Monday, December 31, 2007

The Ballad of Tim Burton's Sweeney Todd

You know how the New York Times will have two different critics review a show like Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake --Theatre Guy reviews it as theatre and Dance Girl reviews it as dance? Well, I had so many different responses to Sweeney Todd, I'm going to have to do the same thing.

THEATRE CRITIC REVIEW: This was never going to be faithful to the Broadway show, but there was every chance it could have been a faithful transfer of the style of the show, if not the content. It can be done. (Rent the DVD of the musical version of The Producers and see if I'm wrong.) But it wasn't done here. What's missing? "Mischief! Mischief! Mischief!" Not only a quote but a whole level of playfulness and contrast that's nowhere to be found. In its place? Body parts! White makeup! Miss Havisham gowns with cleavage!

Prime example: there's no Sweeney laughter during "A Little Priest," and unless my memory fails me there's not even the "Who gets eaten and who gets to eat" stanza, which is the capper to a whole bunch of jokes that are also cut down in the interests of making this movie as one-note as possible. The one playful thing that remains ("By The Sea") ends up being a dream sequence in which the love object (Todd) refuses to participate, and the obvious only reason it's there is to give Helena Bonham Carter more screen time.

And she's the biggest problem. Beyond the fact that nobody can really sing, which is why the music overpowers the vocals and all the good lyrics get lost beneath the strings, if it's one thing Mrs. Lovett isn't, it's a Kabuki-faced Goth-princess live-action version of Corpse Bride. She's alive in a way that Todd isn't, and she constantly offers him a choice he refuses to take. A choice that makes no sense at all when she's the same kind of weirdo he is.

But this film is not interested in choices, or contrast, which is why there's no "Kiss Me!" and no chorus, no tooth-pulling and (again, if memory serves) no echo of the Johanna theme when the Beggar Woman gets killed, and why the Beggar Woman's part and "A Little Priest" are cut to shreds, with a much blunter knife than Todd's. The film is only interested in doing one thing, and doing it repeatedly, and with little relief: being ghoulish, and telling you that life is hell.

All of which is just quibbling. The only valid question about a filmed version of a theatre piece is: does it do the original work justice? And the answer here is, hell no.

SNARKY THEATRE CRITIC'S REVIEW: Thanks to a friend of a friend of a friend's girlfriend, I was able to get a copy of the lyrics of one of the songs that was cut from Tim Burton's film of Sweeney Todd. It's the opening ballad, which was originally sung by Heath Ledger as a character named Jaggers (nice echo to Great Expectations there, Tim). Here it is in its entirety:

Attend the film of Sweeney Todd.
The blood’s knee-deep and the acting odd.
The singing’s mostly an awful joke
And Depp can do nothing but mutter and croak.
His voice deserves a firing squad
In Sweeney Todd.
(I liked him better in Jump Street.)

Tim Burton must have smoked some weed.
He gave his girlfriend the female lead.
If Bonham-Carter could act a stitch
She might not come off as a self-centered bitch
Who thinks her brains are in her bod
In Sweeney Todd.
(Her Lovett’s strictly from Teat Street.)

Christmas? Open wide, Sweeney!
Shoot for Oscar’s prize.
Money trumps
The word of chumps
Who criticize.

Next to this silly travesty
Johnny One-Note's a symphony.
Nothing these jerks
Does can create a
Hint of what works
In the theatah.

The film’s a bloodbath, as it stands --
It’s Edward Shaving-Razor-Hands.
But fans of Sondheim are out of luck
His show has been butchered and now it’s teh suck .
I hope he made a decent buck
For Sweeney
For Sweeney Todd -
The movie straight out of Pain

FILM CRITIC'S REVIEW: This was never going to be faithful to the Broadway show, and there's no reason it should be. What works on the stage does not work on film (rent the DVD of the musical version of The Producers and see if I'm wrong). Movies are more intimate, which is why Alfred Drake gets replaced by Howard Keel, Ethel Merman never gets to film Annie Oakley, and nobody wants to see Marilyn Monroe in the stage version of Seven-Year Itch. So I had no problem with the singing or the way the music was handled, although I agree with Theatre Critic Matthew that the mix was so orchestra-heavy that the lyrics got lost. Which in a Broadway show would be death, but in a film, music is mood rather than information, and in this film, mood is everything. The only well-lit scenes are either flashbacks or dream sequences; the only color other than red is the gold that lights the past, or the gold from the baking-oven fire that lights the past's final appearance in the present. Everything else is dark and gruesome, in the original sense of the word grue (to shudder with fear). I just wish there was more actual shuddering.

Why no shuddering? Helena Bonham Carter. She may get most of the laughs with her two-peas-in-a-pod performance, but Theatre Critic Matthew is exactly right: no contrast equals no real sense of horror. And this is designed to be a horror movie. The blood is nowhere near as all-pervasive as some critics would lead you to believe (I thought it was almost tasteful, and God knows the killings had more variety than Bonham-Carter's shall we say bloodless performance), and cutting everything that's not horrible means there's no usual for the unusual to invade. When both your leads look like something Burke & Hare dug up, you have to believe that the entire city of London is brain-damaged not to see that asking one of them for a shave or another one for a meal involves murder and cannibalism.

All of which is just quibbling. The only valid question about a filmed version of a play is: does it work on its own as a film? And the answer here is, hell yes.

2007 Update

Movies seen in theatres: 43 (counting Juno, which I'm seeing tonight)

Movies seen on DVD: 88

Plays seen: 21

Dance performances: 11

Concerts/evenings seeing music: 39

Books read: 37

Comic books read: I don't know, coupla hundred easy. I'll keep better track next year, I promise.

Plays written: 0 (ouch)

Novels written: 2/5 (sigh)

Alcohol consumed: oh God, do I have to start keeping track of that now?

French kisses: 3 (call me)

Weekend Update

The Orphanage. There are two kinds of horror movies, the kind where something horrible is just behind that door over there, and the kind where something horrible keeps breaking through every door in the place. The first kind: Robert Wise's The Haunting (1963). The second kind: Jan De Bont's The Haunting (1999). If you're a fan of the second one, go rent the remake of House on Haunted Hill, you'll adore it. If you're a fan of the first one, go see The Orphanage. Do it today.

Sweeney Todd. You know how the New York Times will have two different critics review a show like Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake --Theatre Guy reviews it as theatre and Dance Girl reviews it as dance? Well, I had so many different responses to Sweeney Todd, I'm going to have to do the same thing. Look for it later this morning.

Winter? What winter? To paraphrase a half-remembered Peanuts strip: April rains are invigorating. August rains are refreshing. December rains are nothing.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Overheard in Harvard Square, part 5

Okay, after no deliberation at all, just a quick re-read of the variations and emendations of the one stanza I've been working on, I'm going with the one that has nothing to do with me patting myself on the back for making clever puns in French. Today, anyway.

Here's the most recent version:


"I think I've finally figured out romance,"
The young brunette declared in Harvard Square.
"The dancer doesn't matter -- it's the dance.

"Passion is just a self-hypnotic trance --
It makes you chase a prize that isn't there.
I think I've finally figured out romance.

“You can make love to thousands of gallants
And not a single one of them will care.
The dancer doesn't matter -- it's the dance.

“The point is never passing up the chance
To lose at Risk instead of Solitaire.
I think I’ve finally figured out romance.

“Today’s sure thing is payment in advance
To help you meet tomorrow’s love affair.
The dancer doesn’t matter –- it’s the dance.

“Stop chasing after anything with pants
As if you're only Ginger with Astaire.
I think I've finally figured out romance:
The dancer doesn't matter -- it's the dance."

Matthew Wells, 12/22-27/07

I could have been someone/Well so could anyone

While I was in Massawhosits, my friend Bill sent me this article from the BBC page about Fairytale of New York. I especially like this part at the end:

In a smaller way, when Christmas gets a little intense, there may be a comfort in hearing Fairytale Of New York and thinking: at least everyone else is rowing as well.

Maybe that's why the song is magical. Like Streets of Philadelphia, which is a dirge and a march at the same time, Fairytale of New York is hard and soft, rough and tender, and sums up in four minutes more emotions associated with Christmas than a dozen compilations. It's like a train wreck to the tune of a waltz, and I can't wait to hear Amy Winehouse do the Kirsty MacColl part.

Still the best Christmas song ever . . .

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Christmas With The Wellses

In the tradition of The Gourmet Peasant's Jive Turkey video, my family decided to do the Christmas equivalent. I know it doesn't look very wintry, but we did the best we could under the spring-like conditions prevailing in Massachusetts this past week. Too bad the pouring rain on Christmas Eve Eve wasn't snow.

So here it is, from that perennial holiday favorite, "You're a Good Cook, David Wells:"

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Overheard in Harvard Square, part 4

After reading Maureen Dowd's column on the train back to New York, I copied this section into my notebook:

. . . Henry van Dyke writes: “Are you willing ... to own, that probably the only good reason for your existence is not what you are going to get out of life, but what you are going to give to life; to close your book of complaints against the management of the universe and look around you for a place where you can sow a few seeds of happiness ... to make a grave for your ugly thoughts and a garden for your kindly feelings ...? Then you can keep Christmas.”

Then I started writing quatrains:

Resentment is getting stronger.
The products can't match the hypes.
The line for complaints is longer.
Even the wise have gripes.

Critics are snide and vicious.
Children take pills for stress.
In a world that enthrones the ambitious
Nothing succeeds like excess.

How are we meant to live
If we hide from each other's sight?
When morals are relative
Gray is the new black and white.

Reactions are all atomic
And pleasures are met with a frown
When Hope is a has-been comic
And Providence just a town.

(What can I say, the train had just stopped at Providence.)

The past is always unpleasant.
The future's required to be bright.
Nothing is worse than the present
Except for the sins of last night.

"Let's put this all behind us!"
Is the anthem of those who lead
As they constantly remind us
Tomorrow holds all we need.

And then I started working on the Harvard Square poem again, and came up with these replacement stanzas:

Amours that kiss your cheek in Paris, France,
Always present you with the croix de guerre.

I think I've finally figured out romance.

Amours are like a [whirlwind trip]/[week from hell] in France:
C'est parfait always winds up C'est la guerre.
I think I've finally figured out romance.

Passion is just a self-hypnotic trance --
It makes you chase a prize that isn't there.
I think I've finally figured out romance.

We'll let those sit for a day or two and see how they look in the cold fluorescent light of my lower-level basement office. Only the purest poetry can survive in that corporate desert.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

The Santa Contract

Because nothing says Christmas like Garth Ennis' Hitman.

Overheard in Harvard Square, part 3

Those who know me well know that I’m a tinkerer. (Actually, those who know me slightly know that I’m a tinkerer, and those who don’t know me at all can probably guess that I’m a tinkerer from the big sign that says TINKERER over my head. It's right next to the sign that says WILL REPEATEDLY MAKE BAD PUNS UNTIL RENDERED UNCONSCIOUS.)

So for the past two days I’ve been playing with the second stanza of the villanelle, because it seems to me to be the weakest one in the poem.

How do I know it’s the weakest? I can’t say I actually know it; it’s a feeling. The other stanzas have something this one lacks, whether it’s a good pun like “meet” or a thematic link that leads naturally to one of the two repeating lines or something indefinable like snap or zing. This one doesn’t have that feeling.

After several tries over egg nog, lasagna, B&B, beef chile and a couple of pints of Guinness, here’s the latest version of that stanza:

“Amours that start like trips to Paris, France,
Will wind up earning you the croix de guerre.
I think I've finally figured out romance

I’m still going to tinker with this; I want to find a way of saying “Will always get you the croix de guerre” within the metre, like “Always (dum dum dum) you the croix de guerre.” Which means a trip to the Thesaurus in the next 24 hours.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Overheard in Harvard Square, part 2

Okay, so I couldn't wait until the Patriots game. I wrote it during Sports Center.

Here's the complete villanelle in its current form, with a big thank you to that Harvard Square girl who walked in front of Au Bon Pain at 7:53 last night. For the record, this is the first villanelle I've ever written:


"I think I've finally figured out romance,"
The young brunette declared in Harvard Square.
"The dancer doesn't matter -- it's the dance.

“You think you’re in the capital of France
And all it gets you is the croix de guerre.
I think I've finally figured out romance.

“You can make love to thousands of gallants
And not a single one of them will care.
The dancer doesn't matter -- it's the dance.

“The point is never passing up the chance
To lose at Risk instead of Solitaire.
I think I’ve finally figured out romance.

“Today’s sure thing is payment in advance
To help you meet tomorrow’s love affair.
The dancer doesn’t matter –- it’s the dance.

“Stop chasing after anything with pants
As if you're only Ginger with Astaire.
I think I've finally figured out romance:
The dancer doesn't matter -- it's the dance."
Matthew Wells, 12/22-23/07

Overheard in Harvard Square, part 1

I was walking through Harvard Square last night, taking pictures of things that were still there, when two college-age girls walked past me, one of them (the brunette) saying as she passed by, "I think I've finally figured out romance."

I immediately wrote the line down, and after texting a few people the message: There's nothing like walking through Harvard Square and hearing a 20-year-old brunette say "I think I've finally figured out romance," I sat down in Au Bon Pain with a coffee and a brownie and, realizing that the brunette's words were a perfect iambic line, started writing a villanelle.

A villanelle is a nineteen line poem with only two rhymes, in which the first and third lines of the first stanza alternate as the last lines of the next four three-line stanzas, and then are repeated as the last couplet of a final four-line stanza. The most famous villanelle is Dylan Thomas' Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night; like most people, I knew the poem before I knew what it was.

Here's what I wrote, false starts and all:

"I think I've finally figured out romance,"
The young brunette declared in Harvard Square.
"The dancer doesn't matter, it's the dance.

You meet the ones you love by happenstance
Like winning Banco at chemin de fer.
I think I've finally figured out romance.

You can make love to thousands of gallants
And not a single one of them will care.
The dancer doesn't matter, it's the dance.

Stop chasing after anything with pants
As if you're only Ginger with Astaire.
I think I've finally figured out romance.
The dancer doesn't matter, it's the dance."

Initial verdict: perfect final stanza, perfect opening stanza, gallants/dance stanza fits perfectly, and where the foo did chemin de fer come from? (Answer: I spent last week watching The Ultimate James Bond, Volume 3.)

So that stanza goes, leaving me with a beginning, part of a middle, and an end. Since I'll be working on that today during the Pats game, look for some sports metaphors in the next draft.

Things that haven't changed in Harvard Square

Still serves the best burgers ever.

Still serves the greasiest pu-pu platter in the world.

Still full of future alcoholics.

Still full of people who can't get into Charlie's.

Still playing Eraserhead.

Still the best place to pick up chicks.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Captain America prediction

The Red Skull is currently inhabiting the body of Aleksandr Lukin.

Arnin Zola is working with the Red Skull.

Zola's specialty is cloning.

There's a blacked out text area in the published script for Captain America #25 when he's shot by Sharon Carter.

Here's what I think happened in that blacked-out portion: Sharon extracted Cap's DNA. Which is why the dead body of Steve Rogers ended up looking like his 98-pound-weakling pre-Super-Soldier self.

The DNA is being used by Zola to make a new Cap body.

That Cap body is going to house the mind of the Red Skull AND Steve Rogers, with the Skull in total control (for now).

Because the whole point of the Red Skull is to make Cap watch helplessly as all hell breaks loose. Whatever the Skull's plans have been, they ALWAYS involved Cap being a helpless witness to tragedy.

Which also means that at some point, this Cap clone is going to eventually face off against Bucky as the new Captain America. At the pace Brubaker is writing this? We're looking at a climactic battle in issue #50.

There. I've said it.

O Holy Night

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

the moon looks down and has to sigh

The moon looks down and has to sigh
At how we mortals motor by
Beneath a dark indifferent sky
Like frantic ants --

With smiles set on each frozen face
We dash from place to frantic place
Like sinners after holy grace
Or lost gallants.

Stampeding through a combat zone
Of cars and buses, steel and stone,
Surrounded and yet still alone
Away we fly

In search of money or renown,
A lead-pipe cinch, a golden crown,
And up above the moon looks down
And has to sigh.

Matthew Wells, 12/17/07

Just another night on the L Train

Monday, December 17, 2007

A Matty Wells Xmas

A Warehouse in Schenectady

“So what’s your system?” Skin Girl asked me the other day. “Do you type, do you write and then type—what do you do?”

Here’s what I do.

I try to write for two hours a weekday, and then 4 to 5 hours on Saturday and Sunday. The goal is to treat it like a 20-hour-per-week part-time job. If I put in more than 20? I get mental health benefits.

I carry around half a dozen pens, a notebook, a project folder, and a notepad. The pens are Pentel Energens. The notebook varies; currently it’s a blue 5 x 7 that you can’t find anywhere anymore, but which Staples had a bunch of two years ago, so I bought up about ten of them. This notebook gets the raw material: initial thoughts, notes, early drafts, free associations, et the random cetera.

Every couple of days, I go through what I’ve written and transcribe those notes onto a lined legal-ruled pad of paper (I prefer the canary yellow Docket Gold, which is thick enough so that the Pentel ink doesn’t bleed through when I write on both sides). I organize these notes by project. Each note is treated like a scene which I transcribe and usually expand or free associate around while I’m transcribing it. Sometimes I end up with three yellow sheets full of notes based on just an initial line or two.

These pages go into 6-pocket plastic Avery Project Folders, or into a catch-all folder for ideas that don’t have folders yet. And as the notes pile up, each project builds like a good pour of Guinness.

The project folder in my shoulderbag contains all the notes and scenes for whatever I’m currently writing. I go into this once a day just to rearrange and edit outlines, remind myself of things I’ve forgotten, and spark my imagination. When I’m working on a specific project, the work cycle becomes obsessive and repetitive. I write dialogue and description on the legal pad, type it up and edit it as I type, print it out, edit the printout, and then add things to the printed version and type those up. Then print and repeat, print and repeat, print and repeat till it’s final. How do I know when it’s final? (A) When I’m tired of it and (B) when it tells me it’s done (I can’t explain it any other way).

It’s always amazing to me when I look back after I’ve finished something and realize it started with a few scribbled notes on an otherwise empoty piece of paper, and now here’s a complete play; here’s a hundred pages of a novel. Where did that come from? It’s the question all writers get asked: where do your ideas come from, where do all those words come from? (My favorite answer to that question is the title of this post.)

All I know is, when you put pen to paper, you’re opening a door. (The same thing happens when you type, but it’s a different kind of door, at least for me.) The more you write, the easier it is for that door to open. And when that door stays open, something will always walk through it, through you, and through the ink of your pen onto the blank page. And it will always surprise you.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Random thoughts

This guy? Act????

Ha! That'd be like Rudy Giuliani telling the truth about his record.

And speaking of His Rudeness: Jim Dwyer reminds everyone that when Giuliani answers a question about how open the White House would be if he were President by saying "My government in New York City was so transparent that they knew every single thing I did almost every time I did it,” he is--I'm sorry--what's the current politically correct euphemism for "lying through his teeth?"

And, bringing new depths to tasteless, the New York Post reports the death of Ike Turner.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

I Am Legend

I Am Kind of Enjoyable. I went to this movie prepared not to like it, and was pleasantly surprised to find myself enjoying most of it. There aren't that many Fresh Prince moments, which is a big plus; but then I think that all movies starring Will Smith should obey the Keanu Rule and give him as little dialogue as possible, because when he opens his mouth that's when the trouble starts. The shots of empty Manhattan are riveting. A lot of the fun of seeing the movie is recognizing streets, corners, buildings (look--there's the doughnut place on Seventh Avenue). But as much as I enjoyed myself, I can't say that I actually liked the film, for a couple of reasons.

I Am Schizophrenic. This is so obviously two movies that it’s laughable. Every interesting moment that’s set up in the first two-thirds is totally ignored in the last 30 minutes. The idea that the vampires have human feelings and human intelligence? Set up and never knocked down. The idea that Robert Neville is as more of a monster to them than they are to him? Set up and never knocked down. You have to wonder: does nobody see this on the production end? It’s like a mystery novel where all the clues are ignored in the last chapter. A book like that would never get published; but movies like I Am Legend get made all the frakking time.

I Am Formulaic. Remember the three-part flashback of how Will Smith lost his arm in I, Robot? Same thing here: a three-part backstory flashback about yet another loss. Is this required in all Hollywood scripts or just Will Smith vehicles? Are there writers even now dreaming up new three-part backstory flashbacks while they picket Paramount?

I Am Picky. According to the theatre and movie posters in post-plague Times Square, The Producers is still playing two years from now (ha!), along with Wicked (yup) and Hairspray (maybe) but on the plus side, we can expect a Batman/Superman movie in summer ‘09. Robert Neville is immune to the airborne virus and vampire bites and he's also an accomplished scientist looking for a cure, which is one coincidence too many for me--I mean why not have him be the cause of the vampire plague as well? And post-plague Manhattan is overrun with deer and lions, but the only rats we ever see are in Neville's laboratory. As if.

I Am All About The Ending. There must be a lot of people out there who don't know that this movie isn't even a re-make--it's a re-make of a re-make, having been filmed twice before as The Last Man On Earth with Vincent Price and The Omega Man with Charlton Heston. And if you've seen either of these movies, then you know how the story ends. Which is pretty much the same way the book ends. So when, before the movie opened, Will Smith in a Tokyo press conference revealed details about the end of the movie, producer and screenwriter Akiva Goldsman shouted "Don't ruin the ending! Don't ruin it for people!" This says so many things about Hollywood. When they remake Casablanca, and the actor playing Rick reveals that Ilsa goes off with Laszlo, I can so totally see the producer yelling "Don't ruin it for people!" Like the ending is all that matters. (Which would explain why the last 30 minute chunk of this movie feels like a different film--it sets up the ending Goldsman wanted, as opposed to the ending the story demanded.)

I Am Blockbuster. And it'll make a ton of money, despite the fact that it's pieced together and formulaic, which means we can expect even more pieced-together formulaic action-adventure flicks; and yes, by seeing it, I have helped to cause their creation. So blame me when Will Smith stars in Soylent Green, and Akiva Goldsman chews him out for telling the press that SG is people. I just hope that Batman-Superman movie is as good as the trailer was for The Dark Knight. Holy crap, does that look good.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Original WTF Play

The Homecoming, Cort Theatre. That sound you hear on 48th Street at 10:30 every night is a lot of people scratching their heads over the second act of this play,which still, after over 40 years, feels like a deliberate kick in the face by the playwright. Great acting, but I'm not ashamed to say I still don't know what the foo is going on in this play.

The acting is fantastic, the performances are never less than riveting, and the family stuff is dark and hilarious and makes perfect sense until the sexual/power struggle stuff kicks in, at which point every expectation you have goes out the window, along with the logic of character and action. And it still works, on its own definitely unique terms, so what do I know?

Well, I don't know what's going on in that second act, I'll tell you that. Yes, it's about Ruth's homecoming, not Teddy's, but all the implications that its the three sons' dead mother come back to life (Ruth has three boys herself) seems like a desperate attempt to give thematic unity to an out-of-control script, and the "What do you say to a little prostitution, Ruth?/I say I need to see it in writing and here's my list of things to buy" turn to the plot, which could actually use some thematic development (woman as sex object), comes out of nowhere and then takes the play back with it.

My attempts to make sense of all this as we stood outside in the cold and watched Michael McKean sign autographs: "It's like nobody mentions the elephant in the room; and then the elephant disappears. You hear it; you see its shadow; but it never shows up." "I would have loved to have been in on the rehearsals, because all the actors know what's going on, even if we don't."

From Penelope Gilliat's review of the 1965 Royal Shakespeare production:

The drama in The Homecoming is not the plot. In Pinter it never is. It consists in the swaying of violent people as they gain minute advantages. A man who does the washing-up has the advantage over a man sitting in an armchair who thinks he can hear resentment in every swilling tea-leaf. The member of a married couple who stays up late has the advantage over the one who goes to bed first. A father has the advantage over his children as long as he can make them think of their birth and not let them remind him of his own death: the sons are condemned to ruminate interminably about what happened the night they were made in the image of those two people, at it.

Makes as much sense as anything else, I guess. I wonder if she came up with that while she was scratching her head and watching Ian Holm sign autographs.

Personally, I can't wait for the reviews when this opens so I can read Ben Brantley's "I refuse to admit I didn't understand this play" SAT essay on all things Pinter.

Call Security!

Thanks to the firewall at my day job, I am no longer able to post during working hours. Or comment on anyone else's blog. Or even see comments. Because, y'know, doing that instead of reading the Wall Street Journal online might do more damage to them than the sub-prime mortgage loan crisis.

I'm not surprised. This is, after all, a company which blocks me from reading The Nation online. (No joke.)

So what does this mean? More posts in the evening and the weekends. And tons o' fodder for a play or a novel.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Weekend Update

I Don't Like Mondays. Weekend? What weekend? It's mornings like this which totally reinforce my low self-esteem.

Sad realization #1: isn't that what a crappy day job is supposed to do?

Friday, December 7, 2007

Ben Brantley Reviews Au Revoir Parapluie

What he wrote:

Inspired by the myth of the wife-losing Orpheus, “Au Revoir Parapluie” conjures a tragicomic universe that thwarts, mocks and dissolves human pretensions, ambitions and illusions of permanence. The title, which translates as “Farewell, Umbrella,” is a nod to the futility of seeking shelter from life’s storms.

What it means in English:

Inspired by my total inability to comprehend intellectually why I was having so much fun, my review of “Au Revoir Parapluie” will contain CriticBuzz© like "tragicomic universe," "dissolves human pretensions," and "illusions of permanence." After which I will suck all the poetry out of the title and tell you its literal meaning, followed by the kind of symbolic explanation which got even me all A's in English.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Au Revoir, Parapluie

Ever wonder what Buster Keaton would have created if he'd been a choreographer?

Then go see Au Revoir, Parapluie at BAM before it closes on December 16th.

And yes, it's heretical to mention Keaton because choreographer/star James Thiérrée is actually the grandson of Charlie Chaplin. But watching him force his feet to walk or try to put on a jacket (okay, the jacket bit is pure WC Fields) is like watching an outtake from The General or Sherlock Junior.

Everyone in this piece is fantastic, the mood switches from slapstick to tenderness at the drop of a shuttlecock, and at times the visuals make you think you're watching the live-action version of a Miyazaki movie.

Seriously, I can't recommend this highly enough, and will probably try to see it again before it closes.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Weekend update

I've got a leaf taped over my hoo hah. After mulled cider and taco salad Chez Ben Bradshaw, went to Southpaw to catch the end of the Novemberfest burlesque show and see The Woggles at midnight--which turned into 1 AM when the burlesquers, uhm, kept coming on late. Got home at 3 AM, woke up at 8, and started working on --

Deadline City, Part 1. -- Three Dead Slaves. Back in October my friend DJ gave me a deadline of December 3 to finish the next section of the Roman mystery novel, and as of Friday I have a complete Book Two. Except that the ending limps. It still needs another chapter, so I start working on it at 8:30 and by 11:30 I've drafted the first third of it. I type up what I've written, print it out, go to a coffee shop, and finish the second third, before taking a 90-minute nap and heading into Hoboken to see --

The band that never fails to deliver. -- The Woggles at Maxwell's. It's cold as a landlord's heart as I walk down Washington Street, but as warm as a Cratchit Christmas when I get to the club. Saw The Ribeye Brothers (very good), The Hi-Risers (my new favorite band), The Black Hollies (pretentious and boring, but they packed the biggest audience so go figure), and The Woggles, kicking ass as usual but this time as the closing band, which meant a full hour of great music from them. Home again at 3 AM, slept in till 9 AM, and started working on --

Deadline City, Part 2. -- the final third of the final chapter, which I finished at 11:57 AM in the Au Bon Pain downtown, while singing Ragged But Right (a Woggles song) to myself. Called DJ and reported in, then typed up the changes, and printed out a copy while downloading pictures from Friday and Saturday and --

I wish I had a river I could skate away on. -- finishing the third and final version of this year's Christmas CD, replacing one long song with three small tunes I found online. Then I took the printed copy to --

Thank you, Newcastle Brown Ale. -- Cornelia Street, where I parked myself in front of Madeline the bartender, had three Newcastles and a steak dinner, made continuity edits to Book Two, and plotted out the rest of the novel based on what I'd just finished, said plotting including answers to three major questions which have been bugging me quite literally for years about the plot. Went home at 9ish, typed in the edit changes, fell asleep on the couch while watching Paprika, and went to bed at 1.