Monday, June 30, 2008

Blog Update and My Current Art-Crush: "Sweeney Todd"

Man was that book post getting old. You'd think I shut this blog down it was up there so long.

As you all know I've been working at a 9-5 job for the first time in 3 years. It's actually an 8:30 to 6:30-7 job, but who's counting hours? When I wasn't working I really had no excuse not to post up a little something every day or every other day. But now it's gotten to be a legitimately difficult thing to find time to do. With my former oceans of spare time, I was able to read a shitload of books, blog, and even write a little. Now that those oceans of spare time have drained to puddles, I have to be more discriminating as to how I spend my time.

But I am quite hesitant to shut this thing down. I've gotten twice as much out of it as I've put into it, and I'm loathe to abandon a venue where I can have discussions about movies, politics and whatever else with my friends and random websurfers who've stumbled over it. So, it may seem shut down from time to time, and a time may be coming when I'll just have to level with myself that blogging is one of those things that has to go by the wayside for a while, but today's not that day. It's Sunday, it's prime writing time and I feel like procrastinating. So it's blogging time.

So here's one thing that's been going on:

1.) Me and the wife went to Atlanta's famed Fox theater some weeks back to see the latest staging of Stephen Sondheim's musical, "Sweeney Todd." I'd seen the movie late last year and thought it was a mixed bag. I thought the visuals were stunning, but overall it kind of bored me. I was excited to see the musical live, but, as with the movie, I was left unmoved and a little bored with the show itself. But then those goddamn songs wouldn't get out of my head. Tired of hearing annoying snippets sound again and again in my head while at work, I bought the original cast recording from the Broadway production.

Now I kind of love it. I've been listening to it a lot. The story, the interpretation, the songs, the whole deal. All the excesses of musical theater that have always bothered me, the homely melodies, the undemanding singing, the overcooked acting, all seem to work in "Sweeney Todd"'s favor. Maybe because the musical's plot is more operatic than most, having everything be a bit overdone kind of makes sense. Or maybe because a story about a barber who slits throats and puts the corpses into meat pies for hungry Londoners makes up for a lot of the usual musical goofiness. Now I want to know the entire story of Sweeney Todd. How and where it originated, how it developed from a novel to a play to musical, how the idea to reinterpret the story occurred to Stephen Sondheim, what were its influences, what did he see going on in the world when he was writing it that pushed him to make it so dark and pessimistic?

I scanned a bit of the "book" that started it all at Borders the other day, and found that it originated in the 19th century and was originally published as a serial in 4 parts. Most of the hallmarks of the story were present in its original incarnation (the 2nd story barbershop, the pie shop below, the trick barber's chair, the cannibalism) but there must be some mystery as to its author because the cover made no mention of the writer, only a compiling editor. I could have bought the book and answered some of these questions for myself, but the edition looked like a novelization of the screenplay (even though it wasn't), complete with movie poster cover, and I couldn't bear to mar my shelves with such an ugly book. Maybe I'll look for a more respectable edition on eBay.

One last thing: While looking for a good "Sweeney Todd" image to use, I stumbled on this, a full list of all productions of Sondheim's musical complete with full casts over the years. In the first production on the list, Angela Lansbury played Ms. Lovett. Weird, huh?

Monday, June 02, 2008

Mmm, books.

This guy likes him some books. I'm not as compulsive as he is (I don't have 5 copies of anything, for instance), but I can't help but admire his collection, as pictured here. I like how unfussy it is. No clear, library-style book covers on anything. Just books. But a lot to read. That's actually one of the least cool things about working again: my reading time has been mercilessly reduced. Now that "Lost" is over, maybe I can catch up a little. (BTW, wasn't that an excellent season finale?) Well, I've got to get some reading in before I hit the hay. I'm into a new thriller called "Child 44." So far, very good, and one of the most frightening books set in an oppressive, totalitarian-governed country since "1984." If you've got some extra bucks and some time, pick it up, check it out.