Category Archives: non-pop culture

The London Bridge is NOT falling down

OK, I can’t upload any pictures, but I thought I’d pop on while we have wifi and wax lyrical about the trip so far. You know, just so you can be maximally jealous. I’m nice like that.

So the plane ride was totally uneventful, except that I’ve apparently lost the ability to sleep on a plane. Which sucks, because I used to pass out pretty much as soon as I’d fastened my seatbelt. I have regularly slept through take-offs that had other passengers using their barf bags, but on this flight … not so much. I blame my kids. Or George Bush. Or possibly that large caffeinated latte I got right before the flight. Anybody’s guess.

Anyhoodle, we made it, crusty but triumphant, to the flat where my Mom has been staying for the last month, where we were greeted with smiles and hugs and extremely large glasses of Sauvignon Blanc. This is a good way to be greeted. Once our wine was consumed, we just had time to shower off our travel crud, change into nicer, less wrinkled clothes, and hop on the tube to Covent Garden. Mom had made reservations for pre-theatre dinner at Le Deuxieme restaurant, which is one of those places you dream of going until your bank balance jerks you back into reality. This is reason number one why I loooooooove traveling with my Mom. We ate amazing food (srsly. Unbelievably good lamb curry) and drank more lovely wine and between the alcohol and the jet lag I’m a little surprised they didn’t kick us out for irresponsible giggling. After coffee and dessert, we strolled down to the New London Theatre and saw Warhorse, which was one of the best shows I have seen in years. Really inspiring theatricality, beautiful music, incredible technical effects, moving emotion – just top notch. Also we had wonderful seats, which is reason number two why I loooooooooove traveling with my mom. By the time the show was over, we were like zombies (except for the brain-eating part), so we caught a cab with an awesome driver who told us all about his dog and his grandkids. Stumbled into the flat and passed out cold on our beds.

This morning we slept in and then met a friend at the Tate Modern when it opened at 10, to see their special exhibit on Voyeurism (stopping by St. Paul’s cathedral and the Millenium Bridge on the way). The exhibit was really interesting, but frankly being that hip is damned tiring, so after the Tate and a quick lunch we got our cheesy tourist hats on and went on the guided tour of the Tower of London. Which I am not ashamed to say I freaking love. Cockney Beefeaters telling you all about Elizabethan beheadings? SIGN ME UP. Then we visited the Crown Jewels (bling!), looked in the gift shop (kitsch!), and headed over to the Courtauld Museum, which was our favorite stop today. It’s just a tiny gallery, but it’s completely filled with the good stuff. Monet, Degas, Seurat, Rubens, Van Gogh – just delightful. By the time we were done there, our feet were about to FALL OFF, so we headed back to the flat to rest a little (rest = drink wine), and now we’re headed off to a local Thai restaurant for dinner. Tonight we pack up our stuff and tomorrow morning we’re off to Inverness! So far it’s been superlatively fabulous, which is good, because I miss Mr. Squab, the Hatchling and the Sprout like crazy so this trip has to be good enough to make that worthwhile. Not sure what our internet situation will be in Scotland, but I’ll update again when I can. Ta!

Percussive Guitar: Yes, Please

One of the cool things about teaching at a contemporary music school is that your students introduce you to a lot of awesome new (to you) artists. Last semester one of my students gave a percussive guitar performance for his final project and I was really blown away by both the sound and the style. He recommended a couple of artists as masters of the style, and boy, are they ever. I would love to be able to play like this. But instead I have kids. Anyway, check them out if you haven’t heard them before, and enjoy the gooditude.

Friday Poetry Blogging

There was a time, both on this blog and on past efforts, when I regularly posted a poem on Fridays. Cos I like poetry, and it’s fun to share my favorites. I think I stopped from sheer inertia, but today I was going through some boxes of old stuff and found the book eWAC made for me for my 18th birthday, which has a lot of great poems in it, so I thought I’d maybe start up again. The poem below is posted in honor of our dear Governor Tim Pawlenty, who indicated in a conference call yesterday that he may invoke the 10th Amendment to prevent any of Obama’s healthcare reforms from taking effect in MN. Glad to know you, Tim.

Go West Young Man
by James Laughlin

Yessir they’re all named
either Ken or Stan or Don
every one of them and
those aren’t just nick-
names either no they’re
really christened like
that just Ken or Stan or
Don and you shake hands
with anybody you run into
no matter who the hell
it is and say “glad to
know you Ken glad to
know you Don” and then
two minutes later (you
may not have said ten
words to the guy) you
shake hands again and
say “glad to have met
you Stan glad to” and
they haven’t heard much
about Marx and the class
struggle because they
haven’t had to and by
god it makes a country
that is fit to live in
and by god I’m glad to
know you Don I’m glad!

Christ, how did it get to be Friday already?

The house is a mess, they’re doing road work so the water is turned off all day, the kids are extra cranky, it’s like a sauna outside, and all I really wanna do is take a long nap in my air-conditioned bedroom.

Oh, plus I wanna move to France. Via Kevin Drum:

Matt Yglesias translates some questions from Le Bac, France’s college admission test/high school leaving exam. These are from the philosophy test:

— Does objectivity in history presuppose the impartiality of the historian?

— Does language betray thought?

— Explicate an excerpt from Schopenhauer’s The World as Will and Representation

— Are there questions that are un-answerable by science?

I mean, I know I’m an elitist liberal pinko commie treehugger, and I know comparisons are odious and all, but honestly: can you IMAGINE such questions on any kind of high school test in the US? ‘Cause I sure can’t.

Holy Fuck.

Wow. Here’s some really depressing news for the theatre world: Theatre de la Jeune Lune is closing. From the press release:

MINNEAPOLIS, June 22, 2008 — The Board of Directors of the Twin Cites-based Theatre de la Jeune Lune voted this week to list the theatre’s headquarters for sale and to shut down the arts group as currently organized. Included in the decision is a planned significant reduction in artistic and administrative staff, effective July 31, 2008.

“We have reached these decisions with great regret,” says Board President Bruce Neary; “however, our fiduciary responsibilities to our artists, our staff, our donors and our creditors dictate this action. We are listing the building for sale in order to fully satisfy our creditors.” Mr. Neary added, “The Board is committed to an orderly shutdown, including satisfying all existing rental obligations through September 30, 2008.”

Dominique Serrand, Artistic Director said, “It has been an amazing thirty years. Few theatre companies last as long. We never sought nor desired to be an institution. Our home was always intended to be a playground in which we could gather with other adventurous souls and create the unimaginable. We have benefited enormously from the incredible generosity of this community, and especially all of the artists without whom we would never have survived this long or created as much. We can never thank them enough.”

I can’t believe it. Jeune Lune has certainly had its share of financial difficulties – what regional theatre company in the US has not? – but I always thought it would pull through. For those of you unfamiliar with the company, I can’t even fully explain what an influential, amazing place it is. It’s always my choice for where to go when I need to remember why I do theatre, need to be inspired. Sure, they’ve had flops, they’ve tried things that didn’t work sometimes – but the important thing was, they TRIED things. They were always pushing the creative envelope, and often the result was stunning in every sense. Their physicality, innovative staging, delight in every genre and period, and love of language were unmatched in the Twin Cities and rivaled any company in the country. From the artistic director’s statement, it sounds like the decision to close was both artistic and financial, and it may be that the company had run its natural course. Nevertheless, it’s a devastating loss to local and national theatre, and I’m heartbroken to see Jeune Lune go.

Updated: The Pioneer Press article on the closing is here. MPR is here.

Cutest. Book. Ever.

I just found this new-ish Web 2.0 app, Lookybook, which I foresee using the crap out of over the next few years. They’ve scanned a ton of picture books into their server – not just excerpts, a la Amazon, but whole entire books – so you can preview them before you buy them. So extremely cool – because who has time to peruse picture books at the bookstore when your two-year-old is threatening to demolish the entire CD section? This site has lots of ways to search, and you can collect books on your personal bookshelf so you remember them, and … well, me likey, is what I’m saying. Here’s a book I found on the site that I have got to get for our library, because HOLY LIFE-THREATENING CUTENESS. Check it (click the eyes in the upper-right corner for a bigger verison):

Sunday Poetry Blogging

First Snow
by Louise Glück

Like a child, the earth’s going to sleep,
or so the story goes.

But I’m not tired, it says.
And the mother says, You may not be tired but I’m tired –

You can see it in her face, everyone can.
So the snow has to fall, sleep has to come.
Because the mother’s sick to death of her life
and needs silence.

(I hasten to add that this is not a reflection of my current state of mind; I just like the poem.)

HELL yeah

One of the awesome things about living in Minneapolis is that the Guthrie Theater is here, and if you’re lucky and have an x-treeemly nice friend who works there sometimes you get to do things like go see Sir Ian McKellen talk about his life as an actor and then take questions from the audience. I SAW GANDALF LIVE, YO. I’ve been to a couple of these “conversations” (Hume Cronyn and Tom Stoppard before this one), and they’re pretty universally awesome. Actors and playwrights tend to be pretty good storytellers, and it is so fun to see these legendary figures in real life, as it were. McKellen was no different: great sense of humor, funny anecdotes, patient tolerance of some of the off-kilter audience questions (one woman actually had the temerity to use her time at the mic to ask for tickets to McKellen’s sold-out run of King Lear. Sheesh.) The audience was already in his thrall, and after the question and answer session was over he stood up. But instead of leaving, he told us that he had “a little treat” for us, and related how back in 1964 he’d acted in this play Sir Thomas More, of which three pages are believed to have been written by Shakespeare. The play, surprisingly, had never been performed before McKellen’s production; he said he was one of the last actors who’d ever be able to claim to have originated a Shakespearean role. (How cool is that?) And then, out of nowhere, he pulled out this speech from the play, More’s response to the men of the city calling for the “removal of strangers” from the city. The speech was astonishing, not only for its beautiful language, but moreover for its startling relevance to the current political situation:

MORE. Grant them removed, and grant that this your noise
Hath chid down all the majesty of England;
Imagine that you see the wretched strangers,
Their babies at their backs and their poor luggage,
Plodding tooth ports and costs for transportation,
And that you sit as kings in your desires,
Authority quite silent by your brawl,
And you in ruff of your opinions clothed;
What had you got? I’ll tell you: you had taught
How insolence and strong hand should prevail,
How order should be quelled; and by this pattern
Not one of you should live an aged man,
For other ruffians, as their fancies wrought,
With self same hand, self reasons, and self right,
Would shark on you, and men like ravenous fishes
Would feed on one another.

… Let me set up before your thoughts, good friends,
One supposition; which if you will mark,
You shall perceive how horrible a shape
Your innovation bears: first, tis a sin
Which oft the apostle did forewarn us of,
Urging obedience to authority;
And twere no error, if I told you all,
You were in arms against your God himself.

… Nay, certainly you are;
For to the king God hath his office lent
Of dread, of justice, power and command,
Hath bid him rule, and willed you to obey;
And, to add ampler majesty to this,
He hath not only lent the king his figure,
His throne and sword, but given him his own name,
Calls him a god on earth. What do you, then,
Rising gainst him that God himself installs,
But rise against God? what do you to your souls
In doing this? O, desperate as you are,
Wash your foul minds with tears, and those same hands,
That you like rebels lift against the peace,
Lift up for peace, and your unreverent knees,
Make them your feet to kneel to be forgiven!
Tell me but this: what rebel captain,
As mutinies are incident, by his name
Can still the rout? who will obey a traitor?
Or how can well that proclamation sound,
When there is no addition but a rebel
To qualify a rebel? You’ll put down strangers,
Kill them, cut their throats, possess their houses,
And lead the majesty of law in line,
To slip him like a hound. Say now the king
(As he is clement, if th’ offender mourn)
Should so much come to short of your great trespass
As but to banish you, whither would you go?
What country, by the nature of your error,
Should give you harbor? go you to France or Flanders,
To any German province, to Spain or Portugal,
Nay, any where that not adheres to England,–
Why, you must needs be strangers: would you be pleased
To find a nation of such barbarous temper,
That, breaking out in hideous violence,
Would not afford you an abode on earth,
Whet their detested knives against your throats,
Spurn you like dogs, and like as if that God
Owed not nor made not you, nor that the claimants
Were not all appropriate to your comforts,
But chartered unto them, what would you think
To be thus used? this is the strangers case;
And this your mountainish inhumanity.

Just take a minute and read it out loud – it’s killer stuff. Even more so when it’s being declaimed by one of the most famous voices in the world on one of the most famous stages in the country. (I mean, come on: Magneto saying “Men like ravenous fishes would feed on one another?” YOU GOTTA LOVE THAT.) The audience went nuts for it, of course. For a brief moment I wished there was some way McKellen could be got to give that speech in the Oval Office, but I immediately realized the laughable absurdity of that idea. Like Dubya would comprehend .001% of it. Ha! Sometimes I crack myself up. Ah, well. At least I got to hear it.