Mon, Oct. 11th, 2004

(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.

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