Thursday, June 29, 2006

Leonard Cohen is Cooler Than You

In the past couple of months I've run into a couple people who've extolled the virtues of one Leonard Cohen. When I saw the reviews for this puppy, I figured it would be a good way to get a taste of his poetry and music as well as a notch on my indie film belt, something I'm always looking to add to. Sure enough, it was an awesome flick, wholly recommended; part biopic, part concert film and part interview. The only thing that's a little disappointing is that there isn't more of Cohen himself performing; most of the songs were filmed at a tribute concert, and while some of the performances are incredible, others are less so. As the review quote on that page indicates, Antony's version of If It Be Your Will is probably the best, followed by Hallelujah, of which I'd already heard Rufus Wainwright's recording. I hope there's a soundtrack out or about to come out, because I really want that recording.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Attend the Tale of Sweeney Todd...

So last week I scored a free ticket to see Sweeney Todd, a musical which I had a passing familiarity with but which I'd never seen or listened to in its entirety.

In general, I find Sondheim (as in Stephen, the composer/lyricist of Sweeney Todd and many others, arguably the best composer on Broadway since the Golden Age) intensely difficult to listen to before seeing the production staged. However, interestingly enough, it also tends to be difficult to fully assimilate in a single sitting. Thus, in order to fully appreciate his work, I need to see it performed (or read the script), and then listen to the recording numerous times before I even begin to grasp the thrust of his work. It went that way with Pacific Overtures, which I couldn't get into until I saw a Japanese production of it at Lincoln Center (which became the basis for the recent Broadway revival), it happened again with Assassins (I didn't go see the recent revival, but I tried listening to it and could not do it) and most recently with Sweeney Todd.

Part of the reason for this lies in what makes Sondheim great. I don't think there's ever been anyone better than him at weaving multiple themes together simultaneously. But moments like that, with two or more people singing different lyrics onstage at the same time, aren't the sort of thing you can typically decipher in a single performance. Hell, sometimes it's even difficult when it's a single person singing, depending on their ability. The difficulty, however, is finding those moments in the midst of his intimidating scores and dismal subject matter. Probably 80% or more of most Sondheim scores are the musical theater equivalent of recitative; atonal, random musical themes with rapid-fire, challenging lyrics. In addition, he has an almost Brechtian love of challenging his audiences to find a single shred of moral decency or any kind of emotional connection with his characters. Sweeney Todd, for example, is a man who was wronged, who was sent to Australia because the judge wanted to do the horizontal foxtrot with his wife. He returns seeking vengeance, but along the way becomes a bit unhinged (as I suppose anyone stuck in Australia for a few years might) and starts killing random people who come into his shop, and turning them into meat pies, sold in the shop below. Assassins is entirely about the people who've tried, in some way, shape or form, to assassinate American presidents; both the successful and unsuccessful. Pacific Overtures attempts to trace the development of Japanese society from its forced opening by the Western powers in the late 1800s through to modern day; the two main characters are a minor samurai who becomes a sellout, assuming Western stances and attire and a poor man who lived with Americans and was thrown into jail because he had thus become impure; upon the arrival of the Americans in Japan, he is released to aid in the negotiations, and elevated to the rank of samurai after their success. He then joins the ultra-traditional samurai ranks, and eventally kills the other character, who had once been his friend, as part of an effort to reach the emperor and plead for a return to traditional attitudes. After he's killed his former friend, the emperor steps forward and announces Japan's move into the 20th century, modernizing and industrializing and leading, of course, to the bomb.

Yeah, Steve's not really a happy guy.

And yet in his shows, if you listen to them enough and pay enough attention, there are moments of shocking hilarity and tenderness. The question, I suppose, is are those moments worth the overall pretention of the shows? I mean, obviously if that's what he wants to do, he has every right, but what does it mean if the message of your art is so inaccessible that it can only be found through multiple sittings? Don't get me wrong, I enjoy anything that rewards multiple viewing as much as the next person, but you can go too far with that and make something so layered that people don't care enough to watch it a second time. I would never take anyone to any Sondheim show if they were a musical theater neophyte and didn't know what he was all about. Never. I'd just have to put up with an evening of, "What the fuck was that?" And trying to explain it doesn't really appeal to me.

I feel like that's part of the appeal of Sondheim; like any intellectual artist, there is a healthy dose of snobbery and elitism that goes along with knowing him and his work, a taste of, "Oh, yes, I get him." Musical theater to begin with is a marginalized product, and Sondheim is a niche within that niche.

Speaking of which - the Public is totally presenting a Brecht play with Meryl fucking Streep this summer, after Macbeth finishes up its run. AND check out this story about Kevin Kline in secret rehearsals for King Lear.


Thursday, June 22, 2006

How Silly Of Me

Who needs introspection when Blogthings is here!

What Your Soul Really Looks Like

You are a warm hearted and open minded person. It's easy for you to forgive and forget.

You are a very grounded, responsible, and realistic person. People may not want to hear the truth from you, but they're going to get it.

You see yourself with pretty objective eyes. How you view yourself is almost exactly how other people view you.

Your near future is likely to be filled with great successes and accomplishments. You just need to figure out how to get there.

For you, love is all about caring and comfort. You couldn't fall in love with someone you didn't trust.


Monday, June 19, 2006

Something Else

There is something I have been aware of about myself for some time that I haven't written here. Come to think of it, there are plenty of things I think of that I don't write here; that's my personal choice.

I am a needy fuck.

I hate that about myself, and I don't know how to change it. In some ways, I don't want to change it; it's like that episode of ST:TNG where Picard is given the chance to go back and change this one event in his life, and he finds out that the repercussions of changing that one act alter his entire mindset, to the point where he lives a boring, passionless existence.

Fuck off, quit laughing; I watched that episode today and it's good. Anyways.

I need people. I need them to pay attention to me, I need them to like me. And when I don't get that, I hate. I hate intensely, though typically momentarily until I can rein myself in. But I do. It's there. And I'm not quite sure what to do about it. Does everyone get that way?

Is it right to feel these things? Is that even the correct qualification? For is there such a thing as a right or wrong feeling? Actions matter more, right? I mean, if I feel these things and I'm aware of them but I don't act on them, that means something, right? Or maybe I should be acting on them, maybe to be truly honest to myself I should just become a raging, destructive bastard.

Yeah, that sounds attractive.

I grow old...
I grow old...
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

Posting this is an action, is it not? It means something, doesn't it, even if it's some weird fucked up passive-aggressive thing. I don't even know if that's what this is. I don't know where all this has been coming from, but it's been an odd storm of battering away at my keyboard. I think it's done, it feels done.

It's passionate, but does that make it honest?

Random Ruminations

"Life is full of meetings and partings. That is the way of it."
- Kermit the Frog as Bob Cratchit, Muppet Christmas Carol

Is that the way of it? Is that all there is?

Love. There, I wrote it. Typed it, whatever.

Anyone with half a brain knows: romantic love does not last. Does not, can not, will not. But that tells us nothing about what is, about what a relationship that lasts looks like. Is there even such a thing? Are monogamous relationships nothing more than a societal construct? Perhaps even finding its roots, as I seem to recall reading or hearing from some sociologically-inclined sources, as an economic arrangement? What then?

The mind is strong, but the body is weak.

On the one hand, you know that companies sell you a branded version of Love. This is what Love looks like, smells like, tastes like, and this is what it costs. You know this. You know this is bullshit. And yet, it is so deep, it is so ingrained in you that you find yourself longing for it, longing for a shadow of a false dream. But, like all humans, you are arrogant. And so you believe that you will be different, that you can be better, that you can find a way to rise above that, to forge a "true" relationship with someone.

Everyone lives their life believing that they are unique, that they are special, that they are the first ones to think all these deep and wonderful thoughts racing through their heads. And then one day they wake up and realize: wait - scratch that - reverse it. Nothing is new, everything is old, there is nothing you can do that hasn't been done already by people both dumber and smarter than you. Or they don't and they live their lives not realizing just how small and insignificant they are. Either or.

Is life, is love, nothing but a series of meetings and partings? A sharing of the ways for a certain period until the two of you are ready to move on, until you have gained as much from each other as you are able to and so must inevitably dissolve into a separate nothingness or a meaningless togetherness, going through the motions of a McRelationship?

And even if that is what life and love are - is there anything wrong with that? Is it merely my own failing to grasp that concept, to wrap my mind and soul around it and truly make it mine? Is my instinctive rejection of that life an involuntary reflex that I should tame? Or is there something deeper, something - dare I say it - human that cries out, that pushes me for more even though I am certain that 99.99% of the time it does not work out, no matter what people say about how happy they are in marriages.

No-one gets out of a marriage alive or happy.

Moments, moments, moments, slipping through my fingers. Every moment can live forever, if you want it to. I try to believe that. Life leads you to experiences, to moments, when you are ready for them. I do believe that.

I didn't realize how much of an effect reading Rilke had on me until a week ago, when I was sitting out among the stars in New Mexico, and all the thoughts, all the responses and all the musings I had were inspired by him, by the things he had written all those years ago. And yet - what did he have to show for it? Married, fathered a child and then abandoned wife and daughter, running off into Europe to find - what? What was it that he struggled with, why could he not bring himself to stay? Was it this fundamental truth? That love is impossible, is fallacy, is nothingness? A nothingness that against all his rational being, he wanted and wished for, with every fiber of his being?

Jesus, I haven't even had anything to drink.

What's That On the Telly, Then?

No, not a penguin - it's an award.

Apparently my show's won a handful of those babies - three, to be exact: special effects, sound/sound design and comedy. On one level it's cool and on another level I'm somewhat ambivalent.

First, yes, obviously it's kinda cool. Any time you get any sort of acknowledgement for your work it's always cool.

Now, for why it isn't so cool.

For starters, nominations aren't really done through an objective process; understandable, considering the fact that the awards aim to cover both regional and national networks. After all, they can't have people watching all the local networks looking for good programs; they'll have to rely on those networks to send in shows they want to nominate. And, of course, if you want to nominate your show in more categories, it's going to cost you more money. They charge you yet again in the event that you win. But hey, it's all about the art, right?

Second, I'm not really sure how I feel about awards in general. One of the crappy things about being involved (no matter how insignificant my position is) in the entertainment industry is that all the magic is stripped away. It's incredibly difficult for me to watch a movie, musical or play without analysing the performances and technicalities of the production. Similarly (though this is hardly a difficult conclusion to arrive at), the various awards have been revealed to be little more than an exercise in industry politics; another chance for all the haves to pat themselves on their backs for being so talented. Wasn't it just a little too coincidental that Denzel Washington and Halle Berry won Oscars on the night that Sidney Poitier was being given an honorary one? Not to mention - Halle Berry? Halle Fucking Berry? COME THE FUCK ON. And if you realize that about awards, then what do they really mean?

In the words of Ash: "Jack, and Shit. And Jack left town."

Saturday, June 17, 2006

I am a Shocking Nerd

Shocking, I tell you.

So I had seen a trailer for a movie about Frank Gehry, and was interested in seeing it. Upon my return from New Mexico, I checked out the theater to find that the movie had finished its run. I guess there isn't a ton of perceived demand for documentaries about architects. No matter; as I perused the theater site, I discovered another movie playing which had caught my eye: Wordplay, about the people who create and solve the New York Times crossword puzzle.

Now, I've never been a "crossworder" (or pehaps they prefer the more generic "puzzler", which seems a little less cumbersome as well, if a little less specific), but I have to tell you - after watching this movie, I was filled with a zeal for crosswords the likes of which I have never experienced. Chances are in the near future I will challenge the Times crossword, if only to increase my already bulging stocks of useless knowledge and my vocabulary, two things which I am always looking to increase.

On a completely unrelated and perhaps even nerdier note, I also recently purchased the Elaine Stritch at Liberty cd, only to find there's a goddamn dvd which I could have (and have since) Netflix'ed. It is, of course, brilliant; the musings and performances of a woman who has survived and thrived in the acting profession. I wish I knew what it was about musical theater (really good musical theater, mind you - I caught bits of Camp the other day and was continually distracted by both the editing and the insanely inappropriate selection of musicals - I mean, come on, a teenager singing "Ladies Who Lunch"? Or "And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going"? Ludicrous. I understand that such things go on all the time, but they damn well shouldn't, if you ask me, which of course no-one did.) that captures me. Musical theater sure doesn't seem to love me as much as I love it, which kind of sucks.

I've come to terms with that fact, with the apparent fact that the only way I'm going to make it onto Broadway in a musical is to become a "star" (minor or major) on film or TV and then moonlight in a musical. But the problem with that is that all such forays are treated with (at worst) derision or (at best) mildly amused curiosity; certainly not the artistic interest I would hope to generate. But then, if you get people in the seats and then can show artistic integrity, does it matter why people came in the first place? Perhaps this is a lesson for me, to not instantly judge people from other mediums taking roles on Broadway. Lord knows I'm critical enough of stage actors and singers in productions. But that, of course, is the subject for a whooole other post.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

A Letter

My friend,

Greetings and salutations! I hope this letter finds you well. I received your last missive with great anticipation, and have a number of observations I hope you will receive in the spirit they were written.

You say that perception is less than the mind, that age-old dichotomy. But I beg you to consider the proposition once more. For what is perception? Is it not a mental processing of external phenomena? And how is that any different from the mind processing an abstract or mathematical thought? You might argue that perceptions are subjective and arbitrary; is not math similar? For 2+2=4 is most certainly not true - is it not more correct to say, "There is a number, which we call two, which, when a process which we all agree to refer to as adding is carried out, equals another number, which we shall all agree to call four." Thus is it not a simple linguistic coincidence that 2+2=4 and not 5 or 22? Is not math as artificial as art; indeed, are not the two inseparable? For there is math in art, and art in math. Do not mathematicians speak of "beautiful" or "elegant" solutions to problems?

You might reply that math and science are eternal, that linguistic variables aside, there is still some concept that when added to itself equals another concept. But, my friend, again, such an operation requires an external mover - an observer, if you will permit me a little license - to make it so, to comprehend the original concept, the operation and its result. Do the birds and bees have their own number systems? Do they count, add, multiply and subtract, determine sines, cosines and tangents? And though some might insist that the capability of certain animals to learn our number systems through repetition and systems of reward/punishment proves that math is somehow more permanent than perception, that it is eternal and all-encompassing, is it not more correct to say that they are simply being force-fed our own systems, the same millennia-old ones we foist upon our own children? They are taught to call a certain number of objects, "two," and that henceforth, referring to that many objects as "two" is rewarded, while referring to them as any other number is punished. Does this sound to you like an eternal, ever-present truth?

Do you see now that there is no difference between the truth of 2+2=4 and the truth of the sunshine on your face? That the answer, "four" is just as nonsensical and primal as the enjoyment one receives from basking in the sun? And who was it that first determined that transitory pleasures were less, were somehow lacking? Is there any pleasure which does not fade, does not wane and wither in time? And, therefore, is not transitory pleasure the only pleasure to be had in the world? Do you remember, when you were a child, the fascination you felt on discovering the world anew each morning, the pure and simple joy of moment-to-moment existence? Nothing is eternal, we are told; yet I submit that these words are the mouthings of foul and despicable creatures seeking to sell you their vision of your salvation. For everything can be eternal, if we wish it to be, if we open ourselves wholly to each moment. And then, my friend, you will find that each moment can last forever, that you can live lifetimes in a breath, a glance, a tone.

I beg you, my friend, to open yourself to the words I have written and consider their import as objectively as you can. I have no doubt that you will, and that your response will carry the same attentiveness and perspicacity that all your correspondence contains. Until then, I wish you nothing but the best.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The Return

1. The Complete Poems, Anne Sexton
2. On the Road, Jack Kerouac
3. High Fidelity, Nick Hornby
4. Kafka on the Shore, Haruki Murakami
5. Sideways, Rex Pickett
6. The Shipping News, Annie Proulx
7. Le Morte D'Arthur, Sir Thomas Malory
8. Trainspotting, Irvine Welsh
9. The Sonnets, William Shakespeare
10. To The Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf
11. The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
12. A Thousand Years of Good Prayers, Yiyun Li
13. interpreter of maladies, Jhumpa Lahiri
14. The Neverending Story, Michael Ende
15. Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf
16. Norwegian Wood, Haruki Murakami
17. Blink, Malcolm Gladwell
18. The Lexus and the Olive Tree, Thomas Friedman
19. The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell
20. the namesake, Jhumpa Lahiri
21. Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro
22. seven types of ambiguity, Eliot Perlman
23. Unhooked Generation, Jillian Straus
24. Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, John Perkins
25. The Fountainhead, Ayn Rand
26. This Book Will Save Your Life, A. M. Homes
27. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, James Joyce
28. Youth in Revolt, C.D. Payne
29. History of the Peloponnesian War, Thucydides

A friend of mine grabbed Youth from the lost-and-found at her place of employment and liked it; I snagged it off of her and buzzed through it during our 11 hour trip returning from New Mexico. It's decent; sort of Catch-22-ish, though lacking the substance and drive that makes that book so good. My patience with the war that raged through the Peloponnese is waning somewhat in the face of all the other delectable literary options which appear to have piled up in my room while my back was turned and my debit card was out. Le sigh. Welp, better get back to it; these things won't read themselves.

Monday, June 05, 2006


So, tomorrow is 6/6/06 and I'm flying down to New Mexico for a week. Scary stuff. Actually, I'm more afraid that I might get turned back at the airport by mean, bastard TSA agents because I'm currently in the process of renewing my visa. The ISS advisor I spoke to said it would be fine, but I'd really like to keep my rumpus in its pristine, virginal state, if you know what I mean. Needless to say, I won't be bringing my most recent book purchase along for the trip, which kinda sucks cause I really wanna start reading it. Well, the summer is plenty long, I suppose.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Oh My Jesus

This phrase gets overused quite a bit, but this is, bar none, the awesomest thing I have ever seen. EVER.

Rocket man!

Speaking of Being the Change...

...I am a media whore. And the LA Daily News Entertainment blogger mentioned my show's new season, starting tonight (Friday) at 9 PST, midnight EST! Channel 560 in the Enn-Why, and whatever the hell it is out in Ell-Ay what-whaaaaat!

Hey, y'know what? Just to save you the effort of clicking I'll repost it here:
A couple of shows for particularly perverse (not to mention somewhat sophomoric) tastes return for new seasons this weekend.

“Uncle Morty’s Dub Shack,” on ImaginAsian TV, is an aggressively stupid (but sometimes in a smart way) comedy in which four slacker buddies provide loopy looping for cheap and cheesy kung-fu movies. It’s kind of a variant on “Mystery Science Theater 3000,” with interstitial storylines and relentless movie-mocking, only here, they insert, as Woody Allen did back in 1966 in “What’s Up, Tiger Lily?”, absurdist dialogue that quite likely has nothing to do with whatever the godforsaken movie was about in the first place. (E.G.: When two guys are playing with a dog, a third instructs them, “Leave Sarah Jessica Parker alone.”)

In Friday’s second-season premiere, the guys embark on a viral marketing campaign to make the word “Diarrhea” mean “awesome” and take some awfully cheap shots at Katie Couric (also involving diarrhea), who, given that epic monument to hagiography that was her final appearance on “Today” on Wednesday, could probably stand to be taken down a peg or 18. “Uncle Morty’s Dub Shack” airs 9 p.m. Friday PCT (midnight EST) on ImaginAsian TV.
Word to yo' mothers.

Fight the Power

I saw the above headlines and articles on Drudge about a day ago, but I hadn't posted yet because I'd been mulling over exactly what I thought. The interview (the second article) contains a couple fascinating responses:
How have you tried to create a different sort of schooling experience at La Academia Semillas del Pueblo?

Like anywhere in Los Angeles there’s a lot of bridges to cross and we feel that through teaching our children and giving them a good foundation of culture they will be able to understand other people’s cultures and other people’s points of view much better. One of the ways we do that is teaching them several languages. That has to be the most important element of our education. It’s not only learning reading, writing, and English, but being able to analyze the world in several languages.

Finally, what do you see as the legacy of the Brown decision?

If Brown was just about letting Black people into a White school, well we don’t care about that anymore. We don’t necessarily want to go to White schools. What we want to do is teach ourselves, teach our children the way we have of teaching. We don’t want to drink from a White water fountain, we have our own wells and our natural reservoirs and our way of collecting rain in our aqueducts. We don’t need a White water fountain. So the whole issue of segregation and the whole issue of the Civil Rights Movement is all within the box of White culture and White supremacy. We should not still be fighting for what they have. We are not interested in what they have because we have so much more and because the world is so much larger. And ultimately the White way, the American way, the neo liberal, capitalist way of life will eventually lead to our own destruction. And so it isn’t about an argument of joining neo liberalism, it’s about us being able, as human beings, to surpass the barrier.
I find it interesting that he keys on language as one of the building blocks of a balanced, interconnected model of the world and human society. I remember a high school teacher of mine who once mentioned that the test of whether or not you're fluent in a language is when you can think and dream in that language, as if the language in which you express yourself has an effect on the very thoughts you're thinking and how you think them; sort of a Marshall McLuhan ("The medium is the message," for those who might not be familiar with relatively obscure Canadian media studies professors - though that reminds me, I myself should probably read his stuff sometime) brain effect. One wonders if this might be another reason for the increased levels of international co-operation among Europeans compared to Americans.

As for the second question and answer - wow. Obviously most people (Americans) will read that and think he's a crazy, pinko Commie. And maybe he is; certainly the other articles - in particular the first one - paint a far less flattering portrait of him. But (setting aside the conspiracy theory-ish question of whether those articles can be explained by a media or reporter bias against an unconventional school and system) really - isn't he right? Success as a general concept in the world has always been qualified, whether people have been aware of it or not; it is success according to the dominant group in society. Since America came to dominate the world (read: since they dropped the bomb and remade Japan/West Germany as close to their image as they could), the entire world has been dominated by the white male paradigm of success. And it is now, 2 generations later, as the cracks in the system continue to grow, that countries and people are beginning to stop, beginning to critically examine the costs of that system and whether or not they are acceptable, if the system they've been emulating for so long is really worth copying; check out this story about recent proposed changes to Japan's education system.

What is important here is not the "separatist education" of the school (though I suppose the debate on whether or not they deserve government funding is a valid one, and they probably shouldn't due to the exclusionary nature of the school, but maybe there aren't any white/black/asian students because they don't even apply to the school in the first place); rather, it is the greater questions raised by the principal. What is success, and how will we define it in the years to come? Will we continue down the path we have been walking for decades? Or can we find another way, a better way? Does that way even exist? I don't know. What I do know is that, like far better men and women than I have said before, change will not come easy and it will not come quickly. "Be the change that you want to see in the world," said Ghandi - comments echoed by the principal in the interview - and so it must be.

The world needs more idealists.