Thanks to Small Dog Syndrome for the Net Neutrality Post

There’s a lot going on, guys, but don’t let this debate and issue get lost in the shuffle today.

via Net Neutrality — Small Dog Syndrome

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“Think of Me” Is a Terrible Song

As I wrote a few months ago, I wrote about how I watched the 25th anniversary gala version of The Phantom of the Opera.  I hadn’t listened to the music in more than a decade, but suddenly felt like revisiting the show.

One of the first things I discovered: “Think of Me” is a terrible song.

I am not talking about musically.  I have no musical background so I cannot discuss that.  However, the lyrics are horrible because they tell us nothing about Christine.

The problem stems right from the beginning.  I found an interview with Charles Hart, the lyricist for The Phantom of the Opera.  He describes how he got the job writing the lyrics for Phantom.  Andrew Lloyd Weber sent Charles Hart a recording of the music of “Think of Me.”  He told him nothing about the show, he just asked him to write lyrics based on the music he heard.  Charles Hart sent him back the lyrics for “Think of Me,” and they hired him.

It doesn’t appear that they ever changed the lyrics.

What a missed opportunity.

The song does not tell the audience anything about Christine.

Compare this to the song “Mein Herr” in Cabaret.

The two songs are very similar.  Both are songs that the character performs in a theater (whether an opera house or cabaret) and show the singers in their element and performing their craft.

However, the lyrics of “Mein Herr” are doing double duty.  They are demonstrating Sally’s character to the audience, since we understand that the song is also about Sally herself.  It is also a bit of foreshadowing; any relationship with Sally ends badly because she is fickle.

“Think of Me” does not do this.

It is a song about a woman saying goodbye to someone she loved, and asking him to remember her.  But this doesn’t really make sense in the context of the show.  Who is Christine singing to?  The Phantom?  Did she really love him that much and is she really afraid that he won’t remember her once she is gone?  Possibly, but I am skeptical that she loved the Phantom the way this interpretation suggests.  Is she singing to Raul?  That doesn’t make any sense, since they end up together at the end of the show. It can’t be her father, since her father is dead.  She would be the one thinking of him, not the other way around.

This is a problem.  The character of Christine is very, very thinly drawn.  “Think of Me” would have been a great opportunity to give her a song that actually fleshes out her character.  Sadly, no one bothered to take it.

Critics often point out that The Phantom of the Opera is more style than substance.  “Think of Me” is a perfect reason why.  The writers passed up a perfectly good opportunity to give tell the audience something about Christine’s character in favor of, well, nothing.

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Why Wonder Woman Can’t Win Part 2

In the first part, I talked about the fact that Wonder Woman the film cannot win in terms of pleasing everyone.  In this post, I want to talk about how Wonder Woman the protagonist does not win at all.

Oh, it goes without saying.

SPOILERS*SPOILERS*SPOILERS*SPOILERS*SPOILERS*SPOILERS*SPOILERS

The great reveal of Wonder Woman takes place in No Man’s Land.  Wonder Woman heroically decides to stop the German assault and save a Belgian town.  She begins a counter attack entirely on her own, but with the help of her friends, she is able to stop the assault.  There is peace, but it does not last.  The next day, there is a terrible gas attack on the town, and all of the people that she saved are now dead. Her heroic actions are rendered meaningless.

This is not the only time Diana loses in the film.

Diana believes that if she kills Ares, the god of war, she can stop the soldiers from fighting.  She then meets the real Ares, who tells her that her mother lied to her and much of what she has taken as gospel truth is wrong.  She believes that men are good, and that they are under the spell of Ares.  Ares explains that he is not using mind control to force them to kill each other; he merely suggests ways for them to do this.

After this, Diana loses Steven, who is her love interest in the film and her guide to the world of humans.  She feels this loss keenly and is deeply distressed.

Wonder Woman

Finally, she loses Ares.  This may not seem like a loss, because

1 he is her enemy and

2 she kills him.

But it is a real loss.

First of all, she destroys Ares, but she also destroys an excuse for the bad behavior of men.  For the next 100 years, Diana will live among men, watching all of the atrocities of the twentieth century knowing that this is a part of humanity.

Second of all, as Diana kills him, she says, “Goodbye my brother.”  Diana has discovered that she is a goddess, and she has killed the only other remaining god, so far as we know.  We do not know that there are any other gods.  Diana discovers that she is a god, but she is forced to be completely alone, the last of her kind.

I do not know of many other superheros that lose so badly in their films.  Red Letter Media talked about the message that this movie sends: “Save the world.  But it will ultimately be meaningless.”

Why is that?

I think that this is because Wonder Woman is a coming of age story.  Diana is literally a child at the beginning of the story, and she remains childlike throughout the beginning of the movie.  Growing up, learning, changing, involves struggle.  It involves letting go of childish beliefs and loss.  It involves stepping out on ones own.

Wonder Woman does not win in her film.  But by allowing her to grow up, she may win in the future.

 

 

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Guns and Ships for the 4th of July

While the first half of Hamilton deals explicitly with the American Revolution, it does not deal specifically with the Declaration of Independence.  This is not surprising, since Alexander Hamilton was not at the Second Continental Congress.

Of course, this is not to say that there is no reference to the Declaration of Independence in musical theater.

As an aside, this clip cuts out the joke at the end of the song.  As soon as they walk into Independence Hall, everyone jumps up to complain about Jefferson’s declaration.

Still, since Hamilton is in vogue now (deservedly so) I should post a song from Hamilton.

I select Guns and Ships.

220px-Gilbert_du_Motier_Marquis_de_Lafayette

Why Guns and Ships?  Quite simple.  1917 marks the centennial of the US’ entry into World War I.  There is a story of an American soldier travelling to the grave of the Marquis de Lafayette and proclaiming, “Lafayette we are here!”  This was a reference to the debt that the US owed to him (and to France in general) in helping us win the Revolutionary War, and in World War I we were there to repay the debt.

800px-Pershing_at_Lafayette_Tomb

So, on July 4th, 2017, it is good to stop and remember our favorite fighting Frenchman, who took the horse by the reins and made red coats redder with blood stains.

Happy 4th of July everyone!

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The Second of July, According to John Adams

The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America.

I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.

John Adams’ letter to his wife Abigail dated July 3rd, 1776.

So close, Mr. President, so close.

Happy Second of July everyone!

 

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Summer of the Sherw Part Deaux: Why Bianca Rebels At the End

I had been thinking about this ever since I saw The Taming of the Shrew.

Much of the focus of Taming of the Shrew is on Katherine’s arc, from the shrew to the obedient wife.  My 7th grade English teacher taught us that Shakespeare often uses foils, characters who are opposites of each other.  Bianca is clearly the foil of her sister Katherine.  When we first see her with her sister, she does not speak.  She is an ideal Elizabethan woman, silent, obedient, and therefore chaste.  At the end of the play, she rebels against her husband and refuses to come when her husband sends for her.

How does this happen?

Watching the play, I was struck by the fact that Bianca is a bit of rebel right from her first interaction with Lucentio.  Lucentio is in disguised as a Latin tutor in order to woo Bianca because her father will not permit her to have any suitors until her sister is married.  Bianca knows her father does not want her to be courted until her sister marries, but she seems content to ignore his rules and fall in love with her tutor in disguise.  She also helps Lucentio in his schemes and conspiracies, even marrying him at the church without her father’s consent.  Bianca rebels against her father at every turn; it is hardly surprising that she rebels against her husband.

It’s worth pointing out that the issue of parental consent in marriage had been an ecclesiastical debate topic for several centuries.  If a couple married without the consent of their parents, was their marriage valid?  This debate had proceeded in Western Christendom for several centuries, and the Catholic Church only determined its answer to the question thirty years previously.  (Answer: no).  While England was no longer a Catholic country by this point, they had certainly been shaped by the preceding centuries of the debate, and the Anglican Church would ultimately agree with the Catholic Church that a couple did not need parental consent in order to contract a valid marriage.

Official church teachings, of course, are one thing, the beliefs of the people are another.  While the average Elizabethan might have believed that a marriage contracted without the consent of the parents was a valid marriage, they seemed to have considered it ill advised, and perhaps dangerous to the social order.  Romeo and Juliet can be read as a cautionary tale for young women who do not obey their father’s wishes in marriage.  The original Romeo and Juliet by Arthur Brooke certainly begins in this fashion, with a prologue that reads in part as follows.

And to this end, good Reader, is this tragical matter written, to describe unto thee a couple of unfortunate lovers, thralling themselves to unhonest desire; neglecting the authority and advice of parents and friends; conferring their principal counsels with drunken gossips and superstitious friars (the naturally fit instruments of unchastity); attempting all adventures of peril for th’ attaining of their wished lust; using auricular confession the key of whoredom and treason, for furtherance of their purpose; abusing the honourable name of lawful marriage to cloak the shame of stolen contracts; finally by all means of unhonest life hasting to most unhappy death.

I haven’t read his version of Romeo and Juliet, so this passage may come across as ironic in context of the poem.  Still, I have no doubt that many theater goers in the Globe would have agreed with the above proposition.  It’s hard to blame the nobility for thinking that marriage for love against the advice of parents damaged the social order.  The nobility used marriage to “wive it wealithy,” to preserve and consolidate wealth and land.  Royals married in order to forge alliances.  If young people could form valid marriages without the consent or parents, all of this could be undone.

Taming of the Shrew presents a rather curious view of Lucentio and Bianca.  In the  Cleveland Shakespeare Festival production I saw, Bianca and Lucentio’s father were genuinely hurt that Lucentio and Bianca had married without their consent or knowledge.  I got the sense that the relationship with their parents was damaged by their decision and would not easily be healed.

This is followed, of course, by Lucentio’s humiliation and loss of money when his wife is disobedient.  With a damaged relationship with his father and a willful wife, the audience could be forgiven for wondering if Lucentio will know conjugal happiness.

I almost wonder if this isn’t the point.  The wonderful Lindsey Ellis talked about Theater of the Oppressed, a theory by Brazillian Marxist playwright Augusto Boal.  He talks about how playwrights have to walk a fine line; they must be edgy, but not too much that it scares of wealthy patrons who support theater.  (I have thought about this before.  Actors tend to be pretty liberal, even radical in their politics and yet they perform their art for some of the most conservative members of society.)

I wonder if there is a bit of that phenomenon going on in Lucentio’s story.  The story presents a young wealthy man who disguises himself as a tutor in order to win the love of Bianca, in violation of her father’s orders.  He has his servant dress up as him and barter Vincentio’s property as a dowry.  Lucentio never consults with his father about this arrangement.  Vincentio’s father does not know that Lucentio is pursuing a young woman and making financial arrangements with his own land.

Petruchio is not the same mold.  Petruchio’s father is dead, so he does not barter away his father’s land.  He also respects the wishes of Baptista, ignoring Bianca in favor of Katherine.   Furthermore, he does not pursue marriage for love but rather to increase his personal fortune.  The play is very kind to him; he gets wealth and an obedient wife.

What would the nobles have thought of that?  I think they could accept this vision of marriage.  It rewards Petruchio for observing the social norms of marriage for financial gain and respecting the role of fathers and hints at punishment for Lucentio for defying them and seeking love.  No doubt they would have seen this an acceptable object lesson for their sons.

If Romeo and Juliet can be read as a warning to young women, Taming of the Shrew can also be read as a warning to young men.  If you encourage a young woman to defy her , don’t be surprised if she defies you.

 

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Flying Ponies(Euclid Beach Park) by Carl Gaertner

I instantly connected with this picture.  This hangs in the modern art/local artist section at the Cleveland Museum of Art.  I had never heard of Carl Gaertner before but apparently he was a successful painter who lived in Cleveland.  This painting depicts the carousel at Euclid Beach Park.

Euclid Beach Carousel

I never went to Euclid Beach Park.  It closed long before my time.  My parents did, and they have fond memories of the park.  This is common of native Clevelanders who remember it.  The park was open between 1895 and 1969.  Relics of the park can still be seen around Cleveland.  I use the word relic deliberately.

The arch that served as the gateway is a city landmark and is protected from being demolished.

800px-Euclid_Beach_Arch

One of the rocket rides has been repurposed as a ride that can be rented out for parades or other novelties.

blossom time - euclid beach car-L

If you want to know what the carousel in the painting would look like, here is the restored carousel at the Cleveland History Center.

20151127_154126

You can ride it.

While I don’t remember Euclid Beach Park, when I was a kid, many people in Cleveland loved Geauga Lake Amusement Park.  I am NOT an amusement park person so I did not go to them.  Still, many friends went there every summer and grieved its loss when it closed.  The closure was especially painful because the park was closed abruptly after the summer ended, which means people did not have the chance to say their goodbyes to the park.

Periodically people take footage of the abandoned park.  It looks like something out of a zombie movie.  Make sure you read the comments for the video to get a sense of how people feel about the loss.

Are there relics of Geauga Lake out there that will one day be fetishized the way that Euclid Beach Park’s relics will be?  Perhaps. Either way, I am glad that there is a relic of Euclid Beach Park at the Cleveland Museum of Art.

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