Author: Tillie Walden Title: Spinning Publication Info: First Second (2017) Summary/Review:
Walden’s illustrated memoir tells of several years in her childhood when she was a dedicated figure skater and synchronized skater which involved rising early to get to the rink, extensive travel to tournaments, and a discomfort with the performative femininity expected of her. Outside of skating, Walden moves from New Jersey to Austin, TX and has to adjust to a new school, deal with a bully, and come out as a lesbian. It’s an insightful and meditative look back on the choices made in childhood and their long lasting effects.
“I’m the type of creator who is happy making a book without all the answers. I don’t need to understand my past fully in order to draw a comic about it. And now that this is a book that other people will read, I feel like it’s not really my turn to answer that question. It’s for the reader to decide, to speculate, to guess. It reminds me of how in English class in high school we would always talk about the author’s intentions in every moment. And I used to always wonder if there was ever an author who really didn’t mean any of it, and the meaning found its way in by accident. I think I’m that author.”
Based on her stage performance, the delightful Carrie Fisher wryly reflects on her celebrity upbringing, her marriages and relationships, her mental health problems, and substance abuse issues. An interesting memoir for fans and non-fans alike.
This collection includes the first four issues of this Black Panther series. The illustrations are amazing, and Coates’ sparse, meditative text makes one thing. I do find it hard to identify all the characters and keep up with the story, but that may just be a me problem with inexperience reading comics. The collection also includes a reprint of Black Panther’s 1960s debut in a Fantastic Four comic when he apparently was a villain.
Author:Matt Haig Title: How to Stop Time Narrator: Mark Meadows Publication Info: Penguin Audio (2018) Summary/Review:
The narrator of this novel Tom Hazard has a genetic condition that makes him age physically at a significantly slower pace than the typical human. In the present day he is over 400 years old but only appears middle-aged. The narrative switches back and forth from Tom’s present day attempt to make a normal life for himself as a history teacher in London and memories of his past. These include the horrors inflicted upon him by superstitious people, his one true romance with his wife Rose in Elizabethan England, and his recruitment into a club of similar people who age slowly in the late 19th century. It makes for a charming mix of historical fiction and a contemporary romance. Haig is good at filling in the details of what it would be like to live, work, and love over the time of centuries, accumulating memories and experiences.
Composer: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Conductor: David Robertson
My mother is a subscriber to the Metropolitan Opera so she treated me to a performance of this Mozart comedy. This is only the fifth opera I’ve seen in my life (after The Magic Flute, La Boheme, Semele, and Madama Butterfly). This was also my first visit to the spectacularly modernist Metropolitan Opera House, and now I’ve seen a performance in all three of the main venues of Lincoln Center.
As for Così fan tutte, well it’s not modern at all. The title is translated as “all women are like that” and is a misogynist depiction of women as unfaithful. The performance begins with two sailors Ferrando and Guglielmo, bragging about the faithfulness of their fiancees, the sisters Dorabella and Fiordiligi. Their older, wiser (creepy old dude) friend Don Alfonso makes them a wager that these women cannot remain faithful. The young men pretend that they are called to war and return in disguise to attempt to seduce the other man’s fiancee, which of course, they do within 24 hours and lose the bet to Don Alfonso. There’s a lot of ickiness in all of the farce and it’s disappointing that Dorabella and Fiordiligi have to apologize for their unfaithfulness rather than ditching Ferrando and Guglielmo for their manipulative deception.
Of course, the singing and the music is lovely. I particularly like Kelli O’Hara as the feisty maid Despina who helps Don Alfonso in his plot. And some of the gags are worth a laugh, if only because the Metropolitan Opera is very loose in the translations they display on the subtitle screens (one line about a cowboy from Texas was almost certainly not in the original libretto). What’s remarkable about this staging is that it is set in a seaside resort modeled after Coney Island in the 1950s which makes for delightful costumes and scenery. They even have a team of actual sideshow performers (and a live ball python) performing tricks on stage. But the best part was the stagecraft, especially in the second act, when most of the scenes were set on amusement park rides. One aria in particular was set entirely on a floating balloon.
This Così fan tutte is definitely worth seeing for its adaptation through a carnival lens.
I’ve liked “Weird Al” Yankovic since I was a child. I’m not perhaps a diehard fan, especially compared with the people I sat next to on Friday night who sang along with every word. I’ve long appreciated that Weird Al is more than a novelty, but a talented musician, one who can effectively write and perform songs in multiple genres. I’d also heard that his live shows are terrific so I’d been wanting to attend. The Ridiculously Self-Indulgent, Ill-Advised Vanity Tour features shows in intimates settings without props and costumes and focusing on songs Weird Al wrote instead of parodies, so I felt this was the perfect opportunity to appreciate his work as a musician.
It also provided an opportunity to attend a show at the historic Apollo Theater in Harlem. And of course my first show at the Apollo is for the whitest (and nerdiest) performer ever, which I feel a bit guilty about, but I did appreciate the photos and plaques honoring the legendary jazz, soul, R&B, and funk performers who made the Apollo famous. The theater is gorgeous in the neo-classical style of early 20th century performance spaces. I had a great view of the stage from my front row balcony seat, albeit at 6’1″ I felt that the seat and foot space was designed for a significantly shorter person.
As promised, Weird Al and his four-man band performed Yankovic originals, including many style parodies which are a pastiche of a particular artist’s music. The highlights for me were “Mr. Popeil,” a tribute to “seen on TV” gadgets in the style of the B-52s, and “You Don’t Love Me Anymore,” a tender ballad about a young man who’s getting hints that his relationship is ending after his partners repeated attempts to kill him. I was also impressed by the light design that matched the music and the mood – blood red lighting for the slasher film promo “Nature Trail to Hell,” and swirling paisleys for the trippy Doors-inspired “Craigslist.”
Weird Al concluded the set with a medley of his most well-known song parody lyrics set to the tunes of entirely different songs (for example “Eat It” was sung to the Unplugged version of Eric Clapton’s “Layla”). It was all very meta but fun. For an encore, they played a rocking, straightforward cover of Neil Young’s “Cinnamon Girl.” Al introduced the song by saying that after decades in the music business he’d finally learned how to play guitar, and this would be his live performance debut on guitar (I don’t believe either of those things are true). The gag was that when it came time for the guitar solo, Al simply strummed a single, unfretted string. For the finale they played the beloved sing-a-long, “Yoda.”
It was a fun night, and I’d definitely see Weird Al again should I get the chance. I found the setlist from online sources. Note that the “drum solos” were short and deliberately unimpressive.
Dare to Be Stupid (Grateful Dead version)
Close but No Cigar
Nature Trail to Hell
Dog Eat Dog
My Own Eyes
Your Horoscope for Today
I Remember Larry
Jackson Park Express
Young, Dumb & Ugly
You Don’t Love Me Anymore
Bass Solo (theme from “Barney Miller”)
Eat It / I Lost on Jeopardy / Amish Paradise / Smells Like Nirvana / White & Nerdy / I Love Rocky Road / Like a Surgeon
20. Cinnamon Girl (Neil Young cover) (First time Weird Al played guitar on stage)