On My Hard Drive: Steven Sondheim, Bernadette Peters, and Mandy Patinkin

A couple of posts back I noted that I have been in a bit of a funk lately, and then I let it be known that it is primarily due to business partner issues I am having right now. I'm not going to go into more than that, but that's where I am.

Driving down the road today, I saw an old green VW bus, with a sticker on its back that read: "No Bad Days." Yeah, I wish I could do that. Oh, how I wish I could do that.

Anyway, when I get in a funk, I seem to pull out a particular piece of theater, with which I have a connection, love, and understanding. And when I do, the kids scurry out of the room in every direction, and ThatOneWife rolls her eyes. To her credit, it was she who found and bought me the DVD. Damn, I love that woman.

So, without further ado, Sunday In The Park With George.

I used to work in theater as a sound designer. This was at a time when sound work was moving from the background of theater production to getting a program credit just like a lighting designer or costume designer might. I was good at it, too. But working from 2-10 every night, including weekends, was pretty rough.

Anyway, I have done sound for pretty much every single large scale Broadway musical you might think of: Music Man, I can't even count the times. Man of LaMancha, several. Fiddler on the Roof, also multiple. Joseph and his blah blah coat, more than three. Oklahoma, Sweeney Todd, Kiss Me Kate, Annie, Oliver, West Side Story, Fantastics, the list goes on an on. Usually, these were bigger productions, with more than 15 wireless mics, and full orchestra, off stage in another room, along with a full complement of appropriate sound effects. I've also done my fair share of acting too. I know my musicals.

I first saw this production on VHS not long after it was produced. Sunday In The Park With George opened on broadway in the middle 80's and ran for more than 600 performances. Both Mandy Patinkin and Bernadette Peters are widely recognized as the preeminent interpreters of Sondheim's music and lyrics.

You see, Sondheim has the reputation of writing the lyrics and music for the script, not just in a particular key, or with a particular common chord progression, like, say, Rent's Seasons of Love...

Anyway, this is not that. Sondheim's music is tailored to the show's setting, and doesn't necessarily follow a usual melodic or chordal pattern. Sondheim is musical and dramatic genius. This play won the 1985 Pulitzer Prize, and both Peters and Patinkin were tony-nominated for their performances.

Anyway the show revolves around the work of artist Georges Seurat (1859-91). He always said he "wanted to get through to something new - a kind of painting that was my own." He astonished the world with only a handful of bold and richly colored canvases. His most famous creation, "A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte," is a capture of Parisians who frequented a particular park on the weekend, under the shadow of the then under construction Eiffel Tower. Here he perfected a technique of painting that came to be known as Divisionism, or Pointillism, although Seurat himself preferred to be called a "Chromo-Lumarist". The technique consisted of small dots of pure color, mixed by the eye of the viewer. When seen from a distance they blend to reveal a world of dazzling hues of light.

So that's the background. The play itself grabs each element of this painting and animates it so the artist can interact with it. Of particular note is the lady with the umbrella in the foreground of the painting. She is the co-star of the play, played wonderfully by Peters. She is Seurat's mistress and model, and through her, we discover Seurat's insecurities, inabilities, failings, travails, and triumphs. He works for weeks on the top hat of the other main character in the painting. The hat is a metaphor for the things we do to escape from dealing with the things that are eating us up in our own lives. The alcohol of an alcoholic, if you will.

The high point, musically, in the play comes just before the end of the first of the two acts. In the sequence, Dot, the model, leaves Georges, and his song, Finishing The Hat, at times lamenting her loss, and at the same time cursing her presence in the fore of his mind, is gut wrenching and heartbreaking. It makes me cry every single time I hear it. Then the music segues and Dot comes back to give him one more chance to try to at least communicate with her, to at least TELL her what he feels, but he won't. He just can't. Her song, We Do Not Belong Together, interspersed with his protestations is equally devastating. A truly beautiful theater moment, and a valid example of Sondheim's musical and dramatic genius. The crushing emotion is palpable.

The second act continues on, one or two generations later, but both Dot's and Georges' progenitors exhibit the same character flaws, now under the scummy shadows of the Eiffel Tower, after the Industrial Revolution has changed the face of Paris. The show comes full circle, but we (I) never really get past that critical flaw of escaping reality in other things.

If you want a little culture, you should get this onto your Netflix list. Just sayin. It's not for everybody, especially not my kids, apparently, but if you like theater (this is a recording of the actual stage performance), you owe it to yourself to see this show.


And one more:

Forgot to mention:

I lamented a while ago that I had to find out about the listing for sale of the only Frank Lloyd Wright house in Utah from the pages of the uppity Architectural Digest magazine. I (finally) found more info on the web, at the Save Frank's Houses web site. I would link it, but it's hard to say how long that info would be up over there, so here it is anyway:

The Stromquist Residence (1958)
1289 E. Canyon Creek Drive
Bountiful, UT 84010

When Mr. Stromquist was a boy in Illinois he had an opportunity to hear Mr. Wright speak at a public gathering. Mr. Wright's style and philosophy made a lasting impression on the young Stromquist, so m
uch so, that when it came time for the Stromquists to put down roots, they immediately thought of Mr. Wright to design a house for them. When Mr. Wright invited them to come to Spring Green in 1957 they were delighted. It was a meeting of kindred spirits and plans were soon generated to proceed.

The house design is based on a diamond module, best suited to take advantage of the spectacular site in the foothills of the majestic Wasatch Mountains. It offers everything that Mr. Wright treasured: seclusion, serenity, and unity. From its vantage point in a lush glade above the Valley of the Great Salt Lake it offers spectacular vistas across the valley and the mountains. In the evening the setting sun ignites the western sky.

The property is located on a ten-acre site at an altitude of 6,000 feet and consists of the main house, an office/laboratory/garage annex, a gardener's shed and a barn. The main house features three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen, semi-formal dining, laundry, utility room, two fireplaces, and two balconies. The living room is partially furnished with three origami chairs and built-in settees. New Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation-sanctioned area rugs, handmade in Nepal, grace the living room, entry hall, and study. The bathrooms are clad in granite; clerestory windows provide natural lighting. The master bedroom has its own fireplace and French doors that lead to a secluded balcony. The kitchen has granite work surfaces and backsplashes, a Bosch cook top/oven and a Subzero refrigerator. The two g
uestrooms are completely furnished. Heating is provided by a Wright-designed combined radiant/forced air system that utilizes two natural gas furnaces. The total square footage is 3,000.

In an ongoing effort to preserve and maintain the house, Mr. Stromquist authorized measures that will safeguard the property for years to come. His foresight in acquiring the adjoining parcels of land to the east and west will ensure that the unique setting of the house will not be compromised by encroaching developments. The property is minutes away from major transportation hubs, world class winter sport venues and summer activities.


The house comes partly furnished, as Wright was famous for not only designing the house, but also the furnishings to accompany it. There are some origami chairs among the furnishings (Wright notes that he was indeed influenced by some eastern design techniques).

Here is the Google Earth jpg of the location - if you want to explore that with your own copy of google earth, plug in the address, leaving out the "east" from your entry.

Here are the rest of the pictures. If you want to see them bigger, just click them.

Thank you for your patronage - I know you care.

Some short notes:

1. IKEA opened here yesterday - massive crowds and traffic re-routes. Coming from a city with 2 (count em - 2) Ikeas, it's funny to listen to people who "don't get what all the hubub is about..." We probably have a couple thousand bucks worth of IKEA at our house. They make some great light-wood solid stuff that is really nice. You can kinda see some of it here, if you can look past the slutty dog...

anyway, they have nice solid beech and birch stuff... very nice, if that speaks to your sensibilities.

2. a random picture for you:

Not sure why I put that there, but hey. Whatever.

3. Was the season finale of Lost last night not about the best fiction TV you have watched all season? Just sayin. RIP Charlie. You the man, with your pixie nose and all that. (sorry if that's a spoiler for you - hurry up and get that TIVO recording WATCHED.)

4. A brief email exchange with ThatOneWife 30 minutes ago:

Her: Hi. How's things?
Me: Hi. Swell. I just got back from a road trip to _______ to pick something up. Got a nice DING on my windshield too. On a brighter note, speaking of cracks, I cracked open the fortune cookie I got yesterday, and it said, "Your financial outlook is excellent." I would have taken one that said, "The stars say you will kill your partner at midnight."

Yeah, I'm having partner troubles. I feel increasingly like a kindergarten teacher whose class is well beyond the need for an afternoon nappy time. Dude, the next steps are right there in front of you, if you have the courage. But you're too busy walking around on the sidewalk looking for nickels, when the dollars are driving by, mere feet from your nose. That's all.

And anyone who doesn't think the our little local economy isn't just humming right along, needs to take a drive on the interstate and take note of all the trucks. Sure sign. Just sayin.

5. You like these?


Things I called:

I called, in June, that Dirk would be voted the NBA league MVP. Last week he was named league MVP. Too bad he's sitting at home, playing solitaire, watching his buddy Steve Nash have all the fun getting body checked into the middle of next week by Robert Horry.

Actually, Dirk is probably walking down some Brazilian beach somewhere, saying to every topless girl he can find, "you know what they say about big feet..."

Whatever. Paper Dirk.

I also called, a month ago, that Chrysler would go to the private equity fund, leaving out the other bidders for the company. The fund, Cerbersus, also owns the local CBS affiliate here in Utah. I called that assets would get overhauled, and then sold to make a quick, huge profit. The managers are stating that they are not planning any layoffs, and are going to try to get things worked out with the UAW. As part of the purchase, the new owners had to agree to take on the 7-9 BILLION dollars in debt responsibility that is the AUW pension fund. The union has managed to create a "30 And Out" program, where a worker can work for 30 years, then retire under full benefits. Now the UAW has more people on the pension side than actual workers. Something is going to have to give there, mark my words.

Rebecca Romijn as Underwear Model

Ms. Romijn is a glaring omission from my list... I mean really, why ELSE is any guy going to watch the X-Men movies. Certainly not for Hugh Jackman. It's the blue paint and carefully placed, painfully small little scales...

But really, she doesn't make a great underwear model either though. Seriously, I'm not looking at this ad, thinking how great the underwear looks ON her.... aye, ca rumba.

I'm just sayin.


A funkified, funky, funkiness

Been away from here for a little bit - to both of the loyal readers, I do apologize. It's been part whirlwind, part cesspool these days. Either way, whirling/swirling.

The problem with lending right now is that lenders are national and they take their loan program guidelines from the national marketplace, and the bond market, which is both national and international. When the broader picture looks less than peachy, they take steps to eliminate the things that cause them pain, across the board. If they are having a problem with the combination of high LTV loans - those with little or no down payment, and depreciating asset values, they make changes across the entire national spectrum of loan programs.

In Utah, our values have lagged behind the national averages for the last decade, effectively leaving residents out of/immune to the strong appreciation that comes as a result. Then we begin to see growth, fueled by favorable conditions like strong job growth, local economy, etc. But now there are about 30% of the loan programs available that there were 16 months ago, and 50% fewer lenders.

I'm not saying that all people should have access to risky loans, but even many of the way less risky programs are being cut, because the market is always REACTIONARY, and they always react in greater proportion than the actual risk represents.

Good people, even those with down payment money, are having a hard time getting financing because the lenders who remain standing are overloaded with loans, and the underwriters are overworked, stressed, and generally unwilling to sign off on anything that may come back to haunt them months into the future. So there, there's the vent for the day.

On another subject -
I always get a kick out of looking at FSBO (For Sale By Owner) sites. Everyone knows that a picture of your home is a good thing to help sell it. Most people won't even consider looking at an online listing without a picture, if not 10 pictures, if not a Virtual Tour. Then you see people who put up one picture of their house, like this:

Crack me up. People, I'm not buying your bed, I'm looking at your house. Great, the bedroom is big enough for a bed, well, that's a revelation.

If you're going to make the big decision to try to sell your home yourself, you better be prepared to upload 25 pictures, and they better be GOOD pictures too.

Most FSBO listings end up with a Realtor, because people think it's a cake-walk to get your house sold in a hurry, then find out it's not all that fun, and their house didn't sell in four hours for $10K more than they were asking for.

I see Jerry Falwell has died. I'm sure he'll be lampooned for some time in the bloggo-world. He was the dude that said one of the Teletubbies was a transsexual, and mothers should make sure their kids don't watch them. He also blamed 9|11 on gays, the ACLU, and liberals. He has been the personification of the Christian Right.

I have a problem with either the left or the right assigning God to their side. First of all, how egotistical and presumptuous of you! How do you know what God's political leaning is, in terms of today's political landscape? And what about this: you cloak yourself in the drapings of God's name, and all that that implies, and it turns out your party is populated by crooks, liars, thieves, and general moral degenerates. What then? I'm gonna bet that God wouldn't mind being left out of this in this way, and He's content to let you figure it out on your own. I have a problem with people who trumpet their overt righteousness to everyone who will listen - what was the verse?? "Do your alms in secret, that your right hand know not what the left is doing"... sorry for the paraphrase - not exactly up on my Book of Matthew... People who do that obviously don't have enough actual substance to let their positions stand upon their own merit.

And don't get me started on the whole "separation of Church and State..." thing. It reminds me of a great post I saw the other day here. This site interests me because there are several blogs that I have in my feeder that are VERY well written, and take a very intellectual approach to conservatism, Republicanism, Christianity, and Mormonism. And although I don't always agree with people on that track, I do respect their opinions, and I respect their ability to express them in a cogent way. And by the way, I believe that is the first time I have used the word "Mormonism" in this blog. oh well... it's such a part of our life here in Utah, and frankly a big part of my past life as well. So, in the same way, I have found this blog interesting, because he expresses a very intellectual, well thought out and supported view of politics, life in church, and life in general from a liberal point of view. I respect someone who is able to compartmentalize and ultimately find harmony in those two things - I was not.

On the New American Fascists:
There has been an increasing light on this whole thing... you can read my thoughts on it here, and there are a couple of other people talking about it, in different forums as well, here, and here... I think there is some danger there, and we need to be careful. It's a subject that has been on my radar for a little while.

Speaking of Radar:
Are you enjoying the gas prices? I know I am. It's National Don't Buy Gas Day. It's a day on the calendar shared by National Gullible People Who Forward Too Much Email day. Honestly, anybody who thinks that not buying gas on any particular day is going to have any impact whatsoever is ON DRUGS. Don't Buy Gas Day is immediately preceded by National Buy Tomorrow's Gas Today day.

If you want to make an impact, how about National Drive 100 Fewer Miles Week? Or National Take The Bus Day? Yeah, that would be entirely inconvenient. My bad.

If you've made it this far - the payoff:
I've been away from the blog out of protest. You see, somebody I know, virtually, was away last week at a golf tournament I have always fantasized about going to. Here's his picture:

He was reportedly seen along the fairways trying to scratch and sniff a picture of Ladies PGA player Anna Rawson...