oyceter: teruterubouzu default icon (Default)
I caught this at the Berkeley Rep, after reading [personal profile] starlady's review. (One huge bonus of my move last year has been much more access to theater.) Growing up, I've always liked the story of the White Snake, and most variants I know include Green Snake and the ending with the pagoda.

I really liked how the play dealt with two main characters being snakes: White Snake and Green Snake are stuffed snake puppets manipulated by two sticks (one for the head, one for the tail), rather like a really, really, really short dragon-dance dragon. They're remarkably expressive, and I loved watching the snakes petulantly coil up or facepalm tailpalm or squirm around uncomfortably. In one or two instances, a line of people holding appropriately colored paper umbrellas would act as the snake, which looked even more like a dragon dance. The paper umbrellas also make an appearance as the pagoda and as a representation of the Buddhist temple. I also loved blue ribbons unwinding from the ceiling as the sound of rain begins, then the other end dropping suddenly and the ribbons floating down and puddling on the floor as the brief storm in the story ends.

(I was also very amused to see the rain sound created by slowly pouring handfuls of rain... it reminds me of a modern ballet I saw back in Taiwan that was about Buddhism or something, except all I can remember is a ballet dancer dressed as the Buddha sitting amidst a pile of rice with grains of rice trickling down from the top of the stage. Younger me obviously had no appreciation for art, since I just snickered at the grains of rice bouncing off his bald head. )

I was worried at first to see a multiracial cast, given that the director/playwright is white, but Green Snake/Greenie and White Snake/Lady Bai are played by Asian actresses, and the love interest (Xu Xian) is played by (I think) a (non-Asian?) man of color. The various side characters, who also act as narrators, are played by people of various races. I was extremely amused to find that the evil Buddhist monk is played by an older white man with a very broad USian (southern? Texan? no idea) accent. He made absolutely no attempt to pronounce any of the Chinese correctly, and I'm pretty sure he was lampooning the USian conservative Christian movement.

I actually found myself more invested in the romance between White Snake and Xu Xian. I vaguely remember that Xu Xian rejects Lady Bai after discovering her snake nature and thinking this was very unfair, but I can't seem to find this version in the Wiki article, so possibly I just made it up. As such, I was pleasantly surprised by the trust and faith in the romance, and despite the occasional slapstick, the actors really sold me on the pairing. I've always loved the Greenie-Lady Bai friendship (so femslashy!), so I was less surprised by that, though still extremely pleased.

It's a very warm and human retelling of the story, as opposed to Tsui Hark's very weird movie version, and I'm really glad I got to see it.
oyceter: teruterubouzu default icon (Default)
(in which [personal profile] starlady's post reminds me to finish and post this)

I've seen Assassins once before: it was my freshman year and the first theatrical production I would see in college. It was also my first exposure to Sondheim outside of West Side Story; I had no idea who he was or that I would later find many extremely passionate Sondheim fans in fandom.

I remember coming out of the theater absolutely stunned; I had seen some commentary in musicals before, but nothing quite like this, definitely nothing this dark and this biting.

Since then, I've become a fan of several of his shows, though I'm not hardcore enough to have listened to them all, and I've been lucky enough to see a few staged (mostly by local troupes or college productions, though I really should write up the revival of A Little Night Music I saw in NY in 2010). Assassins is still one of my favorites, in large part due to [personal profile] coffeeandink's write up of the 2004 revival, which prompted me to buy the cast album. I prefer the revival to the original, in part due to familiarity, in part due to recording additions that make it more satisfying to listen to as an album, and largely due to one major change the revival made.

This staging uses the revival changes, with the additional change of no extra cast outside of the assassins, the Balladeer, and the Proprieter. So the assassins who aren't the main character in a scene play bystanders and witnesses, which is a nice way of visually conveying the ordinariness of the assassins. The staging is a carnival setting, although I really wish there had been the light-up prize when a president is assassinated, along with the "DING DING DING DING DING" of the bell in the recordings. It was a bit like watching a production of Sweeney Todd without that ear-piercing whistle.

The Balladeer was an excellent singer and sounded a lot like Neil Patrick Harris, but unfortunately, his mike wasn't working very well the night CB and I went to see it. Also, he plays the banjo himself, which would be nice except for the whole overpowering of the voice. And given his role as a key narrator to several of the assassinations and as the viewpoint most set against the assassins, it felt like a big loss. Similarly, while I liked the Proprieter's scary stage presence, he could not sing, and as such, he only lurks in the background for most of the production, instead of taking a more active role. He does give all the assassins their guns in the first number, but outside of that, he's not a very large figure in the musical.

Cut for length )

Spoilers for revival staging (and Buffy) )

Assorted personal and political thoughts )

In conclusion: still one of my favorite Sondheim albums and one of my favorite Sondheim musicals, though I can see how some people might think of the pacing of the show and its composition as a series of individual narratives before Lee Harvey Oswald as a flaw.

Also, I am disproportionately amused by listening to "We're the other national anthem, folks, the ones who can't get in to the ballpark" in a production happening at the same time the Giants were playing a World Series game.

Production details
oyceter: (not the magical minority fairy)
(Asian American Theater Company and Crowded Fire Theater, directed by Marissa Wolf)

Saw a production of Young Jean Lee's Songs of the Dragons Flying to Heaven with Tari, S., C., [personal profile] via_ostiense, [personal profile] starlady, [personal profile] bluerabbit, and CB. I recycled the playbill, so I can't quote, but the introduction to the play said that Lee wrote it as a response to the "minority literature" pieces out there that talk about the minority experience in the US and Racism and Oppression and etc.

The play is staged in a bit of a black box theater, the entire space covered with plywood with a stylized flower in the center of the floor. It opens in the dark, with the sound of a man's voice instructing a woman who is being slapped. After a while, a video screens: a close-up of the playwright's face. She is sniffling, holding back tears, and every so often, an invisible hand loudly slaps her. We hear a pansori singer. (Later id'ed by Tari as doing a piece from Song of Chunhyang.)

Korean American comes out to introduce the play, followed by Koreans 1, 2, and 3, each in color-coded hanbok. Korean American speaks English with no [eta: a USian accent] and is dressed in a t-shirt, jeans, and sneakers. Koreans 1, 2, and 3 spend one segment of the play speaking the respective languages of the actresses (Japanese, Mandarin, and Cantonese). The play continues with assorted vignettes, some of which are just odd, some of which are hilarious (Korean American with her grandmother omg).

The play itself was interesting, particularly how White People 1 and 2, a young cis het couple, had emo scenes arguing about their relationship, completely unconnected with the rest of the play. In the end, their narrative, boring and narcissistic as it is, takes over the entire play, which had me laughing hysterically.

The oddest bit, though, was going to the fireside chat afterward. I didn't connect to the play completely, but I didn't find it as uncomfortable as reviews said, and afterward, I felt even more alienated, like I was the intruder despite the play being produced by the Asian American Theater Company. All the things I had thought were obvious, such as how the White People scenes had nothing to do with anything and was narrowly, obsessively focused on itself and the occasional desire to improve the world and "I want to go to Africa," had not been that obvious to some of the audience.

Some audience members wanted to know what the point of the White couple was, especially since they seemed so mundane compared to the Asian people. I hadn't even realized that quite a few of the audience didn't even know that Koreans 1, 2, and 3 weren't even speaking Korean, and after me and the director pointed it out, another audience member commented on how Korean sounded like "angry Japanese."

But yes, this is why I mention having gone with so many people above; I think it would have been an entirely different experience if I'd only gone with a handful of friends or such. As it were, I am pretty sure me and CB were incredibly loud and nearly dying with laughter at several points when the people around us were not, and since all of us sat together for the fireside chat, I am fairly certain I was much louder and more obvious in my eye-rolling than I normally would have been. But honestly. Just the fact that the first few questions were all about the white people and what the play meant for them and OMG please explain what it is is saying about Asian culture to us?!

I am glad that later on, more Asian-Am people (some of the group I went with included) commented on their own experiences of the play, and I was particularly interested in the notes of how the multilingualness was done. (Lee wrote the entire play in English and wanted Koreans 1, 2, and 3 to be cast from any combination of East Asian actresses who spoke (an) East Asian language(s); part of Wolf's audition process was to see how each actress translated her own scene.) Tari also started getting into a bit of audience knowledge wrt the inclusion of the pansori snippet in the earliest sequence, which was a comedic contrast to the emotionally fraught scene, as opposed to an audience member wondering "what that music was." [personal profile] via_ostiense also mentioned how the play didn't feel like it was speaking to her own experience in particular. [eta: more accurate comment]

Overall, I felt that the play wasn't radical enough for me—I particularly wanted to see more being done with the multilingualness, particularly so that audience members who understood non-English languages were seeing a different play of sorts. Unfortunately, it also seemed to be too radical for many of the other people there. I realize this sounds snotty, but the points that I thought were extremely obvious to the point of being anvils had been not grasped at all by some audience members. There were some points in there about Korean-ness and general Asian stereotypes in the media, along with Korean Catholic [eta: (Protestant?) Christian] culture that felt spot on (CB nearly fell off his chair in the scene with the grandmother talking about Jesus; I nearly fell off my chair at the miming of various ways to commit suicide), but I didn't feel like I (non-white Asian-American me) was the play's core audience, which made me a bit sad.

I also looked up some reviews for this play later, and I feel that what I saw was not necessarily what the reviewers saw.

Links:
- Official page including a YouTube snippet of one of the first portions of the performance.

- SFGate review: "Besides Lee's forays into Korean American identity, she raises the daring notion that white people may be as human as anybody else."

- SF Examiner review: "One scene within the 70-minute piece, about a daughter in conflict with her tyrannical parents, is performed entirely in an Asian language (maybe more than one, as the actresses themselves come from various Asian backgrounds). Decipher it if you can.

"In another, more accessible scene, the Korean-American is persuaded by her overbearing, dying old-world grandmother to 'be humble' and pray to Jesus."


To all these reviews, I want to say: accessible to whom? Why? Deciphered by WHOM? Who are you presuming is the audience, and why in the world are you presuming that?

I do think Lee's play is directed more toward white people than I would have liked, or held back somewhat because she wanted it to be more "universal," but I also think she is reacting to the Amy Tan version of explaining it all to the white people by not explaining, or by using in jokes and making some people uncomfortable with the realization that they are in jokes. And some of them are jokes I am not in on, but you know what, that's okay. Because it's not about me (Chinese-American me who partially grew up in Taiwan), which some of the reviews and some of the audience members really did not seem to understand.

(People who went, please feel free to chime in more/correct me/whatnot in comments! I waited too long to write this up, and as usual, I have forgotten more than I wrote down.)
oyceter: teruterubouzu default icon (Default)
My gallery title lies, but I was too lazy to make a new gallery for my very few Sausalito pictures, which are from back when [livejournal.com profile] oracne visited in August.

Giant Sausalito and NY pictures )

In addition to the Indian dance troupes and Step Afrika, I also got to see OlogundĂȘ, some of Bonga & The Vodou Drums of Haiti, and Doug Elkins' Fraulein Maria, courtesy of Lincoln Center Out of Doors. Again, I am a big fan of free programming! Sadly, I have very little impression of Ologunde and Bonga, as they performed on a very sunny Sunday afternoon, right about when food coma and laziness from heat hit. My sister and I ended up leaving halfway through because we couldn't find shade.

Doug Elkins' Fraulein Maria is an interesting take on The Sound of Music, in which he choreographs modern dance pieces to all the songs from the movie. What I liked best was how Maria was actually played by three dancers—a young woman who looked a bit like Julie Andrews, a young Asian woman, and a young man (POC). The three dancers would be onstage simultaneously, and I imagined it as Maria arguing with herself or consulting with herself. Liesl was played by a man who didn't have a dancer's physique, and the rest of the children and nuns and etc. were played by dancers irrespective of gender. I very much liked the notion of the casting, and it makes a point as to how iconic the movie is—as long as the costuming is right, it doesn't really matter who's playing whom. Unfortunately, the audience would snicker whenever two men danced together romantically, which I found annoying. I wish the Liesl/Franz scene weren't played for laughs, given the cross-dressing and gender-bending (also, Franz was played by a black guy). I noticed the lesbian couples on stage didn't get laughed at.

Other favorite bits from the show were the hip-hopping Mother Superior and watching dancers give signature moves to all the notes of the scale for "Do Re Mi."

And I saw Wicked (my birthday present from my sister!), which was cool and which I need to write up eventually before I forget everything.
oyceter: (godchild evil parrot of DOOM)
Summary: LOVE.

Slightly longer summary, with the caveat that I have only listened to the score a few times and watched the DVD of the George Hearn/Angela Lansbury version. I love the show, but from more of a distance than people who are longtime Sondheim and/or Sweeney fans:

Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter and Alan Rickman singing do not make me want to shoot myself and are actually good at times, though you definitely notice the difference between them and the people who play Anthony, Johanna and Toby. All three of the former have some trouble with the high notes, though they deal mostly by fading away instead of wavering or squeaking.

I am amazed that the movie is only a little over two hours. It moves very quickly and I never felt like I was being shuffled from plot point to plot point via horrific exposition, like I do for many book-to-movie adaptations (*cough*GoldenCompass*cough*). I was very satisfied with what they cut and what they kept, though I do miss the factory whistle.

Tim Burton also remembers that this is a movie; I think it is one of the better or the best adaptations from Broadway to film that I've seen, but again, I'm speaking very much as an amateur watching. For purposes of comparison, I love the Chicago adaptation but not as much as this because it takes away Velma's voice, and while I like Rent, I like it because it is basically the show on film (it's hard for me to compare others like West Side Story, My Fair Lady and etc., since I've only seen the film versions).

Cut for length and spoilers )

So, has anyone else posted on this? I am dying to read more commentary, particularly from people who know Sondheim better than me!

Christmas fooding

Wed, Dec. 26th, 2007 11:38 pm
oyceter: (santa me)
Yesterday, more cooking! Thankfully less than Christmas Eve, as I was smart enough to start the bread, the yogurt sauce, and the raspberry sauce then.

I got up at 8 to punch down the bread dough and to form the loaves, then crawled back into bed to wake up after noon. Oh well. Hey, what's a holiday for if you can't laze about (never mind that I laze about plenty on the weekends)?

We had lots of Martinelli's, chickpea pancakes and yogurt sauce, a huuuge dish of mi fun, my mom's onion pork rib things, bread, and salad.

I felt extremely accomplished, as my bread turned out well! I remembered not to punch it down too much this time for more rustic-type bubbles, which made the texture rougher and less refined. And it tasted good! And smelled delicious! The only thing was, I forgot to raise it when it was cooling down, so all the steam went up and the crust got a little soft. Still, everyone ate it and said it was excellent, and it tasted like bread you get from a good store! I am extremely proud of myself.

My sister and her friend mostly did the mi fun and the pork ribs. I think mi fun is now part of our traditional Christmas, as this is the second year running we've had it. Also, we manage to make so much that the only thing it fits in is a giant dish about three feet across, colorfully painted with chile peppers. Someone gave it to us for putting chips and salsa in, but so far, the only thing we've ever used it for is to house ginormous amounts of mi fun every Christmas.

And for dessert, CHOCOLATE SOUFFLE! With raspberry coulis! I strained the raspberry sauce myself, and it tasted awesome! And the souffle was the right texture I am beaming with pride even as I type!

Today, me, my sister, and two of her friends went to see the SF Ballet's Nutcracker. It was really lovely, and it makes me want to watch Princess Tutu again, but I've found that after dancing and watching people dance, I think I prefer more contemporary stuff now. Though I still greatly appreciate the classical too -- it would have been great just sitting there and listening to the orchestra play all the familiar pieces.
oyceter: Pea pod and peas with text "peas please" (peas)
Argh! My computer ate my first post!

I'm still behind on comments and behind on LJ; I suspect I will be for a good few months, as real life has started to get very busy.

Avenue Q )

Max Brenner, take two )

After lunch, my sister persuaded me that buying (yet more) peas at the Union Square market and lugging them around while shopping would be a very bad idea. Given that we got home around 7, I think she was right. Though I still miss the peas...

We wandered around Soho because I wanted to visit Purl Soho (a yarn store) and stopped by around 18 different clothing stores along the way. I didn't manage to find any clothes that I liked, but I did find a pair of ten-dollar flats that I got. I think I can wear them dancing. Also, they are pink!

We also managed to trudge over to BookOff at the very end of a long afternoon. Yay Bookoff! Sadly, I couldn't find more cheap $1 manga that I wanted, but I did manage to get some other stuff. I also persuaded my sister to get Emma vols. 3 and 4, so I feel the trip was rather successful.

Stanton Social )

Weekend report

Sun, Dec. 18th, 2005 11:51 pm
oyceter: Pea pod and peas with text "peas please" (peas)
Sadly, it is the last market of the year. I won't be able to go again for two whole weeks!

I managed to drag myself out of bed at the early hour of eleven (ehm, yes, am very much a night owl) and walk all the way over, hoping against hope that it wouldn't rain. I kept getting sprinkled on, but I couldn't tell if it was the wind blowing water from the trees, or actual drizzle.

It was actual drizzle. The good thing about this was that there was still plenty to pick over at the market -- usually by eleven, things are looking a bit scanty. And there were much fewer people, so I didn't even have to wait in line for bread! I tried to get enough for the three whole weeks the groceries would have to last, but I was a little limited by how much I can cook in a week and how much I could carry. Actually, the carrying capacity was more the concern. However, this didn't stop me from buying 6 pounds of satsumas! They'll probably be gone by Friday...

More on farmer's market )

I was in a pretty bad mood all day too. It rained all of yesterday, but that was ok because I stayed at home and cooked polenta and watched Omoide Poro Poro (Only Yesterday) and scritched rats and knit. I did venture out into the rain, but for a yarn expedition and a Borders run (manfully resisted temptation and didn't get anything, but did read vols. 16-18 of KareKano). Today I had to walk home in the stuff, which wasn't so fun, although satsumas and farmer's market was worth it.

Nutcracker )

I ended up going right after anyway, mostly because I had to go back to the car to get my umbrella because it was pouring, and decided what the hell, just go. I would like to note, by the way, that 9x9 pans are really hard to find. Argh. So again, I spent too much money and got more cooking equipment (whisk, 9x9 pan, 9x13 pan) but couldn't find a silicone spatula (I, er, sort of melted my current spatula....). Maybe they were hiding. Maybe I will make my mom go with me to a fancy kitchen porn store and I will get myself happy colorful spatulas. Also! I got the coolest things ever! They are color-coded flexible cutting boards! I love them! I can cut things up on them and carry them over to my pan easily! And there are four of them (red for meat, yellow for poultry, green for veggies, blue for seafood) so now I can avoid important things like salmonella! So cool!

I also splurged and got myself a knitting magazing, haha! The patterns actually aren't that great, but it has a nifty article on short rows. Well, the patterns could be good, but I hate seaming, so I need to figure out a way to convert patterns so that I can knit them in the round, or just as one, really large flat piece for cardigans. Am now apologizing to Elizabeth Zimmermann for being grouchy at her book and going back to research. But I was still grumpy from the rain and the wet and the grey skies and the crowds.

And then, I went to the best coffee place ever and had their dark chocolate mocha, which is wonderfully smooth and doesn't have the often grainy texture of most mochas and topped with whipped cream. Also, did I mention the dark chocolate? And their coffee is just so tasty and dark and rich to begin with! So I sat in a comfy bowl chair and read my knitting magazine and sipped my mocha and ate my quiche lorraine (complete with eggy, custardy, cheesy center and tasty crust) and felt much, much more human afterward.

Cooking bits )

Rent (2005 movie)

Thu, Dec. 15th, 2005 05:33 pm
oyceter: teruterubouzu default icon (Default)
YAY! I finally got to see my musical! The sad thing was, it hasn't even been out a full month or so, and it's already only in one theater in the area =(.

I have complete, unabashed, totally uncritical adoration of this movie! It is my musical! On large screen! Soon to be preserved in a format that I can rewatch it over and over and over without booking seats and paying $60!

I do realize that Rent has a rather romantic view of the starving artist and bohemian poverty and rebellious behavior and an uncomplicated view of business and corporate America. And that it doesn't particularly tackle social issues surrounding AIDS. But... I still love it! I don't care! I love that it has its giant, bohemian heart on a sleeve, I love that it's earnest and optimistic and idealistic, that it's about connecting and risking emotional involvement.

I also like that there's a gay couple, a lesbian couple, and a straight couple, and that they all have emotional weight, as opposed to the non-straight couples being played for comedy. And I like that all the couples are interracial and that it's not a big deal! And that the rich, upper-middle-class characters are both black, and that that's also not seen as strange. And that everyone is ok with Angel being a crossdresser.

Well, Roger and April aren't interracial. But I'm pretty sure Benny and his wife are, given that his investor/father-in-law is white. But yes, I like that I have to sit back and think to see if I can find a non-interracial couple.

And I am so, so very glad that the movie kept the original cast, basically, and that they didn't try to make Mimi white or whatnot when they recast her. Yeah, it's not race-blind casting, but it is so good to see a cast on screen that doesn't just have token minority characters.

And hey, all this is secondary because the story totally gets me every time. And music!

I realized while I was watching that I've gotten used to musicals being told in the Brechtian manner instead of the integrated style of Rodgers and Hammerstein, where the musical sections feel very deliberately staged and meta and set apart from the story. Rent doesn't do that; while there is a bit of staging/dream sequence involved, mostly it just seems to posit that, well, people are just naturally breaking out into song. It took a while to get used to, but by the end, it felt completely natural to have people singing. Although, hrm, I'd love seeing a Brechtian version of Rent on film, just because I love bits and pieces in the musical like people singing to the answering machine.

But! They have bits I love and I love the music and they were singing on screen! Yay! I love musicals ^_^.
oyceter: (midori happy)
Picked this one instead of one in SF because a) closer and b) seats! Seats are nice! It was a bit different watching it in a seated theater, as opposed to a more club environment; less whistles and applause, more "decorous" behavior. I do like the energy of the club environment a lot, but on the other hand... it was really nice to sit down! I got so tired at the last Vienna Teng concert I went to that I nearly fell asleep during some of the slower songs -_-;;. Also, the feet were much less irritated at me after this one.

And this time, I got to see her with her band, as opposed to being backed up by the Animators! Not that I didn't like the Animators, but it was nice being able to hear her on an actual piano instead of a keyboard, accompanied by cello and violin and viola instead of guitar. It was a very, very different sound from the only other show of hers I've been to.

The Animators opened this time as well; the songs were much slower and less angry than the show before (with the exception of a song about Strom Thurmond titled "The Senator Goes to Hell"). There was also a really cute Al Green song (who is Al Green?), along with a love song/gospel tune. The first song of the set made me mad, because it was one of those "Why won't she go for nice-guy me, she says she wants nice but she really just wants the bad boys and to be treated badly" things, which drives me crazy. I read somewhere that guys who complain that they are Nice Guys, why don't they have a girlfriend, are in all probability not really Nice Guys.

They also played my favorite song of theirs! Ok, I only know that one song, but still. I like it. They were going to play a sad love song, but due to instrument misplacement, they ended up playing "Simple," which is one of those songs that makes me point and say, "I want to be like that!" (er... the lyrics make it a bit more complicated. I just realized that sounded like I wanted to be simple-minded. Yeah). Anyhow, I got it off iTunes, but it sounds better live -- much more energy instead of being sappy and slow.

Vienna Teng started out with lots of songs that I heard the last time I saw her ("Hope on Fire," "My Medea," other somewhat sad and depressing and slow songs), including some new songs that I'd also heard. Having seats or the 7:30 starting time or not having the drive to SF or just having the actual piano instead of a keyboard there made such a difference. Before, I got really sleepy during the slow bits (I think I was very tired), but this time I could actually concentrate. That was nice.

She didn't play quite that many songs off her albums, but I was happy because we got "Atheist Christmas Carol" (hee!) and "Homecoming." And it was really fun hearing her new songs! I had heard about three of them before, but there were a lot more new ones this time. I hope that means a CD is coming some time in the near future.

The ones I remember most are "Boy with the Piano" (or is it "Boy and the Piano"? Anyhow, there's a boy, and there's a piano), which was fun and jazzy and syncopated, "1 bd/1ba," a cute song about apartment hunting in San Francisco, and "City Hall," a really, totally, absolutely adorable song about the gay marriages in SF. It was really, really, really cute! I loved it! It made me happy!

And then there was "Harbor" to close up. "Harbor" also makes me happy! And it was so cool with the cello and the piano and the violin and even a xylophone and accordian (courtesy of the Animators). Vienna Teng mentioned that she has a lot of travelling songs, but I never really thought about "Harbor" being a personal song. Except... after "City Hall" and "1 bd/1ba" and other very California songs, I finally realized that "Harbor" was most likely not about the Maine coast, complete with picturesque lighthouse and grey waves crashing, but about the San Francisco Bay, the bridges and the fog.

Duh. I guess I associate ships more with the Atlantic and with whale-hunting type things of the past?

I love the energy of "Harbor" and that shift in timestamp where the piano starts pounding out chords (or something... [livejournal.com profile] yhlee, don't kill me for misuse of musical terms!).

Very fun.

(no subject)

Tue, Oct. 25th, 2005 11:26 pm
oyceter: teruterubouzu default icon (Default)
So I went to Las Vegas this weekend. I've been there once before, four years ago. It's still as large and overwhelming as it was then.

Vegas actually sort of frightens me. I love cities, and I love the energies of cities and places where things are still going on past midnight, but Vegas doesn't feel like an actual city to me. It feels like a giant playground of neon lights, mega-hotels, mega-casinos, mega-malls. Everything is too large and too bright.

We stayed at the Wynn, which was large and grandiose. I think many of the hotels try to be upscale and tasteful, but once you leave the quiet lobbies and hit the casinos, it's already a lost cause.

I ogled at Cartier and Graff, Fred Leighton and Dior, marvelled that a single candle could cose $65 at Jo Malone. I ended up getting myself a teeny box of expensive chocolates, because they looked too good to pass up. I shall have to ration them out; there are only nine of them and they are small. I had a cinnamon chocolate yesterday, and it was lovely and mildly spicy and melted away on my tongue to leave just a shadow of chocolate and a small glimmering of cinnamon.

I also went around and looked at all the fancy jewelry I could, partly because I have a trainwreck kind of fascination with how large things can get, but mostly because my mind is like a magpie's and I am attracted to anything shiny.

There was much of the shiny. I probably looked very odd standing around with my nose pressed against the glass of super expensive jewelry stores, then stepping back and moving my head from side to side to watch things sparkle. But! It was so sparkly! I couldn't resist!

I actually ended up spending most of my time in the hotel room, as I was too tired to walk around. The room was cavernous. Also, I partially blame my sort-of incarceration on [livejournal.com profile] rachelmanija, because I got sucked into her book and never quite emerged.

Also, it had a really neat bathtub with "chromatherapy" (aka little lights to make your bathwater change color -- I'm as baffled as the next person) and a nifty keen spout that came out of the long side of the bathtub wall in a lovely arc, instead of flowing out of a spout. Plus, the hotel had little free bathsalts that I took advantage of. And a little pillow for your head in the bathtub. And lots of nice lemongrass-sage scented products (I forgot to steal them, sigh).

I did, however, nick the sewing kit, so the apartment finally has sewing utensils!

La Reve )

Fooding )

The strangest thing was that people smoked everywhere. I was sniffing around and wondering what the strange and nasty smell was, only to realize... cigarettes! Clearly I was no longer in California.

Vegas is large and mostly overwhelming. It was fun, I had good food, but I'm awfully glad I'm back home.
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I went to see Yamato, a taiko group, with [livejournal.com profile] fannishly and [livejournal.com profile] yuneicorn on Friday.

I've seen taiko twice before; the first time I was helping out with an event sponsored by my university's Japanese program. The senseis had gotten assorted Japanese students to help out (I was there to turn pages for the piano program) with the event, which had performers from Kanazawa, where the university's homestay program was located. I can't remember if I was getting paid or not, but being able to see a free Noh performance was the real incentive.

The Noh was very boring. I think I dozed off during it several times. And then out came three taiko drummers, all female, didn't look like much. I had no idea what taiko was and figured I'd be bored -- how exciting could drumming be?

They put on quite a show. Lights, drumsticks in the air, jumping around, everything. It was so cool that I tried to get all my friends to go to the showing the next day just to see them.

Anyhow, this show was even cooler, given that it was a troupe of about 10 people or so. All of them were in black tank tops with pants that looked somewhat like hakama tucked into boots, crazy mop hair on each of them. Some of them tied it up so that it shot straight up or out, some just had hair everywhere. It reminded me of something like a cross between heavy metal drummers and Muppets.

And they had a wonderful sense of humor! The second piece felt like something out of Stomp! -- there were three guys up there, all with very distinct personalities, even though no one said a word. They had these teeny hand cymbals, which was fun to watch after the giant opening piece with drums everywhere, and they ended up sort of "throwing" the sound around, playing catch with it with the cymbals, tossing it up and down and watching it zip about the stage.

All mimed, of course, but they did it so well, and as [livejournal.com profile] fannishly noted, they were using the direction the sound was actually travelling in so that you could tell where the sound was every second.

I especially liked the guy in the middle, who was smaller in build than the first two and had this wonderfully cute shimmy.

Before that, there had been a drum-off between two of the guys, complete with posturing and one-upsmanship, and then afterward, a really great piece with people on the drums and four women sitting up front playing the shamisen.

I've heard the shamisen before, mostly in recordings, and seen some video in museums of people playing it in performances, but I don't think I've ever seen the shamisen played like an electric guitar before.

I think that may have been my absolute favorite part of the show, watching these four women kneeling up front with their crazy Muppet hair, first holding the shamisen like a geisha or musician would. And then the drums came in, and they started playing, and I can't even describe the incredible energy of the performance, of how much fun you could see they were all having, and of the four strumming away like mad on the shamisens with the plecturns, leaning forward with fingers flying on the strings, playing like they were at a rock concert.

It was great.

There was just so much energy on the stage in general; they had the audience clapping to drumbeats at one point, much jumping up and down, drums of all different sizes.

I kept being afraid that the very large drums mounted on stands would fall off because they were wobbling so much when they were hit.

There were cymbals, small drums about the size of a very large dinner plate with sharpish but mellow tones, larger barrel-sized drums that seemed to be the mainstay of the performance, even larger drums with ropes tied round them that were particularly sharp, especially when they were hit with longer, thinner drumsticks instead of the usual large wooden rods. And then there were the monster drums, two very large ones probably about four feet in diameter and one even larger. You could hear the deep bass tones whenever they were hit, but under that was an even deeper bass rumbling that underlay all the performances.

During the larger numbers, I could feel the floor, my chair, my ribcage, all throbbing to the drums, heard the rumbling punctuated by cymbal tinks and sharp rat-a-tats and even more large booms.

I'm still amazed by how physical the performance was. I don't usually think of music as being a performance art in terms of the body; I know things like posture and breathing and hand and finger positions are important, but these guys, they were ripped.

I suppose I did know before from the first performance I saw, but it just struck me again. Plus, I couldn't help but notice how it felt like a martial art in parts. There was one part where they had three of the guys situated between four two-sided drums, around waist-level. To reach the drums, they had to partially crouch on the floor, and to beat them, they had this beautiful sequence of movements where they shifted from foot to foot. It looked quite a bit like a kata.

And there was just something very ritualistic or stylized in they way they beat the drums, from picking up the drumsticks (drumsticks held together, raised above the drums, then slowly separated and positioned) to the simple act of striking (one arm raised high above the head, pause for a second, then strike). I especially love how they would wait before they hit the drum; the pause is such that there's a wonderful moment of anticipation right before they let their arms fall to hit the drums.

I am so, so glad I went to see this.
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Haven't written much in the past few days because I've been busy reorganizing all my music. Wah. So much effort going into cataloguing it all, thanks to my laptop finally dying.

Yesterday I got to see Viennta Teng in concert for the first time! It was quite nifty! A band called the Animators actually opened the act, and then they played a song or two with her. I actually rather liked a few of their songs and may hunt them down online, especially "Simple," which goes into the category of sweet and, well, simple love songs that I enjoy. I don't much go for love songs that promise you the world, or the moon, or some other random stuff, since it seems very impractical, and really, what are you going to do with all that anyway? Plus, what happens when all the excessive romanticism wears away? I'm quite fond of love songs that are more about the everyday, that are about growing old together and having an actual relationship instead of infatuation. Anyhow, I've still got "Simple" stuck in my head. The other songs were pretty catchy, including one on Wal-Mart that amused me. Also, the lead singer played the accordion, which was very cool. I've never seen one in a rock band!

Then Vienna Teng came on and started with some interesting fusion/reggae something mixes of her songs. The fusion/reggae bits were a bit odd (I think it was "The Tower," but I'm not sure). And she played "Harbor"! It was very interesting, because at first she started out very slowly and very softly, which isn't at all how I think of the song, but suddenly, the Animators and the rock bit kicked in at the chorus, and it just had such energy! And it was so awesome being able to see her at the keyboards, especially for "Harbor," because I absolutely love the piano solo/chord-y bits during it. The keyboard was unfortunately electric, but ah well. It was really neat because she was standing and playing, and she'd be sort of dancing around as well. I guess I never thought about dancing or swaying at a keyboard, but it makes sense now that I've seen it! Also, they had a line that went something like "I'm in the carpool lane on the highway to hell," which amused me. (oops, I meant to put that sentence in the previous paragraph!)

There were also quite a bit of the slower and more mellow songs, including "Momentum" and "My Medea." There wasn't that much talk about the songs themselves, though she did mention "My Medea" was a song about child abuse. I don't know why I never thought about it that way; I always sort of thought of it as a companion to "Shasta," as they're both about motherhood, in their own ways. I suppose I must have always associated "My Medea" with abortion because of that. Huh.

I felt really bad because I was very sleepy and my feet hurt from standing the entire time, but the set of very slow and melancholy songs started to get to me after a while. In other words, I had to fight off the urge to nod off a bit. Not that she wasn't interesting! The music was just very slow and sway-ey. I got to hear some songs that I haven't heard before, which was also cool! One was about a mid-life crisis, the other was "Blue Moon Caravan," which was very depressing. There were others as well, but I'm not remembering the names very well at all. And there was one at the very end called "Whatever You Say" (or something to that effect), which is a nose thumbing song to the corporate world. And while I very much like my very corporate, cubicle-bound job right now, I cheered just for the principle of the matter. Plus, it was a happy, bouncy song, if you can call taking revenge against your company happy. My other favorite thumbing nose at corporate world song is Grey Eye Glance's "Halfway Back," which was my job hunting anthem last year, and still makes me feel good, even though I like my job and don't really wish to thumb my nose at it. Anyway, I hope it comes out on CD soon, or something. Or that there even is a new CD.

I wish now that I took more chances to see groups and musicians playing live. I've very much been missing going to live performances of dancing and more classical music, because I used to go to those back at home and at college, but I never really went to pop or rock (etc.) concerts. Previously, I've never really known a group or a musician so well that I had the desire to see them live. I went to a few in college, just to say I went, but it was sort of boring because I only knew a song or two. I did, however, get to see Flogging Molly live, which was absolutely awesome (fiddle!!! They had a fiddle!!!!).

There really is a completely different energy with live music, with having the audience there. I'm sure I'm just stating the obvious, but it was so cool actually being able to see Vienna Teng's expressions when she was singing, as well as all the energy she put into the piano playing. And it was just quite fun seeing what songs would get played and how they would shift ever so slightly. I need to do this more often! I did enjoy the plugged version, with the electronic keyboard and the drums and everything, but I also want to see her with the piano and cello sometime, just to see how that is. Also, I want to see her at the piano.

Stomp!

Sun, Aug. 7th, 2005 03:05 am
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I saw Stomp last week. It was nifty.

Wah, non-adequate description. I'm not actually quite sure how to describe it if you haven't seen the ads for it -- it's not so much a musical so much as people making rhythms and beats out of really random objects. There's no dialogue or real story. I suspect it's a bit like Blue Man Group, from what I've heard? The basic stage set-up looked like some sort of run-down street with garbage cans everywhere, and the show starts with some guys in messy clothing walking out with brooms and sweeping the streets. More people come out, and soon, you've got about ten people up on stage sweeping. The bristles all make different noises, and all the people have tap shoes on (I think), and everyone is doing different little rhythms by banging the brooms on the floor every so often or making short sweeps or other things. It sounds rather small, but the overall effect was really cool.

My favorite segment was when a group of people were sitting around reading newspapers and started making their own noises by flapping the papers or crumpling them or fanning them out or something, including the one crazy guy eating it. Hee!

Anyhow, I suspect I am making this sound incredibly boring, but it was just really, really cool watching people all start out by making ordinary, boring noises and eventually making them into music by doing them in rhythm and by making them into dance as well.

When I left the theater, I was making all sorts of random outdoor noises into music in my head.

It just made me think, what is music anyway, except a whole bunch of random sounds strung together in a not-so-random fashion? I just liked that they had me looking at everyday objects in an entirely different way -- everything, including the kitchen sink (literally!), was used, and this one nifty bit had people just flicking lighters on and off, and another had these people just sitting around and rummaging in a garbage bag looking for things to make noise with. It actually reminded me a bit of those old Pringles commercials, where everyone would drum around on the Pringles cans, or The Triplets of Belleville, which had the eponymous triplets (haha! I use giant SAT word totally gratuitously!) playing music on their old refrigerator and vacuum cleaner and things.

I liked how they made random noise into music just by paying attention to things, and I liked how it seemed to be a music of people, not necessarily sophisticated music that required years of training. Of course, this is probably one of those handwavy stage magic things, because to move like that and know beats like that probably requires lots of time and training. It just seemed like the show was fueled by the POV that anything can be art and that art can be found anywhere; you just have to know how to listen, how to look, and how to shape your world.
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First opera I ever saw. Er. Well, I watched the Zeffirelli film on VHS way back when and decided that maybe opera was actually interesting instead of being old and fussy like I had previously thought. Silly me.

Anyhow, I got it again from Netflix, and I still like it. This time, the singing doesn't bore me like it did before; instead, for some reason, all the melodies and arias and the like are strangely familiar. Well, I knew the beginning toast song would be because after I watched it the first time, I had been humming it for weeks. But I was surprised to realize that I remembered the arias as well.

Also, it's very Victorian. Hee.

And why in the world didn't I realize before that Moulin Rouge must have been based on this? Well, on this or on Camille, except I only found out a few minutes ago that the opera was based on the book. I feel rather dumb now. I guess I just haven't thought about La Traviata for quite some time. Besides, stories about beautiful courtesans falling in love aren't all that uncommon, nor are stories in which the lovely heroine dies of consumption. But -- well, I don't know how it is in the libretto, given that I've only seen one version of the opera -- the scene where Alfredo throws money at Violetta to pay her back, after he's heartbroken because she told him she loves the Baron to save his life and to protect his family? Baz Luhrmann totally took that!

Now I have to go read Camille, just to make my repertoire of beautiful-courtesans-who-fall-in-love-and-pretend-they-don't-love-their-lovers-then-die-of-consumption narrative complete ;).

(no subject)

Sun, Nov. 14th, 2004 08:06 pm
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Got Into the Woods from Netflix. Am very confused now. I've never listened to the score before, so it was a little hard at times figuring out what everyone was singing.

Spoilers here )

(no subject)

Mon, Oct. 11th, 2004 09:52 pm
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Question (because obviously, my FL knows everything): I managed to get my hands on Dorothy Sayers' Lord Peter, Unnatural Death, Clouds of Witness and Gaudy Night, since I am planning on reading them sometime. Is there any sort of handy reference out there that tells me what order I should read them in?

The boy showed me an organizational chart of Time Warner and all the companies it owns and said, "Look, it's the world!" Truly it is the evil empire ;).

I continue to enjoy the Assassins soundtrack, albeit in a slightly strange way. I can't help it. Some of the songs are just so peppy. I love the Sousa-esque "How I Saved Roosevelt" and the banjo-y "Ballad of Booth" and the folk song-y "Ballad of Czolgosz." The Czolgosz song particularly reminds me of "Big Rock Candy Mountain." I just realized while listening to this how much Americana music (is that even a term? Probably not) I listened to while growing up, mostly thanks to the wonderful "Wee Sing America" and "Wee Sing Around the Campfire." Also, the insanely optimistic "Ballad of Guiteau." But while I'm sitting in my car and enjoying listening to them, there will inevitably be a point in which my brain realizes that the songs are still about the assassination of American presidents, and as such, are pretty violent and unhappy. I don't think I'll ever quite get over that disconnect.

I think Sondheim does a particularly good job in reconciling the funny and the horrific in "How I Saved Roosevelt," which could have very easily been a straight comic piece. But every single time I'm giggling like mad because of Sondheim's rhymes (they remind me of "A Weekend in the Country" in A Little Night Music) and the fact that assassinating the president is somehow a solution to one's aching belly, Zangara bursts into the song screaming, "No laugh! No funny!" with a terrifying fury, and suddenly it's not funny anymore. Also, it's a frightfully cheery song for something that ends with the buzzing of the electric chair.

"Something Just Broke" will forever make me think of 9/11. I wasn't even alive for the assassination of JFK, I don't remember the Challenger, or most other national tragedies. I would like to say that 9/11 changed my entire outlook on life, but I'm not sure if it did. It's not as though there was much violence of that nature in Taiwan, though we would sometimes joke about China bombing us. I think it was just that even though most people were pretty sure China wouldn't be so stupid as to blow up our island, the threat was always sort of there. And even if not, it was dangerous territory politically, and just the fact that no one could really say what would happen to Taiwan come ten years makes for some uncertainty.

American never used to feel that way to me, though. American always seemed so safe and so stable, like it was something that would always be there, despite a relatively short national history. That was what 9/11 changed for me. Unlike the rest of my roommates that day, I was awake because (ironically) I was getting a new cell phone. I still find it strange that my old cell phone bill has the start date of 9/11/01. And my friend and her dad and my mom and the guy selling us the cell phones just stood there listening to the radio, because there was no TV in the store, and we heard the news when the second plane crashed, when another one hit the Pentagon, when another one crashed in Pennsylvania. And then the towers fell down. And it felt like the end of the world. Things like this weren't supposed to happen in America. They happened in the Middle East and in Ireland and other places, and it's so horrible to think of tragedies like that, like something that always happens in other places, to other people, but that's how it felt. Prior to 9/11, it felt as though the world was on track... there was the boom of the nineties, we weathered the Asian financial crisis (pretty glum in Taiwan during that time), etc. After, people were screaming for retaliation, which frightened me. My mom was convinced World War III was going to start. The economy, which was already not doing so well, really started going down. And I interned at Merrill Lynch and got seriously depressed, then I graduated from college two years later and had to look for a job and got even more depressed. Because of that, 9/11 always feels to me like the dividing line between adolescence and (fledgling) adulthood, the stepping stone between optimism and cynicism.

But that's what that song reminds me of now.

Despite the sobering associations, I can still listen to Assassins over and over just because the tunes are so peppy. And somehow, it doesn't depress me as much as Sweeney Todd. Also, Sweeney Todd is just incredibly difficult to listen to because of the almost painful whistles in the theme. Sweeney Todd feels like there is no hope at all in man, that everything beautiful only ends up destroyed and broken, but Assassins feels like even though horrible things happen, there is a reason behind it (albeit occasionally insane), and that there are people who still care. It's tragic, but not nihilistic.

(no subject)

Sun, Aug. 1st, 2004 09:07 pm
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Went to San Francisco again today, this time with my dad.

Saw Movin' Out, which was pretty good once I got past the complete weirdness of people dancing a sort of mix of modern and traditional ballet style to Billy Joel music. The show actually inspired much mental dissonance -- a dance version of the Vietnam War to "We Didn't Start the Fire" and then a dream sequence in which dead American soldiers get up and dance to Billy Joel music were both incredibly strange.

But I haven't seen dance in a while, so it was a nice change. Sigh, watching things like this make me wish I could dance.

I also ate about ten times as much as was good for me ;). I figure, my dad likes fancy restaurants, he is paying, I don't get to go to fancy restaurants that often. Therefore, when I do, I should stuff myself like a pig. That's my philosophy.

Watching the show and going to the city made me miss the east coast for the first time in... hrm, probably for the first time ;). I suddenly flashed back to the boy driving me to the public library in the dead of winter and drinking soup in the little cafe there. And I miss New York. Not that I went that often, but still... it's possibly the only city in the world in which I actually sort of know my way around (sadly, this includes Taipei and Hsinchu). And I miss theater. SF doesn't have all too many options. Back in college, there was this school-sponsored thing in which you could bid on shows you wanted to see -- tickets were $15, including dinner and the bus ride, and usually we had orchestra seats. Really, really cool. That's how I got to see Chicago and Rent and Cabaret. Cabaret was particularly nifty because I had a seat at one of the tables so close that I could reach out and touch the stage. Yay subsidized entertainment ^_^.

I think I am now going to collapse from an excess of food.

(no subject)

Wed, Jul. 28th, 2004 07:23 pm
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Yay!! Read or Die has arrived!!

I also got Avenue Q yesterday, and I listened to it three times at work. My new favorite song is "If You Were Gay."

Rambling on Avenue Q (and Rent, later) )

(no subject)

Sat, Jul. 24th, 2004 12:55 am
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So after the disappointment of not being able to do an Angel S2 marathon, I decided to watch snippets of my favorite musicals instead. There's nothing like having snazzy music and people dancing to pep one up.

Happy snippets are:
- Chicago, "All That Jazz" (so. cool.)
- Chicago, "He Had It Coming" (my absolute favorite number that never fails to pick me up. It's the beat. And the tango. And the choreography.)
- Chicago, "Both Reached for the Gun" (puppets!!)
- Chicago, "He Had It Coming" (again, because I love it. The boy finds my adoration of the song rather disturbing, given the subject matter)
- Singin' in the Rain, "Moses Supposes" (I love the long takes in Singin' in the Rain. They never fail to amaze me. Plus, it's the weirdest song ever. "Aaaaaaaaaaaa!")
- Singin' in the Rain, "Singin' in the Rain" (the kicking around water in the puddle bit!)
- Singin' in the Rain, "Make 'Em Laugh" (I love Donald O'Connor. Besides, funniest sequence ever, plus amazingly long takes)
- Strictly Ballroom, the bit when they talk about the history of Doug Hastings (It's the surrealness! And the fun music)
- Strictly Ballroom, the last dancing scene (Red dress!! Tango/flamenco/latin dancing! Red dress!)
- Moulin Rouge, "The Pitch" (sheer over the top insanity with funny sound effects)
- Moulin Rouge, "Roxanne" (more tango! And absurdly short cuts that make the cinematography and editing into a kind of dance in itself. Plus, awesome beat and cutting and yeah)
- Once More, With Feeling, "I'll Never Tell" (Peppy and retro)
- OMWF, "Going through the Motions" (cool montageness, also, the disc wouldn't let me cut straight to "Life's a Show")
- OMWF, "Life's a Show" (my absolute favorite number in this. I want Buffy's outfit)
- OMWF, "Where Do We Go From Here?" (just because I love the "hand in hand" choreography, literal as it is)
- Nightmare Before Christmas, "This Is Halloween" (ok, actually the entire musical and the claymation make me gleefully happy. The macabre-ness doesn't hurt either)
- Nightmare Before Christmas, "Kidnap the Sandy-Claws" (how can you not love a song with the lyrics "Kidnap the Sandy-Claws, beat him with a stick, lock him up for ninety years, see what makes him tick" sung at a high pitch with maniacal glee? It's rather disturbing how purely happy this song makes me)
- Lilo and Stitch, opening credits (Hawaiian music and bright fish and hula dancing. Yeah ^_^)

I seem to have a leaning toward more... unconventional musicals.

There's just something innately satisfying about watching people and images move to a beat.

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