Friday, January 18, 2013

Friday Jukebox: Strange Confessions Edition

Yes. I like Les Misérables. I admit it, OK?

Actually, I should expand on this a little.

I think that certain stories lend themselves to the dramatic power of song.

I'm certainly not a huge fan of the genre as a whole; you can take your Oklahomas and your Pajama Games. I enjoy a little hoke now and then, but there's a limit.

But some tales contain the sort of emotion that, it seems to me, is perfect when sung in a way that the simple spoken or written word cannot express.

Hugo's novel is certainly one of these tales; a grand, sweeping story of love, cruelty, faith, and redemption. The above video, BTW, is Lea Salonga singing the part of Eponine, the doomed "...victim of fate" as Lance Mannion calls her:
"She is about to be punished for the accident of her birth, and her punishment is to do the right thing. And doing the right thing demands a complete abnegation of self, exactly what fate demanded of that other of its victims, Fantine.

This is horrifically unfair, and that’s the point. Most of us don’t deserve our fates, however well or badly life has worked out for us. And the difference between the well and the bad is almost always a matter of luck. The difference between Cosette and Eponine is Cosette’s luck in Valjean’s having befriended her mother. The difference between Valjean and Fantine is Valjeans’ luck in having met the Bishop of Digne. And because luck isn’t doled out according to one’s desserts, many good and deserving people will not be saved.

Not in this life."
And that, it seems to me, is something that seems to call out for more than simply words.

So there's a reason that I tear up when every time I hear in the same musical Fantine's song I Dream a Dream swell into the chord change and the actress sings:
"But the tigers come at night
With their voices soft as thunder
As they tear your hope apart
As they turn your dream to shame."
That's poetry, goddamn it; "voices soft as thunder..."

Doesn't that conjure up the image of Fantine's nightmare; the huge, implacable force of Society, at the same time vicious and indifferent, that speaks to her with a voice as vast and implacable as a wilderness of frozen velvet - unyieldingly merciless and yet billowingly enveloping?

Fucking brilliant.

(The above cover is from the television show Glee, where it is transformed in a duet between the mother and the daughter she had long-ago given up for adoption and is now forbidden to tell her secret. Which is another of the perfections of song - it can transcend the time and place of its original setting and still express its emotions in other stories. And don't Idina Menzel (as Shelby, the mom) and Lea Michele (as Rachel, the daughter) do a great job of putting the song over?)
I've always thought that songs have power of their own and lend it to the story they tell; there's a magic in the combination of words and music that is additive. The whole is more than the parts of words and music alone.

People have sung their stories ever since we first gathered around the fire after sunset to tell ourselves and our friends and families about the things we had done, or what we treasured, or just to reassure ourselves that we have ideas and lives worth singing about.

I will be the first to say that modern musical theater has taken on a level of artifice far beyond what the original singers might have dreamed of. But, then, our lives have taken on more than a bit of the artifice as well; more than often we seem to be living in the electronic portrayal of our own story, set to the soundtrack of popular music and the random noise we move through like fish through the sound of water.

Anyway, I guess in the final summation there are simply some things that I love without reason, and certain pieces of musical theater are one of them.

And, speaking of things that have no real excuse, here are some of the quotes that my company posted on my "profile" at the intranet website. And because, after all, what is having a blog but an exercise in immensely self-satisfying vanity, I will repeat them here.

What have you done for “entertainment” lately? Can you give a brief “review”?

My children recently contracted head lice, so I spent hours grooming my offspring and in the process developing a real simpatico with the higher primates.

I also learned about cost containment and strategic planning; I had to sacrifice my younger child’s outlying hair defenses in order to cut off the lice salients. It was a tough decision, but what remained was a more defensible perimeter. The thinner foliage – and believe me when I tell you that we went after that hair with the Rome Plow and the Agent Orange - provided much less concealment for the enemy infiltrators and the wily Lice Cong sappers who slip through the wire to lay nits and cause havoc.

I’m now confident that no further dominoes are in jeopardy; I truly believe that that light is the end of the tunnel and not the headlamp of an oncoming train.

It’s this sort of thing that really gives you a feel for the great sociopolitical and economic decisions of history.

If you were a tour guide for someone that has never been to (Seattle/Edmonds area, Beaverton/Portland/Vancouver area), where would you take them? What would you do?

Ooooh. Tough one. Well, socially and scenically Beaverton is kind of like Outer Mongolia only with worse traffic. So, not there. And Vancouver is like Clackamas County only with Tonya Harding so not there, either.

But Portland? Depends on the visitor and what they enjoy. If it’s food and drink they crave, there’s terrific brewpubs, and a handful of good places to eat. We could stroll the ginormous cart-pod at SW 9th and Ankeny, or hit Jake’s Grill for some high-end grub.

Great scenery, if you’re looking for views; Mt. Tabor, the Japanese or Chinese Gardens, wander the odd little streets of Ladd’s Addition. Take the geological tour of Portland; the basalts of Marquam Hill, or the flood gravels along the road to Estacada. Hike Larch Mountain, or the woods of Balch Creek Canyon.

Hit Saturday Market or the emporia of East Hawthorne…

Ride the MAX up to Washington Park on a Friday evening and go zoobombing…

What is something you’ve done that would surprise others?

Dunno; depends on how easily surprised they are.

I helped another 10,000 people or so “liberate” the Spice Island of Grenada in 1983. I met Sandy Duncan in person and almost asked her which one of her eyes is real. I am one of three people who are credited by the Oregon Birds Record Committee with the first recorded state sighting of a Louisiana Waterthrush (Parkesia motacilla) in Oregon; the other two are my wife and my ex-wife.

What is one of your goals – e.g., places to go, things to do or accomplish – you hope to achieve in the next 5, 10, or 15 years?

I’d like to make it to 65 without needing a hip replacement.

That, and not having to go downtown and bail one of my kids out jail. That’d be good.

Do you have a personal quote or favorite phrase?

“Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on, or by imbeciles who really mean it.”

~ Mark Twain

Any other interesting experiences, wisdom, bits of info you’d like to share with your co-workers?

Do not EVER ask a driller if he knows any unorthodox ways to control loss of circulation unless you’re willing to explain to DOE/OWRD about just exactly what went down the borehole.

Hope the Life has not killed the dream you've dreamed. Have a great weekend.


Barry said...

"I’d like to make it to 65 without needing a hip replacement."

If you're hurting, get it. You'll be out of commission for a good month, and convalescing for another, but after a few months you'll be happy.

Leon said...

I'm not a musical person but I actually really like Le Mis and "I Dreamed A Dream" is my favourite.

As for having a good week, I saw my optometrist this week and got told that I'm ready for bifocals.

FDChief said...

Barry: After consultation with a couple of orthos the consensus opinion is "wait as long as possible". The problem with an early replacement isn't the replacement itself, but that the replacement is likely to wear out within 10-20 years, and then the SECOND replacement is horribly chancy. The failure rate of subsequent replacements is pretty awful. Both physicians said outright that the longer I could go on my original parts the better...

Leon: I'm at the reading glasses stage and am remembering why I threw my glasses away in college. I HATE the nuisance of having to have the things around, of cleaning them, or the inevitable scratches and grime...

Sorry to hear about the bifocals.

Leon said...

Luckily I could plead poverty (progressive bifocals are damn expensive) and not get them.


Lisa said...

I love your lice defense story, and your Twain quotation.

Nothing wrong with Les Mis (then again, I love Oklahoma!, too (blame it on a mother who played every musical ever done and sang at the top of her lungs.) The English are eccentrics, and love great stage shows.