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March 18, 2020


And by the way, feel free to tell stories, and to add information about ways in which people are helping each other during the COVID-19 mess. Taking care of each other, and especially being mindful of those less situated to weather the storm, is also a way of returning fire.

It's not really a story, because I doubt anything like it ever happened. But the term "circular firing squad" comes to mind.

Even if we are perfectly capable of sinking to their level (and I'm not sure the psychological barriers are that readily overcome), would we really like ourselves much if we did? For that matter, could we still tell the difference between them and us if we did?

being mindful of those less situated to weather the storm, is also a way of returning fire

One of the most important figures of my childhood, and someone I loved very much, died last night (not from cv-19). It is absolutely unthinkable that my sib and I won't be at the funeral tomorrow, and yet we can't be. This is because I have a food delivery booked (two weeks ago) for the exact time of the funeral, and three households' food for the next 2/3 weeks depends on it. These are strange times, all right. I would never have seen this as returning fire, except now in the sense that I think Janie means it: we must do the right thing, because that is who we are, or at least aspire to be.

GftNC, that's a good framing. I won't try to improve on it, just add to it from a different angle.

Even in a war, someone has to grow the crops if the armies are going to eat. Someone has to watch over the babies and children. Someone has to stitch the clothing, repair the machinery, organize the supply lines. It's not all about killing and slaughtering, and it's especially not all about yelling about killing and slaughtering. It's not even all about electoral politics.

I'm not a pacifist, but if it comes to a shooting war I won't be much use on the front lines. I might in theory be willing shoot a gun to defend my loved ones, but I would probably aim badly or die of the kick, and I'm sure I wouldn't get more than one chance before someone else's guns got me.

The constant haranguing about doing something to the Rs or Clickbait or Turtle or whomever -- you might as well tell me you're going to put me in at point guard in the seventh game of the NBA finals. Politics is not my skill set, to say the very least, except in the widest possible definition of what politics means.

I do what I can, with as much integrity as I can muster. I consider that to be part of, at least metaphorically, "returning fire."

And PS to GftNC: Sorry for the loss of the person you loved. Not being able to join the community of mourners will be one loss on top of another.

Thanks Janie.

A friend offers her porch for folks to bring something they don't need, so someone who does need it can come and get it. Suggested donations are all the stuff the stores are running out of - toilet paper, wipes, sanitizer, soap - and also canned or other non-perishable food.

A buddy makes a video of himself overdubbing six tracks of tenor sax on Pee Wee Ellis' "The Chicken" and posts it on FB for everyone's general entertainment. Another friend posts herself and her daughter doing some Wailing Jennys covers. Just to cheer us all up, a bit.

Go-fund-mes are up and running to help out various kinds of gig economy folks.

Lots of folks putting positive, encouraging stuff on social media.

All of that ain't everything, but it ain't nothing, either.

GFTNC, so sorry for your loss, and for your inability to grieve it as you would wish.

Gonna be a while before all of this turns around, we gotta help each other out.

Stay well everyone.

Thanks russell.

All of that ain't everything, but it ain't nothing, either.

Further to which, I loved seeing that a (presumably) famous musical star, Laura Benanti, posted a video saying that all kids whose school musicals had been cancelled, after they'd worked on them for months, should post videos of them singing and she would love to see them. She said they should use the hashtag #SunshineSongs. Lots of other musical stars (including Lin Manuel Miranda) have tweeted that they're watching them, and loving them, and saying "Broadway is watching!"

I come from a family which hates musicals (honorable exceptions made for Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, Gene Kelly, and Guys and Dolls), but I watched some and found the whole idea extremely cheering. I think it's made a lot of difference to a lot of kids. In the scheme of things I often use when dividing the world into two categories (it's a bad habit), I have sometimes used the plumbing metaphor that some people are drains, and some people are radiators. Well, if you apply that classification to ideas/phenomena, this one is a radiator. It radiates happiness and joy.

Not like musicals? Re-education camp for you, my friend. (Although in all seriousness, I'm not a dedicated follower myself. But still.)

Senior year of high school I was the piano accompanist for the school play, The Music Man. Also helped out with Oklahoma the previous year. Was given the piano score to Camelot as a thank you from the teacher/director. As an accompanist I had to be at every rehearsal, thus can still sing verses from a lot of the songs. I felt like the accompanist slave some of the time, but mostly it was a lot of fun.

What, you don't like My Fair Lady?

"Women are irrational, that's all there is to that, their heads are full of cotton hay and rags..."

Winter..."exits March the second on the dot" in Camelot...

"Well, either you're closing your eyes
To a situation you do not wish to acknowledge,
Or you are not aware of the caliber of disaster indicated
By the presence of a pool table in your community.
Ya got trouble, my friend, right here,
I say, trouble right here in River City."

Geez. Listening to Richard Burton just about makes my heart break. It was so long ago....

Brava, JanieM! Musicals are [were] the bomb!

Sadly, My Fair Lady is despised by #metoo, which is one reason I'm not a hawk on that subject.

OMG, how lovely. Thanks.

Thanks, sapient.

I didn't know #metoo was into musical/theater criticism.

Two thoughts, contrariwise, and just between us kids:

1. IMHO, GBS wouldn't have liked the romantic ending they slapped onto the end of his story - in fact, he wrote an afterword to Pygmalion to say that it should have been obvious that Eliza was going to run her own business and marry Freddie, not put herself under the thumb of Henry Higgins.

2. I may be imposing later sensibilities onto the musical, but I feel like even in the sixties, Henry Higgins was not meant to be taken at his own estimation. We are not meant to agree with him about women, we're meant to think he's a bit of an idiot.

Huh. Chacun a son gout, and all that. And funnily enough I was thinking about My Fair Lady just last night. I love the clothes (the design really: Ascot scene, ball etc), but the ending makes me sick. It's astonishing it passed muster, even in those unenlightened days.

I do have a sneaking fondness for some of the songs from Oklahoma, actually: Everything's Up to Date in Kansas City, I'm Just a Girl who Caint Say No etc, because I think my father used to play the record. Which makes me realise it was my mother who hated musicals, and passed that on to me and my sibs. And I realise, in the exceptions I listed, apart from Guys and Dolls, the main thing I loved was the dancing. Huh. Interesting self-realisations, even at this advanced age!

Cross posted!

I should say that although my mother hated musicals, she was very keen on ballet (had actually seen Anna Pavlova dance), so even now all I have to see is a clip (or a still) from pretty much any classical ballet and I can tell by the costumes what ballet it is.

Have never, for obvious reasons, heard anything from Camelot. Just listened to that clip, and would rather hear Richard Burton say anything, including reading the telephone directory.

But it reminded me of a lovely story I heard him tell, on the radio. You really have to imagine all the reported dialogue in a melodious, but strong, Welsh accent. He was talking about how he went back to his mining community in Wales to visit family not long after first becoming a star in Hollywood. Some of his relatives who were rugby-obsessed miners started asking him about Hollywood, and said "Richard, what about this other actor we've heard about, Marlon Brando. Is he any good?" And when he replied "Yes, he's very good" they immediately said "But Richard, can you beat him?"

I adore that story, but admittedly I still hear it in his voice.

I love musicals, my music teacher in elementary school was wonderful, I can still sing most of the classics.

But I do remember being bewildered by Brigadoon. I think Robert Goulet starred.

But apologies for dissing anybody else's (harmless) pleasure. Each to their own, as I said.

And now I'm going to bed, to stop myself from monopolising the airwaves.

I love the clothes (the design really: Ascot scene, ball etc), but the ending makes me sick. It's astonishing it passed muster, even in those unenlightened days.

Don't remember the ending - that shows what I know.

I grew up as a girly girl, all interested in makeup and such, and in love with all of the stereotypes. Obviously, a lot of that was harmful and toxic in many ways, but as I grew up, my politics were egalitarian, at least.

South Pacific, which was racist and anti-racist at the same time: Some Enchanted Evening ! I love it so much.

@Marty -- I never got Brigadoon either.

@sapient -- Some Enchanted Evening -- another lovely song btw -- for some reason (maybe the racial aspect) brings to mind The King and I. Not one of my favorites, and anyhow it came out when I was only six. What I remember most was being fascinated by the king / Yul Brynner.

My 8th grade teacher was one of the founders of the local light opera company. (They split between Broadway musicals and Gilbert & Sullivan.) So as soon as I hit high school, I got involved. Strictly tech theater, as my singing voice does not bear hearing. (*I* love signing . . . just catefully out of earshot of anybody else.)

The first show I worked was Most Happy Fella. I can still call up images of scenes from our show. But the story was definitely a shock. People in my (small town) world simply didn't behave like that. That I knew of anyway.

I got the cure for alla that broadway musical stuff right here.

I can only imagine what Mr. and Mrs. Middle America made of this when they tuned into the Ed Sullivan show way back in 1969.

LOL. I keed.

I don't listen to musicals as a genre, but I have played in pit orchestras over the years, from high school until fairly recently, and they are one of my favorite gigs. Putting on musical productions is a big logistical team effort, and theater of any kind has a particular quality - an immersion in a narrative, with real people, in real time and space, and with the high-wire aspect of live performance - that is kind of magical. The participants become kind of a tribe. It's cool.

Find the things that feed you and make space for them in your life. Especially now.

The King and I.

I have a lot of reasons for loving that musical. But yeah. Yul Brynner. Amazing.

So the whole racism/anti-racism thing: my mother came from an immigrant community, and when her family described other people, it began with "the Italian guy" or "the Irish woman" or the "black man" [or "nice Negro man"]. They thought in those terms because they lived that way.

I'm glad we've evolved, but the people then saw the United States as being a country of people with different backgrounds. They (my immigrant relatives) were racists for sure, but there was something more hopeful about it. Maybe I'm romanticizing. (Why not. Trying to find something good.)

Most Happy Fella!

wj, OMG. Big D, My O Yes!

When I was quite young, I saw Carousel in a theater. Live performance made quite an impression on me, so for many years Carousel was my favorite play - not for any particularly meritorious reason, but because it was my first live play.

The history of theater fascinates me, how it grew out of "praise singing" (in Greece, anyway). Two novels by Mary Renault are delightful in tracing that development, "The Praise Singer" and "The Mask of Apollo."

The protagonist in the first is looking back over his life. He's become a bit of an old grump, and isn't happy about the younger generation of singers who are (blasphemy!) writing their compositions rather than inventing and memorizing strictly inside their heads.

"Mask of Apollo" talks a good bit about how politically important theater was, and how performers and performances played to one claque or another. Also how stylized the masks, roles and gestures were, and how the stylizations changed with each generation's attitude towards the gods and towards authority. There's a wonderful bit where the protagonist finds and buys a very old theatrical "mask of Apollo" - hence the title. He talks about how it's the old fierce god, not the newfangled party boy. The stern eyebrows, straight-staring eyes, strong jaw, etc. etc. "No one," he says, "Would look upon this face of the God and say, 'What a nice young man.'"

@CaseyL, this is wonderful: He talks about how it's the old fierce god, not the newfangled party boy. The stern eyebrows, straight-staring eyes, strong jaw, etc. etc. "No one," he says, "Would look upon this face of the God and say, 'What a nice young man.'"

@russell -- great description of the magic of being part of a team putting on a musical. Probably why I have such good memories even though I did some grumbling at the time.

@sapient -- my mother (now 96 and fading fast) often talks about people in terms of ethnicity and "names" ("There are a lot of Italian names in city administration now. There weren't years ago." That kind of thing.)

But she also does it with gender in ways that make me look back on my childhood and say: Sheesh, no wonder. (As GftNC said above, it's amazing what one can still be figuring out about oneself and one's family at an advanced age.)

Like just today: she has been taken back to the nursing home after a few days in the hospital. In the four months since she went into the nursing home, my brother -- who still lives in my home town -- has visited her almost every evening. He watches Jeopardy with her, tidies up her room, sees if she needs her stock of special items replenished, etc.

Well, he can't visit her now because they're on lockdown. So she was wistfully listing all the things he did for her, including "female things, like hanging up the clothes."

Can I sigh again?

(As GftNC said above, it's amazing what one can still be figuring out about oneself and one's family at an advanced age.)

Can I sigh again?

Yes, lots of revelations about my family, and perhaps myself in the past couple of years. Maybe more than I wanted to know.

I haz a sad.
I missed watching The Pirates of Penzance this Feb 29.

Oh well, next time.

HMS Pinafore, however, might strike a bit close to home these days. Sir Joseph Porter could be a type-case for a Trump administration executive (starting at the top): totally unqualified for his post and sure he is better than everybody else at doing it.

I missed watching The Pirates of Penzance this Feb 29.

Poor wandering one!


Apollo is imo a contender for the title of nastiest of the ancient Greek/Roman gods.
Btw, I get the impression that the gods develop from dysfunctional sitcom cast in Homer's epics to downright psychopaths in (especially post-Augustean) Rome. Taking a closer look at Vergil's Aeneid I increasingly find Iuno (the official antagonist and villain) the least objectionable of the Olympians, the only one to have left at least a shred of conscience and empathy.

As for musicals, I have come to appreciate the old ones (pre-code Busby Berkeley and some Fred Astaire) but it's to a degree a guilty pleasure. The patronizing attitude towards female characters (and minorities) can drive one up the walls occasionally but I also get the impression that the better ones are aware of that and manage a bit of counterbalance (unfortunately the Hayes office steamrolled those efforts for the most part).

Fellini's Ginger e Fred (about two aging Italian Astaire and Rogers imitators) is an interesting take on the genre (and the state of TV).

I might add that German attempts at copying Busby Berkely style musicals are for the most part cringeworthy.

I enjoyed seeing Yul in "The King and I" - it was his last hurrah - but I've been turned off on the musical since reading some Thai history. Just to point to one thing: Thailand was one of the very few non-European countries to remain independent during the colonial land-rush of the late 19th century, and a good deal of that was the result of the masterful diplomacy of Mongkut ("The King", and a fascinating character in his own right) and Chulalongkorn. The buffoon of "The King and I" is a caricature.

The buffoon of "The King and I" is a caricature.

There's no question that there are racist stereotypes of all kinds in movies and musicals of the mid-20th Century. I watched Mame a couple of years ago, and cringed at the portrayal of an Asian character, even though one point of his appearance is Mame's love and tolerance for diverse people. The King and I character is a caricature, but it was also about a woman trying to immerse herself in a different culture, where attitudes were different. The play is based on Anna Harriette Leonowens's memoir, which I haven't read, but now am planning on doing.

The King can be seen as a buffoon, but I think was perhaps meant to be seen as a benevolent and attractive dictator. It would be better if the dramatic depictions of the world had been more historically accurate, but the play did put Southeast Asia on the map for people who would have had very little idea about Thailand or Burma.

The fact that we've become more sensitive to harmful stereotypes is a measure of how we (some of us) have progressed (for the time being).

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