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PostHeaderIcon Around Town

PostHeaderIcon How to handle the cold weather

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From global warming to frosty forecasts, the year of the Horse has galloped the gamut of weather conditions to a most unpredictable spread of unseasonable temperatures across the planet.  2015 embarks upon a continuation of inclement conditions and related advisories as we open the cover of the calendar.

In sunny California, the news of cold extremes likely to affect nearly 50 percent of the Northern hemisphere’s total landmass, classified as a cold region, at some point in the year, is reason to take action.  The seriousness of freezing temps is relative to associated environmental influences, such as wet or dry conditions and wind chill factors.  Wet freezes, where temperatures rise to at least 50* F during a 24 hour period, will thaw.  On the contrary, a dry freeze below 14*F will not thaw out.   Wind chill factor, the effect of moving air on exposed skin, together with wet weather, drains body heat faster, accounting for greater total heat loss.

According to U.C. Berkeley News, cold weather impacts lives directly and indirectly, by snow and ice-related accidents, house fires and carbon monoxide poisoning from burning oil lamps and gas heaters in improperly ventilated closed areas.  The frail and elderly are most vulnerable and women account for 2/3 of cold-related fatalities.

Although this year end brutal cold front, referred to as the Polar Vortex, a rotating pool of cold dense air from the North Pole, descending from the Arctic of Alaska, spreading from Chicago to Tulsa and even south to Miami, has shuttered schools, halted transit lines and impeded daily work schedules, the National Weather Service reports that temps have been dropping since the 1930s; the winter of 1932 was so cold that Niagara Falls froze completely solid.

Translated from the original Latin term, “To be forewarned is to be forearmed”, simply stated, this means knowledge of imminent danger can prepare one to overcome danger.  Prevention by preparation and protecting yourself are paramount.  The National Safety Council outlines facts and tips for surviving frigid conditions and names the three significant health risks to avoid with sensible protection:  hypothermia, frostbite and windburn.

Steps for staying warm definitely begin with dressing properly to insulate and shield the body with multiple layers of loose-fitting clothes, trapping warm, dry air inside.  Wool and polypropylene fabrics are best as they wick, and do not retain moisture as cotton does.  A wind and waterproof outer layer is ideal, since wet-cold and wind-chill factors together intensify risk of skin freeze in less than 5 minutes of exposure.  Special attention to areas of the body in need of protection due to major heat loss are the head and neck and most susceptible to frostbite are fingers and toes, cheeks, ears and nose.

Appropriate wearing apparel in snowy or frigid weather is a must and should include a hat, scarf, high neck sweater, insulated jacket, mittens and waterproof boots.  A heavy sleeping bag can be a life-saver.  Heightened awareness of the risks of overexposure to unrelenting cold weather is key and should be tempered with understanding to stay indoors whenever possible, according to storm advisories.  Conventional wisdom dictates against consuming alcohol in freezing weather for more than one reason:  it impairs sensitivity to decreases in temperature and there is greater heat loss from dilatation of skin blood vessels. Staying hydrated, by other means, is essential since imperceptible water loss takes place from breathing, sweating and more frequent urination in cold climate.

Should overexposure to cold occur, such as involving fingers or toes, rewarming in lukewarm water, not hot, for 20 -25 minutes, without rubbing or applying external heat, is the best therapy.  Hypothermia sets in when the body loses more heat than is produced and changes in physiologic as well as mental status will be present.  Irregular heartbeat and breathing will advance to a decreased level of consciousness and requires immediate medical help.  Stumbling, mumbling, fumbling and grumbling are evident, even to the point of the affected person being uncooperative.

Quick action to remove the person from the source of exposure to a reclining position under shelter and adding insulating blankets, towels, newspapers or any available layers of protection is the first line of defense.  A snow cave or bunker is an effective shelter, as snow insulates and blocks the wind.  Seek medical responders, treat the person gently and build a fire with caution.

Karen Balch is a retired nurse, freelance writer and regular contributor to allnewsnoblues.com.

Last Updated (Monday, 12 January 2015 15:49)


PostHeaderIcon Avenue Q: A Smash Hit

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On the billboard at the Bankhead Theater in Livermore, the Tri-Valley Repertory Theatre Group presents the uproarious, adult, comical, live production of Avenue Q through Nov. 2.  Indeed, reminiscent of the characters of Sesame Street, comic relief is accomplished as the cast utilizes puppets in portraying scenes dealing with diverse and controversial social issues for the 20-something age group.

Recommended for mature audiences, rated R by cabaret standards, ribald language in some scenes, although raw, is nothing most anyone, not living under a rock, hasn’t heard.  Even graphic scenes with sexual content have a comical spin which drives the audience from reserved chuckles to gales of laughter and thunderous applause.

Innovative techniques of the actors’ voice distortion and high-range singing pitch give the puppets an illusion of uttering the words themselves. Naughty, and fascinating to watch, they take the audience on a moving and humorous journey into personal growth and self-esteem.

Certainly not new to the stage circuit, the theme of this satire of entering adulthood with insecurities and uncertainties, in a search for purpose in the real world, is derived from the book of the same name written by Jeff Whitty.  Debuting on Broadway in New York in 2003, travel to venues from Stockholm to Paris to Israel and every corner of the world, the production has been lavished with myriad awards and recognition.

The musical numbers of this colorful, fast-paced and dynamic score, segue smoothly in the 2 act play, with a basic 1 set backdrop which offers continuity to the performance without set change interference. The unseen orchestral accompaniment was flawless, with strategic speaker placement, tempered to surround the audience.  High notes won my vote from characters “Christmas Eve” and puppeteer for “Lucy the Slut”.  Their voices, rich with clarity and range, convey professional quality and genuine talent.

Via Avenue Q, a fictional street in an outer borough of NYC, life, as portrayed by puppets, opens adult issues of racism, pornography, homosexuality and  Schadenfreude—(I’ll give you a clue:  experiencing pleasure in the misfortune of others)

Raunchy as it may be in part, the prevailing sentiment teaches the lesson of a misconception, and life isn’t as easy as we’ve been led to believe and we are not apt to be as special as we have been convinced to be as a child.  Coming away with the precept that life is a learning lesson, values, rewards and commitment are learned when we put an end to bias and  negative judgment, replacing the message with positive feelings that “When you help others, you can’t help helping yourself.”

Be alert when the cast overflows into the auditorium with the musical score of the Money Song, promoting funds for the imaginary Monstersori School concept devised by lead puppet Kate Monster.

Clearly, the value of laughter, the thought-provoking stimulus concerning complex social issues supports the grand finale ideal, “Life goes on—everything—both good and bad—is only for now”.

Performances are Friday and Saturday at 8:00 pm and Sunday at 2:00 pm through November 2, 2014.The Bankhead Theater is located at 2400 First St. Livermore.  925.373.6800

Karen Balch is a retired nurse, freelance writer and life-long theater lover. She writes regularly for allnewsnoblues.com.

Last Updated (Monday, 20 October 2014 21:48)


PostHeaderIcon Avenue Q Opens Saturday

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Coming soon to the Bankhead Theater in Livermore is Avenue Q, a hilarious modern musical focusing on a group of outlandish and unique 20-somethings making their way in the big city.  Situated somewhere between Avenues P and R, presumably in New York, is a group of human misfits and other characters who are puppets, and will remind you (at first) of Sesame Street.  The similarity ends quickly as the story of Princeton, a recent college graduate with a useless degree in English, settles into life on the fringe of society.

This show was created by Robert Lopez with music and lyrics by Greg Marx and premiered on Broadway in 2003.  Lopez is a bit of an overachiever as he garnered the Tony Trifecta of Best Musical, Best Score, and Best Book.  He then went on to do work on The Book of Mormon and Frozen.

The general theme of Avenue Q is that children are told early on from kids’ programming and their parents that they are ‘special’ and can do anything.  As they go out on their own, reality strikes a blow and they discover that they might not be any more special than anyone else.  As you may be able to discern from some of the characters’ names, Lucy the Slut and Mrs. Thistletwat, this is a VERY adult show.  Other humans join Princeton, including Gary Coleman (even in death, always funny) and the puppets to explore subjects like internet porn, homosexuality, puppet sex, and race relations.  Princeton is played by Sean McGrory, and Coleman is Mia Sagan who has played this role to perfection before.  They are joined by Scott J. DiLorenzo, Vicki Victoria, Jennifer Stark, Wendy Amador, Mario Rappa, Kevin Hammond, David Leon, Sam Leeper, Abby Peterson, Eve Tieck, and Britt Jensky to form an unbeatable cast.  The musical director is Greg Zema and the choreographer is Julie Etzel.

Avenue Q is directed by John Maio, one of the really funny and innovative local directors.  I have worked with him and for him on a number of occasions and can guarantee that the results will be top notch as usual.   John says that the thing about this show that stands out the most for him is, “how incredibly easily the show presents complex messages that make you think.”  He was surprised at how difficult it was to master the manipulation of the puppets and yet make it look easy.  He goes on to say that, in the end, the audience will find, “Life is too short to judge each other.  Go out and be positive. Negativity has no place in a caring society.”  A great message for kids but, leave them at home because, as I warned earlier, the language and themes are a bit too intense for them.  Take these samples from the song list:  ‘It Sucks To Be Me, ‘Everyone’s A Little Bit Racist,’ ‘If You Were Gay,’ and ’The Internet is for Porn.’  You might want to be careful if you’re singing these ditties on the way out of the theater.  These are hilarious numbers and are woven into a tapestry of messages, relationships, and surprises that promise to provide a good time.

Avenue Q will be presented by the Tri-Valley Repertory Theatre under the watchful eye of the ever-alluring producer Kathleen Breedveld.

Where:   Bankhead Theater, 2400 First St. in Livermore.

When:  October 18, 19, 24, 25, 26, 31 and November 1 and 2.  Friday and Saturday shows are  at 8 p.m..  Sundays at 2 p.m..

Cost:  $39 General,  $37 Seniors.  $20 Juniors

Tickets:  Box office hours are Tuesday through Friday from noon to 6 p.m..  Saturday from 3-6 p.m..   (925) 373-6899 or purchase on line at: www.trivalleyrep.org --BS


Bob Stratton is an actor who has appeared in many productions with TriValley Repertory Theatre. He is also an athlete who can do a mean one-handed push up.

Last Updated (Saturday, 11 October 2014 17:44)


PostHeaderIcon Feminist:Stories from Women's Lib Movement Tuesday

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A pivotal chapter of American history will come alive Tuesday, Oct. 14  through a free  screening of the documentary film, Feminist:  Stories from Women’s Liberation.  The 7 p.m. presentation at the Village Theatre in Danville is a one-hour film showcasing the events of the Women’s Liberation movement during the years of 1963 – 1970.

As told by the men and women who experienced the time period personally, the film explores the significance of a second wave of the women’s liberation movement.

Released in 2013, Director Jennifer Lee began shooting interviews for the film in 2004.  Her work has been shown in film festivals, on college campuses, for non-profit organizations, in middle schools and has appeared globally.

Her film has been entered as a part of the National Center for History in the Schools and won “The Best of the Fest” for a documentary at the Los Angeles Women’s International Film Festival.

Director Lee, selected feminist accounts from an era at the peak of the 20th Century women’s movement, which forged a path into “every corner of our lives.  It transformed our country”, she admits.

Her rationale for making the film streamed from inconsistencies and missing memories in the information related to the women’s liberation movement.  Having always considered herself a feminist and displaying talent in working in the film industry, Lee is not a novice at making meaningful documentaries on her own.  As a filmmaker, writer and speaker, Jennifer Lee screens her film nationally and speaks on the women’s liberation movement and independent filmmaking, regarding this film as appropriate for adults and students from middle school through college level. Speaking engagements have taken her as far as the International Islamic University in Islamabad, Pakistan.

Her life was woven into a colorful tapestry of cultural experiences from her early years on Staten Island, New York in the 60’s and 70’s to later residing in a Quaker Meeting House in Atlanta, where the neighborhood teemed with filmmakers, actors, gay activists, political activists, feminists and a blend of the counter culture of the time. She performed in a dance theater company and volunteered at a feminist book store in her youth.

When she moved to the San Francisco area after graduation from college, Lee became a film compositor, working on many feature films of notoriety.   The lure of Los Angeles and hopes of Hollywood paved the way to Warner Bros. and an extension of career experiences.

Her technique used in the filmmaking of Feminist incorporated reports and photos of many of the feminists who were vitally instrumental in making the movement happen. Lee reveals that “One woman’s story led to another.”  She traveled the country and realized how far-reaching the movement’s impact, initiated by individuals, not leaders, had spread across the United States.

Not all events and names of principle feminists are well-known, however, the documentary is a defining history of the efforts of “a relatively small group of women who gave voice to the feelings of millions of women.  They are a vital part of American History and they deserve to be remembered.”

Director Jennifer Lee will be present and interactive with the audience for questions and answers directly following the screening.

The Village Theatre is located at 420 Front Street in Danville.  For further information contact:  www.danville.ca.gov or 925.314-3400 -- KRB


Karen Balch is a retired R.N., freelance writer and regular contributor to allnewsnoblues.com.

Last Updated (Thursday, 09 October 2014 22:41)


PostHeaderIcon Call for Artists for Lighthouse Store

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Artistry in many forms is the theme of the day on Saturday, Oct. 18, when an art show is being hosted by Lighthouse Christian Supply in Dublin.

Local artists have been welcomed to display samplings of their talent in the newly relocated shop at 6841 Dublin Blvd, across from Dublin Civic Center Plaza. A variety of artists, photographers and potters will avail themselves of the opportunity to place their creations in a prime spot for viewing.

In business for 25 years, the family-owned and operated Lighthouse, since 1989, has established a well-known reputation as a venue for quality merchandise in the Tri-Valley.   Formerly in the Target Shopping Center off Dublin Blvd, Lighthouse has a wide variety of Christian books, Bibles, reference materials, musical recordings, videos, gifts and cards.

Their coffee shop and seating area provides a restful atmosphere for taking a break and enjoying some flavored coffee and teas, along with a tasty snack.  Serving the greater San Ramon and Tri- Valley area, customers rely on the convenient location as a meeting place to shop and gather with friends.

The first-time event will run from 11 a.m. through 7 p.m. on October 18th. An ample parking area is at the rear of the building at 6841 Dublin Blvd.

For more details, contact Lighthouse Christian Supply at 925.829.3698 or www.dublinlighthouse.com.-- KRB

Karen Balch is a freelance writer, retired nurse and San Ramon resident. She writes regularly for allnewsnoblues.com





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