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Oh, yes please.

3.31.2009



A school in Kent, England tried giving 300 high school students three days of the week to sleep in. Classes didn't start until 11:30 and ended at 5:30pm. They thought that teenagers minds work better during the day, and they were right: attendance, exam results, and behavior improved.

"Paul Kelley, the headteacher there, has been running a research project into teenagers' body-rhythms, which suggests that forcing students to start earlier in the day has a detrimental impact on their education and health."

- The Times Educational Supplement, March 20, 2009

Amen. If only they had done this at my high school. 7:40 is such an ungodly hour it's practically satanic. (I wanted to find a good picture of someone sleeping in, but the cat will do. I want to sleep in with it.)

New favorite blog.

3.25.2009

Because I don't spend enough of my time reading blogs, here's another to add to the list. So far I've read about her drinking games at bad movies, and her saved text messages. Good grief, she's hilarious. Her name is Sarah, and she's a friend of Dooce (Heather). Here's a snippet for you of bad-movie-drinking-games:

"This movie was hands down THE BEST worst movie I’ve ever seen, like someone crammed three movies into one hole and just let it fester and burn. And it totally burned; everything in this movie burns, including a fiery moose that was screaming and bucking like a bronco, and definitely the highlight for all three of us. This movie was so awful that we didn’t have to worry about bothering anyone by drinking and laughing; the entire theater was laughing as well, and Chris started a slow clap at the end that caught on and I would have totally bought a round for everyone in there because we all earned it...

This movie also inspired Tracie and me to decorate a room in our homes as the Crazy Room, that tiny room they always discover in movies where the crazy person has been holed up, covering the walls with articles cut out from newspapers, and it’s always SO SCARY OH MY GOD NEWSPRINT EVERYWHERE EVERYWHERE. I think it’d be a fresh new direction in interior design, a bold change from all of this current mid-century clean lines mixed with occasional quirky antlers business; just a small, poorly lit room wallpapered with curling, yellowing articles, a rickety card table and a jar of questionable amber liquid, maybe some bowls of fingernail clippings here and there. We’ll put Etsy out of business with this shit. You should come over."

What I would GIVE to be this funny. And here's a bit from when she saw He's Just Not That Into You:

"There was this one great scene, though, when Jennifer Aniston had to walk a dog down the aisle in a coral satin bridesmaid dress, smirking and hurting, head held high. Man but America sure does like Jennifer Aniston to do our hurting for us, don’t we? Nick said she’s like our Princess Di, which makes sense to me, because America seems to love her best when she’s all fragile and dumped and blonde and brave facing it on a beach somewhere. There was a time about a year ago when we were still in dark days as a nation, no hope or end in sight, when I remember thinking that maybe the one thing that could cure America’s pain was for Jennifer Aniston to give birth to a fat blonde baby. Maaaan wouldn’t that have been some ointment for our national wounds! But God forbid she display any sarcasm; I read some article recently where she namechecked some of Brad and Angelina’s litter when one reporter too many asked her about them, and then you could feel America be like okay whoa whoa WHOA, Aniston, don’t be a freaky stalker who knows Shiloh’s name. Even though everyone else knows Shiloh’s name. In your place, missy. Which is apparently walking a dog down the aisle while crying on the inside. That’s where we like you."

And best of all, some of her saved text messages, my favorites in bold:

"I have champagne in my bra right now.

You know what I just realized, this place isn’t about ribs, it’s about having a good time.

It’s been decided that the creepiest way to wake up would be to Art Garfunkel crying softly into your hair.

It’s 2:00 am and I really had to concentrate to find the colon. Hey-o! That’s what she said!

I’m watching the Today Show and I just realized, I hate white people.

Are you pimping me out to the U.S. Navy now?

So I don’t know if “Brazilian wax” means different things to different people or something but oh my god help me.

I’m drunk on a Monday, so it feels like you should be here.

I think I held onto 16 as long as I could.

I am medium rare well. I only date astronauts now. I like my men grimy with lunar soil. What’s up?

Two new deviant sex acts discovered this evening: a dutch baby and the James Van der Beek.

Valhalla, are you co-ming?

You were right. I made out in a Volvo before June 1.

This morning, in bed: “Around 5 am, I hid some plastic eggs around the room for you. One has a $50 Chili’s gift card inside, so, you know.”

Fuck a shark or shoot your mom?

The rules are: shark is in water, not sedated, and you have to shoot your mom in the face if you do.

Because she was dumped at the prom by ENIAC

Why is eating Taco Bell alone just so sad?

I’m at Cracker Barrel and I just realized, I hate white people.

I want to organize a small get-together, just you, me, Mr. Bear, Grandma Lightbulb, James, and that balloon kid.

Remember when guys used to part their hair?

The dude whose dad fought the monkey is coming!

No, I vote dick in real life.

Band of Horses and M.Ward have both played on the plane while boarding. When did Natalie Portman buy Delta?

You and your witchcraft!

Something terrible just happened involving the purple underwear in my bag and the exec editor of the NY Times.

Texting in the bathtub: would Mr. Wizard approve? There’s your answer.

I need to find a way to let my mom know that people aren’t supposed to say “oriental” anymore.

Have spent the past two hours trying to book a hotel in Paris. None of them have Looney Tunes sheets, what’s that about?

My entire neighborhood has been swallowed by Sam Ronson’s vagina.

Can five people make one baby together?

You’re the new you! Mary J. Blige and I watch proudly like Obi Wan and Yoda at end of RotJ

Speedo, Kenny Rogers, mistletoe

Dreaming of cow stomach lining while sitting awkwardly on a salmon colored ottoman amid a sea of off-white silk. Sigh.

This is not an email you ever want to receive. From my mom, full text: What would you think about Dad buying a pet crematory?

I’m at a Chipotle in Chelsea and I would love to tell you that I just realized I hate white people, but I’m actually the only white person in here.

What can I say, I love a widow’s peak and an internet porn addiction.

Nothing says euro tourists like two guys walking down the street in brown leather jackets drinking tiny grape juices.

I’m keeping it. It works like velcro and makes the kids stay there.

If I were a gypsy, I’d be a grandmother by now.

And… I’m in love with you…

You should let your fingerprints grow back, just to be safe."



My stomach hurts. Laughing is my form of sit-ups (which clearly works like A DREAM).

Anyone got a good cure for goosebumps?

3.24.2009


I swear, all it takes is a mention of one of his songs--one that I love, that is--and I'm pulled back into my torrent of Bruce Springsteen enthrallment, however brief. The youtube videos alone can sustain it for days, weeks even.

Today's trigger is "Because the Night." Now it's rather disputed as to who wrote this song, but it seems to have been a collaboration between Bruce and Patti Smith. According to the song's wikipedia page, Bruce was in the same set of studios as Patti when he was recording Darkness On the Edge of Town as her group was putting together Easter. Some say the song was a created between the two artists: Bruce starting with the music and then Patti adding the lyrics. Others say they wrote the song together, and then the theory that Bruce wrote the song and gave it to Patti.* The wikipedia page says that Bruce wrote it but it wasn't fitting in with the rest of the album. This original version had a slightly latin feel, and masculine 'workman's lament'-centered lyrics.

Here's my favorite online version by Bruce.  The sound isn't synched well and the quality is only adequate, but the result is almost dream-like (or drug-like).  Plus, it's pre-80s, which is good.  This performance gives me some serious chills.  The dark piano intro as his eerie guitar joins before he sings...



His guitar solo from 3:51 to 5:50, starting especially around the 5:00 mark, is FACE MELTING.  
To quote one of the video page's comments: "He tore that shit UP!"

If you want to hear Patti's studio version, go here, but here is a live version:



I have to say her version is fantastic, but I think both stand on their own feet.  When Patti took it--either in its creative process or afterwards--she changed the lyrics. Here are Bruce's lyrics on the left, Patti's on the right:

Take me now baby here as I am Take me now baby here as I am
Pull me close try an understand Pull me close, try and understand 
I work all day out in the hot sun Desire is hunger is the fire I breathe 
Stay with me now till the mornin' comes Love is a banquet on which we feed 
Come on now try and understand Come on now try and understand 
The way I feel when I'm in your hands The way I feel when I'm in your hands 
Take me now as the sun descends Take my hand, come undercover 
They can't hurt you now They can't hurt you now
They can't hurt you now Can't hurt you now
They can't hurt you now Can't hurt you now

Because the night belongs to lovers
Because the night belongs to lovers
Because the night belongs to us Because the night belongs to lust
Because the night belongs to lovers Because the night belongs to lovers
Because the night belongs to us Because the night belongs to us

What I got I have earned
Have I doubt when I'm alone
What I'm not I have learned                                Love is a ring, the telephone
Desire and hunger is the fire I breathe                Love is an angel disguised as lust
Just stay in my bed till the morning comes        Here in our bed until the morning comes
Come on now try and understand                       Come on now try and understand
The way I feel when I'm in your hands               The way I feel under your command
Take me now as the sun descends                       Take my hand as the sun descends
They can't hurt you now                                     They can't touch you now
They can't hurt you now                                      Can't touch you now
They can't hurt you now                                     Can't touch you now
 
Because the night...                                             
Because the night...

Your love is here and now                                  
With love we sleep, we doubt
The vicious circle turns and burns without         The vicious circle turn and burns without
Though I cannot live forgive me now                  You I cannot live, forgive the yearning, burning
The time has come to take this moment and        I believe it's time, too real to feel
They can't hurt you now                                      So touch me now

Because the night belongs to lovers                    
Because tonight there are two lovers
Because the night belongs to us...                        If we believe in the night we trust...


"For Smith, "Because the Night" represents the hedonistic abandon she enjoys when in the company of a her equally enthusiastic lover. However, in Springsteen's lyrics, there's a few extra lines that put a different spin on what the couple in the song are up to: "I work all day out in the hot sun" and "What I got I have earned, what I'm not I have learned." So, instead of simple, wanton, wet, and sticky sex, Springsteen's protagonist seems to be using the rendezvous as an escape from a job he doesn't like. It's no longer about them, it's about him. How typical (right ladies?)."

You know I love Bruce, but Matt is right.  While I would never call Bruce a misogynist, some of his songs about couples are better than others.  Just small choices like "our bed" vs. "my bed."  So I am very intrigued by the skin-crawlingly-awesome duet of the song by Bono and Bruce (featuring Dave Stewart).  Bono switches it up a bit and says, "They can't hurt US now" as opposed to "you."  Or was that even Bono's decision?  Was it Bruce's?  Isn't it likely that Bono was more familiar with Patti Smith version (Bruce never formally released it except on a collection of live takes)?  I wonder if he had to learn the Bruce version?  Regardless, he added some of his own lyrics...





*Bruce has written many songs that either were, or were intended to be, hits for other artists. I.E., "Fire" for the Pointer Sisters (originally intended for Elvis Presley), or "Hungry Heart," originally requested by Joey Ramone for The Ramones.

Sheila O'Malley on Natasha Richardson's Sally Bowles: "To say that she made me forget Liza Minnelli is an understatement."


Here's the first bit:


Re-interpreting a role that is supposedly "owned" by another person's portrayal has sunk many a fine actor. Anyone approaching the part of Stanley Kowalski, for example, must deal with the ghost of Brando, and there's nothing much you, as an actor, can do about it. Either do an impression of Brando, hoping that it will be fine and you get away with it, or try to put your own stamp on the part. But good luck with that last choice. This doesn't happen with all parts, or even all great performances. Something can be good without being definitive. For an actor to approach these parts with an air of resentment that the ghosts exist, or to wish that you could own the part all on your own without the danger of being compared to someone else, is a useless enterprise, although quite common and understandable.

Liza Minnelli played Sally Bowles in Bob Fosse's Cabaret, and her shadow is long. I have seen a ton of productions of Cabaret over the years. Actresses struggle to find their own niche, to squirm out from beneath Minnelli's influence, and usually it's a losing battle, and they end up just doing their best Liza Imitation and calling it a day. Often roles are not even to BE "interpreted." Just play what's there, make it real, embody the characteristics required, and come alive under imaginary circumstances. It's rare that someone can come along and give a new "spin" on a well-known character. Liza Minnelli, in all her glitter and mania, her show-trash survival skills, her twisted Fosse poses, and her spidery false eyelashes, claimed all available ground for the interpretation of Sally Bowles.

Until 1998, when a revival of Cabaret came to the Roundabout here in New York, created by Sam Mendes and choreographed (and co-directed) by Rob Marshall. The revival starred Natasha Richardson as Sally Bowles and Alan Cumming as the "Emcee" (another role that was pretty much "owned" by Joel Grey until Cumming came along).

I saw it in its original incarnation where there was a pit down in front where you could buy seats, sit at a table, and order a bottle of wine, as though you were actually at the nightclub in Germany. It made a world of difference in the feel of the show that it was not done strictly in a proscenium setting. That's one of the strengths of Cabaret as it is written. The audience becomes implicated in what is going on. If you sit there and clap at the end of "Tomorrow Belongs To Me," then what does that say about you?

With only one or two overly didactic moments, the Roundabout Company's version of Cabaret went full throttle in that direction, and it was so visceral at one point on the night I saw it that the entire audience spontaneously did NOT clap at the end of one huge number. I have never before (and never since) been to a big glitzy Broadway show, regardless of the theme, where such a spontaneous withholding of applause has occurred. It sounds corny and perhaps obvious, but it just felt wrong to applaud. The silence in that theater resonated, ricocheted. The true horror behind Cabaret and the culture it depicts, not to mention the approaching world-wide cataclysm was in that silence.

It was one of the most exciting nights of theater of my life.

Natasha Richardson, certainly not a singer at the level of Minnelli, was faced with numerous challenges when starting to work on this role, which she was quite open about in interviews. How would she do this part? How would she handle the singing, the dancing, all of the complicated elements, how would she get her voice in shape so that she could handle doing eight shows a week, and also, oh yeah, how would she make an audience forget that they had ever heard of Liza Minnelli?

To say that she made me forget Liza Minnelli is an understatement. I sat with my friend at one of the nightclub tables up front, and when Richardson stood in the stark spotlight, center stage, and sang "Maybe This Time," something started going on inside of me. I can count on one hand the times I have ever felt what I felt as an audience member that night, and in that moment in particular. I started to feel hot. Uncomfortably so. Not one tear fell down my face. There was no catharsis with her performance, no letting the audience off the hook. I felt hot with suppression. All kinds of personal griefs came washing up with the tide as she sang, a shaky and desperate ragdoll up there, her arms dangling uselessly, her eyes mad and huge, trying to sing her way out of the pit she was in. I forgot where I was, who I was. I forgot that I had a glass of wine on the table, I forgot it was a show. I forgot about Liza Minnelli, and I forgot about comparing the sound of the songs to the well-known versions in my head. Instead, I was stuck in my chair, riveted, unable to look away, and at the same time I wanted to flee down the street, because Richardson's performance was dredging up too much pain. At one point, during "Maybe This Time," my friend reached out across the table and grabbed onto my hand. And so I was not having that experience alone. Natasha Richardson reached up and out into that blinding spotlight, and grabbed all of us by the damn throats, with nary a gesture—she never moved her arms. She just, with the sheer raw power of her performance, made us sit there and take it. If she could take it, we could.



Read the rest here (and watch videos of Natasha singing "Maybe This Time" and "Cabaret").

"One family is about to face the music."

3.18.2009






I'm getting really excited to Next to Normal, coming this month to Broadway. The OBC recording comes out in May. Read about it here.

all the world is only you and me

3.17.2009

Vanity Fair, I heart you.


West Side Story Revisited.


"West Side Story is gang warfare set to music. It’s dance as a weapon. It’s love and death with a Latin beat. West Side Story rocks. The first thing you hear is snapping fingers. That beat. The hoodlums who make up the rival gangs the Sharks (Puerto Rican) and the Jets (Anglo-Irish-Italian) fill the frame in the early going, trying to out-macho one another with charged moves, only to give way to the riveting heroines Maria and Anita.

The inspiration for West Side Story came to choreographer-director Jerome Robbins in 1949. It was just the wisp of an idea at first … Romeo and Juliet updated for modern-day, urban America. Then, in the mid-1950s, he read newspaper accounts of Puerto Rican gangs fighting it out with veteran neighborhood gangs, and something clicked. Robbins was just the person to see it through. He was no stranger to the meaner side of life, having been born on Manhattan’s Lower East Side long before it was a cute place to meet for drinks. He enlisted the help of three brilliant collaborators—Leonard Bernstein (music), Stephen Sondheim (lyrics), and Arthur Laurents (book)—and brought West Side Story to the stage in 1957. Not everyone got it. As Robbins biographer Deborah Jowitt notes, “No previous Broadway musical had ended Act I with two dead bodies onstage and Act II with a third.” But a perceptive critic of the age, Kenneth Tynan, called the show a “rampaging ballet, with bodies flying from the air as if shot from guns.”

Robbins and co-director Robert Wise managed to hang on to that quality for their 1961 film version, which won 10 Academy Awards. Not that Robbins cared all that much about pats on the back from the Hollywood establishment. He put his two Oscars (one for directing and a special award for choreography) in the basement, according to Jowitt. Of the trophies themselves, Robbins complained in a letter to a friend that they had “no faces, no fingers, no asses, no balls, no nothing. They’re bland like Hollywood, they’re gold and glued over.” But the movie has cojones to spare—without stinting on elegance. (Not that certain cojones aren’t elegant.)

A huge West Side Story fan is Jennifer Lopez, who says she watched the film “37 times” as a kid growing up in the Bronx. She was especially attracted to Anita, played by Rita Moreno in the film—a fiery foil to Natalie Wood’s dewy Maria. Says Lopez, “I never wanted to be that wimpy Maria, who sits around pining for her guy. I wanted to be Anita, who danced her way to the top.” With this portfolio, J.Lo gets her wish, and so do we. —JIM WINDOLF
"


BORN TO IT
With this pose Jennifer Lopez captures the essence of Anita, the defiant Latina immigrant. Rita Moreno won an Oscar for her Anita in the film version—and would go on to win an Emmy, a Grammy, and a Tony in a show-business maneuver so rare that it is now referred to as “the Moreno sweep.” While Lopez’s mantel isn’t quite that full, she is equally at ease on-screen, in the recording studio, and onstage.


TURF BATTLE
The Sharks and the Jets mark out a piece of urban turf while simultaneously expressing the joy of being young, vigorous, and able to kick ass. As Bernardo, in red, Rodrigo Santoro (Behind the Sun) leads fellow Sharks played by Brandon T. Jackson (Tropic Thunder) and Jay Hernandez (Grindhouse, Hostel, Ladder 49). The Jets’ leader, Riff, in yellow, is played by Chris Evans, equally hot-headed in the role of the Torch in the Fantastic Four movies. Rounding out his crew are Cam Gigandet (The O.C., Twilight), Drake Bell (yes, the Drake, of Nickelodeon’s Drake & Josh), and Robert Pattinson (Edward in Twilight, Cedric Diggory in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire). They are not fully visible but they don’t mind, because they know the maxim, “There are no small parts, only small actors.” (Personally I think photographer Mark Selinger did a great job compositing the two famous photos of the gangs--except for this hiding-Rob-Pattinson-tomfoolery:)




THE DRESS SHOP
Bernardo (Rodrigo Santoro), is focused on his girlfriend, Anita (Jennifer Lopez), whose far-off gaze suggests she dreams of moving beyond the confines of the seamstress’s life. Bernardo’s little sister—the heroine of the film’s Romeo-and-Juliet drama—is Maria, here brought back to life by ingenue Camilla Belle, who played a fetching cavewoman in the would-be international blockbuster 10,000 B.C. Maria’s initial disappointment with the white dress sewn for her by Anita soon gives way to anticipation as she realizes the dress will cause her to stand out at the dance, where trouble shall begin in earnest.


THE DANCE
Between Maria (Camilla Belle, far left) and Tony (Ben Barnes, far right, also known as Prince Caspian), it is dancing, dancing, dancing. Latin steps predominate on the left, as the Sharks and their ladies give America a taste of the culture to come. On the right, we have a series of funky Anglo moves, as the Jets and their gals go rhythmically at it. On either side, our two tragic protagonists have eyes only for each other. The lead Sharks dancers are Anita (J.Lo, in an incredible pose) and Bernardo (Rodrigo Santoro). The Jet girl dancing with Riff (Chris Evans) is played by Ashley Tisdale (of High School Musical fame). Rounding out the Sharks, left to right: Minka Kelly (she’s Lyla on Friday Night Lights), Jay Hernandez, Natalie Martinez (Death Race), Brandon T. Jackson, Melonie Diaz (A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints). On the Jets’ side: Sean Faris (Never Back Down), Shane Lynch (she’s gonna be big), Robert Pattinson, Cam Gigandet, Trilby Glover (88 Minutes), Brittany Snow (Hairspray), Drake Bell.


THE ROOFTOP
Before West Side Story takes its tragic turn, Anita (Jennifer Lopez, amazing in purple) drives the film’s most effervescent and sexually charged scene: the rocking rooftop song-and-dance sequence set to “America.” The lyrics, by a young Stephen Sondheim (Sweeney Todd, etc.), give Anita all the ammunition she needs to top the verbal thrusts and parries delivered by Bernardo (Rodrigo Santoro, to the left of J.Lo) and his band of toughs. From left to right: Jay Hernandez, Brandon T. Jackson, Sean Faris, Shane Lynch, Melonie Diaz, Minka Kelly, Natalie Martinez.


TONIGHT, TONIGHT
Tony (Ben Barnes) is trying to leave behind his old street-fighting ways … which is tough for him to pull off, now that he has fallen in love with Maria (Camilla Belle), who happens to be the sister of top Shark Bernardo. But tonight is a night for a serenade. A fire escape takes the place of a Veronese balcony, but the underlying emotions that have brought Tony and Maria out of their enemy camps are the same ones that fired Romeo and Juliet, not to mention James Carville and Mary Matalin.


THE KNIVES COME OUT
At Tony’s urging, the Sharks and the Jets agree to an old-fashioned street fight, no weapons. But on a night so charged, it’s inevitable the knives will come out. Shark leader Bernardo (Rodrigo Santoro) delivers the fatal blow to Jets kingpin Riff (Chris Evans) as helpless Tony (Ben Barnes) bears witness. By the end of the scene, Bernardo is on the pavement, killed by Tony. And so the musical’s male romantic lead is now a killer, which is part of what makes West Side Story revolutionary.


THE END
After a Shark flunky named Chino rubs out Tony, Maria (Camilla Belle) mourns alone at the grim murder scene, in the film’s final image.

"All those people who thought she was a bimbo, eat your words: she's into trolls."

3.13.2009

Sarah Haskins in Target Women: Barbie.

I was amazed at how many of those Barbies I owned...

Drool.

3.04.2009

"About a year ago, at a party at Jon Bon Jovi's house. Paul McCartney, Bruce, Jimmy Buffet and Roger Waters were all there, and we all got up and played a Pink Floyd tune, "Wish You Were Here," and "I Saw Her Standing There" and "Long Tall Sally."

- Billy Joel, Rolling Stone

(I'm going to assume he meant my Bruce.)