November 5th, 2009

Digger

O Tempora! O Mores!

So I'm reading along in Little Dorrit, by Charles Dickens, which is a lot better than I remembered it being when I read it in college, if rather sentimental in patches, and I duly reach Chapter 10, which is entitled "Containing the Whole Science of Government." It concerns itself chiefly with the doings (or non-doings) of a (made-up) branch of British government called the Circumlocution Office. I refer the reader to the following paragraphs:

"It is true that How Not To Do iIt was the great study and object of all public departments and professional politicians all round the Circumlocution Office. It is true that every new premier and new government, coming in because they had upheld a certain thing as necessary to be done, were no sooner come in than they applied their utmost faculties to discovering How Not To Do It. It is true that from the moment when a general election was over, every returned man who had been raving on the hustings because it hadn't been done, and who had been asking the friends of the honourable gentleman in the opposite interest on pain of impeachments to tell him why it hadn't been done, and who had been asserting that it must be done, and who had been pledging himself that it should be done, began to devise, How It Was Not To Be Done. It is true that the debates of both Houses of Parliament the whole session through, uniformly tended to the protracted deliberation, How Not To Do It. . . . All this is true, but the Circumlocution Office went beyond it.

Because the Circumlocution Office went on mechanically, every day, keeping all this wonderful, all-sufficient wheel of statesmanship, How Not To Do It, in motion. Because the Circumlocution Office was down upon any ill-advised public servant who was going to do it, or who appeared to be by any surprising accident in remote danger of doing it, with a minute, and a memorandum, and a letter of instructions that extinguished him."

There is, of course (this is Dickens we're talking about, after all) lots more. But this is enough to go on with.

Things don't change much, do they, from century to century, or even from country to country? As I watch our poor administration labor mightily to get even the smallest and most necessary reforms past the House and Senate, I think of the Circumlocution Office and the fine, respected old governmental art of How Not To Do It. And I weep.
Voguegirl

Interfictions 2 Events!

Book Birthday for Interfictions 2 was November 3, and we celebrated with a lively reading at Borderlands Books in San Francisco.  Amelia Beamer, Ray Vukcevich, and Anna Tambour (from Interfictions 1) and one of the Beaming Editors (that would be me), read snippets of six stories, including two whose authors, from Argentina and France respectively, are unlikely to be able to read them to an USA audience any time soon.

TOMORROW (Friday) night we kick off the East Coast jam!  I hope you
can join Ellen and me there:

NEW YORK CITY
Friday, November 6 at 7:00 p.m.
Housing Works Bookstore Cafe
126 Crosby St
Readings by Interfictions & Interfictions 2 authors Jeffrey Ford, K.
Tempest Bradford, Carlos Hernandez, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Veronica
Schanoes, and Genevieve Valentine, backed up by local musicians Brian
Wecht, Jeremy Goddard, John Pinamonti, Nate Landau, Charlie Shaw,
conducted by Brian Francis Slattery, with MC Ellen Kushner (IAF Pres.)
& co-editor Delia Sherman. Expect sometimes raucous and sometimes
sweet, sometimes despairing and sometimes joyful, and always
interesting…art without borders.
http://www.housingworks.org/events/detail/interstitial-arts-foundation-launches-interfictions-2/

* * *
There are also cool events in Boston & LA.
For details, please see:
http://www.interstitialarts.org/wordpress/?p=125

* * *

The INTERFICTIONS AUCTION of Portable & Wearable Art inspired by
stories in Interfictions is now up at:
http://iafauctions.com/
There will be a new piece every day for a month - please bid early &
often for the perfect interstitial holiday gift!
La Loge

Finian's Rainbow

Whatever good fairy prompted Ellen to get tickets to Finian's Rainbow the day after we got home from World Fantasy, I'd like to shake his hand.  At 6:30 this evening, I was more inclined to curse than to praise him, but I would have been wrong, wrong, wrong.

For historical context, Finian's Rainbow was written in 1947, with lyrics by Yip Harburg, music by Burton Lane, and a book by Yip Harburg and Fred Saidy.  In case these names mean as little to you as they did to me when I first heard them, Harburg wrote the lyrics to "It's Only a Paper Moon" and "Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?".  The credits of the others are slightly more obscure, although Burton Lane wrote scores for 45 Hollywood films, so I've probably heard his music even thought I wasn't aware of it.  Harburg was the son of immigrants, which makes all kinds of sense, given the play's attitude towards all things American and the simultaneous sentimentality and acid of the lyrics and words.  It's a leftie, liberal, immigrant's view of a country that fascinates him as it disgusts and frustrates him, in which he finally finds hope, community, and a future.

It's also got one of the goofiest plots I've ever seen, a dancing mute girl who reminded me irresistibly of Elfine in Cold Comfort Farm, a stage Irishman who drinks and dreams, a leprechaun who is turning human by inches, a fiery Irish lass who captures the heart of an utterly square-jawed Amerricun Hero, a fat, bigoted Southern politician and his Laurel-and-Hardy fat sherriff and thin tax collector sidekicks.  Oh, and an entire stageful of friendly, dancing sharecroppers of all colors and a gospel trio looking for a second baritone.

And yes, it was funny and bitter and remarkably timely in its references to credit, race, the GOP, wishful thinking.  The singing was sweet and old-fashioned, not a Broadway Belter in the lot--not even Kate Baldwin as Sharon McLonergan, who has done her share of Broadway.  The dancing was accomplished and fun to watch, if not inspired.  My favorite characters were Christopher Fitzgerald as Og the Leprechaun, who managed to be twee and wry at the same time and bounced around the stage like a rubber ball, and the remarkable Jim Norton (who I saw in The Seafarer, than which there is possibly no play less like Finian's Rainbow in the world, except maybe Macbeth) as the eponymous Finian, singing (mostly on-key), dancing (with enthusiasm if not strict accuracy), and generally having one hell of a time.  And Terri White, who delivered her lines and the really great song "Necessity" with such character and conviction that she got an even bigger hand than Cheyenne Jackson, did a perfectly good job as the Hero, and I suppose it's not his fault he doesn't do a thing for me, but frankly, I thought Sharon would have done better with the sharecropper who was trying to save money for his third year in college, and who I can't recognize from his mug shot in the program, because he was wearing glasses on-stage and we were in the balcony.

Now I kind of want to see the 1968 movie, just as a period piece.  Anybody out there seen it?