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Well, one long national nightmare is finally over…


It’s been too long.  He should not have been invited onto the show in the first place, because it was likely from the beginning and now has been painfully born out, that it wouldn’t be his dancing, or his character, that would sustain his presence, but only raw tribal political allegiance from a stubborn spiteful minority, to the detriment of everything else, causing more damage to the show than any other previous “controversial” contestant.

Meanwhile, for too many weeks, better dancers, better people exited before him…


Goodbye Spicer, ‘tsnot been nice

You’ve no place in paradise

Take your lying point of view

You’ve betrayed what’s right and true


“Goodbye Bruno, goodbye Len

Will we ever meet again?”

In the finals for a spell

Then it’s back to Liar’s Hell



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Tell-Tale Director Award


I received a directing award from the So You Think You Can Act competition.

It feels a bit odd typing that, but it’s true; So You Think You Can Act recently added a directing category to their competition, and I decided not to submit myself as an actor but as a director instead.

Screen Shot 2019-11-09 at 8.09.09 PMThe reason for that mainly is they wanted actors to submit a reel of their best bits, or a 5 minute excerpt, but for directors they accepted a completed film.  I wan’t yet able to submit a reel, or even an excerpt at that point of time, but I was able to submit the only just finished film of “The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre“.

And that is how I wound up submitting myself as a director to what is mainly touted as an acting competition.

And it worked out.  I received a Gold Award for directing, with the added enhancement (at their discretion) of not just “Excellence” (that’s an option too, as are “Exceptional Merit”, “Merit” and “Kudos”), but “Outstanding Excellence”.

So that’s pretty cool.  Thank you, SYTYCA!


SYRYCA laurel

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TT - IndieFest Award of Merit


Some more good early news for my film “The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre“.


The IndieFEST Awards have given it two Awards of Merit:


Award of Merit: Actor: Leading (Danny Ashkenasi as Narrator)

Award of Merit: Film Short


And on the same day I was notified that the film is an official selection of the Gold Movie Awards – the equivalent there of making it to the Quarterfinals.


OFFICIAL SELECTION - Gold Movie Awards - 2020

Meanwhile The IndieFEST recognition comes with an official press release:

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TT Best Actor 1

Fun news!

I was awarded a Gold Award for Best Actor in a Horror by the Best Actor Awards, a film festival based in Italy that awards acting awards every two months.


TT Best Actor 2


I submitted my performance in “The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre” in the Drama/Horror category and am the only honoree in that category for the September/October cycle.



TT - Best Actor 3


I’ve only just begun submitting the finished film to festivals.  It’s going to be at least a full year’s process.  This is a nice early shot of encouragement.


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An International Smorgasbord of QUEER CINEMA for 2019/2020



Last weekend I dove into NewFest 2019, New York City’s LGBTQ Film Festival, enjoying 18 screenings over 5 days.  Overall I did well, truly disliking only one of the 15 features and 26 shorts I saw.

Here are my recommendations, a smorgasbord of Queer cinema to watch out for, starting with my top three favorites:


And Then We Danced

NF3 - And then we dancedSweden’s official Oscar submission for Best International Film (the erstwhile Foreign Film category), “And Then We Danced” won the NewFest Audience Award.  Set in the world of Georgian traditional dance, it is an exquisitely fashioned film with an electrifying central performance (Levan Gelbakhiani) and vibrantly authentic depictions of Georgian society, relationships and dance.  Writer/Director Levan Akin had to make the film almost guerrilla style in conservative, homophobic Georgia, but the result is not only a great LGBTQ movie, a great dance movie, but simply one of the year’s best films in any category.


The Shiny Shrimps

NF2 - the_shiny_shrimps_still

This charmer about a French gay water polo team was co-written and co-directed by a member of an actual French gay water polo team, Cédric Le Gallo, who insists that all the high jinks and high spirits depicted in the film are true to life, even if the plot of the film is pure fiction.  The plot concerns an Olympic swimmer being forced to redeem himself – and be allowed to continue competing at Olympic level – after being caught on camera making a homophobic remark.  So he coaches The Shiny Shrimps, a team of varied misfits much like the gay soccer players of “Guys and Balls“, going on a cross-continental bus trip much like in “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert”, and sporting a laughs to tears ratio reminiscent of “Four Weddings and a Funeral”.  Featuring a fine ensemble cast (that includes Geoffrey Couët from the seminal “Paris 05:59: Theo and Hugo”), “The Shiny Shrimps” may echo many past ensemble comedy classics, but also holds up well beside them.  I laughed (and cried) the most at its screening during the festival.


Music for Bleeding Hearts

NF4- 0MAIN_MusicForBleedingHearts_01-Diana-AlmeidaOne could say Brazilian writer/director Rafael Gomes’ São Paulo set comedy “Music for Bleeding Hearts” concerns a love triangle, but that would seriously simplify the complicated relationship shifts between the three leads as well as many others in their orbits.  Life and love’s messiness is made even more complicated as well as fascinating by Gomes editing, jumping back and forth in time, comparing and contrasting characters’ past and present actions.   After all the complications and diversions, Gomes manages to conclude the film on the perfect note.  Not necessarily a conclusive ending to the story (because life itself goes on and on) but a perfect final shot for a really good film.  And that elevated “Music for Bleeding Hearts” to my top three of the festival.  Afterwards I literally (as in physically) pushed Ed to speak to Gomes in Portuguese, a fanboy moment out of character, and which was a little awkward for the three of us, but one I don’t regret at all.  Sometimes you just got to gush, especially if it can be done in the director’s native language.

“The Shiny Shrimps” and “And Then We Danced” have US distribution.  The former is scheduled for release in January, the latter’s release date hasn’t been announced yet, but it surely will be released in theaters eventually (maybe after its hoped for and likely International Film Oscar nomination).  “Music for Bleeding Hearts” opens in Brazil in March 2020.  Hopefully it will make its way to US screens too.

There are many more recommendations to make amongst the films I caught at NewFest, most of which will hopefully make their way to some sort of screen near you soon:

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Some Choice Quotes from “LESS”

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I just finished Andrew Sean Greer’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel “Less”.  It’s a really good read, with lots of writing you just want to quote for the pleasure of it.  So I will.  Here are some choice bits from “Less”, none of which give away the plot, by the way:


On Visiting New York City

“New York is a city of eight million people, approximately seven million of whom will be furious when they hear you were in town and didn’t meet them for an expensive dinner, five million furious you didn’t visit their new baby, three million furious you didn’t see their new show, one million furious you didn’t call for sex, but only five actually available to meet you.  It is completely reasonable to call none of them.”


At a Bad Broadway Musical

“Like a bad lay, a bad musical can still do its job perfectly well.  By the end, Arthur Less is in tears, sobbing in his seat, and he thinks he has been sobbing quietly until the lights come up and the woman seated next to him turns and says, “Honey, I don’t know what happened in your life, but I am so sorry,” and gives him a lilac-scented embrace.  Nothing happened to me, he wants to say to her.  Nothing happened to me.  I’m just a homosexual at a Broadway show.


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Turning Fifty

“Strange to be almost fifty, no?  I feel like I just understood how to be young.”

“Yes!  It’s like the last day in a foreign country.  You finally figure out where to get the coffee, and drinks, and a good steak.  And then you have to leave.  And you won’t ever be back.”


(Speaking of turning 50…)

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It was June.  I was looking forward to finishing my short film “The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre“, based on my musical adaptation of the Edgar Allan Poe story.




I was feeling good.  Post production was coming along steadily.  VFX work had been completed.  The final task was color grading.  Everybody expected the film to be done in a week, two at most.




So I confidently submitted the film to about a dozen film festivals, whose final submission dates were imminent.  I uploaded an unfinished work print of the film to qualify, with the expectation and promise that the finished work would be available for viewing in just a week or two, time enough for festival adjudicators.

It was an act of blind confidence I would come to regret.




The first pass at the color grading was completed.  But something went wrong when processing the data for me to view on line.




The film files were “stuck” in the hard drive.  There were delays as we tried to figure out the problem.




The hard drive holding the current version of the film was not responding anymore.  The hard drive had to be brought into the “shop”.  For analysis.

We waited for answers.

And waited…

and waited…




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Hiking the Peekaboo Loop Trail

and then the Queen’s Garden Trail

in Bryce Canyon




After hiking and driving along the Bryce Canyon rim and taking the Navajo Loop Trail, we returned the next day to hike from Bryce Point along the upper Peekaboo Loop Trail and on via the Queen’s Garden Trail to Sunrise Point.








That’s Ed in the pink shirt and the enormous fanny pack carrying most of our water supply and our lunch.  You’ll be seeing a lot of the back of him as I tend to fall behind while I take my many many photos.






See the opening center left?



Let’s zoom in a little closer…




We’ll be going through there ourselves in a little while…



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Entering the Canyon Walls of Bryce Canyon


After enjoying the awesome views of Bryce Canyon from all along the rim, it was time to go inside.  Here the view from the top at the Navajo Loop Trail.











Thor’s Hammer:



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A Place of Fantastical Beauty

In the series of marvels that we saw in the our tour of the Great American Southwest, Bryce Canyon may easily be the most marvelous.  (Although how to compare Wonders of Nature each so unique in its own wonderful way?)  Bryce Canyon is the place I found myself gasping in awe and joy the most, my eyes tearing up numerous times at the beauty before me.

But what you are seeing at this point is not yet Bryce Canyon.  It is Red Canyon, which you must drive through when approaching Bryce Canyon from the west.  It is pretty awesome in its own right, but a mere appetizer, a mere hint of the magnificence yet to come.




Splendid structures formed of erosion, wind and water.











After another half hour drive we arrived at Bryce Canyon.  And walked up to to this view:


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Announcing my new biblical musical extravaganza!?!


um, no – just an extravagant photo tour through Zion National Park in Southern Utah.




Right at the entrance into the park, one is greeted by this majestic vista.

Let’s take a closer look:  to the left, the West Temple:



In the middle, the Sun Dial:



To the right, the Altar of Sacrifice:



A lot of religiously inspired names for mountains in this park.  It is called Zion National Park, after all.  And we are in Utah.



There is a natural wonder on Bridge Mountain.  Let’s take a closer look:



Don’t see it yet?  Maybe if we zoom in closer…



There it is.  A natural arch, sloping diagonally, like a stone surfboard or stone banana peel.  It’s called Crawford Arch.


It’s an arch because it was created by wind.  When a stone structure like that is created by water, it is called a bridge.


360 degree panorama view of this part of the park:


After taking the shuttle bus to the Museum stop, we walked the Pa’rus Trail further into the park.


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Featuring Another Theme-tastic Music Quiz


Approaching the Hoover Dam on a day trip from Las Vegas, you first get these views of Lake Mead, the body of water the Hoover Dam created.




This is the first view of Hoover Dam you get after parking your car at the designated lot.



Dam! Song Query #1 – Who are the movie/tv stars singing “Dammit Janet” in this song from which cult musical?

(What you thought I would feature songs about actual dams?  Nope, don’t have any, but I will share songs about actual bridges at least.  Answers to the query questions as always can be found amongst the tags at the bottom of the post)


Looking to the right, from the same spot, the new Memorial Bridge, that now diverts traffic off of the Dam’s road (which had become too narrow for all those cars).




Memorial statues in the art deco style of the time the dam was completed.





This would not be the last time this trip we would see tourists posing like this in front of something imposing…



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The Staten Island September 11th Memorial



This year at this date, I would like to share photos I took earlier this summer at the Staten Island September 11th Memorial, just across the water from Manhattan’s financial district, and the new World Trade Center.

The memorial lists the names and sculpts the profiles of Staten Island residents who were lost.




I will include recordings of my 9/11 oratorio “The Song of Job 9:11”.

You can watch video of a concert and listen to and read more about that piece at its designated page.






1 – Awake



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Ah, Las Vegas…

They say what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.

And that may be true, or it may just be a somewhat devilish advertising slogan.

But these photos of Vegas, or more specifically, the famed Vegas Strip of hotel casinos and their alluring attractions, didn’t stay there.  I brought these home to share with you.

For what that’s worth.  Some photos and some pithy commentary may not substitute for experiencing the real thing.  Think of this as a tease then.  A Las Vegas Strip Tease…




We’ll start with some day time wide shots of the Vegas Strip.  We’ll get to the night later.  And we will get inside many of the more famous hotel and casinos too, past the outer facades, so to speak, to examine the inner facades …




No, that’s not the real Paris Eiffel tower, of course (just as that’s not the real Venice Plaza de San Marco tower below).  It’s part of the Paris hotel and casino, only one of many hotel casinos that are constructed like theme parks, including actual rides, as I’ll show later when we visit them one by one…




Ed and I actually slid down that particular water slide below, twice.  But I must say it’s a rather brutal thump in the groin as you take that final splash at the bottom.

Behind is the Stratosphere Tower, which boasts sky high thrill rides dangling from the tower.  I however only seldom saw these rides in action whenever I glanced at it from afar.



Ed and I are not into gambling, or malls, or booze, or let’s face it most of the attractions Las Vegas offers its approximately 33 million visitors annually.  So why did we visit?  Well, it was actually our fly-into point to embark on a grand tour of many of the great National Parks of the American Southwest.  I’ve already posted a few introductory posts along those lines, and I’ll be sharing much more of that exhilarating beauty in many blog posts to come.




Yet this blog post is all about Vegas, baby!




Regarding Las Vegas, I have always wanted to see some of the Cirque du Soleil extravaganzas ensconced there.  We enjoyed Zumanity, Ka, and O.  The latter two, with their especially designed theaters and elaborate productions, are unique live shows that can only be experienced in their specific venues.  Those shows quite literally, logistically, will stay in Vegas, only to be enjoyed there.

As a friend of mine told me, some people spend their money on gambling, some on theatre.  Different kicks for different tricks.  Fair enough.

But I haven’t yet heard of one’s theater addiction resulting in bankruptcy, destroyed relationships, rehab and theatergoers anonymous.  Just saying.



Above, the Shrine Of Four-Faced Brahma.  Below, the Vegas strip monorail.


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Sunset in the Trailer Park


Just a little amuse bouche of photo and music quiz

in between larger courses of Two-fisted Touristing



Ed and I stayed a few days in an airbnb 20 miles south of the Grand Canyon (major photo blog post to come, but be patient; there’s a major cue of major Great American Southwest photo blog posts forming here at Notes from a Composer’s Two-fisted Touristing division).

Eating dinner on the picnic table by our humble temporary abode we enjoyed lovely sunsets.  So here are a few lovely pics of that, accompanying a little sunset (and trailer park) related music quiz (as ever, the answers are tucked in the tags below).




Sunset Music Query #1: This track, titled “Sunset”, is from which Tom Ford directed movie?




Sunset Music Query #2: Which British Pop Goddess is singing about the “Sunset” here?



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A Day in Death Valley

Intense Heat and Awe-Inspiring Desert Beauty


Our first stop in Death Valley, after driving two hours west from Las Vegas, was Zabriskie Point.  A million years of volcanic emissions, lake-bed sediments, seismic activity, and rainstorm erosion created this fascinating landscape.




The actual Death Valley, as seen from Zabriskie Point:




(those odd creaking sounds may be from my camera, I’m afraid…)








As we leave Zabriskie Point to view many more otherworldly, beautiful sites, here is a detail of a map of Death Valley, encompassing all the stops we made this day:





The Furnace Creek Visitor Center keeps you abreast of the temperatures.  110F (44C) seemed really high to us when we arrived.

We would learn that was just the beginning…


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