and son GIF by NETFLIXGiphy
"All I wanted was custody of my son, I gave her everything else except one of our cars. She fought me through 5 hearings, I won. She never came to see him again."
"My ex cheated on me the week my mom died in the hospital. She spent a year and a half trying to get in touch with me. She would call my old work and make fake accounts trying to message me on FB. It was insane. She later sends a certified letter explaining she was sorry that she did what she did and that she aborted our child."
"Wanted me to meet her somewhere so she could apologize face to face. She already married some other guy that she had children with and was still trying to get in touch with me. I never understood her."
"After years of telling me she wanted a child, that she wanted to be a mom, that her life's dream was to be a stay at home mom, she got pregnant with the first guy she slept with while we were getting divorced and put the kid up for adoption even before it was born. This was a long-standing thing with her, she always wanted something (car, house, dog, cat, marriage, etc) and the second she got it she immediately hated it."
"Called me and pretended he had been hit by a car while we were talking. He even tried to voice the crowd that had gathered around his "body." God-awful acting, but pretty funny listening to him try to mimic a woman's voice. Points for trying to be inclusive, I guess."
"I think he was trying to get me to re-live my trauma of being on the phone with a friend who actually HAD been hit by a car while we were talking. Too bad he didn't realize that hearing the real thing is worlds different than hearing a dumba** try to act it out."
"I was sending 600 dollars a month to support my daughter because she's the only thing I give a sh!t about. My ex texts me and tells me I need to be sending 1200 a month because she's broke and can't pay her bills and I should feel guilty about it. She left me for another guy while I was on deployment I told her to go screw herself--call my lawyer."
Pop OffTom Hanks Drinking GIF by The Good FilmsGiphy
"Took the sodas from the fridge as he walked out the door. Dumfounded."
See, I blame Alanis Morissette and her "Jagged Little Pill" album. All I'm going to say is... the secret song. I think she gave people ideas. (I love that song) Y'all, seek therapy if you can't shake people. When it's done, let it be done.
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Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay is highly regarded for his delicious plates, his ability to run a solid restaurant, and, let's face it, his stage presence.
He's also a foul-mouthed Brit who is all too willing to dismantle people's self-esteems and compare them to livestock animals.
Alas, as watching all reality television goes, we love to see the crashing and burning.
But what if the shoe was on the other foot? What if you were the one being torn into by the sailor of all chefs, Mr. Gordon Ramsay.
Wondering what horrible dishes were lurking in unknown kitchens all over the place, Redditor FalloutSl*t413 asked:
"What's something you made that was 100% delicious but Gordon Ramsay would slap you for anyway?"
Some people talked about those purely functional meals that are just perfect for piling on enough protein and calories to get through the day.
"My mom used to make us 'Volcanoes.' Mashed potatoes topped with ground beef with some ketchup. I still tear it up to this day."
Quick and Easy
"I make weeknight 'enchiladas.' "
"You stick frozen taquitos in a casserole dish and cover them with canned or frozen chili and cheese. Bake them until everything's hot, serve with a dollop of sour cream. They sound disgusting but they taste amazing, and they take like, five minutes to prep."
"I know it looks like, smells like, and probably tastes like cat food but potted meat sandwiches. Look, when you're poor as hell and you can make 3 sandwiches with one little can that cost like 20 cents, it's pretty good."
"While I'm at it, Treet and bologna are pretty great. I have the taste palette of a raccoon and I like it that way."
"When I was younger I would make this thing where it was a patty melded of:"
- "a can of tuna"
- "two eggs
"And I would eat that almost daily, pan-fried, for lunch. Just slap me now and lets get it over with."
Others shared the recipes they make to feel fancy despite being totally trashy.
A Nuanced Process
"I call them 'chicken puffs.' Some par-cooked chicken (white or dark meat, either works) with sauteed serrano peppers and onions and garlic."
"All wrapped in crescent roll dough in little balls (a bit smaller than a baseball), put in a casserole tray filled juuuuust above the top of the little dough balls with cream of roasted chicken soup. Baked to completion/safety."
"Overly indulgent and delicious."
A Famous Side
"I consistently make a box of pastaroni angel hair and herbs as a side with meals I prepare for people. EVERYONE always asks for the recipe LOL please don't tell my secret"
Just a Couple Additions
" 'Fancy Ramen' Ramen made normal. Don't mix seasoning. Drain water. Add Mayo. Then mix in seasoning. And Volia. A lot of people question it. Until they try it."
Others outlined the things they eat that combine some ingredients it may seem disgusting to mix together.
Throw An Egg On There
"Fu** it lasagna, alternating layers of bread and shredded cheese (your choice which, I use cheddar) then crack an egg on top and put it in the microwave. Old depression meal, but it still holds up."
Hard to Wrap Your Head Around
"As a kid I would eat a banana with a cheese slice. Haven't tried it in years but it might hold up" -- Send_it_to_me
"Let's not" -- Sea-Entertainer-4974
"When I was younger I would make toast with peanut butter on it, then add pepperoni. Delicious then but I cringe thinking about trying it today"
The truly horrifying thing? There are so many more recipes out there that would leave Ramsay trembling.
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People love to talk about food. There are blogs, books, television shows, conversations in bars and farmers markets. In all likelihood, there is a recipe swap happening right this second in some deep corner of a suburb somewhere.
But sometimes talk is a lot of hot air. And the topic of food sure isn't immune to that criticism.
You can't get through a day without some telling you what "you gotta try."
The problem is, talking about food is often far more exciting than the food itself.
Redditor anicaodha asked:
"What food is overhyped?"
Many people were angry about garnishes. They hated the way restaurants try to entice people to eat certain menu items by slapping some kitschy ingredient on there.
A Very Expensive Burger
"Anything with gold flakes, absolutely pointless." -- Spend_Total
"ugh, i just remembered throwing up gold flakes from goldschlager, yuck!" -- spaceygracie12
"Aka how to add a crunch to your dish like a douche." -- CakeBot_TheReckoning
Catches the Eye Though
"Any rainbow food, rainbow grilled cheese, rainbow smoothie..."
"Just a cheap money grab."
No Breath On My Meal Please
"Dragon's breath/ nitro puffs or any dessert that contains liquid nitrogen to make it look cool." -- throwjango
"This stuff exists? God, I'm out of the loop." -- -The-Magic-8-Ball
"Truffle oil, usually doesn't contain a single truffle." -- BlckontheMoon
"The 1 thing I love about Truffle oil is I've never seen someone use it on a cooking competition show and not lose." -- igotmadshirts
Some people talked about the big trends that they just never could quite figure out.
That Almighty Nectar
"Remember when people were treating Nutella like it was the second coming of Christ?" -- Grapezard
"I had an Italian friend once invite me to his birthday party in high school. His mom made a Nutella pie and it was one of the greatest desserts I've never had the pleasure of trying again. It was so simple, like a soft flaky dough covered with Nutella."
"I don't want to come out of the blue and ask this kid for his mom's recipe 15 years later so I'll just suffer I suppose." -- JupiterTarts
"Red velvet is literally a red chocolate cake that has nowhere near enough chocolate and to much red food coloring. It literally was invented when done dudes chocolate turned kinda red when he added vinegar to the chocolate cake mix."
"Friends loved the color, but it was finicky to get the red color without changing flavor of cake, so he decided to use red food coloring."
"Fu**ing Avocado Toast.
"Avocado is a buck. Toast is few cents. Avocado Toast is $10+"
And some discussed the things that people insist are fancy and delectable, but are really just run of the mill entirely.
Meat is Meat?
"steak is good, and I'd even say a high quality steak can be very very good. But people act like it's better than busting a nut and that's just not true. It's just meat"
"Lobster. It's good, but poor value given it's almost always the most expensive protein available."
"Plus most places just drown it in butter, which again, fine, but if all you taste is butter, why spend that much?"
Depends on the House
" 'Housemade' ketchup. Give me the damn Heinz and get your banana aoili mess away from me." -- peanutbutterallytime
"I live in Pittsburgh and I have seen multiple restaurants try and fail to make housemade ketchup work. Every single time they go back to Heinz." -- HooBoy401
So if you find yourself tired of hearing people go on and on about something you don't go wild over, know that there are others fuming too.
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It's not easy to always do the right thing.
Which is why most people don't usually do the right thing. Doing the right thing involves a lot of thought, empathy for others, and a self-awareness of your place in the world. You're not making a choice just for yourself, you're more often than not doing it for someone else. This, in itself, presents a difficult hill for most people to climb so, usually, they feel it's easier to make the selfish choice.
Doesn't mean people always do. They can surprise you sometimes.
*The following article contains discussion of suicide/self-harm.
What's the hardest moral decision you've ever had to make?
Even when the choice amounts to something small, it can still matter to someone else.
How Dare You Make Me Morally Astute?!
"This is small potatoes compared to most of the people on this thread but many years ago I was travelling and had very little money. I went to a stall at a market, handed them a 10 dollar bill. Item cost 5 dollars but instead of handing me a five dollar note, the handed me a 50."
"I was walking away from the stall when noticed. My first thought was BONUS. But I had lately been hanging out with a bunch of people who were really into karma. So I stormed back to the stall, slammed the 50 down on the counter and told them off for making me make moral decisions. Lady behind the counter was like "ahhhhhh, thanks"
Didn't Believe The First Time, But Can't Deny Visual Evidence
"I told a co-worker his wife was cheating on him. It ruined our friendship for a good amount of time, until he caught her himself."
"To bad he couldn't just believe you."
Owning Up To The Mistake
"Fessing up to an error I made at work that cost the company 5k. I was a manager and misinterpreted a sales promotion. I almost lost my job, this is the one time that telling the truth actually saved me. It's true what they say that the cover up is usually worse than the crime. Lesson learned.."
Doing something morally correct when it comes to family can be tricky. On one hand, you don't want to ruffle the feathers of the people you're going to be related to for the rest of your life...which is how family works.
On the other hand, do the right thing.
Making The Best Call For Your Children
"Removing the mother of my two sons out of their lives completely as she was unfit and abusive while I was on deployment. They were 3-4 years old then and now they are 17 and 15 with their mother never attempting to come back into their lives which I would prefer at this point."
Because They're Going To Be Sad Later...
"My grandmother died, and I lied to my parents about it."
"My grandparents were 95 and my parents hadn't had a vacation in 30 years. So when she passed away with only 5 days remaining on their vacation, my family decided not to ruin it for them; instead, we'd plan the entire funeral and if my mother wanted to make adjustments when she returned, we'd arrange it for her; there was nothing they could do to get her back."
"Having to decide on the DNR (do not resuscitate) order for my father who had been victim to a massive stroke..."
"I know millions have done it before and millions will again but to me it was devastating....."
"As a health worker, you did the right thing by your father. I've come across families of patients who keep them alive for their own peace of mind while the patient themselves is tired and in alot of pain mentally and physically from the constant treatments and would rather rest from it all. Don't feel bad for your decision."
Never doubt your actions when it comes to protecting children.
"Calling CPS on a student's family after she begged me not to. CPS did an investigation and she was pissed at me for months until the vice principal had a talk with her and explained that I only did it because I care and didn't want her to get hurt."
"That VP is awesome. I sat in his office while he coached me through the call, since it was my first time calling CPS."
Standing Up For Your Friend, Even When No One Else Will
"I was in high school and my best friend was being bullied on the bus. She brought a knife to school and had previously mentioned a list of people. I cried a lot when I went to the principal to turn her in. I knew I was ruining her life but I wanted her to get help. I didn't want anyone to get hurt because we were all just kids. She was expelled and forced into therapy. We had been friends since we were 11."
"My mom listened on the phone line when I was trying to comfort my friend (while absolutely not admitting it was me) and my mom jumped on and told her I'm not allowed to be her friend anymore. I had told my mom I had turned her in and she had no empathy for this girl. Because I had been bullied and stood up for myself and never "did anything like that". My friend was getting cornered on the bus by 4 people whereas I was normally taunted in public and was lucky enough to always have an upperclassmen or school employee around to help me out. I felt guilty about turning her life upside down for many years but would do it again because she did get help."
If you or someone you know is struggling, you can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
To find help outside the United States, the International Association for Suicide Prevention has resources available at https://www.iasp.info/resources/Crisis_Centres/