If you have been watching the game show “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire,” it’s obvious that the current version is a big change from when Regis Philbin or Meredith Vieira were the hosts. Cedric the Entertainer has taken a show that once counted on suspense and turned it into a place for comedy.
Last week, each day’s episode was themed to a certain decade starting with the ‘70s on Monday and ending with a look to the future on Friday. Cedric dressed appropriately. The week is an example of the approach Cedric promised he would take when named the new host.
“I think the big thing about it is the opportunity to be a stand-up, to be engaged with the contestants, a bit of the audience so that you can have fun. You can have fun and keep the show energetic while keeping the game play alive,” Cedric says. “And I think that that’s what most comedians find attractive about this particular form of entertainment. It is that we get to be ourselves in that energy, and that’s what I look forward to and that’s why it was exciting for me about doing this show is I get to be myself as the host.”
Sad news: Old Doc’s Discount Liquor is closing. The first location, at Cedar and Nees avenues, is already closed. The other one, at Bullard and Marks avenues, is scheduled to be open until Dec. 30.
Doc — Don Casperson — is 74. His wife, Elaine, has already retired from teaching, and another business partner has retired too. The couple is ready for a break. (Trivia tidbit: He got the nickname Doc because he has a doctorate in education. He came here to teach health science at Fresno State and opened a little liquor store on the side.)
Competition from the newly opened BevMo! and other places was not a factor, the couple says. You can read more about the decision to close in today’s column, but as Doc said:
“We’re just at the point where we can’t put the time and energy into it, and hopefully people will have very positive memories of what we’ve done since 1979.”
The Bullard and Marks store is having a sale. Now might be a good time to stock up, and say goodbye.
Carolla hosts the most downloaded podcast of all time, which, technically, means since the early 2000s or so. Still, Carolla, best known for his TV (“The Man Show,” Crank Yankers”) and radio (“Loveline”) work, is podcast royalty. His show was downloaded 60 million times between ’09 and ’11.
Carolla will be taping an episode of his podcast live at the Tower Theatre, Dec. 8 and we have tickets to put a few lucky Beehivers in the audience. Enter to win by leaving a comment on this post. Tell us what is your favorite podcast and why. The contest ends 5 p.m. Friday. Winners will be chosen by random and notified via email. So check your email if you enter. One comment per person, please. Rules on the jump.
San Jose post-punk art-rock band Xiu Xiu (pronounced shoe shoe) will hit Fresno in February. It’s one of just two California shows currently listed on the its FB page. The band (Jamie Stewart and a revoling cast of musicians) plays Feb. 20 at Fulton 55. Tickets are $10 and go on sale 8 a.m. Friday.
Xiu Xiu just released a collection of Nina Simone covers (“Nina,” out of Graveface Records, today) and recently announced a plans for a new collection of original songs. That album, “Angle Guts: Red Classroom,” is set for release (on CD/LP/tape and MP3) Feb. 4.
Today is Giving Tuesday (or #givingtuesday, for the hashtag crowd). I could give you a long list of support-worthy causes. Instead, I will suggest The Normal School, the bi-annual literary magazine based out of Fresno State.
The magazine is the type of thing Fresno needs more of. It features nonfiction, fiction, poetry, criticism and journalism and is a great catalyst for local talent, especially given its emphasis on boundary-challenging and/or innovative content, form or focus.
To get a feel for what the magazine is about, show up 7 p.m. tonight at Peeve’s Public House on the Fulton Mall to celebrate The Normal School’s 11th issue. It will be literary — with readings from Corrinne Hales, Randa Jarrar, Steven Church and Fresno State MFA students. There will also be music from Lance Canales and the Flood. The event is free and open to the public, but you can subscribe or donate to the magazine, which goes a long way toward printing issue No. 12.
Before the party, Canales will be at Fresno State to discuss songwriting, music making and the like. The discussion starts at 3 p.m. in the Peter’s Business Building, room 194. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve a spot and a parking pass.
Here’s a chance for a family or group of friends to enjoy the stage version of the beloved Charles Dickens classic “A Christmas Carol” while enjoying a special night at the theater. I’m giving away FOUR tickets to a Wednesday Dec. 4 benefit performance of the show at the 2nd Space Theatre. This Good Company Players production features Mark Norwood in the title role of Scrooge, and the evening includes some other bonuses as well, such as special treats, a dessert auction and Christmas carols performed by members of the Junior Company. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., the pre-show starts at 7:15, and the production starts at 7:30.
It’s all a benefit for the Juniors. If you don’t win tickets, you can purchase them for $30. (Box office number is (559) 266-0660.
To enter our contest, write a comment on this post telling us which Christmas ghost you’d most prefer to be visited by — would it be Christmas Past, Christmas Present or Christmas Future? (If you don’t want to get that philosophical, just tell us why you like “A Christmas Carol.”)
Deadline for entry is 5 p.m. today (Tuesday). I’ll be picking our winner at random and notifying him or her by email. (So watch yours at about that time.) One comment per person. Rules are on the jump.
Black Friday was a bit off, sales wise, this year. That’s only because retailers changed up the game and decided to open a day(ish) earlier, leaving the country’s two favorite past times (eating and shopping) to battle it out in what will now be known as Brown Thursday (can’t confirm is that’s an official title). Combining the two days, sales were up, slightly year over year.
Of course, not everyone is so taken with the idea of mass consumerism, and some chose to abstain from the whole ordeal. In a recent column, I wrote about Buy Nothing Day (aka Occupy Christmas) a grass-roots day of protest against … well all the craziness we saw on the nightly news this weekend. Camping out in front of Target, for example.
Feedback on the column was mostly positive, mostly from people who think the current state of American consumerism, with its corporate box stores and HUGE SAVINGS, is unsustainable. Or, at the very least creating bad cycles (See: Walmart’s canned food drive for its own employees).
And even with all of this year’s hubbub, there are signs that habits may be changing. Websites like Etsy and Bandcamp, for example, and the success of crowd-funding sites like Kickstarter prove that people are looking for new ways to engage their consumerism, even as the old ways are breaking down. Trend analyst Eric Garland’s piece on the fiscal troubles of Guitar Center seems to agree.
So the question goes to you: Did you shop Black Friday, or buy nothing? Or, do you just not care either way? Is the resurgence of the mom-and-pop shop on the horizon?
Along with McDonald, the special — hosted by “Today” anchors Matt Lauer, Savannah Guthrie, Al Roker and Natalie Morales — will include performances by Mary J. Blige, Toni Braxton, Mariah Carey, Kelly Clarkson, Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds, Goo Goo Dolls, Ariana Grande, Jewel, Leona Lewis and The Rockettes.
One question that often gets asked is if I get starstruck talking to celebrities. When you’ve been doing these kind of interviews since Mary Pickford was an ingenue, it’s rare when talking to a star makes me nervous. The only thing that will shake my confidence is when I’m thrown a last-minute interview to do and I haven’t had time to do any research.
I have seen celebrities get excited about other talent. That happened recently during interviews for the upcoming release of “Saving Mr. Banks,” the story of how Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) got the book rights to make “Mary Poppins.” It was “Mr. Banks” screenwriter Kelly Marcel — you may better know her for being selected to write the screenplay for the novel “Fifty Shades of Grey” — who became flustered.
There’s no definitive answer, of course. The Clovis West Marching Band is a state powerhouse on the marching band circuit, and it has been for a long time. The Clovis North Marching Band & Color Guard is practically brand new. It isn’t an apples-vs.apples comparison. What’s more, the two bands didn’t choose to compete in the same final event of the season. Clovis North ended up tops in the smaller band categories at the Western Band Association Combined Grand Championships last weekend in Clovis. Meanwhile, Clovis West’s last big hurrah of the season was a few weeks prior at the Long Beach Regional of the Bands of America Marching Championships, where it came out tops in its 3A class and came in second overall, behind Ayala High School.
The Clovis North Marching Band and Color Guard has a right to brag. Last weekend it took the top prize in the smaller-schools category at the Western Band Association grand championships at Buchanan High School. I decided to devote my Sunday Spotlight column to an interview with David Lesser, who has helmed the band since the Clovis North Educational Center opened seven years ago. Here’s the extended version of that email interview.
Question: For those who missed the Clovis North field show, what was the show’s theme? What was the music?
The Clovis North Bronco Band and Color Guards 2013 Fall Production was titled, “The Soloist.” It was an original composition by Shawn Glyde commissioned for the Clovis North Bronco Band and Color Guard. ”The Soloist” could have a different meaning to whoever is observing. We tried to emote and display the choices that people have to make as they travel the different paths of their own life. The general idea is, even though we have many relationships and people surrounding us, at the end of the day we must make our own decisions by ourselves and rather than going where the path may lead we should go where there is no path… and leave a trail.
Clovis North is a AAA band. What does that mean? In laymen’s terms, keeping it simple, how do the WBA class championships and combined grand championships work?
The classes in the Western Band Association, (WBA) are based on the number of performers in each ensemble. Information on Class size can be found at www.westernbands.org.
The WBA Championships was a two day event. Saturday November 23 was the class championships and Sunday November 24 was the Grand Championships. The purpose of Saturday is to rank the groups and promote the qualified groups to the Grand Championships on Sunday.
To qualify for the 1/2/3A Grand Championships you must have been in the top five bands for 1A, top 5 for 2A and top 7 for 3A creating a new contest between 17 bands. The 4A/5A format is similar, taking the top 5 bands in each class plus the next five highest scores to have a second contest of 15 bands.
How did we score such a prominent topic for our recurring Backstage Spy feature? It’s thanks to Fresno’s own Kristin Goehring, who is in New York City these days living the theater dream. While some New York fans might just make plans to watch the world-famou parade in person, she (in true Kristin style) took it a step further: She worked “backstage” at the world-famous parade yesterday in Operations, where “all the costumes and makeup happens.” She generously offered to document the experience for Beehive readers. Thanks, Kristin!
Mel Brooks is the first name you’re going to associate with the musical version of “Young Frankenstein,” of course. It’s his wacky world from the 1974 classic film created up there on stage — the memorable characters, silly sight gags, dancing monsters and, as expected, quotable one-liners. (You know you’re in good hands when the title of one song is “He Vas My Boyfriend,” sung by the severe — and severely randy — Frau Blucher, the very mention of whose name makes off-stage horses whinny.)
But besides Brooks, there’s another name that makes the new Good Company Players production at Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater so successful: Fred Bologna.
As director, Bologna is in top form in this silly, bawdy, wonderfully staged show. Once again, I find myself liking the local premiere of a (relatively) new Broadway show at Roger Rocka’s more than the national tour that came through the Saroyan. (The same thing happened recently with GCP’s “Shrek.) Bologna’s innovative use of the small Roger Rocka’s stage, clever effects, choreography and wonderfully dressed sets (he, along with Sam Ortega, doubles as prop master, and what an array of beakers, skulls, skeletons, scientific diagrams and frightening lab equipment the two of them have assembled) all contribute to a slick, happy production.
Forget the Black Friday craziness at big-box stores. Plenty of you out there are vowing to buy local this holiday season. More money stays in the local economy when you do that (and it’s easier to find unique gifts, I think). So let’s make it easy for a Fresno-minded shopper to go Christmas shopping this year. What is your favorite local store to shop at? What do you get there?
Full disclosure: You’re helping me do my work by responding to this. We’re planning a shop local story in a future Sunday paper and your input will help guide what goes into it. I’m looking for your favorite locally owned stores to shop at in different categories, including:
Gifts for the home
And heck, anything else that comes to mind. The more examples of cool stuff you’ve found, the better.
For many, this is an extended weekend — which means more time to fill. If you’re up for avoiding Black Friday and looking for a new TV series to consume, have I got a show for you: “The Wrong Mans.” This BBC Television dramedy is a highly digestible 6-shows long, entertaining without being complex and available in one giant chunk — only on Hulu.
The premise (via IMDb): “The Wrong Mans series centers on Sam Pinkett and Phil Bourne, office workers for Berkshire County Council, who have their menial existence turned upside-down by a chance phone-call and a case of mistaken identity. After being sole witness to a car crash on a desolate country road, Sam answers an abandoned mobile telephone and hears a message that was clearly not meant for him: “If you are not here by 5 o’clock, we will kill your wife”. Encouraged by office mail-room delivery boy Phil that they can be the heroes of the hour, the duo soon find themselves plunged into a deadly kidnap situation.”
How enthusiastic am I about this show? If I could stand on my hands and do a little dance for you right now, I would — if it would get you to consider catching the exhilarating “David Hockney: A Bigger Exhibition” at the de Young Museum in San Francisco. It’s big in so many ways, from the sheer size of some of the pieces (how about a 12-foot iPad painting?) to the innovative technologies used (you actually get to see in some cases the brush strokes that Hockney made in those iPad works). Then there’s just the sheer number of works: more than 300 displayed in 18,000 square feet of gallery space, making it the biggest in the history of the museum.
I get all evangelistic about the show in my most recent Spotlight column, which ran on Sunday. I don’t often urge people to drive six hours roundtrip to do anything, but in this case I really do feel it’s an art exhibition you don’t want to miss. It runs through Jan. 20. Sounds like plenty of time, yes, but you know how busy things can get in the holidays and beyond. Make your plans now.
If the thought of cooking fills you with dread — or you just don’t want to do all those dishes — local businesses have plenty of options for you. Many grocery stores and restaurants are selling premade Thanksgiving meals that you reheat at home. Read more about that here. Many local restaurants are open on Thanksgiving Day too. This is a popular day, so if you plan on going, you must have a reservation.
The Manhattan Steakhouse & Bar will be open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. They’ll be serving turkey, of course, but if you’re not a fan of the traditional Thanksgiving main dish, you can pick from filet Mignon, pistachio-crusted halibut, tender rosemary lamb rib-eye, grilled swordfish and prime rib. Prices range from $29 to $39, depending upon the dish. Each meal comes with Thanksgiving favorites, such as candied sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, dressing and green beans. You can see the whole menu here.
Plenty of other restaurants are open Thursday too, including the School House Restaurant & Tavern, the Elbow Room, Erna’s Elderberry House, several restaurants in and near Yosemite Nation Park, Mimi’s Cafe and Marie Callender’s. You can read about what they’re doing here.
The Black Friday shopping craziness is coming. In fact, it should be called Black Thursday this year because most of the big stores are opening on Thanksgiving Day. Fashion Fair mall and many department stores will open at 8 p.m. Thursday, for instance. Craft store Michaels will open at 4 p.m. Will you be there?
With Black Friday encroaching on the time usually reserved for turkey and pumpkin pie, the debate over early openings has reached a fever pitch this year. On one side, there’s the multiple generations of families in town for the holidays who have made a tradition of going shopping for great deals and spending quality time waiting in line together. In the other corner are the people vowing not to shop. They believe retail workers should have one holiday to stay home with their families, and abhor the expression of consumerism and greed.
Where do you stand?
Below are opening times for major stores (and for the record, Costco, Sur La Table and RadioShack deliberately are not opening on Thanksgiving Day).
Opening times on Thanksgiving Day:
6 a.m. Kmart (Kmart has opened at 6 a.m. in the past, but this year it won’t close during the middle of the day. It will stay open for 41 hours through Friday.)
Audra McDonald fans, prepare yourself for a welcome local dose of Fresno’s most famous Broadway star. McDonald will perform Feb. 28 at the L.J. Williams Theatre in Visalia.
She last appeared locally in 2011 at Fresno’s Warnors Theatre to open the Fresno Grand Opera season. Her schedule has been packed since then, of course, including a Tony Award-winning run in “Porgy and Bess,” hosting duties on “Live from Lincoln Center” and preparing for her upcoming role as Mother Abbess in NBC’s Dec. 5 live production of “The Sound of Music.”
Tickets for the Visalia event are $30-$60 and go on sale midnight Thursday, just in time for all the Black Friday hoopla. The event is a benefit for Hands in the Community. Details: ticketfly.com/event/429845
One of the great things about theater is the way it can open up new slivers of the human experience.
I have a basic knowledge of the atrocities suffered in Cambodia under the Pol Pot regime — the era of the “Killing Fields.” And I know that large numbers of Cambodian refugees settled in California, with Long Beach a top destination.
But Fresno City College’s production of “Year Zero,” directed by Chuck Erven, added another dimension to the Cambodian immigrant story for me by making it personal. And it does it in a thoughtful, funny way. Though the production isn’t quite as smooth and sure of itself as it could be, it’s heartfelt. (Only two performances remain: 2 and 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 23.)
Michael Golamco’s play uses two young Cambodian-Americans to frame the American immigrant experience: Ra (Thuy Duong), a UC Berkeley student; and her brother, Vuthy (Jared Flores), a 16-year-old social misfit who is finding it hard to navigate the treacherous waters of high school in Long Beach.
Ra and Vuthy’s father died years ago, but they’ve just recently lost their mother — who while unseen remains a major character. Ra has returned from college for the funeral and to look after her brother. The plan is for her to return to college and for brother to live with a family friend.
Homemade buttercream frosting and handcrafted fondant hibiscus blossoms helped hide the fact that these cupcakes were, in fact, from a box mix.
Not too long ago I was tasked with baking 50 cupcakes for my middle sister’s surprise birthday party. I can feel my oldest sister looking askance and shaking her head even as I type this… fine.
The honest sentence would be “Not too long ago I absolutely insisted on baking the 50 cupcakes for my middle sister’s surprise birthday party because the amateur baker/cheapskate DIYer in me gasped in abject horror at the professional-cupcake estimate, which was then followed by my outright refusal to purchase these apparently gold-laced cupcakes EVEN FOR MY OWN SISTER when I knew I could bake and decorate something relatively similar myself.”
And right now every professional baker in the Universe wants to punch me in the face. But remember: there is a reason why such crafters are professionals; not *actually* punching me in the face is part of that professionalism.
That said, there is a reason why many sane, forward-thinking people hire said professionals: to eloquently relieve oneself of the burden of the task itself. Professionally-baked items are both beautiful and flavorful and generally don’t taste like they came from a box.
Therein lies the rub.
After all the prep involved in the other elements of the party, I rapidly realized the time I had dedicated to finding the right recipe and baking the cupcakes from scratch had completely evaporated. Plus the grocery had Pillsbury vanilla cake mix on sale for 94 cents per box.
My challenge became not what recipe to use, but how to upscale the flavor of my box-mix cupcakes from cardboard to YUM.
My simple solution: SUBSTITUTIONS. As we enter the holiday season, may this bake-out fake out serve you well.
Dale Stewart is a good guy to have around the music scene. He’s what I’ve dubbed “the official historian of the Fresno punk-rock.” That’s mostly because he was there at its inception in the late 1970s, but also because he’s the only one seriously chronically this stuff, both on his website, and in a series of mini-documentaries posted on his Youtube page.
The first, featured the all-girl group, the Frigidettes. His latest, released this week features The Subtractions/The Modern Kids. There are a few tracks from the band, along with commentary from drummer Wayne Garabedian.
Stewart, who also played in the Subtractions (and later the hard-core group Capital Punishment), is not just in it for the history. He still plays. His current project, The Dale Stewart Trio, does protest-y folk rock. You can see the band Dec. 5 at the Strummer’s Grill.
The latest in the Hunger Games saga opens tonight. At midnight or something. There are people who are excited. Others will be more taken by one of the bands playing through next weekend. For those I present another installment of the weekly (in this case it spans closer to two weeks) music roundup known as BANDEGEEEEK!!
I first wrote about Anti Laboratoriesin 2009, and even then it was clear that the marketing company was on to good things (its headquarters was downtown for one). Their works was (and is) fresh and bold and contained a completely unique perspective.
Along with its design work, the team has stepped up its video production work this year, as evident in its 2013 production real (which you can see above). It’s is impressively done and chalk full of Fresno-centric music (F.U.S.E., 40 Watt, Fashawn), food (Carthop) and culture (the Atomic Assault roller derby team). See if you can’t catch it all.