kate_nepveu: sleeping cat carved in brown wood (Default)

This was the past Sunday's installment in our Proctor's subscription. An interview with the director in a local paper says that the production was substantially tweaked between London and Broadway and continued to evolve on tour. The changes for Broadway include a pre-factory relationship between an incognito Wonka and Charlie, which works really well, though I think it might have been better if they'd established that Charlie's ticket was deliberately engineered by Wonka (one can infer that, but it could just as well be coincidence).

cut for various other details, and spoilers insofar as you can spoil this story )

Left on our subscription: Waitress; Shakespeare in Love (not a musical, not taking the kids); and then the whole reason for this, Hamilton, more than five months from now.

We're not renewing our subscription next year, because the lineup doesn't look as kid-friendly. The first two are The SpongeBob Musical and Disney’s Frozen, which we will try to get tickets for. But The Band’s Visit, Hello, Dolly!, and SUMMER: The Donna Summer Musical sound more adult, and Dear Evan Hansen . . . might be SteelyKid-appropriate by that time, but no thanks. And I have no idea how appealing the kids would find Fiddler on the Roof, but even if they did, that's still not even a majority of shows, so it doesn't make sense.

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kate_nepveu: sleeping cat carved in brown wood (Default)
So I had no idea that a musical had been made of the first Percy Jackson book until SteelyKid saw it in the program the last time we were at Proctor's, a whole two weeks ago. After we got tickets I deliberately decided to continue my ignorance, because it amused me.

This is an low-tech, hard-working, competent and pretty faithful pop-rock adaptation that was a big hit with the kids. My overall reaction is two-fold. First: you know the feeling when you hear a line in a song and you know exactly what the next line will be? Yeah, I had that basically every other line. Absolutely nothing musically surprised me. Second: the actors aren't preteens, or even teenagers, which is a totally valid logistical choice; but I did wonder if they were attempting to affect slightly younger voices, because Percy often sounded a little whiny to me. Possibly that was a characterization choice, instead; either way, it kept me more distant from the character.

To put it another way: the show literally opens with a song about how the characters all have Mommy and Daddy issues. That's not wrong! But it is . . . obvious.

Anyway, what I like about the series is Percy's narrative voice, which didn't particularly come through, and the subplot involving the friend who betrays Percy, which started fine here but is also a five-book arc. (As an aside, those two things are why I wasn't as fond of either the Roman books or the Egypt books; the shift in the Roman books to different narrators was pretty tough, and I didn't find that either of the series approached the same complexity.) So I enjoyed watching the kids enjoy it, and I appreciate that it exists, but—I was going to say I wouldn't recommend it unless you were taking kids, but then I remembered that Chad said that some of the balcony tickets were only $20, and if you have affection for the books and $20 to burn, it might be worth it if the dates in your area include cheaper seats.

A bit about the production: this was apparently off-Broadway to start, which may be why I hadn't heard of it. There's only seven cast members total, so everyone but Percy and Annabeth's actors play multiple roles. If I recall correctly: Percy's mom Sally is also Silena Beauregard, the Oracle, and a gender-swapped Charon (with a fabulous sequin dress and a pretty fun number called "DOA"); Luke is also Ares; Grover is also Mr. D (Dionysus); Chiron is also Poseidon, Medusa (not gender-swapped), and Hades; and Clarisse is also the harpy. Also main cast members are credited as Dance Captain and Fight Captain, and one of the understudies is Assistant Stage Manager. So, like I said: hard-working.

Low-tech: monsters were puppets (transformation to the Harpy = wings held by two cast members and a mask) or not-too-complex costumes (though the minotaur was notably tall). They used toilet paper rolls in front of leafblowers for waterspouts, which I didn't realize were supposed to be water on first use because the scene was in a bathroom. Vehicles were generally just scaffolding. This was all totally fine: it's the great advantage of theater over film, that it can get away with stuff like that. There were several moments of bright lights directly out to the audience, which the Pip disliked strongly.

(The band was in second-story boxes on either side of the stage, possibly so they could play venues without an orchestra pit? Underneath them were props etc. The second story along the back was used for characters sometimes, not as much as in Hamilton.)

Percy's mom, Luke, and Grover were all non-white—well, in our production; Luke is understudied by the same apparently-white dude who understudies Percy. (Both actresses for Percy's mom are black; I'm not sure if we had the regular Grover or the understudy, who are Filipino and Latino, respectively.) I wouldn't have identified Percy as biracial (and I have no idea how the actor identifies), though I recognize the limits of my perception. On a very fast glance, the book doesn't generally specify race when introducing characters (in a way that reads as white default; Riordan gets better about this), but Luke has "sandy" hair, so I think that's fair to call a change.

Anyway, so that was our afternoon. There's clips at the official website and the soundtrack's on YouTube, if you're curious.
kate_nepveu: sleeping cat carved in brown wood (Default)
The most recent show in the Proctor's subscription. It entirely lives down to its premise, and that's not only all I have time to say, it's really all there is to say.

Kids liked it, though.

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kate_nepveu: sleeping cat carved in brown wood (Default)
The second musical in our Proctor's subscription was A Bronx Tale, which we saw a few weeks ago. This is one of many iterations of the semi-autobiographical story by the actor Chazz Palminteri, about growing up mentored by a mobster, to the disapproval of his father.

This was tighter and more coherent than Anastasia, which means I actually want to analyze it. Ultimately I think it's deliberately rounding itself off and tidying things up in search of a broad popular appeal, and I'm not impressed by its efforts to that end: its well-meaning nature is calculatedly superficial. The kids enjoyed it, though.

The production was generally good; in some of the big all-cast musical numbers, I couldn't parse the lyrics, which is probably more usual than not; I also sometimes had trouble understanding Jane, the love interest, and the pre-teen main character (who generally did a nice job).

Spoilers. )
kate_nepveu: sleeping cat carved in brown wood (Default)
We have a subscription to Proctor's (the anchor of the revitalized downtown Schenectady) this season, because Hamilton, and our first show was Anastasia, today. I took SteelyKid, her BFF M, and the Pip (Chad was out of town). SteelyKid and M enjoyed it; the Pip was pretty bored, alas.

I was not the audience for this; I have no nostalgia for the animated film (I have, in fact, never seen it) and found it too much consciously ticking the boxes of A Broadway Musical. (I also found every moment extremely predictable, but on reflection I realized I'd read at least one fic that was an Anastasia AU, so.) The first act dragged; the second act suffered having spent too much time on box-ticking setpieces and not enough time developing the romance, which felt entirely obligatory, or Anastasia's emotional arc that would make sense out of her confrontation with the antagonist. Since it couldn't achieve coherence on the personal level, I decline to analyze it on the historical-political.

This video does a decent job of giving a feel for it. The performance seemed professional; the projected background "sets" were particularly notable.

It may have been the set or our angle, but the stage seemed significantly narrower than the Richard Rodgers, so it'll be interesting to see how the Hamilton set is adapted for it.

Next up, A Bronx Tale in two weeks. When I'm not cross-eyed with fatigue I will dig up clips so the Pip can decide if he wants to go. (The rest of the season is School of Rock, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Shakespeare in Love (a bonus, at the Albany Rep), Waitress, and then Hamilton alllll the way in August.)

Edit: skygiants saw this on Broadway and has seen the animated movie, and has much more substantive (spoiler) comments.
kate_nepveu: sleeping cat carved in brown wood (Default)
I saw this Thursday night (and am now in a car dealership waiting room). I pre-read the current text of the play as preparation: this is apparently the second revision, which means that at least one change I remembered from the HBO version may not be its fault--I don't have the intermediate text to compare. (If you read the oral history at Slate, it approaches a literal miracle that this part of the play was ever finished, so I'm not surprised that Kushner keeps tinkering with it.)

Notes first about staging and smaller bits in roughly chronological order, then bigger-picture comments.

spoilers )

The text I have is copyright 2013, and if you haven't seen or read the play since then, I think the changes are worth checking out. What did you all think?
kate_nepveu: sleeping cat carved in brown wood (Default)
Having seen Angels in America live (Boston, November 1995, first national tour) and on screen, this Thursday I split the difference and saw the currently-running London production on tape-delay live-stream in a movie theater. (Part one, that is; part two is this Thursday.) I don't love it but it's interesting to see the staging. Also Kushner has, per the intro to the combined ebook version I have but hadn't read until now, made unspecified changes to part two, so I will be reading that before Thursday so I won't be distracted while watching. (While I only skimmed part one, the only difference I saw between the text and this production was the dropping of the homeless woman's jokes.)

Here are some notes, cut for spoilers and lack of interest: )

There are various encore presentations going to be happening, if you missed this and are interested.
kate_nepveu: sleeping cat carved in brown wood (Default)
And now for a completely different entertainment review: a musical adaptation of a bunch of Mo Willems' Elephant and Piggie books, titled We Are in a Play!

Elephant and Piggie, if you're not familiar, are early reader books (i.e., extremely limited vocabulary and low-density text) about the two best friends of the title. They are to be treasured, because they are adorably fun for adults as well as children—SteelyKid can rattle through them with ease, now, but the Pip also loves them to pieces, and they're wonderful for dramatic readings. (I went to our local used bookstore, hoping to get a stack of them, and couldn't find a single one of any of Willems' books. The library has an entire shelf of Elephant & Piggie that sometimes goes down as low as a couple of books.)

This was about an hour long and transitioned between, uh, at least seven of the books. [*] The Pip got a bit restless by the end, especially as the adaptation of We Are in a Book! to ...Play! involved audience participation, which he was not having any of (that's my kid), but on the whole it went down well with them. I liked it too, except the song they made of I Am Going!, because having Gerald (the elephant) not only sing at Piggie about how he doesn't want her to go but physically stop her is weird and creepy and yuck.

[*] I Am Invited to a Party!; Elephants Cannot Dance!; Listen to My Trumpet!; I Love My New Toy!; I Am Going!; Should I Share My Ice Cream?; We Are in a Book!. I am not entirely sure of the order of these.

With that caveat, recommended. And seriously, Willems is a treasure, you can't go wrong with E&P, or the Pigeon, or the Knuffle Bunny trilogy.
kate_nepveu: sleeping cat carved in brown wood (Default)
(I am trying to post when I think of things, even if they don't seem "worthy" of posts, because I want to get back in the habit.)

We took the kids to Wild Kratts Live tonight. Wild Kratts is a PBS show about two brothers who, in bookending live-action segments, meet and talk about wild creatures, and in the animated middle, put on "creature power suits" and fly around in a giant turtle-shaped ship with a tech crew of three saving animals from the obligatory villains. (I have never actually seen an episode all the way through, so this is a rough approximation.) The kids love this, though SteelyKid is starting to go off it a bit, and it must be pretty popular because six weeks ago, the only seats left were literally in the second-to-last-row of the balcony.

Anyway. The show was cheesy but hit all the kid-pleasing notes, and they had a great time. But the thing of note was the end special effect [*], which was the brothers using a "miniaturizer" they'd recovered from the villains: they said they were activating it, fog or lights or something covered their exit, and then when the stage lights came back on, there were stuffed toy versions of the brothers on the stage where they'd been standing. (Which were, of course, for sale outside.)

As the subject line says: SteelyKid (now 6.5) and the Pip (now 3.25) nearly got in a major fight over this, because she saw that they were toys, but he insisted that they'd been miniaturized. Fortunately we were able to distract them before someone started crying over this disagreement.

[*] Prior special effects included "caracal power" of high-jumping using a springboard behind a fake rock, and "orangutan power" of moving through trees by swinging on a big swing coming in from off-stage. Also the process of donning a "creature power suit" was a stage blackout while the actor went off-stage to put on a cloth costume, covered by a super-slow animation on the screen, which made me really grateful for the person who put together all the Iron Man suit sequences into one video to clear the palate.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to listen to something other than the show's theme song to get it out of my head, fold laundry, and then collapse into bed.
kate_nepveu: sleeping cat carved in brown wood (Default)
Today, after some frustration trying to buy rail tickets to go to Bath and Bristol tomorrow (which as I start this post may not be over, as we discover further convolutions of the British rail system), we made a quick pass through the Tate Modern, mostly because it's very close to the Globe Theater.

Modern art is mostly not our thing, but it was free and I found some things I liked. I put pictures on G+, along with links to the museum's information in the comments, which in some cases include better pictures. G+ won't let me create new albums at the moment, so I'll link the posts individually.

"Seated Nude" by Pablo Picasso (cubist mother of future robot armies)

"Before the Storm," by Zao Wou-ki (photo doesn't do it justice but maybe hints at the quality of the small amount of light that's in it)

"The Invisibles" by Yves Tanguy (visually-appealing surrealism)

"Ships in the Dark," Paul Klee (the tiny bright dots are, unfortunately, the ceiling lights)

"Reborn Sounds of Childhood Dreams 1," by Ibrahim El-Salahi (large striking modernist figures)

Chad has more pictures in his album for the day, including one toward the end of "Eluhim" by Leonora Carrington which I also quite liked (oh, and me on a very large couch that was a public art installation on the way to the Tate, I think).

Then we went over to the Globe, picked up our tickets, and met up with [personal profile] thette ([personal profile] filkerdave, I didn't get any email from you and we figured that Chad would be spottable even among the crowd; if we miscalculated, sorry). Chad and I hadn't had lunch, so we tried the pork pies. I didn't like them, I thought they needed more spice or flavor, and gave my uneaten portion to Chad and had one of the anachronistic energy bars I'd brought for emergencies.

The play was great. There had been some tomfoolery with actors in costume in the ticket area and outside the seats, such as someone telling us not to go in because it was all lies and *shudder* actors in there [*] , and people in costume had been finishing setting up the stage when we got in, so when the play actually started, it was very subtle and natural: Act I, Scene 1 opens with Flavius asking commoners why they weren't at work and why they were out in the streets, so the commoners were down in the yard with us, and it took me, at least, a little while before I realized that no, this is the Chorus-equivalent, the play's started, this isn't more crowd warmup.

[*] And, to my great delight, an actor making a puppet deliver Aragorn's "a day may come" speech from the movie Return of the King, while another actor commented sarcastically. It was amazing.

It was tons of fun to be in the Yard and to have the actors move through you and be among you. (And though standing for 2:45 is not ideal, the seats did not look comfortable, though I don't know if the reconstruction kept the dimensions of the benches or maybe quietly added a few inches to allow for modern heights somewhat more. Happily it only rained a smidge at the very end, and I'd brought a raincoat.)

The acting was excellent, though I wonder how well the highest and furthest seats heard Caesar's lines, as they were notably more quiet than the other actors; it worked for me, because I could hear them and they gained power from that contrast, but I did wonder. I don't know if casting two of the main Citizens in Act III as women is ahistoric, but I appreciated it, because it gave the excellent women playing Portia and Calpurnia more to do. (Sometimes the doubling of actors was confusing to me; I didn't always catch names, so late in the play I would find myself thinking, "Is this one of the conspirators / Brutus' servant taken up arms / etc. or a different person?") And I never fail to be impressed by actors who can deliver incredibly famous lines as natural speech.

Spoilers, insofar as one can spoil Shakespeare. )

The close of the performance was also not what I expected: after the last lines, everyone came out and lined up . . . and then did a big stompy group dance around the stage. I think I saw some Charlie's Angels poses in there. It was very lively! But a bit jarring. I don't know if that tradition is historically-based either.

Then we met up with [livejournal.com profile] kjn and child and went to Tas Pide, where we had excellent Turkish food. It's not great if you don't like bell peppers or eggplant/aubergine, as I do not, but I had one of the variants on the dough-based dish that gives the restaurant its name with potatoes, goat cheese, parsley, and red pepper flakes, and it was delicious. Chad had a similar one, and Thette and KJ had an assortment of small dishes, and then we had wonderfully sticky desserts and I had a very small glass of dessert wine that was smooth and sweetly honeyed and potent, whoosh, if I held it in my mouth too long my tongue started going numb. Anyway, good stuff, recommended if that's the kind of thing you like.

Then we walked across the Millennium Bridge so we could say we'd done it, and I got a shot of St. Paul's that emphasized just how many stairs we'd climbed yesterday. And that was Tuesday.
kate_nepveu: sleeping cat carved in brown wood (Default)

This is a post I've been meaning to write since I saw the HBO adaptation, or for almost eight years, though I am no longer using the absolutist shorthand of "the fundamental flaw." It assumes a familiarity with the play and involves spoilers for the entire thing.

I am finally getting around to this post because [personal profile] rushthatspeaks posted about reading the play, and in comments, I said I could sum up my problem with part two as "What has Joe done wrong?" Which turned out to be too succinct: I should have said,

spoilers )

kate_nepveu: sleeping cat carved in brown wood (Default)

I have no idea how I found this now, but a theater company in Somerville is currently performing Christopher Fry's The Lady's Not for Burning, including this coming Saturday at 8:00, when I will be in town for Boskone. It is apparently set in a West Virginia coal-mining town post-WWI, which I have absolutely no idea what to think about, but hey, I love the play and the other time I saw it, it was set in post-WWII England instead of "1400 either more or less or exactly" and that worked just fine, and it's not as though I get to see it performed very often.

Anyway. Tickets are $15, anyone want to come with?

kate_nepveu: sleeping cat carved in brown wood (Default)

Last night I saw the Roundabout Theater Company's revival of Tennessee Williams' play The Glass Menagerie. I highly recommend it.

I don't really understand why I like The Glass Menagerie, since ordinary people doing ordinary things and being unhappy while they do them is really not my usual kind of thing. But it was my favorite of the Williams plays I read in high school for a paper, and pieces of it have stuck with me. When I saw that it would be playing while I was in NYC and got a good review, I went to some trouble to get a ticket.

I think I'm going to put most of this behind a cut so that I can talk spoilers freely. Non-spoiler points: it's funny, it's sad, it's very well acted and staged. One of its characters has a physical disability; I didn't see the play's treatment of that as problematic, but I'm not a great judge. If you like the play and you're able, you should definitely see this production (except that it ends the 13th, so you'll have to hurry).

spoilers )

Still NYC

Jun. 7th, 2010 08:43 pm
kate_nepveu: sleeping cat carved in brown wood (Default)
Sunday, brunch at Bee Desserts (formerly/sometimes still Cafe La Palette), which had a shady back garden, very nice savory crepes, interesting honey cakes, and crepes Suzette that were not as good as they should have been.

Then to the World Science Festival, where Chad's book signing went well and where the street fair was really impressively extensive and energetic. In a few years SteelyKid will love it.

Then after a few hard-earned lessons on my part [*], we made to it New York Classical Theater's production of Richard III in Central Park. This is the free & roving Shakespeare I've mentioned before, and as always it was a lot of fun. I'd never read Richard III or seen it performed, but I was familiar with it from The Daughter of Time and The Dragon Waiting.

It really is quite a piece of propaganda—most blatant, I think, in the Duchess of York's laughably over-the-top dialogue—yet survives as art because it manages some plausibility all the same. When it sounds almost not ridiculous that Anne should kinda-sorta-half consent to marry Richard (the murderer of her husband), or that Queen Elizabeth should agree to try and convince her daughter to (later) marry Richard (the murderer of her brothers [**]), or that we should feel a bit of sympathy for Richard when it all comes unraveling, well, that's good writing.

[*] (1) When getting subway directions via Google Maps, be sure to put in the proper date, as some trains do not run on weekends. (2) Check ancient hazy memories about restaurant density against reality ahead of time. (3) Do not buy an unsalted pretzel from a vendor who is packing up for the night. Also, later: (4) Pretzels from street vendors aren't as good as you remembered even when they actually have salt and a consistency softer than rock.

[**] This production omitted young Richard for the sake of time, rather to my confusion.

Then we had better street cart food and overpriced Times Square diner food and went to bed.

Today I went to the Bronx Zoo, where it is baby season. Two words: lion cubs. There will be pictures, oh yes.

The weather was perfect, the many school groups (I wonder if there were more because it was a Monday and therefore other museums weren't an option?) mostly avoidable, and I had a lovely time meandering around and backtracking and imagining SteelyKid's reaction in a few years ("Oh! Kitty!") and playing Where's Waldo to my heart's content.

Then dinner with [livejournal.com profile] oyceter at the Shake Shack, where the food was perfectly fine but nothing to inspire cult-like devotion in me, and now some more writing or maybe cross-stitching or reading. Because hey, vacation!
kate_nepveu: sleeping cat carved in brown wood (Default)

Previously in Kate's life: Guster concert [*]; traumatic cooking experience (adding liquid to a cup of freshly-melted and caramelized sugar is even scarier than I expected); traumatic DSL experience (hooked up a new phone wrong and, all unknowing, toasted our connection for the best part of a weekend); traumatic dental experience ("Having heartburn lately? You have a cavity that needs a crown. Go tell your doctor that your dentist ordered to you have an upper GI."); miscellaneous work, insufficient reading, and not going to bed early enough.

[*] Chad's blog post lacks only a more detailed description of the dorky stage patter of the frontman, who first pointed out that the Saratoga Performing Arts Center looks like a UFO from the lawn, and that "SPAC is just one letter away from . . . space"; later said, "Okay, this next song is the end of our regular set, and we can just play right through to the encore or we can try something with you holding up your phones"; and after that song, had people hold up their phones as he pointed to their sections . . . in sync with the keyboardist doing the Close Encounters tones. He said "this is the most stoner-y thing I've ever done," and while I can't confirm that statement, it would not surprise me.

On to this past weekend in New York City:

An acquaintance had invited a mutual friend to his wedding, and I attended as the friend's guest. We decided to make a long weekend of it, as we hadn't seen each other for some time.

Friday, after travel hassles of varying degrees [**], we arrived in Central Park for the New York Classical Theater's production of The Comedy of Errors. This is the one with the two sets of identical twins with identical names, and is deeply, deeply silly. The comic relief twins were played by a single actor, who had a real gift for physical comedy. At one point he fought himself, passing behind a tree to signal his change from one twin to the other, and had the crowd about falling over with laughter. Chad and I had previously enjoyed their production of Winter's Tale, and I was glad that this one was also well-played.

(I am Not Thinking about the play's portrayal of the female characters.)

[**] Of principal note, my jay-walking abilities are intact, but my subway-riding abilities are gone. For instance, I forgot to check the endpoints of the lines and, when I had to make a split-second decision about which way we needed to be going, picked the wrong one—and then didn't notice until the second stop. Later in the weekend I got us on an express rather than a local, leading us about forty blocks total out of our way. I insist, however, that not all of it was my fault: one station had connections between two lines, but nothing warned me ahead of time that to go in the direction we wanted, we had to leave the station and cross the street. And of course there's no such thing as a transfer, so we had to pay twice. Grr.

Saturday we went to the the American Museum of Natural History and saw dinosaurs, a Fabergé menagerie in the Gems section (I want the lapis lazuli elephants), and an IMAX movie, Journey Into Amazing Caves, which was all very good. Then we headed to the New York Botanical Garden for the wedding, which was held on a gorgeous terrace under cloudy but rainless skies. Lovely wedding, great food, met some nice people, but the interspersing of courses with dancing does make for a very long night, especially for elderly relatives and those having to travel a good distance to get to their beds.

My friend decided on a leisurely morning Sunday, but I woke up around 9 and decided to go to the Met, even just for a couple of hours. I focused on the special exhibitions:

  • Girodet: Romantic Rebel: Apparently he was rebelling against his teacher, Jacques-Louis David. I was passing through pretty quickly, but I don't remember seeing any examples of what he was rebelling against, which would've been nice.

    A couple of striking portraits: Jean-Baptiste Belley, who was born a slave and made a passionate speech at the convention that banned slavery in the French colonies; the label said that it wasn't known why Girodet painted the picture, as he didn't seem to have any connection with Belley; and Jacques Cathelineau, who is absolutely fey—the whites of his eyes really pop in person—and whose Royalist self is posed in much the same way as Napoleon was in an earlier portrait. Girodet seems to have weathered political change fairly well.

  • Raphael at the Metropolitan: The Colonna Altarpiece: This exhibition reunites the three components of a very nice altarpiece by Raphael: the people look like actual people, and the colors are beautiful. It is a real pity that they couldn't put the exhibit in a larger space and have the three pieces arranged as they were intended, on top of each other, inside of side by side.

    Colorful people who owned parts of the altarpiece included Queen Christina of Sweden (1626-1689) and Angela Georgina Burdett-Coutts (1814-1906); I was glad to be given a reason to look them up.

  • Treasures of the Sacred Maya Kings: This was interesting but the art was not really to my taste. I note that Mayan mythology is another with a world tree.
  • A Taste for Opulence: Sèvres Porcelain from the Collection: Too opulent for me. I was interested to learn that though true porcelain was produced in China since the Tang Dynasty, it wasn't known in Europe until 1708, and not in France until the 1770s. Thus, most of the pieces were made of soft paste porcelain, which is not as white or translucent.
  • A Sensitivity to the Seasons: Autumn and Winter: This occupies all of the Japanese galleries and makes me want to pick Genji back up, with its talk of layered symbolism: quails and their shrill cry conveying autumnal isolation; the remote plain of Musashino, that hardly anyone saw before the Edo period, but that everyone from the tenth century on associated with autumn; the celebratory mood of snow; the linguistic connection between "long rain" (naga'ame) and "to lose oneself in reverie" (nagameru), which led to numerous types of rain and their associated poetic responses—the rain of DOOM as in Saiyuki was not listed, but there were many, many prints of people in rain, some of whom were probably angsting.

    Maybe I will do one chapter of Genji and one chapter of LotR a week. (But probably not. Alas.)

  • But the best, the absolute best thing I saw, was not in a special exhibit. The Asian galleries had a particularly nice standing Ganesha, somewhat like this one, at the back of a corner room. From a distance, I could see that there was a lot more shiny than there ought to be; and as I approached, I realized that someone had made an offering to this Hindu controller of obstacles, just as the explanatory text said is done before undertaking a task: one penny on two of the four hands, the ones that offered flat surfaces; one penny between his feet; and 40-odd scattered on the pedestal where the statue rested.

    I admired this quietly for a while, wishing for a camera, and then notified a nearby security guard. He seemed befuddled by it, as did the couple other staff members he called over. I'm not sure why, as I could have removed all of the pennies without touching the statue (and I am a klutz), but half an hour later, the pennies were all still there.

    I wish I knew what the person made an offering for, and if they felt it was successful. But I really wish I'd had a camera.

After a quick lunch and the purchase of some cool Christmas ornaments, I left, as we were going to a show that afternoon, the Broadway musical adaptation of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. I will talk about that separately because I want to post spoilers. We had a leisurely dinner after, and though we were balked in our attempt to try a particular wine bar, it was still a good night.

Monday I went to the Strand, which is indeed now air-conditioned, yay, but is still a frustrating experience: it's so big that I expect it to be full of stuff I want, but, well, it isn't. And the paperbacks are just a jumble, while the meticulously-organized review copies no longer interest me (if I wanted it in hardcover, I'd have bought it already; and if I haven't, then I want to pay paperback prices that go to the author, not more-than-paperback prices that don't. Also, this is what libraries are for.). I did pick up a Year's Best Datlow-Link-Grant anthology and a couple of sequels to books I haven't read yet, but it wasn't really satisfying.

Fortunately, I had an appointment for a late lunch with [livejournal.com profile] coffeeandink, which was most satisfying. I am very nearly persuaded to read the new Swordspoint-verse book, which apparently has a sensible person who spends a lot of time wanting to kick Alec. Also, new Minekura soon, woo.

On another note, having flailed at [livejournal.com profile] coffeeandink at length about the failure of the second half of Angels in America, I am filled with fresh determination to actually write that post. Of course, I felt that way over a year ago, when I wrote up the HBO adapation. But this time I mean it, really!

But first, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, with side musings on capers and morality. Tomorrow, that is. *falls over*

kate_nepveu: (con't from comment field) "that makes glass with distortions. --Audre Lorde" (International Blog Against Racism Week)

There has been some mention, in this week's posts, of the tangled set of issues that can come along with romantic relationships between white men and women of Asian descent. Being in one of those relationships, I felt like I ought to say something, but, well, anyone who's met either of us knows that Chad didn't marry me because I'm exotic and submissive.

(When I was at Northeastern, I did very briefly date a guy (who was, I believe, Hispanic) who was interested somehow in Asia—he might've majored in Asian Studies, I'm not sure. It gave me a very minor twitch to wonder if my Asian-ness was part of what interested him, but the topic never came up. Nice guy, but no click, and also I had absolutely no idea what I was doing—I swear, the only way I managed to get married was by skipping the dating part of things—which to this day I feel kind of bad about. Then again, I was at least as twitchy about the guy who I suspected was attracted because I was actually shorter than he was, so the feeling's not restricted to race.)

But the topic reminded me of M. Butterfly, a play by David Henry Hwang. I first read it in an academic summer program in high school, and hadn't re-read it until last night. For those not familiar with it, it was inspired by the story of a French diplomat convicted of espionage; he had passed information his lover of twenty years, a Chinese man pretending to be a woman.

Hwang's afterword sums up the issues involved in this scenario very well, so I'm going to quote from it at length, in two pieces: the ending first, as it doesn't have spoilers for the play and talks about the broader issues raised by that premise; and then the beginning, and my reactions, behind a cut.

From David Henry Hwang's afterword to M. Butterfly:

From my point of view, the "impossible" story of a Frenchman duped by a Chinese man masquerading as a woman always seemed perfectly explicable; given the degree of misunderstanding between men and women and also between East and West, it seemed inevitable that a mistake of this magnitude would one day take place.

Gay friends have told me of a derogatory term used in their community: "Rice Queen"—a gay Caucasian man primarily attracted to Asians. In these relationships, the Asian virtually always plays the role of the "woman"; the Rice Queen, culturally and sexually, is the "man." This pattern of relationships had become so codified that, until recently, it was considered unnatural for gay Asians to date one another. Such men would be taunted with a phrase which implied they were lesbians.

[Ed.: it jumped out at me, typing, that the taunts were labelling men as women.]

Similarly, heterosexual Asians have long been aware of "Yellow Fever"—Caucasian men with a fetish for exotic Oriental women. I have often heard it said that "Oriental women make the best wives." (Rarely is this heard from the mouths of Asian men, incidentally.) This mythology is exploited by the Oriental mail-order bride trade which has flourished over the past decade. [Ed.: this was written in 1988.] American men can now send away for catalogues of "obedient, domesticated" Asian women looking for husbands. Anyone who believes such stereotypes are a thing of the past need look no further than Manhattan cable television, which advertises call girls from "the exotic east, where men are king; obedient girls, trained in the art of pleasure."

In these appeals, we see issues racism and sexism intersect. The catalogues and TV spots appeal to a strain in men which desires to reject Western women for what they have become—independent, assertive, self-possessed—in favor of a more reactionary model—the pre-feminist, domesticated geisha girl.

[Ed.: class is probably lurking around somewhere, in that the ads are targeted at men with money to spare.]

That the Oriental woman is penultimately female does not of course imply that she is always "good." For every Madonna there is a whore; for every lotus blossom there is also a dragon lady. In popular culture, "good" Asian women are those who serve the White protagonist in his battle against her own people, often sleeping with him in the process. Stallone's Rambo II, Cimino's Year of the Dragon, Clavell's Shogun, Van Lustbader's The Ninja are all familiar examples.

Now our considerations of race and sex intersect the issue of imperialism. For this formula—good natives serves Whites, bad natives rebel—is consistent with the mentality of colonialism. Because they are submissive and obedient, good natives of both sexes necessarily take on "feminine" characteristics in a colonial world. Gunga Din's unfailing devotion to his British master, for instance, is not so far removed from Butterfly's slavish faith in Pinkerton.

It is reasonable to assume that influences and attitudes so pervasively displayed in popular culture might also influence our policymakers as they consider the world. The neo-Colonialist notion that good elements of a native society, like a good woman, desire submission to the masculine West speaks precisely to the heart of our foreign policy blunders in Asia and elsewhere. . . .

M. Butterfly has sometimes been regarded as an anti-American play, a diatribe against the stereotyping of the East by the West, of women by men. Quite to the contrary, I consider it a plea to all sides to cut through our respective layers of cultural and sexual misperception, to deal with one another truthfully for our mutual good, from the common and equal ground we share as human beings.

For the myths of the East, the myths of the West, the myths of men, and the myths of women—these have so saturated our consciousness that truthful contact between nations and lovers can only be the result of heroic effort. Those who prefer to bypass the work involved will remain in a world of surfaces, misperceptions running rampant. This is, to me, the convenient world in which the French diplomat and the Chinese spy lived. This is why, after twenty years, he had learned nothing at all about his lover, not even the truth of his sex.

M. Butterfly Afterword, spoilery section; my reactions on a re-read )

The play was adapted for screen and directed by David Cronenberg, starring Jeremy Irons and John Lone; I haven't seen it and don't know how it's regarded. The play takes place almost entirely within Gallimard's mind, in his memories and fantasies; this fits so well thematically that I suspect the less fantastic medium of film would fare poorly in comparison. At any rate, I think it's worth reading as an accomplished and humane drama; the political and sexual issues are inescapable, but not the only thing the play has to offer.

kate_nepveu: sleeping cat carved in brown wood (Default)

Behind the cut is my weekend at Readercon, minus detailed panel descriptions where noted. Those writeups are coming in separate posts, because they are very long and because I want to invite discussion on them.

Readercon in brief )

ETA: My detailed panel reports:

ETA: other people's reports (will continue to be updated—please point me to more):

kate_nepveu: sleeping cat carved in brown wood (Default)

This is so ridiculously long that I've broken it out as a separate post. The short version is that the movie doesn't suck, but the flaws in the musical are mostly still there in the film, and suspension of disbelief is harder on film than on stage.

More tedious details than anyone could really want, especially considering that the film's been out for a while.

spoilers for Rent, the movie and the musical )

kate_nepveu: raven flying across white background (raven-in-flight)

If I were planning to listen to full-cast recordings of all 38 of Shakespeare's plays, what order would you recommend I do it in? Chronological order, chronological order except with the histories in historical order, thematic, worst-to-best, something else?

If it matters, I've read Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Othello, and part of King Lear (the class hated it so much we talked our teacher out of finishing it); and seen one version or another of Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Much Ado About Nothing, and The Winter's Tale. And The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, Abridged. I think that's it.

kate_nepveu: sleeping cat carved in brown wood (Default)

Well, it was the week Saiyuki ate my brain (mmm, brains), but you knew that already. (Have I mentioned how happy all the great discussion has made me?) Other than that—yesterday I tried to give platelets. I made it past the red blood cell count screening (which was the problem last time), only to have the staff fail to get a vein in my left arm—a first. (I usually get complimented on my veins.) So that was a disappointment, as well as a considerable chunk of time out of the day. I was feeling slightly shaky and tired afterwards, so I napped on the couch until the dog reminded me that I needed to take her for a walk by sticking her cold wet nose into my neck. So thoughtful.

After I dragged the dog around the block, we humans went to Oneonta for dinner with Chad's parents. I ate far too much, my brain apparently having temporarily escaped and hid under the table, but enjoyed the dinner otherwise.

Today we went to see the Saratoga Shakespeare Company do The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, Abridged. It was, of course, very silly. I do wonder if it was written with two versions of Othello, since our performance led into it with a little spiel about how they couldn't do this play because none of them were black. Presumably the authors foresaw the possibility that someday a black man might be cast in the play. Anyway, some of the jokes went on too long or were a bit forced (particularly the references to current events), but on the whole it was very agreeable. Watching it from a blanket under a shady tree on a warm day didn't hurt, either.

And now Chad is dozing on the couch, the dog is dozing next to the couch, and in a little bit I shall wake them both for dinner.

Oh, I don't usually talk about presents (some weird idea of modesty, or something), but I have to mention one of the very thoughtful and excellent birthday gifts I've received: Chad got me a statute of Ganesh, looking a bit serious, but writing. (He ordered it during the "Kill Me Now Please" period at work.) I shall re-arrange my work desk however necessary to have him overseeing matters. (I still want a happy dancing candy-eating Ganesh statue of course, should I come across a good one, but there's no reason I can't have two. Or more.)

[Edit next day: I knew I forgot something annoying. Wednesday night, a portion of a downtown Albany bridge dropped several inches, leading to the shutdown of a couple major highway ramps; leading to it taking me forty-five minutes to drive 0.5 miles Thursday evening, from my parking lot onto the highway. Friday I stayed later and traffic was lighter anyway, so it wasn't a problem, and apparently today all but one of the ramps are open again.]

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