Archive for September, 2011

Theater review: FOLLIES

September 17, 2011


My review of Stephen Sondheim and James Goldman’s Follies has just been posted on CultureVulture.net. Check it out here and let me know what you think.

It’s a show that musical theater mavens never tire of seeing, discussing, thinking about, and no wonder — it’s good, substantial stuff. Two surprises in the new Broadway revival: Bernadette Peters is The Weakest Link, and for song-and-dance panache Terri White (below center, as Stella Deems leading “Who’s That Woman?”) pretty much steals the show.

Quote of the day: FASTING

September 15, 2011

FASTING

There’s hidden sweetness in the stomach’s emptiness.
We are lutes, no more, no less. If the soundbox
is stuffed full of anything, no music.
If the brain and belly are burning clean
with fasting, every moment a new song comes out of the fire.
The fog clears, and new energy makes you
run up the steps in front of you.
Be emptier and cry like reed instruments cry.
Emptier, write secrets with the reed pen.
When you’re full of food and drink, Satan sits
where your spirit should, an ugly metal statue
in place of the Kaaba. When you fast,
good habits gather like friends who want to help.
Fasting is Solomon’s ring. Don’t give it
to some illusion and lose your power,
but even if you have, if you’ve lost all will and control,
they come back when you fast, like soldiers appearing
out of the ground, pennants flying above them.
A table descends to your tents,
Jesus’ table.
Expect to see it, when you fast, this table
spread with other food, better than the broth of cabbages.

— Rumi (translated by Coleman Barks)

Rant

September 12, 2011


One of Andy’s favorite cartoonists is Kate Beaton, a thirtysomething unmarried non-breeding Brooklynite who has every good reason to add this particular t-shirt to her merch page. It inspired me to consider marketing a t-shirt that says, “Shut Up About 9/11.” I’ve already gotten half a dozen orders.

But what I’d like to say is: shut up about Rick Perry. I don’t want to hear another word about this idiot.

But when I really think about it, what I want is to STOP TALKING ABOUT THE NEXT PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION. It’s more than a year away. Nothing is gained by extending the campaigning season to 18 months. It wears out the voting populace. The only people that profit are advertising agencies and the media outlets where they place their self-serving, highly partisan propaganda. It’s obscene the amount of money that is spent on this advertising that could be spent renovating schools and hospitals or feeding the poor. It is already illegal to do any campaigning within 500 feet of a polling station — in some states, within 100 feet. I propose that there should be  a law making it against the law to run for any office more than five weeks before the election takes place.

Photo diary: elsewhere on September 11

September 12, 2011

While other things were happening in town, Jonathan (newly arrived from Atlanta) and Nick (visiting from Amsterdam) and I went to New York Theater Workshop to see Elevator Repair Service's production of "The Select (The Sun Also Rises)"

We loved the show, whose sets and costumes were designed by Mr. David Zinn

we thought we might have dinner at the famous Prune, but it didn't open until 5:30

so we sat outside at Cozy Cafe, the hookah bar down the street, and had tea

when we went back they were having some kind of video shoot and serving only a $65 prix fixe dinner so we went back to Bellcourt for a delicious dinner

Joan Blondell singing "Remember My Forgotten Man" in "Gold Diggers of 1933"

street sign (and "improvement") spied in midtown

In last week’s New Yorker….

September 12, 2011

Last week’s New Yorker, like all other magazines on the newsstand, devoted itself almost entirely to the manufactured media event known as “the 10th anniversary of 9/11.” No one needed this whoop-de-do, and many of us seethed all week long with a barely suppressed, barely understood sense of rage about being coerced into this Orwellian ritual of remembrance of SOMETHING NOBODY HAS FORGOTTEN.

The streets were full of policemen and firemen from all over the country, who seem to have taken this day on the calendar as a national holiday commemorating those brave public servants who risk their lives every day and occasionally lose them. They deserve their honor. The families of people who died are completely justified in mourning and remembering however they see fit. I’m certain that I’m not alone, though, in feeling a deeply sinister force afoot in the energy around the 9/11 industry, a force that sacralizes the names of the people who died in the attacks that day and obsessively replays the details of the event…as if nothing of consequence has happened since then. This particular event over the weekend registered for me not as sorrow but as outrage.

You want me to remember? By all means! I remember the unnecessary wars that were launched in reaction to 9/11, the hundreds of thousands of military and civilians from many nations who have died in those ill-conceived, ill-managed wars, the obscene amount of money both spent and wasted in those wars, how the US Treasury (riding on a historic surplus at the end of Bill Clinton’s presidency) got virtually emptied into the pockets of the war-profiteer friends of Dick Cheney — AND NONE OF THEM HAS BEEN HELD ACCOUNTABLE for any of this, least of all the one man who is personally responsible for the state this country, its raggedy-ass politics, and its economy on the brink of collapse, namely George W. Bush.

I think the smartest and most cogent article I read all week was George Packer’s essay “Coming Apart,” subtitled “After 9/11 transfixed America, the country’s problems were left to rot.” Here’s a key passage:

“No one appeared more surprised on September 11th, more caught off guard, than President Bush. The look of startled fear on his face neither reflected nor inspired the quiet strength and resolve that he kept asserting as the country’s response. In reaction to his own unreadiness, Bush immediately overreached for an answer. In his memoir Decision Points, Bush describes his thinking as he absorbed the news in the Presidential limousine, on Route 41 in Florida: ‘The first plane could have been an accident. The second was definitely an attack. The third was a declaration fo war.’ In the President’s mind, 9/11 was elevated to an act of war by the number of planes. Later that day, at Offutt Air Force Base, in Nebraska, he further refined his interpretation, telling his National Security Council by videoconference, ‘We are at war against terror.’

“Those were fateful words. Defining the enemy by its tactic was a strange conceptual diversion that immediately made the focus too narrow (what about the ideology behind the terror?) and too broad (were we at war with all terrorists and their supporters everywhere?). The President could have said, ‘We are at war against Al Qaeda,’ but he didn’t. Instead, he escalated his rhetoric, in an attempt to overpower any ambiguities. Freedom was at war with fear, he told the country, and he would not rest until the final victory…His entire sense of the job came to depend on being a war President.

“What were the American people to do in this vast new war? In his address to Congress on September 20, 2001 — the speech that gave his most eloquent account of the meaning of September 11th — the President told Americans to live their lives, hug their children, uphold their values, participate in the economy, and pray for the victims. These quiet continuities were supposed to be reassuring, but instead they revealed the unreality that lay beneath his call to arms. Wasn’t there anything else? Should Americans enlist in the armed forces, join the foreign service, pay more taxes, do volunteer work, study foreign languages, travel to Muslim countries? No — just go on using their credit cards…Never was the mismatch between the idea of the war and the war itself more apparent. Everything had changed, Bush announced, but not to worry — nothing would change.”

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