On storytelling

Sometimes you just need creative inspiration and the universe just… delivers. Paul Simon, Andrew Bird + Chris Thile and the Punch Brothers, via A Praire Home Companion

Also: the obligatory Hamilton reference: LMM on your twenties + immigrants; Rudy Francisco, Love Poem

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On finding inspiration

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Beyond thankful that my singular wish of 2015 – to see Hamilton – came true! The cast album is certainly wonderful, but the brilliance of the live experience is something I won’t soon forget. Happy to report the show exceeded my (very high) expectations and deserves every superlative.

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While in NYC, K and I tried to absorb as much other inspiration as we could. ANHM and the Hayden Planetarium playfully reminded us how much more there is to the universe beyond our day jobs and research.

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Piet Mondrian, Composition No. 11, with Red and Blue (1929)

MoMA was another favorite stop – I appreciated getting to see the work up close, brushstrokes and pencil guidelines and all. Coming home full of creative inspiration makes the transition back to CET and thesis writing a little less brutal. (Also: the knowledge that we flew out before the east coast shut down due to blizzard Jonas!)

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Piet Mondrian, Composition No. 11, with Red and Blue (1929)

On Appomattox

Given that I can’t be in DC for the revision of Appomattox, I’m hoping hard for a recording. From NPR —

The original version of Glass’ opera focused on the end of the war and the attempts to address the underlying issue of slavery. But nearly 10 years later, the revised version splits the opera’s two acts into the struggle for peace and the fight to pass the Voting Rights Act a century later.

“Basically what we did is we took the two acts that were composed … and made it into Act One, which was 1865, and made it Act Two 1965,” he says. “That was not a separation we had imagined in the first production, and then by doing it that way we began to see immediately the symmetries and the differences.”

see also: Washington Post review.

On reframing history

Over at The Atlantic, Edward Delamn talks with (genius!) Lin-Manuel Miranda about how his work of art is influencing how people understand the past —

Delman: You talked about seeing people use the opening song in classrooms—how do you think your interpretation of Hamilton and this period will shape the way people understand the man and his era?

Miranda: Well, I think it’s a particularly nice reminder at this point in our politics, which comes around every 20 years or so, when immigrant is used as a dirty word by politicians to get cheap political points, that three of the biggest heroes of our revolutionary war for independence were a Scotsman from the West Indies, named Alexander Hamilton; a Frenchman, named Lafayette; and a gay German, named Friedrich von Steuben, who organized our army and taught us how to do drills. Immigrants have been present and necessary since the founding of our country. I think it’s also a nice reminder that any fight we’re having right now, politically, we already had it 200-some odd years ago. The fights that I wrote between me and Jefferson, you could put them in the mouths of candidates on MSNBC. They’re about foreign relations; they’re about states’ rights versus national rights; they’re about debt. These are all conversations we’re still having, and I think it’s a comfort to know that they’re just a part of the more perfect union we’re always working towards, or try to work towards, and that we’re always working on them. You know, we didn’t break the country; the country came with a limited warranty, like it was never perfect. It was never perfect, and there’s been no fall from grace. I find that heartening, honestly, that we’re still working on it.

On Shakespeare and refugees

The Economist’s Prospero blog notes Sir Ian McKellen’s ongoing performance of a monologue from ‘Sir Thomas More‘ —

The scene is based on a real historical event, the “Ill May Day” of May 1st 1517. A mob of working-class apprentices had gathered in London’s Cheapside district, planning to burn the houses of the city’s growing immigrant community. Many of these immigrants were political and religious refugees from France, Belgium and Italy. At the time, Thomas More was under-sheriff of London. (He later became Chancellor*, and was executed by his erstwhile friend King Henry VIII for his principled resistance to the latter’s desire to break with the Catholic church in order to take a new wife.) On Ill May Day the widely respected More was brought in to enforce the sovereign’s protection of the foreigners and calm the crowd. In the play, More asks one of the rioters what he hopes to accomplish; the rioter replies “Marry, the removing of the strangers, which cannot choose but much advantage the poor handicrafts of the city.” More responds witheringly.

Grant them removed, and grant that this your noise
Hath chid down all the majesty of England;
Imagine that you see the wretched strangers,
Their babies at their backs and their poor luggage,
Plodding to the ports and coasts for transportation,
And that you sit as kings in your desires,
Authority quite silent by your brawl,
And you in ruff of your opinions clothed;
What had you got? I’ll tell you: you had taught
How insolence and strong hand should prevail,
How order should be quelled; and by this pattern
Not one of you should live an aged man,
For other ruffians, as their fancies wrought,
With self same hand, self reasons, and self right,
Would shark on you, and men like ravenous fishes
Would feed on one another….
Say now the King
Should so much come too short of your great trespass
As but to banish you, whither would you go?
What country, by the nature of your error,
Should give you harbour? Go you to France or Flanders,
To any German province, to Spain or Portugal,
Nay, any where that not adheres to England,
Why, you must needs be strangers: would you be pleased
To find a nation of such barbarous temper,
That, breaking out in hideous violence,
Would not afford you an abode on earth,
Whet their detested knives against your throats,
Spurn you like dogs, and like as if that God
Owed not nor made not you, nor that the claimants
Were not all appropriate to your comforts,
But chartered unto them, what would you think
To be thus used? This is the strangers’ case;
And this your mountainish inhumanity.