Stupid Tuesday questions, Ann Crumb edition

So we were talking about music.

As I described last week, my family had a method of handling the contentious issue of listening material in the car as we drove long distances.  We’d listen to Dad’s bagpipe music (for which I have developed a liking of my own) (but the didgeridoo tape that one time was beyond the pale), observe a period of silence as per Mom’s frequent request, play something I liked, then get treated to Weird Al when my brother’s turn came.

Didgeridoo_(Imagicity_1070)[Brief aside — because of my brother’s musical tastes and my own limited interest in pop music as a kid, I heard the Weird Al version of many, many songs before I ever heard the “real” tunes.  Frankly, I still prefer many of the former to many of the latter.  I happen to think “Yoda” is far more witty and amusing than “Lola.”  (I defy you to write a funnier line about “Star Wars” than “Luke, I know Darth Vader’s really got you annoyed, but remember if you kill him then you’ll be unemployed.”)  And there was no greater source of amusement for my brother and me than my mother’s paroxysms of revulsion at the lyrics to “One More Minute.”]

But what would I make the family listen to?, you might be wondering.  (No, no.  Of course I’m not hurt that nobody asked last week.  It would be silly to take such things to heart.  Ha, ha.  I certainly wasn’t hoping someone would ask so I could tease this week’s post.  Ha!  No!  Silly!)  My memory is rather vague, and so I am forced to rely on supposition.  I recall that Enya’s “Watermark” was a tape I liked that I knew would be a popular choice.  I was (and remain) a fan of The B-52s, but I’m also relatively certain that I didn’t make the family listen to them because I had a strong suspicion others in the car would complain loudly if forced to endure “Cosmic Thing.”  Which leaves one other likely candidate.

I think I probably made the family listen to a lot of Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals.  Or, rather, to two of them.  I had selections from the original London cast recording of “Evita” and some version of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” on cassette, and so I have a reasonable suspicion that I forced them on my family with some frequency.  (Confidential to readers who may or may not be members of my immediate family — I’m sorry.)  (But there’s still no excuse for the didgeridoo.)

I was, you see, rather a fan of Lloyd Webber musicals as a boy.  (See also:  Russell’s gayness, early clues of.)  I had many other selections on CD, which meant I could listen to them over and over and over at home.  And I did.  Despite some clunky lyrics here and there, his collaborations with Tim Rice were my favorites.  But of course I had “Cats” and “Starlight Express” and “Phantom of the Opera,” too.

So when “Aspects of Love” came out, I got a copy immediately.  For those unfamiliar with this less-popular Lloyd Webber show, it’s all about the various characters’ romantic entanglements. Like most of his musicals, it features repetitive musical themes.  Unlike some of them, its plot isn’t patently idiotic.  (Sorry, “Starlight Express.”)

The main character is an actress named Rose Vibert.  As the show opens, Rose is berating her manager for convincing her to star in a touring play that is flopping hard.  He argues that she should be blaming the playwright for the failure, not him.  Later she meets a sophisticated older gentlemen who not only knows of the play she’s starring in, but remarks on her courage for taking the role.

The play in which she is starring is a real one.  She is playing Hilde in Henrik Ibsen’s “The Master Builder.”

As a young adolescent, I had never heard of Ibsen.  Since it’s not all that important to the plot of “Aspects of Love” to know who he was, I didn’t pay that much attention to those bits.  But it turns out that the play really was panned when it first opened, and it really would have been relatively brave of a young actress to star in a touring production.  And she would quite reasonably be drawn to a prospective lover worldly enough to have heard of it and to admire her for being in it.  Learning these things as an adult deepened by appreciation for the musical in hindsight, and I only bothered to look them up because I remembered the musical one day and was curious.

I have a collection of Ibsen plays on DVD, but I haven’t yet watched “The Master Builder.”  Since the Ibsen plays I have seen performed  (“Ghosts” and “Hedda Gabler”) both made me want to put my head in an oven, I haven’t been in quite the right mood to sit and watch that one.  But I know I will one of these days, because as a teenager I loved a musical about a woman who starred in it.

So that this week’s meandering Question — what old interests have you had that led you to discover something new?  What did you once enjoy that sparked your curiosity about something later?  What did you learn that you’d never have bothered to think about if not for something else?

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37 thoughts on “Stupid Tuesday questions, Ann Crumb edition

  1. I saw Cate Blanchett perform Hedd Gabbler at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) with Hugo Weaving in the cast as well. Ibsen is quite important in the development of modern drama and Ghosts is a great play. Why don’t you like it?

    I guess theatre is an answer. I auditioned for the 8th grade musical because I thought the girls in the play were really cute. Then I discovered hey theatre is really fun and I want to continue doing this.

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  2. This is the first time I’ve read Sandman since high-speed internet has come out… so while I could go on *ALL DAY* about the stuff that he talks about, I’d just say that his references to various songs have given me the most prolonged joy. I found out that Michael Jackson and Marillion both covered Lavender’s Blue, for example.

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  3. I always liked musicals. Did the sets, backdrops, lighting, sound and such for school plays and much the same in college, and later. Never acted. Always felt more useful behind the scenes.

    Two dynamics of the stage, the two masks. It’s not Smilie Guy and Frownie Guy. They’re female. The muses Thalia the Flourishing and Melpomene the Singer. Comedy isn’t just about happiness, it’s about the struggles of life, most of which are hilarious if they’re properly presented. Youth versus age, wisdom versus silliness, men versus women, all that. And Tragedy means more than disaster or sadness. Tragedy is pulling the audience in, catharsis, making us emote. We talk about compelling performances, compelling actors.

    If we come out of an Ibsen play, feeling as if we’ve been put through the mangle, I’ve felt the same way coming out of King Lear or Othello. Also felt the same way about music and art. The really good stuff produces better versions of our emotions, even the very simplest stuff can be amazingly sophisticated. Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, comedic geniuses. But taken straight, it resolves to conflict. Tragedy, conversely, gives us characters whose pains and joys we feel, we sympathise with them.

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      • Blaise,
        as we can rely upon you for condescension.

        I bother to mention something MOMA has in its collection,
        setting it up as a point that you might contend with.

        Your brusqueness does your argument no favors.

        Aye, theater is mostly about the primal, the emotive.

        But that is not all that art is. There is room, in art,
        for that which teases, and tempts, and fascinates…
        and even awes. And all with neutral affect.

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      • In the immortal words of Popeye, “I yam what I yam.”

        Get this. I don’t care. I don’t care what MOMA puts in its collections. I don’t care about being an Übergeek or the latest fad coming out of the mangasphere. The very idea, worrying about what you think about me — what anyone thinks about me out here — I will spread my leathery old pterodactyl wings and screech an it pleaseth me and if it annoys you, I consider your complaints a validation of having the skill to make the right enemies.

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  4. I could go on for *days* about interests that have lead to other interests. One of the more recent and convoluted ones is that I was rereading the Sherlock Holmes stories a couple of years ago, which led me to do some reading about the battle of Maiwand and the Second Afghan War. Which led to getting interested in the intersection of technology and military strategy and tactics in the 19th and early 20th century – for instance the development of the Minie ball and its impact on battlefield tactics…all of which is leading me into an interest in gunsmithing (that I’m trying hard to resist – I don’t have time, dammit) which intersects nicely with my already-developed hobby of metal sculpture and knifemaking.

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  5. God(ess?) Doc! We share some things in common for sure, musicals in general but the Webber ones especially. Evita and Phantom are perennial favorites. I was exposed to Phantom at an early age and the concept of explicit story telling through music is a very Maritime one so I memorized the entire Phantom score early on. I could sing (badly) the whole damned thing.

    What is your favorite Evita song? Phantom? Mine for Evita fluctuates so much depending on mood. When I was younger I always thought the Managers song, Notes, was hysterical though as I’ve gotten older Wishing you were somehow here again has eclipsed it.

    My better half scorns the lot of it, but if he ever starts ranting about it I mutter “Wicked” under my breath and he snaps that I’m being unfair and Wicked is nothing like those other old things. *eyeroll*

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  6. I loved Where Have All the Merrymakers Gone, by Harvey Danger, and the first track, “Carlotta Valdez”, inspired me to see Vertigo. I didn’t love it, frankly, although it was interesting, but it was the first movie I went to see at the Red Vic theater in San Francisco. It was one of my favorite theaters of all time; the seats were beat to hell and they only had one (relatively small) screen but the selection of movies was beyond fantastic and the popcorn with yeast was actually pretty good (again, San Francisco). It was at the Red Vic that I decided on a whim to see Harold and Maude…when I walked out 90 minutes later my mind was absolutely blown, and it’s become one of my favorite movies ever. Unfortunately, the Red Vic closed down a few years ago. Thanks to Harvey Danger, though, for inspiring me to visit–it was great while it lasted.

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  7. “I defy you to write a funnier line about “Star Wars” than “Luke, I know Darth Vader’s really got you annoyed, but remember if you kill him then you’ll be unemployed.”

    I agree. My brother and I listened to a LOT of Weird Al in our shared bedroom as kids.

    To answer your question, I’m struggling to find a more interesting example, but I will say that my love of pro wrestling in the 80s and 90s (yes, I knew it was fake – didn’t care) eventually led me to discover mixed martial arts and I am a huge fan of the sport now.

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  8. This is a hard one for me because a) I basically live my life by following from one interest to the next, but b) I end up thinking I would’ve read those eventually anyway.

    So for example, I am currently reading a kid’s fantasy novel published only in New Zealand (surprise! yeah right… I suppose I am rather obsessed at the moment) that I found out about in the notes of another book set in NZ that I read about in a travel guide to NZ. And, you know, it seems fairly straightforward to say “I wouldn’t have read this author if I hadn’t gotten so interested in reading things set in New Zealand.”

    Except, you know, I LOVE FANTASY NOVELS. SOO… maybe I would’ve. And on a related note, maybe if I wasn’t so passionate about Lord of the Rings, and then very recently – about a year ago – read a couple of fantasy novels set in an alternate NZ that I had no idea about where they would take place until I read them, maybe I wouldn’t have up and decided to go there right now anyway. In which case I wouldn’t have been reading the travel guide that eventually led me to the book I’m reading right now.

    BUT THEN. Maybe if my grandmother hadn’t given me a toy lamb from New Zealand when I was a baby… I wouldn’t have been obsessed with fantastic-sounding, imaginary places from the time I could first read (around 4 or so). And maybe I wouldn’t have been so into fantasy novels in the first place.

    Not a great example because these two interests are so longstanding, but really? My whole life is like that. If something is new to me, it’s usually just a matter of time before it gets all webbed up with everything else and I discover 800 connections I’d been unaware of before. Six degree’s of Maribou’s interests. :D

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    • er, that first sentence should say something like “I would’ve found those interests eventually anyway.”

      Also, surely there is SOMETHING that does not fit into the tidy picture I have painted?

      Mayyyyyyyyyybe my love of dancehall which is pretty much entirely the fault of my next-door dorm neighbor back in 1995-1996. He and I discovered early on that we liked to talk about theology and girls (actually one particular girl that neither of us ever admitted we were swooning over until years later) and growing up on an Island (me: PEI, him: Trinidad. commonalities surprising). And well, if you are hanging out talking until 3 in the morning, you eventually run out of bands to listen to that you both already love, and we always hung out in his room because mine was a mess. Eventually we would go to concerts I would never have otherwise heard of together, even. That was pretty random and unexpected. But then again, I probably would’ve come across ska eventually given my love for big band (including giant rock bands, or the modern electronica version of the concept, or even similarly sized classical ensembles – basically any time there are 15-20 people playing music on a stage I’m going to enjoy it, no matter what the idiom). And punk! So from ska it’s a short hop to dancehall, really…

      See what I mean? I accumulate delights, rather than discriminating between them. It’s all a tangled mess of uncertain provenance.

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  9. I really like Aspects. I think that and Sunset Boulevard are Lloyd Webber’s best scores. How they got overshadowed by Cats, I’ll never know.

    I’ve never been able to figure out: Does the theme first used in Rose’s and Hugo’s fight over Ibsen have a name? It’s one of my favorites, but it never seems to show up as a proper song.

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  10. (I defy you to write a funnier line about “Star Wars” than “Luke, I know Darth Vader’s really got you annoyed, but remember if you kill him then you’ll be unemployed.”)

    The Jedi I admired most
    Met up with Darth Maul. Now he’s toast.

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  11. I’m the same case with regard to Weird Al’s songs. The Saga Begins is one of my favourite songs, and it’s the one that automatically runs through my head when I hear the music to American Pie.

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  12. My love of roleplaying (I’ve been playing D&D since 3rd grade), which brought me back in touch with some old friends (who had gone one to LARP) – who introduced me to Leonard Cohen’s music during one of the many, many GenCon’s we went to.

    I’m sure I’d have eventually ‘discovered’ him – but the years I would have wasted until it occurred would have been a tragedy.

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