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Part 4 in a 100-part Series of "Broadway Shows Maryann Will Never Forgive Herself for Not Seeing"

4.30.2008


Ok, I can't lie to you. I've actually seen Company. But in my defense, I saw it at our local theater in Lake Oswego starring our high school drama teacher Gary Cash along with local celebrities. If these facts weren't enough to keep me from connecting with the show, I was also a teenager. What musicals-loving teen wants to hear songs about how hard it is to be married and an adult living in the suburbs? Not really where I was in life. No, I was a bit more into the I-am-an-awkward-and-unglamorous-but-endlessly-talented-woman-who-only-wants-to-be-loved-and-maybe-famous plotline.

Being the one single person among lots of couples? The hardships of marriage and commitment? No thanks. But now when I hear the score, I begin to understand the genius of the lyrics and music. So why list a musical I've seen in a series reserved for musicals I haven't seen? I guess I wish I'd seen the original cast (even though that would require me being at least 38) , as well as seen it when I was older and could appreciate it a little more. It's no longer running, but maybe someday another amateur production will be put on, or it will be revived again (it was revived in 1995 and 2006). But the original cast and production has that special lure for me: the one-of-a-kind Elaine Stritch.

Alright, if you're still with me, let's get into it. First off, you can read all about it here. My version will be a bit more brief. Robert is the beloved single friend of 5 married couples. He's turning 35 and the pressure is on. In his friends he sees the ups and downs of marriage, and they go back and forth urging him to settle down or not (the husbands at one point try to persuade him to stay single so he can still sleep around and have no ball & chain; the women worry about his well-being as a lonely single person). There are three different girlfriends of his that we meet, all flawed and none quite right for him. Throughout the large ensemble cast many different kinds of people are represented: cynics, bitches, neurotics, Lotharios, etc. It's all about 'living in community', the differences between strangers and lovers and friends and one night stands; navigating this life and its relationships.


The original 1970 Broadway Hal Prince production as well as the 1995 and 2006 revivals were nominated for a total of 17 Tony's, winning 7 (6 for the original, 1 for 2006). Now let's get to the good stuff: the songs. The music and lyrics are all by Stephen Sondheim and are some of the best showtunes ever written. The better known ones might be "Ladies Who Lunch", "The Little Things You Do Together", and "Being Alive." Those are three of my favorites, but right now I can't stop listening to "Another Hundred People" and "Marry Me A Little", a song cut from the original, added to the revivals, and the inspiration for a completely separate musical by the same name.

Almost all the songs are memorable and instantly addictive: "Company", "Barcelona", "Getting Married Today", "Someone is Waiting", "You Could Drive A Person Crazy", and "Sorry-Grateful." As usual with Sondheim, the lyrics are often a mouthful and at erratic or difficult tempos. If you can, catch the documentary made of the recording for the cast album. Your heart literally breaks for Elaine Stritch's attempts to do a good take of "Ladies Who Lunch" at three in the morning after a whole day of recording.

All in all, I can't wait to see it (again)!



there's a beautiful river in the valley ahead

4.29.2008



I'm just going to spend the rest of the day listening to this.

when she built you brother, she broke the mold


I can't believe I found out about this so late, but what can you do? The last I had heard Danny had joined Bruce on one of his recent tour dates. Now this.

Danny died on April 17 after a three year battle with melanoma.

I only saw him in Portland when he played on the Rising tour. Over his 40 years with the E street band he played organ, accordion, and glockenspiel. On his most recent album Bruce wrote a song for a long time friend of his named Terry and called it "Terry's Song." I feel it's pretty appropriate for Danny too. You can listen to it here, and here are some of the lyrics:

Well they built the Titanic to be one of a kind, but many ships have ruled the seas
They built the Eiffel Tower to stand alone, but they could build another if they please

Taj Mahal, the pyramids of Egypt, are unique I suppose

But when they built you, brother, they broke the mold

Now the world is filled with many wonders under the passing sun

And sometimes something comes along and you know it's for sure the only one

The Mona Lisa, the David, the Sistine Chapel, Jesus, Mary, and Joe

And when they built you, brother, they broke the mold

They say you can't take it with you, but I think that they're wrong

'Cause all I know is I woke up this morning, and something big was gone

Gone into that dark ether where you're still young and hard and cold

Just like when they built you, brother, they broke the mold


Another good one, "If I Should Fall Behind":

We said we'd walk together
Baby come what may
And that come the twillight
Should we lose our way
If as we're walking
A hand should slip free

I will wait for you and if I fall behind, wait for me

Baby, we swore we'd travel

Darling side by side

And we'd help each other
Stay in stride
But each lovers steps fall

So differently

I'll wait for you, should I fall behind, wait for me

Alright, I need to stop posting lyrics or this will be the longest post ever. Here's Bruce's Eulogy:

This eulogy was delivered by Bruce Springsteen at Danny's funeral on April 21 in Red Bank, New Jersey:

FAREWELL TO DANNY

Let me start with the stories.

Back in the days of miracles, the frontier days when "Mad Dog" Lopez and his temper struck fear into the band, small club owners, innocent civilians and all women, children and small animals.

Back in the days when you could still sign your life away on the hood of a parked car in New York City.

Back shortly after a young red-headed accordionist struck gold on the Ted Mack Amateur Hour and he and his mama were sent to Switzerland to show them how it's really done.

Back before beach bums were featured on the cover of Time magazine.

I'm talking about back when the E Street Band was a communist organization! My pal, quiet, shy Dan Federici, was a one-man creator of some of the hairiest circumstances of our 40 year career... And that wasn't easy to do. He had "Mad Dog" Lopez to compete with.... Danny just outlasted him.

Maybe it was the "police riot" in Middletown, New Jersey. A show we were doing to raise bail money for "Mad Log" Lopez who was in jail in Richmond, Virginia, for having an altercation with police officers who we'd aggravated by playing too long. Danny allegedly knocked over our huge Marshall stacks on some of Middletown's finest who had rushed the stage because we broke the law by...playing too long.

As I stood there watching, several police oficers crawled out from underneath the speaker cabinets and rushed away to seek medical attention. Another nice young officer stood in front of me onstage waving his nightstick, poking and calling me nasty names. I looked over to see Danny with a beefy police officer pulling on one arm while Flo Federici, his first wife, pulled on the other, assisting her man in resisting arrest.

A kid leapt from the audience onto the stage, momentarily distracting the beefy officer with the insults of the day. Forever thereafter, "Phantom" Dan Federici slipped into the crowd and disappeared.

A warrant out for his arrest and one month on the lam later, he still hadn't been brought to justice. We hid him in various places but now we had a problem. We had a show coming at Monmouth College. We needed the money and we had to do the gig. We tried a replacement but it didn't work out. So Danny, to all of our admiration, stepped up and said he'd risk his freedom, take the chance and play.

Show night. 2,000 screaming fans in the Monmouth College gym. We had it worked out so Danny would not appear onstage until the moment we started playing. We figured the police who were there to arrest him wouldn't do so onstage during the show and risk starting another riot.

Let me set the scene for you. Danny is hiding, hunkered down in the backseat of a car in the parking lot. At five minutes to eight, our scheduled start time, I go out to whisk him in. I tap on the window.

"Danny, come on, it's time."

I hear back, "I'm not going."

Me: "What do you mean you're not going?"

Danny: "The cops are on the roof of the gym. I've seen them and they're going to nail me the minute I step out of this car."

As I open the door, I realize that Danny has been smoking a little something and had grown rather paranoid. I said, "Dan, there are no cops on the roof."

He says, "Yes, I saw them, I tell you. I'm not coming in."

So I used a procedure I'd call on often over the next forty years in dealing with my old pal's concerns. I threatened him...and cajoled. Finally, out he came. Across the parking lot and into the gym we swept for a rapturous concert during which we laughted like thieves at our excellent dodge of the local cops.

At the end of the evening, during the last song, I pulled the entire crowd up onto the stage and Danny slipped into the audience and out the front door. Once again, "Phantom" Dan had made his exit. (I still get the occasional card from the old Chief of Police of Middletown wishing us well. Our histories are forever intertwined.) And that, my friends, was only the beginning.

There was the time Danny quit the band during a rough period at Max's Kansas City, explaining to me that he was leaving to fix televisions. I asked him to think about that and come back later.

Or Danny, in the band rental car, bouncing off several parked cars after a night of entertainment, smashing out the windshield with his head but saved from severe injury by the huge hard cowboy hat he bought in Texas on our last Western swing.

Or Danny, leaving a large marijuana plant on the front seat of his car in a tow away zone. The car was promptly towed. He said, "Bruce, I'm going to go down and report that it was stolen." I said, "I'm not sure that's a good idea."

Down he went and straight into the slammer without passing go.

Or Danny, the only member of the E Street Band to be physically thrown out of the Stone Pony. Considering all the money we made them, that wasn't easy to do.

Or Danny receiving and surviving a "cautionary assault" from an enraged but restrained "Big Man" Clarence Clemons while they were living together and Danny finally drove the "Big Man" over the big top.

Or Danny assisting me in removing my foot from his stereo speaker after being the only band member ever to drive me into a violent rage.

And through it all, Danny played his beautiful, soulful B3 organ for me and our love grew. And continued to grow. Life is funny like that. He was my homeboy, and great, and for that you make considerations... And he was much more tolerant of my failures than I was of his.

When Danny wasn't causing chaos, he was a sweet, talented, unassuming, unpretentious good-hearted guy who simply had an unchecked ability to make good fortune and things in general go fabulously wrong.

But beyond all of that, he also had a mountain of the right stuff. He had the heart and soul of an engineer. He learned to fly. He was always up on the latest technology and would explain it to you patiently and in enormous detail. He was always "souping" something up, his car, his stereo, his B3. When Patti joined the band, he was the most welcoming, thoughtful, kindest friend to the first woman entering our "boys club."

He loved his kids, always bragging about Jason, Harley, and Madison, and he loved his wife Maya for the new things she brought into his life.

And then there was his artistry. He was the most intuitive player I've ever seen. His style was slippery and fluid, drawn to the spaces the other musicians in the E Street Band left. He wasn't an assertive player, he was a complementary player. A true accompanist. He naturally supplied the glue that bound the band's sound together. In doing so, he created for himself a very specific style. When you hear Dan Federici, you don't hear a blanket of sound, you hear a riff, packed with energy, flying above everything else for a few moments and then gone back in the track. "Phantom" Dan Federici. Now you hear him, now you don't.

Offstage, Danny couldn't recite a lyric or a chord progression for one of my songs. Onstage, his ears opened up. He listened, he felt, he played, finding the perfect hole and placement for a chord or a flurry of notes. This style created a tremendous feeling of spontaneity in our ensemble playing.

In the studio, if I wanted to loosen up the track we were recording, I'd put Danny on it and not tell him what to play. I'd just set him loose. He brought with him the sound of the carnival, the amusements, the boardwalk, the beach, the geography of our youth and the heart and soul of the birthplace of the E Street Band.

Then we grew up. Very slowly. We stood together through a lot of trials and tribulations. Danny's response to a mistake onstage, hard times, catastrophic events was usually a shrug and a smile. Sort of an "I am but one man in a raging sea, but I'm still afloat. And we're all still here."

I watched Danny fight and conquer some tough addictions. I watched him struggle to put his life together and in the last decade when the band reunited, thrive on sitting in his seat behind that big B3, filled with life and, yes, a new maturity, passion for his job, his family and his home in the brother and sisterhood of our band.

Finally, I watched him fight his cancer without complaint and with great courage and spirit. When I asked him how things looked, he just said, "what are you going to do? I'm looking forward to tomorrow." Danny, the sunny side up fatalist. He never gave up right to the end.

A few weeks back we ended up onstage in Indianapolis for what would be the last time. Before we went on I asked him what he wanted to play and he said, "Sandy." He wanted to strap on the accordion and revisit the boardwalk of our youth during the summer nights when we'd walk along the boards with all the time in the world.

So what if we just smashed into three parked cars, it's a beautiful night! So what if we're on the lam from the entire Middletown police department, let's go take a swim! He wanted to play once more the song that is of course about the end of something wonderful and the beginning of something unknown and new.

Let's go back to the days of miracles. Pete Townshend said, "a rock and roll band is a crazy thing. You meet some people when you're a kid and unlike any other occupation in the whole world, you're stuck with them your whole life no matter who they are or what crazy things they do."

If we didn't play together, the E Street Band at this point would probably not know one another. We wouldn't be in this room together. But we do... We do play together. And every night at 8 p.m., we walk out on stage together and that, my friends, is a place where miracles occur...old and new miracles. And those you are with, in the presence of miracles, you never forget. Life does not separate you. Death does not separate you. Those you are with who create miracles for you, like Danny did for me every night, you are honored to be amongst.

Of course we all grow up and we know "it's only rock and roll"...but it's not. After a lifetime of watching a man perform his miracle for you, night after night, it feels an awful lot like love.

So today, making another one of his mysterious exits, we say farewell to Danny, "Phantom" Dan, Federici. Father, husband, my brother, my friend, my mystery, my thorn, my rose, my keyboard player, my miracle man and lifelong member in good standing of the house rockin', pants droppin', earth shockin', hard rockin', booty shakin', love makin', heart breakin', soul cryin'... and, yes, death defyin' legendary E Street Band.

Danny Federici, January 23rd, 1950 - April 17, 2008

(Danny's on the far right)

(and on the far left)

Glamping


If I could be anywhere in the world right now, I'd be in Lake Oswego with my parents. But if that doesn't count, I would like to be in Greenough, Montana. Glamping.

I would stay at 'Tent City' at the Resort at Paws Up. The lowdown from Dina Mishev of Sunset magazine:

Wake up to: About 20 miles of hiking trails. But as Lewis and Clark did in this area before, you can spend the day blazing your own through conifer forests, over rolling meadows, and across the trout-filled Blackfoot River, rushing from snowmelt. The last few hundred yards back to camp--with aching feet, damp clothes, and (desperately) wanting stomachs--could be tough. But then your khaki-clad camping butler meets you nearly halfway. With frosty iced tea. And, not knowing exactly what kind of mood you're in, fresh-baked cookies and fresh fruit.

The Digs: When the family owned Resort at Paws Up opened in 2005 in the Blackfoot Valley 30 miles east of Missoula, Montana, a new word entered the well-heeled adventurer's lexicon--"glamping." At the resort's Tent City, roughing it means canvas-walled platform tents with oil paintings hanging above king-size feather beds surrounded by plush pile rugs; terry-cloth robes as fluffy as the Big Sky clouds; elk-antler bedside lamps; turndown service with caddis flies for fishing in lieu of chocolates; private bathrooms with steam showers and heated slate floors in an adjacent bathhouse; in-tent spa treatments and much-needed massages. S'mores are available on demand, wine is served on arrival, and the gourmet fare is Montana-inspired (huckleberry pancakes or bison rib-eye, anyone?). But it's still just a tent that we're talking about, one tucked at the edge of a lodgepole pine forest on a former cattle ranch: silence broken only by the sounds of locals (deer, eagle, elk); 37,000 acres perfect for horseback riding, and fly-fishing; and enough stars sparkling overhead to show that no one, and especially not glampers, should settle for a hotel with a mere five.


Um, yes please.

"The dance is a poem of which each movement is a word."

4.28.2008



-Mata Hari

"When we die, we will turn into songs, and we will hear each other and remember each other."

4.27.2008

  

I recently finished two books by Rolling Stone writers: But Enough About Me... A Jersey Girl's Unlikely Adventures Among the Absurdly Famous by Jancee Dunn and Love is A Mixtape: Life and Loss, One Song at a Time by Rob Sheffield.  They both give shout-outs to one another in their acknowledgments.

I enjoyed both books immensely; Jancee's was funnier but Rob's was more meaningful?  Memorable?  Sadder?  I can't quite tell.  Both books reminded me of High Fidelity and Almost Famous (2000) except the music-obsessed characters are real (yes, I know William Miller's character is based on Cameron Crowe).

I thought I'd share one of my favorite passages from Love is A Mixtape:

I thought, There is nowhere else in the universe I would rather be at this moment.  I could count the places I would not rather be.  I've always wanted to see New Zealand, but I'd rather be here.  The majestic ruins of Machu Picchu?  I'd rather be here.  A hillside in Cuenca, Spain, sipping coffee and watching leaves fall?  Not even close.  There is nowhere else I could imagine wanting to be besides here in this car, with this girl, on this road, listening to this song.  If she breaks my heart, no matter what hell she puts me through, I can say it was worth it, just because of right now.  Out the window is a blur and all I can really hear is this girl's hair flapping in the wind, and maybe if we drive fast enough the universe will lose track of us and forget to stick us somewhere else.


There is nothing quite like rocking out in the car to 'the best song ever written', and it's even better when you share it with someone.

Part 3 in a 100-Part Series of "Broadway Shows Maryann Will Never Forgive Herself for Not Seeing"


Aida.  No, not Verdi's Italian opera itself, though I'm sure its nice, but the musical based on it with songs written by two of the best: lyricist Tim Rice (Evita, Jesus Christ Superstar, The Lion King, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and Chess) and musician Elton John (one of the greatest songwriters of all time--see, or rather, listen: Madman Across the Water).  

The show premiered on Broadway on March 23, 2000 and ran for 1,852 performances, zero of which I was able to bring myself to.  My good friends Melody and Ryan went to Spokane a year ago to see the national tour, and even then I decided I'd rather do something else.  Foolish, foolish Maryann.

The original cast features at least one familiar face, depending on what you are um, familiar with.  If you are familiar with musicals, or at least RENT, then you will recognize the male lead: Adam Pascal (the original and film Roger).  After he did RENT (a role for which he was nominated for a Tony), he replaced someone to play the MC in Cabaret.  Can't say I can picture him in that role, but then that's the sign of a good actor, no?  His next role was in Aida.  The female lead is Heather Headley, a fairly established Grammy-nominated R&B singer from Trinidad.  But she also has experience as the original Nala from the musical The Lion King, as well as Dreamgirls.  Heather won a very well-deserved Tony for best actress in a musical for her role as Aida.

Directed by Robert Falls and choreographed by Wayne Cilento, the story starts out with two modern day people in a museum who find a statue of Amneris (Sherie Scott), another main character.  She transports us (by song of course!) back to ancient Egypt.  Her character, a princess, is engaged to the Egyptian captain of the guard, Radames (Pascal).  His father is the Chief Minister to the Pharaoh, Amneris' father.  Anyway, he ends up capturing some women from Nubia, a nation conquered by Egypt.  But one of them stands out, the fiercely proud and headstrong Aida.  Turns out Aida is a princess too, as Radames' Nubian servant Mereb recognizes but keeps secret for her safety.  Aida is given to the vain Amneris as a servant, and Radames' learns he has to marry her sooner than he thought.  He and Aida bond over their failed lives.

Unfortunately they are attracted to each other, which makes everyone's lives harder.  Radames' army has captured Aida's father, and her people are made into slaves.  They call on Aida to help them.  But she's torn between her love-from-another-world and her duty to her people and country.  On the other hand, Amneris is actually really insecure and confides in Aida.  Radames' is torn between his job/fiancee and new found love-from-another-world.  To find out what happens you'll have to swear to stage an amateur production with me.  Or go here.  Your choice.

Elton samples multiple styles of music for the show: reggae, motown, gospel, but my favorite songs I have to admit on the ones that feature his 'strongest suit': pop.  My top five songs in order of loving:

1) Not Me ("I shall not envy lovers, but long for what they share")
2) A Step Too Far ("I could be his life's companion anywhere but where we are")
3) The Past is Now Another Land ("a moment leading nowhere, too pointless to be sad")
4) Easy as Life ("all I have to do is pretend I never knew him, on those very rare occasions when he steals into my heart")
5) My Strongest Suit ("I would rather wear a barrel than conservative apparel")


 Other favorites include "The Gods Love Nubia", "Enchantment Passing Through", "How I Know You", "Dance of the Robe", and "Written in the Stars."  If you are looking for duets or goods songs for trios (I was tempted to say 'threesomes'), look no further, or at least look first, to Aida.  It won Tonys for best original score, and best scenic, lighting, and costume design.  Not to mention a Grammy for its soundtrack.

There was a rumor back in July about Disney (who owns and produced the show) courting Beyonce for a film version as a follow up to Dreamgirls (2006).  I think this is a great idea.  But then, I am almost always ready to give my heart to any film version of a musical.  All I really ask is that they keep my favorite songs, don't misscast important characters--which means use original cast members whenever possible, re-imagine the show in ways the stage version didn't, involve the creators/writers/fans, and finally, create a soundtrack that's at least half as good as the original cast recording. 

Well, here's to another first-class misstep by me to not see this baby.  It's probably one of the best musicals to come out of the 2000s so far, especially not made from a movie (I'm sorry, but let's try some different sources, Ok?).  It makes me wonder what incredible performances playing on Broadway that I'm missing right now.  Thank goodness I live in a time of technology in which I can listen to the cast albums and watch most of the shows on youtube.





Below is a promo montage for the musical featuring the original cast and many of the best songs.  Enjoy!



McSweeneys and Jesus

4.25.2008

FIRST DRAFTS
OF THE PARABLES
OF JESUS.

BY A.J. PACKMAN

- - - -

Jesus said, "Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash."

One of the disciples asked, "What of the man who builds his house inside the house built on the rock? Surely his house will be even less damaged by water and wind. Is this what we should do?"

And Jesus said, "No, don't do that."

- - - -

At that time a man said unto Jesus, "Jesus! I do not understand the nature of the kingdom of heaven."

Jesus said, "The Father's kingdom is like a shepherd who had a hundred sheep. One of them went astray. He left the 99 and looked for the one until he found it. When it was found, he said to the sheep, 'That you went astray is a clear sign that you misunderstand my instructions. You are nothing to me.' And then the shepherd turned the lost sheep into a pillar of salt, because the shepherd is God in this parable, and that's the sort of thing He does when people fail to understand His Word."

"Wait, what?" said the man,

And the man became a pillar of salt.

- - - -

Then Jesus said to them, "Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, 'Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have nothing to set before him. Then the one inside answers, 'OK, just gimme a minute,' and he goes to one of his friends, and says, 'Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, because a friend of a friend of mine on a journey has come to the friend who's my friend, and that friend has nothing to set before his friend.'"

One of the disciples said, "Wait, doesn't the original person's friend need three loaves of bread because a friend of his friend who's on a journey has come to the friend of the original person's friend, and that friend has nothing to set before his first friend? Or is that what you just said?"

"It doesn't matter," said Jesus. "The point is that God can get you free bread."

- - - -

"But what do you think about this?" asked Jesus. "A man with two sons told the older boy, 'Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.' The son answered, 'No, I won't go,' but later he changed his mind and went anyway. Then the father told the other son, 'You go,' and he said, 'Yes, sir, I will.' But he didn't go. Which of the two was obeying his father?"

"The first!" cried some of the disciples.

"The second!" cried the rest of the disciples.

And Jesus said, "Wait, I messed this one up. Did I mention that when the first son went to work in the vineyard he killed somebody? Because that's important. So, yeah, which of the two was obeying his father?"

"Uh ... the first?" said some of the disciples.

"The second! The second!" cried the rest of the disciples.

And Jesus said, "Oh, cripes, also the father only has one arm. And he is riding a horse the whole time. Was that clear?"

One of the disciples said, "Are you sure that's not 'The Parable of the One-Armed Father Who Rode on a Horse'?"

And Jesus said, "Maybe you're right. OK, let's change the question: Which of the two sons was the tallest?"

The disciples were silent.

Jesus shook his head in dismay. "Have I taught you nothing?"

The World of the Senses

by Franz Wright

Read it here.

6 in 6: Diary of an intentional church shopper

4.24.2008

I haven't been to church in a while (feels like a while), and partly because of reasons I've discussed recently, and partly because I'm hopelessly lazy. We don't subscribe to Relevant magazine here at the library, but they've been sending us free issues in hopes we'd begin to pay for them. :) Our last free issue came today, and there's an interesting article by Jason Boyett. He writes that he has gone to a Southern Baptist church his entire life, and so Relevant asked to him visit six different denominations on six different Sundays, and keep a diary. He also had to keep to himself in order to gauge the friendliness of the congregations.

I'm only going to post one of his diary entries, but the article provides "quick stats" on each denomination next to each entry, and I am curious what any of you think of his brief descriptions of the denominations.

United Methodist: "Believes people can lose salvation if they fall into unrepentant sin. Accepts divorce as a "regrettable alternative," but also supports remarriage. Emphasizes that spiritual gifts are to be tested by the value they give to others, not personal enlightenment or joy."

Presbyterian: "Strongly rejects the use of icons and images. Discourages but accepts abortion, and encourages dialogue regarding the practice. Opposes gambling as an abdication of stewardship."

Southern Baptist: (he didn't attend his own church) "Avoids the use of creeds. Believes once a person accepts Jesus as Lord and Savior, they can never lose their salvation. Accepts baptism as a sign of necessary obedience in Christian faith, but rejects the practice of infant baptism."

Roman Catholic: "Accepts the Bible and the Apocrypha as sacred texts. Prohibits remarriage unless first spouse dies. Believes all who die in God's grace go through post-mortem purification system. Opposes women in leadership roles in the church."

Episcopal: "Undecided on the acceptance of homosexual behavior but opposes same-sex marriage. Does not support death penalty. Accepts the Apocrypha for edification. Supports unity within the Christian church. Allows for a moderate use of alcohol."

Assembly of God: "Supports loyalty to the government, including involvement in military activity. Believes people are saved by faith, but may forfeit salvation by rejecting Christ. Focuses more on evangelism than social justice."

As you likely guessed, I'm going to share the Episcopal entry. I was bracing myself for a scathing critique, mostly because this article was written by a Southern Baptist (I'm prejudiced, I know). But the entry actually makes me want to go back to church and quit my hiatus. Don't take this as a "Ha ha! He liked my (currently favored) denomination over them all!" He liked different parts of all the services he attended. I'm sharing this because I really appreciated his words, as they so closely mirror my own love for Sunday mornings at Saint Mark's, and made me think how much I've missed them:

My favorite service so far. The "Holy Eucharist, Rite II" begins at 10:30 a.m. I open the wooden doors and see a monstrous pipe organ backing up the choir loft. The entire place is lit by sunlight pouring through the huge windows. Beautiful.

I take a seat. Behind me, the choir begins singing a hymn, "They Cast Their Nets in Galilee," which I've never heard. Wearing white vestments, they proceed down the aisle into the choir loft. We then stand to sing another hymn, followed by the first reading of the day, and then the choir chants Psalm 27, Gregorian-style. Cool. We alternate between Scripture readings, hymns (no projected words) and prayers from the Book of Common Prayer. It's a challenge to juggle the worship-order handout, the hymnal and the prayer book. I need a third hand.

The sermon is short and unspectacular, but it's given by the associate rector, who is female--the first female pastor I've encountered so far. She offers a brief exposition of the "great light" lectionary text and its fulfillment in Jesus as the culmination of Israel. It's a pretty intellectual approach. Then we recite the Nicene Creed, followed by the "Confession of Sin." Together, as a congregation, we recite a wonderful prayer, including this passage:

We have not loved You with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We are truly sorry and we humbly repent.

When we finish, the priest says, "Almighty God have mercy on you, forgive you all your sins through our Lord Jesus Christ," and it's such a good reminder. I love this part.

For the Eucharist, we proceed a row at a time to the front. I hear the administrant's voices: "The body of Christ, the bread of heaven. The blood of Christ, the cup of salvation."

I can't overemphasize the satisfaction I get from this service. It's contemplative, reverent and serious. There's no swaying or hand-clapping, but the congregation participates through prayers, confessions, and responses. I hear more scripture read than in any Baptist service I've attended. Communion is central--just like last week's mass--but the Episcopal church lets me participate, acknowledging me as a fellow Christian. That's significant. The liturgy is different, but the words are deeply meaningful. I get the sense that the focus of the service isn't on the music, or the preaching, or even on making visitors feel comfortable. It's on Jesus. It's crazy how that seems so revolutionary.

...

My denominational romp has been rewarding and educational. Granted, no single church represents the entirety of any denomination, I have learned a few things about myself along the way. Before, I probably would have said my top criterion in joining a church would be based on its pastor. How good of a preacher is he? How inspiring is the sermon?

But not now. My favorite service was the Episcopal church, and I hardly recall the message. What I remember was the sunlit atmosphere, the liturgy, the feeling that I was participating in something ancient and holy and serious. I'm not about to leave my own church community to join them, but it does make me think hard about how we do church...

For the whole article, pick up a copy of the May/June issue. Here at the library or wherever they're sold. Its cover is weird: the word "Injustice" in large all caps behind a picture of a guy standing on a woman's back as she lies facedown in a puddle. Nice. The title of the related article is: "War, Consumerism, Faith, Culture, Politics & Gay Rights: You Asked the Questions--We Found the Answers." Oh, re-he-he-he-heeealay? (Ace Ventura, anyone?)

Actually, their panel who responded to these 'burning' issues is intriguing: Steve Brown, Shane Claiborne, Chuck Colson, Cindy Jacobs, Brian McLaren, Nancy Ortberg, Jim Wallis, and N.T. Wright.


"As a feminist, and someone who feels that women are marginalized in this industry, I'm thrilled that women are getting this sort of recognition."

4.23.2008


- Diablo Cody, winner of 2008 best original screenplay for Juno (above is Diablo with her oscar). Four films written by women were nominated this year, an Oscar record. Found out in Ms.

"I became like a band member whose instrument was the camera"

4.22.2008



(photo by Linda McCartney)

Another interesting tidbit from the Telegraph (bolding mine):

Before she married a Beatle, Linda McCartney was a professional photographer. During the 1960s, her celebrated shots of rock gods such as Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix (whom she famously photographed mid-yawn) helped to invent the genre of rock photography. She was the first female photographer to have work - a portrait of Eric Clapton - on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine.

But a new exhibition of her photographs at James Hyman Gallery in Mayfair suggests that she should be remembered not just as someone who documented famous faces, but as an artist in her own right.

Spanning three decades and featuring 28 platinum prints selected by her husband Paul, the show includes photographs of instantly recognisable people such as Mick Jagger and Janis Joplin. There is a fascinating picture of John Lennon and McCartney amicably working together during a recording session at Abbey Road in 1969 - when they were popularly believed to have been at each others' throats.

But the retrospective also presents less familiar photographs that are bold and beautiful, including a moody landscape of the Scottish countryside that recalls the work of Ansel Adams, and a picture of old men wearing flat caps that could have been taken by Bill Brandt.

Perhaps Linda's biggest strength as a photographer was her eye for startling compositions. One of the best photographs on display was taken during a family holiday in their cottage near the Mull of Kintyre in Scotland in 1982. Paul looks playfully relaxed in slippers and dressing gown, balancing on a rickety fence, while his son James leaps from the bonnet of a Land Rover and his daughter Stella sits in the foreground, absorbed in some private game.

It's a formally complex picture: Stella's hunched body visually echoes the sack and the standing stones on the left; James, generating maximum lift-off with his outstretched right leg, mirrors the dog in the background, its body also taut with energy; Paul balances the dark mass of the vehicle and the cottage. James's fearless jump recalls a well-known photograph from 1960 of the French artist Yves Klein leaping off the top of a wall.

Despite its rigour and compositional harmony, the picture wasn't staged. Like Cartier-Bresson, Linda was always searching for the "decisive moment", and here she managed to click the shutter at just the right time, creating an image that not only looks good, but captures her family's characters, too. It is easy to read Paul's balancing act as a metaphor for the difficulty of being a decent dad as well as one of the world's most famous men.

Elsewhere there is a fine shot taken in 1976 in which Paul looks onto the street from a hotel room in Venice (in a neat twist, Linda presents her scrutinised husband looking at other people). He sits in profile on the left, but the true "subject" appears to be the swirling black metalwork of the balcony's balustrade in the centre, again signalling McCartney's sense for intricate and intriguing compositions.

Perhaps the most successful photograph is a self-portrait taken in Francis Bacon's studio in 1997, just months before Linda died of breast cancer. Like the photograph of her family on holiday in Scotland, it is a complex work that repays close attention.

Linda photographs her reflection in a cracked mirror. There she is on the left, her hair clipped short following chemotherapy, her right hand just out of sight as she manipulates the camera on its tripod. The bust on the right is a cast of the death mask of William Blake, which Bacon painted. The two heads talk to each other, as if to say that Linda wanted this photograph to function as a death mask of her own. This is not an easy work: the death mask, shattered mirror, empty sofa and Linda's illness make us reflect on absence, loss and mortality. But it is utterly compelling.

Not every photograph in the show is so good. There are one or two kitsch images, such as a picture of horses frolicking in snow, which I suspect were included because they will sell well, rather than on aesthetic merit. But, a decade after her death, these photographs lend Linda a new lease of life - as an artist.

My two favorites:


Simon and Garfunkel, CBS Studios, New York, 1966





John and Paul recording, Abbey Road, London, 1968 (mentioned in the article)

And then two more photos:


John Lennon, London, 1968


Paul McCartney, 1966 (mentioned in the article)

Impropaganda

Any Monty Python fans? Or just John Cleese fans?

Did you know that he's offered to write Obama's speeches for him if he wins the nomination?

From the Telegraph, April 9:

Monty Python comedian John Cleese is to offer his services as a speechwriter to Barack Obama if he wins the Democratic nomination to become US president.

Cleese, who lives in California, told the Western Daily Press newspaper that his jokes could help the Illinois senator get into the White House.

"I am due to come to Europe in November but I may be tied up until then because if Barack Obama gets the nomination I'm going to offer my services to him as a speechwriter because I think he is a brilliant man," the 68-year-old said.


In 1987, he recorded a party political broadcast for the SDP-Liberal Alliance, the previous incarnation of the Liberal Democrats.

Here it is.



Broadcast on April Fools Day 1987

"Every new poem is like finding a new bride. Words are so erotic, they never tire of their coupling."

4.20.2008

 - Stanley Kunitz

Being unmarried has its perks, but I read poems like this one and think "Schiza Minnelli."



by Sharon Olds


break in the poetry

4.19.2008

*UPDATE* Ok, the last three are really hard. I probably wouldn't even recognize them on someone else's list. So just to finish out the game, I'll add them in. Thanks to all who played!

Just for any readers who might need a cut in the poetry, no one's named the movies of these following quotes. I'll add another quote to teach to make it a little bit easier.


3. "I want rustlers, cut throats, murderers, bounty hunters, desperados, mugs, pugs, thugs, nitwits, halfwits, dimwits, vipers, snipers, con men, Indian agents, Mexican bandits, muggers, buggerers, bushwhackers, hornswogglers, horse thieves, bull dykes, train robbers, bank robbers, ass-kickers, shit-kickers and Methodists."

"Now is a time of great decision / Are we to stay or up and quit? / There's no avoiding this conclusion: / Our town is turning into shit." - Blazing Saddles (1974), Aliie!


6. "You think beautiful girls are going to stay stars forever? I should say not! Any minute now they're going to be out! Finished! Then it'll be my turn!"

"No law against waiting," I said, "people do it everyday." For once, I didn't say too much, I didn't say too little, I said just enough, and then walked away! - Funny Girl (1968)


8. "Don't forget, a great impression of simplicity can only be achieved by great agony of body and spirit."

"You cannot have it both ways. A dancer who relies upon the doubtful comforts of human love can never be a great dancer. Never." - The Red Shoes (1948), Moomin Light!


9. "I sacrificed three years for you. How could you love him after only three days?"

"A rare beauty in the North. She's the finest lady on earth. A glance from her, the whole city goes down. A second glance leaves the nation in ruins. There exists no city or nation that has been more cherished than a beauty like this. A rare beauty in the North. She's the finest lady on earth. A glance from her, the whole city goes down. A second glance leaves the nation in ruins. There exists no city or nation that has been more cherished than a beauty like this." - House of Flying Daggers (2004)


10. "When I'm done, you'll look like...What do you call beautiful? A tree. You'll look like a tree."

"Every girl on every page of Quality has grace, elegance, and pizzazz. Now what's wrong with bringing out a girl who has character, spirit, and intelligence?" - Funny Face (1957), Moomin Light!

13. "Aren't you ever gonna stop deluding yourself, hmm? Handling Max? Behaving like some ludicrous little underage femme fatale? You're... you're about as fatale as an afterdinner mint!"

"The only thing you can do with virgins like that is pounce!"- Cabaret (1972)

Good luck!


In Paris With You

by James Fenton

Read it here.

it's hard to imagine that God has time to pay a visit to something so wry and so self-mocking. And yet, weirdly, He does.

4.18.2008

I recently finished Songbook by Nick Hornby.  It's a quick, satisfying read if you are a music lover, or at least a music-obsessor (not to be confused with music snob).  

"...but that, of course, didn't stop me from finding [the song] and playing and playing it until it become a part of me, a permanent deposit in my tune bank.  And that's what music needs: this kind of devotion, this assumption that the artists know what they're doing and that, if you give them the time and requisite confidence, they will deliver something you will end up cherishing."

"...music is such a pure form of self-expression, and lyrics, because they consist of words, are so impure, and song-writers, even great ones...find that, even though they can produce both, words will always let you down.  One half of [one's] art is aspiring toward the condition of the other half, and that must be weird, to feel so divinely inspired and so fallibly human, all at the same time.  Maybe it's only songwriters who have ever had any inkling of what Jesus felt on a bad day." 

"Dave Eggers has a theory that we play songs over and over, those of us who do, because we have to "solve" them, and it's true that in our early relationship with, and courtship of, a new song, there is a stage which is akin to a sort of emotional puzzlement.  There's a little bit in "I'm like a Bird," for example, about halfway through, where the voice is double-tracked on a phrase, and the effect--especially on someone who is not a musician, someone who loves and appreciates music but is baffled and seduced by even the simplest musical tricks--is rich and fresh and addictive."

"I try not to believe in God, of course, but sometimes things happen in music, in songs, that bring me up short, make me do a double take.  When things add up to more than the sum of their parts, when the effects achieved are inexplicable, then atheists like me start to get into difficult territory.  Take Rufus Wainwright's version of his father Loudon's "One Man Guy," for example.  There should be nothing evoking the spirit about it, really: the song's lovely, but it's a little sour, a little sad, jokey--the joke being that the song is not about the joys of monogamy but is about the joys of solipsism and misanthropy, a joke that is given a neat little twist by Wainwright Junior's sexual orientation--and it's hard to imagine that God has time to pay a visit to something so wry and so self-mocking.  And yet, weirdly, He does.  There's no doubt about it.  (And, of course, in doing so, He answers once and for all the question of what he thinks of homosexuality: He's not bothered one way or the other.  Official.)"

The book is not so much music criticism as music appreciation--certain songs that (brilliant or not) made an indelible impact on Hornby's life.  And in the hands of a writer like Hornby, it's a joy to read about the love of listening to music.

Dave Eggers of McSweeneys is a friend of Hornby's, so in honor of the book the website had other people submit essays about their favorite songs.  Included are essays on "Willy" by Joni Mitchell, "Penny Lane" and "She Came in Through the Bathroom Window" by the Beatles, "One Tree Hill" by U2, "Another Bites the Dust" by Queen, "Unbreak My Heart" by Toni Braxton, "Alison" by Elvis Costello, "A Whole New World" from Aladdin, and more.

And of course Hornby talks about "Thunder Road" in Songbook.  How could he not?  

new favorite musical

4.17.2008


Who knew I had room in my heart for any more, right? Well, scoot over and make some room Evita because I'm currently obsessed with Spring Awakening.

And I'm not alone. It won 8 Tony Awards last year. 8. For Best Musical, Best Book of A Musical, Best Original Score, Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical, Best Direction of a Musical, Best Choreography, Best Orchestrations, and Best Lighting Design of a Musical. Ow!

It's based on a German play from 1891 by Frank Wedekind. It was banned for its controversial subjects including rape, masturbation, abortion, and suicide. The overall theme is about adolescent sexuality and growing up to become adults. How do our parents and teachers and mentors prepare us for the world? Read more about the plot here (there are spoilers so beware).

All the songs are written by Duncan Sheik with lyrics by Steven Sater. I had never heard of Duncan but I recognized his hit song "Barely Breathing" (you would know it if you heard it) . I haven't heard the entire score yet (it's on its way), but I can't, can't, can't stop listening to the song "Touch Me." I'll be honest, it was kind of an awkward song to listen to at first. Check out the full lyrics here.



Here's the cast singing it on "The View." I'd turn it off after the song's over because then Rosie fusses all over them, but ack! it kills me. Such a great song:



The best part of all?

I don't have to go to New York to see it. It's coming to the town in October. I'm SUPER excited. Many are saying that while very different from RENT, it may make the same impact on today's youth as RENT did in the mid-nineties (and still is). Anybody want to join me?

What if you could choose when or how someone broke up with you?

4.15.2008

Right now I am completely obsessed with Bernadette Peter's version of Andrew Lloyd Webber's song "Tell Me On A Sunday." It's originally from a show of the same title, then was added to his show "Song & Dance."

The lyrics of the song are from the perspective of someone who is anticipating being dumped by someone they love. And they are making some requests for how exactly they want the news:

Don't write a letter when you want to leave
Don't call me at 3 a.m. from a friend's apartment
I'd like to choose how I hear the news
Take me to a park that's covered with trees
Tell me on a Sunday please

Let me down easy
No big song and dance
No long faces, no long looks
No deep conversation
I know the way we should spend that day
Take me to a zoo that's got chimpanzees
Tell me on a Sunday please

Don't want to know who's to blame
It won't help knowing
Don't want to fight day and night
Bad enough you're going

Don't leave in silence with no word at all
Don't get drunk and slam the door
That's no way to end this
I know how I want you to say goodbye
Find a circus ring with a flying trapeze
Tell me on a Sunday please

Don't run off in the pouring rain
Don't call me as they call your plane
Take the hurt out of all the pain
Take me to a park that's covered with trees
Tell me on a Sunday please



Not only is the song such a perfect showtune (agony! tears! self-pity!), but it got me thinking. How would I like to be broken up with, if I could choose? I'd likely change some of the lyrics to:

Don't change your relationship status on your facebook profile
Don't text me at 3am from a local bar stool
I'd like to choose how I hear the news
Hand me mini corn-dogs smothered in cheese
Tell me on a payday please

You know, something like that. How would you like to be broken up with?

Here Comes the Sun


Good news: the Concert for George soundtrack is now available on iTunes. My favorites (that I can remember from watching the DVD a year or two ago) are:

- "Photograph" sung by Ringo. He co-wrote this song with George and the lyrics fit the occasion of the concert so perfectly and sweetly. "I can't get used to living here while my heart is broke, my tears I cried for you. I want you here to have and hold, as the years go by and we grow old and grey."

- "Something" sung by Paul and Eric Clapton.

- "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" sung by Eric Clapton.

- "Wah Wah" cause it's a total rock-out celebration.

- "Handle with Care" sung by Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty, Dhani Harrison, and the Heartbreakers. Where was Bob? I don't know.

- "I'll See You in My Dreams" sung by Joe Brown. Such a sweet song with a ukulele.

If you haven't seen the DVD and you're a Beatles fan, you should definitely catch it. It's amazing to see how much Dhani Harrison looks like his dad.

Movie Quote Game

4.14.2008

From Moomin Light:

  • Pick 15 of your favorite movies.
  • Go to IMDb and find a quote from each movie (or quote them from memory).
  • Post them on your blog for everyone to guess.
  • Fill in the film title once it’s been guessed.

These are the players’ rules:
No Googling or using IMDb search functions (don’t cheat!).
Leave your answer(s) in the comments.

I pick the quotes; you guess without internet aid. I'll post the results as they come in.


1. "I don't want to be worshipped. I want to be loved." - Philadelphia Story (1940), Robb (who was too cool to actually comment)

2. "Where is Rebecca, my Becki-weckio?" - Kiss Me Kate (1953), Moomin Light!

3. "I want rustlers, cut throats, murderers, bounty hunters, desperados, mugs, pugs, thugs, nitwits, halfwits, dimwits, vipers, snipers, con men, Indian agents, Mexican bandits, muggers, buggerers, bushwhackers, hornswogglers, horse thieves, bull dykes, train robbers, bank robbers, ass-kickers, shit-kickers and Methodists."

4. "These are my BREASTS. They're so BIG. I need a BRA to strap them and support because they're so HUGE they need to be hooked and strapped for support." - Superstar (1999), Kristen!

5. "At least you'll never be a vegetable - even artichokes have hearts." - Amelie (2001), Spiro!

6. "You think beautiful girls are going to stay stars forever? I should say not! Any minute now they're going to be out! Finished! Then it'll be my turn!"

7. "I was so lucky getting mono. That was like the best diet ever." - Romy and Michele's High School Reunion (1997), Johanna!

8. "Don't forget, a great impression of simplicity can only be achieved by great agony of body and spirit."

9. "I sacrificed three years for you. How could you love him after only three days?"

10. "When I'm done, you'll look like...What do you call beautiful? A tree. You'll look like a tree."

11. "With Major Lawrence, mercy is a passion. With me, it is merely good manners. You may judge which motive is the more reliable." - Lawrence of Arabia (1962), DF!

12. "God, thy will is hard. But you hold every card. I will drink your cup of poison, nail me to your cross and break me, bleed me, beat me, kill me! Take me now, before I change my mind!" - Jesus Christ Superstar (1973), Moomin Light!

13. "Aren't you ever gonna stop deluding yourself, hmm? Handling Max? Behaving like some ludicrous little underage femme fatale? You're... you're about as fatale as an afterdinner mint!"

14. "Paris? No. Not this city. It's too real and too beautiful to ever let you forget anything." - An American in Paris (1951), Steve Emery!

15. "Just as you are? Not thinner? Not cleverer? Not with slightly bigger breasts or slightly smaller nose?" - Bridget Jones' Diary (2001), Moomin Light!


Man, this is fun. I could go on and on. Aren't we lucky to be living in an age when we can own our favorite movies and watch them whenever want? The same with music. Technology may someday be the end of us, but it sure has its benefits.

McSweeney's Redux

4.09.2008

FILM SCHOOL
IN THREE LINES
OR LESS.

BY BEN JOSEPH

- - - -
Citizen Kane
CHARLES FOSTER KANE: I'm dying now. I miss my childhood.
REPORTER: Wealth and power have truly made you an asshole.
WORKER: No one cares if I burn this sled, right?

The Deer Hunter
ROBERT DE NIRO: Russian roulette is a precarious and dangerous game.
CHRISTOPHER WALKEN: One could almost compare it to our nation's current situation in Vietnam.
(Both turn and stare at camera for three hours.)

West Side Story
TONY: Cinema has a long literary tradition. This one's based on Shakespeare.
MARIA: Just like that Amanda Bynes movie!
TONY: (Sigh.) Let's just dance-fight.

The Graduate
BEN: Now that I'm done with college, I don't know who I am.
MRS. ROBINSON: Cougar bait?
BEN: Eh, that was fun, but I want to give the next-gen model a spin.

The Philadelphia Story
CARY GRANT: Sex in the 1940s took place entirely in the form of witty banter.
KATHARINE HEPBURN: Indubitably.

The Godfather
THE GODFATHER: Family is really important, and, um ... Wait, did you even see all these movies?
ME: Yes. Maybe. There were nap breaks.
ALL MY FILM PROFESSORS: You are a horrible, horrible person.