Sunday, December 24, 2006

Green grow the rushes, O

I can’t get this song out of my head:

"I'll sing you one, O
Green grow the rushes, O

What is your one, O?
One is one and all alone
and ever more shall be so!

I'll sing you a two, O
Green grow the rushes, O

What is your two, O?
Two, two, the lilly white boys, clothed all in green, ho ho

One is one and all alone
and ever more shall be so!"

Steed is accompanying me to a house party at the estate of a famous book collector. Then I’m off to Antigua for New Year’s. (I told Steed I was going to Bermuda, so shh.)

Compliments of the season to all. See you in the new year.

"Here comes a candle to light you to bed. . ."

Monday, December 18, 2006

Oh My Stars . . . .

I cannot get over the list of birthdays for December 18:

Keith Richards
Brad Pitt
Steven Spielberg
Katie Holmes
Christina Aguilera

as well as Ramsey Clark, Gillian Armstrong (I just saw Mrs. Soffel again),and Leonard Maltin.

Yes, and many, many other people, I know. But there is quite a confluence of something going on for that one birth day.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Waaay Behind the TIMEs

Is it even news any more who the TIME person of the year is? Can you name last year's cover? (I couldn’t—it is a strange mix of an Irish rock star inserted between a very wealthy couple. Very odd.) I have never been a TIME or Newsweek reader, but the Person of the Year cover used to make some interesting noise in the ritual of the year’s closing.

This year, “TIME Person of the Year: You” feels like the gasping, desperate “we get it” of OM. Does anything sound more square than “For seizing the reins of the global media, for founding and framing the new digital democracy, for working for nothing and beating the pros at their own game, TIME's Person of the Year for 2006 is you.” Yes, you. You control the Information Age. Welcome to your world.”

Ugh. "Welcome to your world" is a sentence so lame it almost makes me want to close down the newly opened shop. And it’s really not a contest. There is a deep need for the resources, expertise, and talents of professional journalism. If OM wasn’t reeling from the scandals of Rathergate and the likes of Stephen Glass, it wouldn’t doubt itself so.

What sets the blog apart from the Op-Ed page and page one isn’t “beating the pros at their own game,” but the sheer creativity that is part of the blog essence. Blogs are fabulously individual and creative. Even just the naming of a blog requires thought that can be pushed to wit. The form just begs for and rewards connections and allusions to other cultural forms. Even the more journalistic blogs, like the extraordinary posts from the soldiers in Iraq, show a wide range of sensibility from their titles: All Along the Watch Tower, Hello from Hell, Blogs of War—each telling a story imbued with a personal sensibility.

The real point is this: the blog/vlog has unleashed an explosion of creativity upon the world--geographically, not metaphorically--the reach, depth, and scope of which has never been seen. What will this torrent of creative energy lead too? When the ripple effects of the user-generated revolution can be detected and articulated, that will be the story of the century.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Does Your Mother Know You're Out, Rufus Wainwright?

I went to the Met the other evening to see Rigoletto (thank you fabulous neighbors). I had never seen that opera, but on the walk over to Lincoln Center I remembered the classic Odd Couple episode when Richard Fredericks guest stars as a friend of Oscar’s. He has agreed to star in a little opera that Felix is producing, when he gets hurt during a softball game with Oscar. “You broke my Rigoletto,” Felix wails.

I like pop culture introductions to classical music. It’s a low-barrier entry way for many people to see what's beyond. I’m also a fan of high-low art crossovers.

An embodiment of that exchange is the singer/songwriter Rufus Wainwright. The next evening Steed and I went to The Wainwright Family & Friends Christmas Show at Carnegie Hall. Steed was the Rufus fan first, and bought me Want One when we went to see Rufus at the Beacon last year.

The Christmas Show is unique because it included his sisters Martha and Lily and Aunt Sloan, and guests Jimmy Fallon, Teddy Thompson, Laurie Anderson, and Lou Reed.

Rufus is still the centerpiece of the show—his chatter, his faux ‘where are the lyrics’ ‘is this mike on’ confusion is all part of the performing persona. Part jester, part prima donna, he's charming because he knows just how far to push it and when to pull back.

How can you describe the Rufus voice? It is very distinct. It’s a clear, pointed sound, with a nasal but not unappealing undertone. He swells note to note in well controlled verbal scoops. His sound has a sexiness that pretty much defies gender categories.

He sang “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve” channeling Rosemary Clooney. If he had been in a black strapless dress, it would have seemed perfectly natural. His "Cantique de Noel," with a beautiful piano accompaniment, was elegant and very moving.

There were other great numbers: Martha and Jimmy Fallon singing “Baby It’s Cold Outside”; Laurie Anderson droning a hurdy-gurdy to all verses of “O Come All Ye Faithful” which she graced with the O Superman inflection; and Sloan singing a knockout, uplifting, joyous rendition of Queen’s “Thank God It’s Christmas”

And then there was Lou.

He comes out wearing a bright yellow, wild jacket. Must be his idea of festive. He sings "White Christmas" with Rufus. And then a "Silent Night" that was hallowed, in its way. His driving rock beat under a jagged—jarring semi shout of "Silent Night." And yet a seeming respect for the words—all 3 verses. “Son of God, Love’s pure light. Radiant beams from they holy face; with the dawn of redeeming Grace. Jesus Lord at thy birth. Jesus Lord at they birth.” All with.----The Reed rhyyyyth-mnic----phrasing.That----we know---and love. (He is our aural e. e. cummings)

In a recent interview Rufus said that in the new year he is headed to the Alps to work on his next commissioned piece: An opera. Imagine that. “Caro nome che il mio cor/festi primo palpitar; le delizie dell’ amor/mi di sempre rammentar!”

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Q.Q.F. File: New Orleans King Cake

This week Q.Q.F. is ordering a King Cake from the famous Haydel's Bakery in New Orleans. It is a sumptuous, festive, traditional King Cake, with purple, green, and yellow fondant icing, Mardi Gras beads and doubloons, “the baby in the cake,” and a porcelain trinket. It will brighten any holiday dessert table, and it is a way to help the recovering NO economy. They ship overnight almost anywhere.

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Artful Moments

Steed is just back from London (very hush hush) in time to accompany me to the opening of the Whitney’s group show at Altria, “Burgeoning Geometries: Constructed Abstractions.” We are not of the New York art world, although I have dabbled in sculpture and oils. But we are happy to exercise our fine art muscles when the opportunity arises. The space is large and industrial, and probably looks best in the day when filled with light. But the impersonality quickly evaporates as the human element floods in. This is not the establishment, but the young artists looking for their place in it all, and in relation to one another.

The show is aptly called—geometries are burgeoning everywhere you look. The pieces are dimensional by nature, with textures coming from “the materials of everyday life: cut paper, felt, discarded paint, straight pins, left-over Styrofoam, fluorescent lights, or cardboard,” as detailed in the press release. The pieces are testaments to labor-intensive hand-craft within larger installation visions. The press release again offers guidance, that the small, intricate elements are meant to “direct the viewer to the sprawling, interconnected nature of modern life.”

Steed liked the piece that combined a biological motif with the pink and red of a valentine card. And having thus connected personally, we took our leave.

Monday, December 4, 2006

Travels with Cadfael: Images Regained

(continued from TWC:The Camera, below.)

Roman cab rides, unlike their London counterparts, are one of the great cheap thrills still around. Cad and I were back at Santa Sabine in a flash. Running back to the cloister, I really thought I would see my camera sitting in the far corner of that ageless enclosure.

But no. It wasn’t there. My disposable camera was gone.

There was a caretaker of sorts lurking about—he had been moving around flowers from a recent wedding when we were there earlier. I said to Cadfael, “Go speak Italian to him.” Cad explained the situation, while I beamed hopefully. But no, no. He hadn’t seen any camera—-no one had turned anything in.

Hmm. He was looking nervous. I was not convinced.

Cad, let’s ask at the rectory. (S. Sabine is the central church of the Dominican order.)

Yes, but they will likely all be at dinner.

We clanged the huge brass knocker on the enormous wooden door (which felt like Kong’s gates on Skull Island) several times. No answer.

We were walking away, when we heard the door open behind us, and out stepped a stunning figure in gleaming white robes and Billy Idol hair. He was Gandalf after Moria.

Yes—Yes, Can I help you? Cad spoke Italian, with a monk inflection—and the brother insisted we all go back together to look for the camera. We looked in the church, we swept through the cloister. Nothing. Then we encountered the shifty-looking caretaker. The brother spoke to him out of ear-shot, and then shifty went behind a room screen in the corner and came out with my camera. He could lie to the two Americans, but not to that force of goodness.

Brilliant. Two days of memories returned. We thanked the vision in white profusely, and headed for the Piazza Navona for dinner.

I noticed 4 more pictures had been snapped. When I had it developed, it was pictures of the floor of S.Sabine, and of the caretaker himself.

Saturday, December 2, 2006

Q.Q.F. File

That would be “Quite, Quite, Fantastic,” of course. This week's entry is the live blogging party for Studio 60 over at Lance Mannion. The regular commenters (scroll way to down to see) took some issue with the guest blogger’s lack of knowledge about the show. But the layered bon mots—-minute by minute, if you refresh your browser often enough—-add a layer of actual witticism that is missing from Sorkin’s dramedy. Comedrama? Therapy session?