Wednesday, October 31, 2007

I've been meaning to post

all week! First there was a post about the lovely medieval show at the Getty that I never quite finished, then there was the post about Ann Coulter eating at a gay establishment in West Hollywood and how she's a shameless mediawhore who proves with her actions that not even she takes the things she says seriously.

Re Ann: I deleted that post because I like to think that if we ignore her long enough she'll stop getting airtime, but come to think of it, if I learned anything in my days of teaching elementary school, it's that planned ignoring as a behavior modification technique just doesn't work, so in this instance I'll try for re-direction: WE'RE NOT GOING TO LISTEN TO YOU ANYMORE, COULTER. YOUR HACKY FAKE PROVOCATION GETS MORE DESPERATE EVERY DAY BECAUSE WE ARE ALL FULLY CONVINCED THAT YOU DON'T MATTER. SO ENOUGH ALREADY. Thanks.

Oh, and to you pretty boys captured in that phone pic dining with her in WeHo, please tell me she picked up the check and you didn't order cheap; I'd sure hope your souls were worth at least the most expensive thing on the menu.

Anyway, click the link above for the HuffPo story, complete with aforementioned cellphone pic. It's bounced around various blogs a few times already (I saw it on Eater L.A., which gave credit to Towleroad), but it's a good read if you haven't seen it yet.

So there! There's a post. I'll put up another one in a sec with more about the amazing medieval show at the Getty. Thanks for reading!

Friday, October 26, 2007

LATimes article on PJ

For those of you who aren't tired of reading about PJ Harvey on these pages, there's a nice interview with her in today's LATimes. The link is here.

"It's storytelling through song," she said, mentioning that she wrote 50 or 60 tunes before whittling "White Chalk" down to 11 that stood both on their own and as one. "My life's work is the study of that. When I'm not physically writing songs, all I do really is read about song craft, gather as much information as I can. I look at meter and stanza, I go back to all the poetic forms and shapes."

"White Chalk" is also informed by the classical music she listened to almost exclusively while making it, from Beethoven, Bach and Handel to personal favorites such as "sacred minimalists" Arvo Pärt and Henryk Górecki, to new interests including Ralph Vaughan Williams and medieval composer William Lawes.
Ralph Vaughn Williams, PJ? Really? JW, if you're reading this, don't hold it against her!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

I wanted to like

the RSC production of The Seagull. I promise I did!

At intermission JW and I ran into an acquaintance of his who told us about how he got tickets to the King Lear in the cancellations line and suggested we do the same; I had waited too late to try and get tickets and Lear was sold out, but I managed to get these Seagull tickets. That was actually fine with me, too, as I'm a big fan of The Seagull.

I was actually considering the whole cancellations routine for a while, but I have to say I turned on this production somewhere around act IV, and it was such a sharp turn that I do not think it would be wise for me to return for Lear.

I was also fantasizing about writing a play riffing on the losers in Chekov's plays, which was nicely diverting, actually. I've always been so fond of Yepihodov in The Cherry Orchard, and there's the teacher who's in love with Masha in The Seagull. I'm not as strong on The Three Sisters or Vanya, but something tells me there might be just such a supporting character in those plays too. Am I right? I can't remember. Anyway, wouldn't it be fun to write a little one act in a bar with all the loser small roles from Chekov's plays? Getting drunk on vodka and crowing about how unrequited their love is and how boring their conversations are and how badly their shoes squeak? Something to think about, I guess.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

I just finished

Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking, and I related to one of the few genuinely funny passages (understandable that there's only a few in a book about grieving, of course). I thought I'd share the passage here:
When I was clearing out a file drawer recently I came across a thick file labeled "Planning." The very fact that we made files labeled "Planning" suggests how little of it we did. We also had "planning meetings," which consisted of sitting down with legal pads, stating the day's problem out loud, and then, with no further attempt to solve it, going out to lunch. Such lunches were festive, as if to celebrate a job well done.
My friend Libby asked me how I liked the book via Facebook and I responded with a public comment, describing her prose as "steely and (mostly) unsentimental." I'm not convinced that statement is true, with or without the parenthetical. I also didn't necessarily mean the parenthetical as a criticism. The prose is definitely steely, which tempers and balances anything sentimental about the book, and besides, indulgences in the sentimental I think can be allowed, understood, and appreciated here.

Regardless, when I reached the below passage, I cringed that I made my statement publicly, giving all who read it free reign to misinterpret:
I remember despising the book Dylan Thomas's widow Caitlin wrote after her husband's death, Leftover Life to Kill. I remember being dismissive of, even censorious about, her "self-pity," her "whining," her "dwelling on it." Leftover Life to Kill was published in 1957. I was twenty-two years old. Time is the school in which we learn.
I certainly don't think I've been guilty of that kind of thinking about the book. Being almost 32 now, I may not have experienced the death of such a close loved one, but I've experienced certain kinds of loss. Perhaps the deepness of her grieving is something I can only attempt to understand, but there are bits in there I completely get.

I've been doing some scene work lately on a new play about forgetting -- I'm actually finding it's becoming a recurring theme -- so much of what's considered in her writing (the inescapability of the past along with the frustrating impossibility of recapturing it or of exactly recalling it, among other things) is pretty resonant for me right now. Here's another particularly rich sentence:

[T]he apprehension that our life together will decreasingly be the center of my every day seemed today on Lexington Avenue so distinct a betrayal that I lost all sense of oncoming traffic.
As I was reading the final chapters tonight, I considered starting to journal again. I've always wanted to keep journals, but I've only done so sporadically. Every so often I'll dig them out of their boxes and flip through them, and I tend to read them with varying degrees of embarrassment because the writing is usually pretty sloppy, self-conscious, or depressive and morose; they're also often colored by whatever bit of autobiographical writing I just finished reading and felt inclined to try and emulate (for the latest example, see this post).

James Schuyler is among my favorite diarists (and I have to admit, I haven't read many), mostly because of how simply and sharply he records the ordinary in his days. I've tried that kind of journaling too, but I'm mostly interested in a record of the momentous, the memorable, the pleasurable, both in the most ordinary and the most eventful of days. Luckily I've got this blog to help me keep up at least a part of that record.

The Fiery Furnaces at The Troubadour

I'm not going to go on about this one like I did my PJ, but I saw another great show on Monday. I went by myself -- sometimes it's just easier that way -- and I had an even better time than I did the first time I saw them last year at the Fonda. Of course I loved them then, too, but I wasn't nearly as close to the stage as I was at the Troubadour. For those of you who've been to the Troubadour, it's almost impossible to be far from the stage. And seeing Eleanor performing up close made them all the more exciting.

I wasn't as close as some, though; there was one fan with a tiny digital camera who kept flashing it in her face as she sang. Matthew at the keyboards was clearly annoyed; I was 15 feet away from the guy and I wanted to rip the camera from his hands and stomp on it. It was a testament to Eleanor's professionalism and general coolness that she seemed completely unfazed by it. He got his comeuppance though; he held it up to her face and then fumbled and dropped it. Eleanor just smirked and set it aside on the stage, out of his reach. Even better was when she handed it back to him a couple of songs later. It's nice to know she doesn't hold a grudge. That guy got the message, too. He didn't take another photo.

Los Anjealous has some good pics here. I don't think they were taken by that guy. In fact, I think that guy is in the 6th pic looking at his camera. That shot's amazing, by the way. I also love the close-up of Eleanor at the top of the post.

Here's a Youtube of "Restorative Beer" from the new album, Widow City.

There was a dusting of ash

on my car this morning as I headed off for work. Those of us in the middle of L.A. are lucky; my apartment is far out of the path of all these fires. It's still a little unsettling around here these days.

Here's a bad cell phone picture I took outside my office yesterday afternoon. There's no fire up here in this part of the SFV, either, but it still shows up on the horizon.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Saw Rendition

Saturday night. Here's a thought. Just for a change, how about we give the character who represents governmental overreaching and general villainy something other than a southern accent? Maybe there are bad boys in the government who are from other regions of the country. Like maybe Idaho?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Monday night

was amazing, by the way. If you're just tuning in, I went to see PJ Harvey downtown at the Orpheum on Monday night. I've figured you're tired of all this and I haven't even written about the show yet. It's partly to do with being busy, and partly because I'd planned to do it in the early morning post but it got so long I figured I'd split it in two.

My friend Libby went with me. Well, she met me, actually. And the minute I walked up she said, "Did you see Vincent Gallo over there?" I looked toward the nearby burger stand she gestured to, and she immediately started walking in that direction, saying things like "Did you wanna get something to eat? You could get a burger there. Let's check out the menu!" Then when she saw the fruit basket on the counter she said, "How about some fruit. You want a banana?" It was too funny; I didn't even need the help spotting him, but Libby wanted to make sure I got a good look at ol' Crazy Eyes.

Once we got in the theater, I spent a good ten minutes recounting to Libby all the other PJ Harvey shows I saw, as I did in the post I link to above. These memories are important to me, in case you haven't noticed....

PJ took the stage to sustained screaming. She started plucking out "To Bring You My Love," on her guitar all by herself. I knew the concert would be her all by herself, but it started to sink in then. This wasn't just any PJ Harvey concert. This was an evening with Polly Jean Harvey. And it was a stunning evening. She was gracious, pleasant, charming; she's not one for onstage patter, but she seemed quite genuinely humbled by all the adoration she was getting from the audience. We PJ fans do not play around, seriously.

I do enjoy all the new songs, particularly "Grow Grow Grow," which I posted a Youtube vid of in here, and "The Devil" and "The Mountain," but my favorite moments came from the older songs. Maybe they always will; I discovered Rid of Me in high school, as well as its stripped-down counterpart, 4-Track Demos. Listening to her roar out "Man-Size," "Snake" and "Rid of Me" on a solitary guitar was particularly satisfying. The way she toyed with tempo and arrangement on some of the other songs was where much of the surprises came from, though. I've already mentioned the version of "Down By the Water" on the autoharp, but she really switched up her vocal delivery on "Big Exit," from Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea all the while she sped up the guitar, which gave the song a less bombastic, more frenetic quality. It was a great fit with the "Rid of Me"-era songs.

I have to say, as much as I love her with a band -- or hell, even with a dance troupe -- all by herself might be the best way to go. Maybe I'm just selfish, but I'm not sure I want to be distracted from my PJ with all kinds of racket and rockstar swagger going on around her. I'll surely see her again, in whatever manifestation she presents herself to me, but if she never does a show like this again, I'm glad I caught it. It's one for the ages.

I found a youtube of her doing "Big Exit" as I described it above. I'm loving posting all these Youtubes! Enjoy one more:

The long awaited PJ Harvey post

is almost here!

Monday night marked my fifth PJ concert, and it was inarguably the best. But for all those who'd like a recap of the first four, here goes!

1. London, 1997.
I first saw her when I was studying abroad in the UK; she was performing as Polly Jean Harvey, and playing the album she recorded with John Parish, Dance Hall at Louse Point, with the Mark Bruce Dance Company. I was slowly recovering from some serious intestinal troubles that you most certainly do not want to hear about. Let's just say I was barely eating and I felt like I should've been in bed, but nothing would keep me from a chance to see PJ Harvey live, even if it was just as back-up for a modern dance troupe. I remember three amazing things about the show: 3) she played a few songs with just the band as an encore, and I remember being particularly over the moon about "Hardly Wait" from 4-Track Demos, which has a funny favorite PJ line of mine ("Dear Romeo / Make my water break."); 2) the way she screeched the last line of "City of No Sun" ("Love LIES!") as the music stopped underneath her, leaving nothing but her piercing vocal to rattle my brain and give me chills; 3) although she stood to one side of the stage with the band for most of the show to make room for the dancers, during the insane "Taut," which to this day remains one of my favorite songs of hers, she stepped out and gestured to the duet going on centerstage, prone, on the floor. A man and woman were basically writhing and all but simulating sex (I'm afraid that's a horrible and inadequate description of the choreography, but it's been over 10 years now) while she sang lines like "even the son of God had to die my darling." God I love that woman.

Since I've brought up "Taut," I'm just going to have to digress for a moment and quote a chunk of the lyrics here because "Taut" may contain the only PJ Harvey lyric I manage to quote on a regular basis.
I remember it all started when he bought that car
It was the first thing he ever owned apart from me
And the color was red
And the color was red and he drove me
He drove me out of my mind
I'm over that now
The way she almost hisses that last line is something that I've basically lifted, and I toss it out occasionally whenever I tell stories about various calamities. It makes a nice button on a rehashing of a bad boyfriend or what have you. "I'm over that nowwwwww." And it's a nice pop reference that makes me smile, even though I know that no one I talk to on a regular basis who isn't my friend Kevin would know what I was referencing.

2. Pittsburgh, opening for U2, 2001

I think it was 2001, anyway. I know she was touring for Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea, which came out in 2000 on the same day U2's All You Can't Leave Behind came out. I bought both, as I was still marginally interested in what U2 was up to, but I barely listened to the latter. Anyway, I wasn't going to bother to go see this show because I knew it was just going to be a big tacky stadium thing and tickets were too much, but I couldn't let a PJ Harvey appearance pass me by, could I? So last minute I went on Ticketmaster and they'd released a bunch of tickets behind the stage for 45 bucks. I basically looked at PJ's back for her whole set, but we were close enough to the floor that I could see her enter and exit the stage; of course I screamed "I love you PJ!" as she exited; I think I scared her a little.

3 and 4. L.A. - the Uh-Huh Her shows, 2004 (I think)

I saw her twice in either 2004 or 2005; it'd be easy for me to verify those dates but I'm feeling lazy right now. Maybe it's because it's 4:35am and my bout of mini-insomnia is coming to a swift end now that I have to be up in less than two-and-a-half hours. Might also explain why I'm combining the appearances. They were both great sets, although I remember the shows as much for Josh Klinghoffer bounding around that stage as much for her performances; if memory serves I was pretty much entranced by both. Her outfits were hot; her band was hot; she didn't do "Hardly Wait," but she did "Taut" twice. And that tour spawned a live DVD!

I'll tell you about Monday's show in a bit. I'm gonna try to go back to bed now.

Oh, before I go, here's a clip of her doing "Taut" on Sessions at West 54th Street. That's John Parish playing with her. On your right, I think....

I have got

to stop drinking coffee late in the day/evening. I know better.

That said, on Tuesday night I got a good rewrite in on a one-act I've been itching to get right for about two years now, and last night I finally rewrote the opening of a screenplay that's been sitting around unfinished for about a year. Last year I'd finished somewhere around 80 pages on this script and for some reason, rather than just finishing the draft, I started opening new files and started to rewrite the unfinished first draft -- so much so that it became kind of horrible and incredibly far from what I was trying to achieve when I started the thing. So earlier this month I went back to the original file and made a list of priorities and decided I really didn't need to do too much to get a viable first draft out of this thing. So now I'm just rewriting the opening, changing the gender and various details of a small but important role, tweaking a few other things along the way, and pounding out a last 10-15 pages and calling that first draft done! I just might be able to get it done by the end of the month.

When that's done I've got about 80 pages on another unfinished screenplay that I basically did the same thing with. In case you haven't noticed, I've got an issue with screenwriting and self-doubt. Incidentally, that screenplay is inspired by the one-act I was itching to get right, so maybe it's all connected, no?

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

More on my PJ

Today's LATimes calendar section has a good review by Ann Powers of Monday night's show. It's here. My favorite quote is below:

Her good mood diffused the tension of her songs, but playing solo also allowed Harvey to further extend the isolated mood of "White Chalk." This is Harvey's domestic album, one that will have every women's studies major thinking of Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper" and every film buff running out to rent Jane Campion's "The Piano." Its vintage patina, and its focus on women dealing with destinies they ache to escape, connects it to a long history of works on the subject of feminine containment, extending through the Brontës all the way back to fairy tales.
Here's a vid of her doing "When Under Ether" in Copenhagen.



More in a bit.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

PJ Harvey at the Orpheum

I'll have more on this in a bit, but for now, here's a good write-up about the concert on LAist, along with some fun pictures.

To tide you over, here's a performance of her doing "Grow Grow Grow" on an autoharp on a French TV show. That's almost as good as hearing her do "Down By the Water" on the autoharp. I still can't get over that one.

Enjoy.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Saw Jenufa last night

at LAOpera. I think all operas should have severe, crazed mother figures who perform infanticide. Or something like that, anyway. I was basically beside myself for most of act II, which, as a goregous bit of hot melodrama, is about as close to perfect as I could possibly ask for. The only thing I might've done differently was, rather than having Kostelnicka carry off the infant to drop him into freezing waters (or whatever she does that gets him trapped in ice), I imagine her pinned by harsh lighting as she climbs to the top of the large boulder in the middle of the stage, then raising the infant over her head, and bashing it against the rock as the music swelled. I mean, why not, right?

Zack does a better review here.

And for my favorite bit of writing about Jenufa, click here.

Monday, October 08, 2007

I went on Saturday

to the Brewery Art Walk near Boyle Heights with JW and then high-tailed it back to the apartment in Mid-Wilshire to get directions to the theater in NoHo where I was going to a 2:30 matinee of the Martin Crimp adaptation of Le Misanthrope that's been getting such nice reviews and the play was good and afterwards I headed back to the apartment while listening to the new P.J. Harvey album and between Le Misanthrope and P.J. I had an idea for another play but I don't know when I'm going to have time to write it so when I got home I headed straight to a notebook to at least jot a few pages of dialogue and ideas down but then I had to make dinner for JW and myself before we rushed downtown for the first concert of the LAPhil's season and then after it was over we descended on the Acura-sponsored post-concert reception before heading home to bed so we could wake up early for services at All Saints' Beverly Hills where I was to sing the early service before running to Whole Foods on 3rd and Fairfax to get some things for dinner that evening and after I did that I remembered we needed some other things I had to get at Ralph's so I headed to 3rd and La Brea and I was supposed to go to a playwriting workshop in West L.A. but by the time I got home I just couldn't and I didn't want to go anywhere else anymore ever.

Until a few hours later when JW and I realized we didn't have any club soda so I had to go back to Ralph's again.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Have you ever

read an interview of a really lauded, notable person in your field, or maybe even just an ambitious, outspoken person in your field, and as you take in her assured proclamations about the craft or the practice, you are initially impressed with how confidently expressed it all is, because it sounds so intelligent and it name-drops people you know you're supposed to have read but you've never gotten around to reading, and it references all the right progressive movements and dismisses all the right traditional conventions, and it's so full of unusual descriptions of ideas, and even though her ideas aren't all that clear or well-defined, they're stated as if everyone should know what she's talking about, so at first you imagine she's really insightful and deep and attuned to a level of consciousness you can only aspire to, but as you continue to read, you begin to wonder if she knows what the hell she's talking about any more than you ever do?

I just did.