Wednesday, August 10, 2016

If only someone at Verruckt had ever made a paper airplane--and taught the team how to distribute the human cargo in the raft

So the Schlitterbahn/Verrucht engineers knew from the gitgo.  Full loaded with 1000 pounds but no humans, the raft went airborne.  Watch the 35 sec. video:

Repeated test failures with sandbags a'flyin.  And every week, passengers reported to staff: we went airborne for awhile!  They.Did.Nothing.

Now anyone who ever made a paper airplane knows: you put weight in the front, to lower the nose.  Not the back.

It's called the coefficient of drag.

They smoothed out the 2nd hill.  To lower the nose of the raft.  But they didn't change the weight minimums, or how the human cargo was loaded on the Verrucht raft carrying little Caleb Schwab to his death and two sisters from Smith Center to the hospital, one with a broken jaw.

Note: I never took physics in high school, but if I can figure this out, they should have, as well.

I have been on my share of airplanes.  Loading the "luggage"--human as well as Samsonite-- keeps the plane from crashing.  Just last December, I had to check my carry-on bag.  I was on a smaller jet.   American Airlines calculated knowing that after Christmas, our passenger carry-on bags were WAY overloaded with gifts.  So they forced us to check them.  Stowed them below us for ballast and balance.

The Schlitterbahn engineers of Verrucht knew enough about load distribution to experiment with seat placement.  Here's the first design with the back seat way to the back wall:

And then they moved it forward:

But on the fateful day, what did the staff do?

Did they put the lightest passenger (maybe 70 pounds?) in the front seat, leaving two heavier ladies to add the required total of 400 pounds in the back????

I'd like to see the training manual for the staff at the top of the slide.  Do you let people decide where to sit?

This disaster is a repeat of the Hyatt hotel collapse.  Inevitable.

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Sunday, August 7, 2016

How Tony's readers can finally get laid: Bring your date to see Next to Normal, at Crown Center's Musical Theater Heritage, part 2

Most movies and most live theater suck.  The scripts and productions just never get you to the emotional arc that is the whole point.  Same with sports or games or even relationships and families.  If it's not close, if there is no drama, no moment that opens your heart, then you've just wasted another day of your life.

Which is why I recommend you pay $17 and go see Next to Normal.  (read previous post for details.)

Now I've been to lots and lots of live theatre.  I saw 13 plays in 10 days of KC Fringe Festival.  And I see at least one movie per week.   At Glenwood Arts, or the National Theatre Live events at Tivoli--God bless Jerry Harrington for booking those.

Been to Broadway many times.  And when I went to London, I saw 9 plays in 7 days, besides sightseeing etc.  Saw Cate Blanchett.

But until I saw operatic tenor Ben Gulley play the husband opposite Ashley Pankow in Next to Normal, I've never seen an actor actually cry real tears.
Operatic tenor Ben Gulley made me cry.  You will too.
MTH imports the best singer/actors in the country.  Ben Gulley performs nationally, and is half of the tenor duo Gulley/Granner.  {As in the equally sensationally talented, heart-rending Nathan Granner, a KC home boy who, FYI, used to be a regular on Mike Murphy's radio program, and who sang at Cathy Murphy's funeral.  He's not in this show.}

So I've seen good and great singers.  But never one who when he was done singing about his mentally ill wife leaving him, went back to his seat, pulled out his hankie and continued to weep.

THAT is drama.  THAT is the power of a Pulitzer-winning script.    THAT is why you should take your date to Musical Theater Heritage.  

If you can't get laid after that, well, there might not be hope for your relationship.
In which case, maybe bring your shrink.  They need to see this musical about therapy too.

One more thing:
To those who ask, "Why do I want to see a musical about a bi-polar Mom and her dead son and dysfunctional family? And whether or not to get ECT, shock therapy????" Well, leave it to George Harter, in his theatrical travelogue, to remind you that from Shakespeare right up to Sweeney Todd, MOST great musical theater surrounds a rather dark story.  That's the whole point.  What's it gonna take to pry open your heart?

There are many light moments as well.  One of the songs is Who's Crazy//My Psychopharmacologist and I.  They list off drugs, from A/Adderal to Z/Zoloft, and with a nod to The Sound of Music, sing, "These are a few of my favorite PILLS!"

This is not a show for kids.  But it's fine to bring your friends, including the 5 1/2% of all Americans who suffer from bi-polar disorder.  Who knew?

Musical Theater Heritage
This show ends Aug. 21.
Bring kleenex.
And get there early.
The night I went, I got the last homemade giant $3 brownie.  Just sayin...

And don't forget to grab tix to Cabaret in November, as it should sell out.  Once again, Nazis in Germany--killing Jews and gays--another dark story and another incredible musical play.

Note, for more info, log onto and

Tracy Thomas

Friday, August 5, 2016

Forget playing dangerous Pokemon Go. This week's staycation: Instead of flying to NYC, see Next to Normal at Crown Center's Musical Theater Heritage. Three Tony's and a Pulitzer prize.

Warning: Playing Pokemon Go is low class, dangerous entertainment.  It makes you look like a Donald Trump Duck-Dynasty crazoid.   If you want to watch crazy dysfunctional people, instead make sure they are high-level, not running for office--and can sing.  As in the ones portrayed in NEXT TO NORMAL, the very award-winning musical at Crown Center's Musical Theater Heritage.

I saw it Friday night. (After having seen it on Broadway in 2009, the year it won three Tony's including best score and best actress (Alice Ripley).  I paid $140 for that ticket, but tickets here start at $17.)  Sensational singers with a story that touches your heart.  Who else sings about living with a Mom who is losing her mind?

Listen here as the Mom explains how it feels to be depressed

This is one of the best shows of this season at George Harter's famed MTH concert series.  PS, I've already paid for and booked my seats for Cabaret in November.   (I'll be in the audience, wearing my top hat and fishnet stockings and too much mascara, channeling my inner Liza Minelli.)  That show may sell out soon.  Book now.

Here's the cool thing about MTH:
1.  In August, it's cool as in icy air conditioning.  Totally unlike Starlight Theatre where you melt faster than their overpriced lukewarm beer can cool you.  So cool is it, that if you sit in the seats on the LH side, where the vents pour out chilled air like Niagara Falls, they even keep a supply of blankets for those women who show up in a sleeveless dress, not knowing this secret.

2.  All the seats are CLOSE!!!  You can see the singers' tonsils and whether or not they use Botox.  It's intimate.  Getting seats that close in NYC would cost you well over $225.  Or $800 if it's Hamilton, version 2 without Lin Manuel Miranda.  That's the other major drawback at other local venues like Starlight, where you are sitting a football field away, with some stupid binoculars messing up your mascara.  (Well, not for guys like Tony.  He doesn't wear mascara except to go to The Edge of Hell Friday and Saturday nights in September.)

3.  At MTH, it's a semi-musical. All the best features, without the big drawback. They hire MUCH better singers--the best in town or imported.  They wear costumes and makeup and they deliver their lines--but there's no bad dancing!  It's like going to the prom and getting the goodnight kiss or whatever--without having to watch people do the frug or the waltz or twerking--whatever--badly.  See, producers George Harter and Chad Gerlt figured out a better formula.  It's like cheesecake light.  All the flavor, with half the calories.

In KC, at Musical Theatre Heritage's production, Ashley Pankow is
every bit as good at singing and acting as Broadway's Alice Ripley.
Next to Normal is an unconventional modern musical about a family pulling together to support a depressed family member.  Instead of head mikes that never capture the lyrics, at MTH, their singers step up to the row of concert style big boy microphone stands in the changing spotlights--and belt it out bigger than Ethel Merman.  (Millenials will need to google that.)  You never miss a line--which is great with a 'book' (story and score) like NEXT TO NORMAL.

4.  George Harter gives a fact-laden talk right before the curtain.  He's like the Rick Steves travel guide of musical theatre in the U.S.   Sharing secrets and factoid tidbits it took him a lifetime to learn.

George's talks always set you up to then notice for yourself what is great.  Strong mixed drinks and tasty munchies in the lobby you may take to your seat.  Excellent brownies.  (No pot.  This is Mizzurah, not Colo.)

5.  And, at the end of the show, I've never seen this done ANYWHERE ELSE, and it is GENIUS: the entire cast lines up in the lobby like a wedding reception line, and you get to talk with any or all of them as you walk out!     No going backstage, or queing up for 45 minutes, like I once did for my niece to meet Whoopi Goldberg in NYC.  At MTH, you can't exit without at least the chance to go thru the line.  At the last show, Big River, about Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, one superb singer shared with me where he also sings in a black church every Sunday, because Lordy, Lordy, he had the pipes, the voice of God.

The 'buh-bye' line is GREAT when you bring a shy friend or date who secretly wants to tell a singer, "You were my favorite" and get a hug.  Yep: FREE HUGS FROM THE CAST.  For $17 a ticket, you will be a hero for making that happen.
Crown Center Shops
third level (orange) at the very end doors
Free parking on weekends

Next To Normal:  Aug. 4-21

Monday, August 1, 2016

Windows 10 upgrade still free: to those with "Assistive Disabilities". So if you used glasses to read this, it's not too late!

Whew.  There is a benevolent God.  It's not too late!!!

Windows 10 free upgrade, for Windows 7 and 8 users, technically ended last Friday, July 29.  Yikes, I thought it was gonna be the actual END of the month, which was Sunday!

Well, I discovered ONE of my old laptops hadn't taken the upgrade. I had clicked upgrade, but it failed to load.  Panic!  Not gonna buy an upgrade for a backup unit.  Then I read about the loophole.  And it's not asking you to lie.  Technically, glasses are an assistive device according to someone. After all, it's mandatory to disclose on your driver's license.   You do not have to even answer the question.  Just get to the free link.

Click here for the free extended upgrade to Windows 10.

Now I was a skeptic, and a late adopter.  I waited ten months for fifteen millions of others to work out the bugs.  And I must admit, I do like Windows 10.  They fixed the problems.  None of my files disappeared.

And while I haven't used Cortana, I like Windows 10.  Which IS supported by Microsoft, whereas now Windows 7 and 8 are not.  Note to Luddites: Cortana is Microsoft's search engine, like Apple's Siri or Google's OK Google.  I'm a loyal Google gal.  And I despise Bing.

But in order for Cortana to work like Siri does on an iPhone, you must have a mike working on your computer, (I don't.  Neither a microphone nor a guy named Mike.)  And it creeps me out, knowing that the only way Cortana can listen to you is to LISTEN ALL THE TIME!  Like with a seven second delay.  Even while you are shouting at the dogs.

And yes, even when one is reading Savage Love columns out loud from The Pitch--you know, to improve your vocabulary and use of initials and public speaking skills.
Yes, Cortana!  Yes!!!  Search harder!  --said no one, ever.

And for the record, I now appreciate how HARD Tony works finding free photos to illustrate his great blog.

Now we do not know how long this back door free upgrade will be available.  Don't push your luck.