Dream of the Dolphin
Confessions of a Post-Graduate Pity Whore
Just Me and the GhostsMy new bedroom is blue. A very Sarah blue. And oddly, not the same blue it's been for the last ten years. I went with a new shade, because in the new house, China Blue just doesn't work.
I was at the new house last night until about 10 or so, painting. Alone. In a house in which I haven't yet learned the neighbour protocols. So I was standing there just after the sun went down, putting the second coat on the closet. I'd been hearing voices from odd places all day, as conversation filtered up and down (there are people above and below us now) when I heard "hello?" from inside the apartment.
I got out of the closet and looked around. Nobody there.
I went back in the closet, and this time heard a man's voice calling from the back of the house. Getting seriously freaked now, I locked the doors. A few minutes later, I heard banging at the front door. Scared out of my wits at this point, I opened it, armed with... well, a wet paintbrush. But I can wield a mean paintbrush.
"Hi," chirped our downstairs neighbour. "We just wanted to let you know that the garage is yours after this weekend."
I love New House. But we really need to do something about the doorbell.
( 11:16 AM ) Sarah Jane ~
Thursday, May 25, 2006
Funny Thing, That...Not two days after I went to Keswick to talk to a high school writing class about writing, and among other things told them that a reputable agent is one that doesn't charge fees, so they get their income from selling your work, Barbara Bauer goes and gets the plug pulled on Absolute Write for reproducing the Twenty Worst Agents list, on which she appears.
Teresa Nielsen Hayden has more to say on Barbara Bauer.
There's one high school class out there, at least, who are now prepared for people like Barbara Bauer
( 3:27 PM ) Sarah Jane ~
Thursday, May 18, 2006
Resuming Normal Daily OperationsFirst there was taxes. Then there was the mad apartment hunt. Then the pre-concert laryngitis. Fortunately, that is now over and done with.
I sang. It was tough -- I had no speaking voice really, and having not spoken since Sunday, the warmup was rough. But as we went on, I regained more and more of my voice, until at the end, though the sound stopped coming out of my mouth if I tried to sing pianissimo, I was belting it out with the rest of them.
And oh, was it a good concert. Technically, it may be the best we've ever done (though I doubt anything will ever replace Carmina Burana as my favourite concert, except perhaps our upcoming Carmina Burana with full orchestra, because hey, Carmina Burana). The orchestra was fabulous, the soloists (especially the stunning Zorana) were incredible, and the choir was in top form. We knew this one inside and out, there were no nerves or dropped cues, and everything went off great.
So now, despite the fact that I'm moving in three weeks, I'm actually starting to feel that life is once again approaching a state of normalcy.
We'll see how long it lasts. :o)
( 9:22 AM ) Sarah Jane ~
Monday, May 15, 2006
Despairing Cursing RageThe doctor I saw today told me there's no way I'm singing on Wednesday, and then left me alone with a box of kleenex until I could calm down. I'm determined to prove him wrong, or barring that, I can fake it with the best of them. But I'm officially forbidden speech until Wednesday.
This is why I love my choir conductor. I went up to him before practice and asked him what I can do, and he told me no more talking. Don't even sit with my section during practice because I wouldn't be able to help making noise, so he had me sitting in the balcony checking for balance (and consulted me a couple of times on whether I could hear the choir or soloists, communicated in mime). And he told me he's been there, and gave me a big hug. Which felt really good.
But damn, is this ever frustrating. Today was an improvement over yesterday, during which my vocal cords refused to vibrate at all, but I'm still nowhere near being able to sing. This is why I told Alexandra that the best punishment for a bard character in one of her stories was to break his hands. Being physically unable to sing is a very special kind of heartbreak.
( 10:19 PM ) Sarah Jane ~
Saturday, May 13, 2006
YAAAAAAYYY!!!As of about 1:30 this afternoon, Erin and I have an apartment. Specifically, the one we wanted. The good one. At Danforth and Chester. Photos will folllow as soon as I can take them.
We are very, very happy. And relieved. And happy. It's a gorgeous house in a great neighbourhood, and we'll really be able to make it into a home.
I have also completely lost my voice. It gave out about halfway through the morning, so that my assistant, Clare, had to yell out all the instructions for me. The best part was when Paulina got upset, because she was so worried about me losing my voice because she didn't want another teacher. Which was almost as good as Ricky's comment this morning, when we were talking about Dungeons and Dragons and I said it would be a fun course: "But not as fun as this!!!"
I love my kids.
So I shall not be speaking until choir on Wednesday. I'll still be there if I have to stand there and mouth the words, but I'm hoping I'll be able to sing again by then.
WE HAVE A HOUSE!!!!
( 5:42 PM ) Sarah Jane ~
Friday, May 05, 2006
Lord of the Rings: The MusicalOhhhhh man. Okay, this is going to take me a while.
First things first, I absolutely frelling LOVED it. It was a little odd in places, and given that my almost sole knowledge of LOTR comes from the movies (as, blasphemy though it may be, the books never really did it for me), I had a little trouble figuring out what they changed for time, for purposes of giving the women something to do, and for what would and wouldn't work within the context of a musical.
And fitting all three books into three and a half hours wasn't easy. There are some holes, but all in all, I loved it. Would it have worked if I weren't already in love with the characters from the movies? I don't know, and I don't think I'll ever really be able to tell. But the cast did an admirable job. And I just have to say -- modern musical theatre owes a hell of a debt to Julie Taymor.
Spoilers -- such as they are -- start here, so if you're planning on seeing the show and you don't want to know what happens, stop reading now.
You walk into the theatre and find yourself in the middle (if you're lucky enough to be ten feet from the stage like me) of a forest of gnarled branches and roots. Light shines down from above, dappling the audience members with light. At the centre of it all is the "curtain": The Ring, massive, suspended above the stage, from which the forest grows. The show starts (without warning, really), and we're off and running. We are given a narrated "good parts version" of the Hobbit:
QUASI-BRITISH NARRATOR: So there was this hobbit, and a wizard and some dwarves showed up, which wouldn't have meant anything really except Bilbo found this ring...A few key words are projected onto the screen in the centre of the ring (making it look like they're floating and written in fire -- kind of like Evil Sesame Street), and Bilbo and Gollum act it out through the screen and in silhouette (which was much less cheesy than the floating firey words).
Fast forward to Bilbo's Birthday Party. The Hobbit Feet-boots are adorable. Things proceed as you expect them to (almost -- Chris had warned me that Gandalf's voice was annoyingly reedy, but apparently someone spoke to him about it between the previews and my show, because he was perfectly fine, if a bit "I am an ACTOOOOR" in his delivery). Rosie's part is pumped up a little, giving the women more to do and emphasizing that "hey, look, Sam is Definitely Not Gay!"
Things really get going with "The Road Goes On" between Frodo and Sam (and some black-clad actors who I believe were representing trees), which is a lovely bouncy happy hobbit song, and very fugue-y (I have a thing about fugues), so I really loved it. The two run into Merry and Pippin, and the fugue goes from two parts to four (hurrah!) More gallivanting about with the tree-people (who, looking at the program, may have been Undercover Rangers). Then the woods turn evil. With some cool lighting effects played on the omnipresent tree/root lattice, the set almost seems to do that dolly zoom the path in the movie does just before the hobbits face the Riders for the first time.
The riders are huge and freaking creepy, and involve stilts and really cool puppetry. Thanks again, Julie Taymor. The Hobbits at some point run into a random group of elves, who I believe were pointing out the way to Rivendell. I was too busy trying to figure out why the two elves at the back started flying.
Gandalf arrives at Isengard to discover that
Saruman traps Gandalf in a beam of light, and the Hobbits have a really cool song and dance number with the
My only wish is that there was more of the elvish singing (which was cool) and less of the pseudo-broadway stuff (which was, well, pseudo broadway. Though never crossing that line into annoying overdone broadway, and using cool non-tonic scale systems, it wasn't nearly as cool as the
GANDALF: Hi! So, Saruman's evil now. Good thing there was this eagle to save me. No seriously, there was totally an eagle. It was very big and impressive and expensive and difficult to stage. Trust me.They have the council at Rivendell and set out for Mordor, which is appropriately stirring and makes me go all teary.
Richard McMillan finds out about it from one of the Prancing Pony dancers and sends a really cool snowstorm, achieved by light effects playing on large pieces of cloth. And there was one really cool moment where Richard McMillan steps aside and Gandalf has materialized behind him (I was ten feet from the stage and I didn't even see Gandalf get there). The Moria gates bit is a little truncated:
ACTORS: look, there's something in the water! No really! There's totally a monster! It would be over there if the audience weren't in the way! It's very big and difficult to stage!And they're in Moria. Gimli sings about loss, which is a little jarring, as Gimli's dwarf voice turns into this very high clear tenor. But it is pretty. Then Frodo notices Gollum (an extremely talented Michael Therriault) following them, and by following, I mean clinging to the root lattice several stories above the stage, without any discernable means of safety harness. Gandalf and Frodo bond, and Gandalf tells the story of Smeagol and Deagol. This is very cooly illustrated with Deagol swimming down from the top of the stage and drowning, in a feat of excellent staging.
Pippin screws up, they run around the stage again, and then OMGWTFBALROG!
Seriously, seriously cool Balrog. Gandalf holds the the bridge as the others escape (though Frodo lingers to watch and be traumatized), smoke pours up from the stage, and then wind, smoke, and bits of
ME: (in my head) WHEEEEEEEE!It is seriously cool. Then the Balrog rises from the centre of the stage (the elevator scenery has lifted Gandalf up a couple stories by this point), silhouetted against red light, and proceeds to look big and sinister and difficult to stage and frelling cool. Curtain down, and the audience is suitably impressed.
Again no warning -- we know to take our seats when Legolas appears in the middle of the Ring and starts Loudly Lamenting. It is cool and Elvish. The Fellowship discovers a ladder to Lothlorien, and are ambushed by some elves, who must blindfold them so they don't see the way (which seems redundant, since they already found the ladder, but it provides an opportunity for some amusing Legolas/Gimli sniping).
The hobbits reach the top of the ladder, and Lothlorien literally flowers into being. Or opens like an umbrella, courtesy of more really good lighting and a huge umbrella of branches and flowers. More cool elvish chanting with the Lothlorien elves, culminating with the arrival of Galadriel. Who is dressed in sparkly white and gold, and is wearing an inexplicable headdress that looks a little like a swan coated itself in glitter and threw itself at her head. She also appears to be getting strangled by her hair. It is very Disco.
This, I suspect, is one of the things done to prove that The Musical Is Different From the Movies. Much like the fact that all elvish costumes have some sort of drape running from their left shoulder to their right wrist. Which can be cool and artistic, but made me wonder if Legolas ever snagged his bow on his drape. Musical!Galadriel is interesting, but almost distractingly so. This is one instance in which I vastly prefer the Movie!version.
So where was I? Ah yes, Galadriel arrives and shows us who the Mysterious Voice of Kickass Elvish Woodling has been during the chanty underscore for the first two acts. And damn, is she ever good at it. When Frodo offers her the ring, she delivers the "all shall love me and despair" line and launches into what we shall call "Galadriel's Kickass Woodling" (being not-your-average-musical, the music tends to repeat with theme and variation and few actual defined start-and-stop songs, so they're not listed in the program book) and Frodo collapses to the ground. And we can actually see why. She punches out the Kickass Woodling with such incredible power that we can finally understand that this is a woman who could destroy you with her song. I'm a big fan of the Woodling.
The fellowship goes to sleep, and Galadriel sings what is actually a very pretty (though not as effective as the Woodling) song about Lothlorien, and gave me my first moment of understanding an aspect of a character that I didn't get out of the movies -- that Galadriel sang Lothlorien into being to be a beacon of light and hope, and now if the quest succeeds, she's going to watch it die. Though hopefully the seeds of magic will remain and bloom again. She gifts the fellowship while they're sleeping, like Disco Santa Claus (though Gimli wakes up to ask for her hair, and Legolas wakes up so he can watch and bond with Gimli and make the slash shippers go "squee!").
They leave Lothlorien, and the Fellowship argues about
Sam and Frodo encounter Gollum, and Michael gets his moment to shine. The man uses voice and body both (he keeps doing things like practically bending himself in half -- backwards -- and falling over, that are an absolutely delight to watch) to recreate the character so brilliantly that despite wearing what lookes like a slightly scaled-up version of Andy Serkis's gimp suit, this portrayal of Gollum is enough to give the movie version more than a run for his money. He's just that good.
Merry and Pippin arrive at a really cool forest.
PIPPIN: Gee, it's a good thing I got us away from those orcs.Merry and Pippin encounter
Frodo and Sam wander through the Paths of the Dead, which would have been very difficult to stage. Though I wonder if the people on the balconies could see anything. All we saw was yellow light coming up from the smoke on the stage.
Aragon and the boys arrive in Rohan, where we get the first big sacrifice to save time and cast. We find that the characters of Wormtongue and
THEODEN: Go away.There is some really cool staged fighting, which involved me skootching to the edge of my seat a lot because they kept teasing me with the beginning of the music from the website, which, it turns out, is the "Scampering Orcs" theme. Gandalf finally returns and helps kick ass. I am distracted by Theoden's armour, which is
The ents arrive and FINALLY comes my favourite bit of music, the one from the website after the splash page loads, which is, as it turns out, the "Kicking Saruman's Ass" theme. It's even more impressive when you can feel the bass throbbing beneath you. I am having paroxyisms of Music Geekish glee.
ARAGORN: What's happening?
The ents finish trashing Isengard offstage and they call Saruman out. Gandalf traps Richard McMillan in a beam of light:
GANDALF: Ha! Not so funny now, is it?Gandalf takes Richard McMillan's stick and tells him to take a hike.
PEOPLE WHO HAVE READ THE BOOKS: This will not end well.Gandalf gives Anduril to Aragorn.
Frodo and Sam bond, with a really pretty song about adventures, and after Sam falls asleep, Frodo sings a verse about Sam that makes me cry. They are so totally in love. This is one of my favourite moments in the musical, as it's absolutely touching and lovely, the song is gorgeous, and Michael Therriault is totally hamming it up in a corner of the stage being all Gollum-y -- you can practically hear the voice in his head going "wheeee!" He is very obviously having the time of his life. This is full-body characterization.
Michael Therriault then proceeds to kick all the other actors' acting butts with his big schizophrenic argument scene, which has to be seen to be believed. The man deserves an award. Or two, as the case may be. But it was really, really impressive. In the movie, they at least got to switch camera angles between Smeagol and Deagol. Michael had to do it with only his body and his voice. And damned if he didn't totally pull it off. Gollum talks himself into taking the hobbits to Shelob.
The program says that Aragon enters the Paths of the Dead at this point. This is news to me. I must have missed this part, or mistaken it for something else. So the staging wasn't all perfect.
AUDIENCE: Ho hum, this is supposed to be a short intermission, I wonder when--There is some sheepish giggling at the unexpected scare-the-crap -out-of-the -audience start to this act. I am much happier because the annoying jerks behind me (who, as anyone who watched Firefly knows are destined for The Special Hell) have finally stopped commenting (loudly) on everything. And I've managed to switch seats from directly behind the guy with the enormous head to behind the woman with the not-quite-as-enormous head.
Shelob. Giant and extremely creepy, though apparently not as difficult to stage as certain other things. It is especially creepy because the eight puppeteers manning her legs keep emitting giggly high-pitched childlike laughter. But it is very impressive, and we love Sam, who makes us cry with his "don't go where I can't follow" line (which, I think, was actually delivered better than Sean Astin's). Sam takes the ring. The Mouth of Sauron delivers Frodo's clothes to the Rest of the Fellowship, but Gandalf convinces them there's still hope.
Sam rescues Frodo, and I realize at this point, now that Frodo's shirt is off, that over the course of the show, the hobbits have been losing weight. I find this very neat, and am glad that Sam no longer has his humongous butt stuffing.
The big battle starts. The Witch King flies in. A figure in armour kills it and whips off the helmet to reveal that it's Eowyn, who finds a fallen Theoden. Theoden dies, which isn't the heartbreaking moment it is in the movie because we really haven't been given time to get attached to either character. I get the feeling that Eowyn's in this because a) there aren't that many parts for women, and b) they had to get rid of Theoden somehow, and the fans would have lynched them if they'd rewritten the death of the Witch King. Eowyn laments prettily and wanders off stage and out of the musical, presumably to find
Frodo and Sam reach Mount Doom, and Frodo decides to take the ring. Sam is distraught, and by this time everyone in the audience just wants to hug him. Gollum attacks Frodo, and they and run into another problem with the staging.
GOLLUM AND FRODO: *some sort of struggle with their backs to the audience*The ring is destroyed and Gandalf arrives to take the hobbits home. Aragorn is crowned king and married to Arwen (much is made of the fact that "hey, did we mention she's CHOOSING TO DIE? She's totally sacrificing her immortality for love, OMG!"), and Aragorn won't let Frodo kneel to him, which makes me teary. Arwen says goodbye to her father, and Gandalf says goodbye to Frodo:
GANDALF: Well, so long. I'm off to see Tom Bombadil. He's totally big and difficult to stage.The hobbits head home, which is Not As They Left It.
SAM: What happened here?The narrator explains that the hobbits rebuild, and Galadriel's gift to Sam makes the flowers grow (at which point I start humming: "a bit of earth... he wants a little bit of earth, he'll plaaant some seeeeeds", and suspect that this week was not the one in which to rediscover my Secret Garden soundtrack).
Gandalf, Disco!Galadriel, Elrond, and Bilbo show up, and Frodo decides to go with them. Merry and Pippin say goodbye, but Sam is too upset. I am bawling like a little baby (as are half the people around me). Frodo and Sam embrace, and Frodo leaves. I am weeping hysterically. Curtain call, everyone is happy, and sing "The Road Goes On" again. I take special glee in watching Richard McMillan grinning like a maniac, and Theoden trips over a random spear and laughs at himself.
Special kudos for this performance go to Peter van Gestel, who was Sam's understudy and playing the role in this performance. 9 times out of 10, when I've seen an understudy playing a role, I've been able to tell. But aside from one moment of not being able to help Frodo into his vest (requiring Frodo to take it, turn it the right way out, and put it on himself), I couldn't tell with Peter. He was absolutely amazing, and probably my favourite performance in the show next to Michael Therriault. He was adorable, and totally believable. And damn, did he have a lovely voice.
Now, if I have not made this abundantly clear, I adored the show. No, it wasn't perfect, but I really, really enjoyed it, was grinning so hard for most of it that my jaw ached by the end, and I can't wait for the program book (which I'm told comes out sometime next month) and the soundtrack (tentatively scheduled for October). I also really hope that I win the contest I entered, because I really want to see it again.
Damn, but that was good.
ETA: If you go to www.lotr.com and watch the trailer and the production video, you get a good idea of the feel of the show, including the elevator stage and Galadriel's kamikaze swan headdress.
( 10:48 AM ) Sarah Jane ~
Monday, May 01, 2006
Stupid GirlsHang on to something, I'm off on a rant today.
A snippet from a conversation I overheard this morning as I was walking to work, trapped behind these late-teen, size-zero, bleach-blond, not-enough-clothes-to-make-a-full-outfit-between-them, walking-slow-because-their-shoes-aren't-practical girls:
"Like, ohmigod, I can't believe he fucking went out with her. I mean, she's like, a fucking size twelve or something. She's, like, such a fucking cow."
Put together with the cutting-in-front-of-me, more-money-than-brains women in the changeroom line last weekend when I was trying to put together a professional look for work, who were heard to remark "why do they have clothes for fat people here? If they got rid of all the clothes for fat people, there'd be more clothes for us. Who cares how fat people look anyway?" (these women, some sort of family, were 19-is, 30-ish, and 50-ish), it made me want to weep for my gender.
Pink's "Stupid Girls" makes me feel a little better.
It's a loaded issue with me these days. I'm not immune to it, for all that I'd like to be. I noticed it while looking at people's Ad Astra photos from this year. Pictures of me no longer make me want to slit my wrists (yes, I'm exaggerating, but only mildly -- it was a con photo that made me realize my weight was a problem, which for health reasons it really was, but it was a harsh way to wake up and it did Very Bad Things to me emotionally), but while I'm actually starting to like some of the pictures I see, there are still others that make me cringe. I hate that I have that reaction. But it's still there. And as much as I hate to admit it, health is only part of why I'm still trying to lose weight.
But the health factor is a big thing. Since taking off the almost-40-pounds-now, my health has gotten a lot better. I almost never need my inhaler anymore, the chronic sinusitis flares up much less often, my heart stopped palpitating, my feet are better (and I've actually gone down a shoe size, which is weird). Watching my kids in my SMC groups, some of whom have trouble making it up the stairs to the second floor of the museum and almost fall over if I have to take them up to the third, makes me want to outlaw McDonalds and come up with a way of making fitness a fun and exciting thing for kids that gets them used to it young, so that it becomes as much a part of their daily lifestyle as having breakfast or watching TV.
But it's not about health at all with the Stupid Girls (and, for that matter, the Stupid Boys). It's all about appearance. It's about doing things like the Atkins Diet, in which you can eat a side of beef and a bag of pork rinds but not an apple, forcing your organs to overwork to the point of failure, and when someone points this out to you, telling them "yes, but I don't want to be healthy, I just want to be thin." This is, unfortunately, a direct quote.
Now here comes the ranty train of thought freewriting:
Finding nice clothes that flatter your body is really good for your self-esteem, but they should make nice clothes for all body types, because people are shaped differently. Men and women should focus on achieving a healthy weight for their own body types. People with slender willowy builds and people with heavy highland builds do not require the same amount of body fat and muscle, and we need to stop acting like they do.
Some people are naturally skinny. Some people force themselves to be so. It's usually easy to tell the difference, because forcing yourself to a weight that's below what your body actually requires leaves telltale signs. Someone who is naturally supposed to be 100 pounds will look slender. Someone who is naturally supposed to be 120 pounds but has forced herself to 100 will look emaciated. There's nothing wrong with being incredibly slender if it's what your body is naturally inclined to do, and it's Stupid to look down on someone who is. But being incredibly slender is off the average, as much as being 6'6" or 250 lbs, and is therefore ridiculous to hold up as the physical ideal when it's physically unhealthy for a large section of the population. I still want to lose more weight, but I'm aiming for 140, which should put me at a healthy medium, not the 120, 110, or 100 I've seen touted by other women with my height and build. Having an ideal so off-base is a big problem, because the fact remains that you see a lot more people harming themselves to take off weight than harming themselves to put it on.
People trying to lose weight should know what their healthy weight is supposed to be, and should stop when they actually get there. Some body fat is actually biologically required to function properly -- your hair going dry and falling out if you cut all the fat out of your diet is your body's way of saying "WTF are you doing to me???"
I do believe that, especially in the days of fast-food, take-the-bus-two-blocks laziness, finding and maintaining a healthy weight is important, and the initiative to reach it is laudable. But I hate, HATE, that physical appearance is more important to people these days than what you do with your life. And I'm out of patience with Stupid Girls who think that their weight makes them somehow superior to others. Above or below.
( 12:32 PM ) Sarah Jane ~