Saturday, July 22, 2006

A weird websearch returns

Back in June I noted how a websearch for "stagehand stagehands madison square garden 2006" brought someone to my blog--someone from Arizona. This week, on Wednesday to be precise, I received another visit from an Arizonan--presumably the same person--searching for madonna july 18 madison square garden stagehands. (The entry for my blog has disappeared from the search list as of now.) I really wonder what s/he is looking for. Maybe it's a friend or relative of a stagehand. I dunno.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Plat du jour


Living with bears XII

Colorado: 3 bears get probation after raiding kitchen

Still 10:1

The latest AP report has the Lebanon-Israel death count at 335 to 34. As I said before, this 10:1 ratio will continue.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Living with bears XI

North Carolina: Bear rummages through Lake Norman neighborhood
Colorado: Bear Activity In Vail Prompts Emergency Law, Glenwood also battling bear problem
South Carolina: Experts say bear just passing through Cornelius

Floyd Landis--incroyable!

Yesterday Floyd Landis "blew up," coming in 10 minutes behind the stage winner and losing the yellow jersey (overall race leader) by over 8 minutes--falling down to 11th place. Everyone wrote him off for this year's Tour. Today he shocked everyone by demolishing the stage (the last in the mountains)--almost as if yesterday never happened. He's clawed himself back up to third place, only 30 seconds behind.

It was an amazing race. Landis pushed hard from the first climb--shocking the overall race leaders. At one point he broke a spoke and had to change bikes. He ended up winning by 5 minutes and 42 seconds, in what commentators are saying is the greatest single day effort by anyone in the modern era.

The race will probably be decided Saturday, when there's an indivdual time trial--a discipline at which Landis excels. I'm going to get up early to see all of that one.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Comic book stamps

The U.S. Postal Service is issuing stamps and postcards commemorating DC Comics super heroes.

But I'm sure these are all self-stick stamps. So you still can't lick Superman. Or Wonder Woman, if that's your preference.

10:1--a pretty steady number

According to the AP round-up, there have been about 300 people killed in Lebanon, and 29 in Israel. This 10 to 1 ratio has been pretty steady--and I suspect the Israelis will keep it steady.

Plat du jour


Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Back by popular demand!

My friend Johanna is bringing her show of Kurt Weill and Jacques Brel songs back to The Duplex for four more performances in August--before she takes it out to Colorado where she's been asked to perform at the Telluride Film Festival. I went to her show last spring and had a great time. And she says she's made improvements!

So get your tickets now before they're all gone--only $10, plus a two drink minimum at the show.

Living with bears X

Alaska: Bear goes Dumpster diving
California: Wounded bear found dead near Tahoe lake

Monday, July 17, 2006

Nevermind what's good for the people

Lawmaker Clubs Have Little Accountability
Sen. Conrad Burns, a member of 18 caucuses, said he joined the Sweetener Caucus at the behest of sugar beet growers in his state.

"I don't think I've ever attended," Burns, R-Mont., said of caucus meetings. "I do what my growers tell me. I know we grow a lot of sugar beets in Montana."
They also seem to grow Republican senators who don't bother to do their own thinking. They just do what a special interest tells them.

Plat du jour

I wonder what s/he thinks of C.S.I.?

How much is that doggie in the window?

At Victoria's Secret. Sooooooo cute!

Potty mouth Bush

Now here's some really big news: President Bush used the word "shit" when referring to Hezbollah's actions. He was caught on an open microphone while conversing with UK Prime Minister Tony Blair at the G-8 conference in Russia.

So now we know that he not only talks shit, he says shit.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Weird websearch of the day

the beatles: glob ticket company lists my blog as third. Even if it were "globe" it doesn't make any sense to me.


Last night we went to see Grendel, a new opera that is part of this year's Lincoln Center Festival. The big attraction was the work's director, co-librettist, co-puppet designer, and, according to the program "co-conceiver," Julie Taymor. I had marveled at her wonderfully inventive The Lion King puppets on Broadway, as well as her staging of Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute) at the Metropolitan Opera. (I also loved her film Frida.) So I wanted to see her new effort.

There was a lot of press about Grendel's recent world premiere at the Los Angeles Opera. The computer controlling the scenery failed, and it did not open on schedule. They got things sorted out eventually, and it drew mixed reviews. But I still wanted to see it. So it was off to Lincoln Center, past the Midsummer Night Swing dance area, under the boat sculpture, to the New York State Theatre.

As usual, I got a seat which could use some new springs, but it wasn't too bad.

There is a lot about Grendel that is innovative. It is the retelling of the ninth century tale of Beowulf, the mythical Swedish hero who slays a monster. Many people read it in their English classes, though I never had it. What's different in this retelling is that it is from the point of view of the monster--Grendel. It is based on the 1971 novel by John Gardner. Basically Grendel doesn't like being a monster, but comes to realize that that's his lot, he can't change it, and humans need monsters to fight in order to define themselves.

Another innovation: there are five singers portraying Grendel. Eric Owens (pictured above) is the main one, but there are three "Shadow Grendels" also, which basically allow Grendel to easily talk to himself, as well as to give the voice of the main Grendel a chance to rest now and then--it is a huge part. The fifth one is the Child Grendel, used in a flashback. This was sung by the diminutive soprano Michèle Eaton, whom I've seen perform a number of times at the P.D.Q. Bach concerts.

Also unusual, if not quite innovative, is the use of two languages in the libretto. Grendel sings in modern (sometimes quite vulgar) English, while the humans sing in Old English. (Both are shown in modern English on the supertitles, but they use a different font for the translations of the Old.)

It was clear from the start that the music is not Grendel's strong point. Composed by Elliot Goldenthal (Taymor's significant other), it is tuneless, modern "movie music," as I like to call it--great for setting the mood, for conveying emotion, but not pretty in the least. And in this case, not memorable in the least.

The most impressive part of the production (outside of Owens' performance, which I'll get to), isn't the staging (the scenery computer worked just fine, BTW) or even the puppetry. It is the dancing. A series of ensemble pieces continues throughout the show, and a long solo by Desmond Richardson as Beowulf caps the opera. If they could somehow extract the dance portion of the opera, it would make an excellent stand-alone ballet.

The much-anticipated scenery is nothing extraordinary. It's a rotating wall, which is not uncommon in operas. The only innovative part of it is a trapezoidal section in the center that swings down at various angles to become anything from a throne room to a children's snow-covered sliding hill. The use of projections now and then is actually a more useful device.

The puppets are every bit as good as Taymor's Lion King efforts. Sometimes Grendel is portrayed by a huge puppet, fighting normal-sized humans. Other times miniature puppets battle Owens as Grendel. There are a number of others.

As I've said, Owens' portrayal of Grendel was excellent. It is a huge role, said to be one of the longest for a bass-baritone. Also wonderful was Denyce Graves' cynical Dragon (to whom Grendel goes for advice on being a monster). It's a much smaller role, but still difficult.

As I've also said, this is not a music-driven opera. It's too bad there isn't another category to put it in. It's an interesting, off-beat story of an unhappy creature, with great dancing, excellent puppetry, and more than adequate scenery--appropriately set to off-beat, unhappy music. If you need your opera to have beautiful music, Grendel isn't for you. Otherwise, it's an excellent evening of sung theatre.

Living with bears IX

Connecticut: Black Bear Spotted in Weston
California: Squaw bear faces grim fate
New York: Hungry bear has tongues wagging