Monthly Archives: April 2013

Your Saturday Book Review: Sentimental Education OR The 100 Dollar Misunderstanding

(Once again I find myself reading or not reading three different novels, and am forced to review something I read once upon a long time ago.)

The line between satire and bad taste may be non-existent, and once the work is no longer topical, in most cases, all that’s left is bad taste. This may be the problem with Robert Gover’s once daring novel, The One-Hundred Dollar Misunderstanding, which is part of a trilogy for those readers who won’t read anything unless it’s a series. It should be noted, however, that this novel can stand alone, if it stands at all.

Let me confess, I read it years ago, when it was in a list of recommended books for a college creative writing class. The reason it was on the list had to do with voice – not in the sense of the distinctive capital V writer’s voice, but rather the creation of characters with distinctive voices, telling stories from their points of view, and the concept that one could tell the same story from the entirely different points of view of two (or more characters).

The few of you who’ve actually read, Loisaida, may now be experiencing an “ah-hah” moment, as, clearly, this book had a definitive influence (for better or worse) on yours truly.

The setting is the early 1960’s, back when it was really still the 1950’s, before the JFK assassination, and The Beatles, and everything changed. The plot, or misunderstanding involves one James Cartwright Holland, Continue reading Your Saturday Book Review: Sentimental Education OR The 100 Dollar Misunderstanding

La Perichole, NYC-Opera — A First for Us Idiots

The New York City Opera production of La Perichole was a first for us in several ways: our first trip to City Center, our first New York City Opera Production, our first opera matinee experience, and our first experience with opera buffe.

Here is a brief history of the City Opera. You are welcome to skip this part if it’s already old news to you, click to get to the review of the production.

The New York City Opera began in 1943. The idea was to offer opera for the people with low-price tickets, a kind of post-New Deal project that still has New Deal written all over it, fitting for a city where at one time museums, botanical gardens and other cultural institutions were for anyone who had a nickel for the subway. It became a starting ground for many young singers including Placido Domingo and homegirl Beverly “Bubbles” Sills – who didn’t make it over to the Met till long after she was an established star.

The original home of the company was the New York City Center. This bizarrely ornate Moorish theater was originally known as the Mecca Temple and designed for the Shriners. After the depression when they couldn’t pay the taxes, the building stood empty and was slated for demolition before being reborn as The New York City Center for Music and Drama.

The company later moved to another “permanent” home at the New York State Theater at Lincoln Center (now named for someone we won’t name) across the courtyard from the Met, where it remained until leaving in 2011 because it could no longer afford the rent. City Opera has since survived by roving to different venues including the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and now it’s old home, the City Center.

Because our only opera experience has been at the Met, we couldn’t help make comparisons. When we got to the City Center, we were impressed with the bathrooms. We can report that both the men’s and women’s restrooms were cleaner and in better shape than at the Met, though long lines are still an issue for the ladies. The house is much smaller, with only three seating levels – orchestra, mezzanine, and balcony. Our seats were in row G of the balcony. The renovated rows offer more legroom, but the result is that the seventh row of the balcony is very distant from the first, and while the much smaller house puts you closer to the stage than you would be from the balcony at the Met, the site-lines are nowhere near as good. We were in the center, but at an angle above the stage where we could only see a part of the orchestra pit if we stood up, and the very front of the stage was cut off, especially on the left side which was problematic at times with the staging. Despite the steep levels, because we had to look down to see, peoples’ heads in rows in front of us, could sometimes block the view. The rails between rows are low, so if you have a fear of heights, the balcony is no place for you. There is no balcony lobby so nowhere to go during intermission, and if you need to use the bathroom, you have to walk through the rows of seats to get to it. Compared to equivalent seats at the Met – the full-freight price would be similar, but the view at the Met much more open, including the orchestra pit, and at a better angle, though further away.

As for the production itself, Continue reading La Perichole, NYC-Opera — A First for Us Idiots

Smash – Opening Night – Now Sucking Slightly Less

Ezra Pound????? The musical? Was that supposed to be an inside joke between Julia and Tom, and maybe the deadpan delivery got in the way? Or, is this show really being written by idiots who just filled in Ezra Pound having no idea about all the crazy fascist stuff?

This is my first post on the show in about 3 weeks because while I was still continuing my vigil, there was not much new to report. Generally, the level of terribleness has lessened. That doesn’t mean it’s good. A season highlight came a couple of weeks back with the perfect song, Let’s Start Tomorrow Tonight, which sounded like a classic from some late studio-era musical, but then they ruined the aftermath, arguing that it didn’t belong in the show and used it for the whole predictable Tom-is-now-losing-his-humanity storyline. You’ve got a song like that, you either find a place for it i Continue reading Smash – Opening Night – Now Sucking Slightly Less

Your Saturday Book Review: The Mirage by Matt Ruff

Matt Ruff’s novel, The Mirage, certainly owes a debt to Philip K Dick’s classic The Man in the High Castle, then again who doesn’t owe a debt to Dick?

Rather than trying to recount the plot myself, here’s this from the Amazon book blurb:

1/9/2001: Christian fundamentalists hijack four jetliners. They fly two into the Tigris & Euphrates World Trade Towers in Baghdad, and a third into the Arab Defense Ministry in Riyadh. The fourth plane, believed to be bound for Mecca, is brought down by its passengers. The United Arab States declares a War on Terror. Arabian and Persian troops invade the Eastern Seaboard and establish a Green Zone in Washington, D.C. . . .

Summer, 2009: Arab Homeland Security agent Mustafa al Baghdadi interrogates a captured suicide bomber. The prisoner claims that the world they are living in is a mirage—in the real world, America is a superpower, and the Arab states are just a collection of “backward third-world countries.”

If the above doesn’t sound intriguing, stop reading the review and move on. If it does, the question is, “Does Ruff pull it off?” The answer is Continue reading Your Saturday Book Review: The Mirage by Matt Ruff

Letter From America: Most of us are not insane.

For whatever reasons, this blog tends to get around 50% of its “hits” from outside the US. A large number of these are within the UK, so I sometimes feel obliged to “explain” the US to others, especially when it looks to the world like we must be a nation of idiots or lunatics.

Two big things have been big news here – one is the bombing at the Boston Marathon. Not much to explain here. Most people acted heroically, rushing towards the danger to help others, reaching out to families of victims, vowing to train and run in next year’s marathon (although realistically that’s unlikely as Boston has qualifying time and a rule that you have to have another marathon within the previous 18 months.) Yet, some idiots have already started saying the government did it. The “false-flag” nonsense originates with a professional conspiracy mongerer I won’t name here, as the bastard doesn’t need more hits, and Continue reading Letter From America: Most of us are not insane.