Come on baby, light my candle

I am very, very, very late to the game here, but I have just discovered that… I enjoy Rent. I enjoy it lots. The little ticker of shame on iTunes informs me I have listened to “Another Day” seven times since the sun rose yesterday. These were supposed to be terrible songs. But they’re catchy! I think I just spent 11 years being wrong.

Let’s blame Steve Sailer and teenage girls. First, Sailer wrote a really bareknuckled, bitter reaming of Christopher Columbus’ adaptation of the musical and I took his word.

“Rent’s” mediocrity is thorough. The lyrics are lame and the melodies forgettable. As a songwriter, Larson tried too hard without working hard enough. Even the fictional brilliance of the characters is underwhelming. The last great song the doomed guitarist spends a year composing turns out to be as generic as the rest, while the avant-garde auteur’s cinematic breakthrough is home movies of his friends partying.

The latter two statements are true: Roger’s “Your Eyes” is one of the weaker songs in the musical, Mark’s film is crap. But most of the other songs are melodically strong, beautifully arranged (the weepy tremolo in “One Song Glory,” the diva-isms of “Take Me or Leave”), and… yes, the lyrics aren’t typically good, but there are flashes of wit like the breakdown in “La Vie Boheme.” And there’s a Laurie Anderson pastiche! It’s less clear in the finished version, which features Idina Menzel howling across three octaves, but check out the demo version Jonathan Larson messed around with. That’s obviously an Anderson piss-take. (Here’s “Language is a Virus” if you have no idea what I’m talking about.)

As for the teenage girls… they like to lip-sync songs from the musical (go and YouTube them, I dare you), and it’s a good rule that anything young, not-yet-disappointed theatre girls like is garbage. Stopped clock, once a day, etc.

I’m not sure about the pacing of the show, though. Act I takes places over, what five days? And Act II takes place over a year, most of this time being passed with the “What You Own” song.

UPDATE: Terrific.

Heard ’em say

Awesome exchange on Little Green Footballs, re: Obama.

Promethea  2/11/2007 04:18PM PST
He further lost me when he played the race card after Katrina and said that Bush was purposely not helping New Orleans people because they were black.

  2/11/2007 04:33PM PST
Do you have a link for this statement? I pay quite a lot of attention to the news, and I’ve never heard that he said this.

Promethea  2/11/2007 06:29PM PST
Sorry, I don’t have a link. I probably read it in the Chicago Tribune. I remember it (correctly, I hope) because I was so annoyed when people were blaming Bush for the catastrophe in New Orleans. Also, it confirmed my view that Obama was not my kind of politician.

JustMyView  2/11/2007 07:20PM PST
A rapper named Kanye West said what you are attributing to Obama.

Jesus Christ. Although nice to know that broadband internet is now powerful enough to heat up the laptops in concrete bunkers. More fun: Chuck Johnson’s pants-shitting fear over what Muslims would do if we elect a president who converted to Christianity.

Return of the Mac

So, Saturday; I wrapped a ton of work and scooted over to Arlington to a Terry McAuliffe meet-and-greet and book signing. I’ve been to a couple dozen of these events; the size of McAuliffe’s entourage and cheering section (well, not literally, but half the audience had clearly met McAuliffe before) was surprising.

And for a guy with a huge entourage, McAuliffe was weirdly affable. Not surprising that a guy who’s spent his life hobnobbing with politicians and raising money has a decent personality, of course, but he spent an unusual amount of time working the crowd. I walked in right behind him and paused for a second as he greeted the first row; he turned, saw me, and lunged to give me his hand. This was weird, too, because he seemed anxious about blogger or journalist moles in the room. Five minutes into his introduction, he notices a twentysomething woman taking notes.

“You’re… ha, you’re taking a lot of notes there!” he says. “Are you a reporter?”
A friend prods her. “Oh! No. I have a blog.”
“You’ve got a blog!” Bared teeth.* “Hey, who doesn’t these days? Everybody’s got a blog. Alright!”

Intermittently, when he’s building up to a joke line, McAuliffe swivels over to the woman and says “Don’t blog that, by the way!” Only for joke lines; he doesn’t ask for a blackout when he posits that Dick Cheney was “drunk, I mean gone” when he shot Harry Whittington, which is the kind of thing that could end up on Hannity if anyone still cared about the hunting accident.

And that was a pretty good example of how McAuliffe presented himself, and the book. He credited himself again and again as being “the toughest” Democrat laying into the Bush administration during the first term, “really giving it to them,” and promised that if you bought the book you’d “see me really lay in to Cheney,” etc. He offered up a doggeral of John Edwards’ “Two Americas” speech – if you’re a poor or working class American “your life sucks” and you need the Democrats to kick ass and fix things for you.

He bemoaned the wimpiness of the Kerry campaign, so I asked him to assess how Obama handled the “madrassa” story and how Edwards handled the bloggers controversy. He claimed to have not heard of the bloggers story (if it hadn’t made the NYT I wouldn’t be skeptical about this), but he praised the way Obama’s handlers had pushed back on the story and then cut off Fox from the candidate. “I think everybody’s learned the lesson from 2004” (meaning the Swift Boats) he said, and then, after I prodded him, he engaged in some “therapy” (his word) about how effective the Right’s message machine is and how ineffective the Left’s is. The north star of this rant was how “if they [the Right] have a story that’s not true at all, nothing, they put it in one of the British tabloids. And then the guys on Fox can say ‘It has been alleged in the Sun’ – and that’s how they get the story out there.” I know Monica Lewinsky isn’t dead, but I swear I saw her ghost hovering behind him when he said this. Real, passionate ire about the 1990s animates this guy. I think he sees the Hillary Clinton campaign as the ultimate in score-settling – he wants to man the guns as Hillary gets revenge for all the mud and muck hurled at her and her husband in the last decade.

*This is actually how McAuliffe smiles… I don’t mean to make him sound sinister.

The coming activist truce

Don’t Republican bloggers/activists and their Democratic counterparts have more in common now than they have separating them? Look: If you’re a RedState or a Powerline reader or whatever, you’re watching with your stomach in your throat as the media and party honcho anoints a mealy-mouthed, ego-driven monster – John McCain – over the guys you like, Rudy and Romney. If you’re a Daily Kos reader, switch the names around. Chris Matthews and Terry McAuliffe and all the other spectres of the last horrible decade have commandeered your TV to nominate Hillary, who’s basically John Kerry with a dress and lousier friends, when you’re working your ass off for Obama or Edwards. (Or Clark. I don’t understand Daily Kos people.)

So why are you people at each others’ throats all the time? Brothers, sisters, come together! Give us a damn Obama – Romney contest and then get back to verifying the typeface of documents or whatever.

There is no Todd

One of the sadder mysteries of this WordPress blog is why it refuses to display embedded YouTube videos. Just up and refuses to; I try, and the rotten code wrecks the whole page. If I could get it to work I’d post the video for “Something to Fall Back On,” one of my 4 or 5 favorite Todd Rundgren songs, and therefore one of my 25 favorite songs ever. You’d think that would lend itself to a cool video. No. Rundgren is one of those tech obsessives who uses technology to ruin shit. The video is a tumbling pile of ass.