Culture postsSunday June 28, 2009
Quote of the Day
“People are always hurting each other but love keeps happening.”
—David, in Craig Wright's play “Orange Flower Water,” at ACT Theater in Seattle until July 20.
I could quote a dozen brilliant lines from this play. Some people are optimists, some are pessimists, but Craig, who is a friend, is both. Or he pulls his optimism from pessimism—as the above quote indicates. Both parts of the quote are true. Separate, they mean little. Combine them and you get a powerful statement of humanity. The genius is in combining them.
Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose
"But a few of the old hands within Salomon Brothers suffered a more complicated response to their money [in the 1980s]. Not that they ever doubted they were worth every penny they got. But they were uneasy with the explosion of debt in America. (In general, the better they recalled the Great Depression, the more suspicious they were of the leveraging of America.) The head of our bond research at Salomon, Henry Kaufman, was, when I arrived, our most accute case of cognitive dissonance. ... As he wrote in the Institutional Investor of July 1987:
One of the most remarkable things that happened in the 1980s was [the] sharp explosion of debt, way beyond any historical benchmark. It was way beyond anything you would have expected relative to GNP, relative to monetary expansion that was taking place. But it came about, I think, as a result of freeing the financial system, putting into being financial entrepreneurship and not putting into being adequate disciplines and safeguards. So that's where we are.
That is where we are: wild, reckless, and deeply in hock.
— from Michael Lewis' "Liar's Poker," pg. 60
Humans from Earth
Spores! Of course, being me, I thought of that first-season episode of “Star Trek,” “This Side of Paradise,” in which on yet another of the many “Eden” planets the Enterprise crew encountered, a particular breed of plant shot spores at the crew and turned them all lovey-dovey. Even Spock. Especially Spock. Cue “love theme” music.
Deeper into Kolbert’s article, you realize that the greater problem isn’t spores but, well, us, and the impunity with which we move about the planet. This, too, recalls “Star Trek,” or, at least, my criticism of the recent “Star Trek” movie:
In the original series, particularly its first season, there was a mystery, and a creepiness, to what they might find out there, always augmented by that great background soundtrack of creepiness. ... There are still stories to be told out there, that add to the mystery rather than pave it over, but you’ve got to drop out of warp-drive, and pause, and look around, and reflect, in order to tell them properly.I apologize for the glibness of this comparison. It just feels like what’s wrong with the new “Star Trek” as a storytelling device is simply a reflection of what’s going wrong here. Microscopically, things are deadlier than we realize. But the deadliest thing of all may be our own sense of impunity.
Goldstein Disappoints on Susan Boyle
The film makes a halting attempt to introduce a contemporary storyline -- his paper has an annoying young blogger on the same story -- but instead of pursuing the tension in that relationship, the film simply turns the character (played by Rachel McAdams) into a perky gofer for Crowe's big-shot journalist.Why it was disappointing to read his take on Susan Boyle, whose soaring breakthrough on “Britain’s Got Talent” is currently not just the most-seen video on YouTube this month, but, because of various copycat uploaders, it's the three-most-seen videos on YouTube this month — with 37 million views, 10 million views and 7 million views respectively. And counting. Other videos of her occupy, currently, 6th, 7th, 10, 11th and 12th places as well.
Everyone has an opinion on this phenomenon — including, yes, me — but Goldstein’s seems odd. For one thing he repeats an offer from a pornographic site not worth repeating. But he also writes this:
What has made her sudden celebrity so fascinating -- and disturbing -- is that it seems thoroughly intertwined with the notion that, to be blunt about it, an ugly woman can have a beautiful voice.
If a petite, pretty in pink 20-year-old had done a marvelous job of warbling the song, would anyone have made such a big fuss about it? Clearly not. Would the Web be so full of wonder if the singer were a chubby guy who hadn't had a date in a decade? In a word: No. So for all our delight in Boyle's triumph, isn't the fuss over her a compelling example of our society's rampant sexism?
First, I’m not sure why her sudden celebrity is particularly disturbing. I would assume the success of all of those pretty women who can’t sing — and we know who they are — is even more disturbing, yes?
As for the sexism issue: Hasn’t Mr. Goldstein heard of Paul Potts, who won “Britain’s Got Talent” two years ago, and whose initial appearance on the show — shy and dentally challenged but then busting out into a beautiful operatic voice — is, at the moment, still ahead of Ms. Boyle’s on YouTube, with 47 million views? (For the record, neither his nor her video is in YouTube’s all-time top 25, and both are far, far away from the most viewed video: Avril Levigne’s “Girlfriend,” with 118 million hits. At least she can sing...ish.)
A more intriguing area of inquiry into the phenomenon may be the set-up itself: an individual standing before three often bored or jaded judges, who are either slowly or quickly bowled over by the talents of that individual, who is a stand-in for all of us. Who knew, in other words, that “Flashdance” would be so influential for something other than torn sweatshirts and legwarmers?
“Mr. Wright's Masterly, Affectionate Vision...”
So if you're near the Two River Theater Company in Jersey in the next week, check out Craig Wright's play “Melissa Arctic,” a modern adaptation of Shakespeare's “Winter's Tale.” And if you're not, at least read Anita Gates' glowing review in The New York Times:
Mr. Wright’s lyrics are a little like Stephen Sondheim’s might be if Mr. Sondheim were stabbed by a ray of sunshine midthought.
And if you're a theater director in Seattle, how about putting on some of Craig's plays already?
Twitter: @ErikLundegaardTweets by @ErikLundegaard