Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Things That Would be Awesome

If they made a new film version of 1776, and in the final scene, when the delegates sign the Declaration of Independence as the Liberty Bell rings in the background, and we hear the first name called out, "Dr. Josiah Bartlett," and we saw Bartlett come up to sign, and they got Martin Sheen to play him.

That would be awesome.

Until Whenever

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

2006 Albums I Loved

Not a "ten best," since I may not have even bought ten albums total in 2006; what we have here is simply a list of the 2006 releases I bought or received. In alphabetical order.

All the Roadrunning, Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris.

On my first listen I wasn't moved - sounded like Knopfler's previous four solo albums, all fine, well-crafted, country/folky things, but none earth-shattering. On the second listen, I started to hear the hooks, and the inexplicable way that Harris' contributions gave the same types of serviceable songs that Knopfler has been writing for the last several years a real specialness. This is a fine album. Choice cut: "This Is Us," in which a married couple recalls the highlights of their life together as they page through a photo album.

Build a Bridge, Audra McDonald

An impeccably sung collection of mostly pop songs, with the odd show tune and discarded musical theater composer song thrown in. Choice cut: McDonald's shimmering, stately rendition of the Neil Young song "My Heart" made me hear the song in a whole new way.

Living with War, Neil Young

Neil Young, following right up on the slow and sweet acoustic-flavored late 1995 release "Prairie Wind," puts out a classic pick-up-your-guitar and sing three-chord throwback of an angry electric protest record. Choice cut: "The Restless Consumer." Love Young's falsetto on the chorus.

Modern Times, Bob Dylan

I gushed at length over this album here; suffice it to say that, while this doesn't quite reach the heights that Love and Theft scaled, it comes damn, damn close. An inexplicable blend of rigidly old-fashioned sounds and rhythms that, when sung in Dylan's dry-aged voice, sound completely of the now. Choice cut: "Workingman's Blues," a delicate, gently swinging ballad for the working man.

My Flame Burns Blue, Elvis Costello with the Metropole Orkest
Costello swings like mad with a famed European jazz orchestra on some old Costello tunes and some Charles Mingus classics he wrote new lyrics for. A live recording that makes you despair that you weren't there. Choice cut: "Hora Decubitis," the aforementioned Mingus track.

A selection of old and new Christmas songs that does a fine job of balancing a sweet understatement with enough melancholy for bite. Choice cut: The admittedly somewhat down "Whatever Happened to Christmas?"

See What I Wanna See, Michael John LaChiusa

Truth be told, I still haven't completely been able to get into this one - although the opening,"Kesa," is a beautiful piece of coiled, slinky menace. Choice cut: "Kesa"

Didn't bowl me over, but miles better than the typical pop pablum that gets tossed onto a kids' movie soundtrack. Choice cut: The laid-back "Upside-Down."

Surprise, Paul Simon

A very modern-sounding, yet assured and mature-feeling collection from Simon, miles ahead of his tepid last studio outing, You're the One. Choice cut: The opening "Who Wants to Live in the Northeast," featuring one of those ever-so-simple chord progressions that sounds preordained.

The River in Reverse, Elvis Costello and Alan Toussaint

Some may disagree, but I've yet to hear Costello tackle a style or genre of music and fail. Here he puts out with N'awlins staple Toussaint an uplifting yet somber collection of songs steeped in the spirit of New Orleans. Choice cut: "Who's Gonna Help Brother Get Further?" A sweet slice of attitude-laden swamp-funk.

We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions, Bruce Springsteen

As rowdy and energetic a record as I've ever heard, Springsteen and Friends must have had a hell of a time putting this album together, because the joy and wide-eyed enthusiasm come across in every track. Choice cut: The hand-clappin, stand-up-and-testify "Jacob's Ladder."

Until Whenever

Monday, December 18, 2006

A Cast of Thousands . . .

I typically have no interest in videos, but the new U2 video for the "Window in the Skies" single had me wowed. The concept is utter simplicity - cut a cavalcade of performance video of seemingly every important popular music figure of the twentieth century, using select careful editing to make it appear as if all of these people are singing and playing the U2 song. The execution is great and the editing a masterwork of timing and precision. But the video did raise for me some questions:

1) How long before someone gripes about whatever big artist they didn't include? There have to be hundreds represented here, but I'm sure someone'll be upset about someone who was overlooked.

2) How long before someone deliberately misreads the video to be all about how every great artist of the 20th century really just wanted to do a U2 song?

Until Whenever

Friday, December 15, 2006

Doin' the Friday Shuffle

1. "Me and My Shadow" - Mandy Patinkin - Mandy Patinkin
Croonin' a classic tune.

2. "Pirate Jenny" - Kurt Weill - The Threepenny Opera (Original New York Cast)
I got this after being quite won over by the song Alan Cumming and Cyndi Lauper did on the Tonys last year. But the austere, harsh style of the original just doesn't work for me.

3. "You ladies, you" - Benjamin Britten - A Midsummer Night's Dream (Opera)
Some very nice character singing, here.

4. "Summertime Blues" - The Who - Live at Leeds
100% rock, no additives included.

5. "High on Life" - Clint Mansell - Requiem for a Dream (Score)
Strange, very short piece of gurgling and bubbling instrumentation.

6. "Over the Moon" - Jonathan Larson - Rent (Original Broadway Cast)
Larson's spot-on cutting, yet affectionate, parody of earnest performance art.

7. "Territorial Pissings" - Nirvana - Nevermind
Pushing that tempo.

8. "Casting a Spell" - Danny Elfman - Corpse Bride (Score)
Elfman loves his harpsichord.

9. "Foolishment" - Tomas Newman - The Green Mile (Score)
Moody, hushed stuff from Newman's noble-but-not-quite-successful attempt to recreate his Shawshank musical magic.

10. "By the Sea" - Stephen Sondheim (sung by Angela Lansbury) - Sweeney Todd (Original Broadway Cast)
A lovely ode to domestic bliss, sung from one murdering human meat pusher to another.

Until Whenever

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


From James Tata this time.

1) My uncle once: received a Purple Heart.
2) Never in my life: Been to Staten Island.
3) When I was five: My parents got divorced.
4) High school was: Fun, once I learned that the geeky kids were secretly the cool kids.
5) Fire is: Hot.
6) I once saw: Susan Sarandon, as I ran past her in a college building's hallway.
7) There’s this woman I know who: Missed a 4.o as a math/education major because of one A-minus in a feminism course.
8) Once, at a bar: I saw my father throw a drunk down the front steps.
9) By noon I’m usually: Fixated on the coming of lunch.
10) Last night: I played "hide the baby doll" with my toddlers.
11) If I only had: the means to do whatever I wanted, to be able to laugh at practicality.
12) Next time I go to church: I hope the good priest says Mass.
13) What worries me most: Something bad happening to the twins.
14) When I turn my head left: I see two valentine hearts my girls made for me last year.
15) When I turn my head right: Many pictures of said girls as babies.
16) You know I'm lying when: I'm in casual conversation with strangers or mild acquaintances. 17) What I miss most about the eighties: is Bono's voice before he damaged it but good with cigarettes and booze.
18) If I were a character written by Shakespeare, I’d be: In the background. Shakespeare's characters had lives a hell of a lot more dramatic than mine!
19) By this time next year: The twins will be frighteningly old. (3)
20) I have a hard time understanding: Middle Eastern history and current events. Seriously - it's like something out of a Lord of the Rings novel; impenetrable.
21) You know I like you if: I engage in more than pleasantries with you willingly.
22) If I won an award, the first person I’d thank would be: My wife.
23) Darwin, Mozart, Slim Pickens & Geraldine Ferraro: Have nothing in common that I can figure out.
24) Take my advice, never: Eat a raw peanut. Ick.
25) My ideal breakfast is: Pancakes. I know, yawn. But really, really, good pancakes.
26) If you visit my hometown, I suggest you go to: Hogan's restaurant for some damn fine pancakes.
27) Why doesn't everyone: Chill.t
28) If you spend the night at my house: Very loud little people will wake you up.
29) I’d stop my wedding: If my wife-to-be's true love came running in at the last minute. (Nah.)
30) The world could do without: Barney. Should, really.
31) My favorite blond is: Charlize Theron.
32) If I do anything well, it’s: Write.
33) And by the way: Romance films and novels get some things right - ice cream can cure many an ill.

Until Whenever

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Name One . . .

I have a particular fondness for memes like this one - the task is to give one very good recommended example, preferably somewhat underappreciated, for each of the categories listed. No fuss no muss. (Taken from Terry Teachout's About Last Night, although I've omitted some categories I have no experience in and added some of my own).

Movie score. I've blogged about it before, but John Williams' score for A.I. manages to seamlessly mesh two styles that by all rights should not play along well at all - Williams' own heroic, fanfare-laden, melody-focused style and Philip Glass' repetitive, hypnotic, churning minimalist style.

TV theme. Taxi. I usually have no stomach for "light jazz," but the wistful flute and the combo of wistful flute and laid-back electronic keyboard on display here works very well. And that primary melody is a wonderfully emotive construction.

Melody. For my money, the best pure melody out there belongs to "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." But the best modern entry into the "best pure melody" sweepstakes I can think of is the practically perfect melody line to Adam Guettel's "Migratory V."

Harmonic language. Stephen Sondheim, according to one source (see below) bases his scores not on melodies but on harmonic progressions and settings to which he then assigns melodies. I'm not educated enough to really speak to what this technically means, but it produces a very distinct, rewarding sound.

Rhythmic feel. Again, I don't have the musical education or language to really delve into this one too deeply, but the finale to Stephen Sondheim's Pacific Overtures, "Next," features a percussive break in the middle that always floors me.

Jazz: Terry Trotter did a series of jazz trio treatments of Sondheim scores, and his first one, Passion, features some sparkling stuff.

Classical piece. John Adams Naive and Sentimental Music is a beautiful long-form piece, with a remarkably sinuous, long-lined melody that dominates the first movement that I still can't quite get a handle on.

Smash hit. U2's "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For." Just listen to some of the notes Bono hits in there.

Book on music. A now out-of-print gem called The Broadway Musical that features spot-on musical analysis of some of musical theater's greatest scores. Technical enough to be truly interesting and yet not so technical that I can't follow any of it (although to be sure I can't follow much of it). A font of illuminating analysis.

Musical theater score. Adam Guettel's Floyd Collins score is an inspired blend of country, bluegrass, and Broadway sound, with a thick and fiddle- and guitar-heavy orchestration that fits it just right.

Musical theater song. "How Glory Goes" off of the aforementioned Floyd Collins score is a gem of a song, an aching plea from a dying man to God. Audra McDonald sings the all-mighty hell out of it on her second album, which takes its title from the song.

Opera. Dead Man Walking is the modern opera score I keep returning to, with its seamless blend of drama, humor, pop sounds, and searing, full-bodied operatic outbursts.

Until Whenever

Friday, December 08, 2006

Buried Beauties: Nora Zehetner

To my discredit, it took until the "six-months-before" flashback episode of Heroes, in which she appeared with long hair, before I realized that Nora Zehetner's Eden character was not just cute but beautiful. She has my apologies, should she want them.

Until Whenever
The "Overrated" Parlor Game

Stealing from Roger who stole from Jaquandor, here are my reactions to Premiere magazine's list of the 20 most overrated films:

20. American Beauty.
I have to admit to finding the whole finding-rapture-in-a-plastic-trash-bag thing impenetrable. But overall I did like the film, especially Spacey and Bennett's performances.

19. Chicago.
Love it. I think some of the backlash against this is coming from folks who just hate that a musical won for Best Picture. The whole thing was put together wonderfully, with the singing, acting, and dancing all executed superbly. And as much as I am leery of the notion that the only way to get an audience to accept singing in a musical is to make it explicitly fantasy, I love the whole "in Roxie's" head conceit - it fits with the theme of the film so well--that this woman is so obsessed by show business that she thinks and sees the world around her in purely show business terms.

18. Clerks.
Agreed. When I finally got around to see this I was amazed that not one review or commentary I had read noted how cringingly awful the acting was. I still don't understand why Kevin Smith insists on directing, as opposed to just writing. He has no feel at all for actors or the camera.

17. Fantasia.
Given that I can never get myself to just sit and watch the thing, I probably have to agree. In theory I should love it - I love classical music and Disney animation- and yet somehow I always find myself bored watching it.

16. Field of Dreams.
I'm not sure I've ever seen this all the way through.

15. Chariots of Fire.
Saw it as an eight-year old (my father thought he was taking us to see the caveman movie that came out around the same time with "Fire" in the title - Quest for Fire? Haven't seen it since, but I do remember enjoying it a lot--just not why.

14. Good Will Hunting.
I loved this movie. Sweet and touching and well-acted and with an absolutely luminous Minnie Driver. They did cheat at the end though - the final breakthrough Robin Williams achieves with Matt Damon is kind of forced in there and doesn't really make any sense.

13. Forrest Gump.
Love it. Completely. I have a theory - if Gum had bombed at the box office, it would be beloved by critics today. But because it was a monster hit, they hate it. Hanks' performance seems easy, but it's really a remarkable bit of acting. It would be so easy for Gump to be a joke, and caricature. That he's not is a testament to how good Hanks is.

12. Jules and Jim.
Never heard of it, let alone saw it.

11. A Beautiful Mind.
I liked this one a lot as well. Great score by James Horner and Crowe is just great. I do squirm a little at how literal they made his schizophrenic delusions.

10. Monster's Ball.
A movie I liked fine but that I have no real urge to see again. So maybe it was a bit overrated.

9. Moonstruck.
Come on. This is as perfect a romantic comedy as has been made. Just fun in every frame.

8. Mystic River.
A moving, engaging film. I think a lot of these are really just a matter of the magazine overreacting to some of the praise. It's not the greatest film ever, but it's well-made, well-acted, with a great script - and a great source in Lehane's somber novel.

7. Nashville.
On the list of "must see."

6. The Wizard of Oz.
Now they're just being deliberately provocative.

5. An American in Paris.
Never seen. But a brilliant piece of music.

4. Easy Rider.
Never seen. And have no real desire to.

3. The Red Shoes.
Haven't seen.

2. 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Agreed. I finally saw this a few year's back and was wholly non-plussed. Bored, really.

1. Gone with the Wind.
Never seen it.

Until Whenever

Thursday, December 07, 2006


Fascinating article, here, about how in the past two years, Best Buy has instituted a radical workplace concept: Work where and when you want. Come in once a week, work from home, work at night, work from your boat - they don't care, as long as the work is getting done. And it is--and how. All data seem to suggest that productivity amongst any department that has adopted the policy is up, and by significant numbers. A great read, and a wonderful notion. Now to start sending to my companies muckity mucks . . .

Until Whenever
They Dissed Dylan!

Given that I listen to almost no new music these days, my reactions to Grammy nominations are much less involved than they used to be. Still--I have to bemoan the lack of Dylan love on display here. The reviews for Modern Times were seriously rapturous. Add to that the surprising sales - including a week at #1, almost unheard of for a Dylan disc, and the lack of at least a Best Album nomination is disappointing. Did Messrs. Tosy and Cosh have any other reactions?

That "Crazy" is indeed a damn catchy little thing, and not something I would hate to see win record of the year. That wretched "You're Beautiful" song? Not so much.

The new John Mayer and Red Hot Chili Peppers albums got Album of the Year nominations and no Modern Times???

I do not know any of the Song of the Year nominees except for the aforementioned Blount composition, which doesn't belong anywhere near any awards.

U2 get a nomination for their appearance on Mary J. Blige's cover of "One." Neat.

Nice to see Elvis Costello and Alan Toussaint get a Pop Vocal Album nomination for their sweet and bouncy The River in Reverse.

Dylan gets a Solo Rock Performance nomination for "Someday Baby." Amen. Listen to the way he toys with those jumps up the scale throughout the song. ("I don't care what you DO.") Master class stuff. And Neil Young gets nominated in the same category for a song off his wonderfully stripped down and homemade Living with War.

Another U2 nomination, this time with Green Day for their cover of "The Saints Are Coming."

Having Dylan nominated for Best Rock Song is like having Shakespeare in a Best Play competition.

But that he doesn't even get a nomination for Rock Album is just plain criminal.

I do appreciate that they put Springsteen's rollicking Seeger Sessions where it belongs, in the folk category.

And Modern Times gets a Best Contemporary Folk/Americana album nomination, alongside Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris' stellar All the Roadrunning. Fun category.

There was a time when I would have been familiar with all of the "Best Musical Show" nominees. This year, I only know the Sweeney Todd revical. Sad. (On my part, that is. Can't blame this one on the Grammys.)

The Brokeback Mountain soundtrack was really nicely put together - albums that mix songs and score material often don't work; this one did.

Very cool to see John Williams also get two "Best Instrumental Composition" nominations, for pieces off of Munich and Memoirs of a Geisha.

I didn't know there was a "Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalists" award, but I love that Vince Mendoza got nominated for one for his work with Elvis Costello and the Metropole Orkest.

Until Whenever

John Williams Munich score is great stuff - hope it gets some recognition here.


The good folks over at A List of Things Thrown Ten Minutes Ago have a post up in which folks are listing the duplicate song titles in their music collections - not covers, not multiple versions of the same song, but different songs that share the same title. I was for some ungodly reason very intrigued by the idea and have culled through my trusty iPod to reveal the following list. "Beautiful" leads the pack, with six distinct songs in my collection by that name.

A Man and a Woman - U2 (How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb)
A Man and a Woman - Jones and Schmidt (110 in the Shade)

Alabama - John Coltrane
Alabama - Neil Young (Harvest)

Always - U2
Always - Ella Fitzgerald (Irving Berlin)

America - Leonard Bernstein (West Side Story)
America - Simon & Garfunkel (Bookends)
America - Tracy Chapman (Where You Live)

Beautiful - Michael John LaChiusa (Marie Christine)
Beautiful - Aimee Mann
Beautiful - James Newton Howard (King Kong)
Beautiful - Stephen Sondheim (Sunday in the Park with George)
Beautiful - Paul Simon (Surprise)
Beautiful - Smashing Pumpkins (Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness)

Bon Voyage - Leonard Bernstein (Candide)
Bon Voyage - Vince Guaraldi (George Winston Plays Vince Guaraldi)

Broken - Elvis Costello (Mighty Like a Rose)
Broken - Jack Johnson (Sing Along Songs)
Broken - Tracy Chapman (Let It Rain)

Central Park - James Newton Howard (King Kong)
Central Park - Michael John LaChiusa (See What I Wanna See)

Change - Tears for Fears (Tears Roll Down)
Change - Tracy Chapman (Where You Live)

Come with Me - Andrew Lippa (The Wild Party)
Come with Me - John Du Prez and Eric Idle (Spamalot)

The Dream - Adam Guettel (Floyd Collins)
The Dream - Bock and Harnick (Fiddler on the Roof)

Drive - Durkhard Ballwitz (Requiem for a Dream)
Drive - REM (Automatic for the People)

Fallen - Elvis Costello (North)
Fallen - K.D. Lang (Hymns of the 49th Parallel)

The Final Confrontation - Danny Elfman (Batman Returns)
The Final Confrontation - Danny Elfman (Edward Scissorhands)

Fire - Jimi Hendrix (The Essential Jimi Hendrix)
Fire - Pete Townsend (The Iron Man)
Fire - Tan Dun (Symphony)
Fire - U2 (October)

For You - Bruce Springsteen (The Essential Bruce Springsteen)
For You - Tracy Chapman (Tracy Chapman)

Funny Face - Ella Fitzgerald (Gershwin)
Funny Face - U2 (Million Dollar Hotel)

Ghosts - Durkhard Ballwitz (Requiem for a Dream)
Ghosts - Thomas Newman (Road to Perdition)

Gloria - U2 (October)
Gloria - Beethoven (Missa Solemnis)
Gloria - Jimi Hendrix ((The Essential Jimi Hendrix)

Goodbye - James Horner (Sneakers)
Goodbye - John Ottman (X-Men 2)
Goodbye - Tracy Chapman (Let It Rain)

Grace - U2 (All That You Can't Leave Behind)
Grace - Jeff Buckley (Grace)

Hand in Hand - Dire Straits (Making Movies)
Hand in Hand Elvis Costello (This Year's Model)

Heaven - Ricky Ian Gordon (Bright Eyed Joy)
Heaven - Tan Dun (Symphony)

Hello Again - Dave Matthews Band (Stand Up)
Hello Again - Michael John LaChiusa (Hello Again)

Home - Alan Menken and Tim Rice (Beauty and the Beast)
Home - Sheryl Crow (Best of Sheryl Crow)
Home - Maury Yeston (The Phantom of the Opera)

I'm Ready - Howard Shore (Philadelphia)
I'm Ready - Tracy Chapman (New Beginning)

I Threw It All Away - Bob Dylan (Nashville Skyline)
I Threw It All Away - Elvis Costello (Kodak Variety)

I Want You - Bob Dylan (Blonde on Blonde)
I Want You - Elvis Costello (Blood and Chocloate)

It's Time - Elvis Costello (All This Useless BEauty)
It's Time - John Ottman (X-Men 2)

It Takes All Kinds - Aimee Mann (Bachelor #2)
It Takes All Kinds - Stephen Sondheim (Sondheim at the Movies)

The Kiss - Alan Menken (Alladin)
The Kiss - Phillip Glass (The Hours)

Lament - Stephen Sondheim (Into the Woods)
Lament - Andrew Lloyd Weber (Evita)

Love and Happiness - John Mellencamp (Whenever We Wanted)
Love and Happiness - Living Colour (Biscuits)
Love and Happiness - Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris (All the Roadrunning)

Love Song - Kurt Weill (The Threepenny Opera)
Love Song - Stephen Schwartz (Pippin)

Lucky - Adam Guettel (Floyd Collins)
Lucky - Radiohead (OK Computer)

Lullaby - Jack Johnson (Sing Along Songs)
Lullaby - Tan Dun (Symphony)

The Money Song - Kander and Ebb (Cabaret)
The Money Song - Marx and Lopez (Avenue Q)

More - Michael John LaChiusa (The Wild Party)
More - Stephen Sondheim (Sondheim at the Movies)

Next to You - Stephen Sondheim (Bounce)
Next to You - The Police (Outlandos d Amor)

No Matter What - Boyzone (Notting Hill)
No Matter What - Alan Menken and Tim Rice (Beauty and the Beast)

No More - Jonathan Larson (tick . . . tick . . . BOOM!)
No More - Stephen Sondheim (Into the Woods)
No More - Michael John LaChiusa (See What I Wanna See)
No More - Neil Young (Freedom)

No Wonder - Anne Sofie Van Oter (For the Stars)
No Wonder - Neil Young (Prairie Wind)

Old Friends - Stephen Sondheim (Putting It Together)
Old Friends - Simon & Garfunkel (Bookends)

One - U2 (Achtung Baby)
One - Aimee Mann (Magnolia)

Opportunity - Elvis Costello (Get Happy)
Opportunity - Stephen Sondheim (Bounce)

Procession - Benjamin Britten (A Ceremony of Carols)
Procession - Queen (Queen II)

Quiet - Leonard Bernstein (Candide)
Quiet - Paul Simon (You're the One)
Quiet - Smashing Pumpkins (Siamese Dream)

Remember - Antonio Carlos Jobim (Jobim's Finest Hour)
Remember - Irving Berlin (Ella Fitzgerald)
Remember - Sondheim (A Little Night Music)

Revenge - James Horner (Braveheart)
Revenge - James Horner (Legends of the Fall)

Run Away - Ricky Ian Gordon (Bright Eyed Joy)
Run Away - Michael Giacchino (Lost)

Satellite - Elvis Costello (Spike)
Satellite - Dave Matthews Band (Under the Table and Dreaming)
Satellite - Aimee Mann (Bachelor #4)

Save Me - Aimee Mann (Magnolia)
Save Me - Dave Matthews (Some Devil)

Silver and Gold - Neil Young (Silver and Gold)
Silver and Gold - U2 (Rattle and Hum)
Silver and Gold - Burl Ives

So Lonely - Dave Brubeck (Songs)
So Lonely - The Police (Outlandos d' Amor)

Still - Elvis Costello (North)
Still - Maury Yeston (Titanic)

Story of My Life - Leonard Bernstein (Leonard Bernstein's New York)
Story of My Life - Michael John LaChiusa (Hello Again)

The Storm - Alan Menken (The Little Mermaid)
The Storm - Michael John LaChiusa (Marie Christine)
The Storm - Phillip Glass (Dracula)

Sunrise - Norah Jones (Feels Like Home)
Sunrise - The Who (Maximum R&B)

Surrender - Elvis Presley (#1 Hits)
Surrender - U2 (War)

Temptation - Diana Krall (The Girl in the Other Room)
Temptation - Elvis Costello (Get Happy!)

Thank You - Jake Heggie (Dead Man Walking)
Thank You - Frank Loesser (the Most Happy Fella)

The Battle - Alan Menken (Alladin)
The Battle - Alan Menken (Beauty & the Beast)

This Time - Smashing Pumpkins (MACHINA)
This Time - Tracy Chapman (Crossroads)

Too Far Gone - Elvis Costello (Almost Blue)
Too Far Gone - Neil Young (Freedom)

Too Much - Dave Matthews Band (Crash)
Too Much - Elvis Presley (#1 Hits)

Tunnel of Love - Dire Straits (Making Movies)
Tunnel of Love - Bruce Springsteen (Tunnel of Love)

Wait - The Beatles (Rubber Soul)
Wait - Stephen Sondheim (Sweeney Todd)

Wedding Song - Kurt Weill (Threepenny Opera)
Wedding Song - Tracy Chapman (Telling Stories)

What Is It? - Benjamin Britten (Peter Grimes)
What Is It? - Cassandra Wilson (Glamoured)

When You're Alone - Bruce Springsteen (Tunnel of Love)
When You're Alone - John Williams (Hook)

Where in the World - Lucy Simon (The Secret Garden)
Where in the World - Maury Yeston - Phantom

Why? - Tracy Chapman (Tracy Chapman)
Why? - Elvis Costello (The Juliet Letters)

Wouldn't It Be Nice? - Michael John LaChiusa (The Wild Party)
Wouldn't It Be Nice? - The Beach Boys (Pet Sounds)

Until Whenever

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Reason Why Sesame Street Is Leagues Beyond, Say, Barney #2,487
Try to imagine a line like this happening on Barney:

Grover, in what is a recurring feature, has just shown us a short video about another culture, here kids in the Philippines playing in a park. When the video finishes, we see that Grover is at the top of a slide, just like the kids were in one part of the video. The videos are usually more culturally illuminating than this one was - we usually see kids making things specific to their culture, or dancing native dances, or whatnot; here we just saw the kids playing in a park. So, Grover says, "Well, so that wasn't educational per se." Try to imagine Barney saying "per se." You can't. And that's one of the things Sesame Street has always done so well - not talked down to kids. No, my toddlers don't know what per se means. But, thanks to Grover, they will sooner than they might have otherwise.

Oh - and before going down the slide, Grover says, "Top of the slide, ma!" Tell me that ain't just a bit of genius.

Until Whenever

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Random Top Ten

Random Top Ten!!

Top Ten Musical Theater Songs

10. "Somewhere" - West Side Story - Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim
Maybe Bernstein's most purely gorgeous melody.

9. "Loving You" - Passion - Stephen Sondheim
A delicate and fragile bit of shimmering songwriting, as direct and classic a song as Sondheim has written.

8. "Migratory V" An uplifting pure melody about how much more humanity can achieve when it works together. Rapturous.

7. "Gethsemane" - Jesus Christ Superstar - Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim Rice
Jesus doubts his destiny in the garden after the last supper. The folksy acoustic opening gives way to a majestic and angry diatribe. A tour de force for a singer that many have tried to master--none as successfully as original concept recording Jesus Ian Gilian.

6. "How Glory Goes" - Floyd Collins - Adam Guettel
A dying man questions god about what heaven will be like. Heartbreaking.

5. "Sunday" - Sunday in the Park with George - Stephen Sondheim
Sondheim's choral masterpiece.

4. "Rose's Turn" - Gypsy - Jule Styne and Stephen Sondheim
Mama Rose's fabled nervous breakdown. Lots of legendary singers have essayed this ultimate character piece - my favorite just may be Betty Buckley's.

3. "No More" - Into the Woods - Stephen Sondheim
A father and son try to come to terms with the challenges life places before us. Such a plaintive, disarmingly simple, wistful song.

2. "The Impossible Dream" - Man of La Mancha - Joe Darion and Mitch Leigh
So overdone and misinterpreted it's almost tragic. The point of the song isn't, as so many singers insist it is, that by trying to do impossible things one can achieve the impossible, that trying hard can accomplish anything, but instead that trying, believing, in the face of literal impossibility can have immense power. It's the "impossible" dream, not the "very unlikely" dream.

1. "Epiphany" - Sweeney Todd - Stephen Sondheim
A desperate man completely snaps and decides that humanity does not deserve the life it's been gifted with. A brilliant piece of playwriting through song.

Until Whenever
My Back Hurts

That's what happens when you have to pack up a house and unpack a house. Lots of lifting heavy boxes over and over and over again. The hiatus wasn't the most restful, with the chaos of moving and all, but it wasn't work, which is always saying something. Can't find a good meme to kick things off post-hiatus, as is my tradition, so you'll have to settle for this hodgepodge of pop-culturey reflections from the last two weeks-plus:

Losing the Ti-Faux, even the crappy, prone to crashing, temperamental one I have, for a week is stressful. I missed two new Studio 60s, How I Met Your Mothers, Gilmore Girlses, Veronica Marses- and in this day and age of instant gratification, I can't even just go and buy any of them (save the Studio 60s). Now I have to try and avoid finding out who the Veronica Mars rapist was until (if) they repeat the episodes. Stupid moving.

Managed to not miss any Offices somehow, and am very much liking the integrated Scranton office. (I also love that they are trimming what at first looked like a just goofily huge cast by having Michael drive off the newcomers one by one).

Finally finished watching the second season of Veronica Mars and have to admit to not fully understanding the resolution. Even more embarrassingly, I knew who did it going in (it was spoiled for me somewhere) and it still didn't make sense. I love the show, but it really makes me feel, well, stupid.

Almost through the sixth season of The West Wing. I'll tell you, I dimly remember hearing much mockery of the "Toby and Josh fight" episode, but Schiff was just stunning in it, especially in his breakdown scene near the end with Alison Janney. All in all, I like this season a lot, and have to admit to respecting John Wells much for keeping the style, tone, and spirit of Sorkin's show alive so well.

The Nets lost six in a row. Why do thy have so much trouble starting a season strongly??

The twin rugrats have fallen deeply in love with a horrid budget kids DVD entitled The Wheels on the Bus. The acting, production values, camerawork, and writing are so bad that the whole enterprise reminds me of nothing so much as porn. Which is strange.

Am reading and very much enjoying the mammoth new Walt Disney biography. The dilemma is that I don't really want to take it on the train, given its heft. Luckily, I just got back a lost (paperback) copy of The Handmaid's Tale, which I was about a third of the way through before losing. I was absolutely loving it and am very eager to dive back in.

Also finally was able to get my self to a comic book store, and will on the PATH train later be reading the new Civil War, Amazing Spider-Man, Captain America, New Avengers, Astonishing X-Men, and Ultimate Power issues. Wee!!

Got my traditional Christmas CD - this year it was Aimee Mann's new One More Drifter in the Snow a somewhat subdued and yet lovely collection of mostly classics with a few new tunes. Not sure how or when it happened, but I think I am in love with Aimee Mann.

That's all I got for now. Good to be back amongst the blog-o-world.

Until Whenever