Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Ich bin ein Muensterer - Another Tale of A Tale of Two Cities

Art:  (noun) - the quality, production, expression, or realm of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance. 

While visiting the cities of Amsterdam, the Netherlands (Spreek je Engels?) and Muenster, Germany (sprechen sie Englisch? Forgive me, new friends, but the double dot-less Anglo keyboard does not allow for the proper Germanic spelling of your delightful, picturesque and utterly charming hamlet) this primarily political blogger caught slight wind of some of the argumentative uproar afoot in my stars and stripes waving homeland where, by all appearances, much of our population is distraught and dismayed that Barack Obama has solidly secured a second term as leader of the free world.  A handful of our, perhaps less than open-minded, citizenry are distressingly unfurling our flag, field of stars downward, and are initiating and instigating a secessionist movement - every heart does not currently beat true for the red, white and blue where there's often a boast or brag. Heed exaggerated accounts from internet provocateurs and one would believe that “now we are engaged in a great Civil War.” But as we are still bountifully blissful from our vacationing bohemian behavior and not dutifully detailed on these deleterious doings, that tremulous topic will be addressed more thoroughly in a future post. Today we bypass the usual exasperated attitude and sarcastic similes and take a breather from the unseemly ugliness rampant in the political realm for a milder, gentler composition focusing on the beauty and brotherhood that can arise from a work of art.

“The heavens seem an inch away
Not cold and empty like before
A night as sweet as this, tonight
I can't recall”

As hardhearted, acerbic and surly as yours truly can so often be, there is something about the marvelous musical, "A Tale of Two Cities" that transforms me into a sunshiny day, Ellen watching, up with people, puppy pecking, kitten kissing, baby bussing, suddenly sincere, mountain of mush (while always maintaining my testoterone-y, Irish Spring-like, almost irrationally irresistable to the opposite sex manliness, of course.) It could be the soaring, stirring and emotional melodies brought lovingly to life by equally full-hearted and full-throated vocalists.  It could be the evocative, poignant and expressive performances of adept and able actors meaningfully inhabiting every syllable and silence.  It could be the timeless tale of love, redemption and ultimate sacrifice conveyed in the words and deeds of characters, sometimes caustic, sometimes comic, sometimes charismatic, and always authentic, created by Charles Dickens and artfully adapted and embellished by gifted composer, lyricist and librettist, Jill Santoriello, the Carl Yastrzemski, triple threat of modern American musical theatre.   But maybe, just maybe, it’s all of those things and something more - something slightly inexplicable, enigmatic, even enchanting in nature – something that touches upon the magic that can occasionally occur when a work of collaborative art is realized, and creative promise is fulfilled. Such was the feeling we had the great good fortune of experiencing recently when enjoying the latest production of “A Tale of Two Cities” presented by  the Freies Musical Ensemble of Muenster, Germany.  FME is an amateur company, members gainfully employed in the day parts, by necessity rehearsing late into evenings and on treasured weekends.  While perhaps geographically and economically far removed from the bright lights of the Great White Way, this was an execution that was ambitious, earnest, dramatic, joyful, heartfelt, moving and ultimately affecting.  As rewarding as the moments were reveling in the song-filled spectacular, similarly so was the time spent afterwards with the welcoming and warm frauen and manner of FME - and that, too, has time and again, proven to be another fulfilling tale of A Tale of Two Cities. 

Headline - “Musical Brings World Peace”
 “Then we can make this world
The way it ought to be!
When will we see that day?
When will it be that way?
The way it ought to be?”

A musical spreading harmony, amity, good feelings and goodwill across our troubled terra firma, hinting at hyperbole, you say - an obvious overstatement, far-fetched and fantastical?  I’ve had the pleasure of seeing productions from high schools to Broadway, around much of the lower 48, and now even beyond the great Atlantic performed in a language of which I have zero familiarity – theoretically you might as well have had a Tea-Partier attempting to explain his unintellectual, nonsensical, prejudicial and harmful political ideology to me. Yet, so strong is this combination of actor and material that even done in a tongue foreign to the viewer, the meaning, sentiment, intention and lasting effect of the story, and its telling, is still very much achievable.  People who have seemingly very little to unite them but their affection for the musical art form find that having discovered the humanity, compassion, and empathy inherent in “A Tale of Two Cities,” those communal positive and very human qualities extend far beyond the footlights and, indeed, they share much commonality. From actor to director to costume designer to musician to program printer - once you have been touched by this show you have been indelibly affected in an enduring manner and in a style that successful crosses cultural divides.  (“we are the world, we are the children,”  “come on people now, smile on your brother, everybody get together, try and love one another, right now,” “I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony” – okay, now I want a Coke.)
So, can a traveling stage show calm tensions in the Middle East, mend multiple-millennia-old, fractious, faith fanaticism and enmities, and cap carbon emissions to deliver a happier polar bear and a climate change free future for humankind? Not very likely, but it’s certainly worth the price of admission to find out.

For a taste of “A Tale of Two Cities” here are highlights from the PBS special, featuring many members of the original Broadway cast. 


Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Day Mitt Romney Won! - A Harrowing Halloween Horror Presidential Dis-Endorsement


"People who need people
Are the luckiest people in the world” –  Bob Merrill

“… there are 47 percent…  who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it … My job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”- Mitt Romney

“You couldn't really have a heart
And hurt me
Like you hurt me
And be so untrue”- Hal David

As any regular readers, semi-regular readers, mind readers, palm readers, Weekly Readers, or despondent and deeply disappointed porn seekers would surely know, we here in the luxurious penthouse office suites of “… and several butcher’s aprons,” in the opulent “… and several butcher’s aprons” Towers, overlooking the pleasantly pastoral “… and several butcher’s aprons” Plaza, have previously prosed with profound frequency, and at extensive length, our boldly, biased beliefs on the strengths and weaknesses of  the two men in fractious, contentious and prickly pursuit of the office of President of these United States (links to a few can be found at the end of this post for reference, curiosity, and for the unapologetic and unabashed ego satisfaction of the writer.)  As with any self-important, yet more accurately, patently unimportant purveyor of political opinion, it is now my turn to annoyingly force (and never let it be said that this forum ever passes up an opportunity to annoy) my unwanted and, soon to be justifiably, unheeded, endorsement for the 2012 Presidential election.  But, by this point, as any American with even but a single of their five senses fully-functional is acutely aware of all the particulars, minutia and mishegoss  (hmm, Word 2010 doesn’t recognize Yiddish) of the candidates and this seemingly century-long campaign, this will not be a detailed diatribe of their distinctly divergent views, policies or records, as in standard and intelligent endorsements, but rather, a dis-endorsement in the form of a frightening forecast of a future in which Willard reigns victorious.

“He wants to savage Medicaid and repeal Obamacare, costing 34 million people healthcare coverage. He would slash spending on education, child nutrition, veteran’s programs and more. He promises to repeal the reforms made to limit Wall Street’s excesses.”– Chicago Sun-Times

Mitt’s Motivation 
 A common recurring complaint among the progressive punditry is that the Ex-Governor appears to lack any clear or spoken impetus or rational reasoning behind his coveting of Commander in Chief credentials. True, he’s been trained since toddler-hood for the task and his past presents a path pointed particularly toward this pursuit. And certainly, the Confident-One feels entitled and deserving of the honor, much like Sarah Palin and the Miss Wasilla crown.  But when candidly queried on the “why” of his quest, he’s as vague, non-committal and insincere as Eddie Murphy’s account of his shemale shenanigans, and, frankly, as Mitt’s responses are to pretty much any and all questions. But, if you, my exceptional reader, were running for the highest office in the land (no, not Ryan Seacrest’s job) would you fess up to the fact that you were doing so in order  that you, the Koch brothers,  Sheldon Adelson and others of that Plutocratic financial ruling class would have fewer tax burdens and fewer financial rules and regulations placed upon you, thereby freeing yourselves to accumulate even further obscene sums of wealth, sans any moral or legal encumbrances, largely through the labors, at the expense, and on the backs of the middle class and the poor?  Gone will be the inheritance tax, and the unwieldy and unfair 13% capital gains tax that so devastates Mitt’s $250,000,000 worth.  The most well-off among us will receive $86 billion dollars more in income tax savings above and beyond the Bush cuts already in place, while middle class levies will rise to the sour tune of an additional $2000 each a year.  Well, you wouldn’t be trailing that message on a banner behind your biplane above the beach at Coney Island, now would you?

“Mitt Romney offers dangerous ideas, when he offers any.” – The New York Times

A Mindless Man of Many Minds 
Willard Mitt Romney hasn’t had a principle since Miss Haversham  repressively ruled the roost in boarding school (I know the spelling is different, sometimes you have to cheat), or a core since Jeeves last peeled and seeded him a Granny Smith.  Perchance, are you part of “the well-to do, up and down Park Avenue, on that famous thoroughfare, with their noses in the air? High hats and Arrowed collars, white spats and lots of dollars, spending every dime, for a wonderful time?” Do you speak, Howell-esque, teeth and jaw tightly clenched?  Do family members sport the name Muffy, Toper, Bitsy, Biff and Chip? Are you a captain of industry, a corporate raider, a vulture capitalist, or an actual vulture?  Are the poverty stricken your personal source of Soylent Green? Tell Mitt Romney what to do, he’s waiting. Mitt will do anything, or say anything to anyone at any time, and then when required, deny it all, facial smirk smugly in place.  He’s been pro-choice and pro-life, “severely” conservative and progressive, he’s been to the “left of Ted Kennedy” on gay rights and supports a Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, he’s believed climate change to be real and man-made but also junk science and a liberal conspiracy, he’s created universal healthcare in Massachusetts and vows to repeal Obama’s Affordable  Healthcare Act. Mitt’s had more faces than Joan Rivers, more dramatic changes than a bipolar transsexual and more positions than a double-jointed nymphomaniac. As Mitt used to sing in his days with The Spice Girls, “So tell me what you want, what you really really want.” This is a man resolutely without convictions but for those he hopes not to receive as a result of his dubious, overseas tax-dodges.

The Best of the Worst  
This election season the Republican Party gravely insulted our country, its people and its history by presenting as their presidential candidates a clown’s car full of misfits, miscreants and misogynists so aberrant that they would have put to shame any self-respecting freak show; and included among their ranks were some whose very sanity could have justifiably been doubted and questioned. Out of this distressing muck arose Willard Mitt Romney, disputably the only edible fruit out if this poisons horn of plenty – leaving us with a conciliation prize neither praiseworthy, nor statesman-like in stature. Question an intended Obama voter on the reasons for their support and they are likely to rattle off such things as Obama-care, Bin Laden, the creation of 5.2 million jobs, the slow but steady decrease in unemployment, ending the Iraq War, saving the auto industry, repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, Wall Street Reform, Student Loan Reform, Veteran Support (and as Yul Brynner was want to say) etc., etc.  Ask a Romney-ite about their presidential preference and oft-times you’re likely to hear a half-hearted, “he’s not Obama,” “Obama’s a Muslim,” Obama’s a Communist,’’ “Obama’s a Kenyan.” I’ll leave any further interpretation of the sum total of those frequently articulated GOP/Fox/Palin/Tea Party flagrant fabrications to you. The point being, very few express ecstatic encouragement for the Romney/Ryan ticket but more often a fear of a second Obama term, one in which he will kill your Grandmother, confiscate your firearms and institute a Marxist dictatorship grounded in Sharia Law.  

Willard’s World and Welcome To It
Our decision for this November 6th couldn’t be less complicated if it were contemplations from the mind of Michele Bachmann. If you want our military to remain in Afghanistan and you desire fresh boots on the ground in Iran and Syria; if you are unconcerned with equal rights, pay and opportunity for both the LGBT community  and women,  or the specific rights of women to make their own health choices without big government interference; if you want the working class to pay higher taxes so the rich can contribute less;  if 34 million people losing health coverage is none of your never-mind; if the elimination of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid seems like sound governmental policy; if you believe a Gubernatorial  history of 47th in the nation is impressive job creation;  if, very relevantly, you dismiss climate change and want increasingly severe and deadly weather occurrences all, eventually and inevitably,  leading to an uninhabitable planet for future generations; if you want a President with a looser grip on reality than Little Edie Bouvier Beale and a stronger penchant for an easier tossed-off, brazen falsehood than an Evangelical Congressman caught in a men’s room stall by airport security,  then by all means, on that second Tuesday in November, pull that lever, punch that chad,  crayon in that empty box and cast a negative ballot for a campaign whose entire foundation has been one of lies – tall tales about Welfare, Medicare, Death Panels, increasing unemployment and a worsening economy, past positions, record and statements;  or vote with positive intentions for facts, reality, truth and a good, thoughtful, compassionate, intelligent man with an already estimable record.  But, then again, why not wait until Wednesday when the crowds will have thinned out.

Now, as always, we proudly present the previously alluded to melodies,with English songbird, Cilla Black and Brooklyn belter, Barbra Streisand. Then, if you’re still sticking around, you’ll find the aforementioned links to the related earlier Romney and Obama posts.