6 thoughts after the solar eclipse

Extreme fatigue today but here are some semi-coherent thoughts to document this historic day.

1.) Have the sun and moon let all this attention to to their big heads? They are so 8 hours ago. Wish they could put on their act without requiring the purchase of accessories to view them. So high maintenance. Prima donnas, I tell you.

2.) We didn’t stare up through cardboard glasses to watch the eclipse. We gazed at the weird light and little shadow wonders around us. I shot; Danny edited photos of the successions of mini crescent-shaped eclipse shadows shimmering up our front yard like glow-in-the-dark fish scales. It was a pleasant surprise, somehow unspoiled by the tsunami of pre-event news coverage.

Brads_Status_2607173.) I saw the trailer for the forthcoming Ben Stiller vehicle Brad’s Status the first time today on an all-trailers cable channel (thanks, Frontier; how did I live until now?). It seems Hollywood is establishing the Gen X midlife crisis genre to capitalize on the current batch of middle-agers’ First World lamentations. Making this prospect more tantalizing is the inevitability of identity crises large and small brought on by the amplifications of social networking. Those crafty studios are appealing to us older folks with a coming-of-age subplot for the millennials. Aging ungracefully with technology. A win-win, say the suits. In the film, Ben Stiller drives his college-bound son (Austin Abrams) crazy. The boy points out the dad’s rich friends are dicks, which I’m sure will be therapeutic for many folks my age. If you are around my age in the Gen X bracket, you be inundated with Boomer midlife ennui from movies like The Big Chill. It’s our turn now. Torturing millennials with our collective existential whine is a necessary rite of passage. I’m also especially glad to see Jemaine Clement in another film.

4.) My mother is experiencing sundowning, a form of aggressive behavior that people with Alzheimer’s and dementia experience when night falls. It gets a little Mommie Dearest in here from 8 to 9 p.m. She used to fall asleep and stay asleep but since removing her Lorazepam, she doesn’t have that sleepy calm anymore (which was doing more harm than good). I now have to be judicious with evening activities.

5.) Listened to Everything Now, the new Arcade Fire album. I love this line in the title track: Every song that I’ve ever heard/ Is playing at the same time; it’s absurd. Maybe you have to be my age or older to get this one.

6.) Thank you WUSF for your travel escapades on Monday night– a stroke of genius public TV programming. So shrewd and necessary. The golden-voiced Rick Steves may as well be the Sandman. I gently take hold of the cashmere sweater breezily draped on his shoulders and fly away with him.  An hour later, a show about driving Route 66 is giving me a vicarious ride elsewhere. It’s a drive I’ve always wanted to take heading west but in combination with other two-lane routes. There and back, I’m setting the pace old-codger-with-an-old-Ford-Pickup style.

One more from my friend Nastasya, who offered a toast on Facebook to the karaoke DJs dealing with an unfortunate uptick in selections of “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” The song has seen a ridiculous surge in popularity because of yesterday’s astral event.


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SourceTalk Saturday: “Police State”

The primary presidential election has offered a town hall meeting almost every night. Sadly, these media events are rife with name-calling and canned rhetoric. Not much of relevance is shared beyond the talking points.
Today, in Tampa, you can attend a town hall that delves into issues and ideas that are relevant right now in American cities.
The community organization Us‘s topical forums known as SourceTalk Saturday (based on the live, issues-based talk show called Wide aWoke Wednesdays) explore issues and ideas we all care about.
This Saturday at Seminole Heights Library , Us will present Police State, a SourceTalk that delves into the current reality of racial profiling, violence and law/law enforcement. Panelists include Us Community Committee member Sundiata Shu ‘El Bey and minister/former law enforcement officer Nicole Gadson.
Tafari said that Shu’El Bey (pictured above) is a legal expert who has assisted criminal defendants navigate the courts system. The activist will help attendees get to the source of the fear and ignorance to blame in problems with law enforcement, “so we can make wiser, more rational decisions.”
A registered Aboriginal-Indigenous Moor, Shu El’Bey is also know as DJ Breeze. He’s a favorite in the local spoken word and hip-hop scene, and a member of The Us Community Committee, “an organization with the mission in mind of serving all of Us with Righteous Intentions and Works ” [initial caps retained].  
Says Tafari: “El’Bey will speak on his firsthand experiences of being a adult Black male and dealing with law enforcement here in the U.S. this Saturday at SourceTalk.” 
nicole gadsen
Nicole Gadson

The event’s other panelist, Gadson, she got involved with US through Walter “Wally B.” Jennings, who participated in a previous SourceTalk Saturday.

“When I spoke to her in detail on the show, she loved the idea and what it represented,” Tafari shares. “Her objective, as well, is to help Us get to the source of the issue between Blacks. The former  Orlando police officer will allow people to possibly “overstand” why law enforcement does some of the things they do, says Tafari.

 Gadson is a self taught musician and singer-songwriter. She has performed up and down the East Coast, and is currently working on a gospel album.  A member of Hurst Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church, where she is a leader for the Singles Ministry and a musician with the Music Ministry, Gadson also performs with Black on Black Rhyme. She has appeared on stage with  Lyfe Jennings, T Pain , Keyshia Cole  and Field Mob.
Also at the event: live music by Camille Scringer, Us Community Committee. Vendors include Tampa based Higher Hustle Clothing  and The Vegg’d Out Vegan Kitchen. Video recording by Streetdrop Cinema Digital Video Production will be presented in conjunction with GivThanks TV.

Attend Police State at 6 p.m. today at Seminole Heights Branch Library,  4711 N Central Ave, Tampa. Admission is free. Find out more about Us here.

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Broadway tour of Matilda the Musical brings the endearingly twisted wit of Roald Dahl to the Straz Center

The winner of four Tony Awards continues its run through Sunday. Review by Julie Garisto.

Matilda the Musical, a Dickensian-lite tale of a young genius who uses the power of her mind to defy unfortunate circumstances, can be seen through Sunday at the Straz Center of Performing Arts in downtown Tampa.

From its first note, the musical adaptation of Roald Dahl’s 1988 novel charms with ear-wormy Oliver!-style anthems and darkly cartoonish characters, like those in Tim Burton (Nightmare Before Christmas) and Jean-Pierre Jeunet (City of Lost Children) movies. Skewed Scrabble tiles pile high in a surreal backdrop as a mostly young cast entertains with impeccable choreography and vocal harmonies.

Matilda the Musical follows the childhood of precocious and imaginative British girl born to boorish parents (Quinn Mattfield and Cassie Silva) who horribly mistreat her. Their crass neglect and verbal abuse, and the scowling and ridiculously mean headmistress of Matilda’s school (portrayed hilariously by male actor David Abeles) are over-the-top funny.

The show’s star Lily Brooks O’Brient belted out admirably in the title role. (The actress alternates dates with Sarah McKinley Austin in the title role.) Jennifer Blood as sweet Miss Honey gives the show’s most heart-rending turn and also gives a mighty vocal performance. The only disappointment performance-wise is that we don’t see more of Jamaican librarian Mrs. Phelps (Esther Antoine).

Matilda‘s adorably talented ensemble of schoolchildren make the musical a must-see for families and anyone who grew up reading Dahl books. The show rouses with a spirited rebellion and mischievous defiance of a miserable status quo — and a tongue-in-cheek dash of satire Dahl fans have enjoyed in classics like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach. The verbal cleverness of Dahl is abbreviated in the theater version, of course, but the musical has more heart than the film adaptation starring Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman.

Sound technical issues marred Wednesday night’s production at the Straz’s Morsani Hall. Volume and high-end distortion made the British accents a little tougher to follow.

Future audiences should be dazzled by the special effects in Matilda the Musical. Pyrotechnic lights, explosive sounds and a beautiful silhouetted cut-out animation are some of the show’s highlights. There’s one more audience-involved complement, but I won’t give that away. The surprise is too special (and colorful).

The orchestral score is a star of the show that deserves mention. The tunes are catchy and incorporate gypsy jangle and classic melodies — one even rocks.

Sadly, the book feels somewhat slapdash. This touring production is a little too long, like so many of Broadway’s family-friendly, commercially driven productions these days. Presented by the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Dodgers (!), it could use some serious tightening up.

Some takeaways : You can always rewrite your own story, everyone needs a little love and tenderness, and perhaps, most relevant, ignorance should never be tolerated from our authority figures.

Also, I’d be remiss not to mention Tampa’s Event Show Productions performers (inspired by Matilda’s imagination) who perform outside the lobby pre-show. They were a surprising treat.

Click here for showtimes and ticket info. 

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February is for Ybor art lovers

“Greenman” by Ken Echezebal


Ybor City has always been a haven for bohemians — even when developers and corporate interests forced the independent business owners, local bands and artmakers to the outlying areas of the district.

Now, artists from outside the district are even commuting to work in Ybor because the energy is so great there right now. Ybor’s re-burgeoning arts scene illustrates how camaraderie and support can turn unknowns into thriving professionals. Artists push each other to be more daring and experimental, which in turn gives more to art lovers and the community.

If you’re curious about Ybor’s artistic resurgence, February offers a bounty of Ybor art shows (and one honorary Ybor artist in Pinellas). Here are a handful of events coming up:

Silver Meteor Gallery‘s next art show will spotlight one of Tampa’s most enduring and imaginative painters, Ken Echezabal. Psychedelically inclined, bold and a connoisseur of color, the Tampa native owned Dog Eat Dog Artwear in Ybor City in the late 1980s. His artwork has added distinction to some of Tampa’s alternative night clubs over the years, like Masquerade, DNA, the Parthenon and the Castle. Echezabal studied fine art at the University of South Florida and the Ringling College of Art & Design.

Liquid Experiments — Paintings by Ken Echezabal  runs from Saturday, Feb. 6, to Sunday, Feb. 14.  Attend an opening reception for the show Saturday, Feb. 6, from 7 to 11 p.m.. Admission is free. Other hours by appointment.

According to a press release from Silver Meteor owner Michael A. Murphy, the exhibition will explore two different styles of Echezabal’s experimental painting:

“In one series, Ken manipulates built-up layers of paint; the other, contains Op Art pieces done with fluorescent paint. The combination of these two distinct styles will be illuminated with both halogen (white) and ultraviolet (black) light.”

greenman (1)

Echezabal studied fine art at the University of South Florida and the Ringling College of Art & Design. Raw, wild expression often complements his expert technique.

Says Echezabal of Liquid Experiments: “I would describe the show as an introspective space odyssey. I will be showing several different styles of painting, with various distorted and inflated perspectives.”

Silver Meteor Gallery can be found at 2213 E. Sixth Ave., between 22nd and 23rd streets, in Ybor City. Click here for the venue’s Facebook page.

. . .

Friends and art patrons usher in the new Gallery @ 14 Days in Ybor.

The owners of Ybor’s 14 Days to Close real estate have gone from art supporters to gallery owners by agreeing to display local art into its office’s new makeshift gallery space, The Gallery @ 14 Days.


The idea of the gallery started when artist/curator Brien Hockman was showing his works and others in tent shows.

“At one, I met Realtor Grant Vreeland who expressed a strong interest in my display,” Hockman recalls. “We chatted about his desire to have creative energy in his office space. After a few emails and calls I met him at their office at 2609 E. Seventh Ave. My first impression of the space was, Wow there is no art with the exception of a mural depicting their logo. … I had asked grant and Jordan Vreeland what did they typically do for home owners when they closed on a house. Grant explained that they typically would give a gift card to Home Depot or home decor. I suggested, why not start with art?”

An agreement was made that Hockman would get artists to create an innovative work space rent free if the Realtors would purchase art. How often and how much would depend on their profit margin on a new home or business closing.

Hockman himself didn’t pursue his dream to make and sell art until he and his wife watched the movie The Bucket List.

“After the movie, we talked about life’s dreams and missed opportunities,” Hockman reminisced. “We started our own bucket list with each of us putting a folded piece of paper in a coffee can. Depending on what was pulled would be what we did for the weekend. My wife, Katrina, had put do an art show within a year. That was the starting point five years ago … Since then our works have made it to the Regent Gallery of HCC, a couple of restaurants, an animal hospital, a cardiologist office and an upcoming Warner Brothers movie (Bastards) with Owen Wilson, Ed Helms, Glenn Close, Terry Bradshaw and J.K. Simmons.”

On Feb. 26, celebrate Hockman and Vreeland’s successes, and most importantly of all, the works of local artists at Evening of the Arts @14 Days. The event is a great way to become acquainted with this refreshingly new gallery concept and features live painting, music, food and beverage, and a meet-and-greet with the gallery’s artists.

. . .

schwackeMason Schwacke doesn’t live in Ybor (he lives in Largo) but he’s worked with the artists in the Ybor Art Asylum collective, where he gained a following for his owls and other colorful, expressionistic creatures.

For his next show, Schwacke will be schlepping new works to Gulfport’s PORTSPACE Gallery, which, incidentally, is also finishing up a show by another talented Ybor-based artist, Bekky Beukes.

 A Color of Their Own opens Feb. 20 at Portspace with an opening reception coinciding with Gulfport’s third Saturday art walk. The show takes place from 6 to 9 p.m. and features small paper works and a large-scale mural that will be completed on the gallery walls.

. . .


MF Arts is at the heart of the young Ybor artist scene. Its next big event, Love and Lust He(Art) Show, on Saturday night, Feb. 27, should offer more of the imaginative, fringy-fun and convivial vibes that have made the warehouse space at 1616 E. Second Ave. such a big crowd-pleaser during its first year in Ybor.

Love and Lust, touted as a collaboration of local artists, photographers and performers, and will highlight a staggering variety of visual artists Samuel Ramon, Macy Eats Paint, Milli Misa, JunkYrd, Dylan Perry, Jenna Marie Alderiso and Jake Troyli. The variety should be staggering

Photographers Chevy Chevarria, Harrison Ponce, Bailley Burd, Kenny Bobby and Allison Nielsen will also show their imagery, and expect just as much boundary-pushing music/live performances by Robb Gats, Granata, Mike Mass, HMTWN and Louis Junior. DJ Wally Clark spins in between.

. . .

On the same night as MF Arts’ event (make it a twofer!), LiveArt Laboratories brings us Insanity in Motion: An Exploration of Off The Rails Performance Art, an exploration of performance art in a wide range of forms.

The lineup includes suspensions by Oxi Lox, aerial silks by Suzanne Curry, fire performing organized by Nemo, Rally, and Rose, music by Bride of Chaotica and Synthetic Nation
Shibari by Stephanie Kinkaid, A Live Musical Ritual by LILITH and Project Ohmsted.

. . .

Though the DIY stronghold on commerce along Seventh Avenue temporarily slipped away, and we lost the neighborhood’s art master, Theo Wujcik, the Ybor City’s art scene is alive and well.

Ybor is downright exciting right now with more and more works coming from  The Ybor Art Alliance, Ybor Art Asylum, MF Arts and other fringe-friendly galleries have created a renewed sense of community. The thrum of positive energy in Tampa’s historic district has definitely been palpable. I’m sure that Theo would love it.



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