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Up & Autumn

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By Bruce Apar

 

 

The arrival of autumn is akin to welcoming a new day. We shake the slumber of summer to invite nature’s next wave of ether into our sun-basted lives. The sniff of fragrant, verdant growth flares our nostrils. Our bodies beam with cool, crisp oxygen. We can do anything we want. We are revivified. We are immortal.

All it took was one weekend to make the switch. Think of it. But don’t labor over it. One weekend of shifting gears into the 12-month calendar’s home stretch: The Back 4 before we tee it up once more Jan. 1.

Labor Day Weekend is not an official marker, astronomically speaking. It is a 122-year-old creation of the federal government to honor America’s workers. Still, for most intents and purposes, that weekend is the bumper that separates summer and fall.

Officially, the September, or autumnal, equinox doesn’t arrive until the 22nd day of this month—at10:21 a.m. (EDT), if you’re setting your alarm to usher it in with all due ceremony. Equinox means daylight and nighttime last roughly, though not exactly, 12 hours each.

So, the metaphor of Labor Day notwithstanding, if you are a stickler for scientific precision, you can break out the cornucopia lawn ornaments to welcome fall formally on Thursday, Sept. 22.

Unless, that is, you are a meteorologist.

In their determination to keep things simple and neat, the fraternity of forecasters marks the start of autumn as Sept. 1. Similarly, their proprietary calendar denotes winter commencing not on Dec. 21, but on Dec. 1. In other words, each of their cookie-cutter “meteorological seasons” starts on the first day of a month and ends on the last day of a month. Call it flaky if you wish, but my disposition is too sunny to rain on their parade.

So take your pick of three dates—Sept. 1, Labor Day, Sept. 22—as the kickoff to autumn.

Unless, that is, you are reading this from your pied-a-terre in the Southern Hemisphere. In which case, this time of year is your location’s start of spring. Not in Ireland, though (which is in the Northern Hemisphere anyway). Spring commences there on Feb. 1, known as St. Brigid’s Day. Still with me?

Well, one thing we all can agree on is that, as Vivaldi concertized, the year has four seasons.

Unless, that is, you are ensconced in certain parts of South Asia where six seasons are observed, almost enough to fill a pantry. Or maybe I’m thinking of seasonings.

As long as we’re on the subject of seasons, this writer was taught in grade school not to capitalize them. Others aver they were taught the opposite: to capitalize the seasons. Maybe it depends which hemisphere you grew up in. Or which brain hemisphere you’re consulting at the time.

Either way, enjoy foliage!

Media and marketing specialist Bruce Apar, also known as Bruce The Blog, is Chief Content Officer of Pinpoint Marketing & Design, a Google Partner agency.  He also owns APAR All-Media, a Hudson Valley marketing agency. Follow him on Hudson Valley WXYZ on Facebook, Twitter & YouTube. Reach him at bapar@me.com or (914) 275-6887.

 

 

September 14, 2016 |

Beyond Broadway

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Bruce the Blog

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Bruce Apar

 

 

The professional theater world that immediately abuts New York City — call it Beyond Broadway — has been abuzz the past few weeks with news that it has called “terrible” and “devastating.” The hand-wringing has to do with word coming through the grapevine in early August that The New York Times will not be reviewing stage plays that it had been covering in metro New York areas contiguous to the city’s boroughs.

In hopes of somehow influencing the powers that be at The Times to reverse course, letter-writing campaigns were launched by the professional theater companies that will be affected by this absence of coverage. For these theater groups, getting a review published anywhere is prized publicity, but when the write-up has the imprimatur of The New York Times, it’s like grabbing on to the brass ring.

I happened to find out about it as a board member of Axial Theatre, a not-for-profit based in Pleasantville that produces plays and operates an acting school I’ve attended. Axial at first was delighted to connect with a Times reviewer who agreed to review Axial’s November 4-20 world premiere of  “Maybe Never Fell,” a compelling work about today’s descendants of the Holocaust, both in the U.S. and in Germany, by award-winning playwright and Axial’s artistic director Howard Meyer. Axial’s plays heretofore had not been covered by The Times, so it was a big deal.

Just as suddenly, though, the same reviewer emailed Axial with the bad news: “… The Times has decided to drop the zoned arts coverage for Westchester, Connecticut, Long Island and New Jersey.”

I am not privy to any hard numbers that would quantify how many more tickets might be sold for any play in these parts that has been reviewed by The Times. It no doubt makes some difference, since The Times brand carries considerable currency with the culture crowd, but now whatever that positive difference in sales may be will have to be earned some other way.

The Times might have a change of mind down the road, but I also would advise the professional theater groups affected by its current course not to count on a reversal any time soon and also not to waste too much energy trying to fight it. Right now, it’s a fait accompli. Move on.

Local theater professionals are much better off banding together, perhaps even forming a collective marketing effort, to find alternate ways of promoting their worthy fare. It brings to mind the axiom, “A rising tide lifts all boats.” Local live theater is a treasure in this region, and more people should attend and appreciate the riches it has to offer.

At the same time, making that happen is the responsibility of the theaters themselves, not of The New York Times or any other media outlet. It won’t be easy, but neither is producing quality theater—and the theaters have succeeded at that. Marketing it effectively is the next challenge.

 

Media and marketing specialist Bruce Apar, also known as Bruce The Blog, is Chief Content Officer of Pinpoint Marketing & Design, a Google Partner agency.  He also owns APAR All-Media, a Hudson Valley marketing agency. Follow him on Hudson Valley WXYZ on Facebook, Twitter & YouTube. Reach him at bapar@me.com or (914) 275-6887.

 

 

 

 

 

September 7, 2016 |

Her ‘Last Hurrah’

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Bruce the Blog

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Bruce Apar

 

 

Dana Rosenberg is an award-winning, 84-year-old local artist whose widely praised body of work will be on display Sept. 3-30 at the Somers (N.Y.) Library under the title of “Under the Rainbow.” Whenever she exhibits her work, all proceeds from sales of Ms. Rosenberg’s art is donated to the National Foundation for Cancer Research, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and Shriners Hospital for Children.

So far, so good, right? But there’s a lot more to Ms. Rosenberg’s poignant story than meets the eye of an art admirer. You can hear that story for yourself on Friday, Sept. 2 at 10 a.m. That’s when “The Story of My Life as an Artist, Teacher, and Poet” is presented in the Heritage Hills Activity Center in Somers. At 2 p.m. the same day is a reading of her poetry, by her friends, at the Somers Library. On Sept. 3, the Library hosts an opening reception at 2 p.m.

Dana’s grandfather and uncles were architects and engineers involved in the 1939 design and construction of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Armor Wing, as well as working on other prominent New York government buildings.

She earned her masters in fine arts, with a penchant for printmaking that, she says, started “when I looked at the sun through a straw hat and saw variegated colors.” She submitted etchings inspired by that vision, which prompted one professor to praise Dana’s work for its “simplistic profundity.” She says that influenced her decision to fight “pretentiousness in the arts” for the rest of her life.

Dana says her home is like “a gallery of etchings, woodcuts, weavings, watercolors, and clay sculpture.”

In 1983, Dana was honored as an Outstanding Teacher in the New York City school system, and won an art contest that earned both her and a student of her choice a trip to Japan. Teacher and student were sent off in a big way by New York City Mayor Ed Koch, and their trip, which officially represented United States Art education, was covered in The Daily News.

Dana’s husband passed more than three years ago from lung cancer, and now she is battling cancer and heart blockage. “Although I have displayed my work locally,” she says, “I never had an agent or the wherewithal to show my work more broadly.”

She calls the September 3-30 art show at Somers Library her “last hurrah.” In that spirit, and in a nod to nostalgia, Dana did detective work recently to locate the 14-year-old student who 33 years ago accompanied her to Japan, and now lives on Long Island.

And that is how it came to pass that Dana Rosenberg and Derrick Wallace will be reunited on Sept. 2 at her “last hurrah” that a lot of people, including this writer, are hoping and praying will be anything but.

For more information on Dana Rosenberg’s art exhibit and Sept. 3 reception, call Somers Library at (914) 232-5717 or Dana at (914) 617-9772.

 

Media and marketing specialist Bruce Apar, also known as Bruce The Blog, is Chief Content Officer of Pinpoint Marketing & Design, a Google Partner agency.  He also owns APAR All-Media, a Hudson Valley marketing agency. Follow him on Hudson Valley WXYZ on Facebook, Twitter & YouTube. Reach him at bapar@me.com or (914) 275-6887.

 

 

August 24, 2016 |

Calling All ‘Two-Percenters’

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Bruce the Blogj

 

 

 

 

 

By Bruce Apar

 

 

Among the entire U.S. population, recent statistics say that three out of four Americans own a smartphone. Age-wise, among Millennials, more than 9 in 10 own a smartphone. Among those 35 or older, it’s two out of three.

In other words, smartphone use has gone mainstream to the max. Not owning a smartphone has become one of those rarefied traits that almost qualifies in our warped culture as a so-called “humble brag,” as in, “Pity you poor fools. I’m so self-reliant and confident, I don’t need one of those adult pacifiers you call a smartphone to suck on all day.”

But that ilk of Laughing Luddites has nothing on their betters. I speak of a much scarcer demographic among us than smartphone non-owners: That would be cellphone non-owners.

In a bizarre turn of events that has no earthly explanation, I miraculously met two such alien life-forms in the past couple of weeks. I didn’t exactly X-ray them or administer a polygraph test, but I did take them at their word that they neither owned nor saw any need to acquire a traveling telephonic device of any kind.

The two incommunicado rebels I met belong to an elite corps. Their number nationwide equals a microscopic two percent of the populace! (Ninety-eight percent of Americans are said to own a cellphone.)

What do these refuseniks — the two-percenters — know that the rest of us tech zombies do not?

A better question is how much can the Great Uncellphoned possibly know, walking around aimlessly without benefit of a pocket-size computer with which to ask the essential questions that inform our everyday existence. Like, “What was the first movie Woody Allen made?” Or “How much cayenne pepper should I put in my lemon water?”

All I know is that everything I’ve learned in my mature years comes from locking my eyes endlessly on that screen, as if it is a crystal ball that carries in its brainy silicon membrane the secret of life.

One day soon, I envision our living in a Shangri-La where kids won’t have to go to school as we know it. They will be happily home-schooled by parents who teach them everything the world can throw at them simply by looking it up on a smartphone.

The elite universities will offer a smartphone degree for especially gifted students. No texts to buy: It’s all there on the smartphone. No long, tedious essays to write: Just Tweet your analysis to the professor, who will Snapchat your grade back to you. Study a brand new language: Smartphonics, with zero knowledge of grammar required, but you must be an advanced placement student in emoticons.

Best of all, students majoring in Smartphone Arts can graduate magna cum louder without attending a single class. At long last, they literally can just phone it in.

 

Media and marketing specialist Bruce Apar, also known as Bruce The Blog, is Chief Content Officer of Pinpoint Marketing & Design, a Google Partner agency.  He also owns APAR All-Media, a Hudson Valley marketing agency. Follow him on Hudson Valley WXYZ on Facebook, Twitter & YouTube. Reach him at bapar@me.com or (914) 275-6887.

 

 

 

August 17, 2016 |

Elvis, Cash, Perkins & Jerry Lee Lewis

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Bruce the Blog

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Bruce Apar

 

 

 

When I was in my single digits, one of the first 45-rpm single records I owned (and still do) was Jerry Lee Lewis’s “Great Balls of Fire.” His virtuosic pianism, the high-speed lyrics and music by Otis Blackwell and the aptly named Jack Hammer, and the unbridled joy in Jerry Lee’s vocalization all got my adolescent adrenaline pumping.

If you like that ol’ time rock ‘n’ roll, have I got a show for you! Actually, it’s Westchester Broadway Theatre that has a show for you: Million Dollar Quartet. The Broadway jukebox musical is at the Elmsford (N.Y.) theatre through Sept. 11 (For tickets: 914-592-2222; BroadwayTheatre.com).

Based on a historic 1956 recording session at the legendary Sun Records studio in Memphis, Tenn., the lightly scripted and musically rich show reunites four forefathers of rock ‘n’ roll who helped forge the emerging genre: Carl Perkins (John Michael Presney), Johnny Cash (Sky Seals), Jerry Lee Lewis (Dominique Scott), and Elvis Presley (Ari McKay Wilford). The songs themselves never grow old and there’s more than 25, including Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues,” Jerry Lee’s “Great Balls of Fire,” and Elvis’s “Hound Dog.” Then there’s Carl Perkins’ “Blue Suede Shoes,” which of course everyone associates with Elvis and his landmark cover version.

Apart from the infectious, non-stop music, which is rousingly played live on stage by all the actors, what I enjoyed most about Million Dollar Quartet was the interpersonal dramas driven by the egos of four formidably talented and pioneering musicians.

The irascible Jerry Lee Lewis, who upstages everyone and calls himself a “wild boy,” gets on Perkins’ nerves, who retaliates by purposely confusing him with the comedian Jerry Lewis: “I wouldn’t pay 50 cents to see your movie.” Perkins also expresses frustration that it is Elvis getting all the media attention and chart-topping record sales for Perkins’ “Blue Suede Shoes.”

The pivotal figure for whom we can thank having documentation of the historic jam session—there’s a famous photo recreated as a tableau vivant in the show, and we hear a few seconds of the original recording—is Sun Records founder Sam Phillips, expertly played by Jason Loughlin, who serves as the story’s narrator. Even as Elvis left Sun to sign with RCA Records, which offered to buy Phillips’s company, the passionate, principled owner declined. “I’d rather sell 100 records by some kid than 1 million records working for somebody else,” he tells the audience. He also is revered for his advocating racial equality in the early days of the business. Phillips was a shrewd businessman beyond making records. We find out he used some of his earnings to invest “in a small new venture called Holiday Inn.”

The audience gets more than its money’s worth in this show. After the curtain, there is a mini-concert featuring all the performers which will knock your socks off. The showmanship in Million Dollar Quartet is as impressive as anything I’ve seen at Westchester Broadway Theatre.

 

Media and marketing specialist Bruce Apar, also known as Bruce The Blog, is Chief Content Officer of Pinpoint Marketing & Design, a Google Partner agency.  He also owns APAR All-Media, a Hudson Valley marketing agency. Follow him on Hudson Valley WXYZ on Facebook, Twitter & YouTube. Reach him at bapar@me.com or (914) 275-6887.

 

 

 

 

August 3, 2016 |

Smart Hobbies

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Bruce the Blog

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Bruce Apar

 

 

Larry Kim always makes me think. I think that’s a good thing, right? He is the founder of a company called WordStream. It sells technology tools for the business of online advertising.

What Mr. Kim also does is distribute pithy pieces of information through his blog posts. One of Larry’s most recent posts particularly caught my eye. It’s titled “5 Hobbies That Will Boost Your Intelligence.” Sounds reasonable enough. Then I started to break into a sweat as I made my way down the very short list of five hobbies that are reputed to elevate your intellect, even as they, more familiarly and by definition, reduce your stress.

Topping the list is something I make a somewhat earnest effort to accomplish, if on a semi-regular basis: exercise regularly.

I’m not alone in trying to stay fit at the gym in fits and starts. Some weeks I’m rarin’ to roar, other times I would rather snore. I figure it’s my philanthropic contribution to the well-being of the club I frequent, and to my fellow workouters. If all, or a very high percentage, of members did show up regularly, odds are many gyms could not accommodate everyone comfortably and satisfactorily.

Then again, that’s a flabby excuse. Exercise takes many shapes, like outdoor recreation, walking, yoga, and performing bodyweight exercises at home (that is, without non-body weights). If we’re smart, we’ll all exercise more regularly.

Number 2 on Larry Kim’s list of how to get smarter through hobbies is playing a musical instrument. I won’t bore you with the Henny Youngman-esque crack that the only musical instrument I know how to play is the radio. I did take lessons as a youngster on our Hammond spinet organ, but it just didn’t tickle my keys enough to put the pedal to the carpet.

The third hobby that is scientifically proven to rev up the ol’ gray matter, also known as “cognitive” activity, is playing video games. I did that once upon a time when my kids were very young, but am I aging myself when I tell you I still own the granddaddy (or is mother) of all home videogames, Pong. Let’s put it this way: Pokemon Go is a no-go for this Baby Boomer.

In the Number 4 slot is a hobby that I subscribed to scholastically a long time ago—as did many of us: learning a second language. But today, don’t ask me to converse coherently in Spanish. I manage to understand it un poco, but that’s about todo.

Last on the list is one hobby I can relate to, and wish more people could, especially in this year of political extremism: reading. The strident positions people all across the ideological spectrum espouse beg for the benefit of granular facts. That only can result from a lot more reading to reach your own reasoned judgments and a lot less swallowing media sound-bites to regurgitate ultra-partisan palaver.

 

Media and marketing specialist Bruce Apar, also known as Bruce The Blog, is Chief Content Officer of Pinpoint Marketing & Design, a Google Partner agency.  He also owns APAR All-Media, a Hudson Valley marketing agency. Follow him on Hudson Valley WXYZ on Facebook, Twitter & YouTube. Reach him at bapar@me.com or (914) 275-6887.

July 27, 2016 |

Where Streisand Shops

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Bruce the Blog

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Bruce Apar

 

When writer Jonathan Tolins happened upon a coffee table book by Barbra Streisand titled My Passion for Design, he was stopped in his tracks by the chapter that describes the personal shopping mall in her house. He began to mischievously imagine what it would be like to work there.

The result is the cleverly titled Buyer and Cellar, a one-act, one-person show on stage through July 24 at Penguin Rep Theatre in Stony Point (Rockland County). It is directed by Stephen Nachamie. For ticket info, visit: PenguinRep.org; (845) 786-2873.

Nimbly and convincingly portrayed by Parker Drown, Alex More is a gay, unemployed Los Angeles actor who is hired to stand vigil over the elaborate, “Disney-fied” shopping mall in the lower level of a barn on her sumptuous Malibu estate. The only “customer” is the lady of the house, who doesn’t need to buy any of the goods because she already owns them all.

Alex More is fictional, as is his dialogue, but the place itself is real. The Streisand book illustrates and describes the actual high-end boutiques she had constructed to contain certain of her possessions. Among the curios is the stage costume she wore when singing “People” in her breakout role as Fanny Brice in legendary musical Funny Girl. There also is a popcorn maker and other indulgences. Those items reportedly are part of the “Streisand Collection,” but the simple set design doesn’t depict them, asking us instead to use our imagination to see them.

Mr. Drown not only portrays Alex, but also single-handedly carries on conversations between himself and Ms. Streisand, and he does it with charming aplomb. While the exact words Mr. Tolins puts in the mouth of Barbra is of his invention, the sentiments and experiences revealed are derived from published facts and quotes he’s gleaned over the decades. It certainly helps to be a knowledgeable fan of the prodigious performer to pick up some of the insider references sprinkled throughout.

Still, this is not a show expressly for acolytes, as the audience I sat in demonstrated with their warm reception. For those who only know Ms. Streisand by her most popular work on record and on screen, the author delivers a compelling and poignant portrait of what it’s like to be totally unfamiliar with the workaday reality that greets the rest of us each morning when we wake up.

Not that someone of Barbra Streisand’s cultural significance and rarefied existence doesn’t have the same very deep scars as does any average person. While the author looks askance at some of her precious conceits and indulgences, he empathizes with her vulnerabilities.

One of the true-life anecdotes in the play is how her deeply disturbed stepfather once told little Barbra she was “too ugly” to deserve having ice cream.

That horrible childhood wound might have a little something to do with why the health-conscious legend keeps a frozen yogurt machine humming in her drop-dead gorgeous home.

 

Media and marketing specialist Bruce Apar, also known as Bruce The Blog, is Chief Content Officer of Pinpoint Marketing & Design, a Google Partner agency.  He also owns APAR All-Media, a Hudson Valley marketing agency. Follow him on Hudson Valley WXYZ on Facebook, Twitter & YouTube. Reach him at bapar@me.com or (914) 275-6887.

 

 

 

 

 

 

July 14, 2016 |
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